Conscious Auditioning (pt. 2)

January 16, 2018

Conscious in the Room

This one would seem to be obvious—of course you’re going to be conscious in the room where you’re about to audition, that’s what you’re there for! But it’s sometimes harder than it sounds to remain totally conscious and completely present when your brain is racing around taking in all of the new stimuli and your heart is beating fast with excitement and anticipation.

I have heard many actors tell me they lose their confidence when they walk into the room, and all of their work goes out the window during the read. They feel as if they weren’t really there.

This is when you can lean on the body to stabilize you. When you walk in and take your place, take a moment and feel your feet on the floor. Gather strength from the grounded sensation of being firmly rooted to the earth and then take an energizing breath that expands the upper chest, opens the shoulders, and straightens your posture. Now you’ve truly taken your space and are ready to work.

When it comes time for the reading, it’s important that you’ve prepared in a way that allows you to let go and trust that your hard work will shine thorough with the ease and confidence of the true professional. If you feel yourself pushing or going flat or otherwise losing consciousness, it’s essential that you immediately reconnect with your listening. If you’ve done the work of fleshing out the relationships in the piece, listening will retrigger your emotional connection, allowing you to relax back into the rhythm of a true conversation.

The more you feel grounded the more conscious you’ll be as you move from moment to moment—free to listen, react and respond.

It takes focused, conscious work to deliver a great audition, but with a solid technique as your guide you’ll ensure that all of your auditions will be alive with humanity: interesting, fun, and surprising.

 


Craig WallaceCraig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at wallaceauditiontechnique.com.

They Break Me Down

December 19, 2016

 

A number of years ago, The Acting Center was interviewing students about their careers and experiences as actors. Many students had recounted stories of ranting teachers, trying to use tortured memories for scene work and being embarrassed in front of their fellow classmates in an effort to learn acting. One interview, from an experienced actor, stood out that day. “They all say they are breaking you down to build you back up,” he said, “but where’s the ‘building back up’ part? I just feel broken.”

He laughed. I was floored by his comment and it still haunts me.

Acting is like any skill. Do it a lot and you get good at it. But just like riding a bike or learning to cook a soufflé, you have to get in there with the training wheels or practice making an omelet first. You certainly don’t gain confidence in yourself in an environment where you’re made to feel embarrassed or uncertain about your work.

Actor training is exactly that: it is training to know how to become a character and learning to identify and express each emotion as that unique person. A trained actor should also be able to layer on each part of a character and deliver the whole personality package—physical traits, attitudes about life, thoughts, rhythms, what the character has to say and more. And when an experienced performer does it well? The audience believes the character and is swept away in the story.

So what’s all this about “breaking down” a performer?

A performer needs to be BUILT UP at every turn. An acting school needs to provide lots of effective exercises that drill each particular skill an actor needs to be their very best at auditions, on set and on stage.

A school needs to provide lots of time during class for an actor to practice so they gain self-confidence.

A school needs to provide lots of stage time so the actor can overcome nerves and get comfortable in front of an audience.

And a school needs a kind, caring staff that is helping each artist succeed in achieving their dreams.

So get into a class where you can gain certainty in your work, one that builds you up—not breaks you down.

At The Acting Center, we are committed to building up artists, one-by-one, in every class.


Written by April Biggs, Executive Director of The Acting Center

Whole Body Auditioning

December 17, 2016

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During a recent meeting with some casting and film director friends about what actors needed to do to book work, two words were repeated again and again: Embodied and personal.

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It is no longer enough to play your idea of the role, you need to be a living, breathing embodiment of the role.

To achieve this high level it’s essential to center your preparation in the body and heart – not the mind. The mind is a literal organ that exists primarily to keep you safe. It will tell you what the piece is about and give you a few obvious ways to play it. If you prepare from the mind – and too many actors do – you won’t be showing the people in the room who you are and how you feel, only what you think.

Your brain will have an opinion about how you feel, your body will know how you feel.

Everything that we experience is taken in thorough the 3 sense doors of the mind, body and heart. The body is the least explored and also the most revealing. We have a physical reaction to everything that happens to us and that reaction is the truest one that we can have, because the body has no agenda but to show you how you feel.

Remember though, it all starts at the very beginning. How you start is how you finish and many actors start their “preparation” before they have relaxed the mind and connected with their body. You only get the first chance with the material once, so make sure that before you begin your mind is calm and focused and your body is awake and energized. This mental and physical positioning will ensure that you are operating at the full strength of your creative (not mental) powers from the very start and that you will continue to do so throughout your preparation.

Here is a way to start your process by establishing a deep connection to the body so that you have access to all of the honest, clear, compelling information that lives there.

Read the piece through out loud feeling your physical reaction to all of your character’s words and all of the other characters words. Let your body tell you how you feel by where you might be tightening or relaxing. Do certain words make your stomach clench or your breath catch in your throat? Do others relax your shoulders and open your chest? Note it all – it’s the most specific information you’ll get about how you truly feel.

Now, note the emotions that the body sensation trigger. For instance, if someone says something that scares you and you tightened the stomach and held the breath, the associated emotions could be fear, or panic or even anger. Allow your body to instruct your heart and reveal your true feelings. These feeling will become strong, connected and honest choices – choices that the brain, by the way, probably wouldn’t have allowed you access to.

Working this way you become the actor who have instills the role with all of the power and truth that results from wrapping your body and heart completely around the words on the page.

The people watching will not be able to separate you from the words and will have no choice but to hire you – they have to, you’re already are the role.

Embodiment in audition is the ability to physically manifest the words on the page. If you have prepared correctly, you arrive at the audition needing to do nothing more than speak, listen and be. You are no longer an actor acting or reading the words, trying to communicate the thoughts of the brain. You are a person being.

Personal embodiment isn’t just the new battle cry in casting, it should be the goal of every actor who is in this not just to book the occasional job, but to have a long, successful career. This is not a time for shortcuts and tricks. It’s a time for the real actors to learn how to connect to their bodies and hearts, step up to the plate and start booking. You’ll never have a better chance than right now.

 


Craig WallaceCraig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at wallaceauditiontechnique.com

 

Commercials – A Slice Of Life

November 14, 2016

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Hundreds of years ago (well maybe it just seems that long ago) I moved to Los Angeles to be an actress and a singer. Like most people, I was told the way to become an actress and get a TV/film career was to start out in commercials. Well, in those years I did fit the qualifications for a young mom, a girl who loved pizza and someone who loved to be traveling on an airline. So I immediately went out and found a commercial agent who agreed that I had the perfect look. They even gave me a commercial copy to read – I don’t think I was very good at it but they traded my lack of knowledge for my bubbly personality.

I was a speech therapist during my early 20’s so after I taught I would go on these auditions where I would get to know all of the commercial actress’s in my category. In the beginning, it was intimidating as I recognized many of them from actual television commercials. The process was the same. I would get a call from my agent telling me to show up at a certain casting office. I would sign in and then be given the copy of the commercial. I was very nervous because all I did was read it over a few times and hope that I wouldn’t bomb in the audition! That did happen a lot but eventually I began to understand what they were looking for and started to book them. I did so well that I bought a house with the money that I had earned. It was a fun game. Run home to open the mailbox and guess how much money I made that month on a national commercial.

Looking back, the only thing I liked about commercials was the money. I didn’t have “Margie Haber” to teach me that a commercial is a small slice of life. The creation of one line, 2 lines, 2 paragraphs or 2 pages is the same for a commercial, a co-star or guest star, a series regular or a film. It is all about creating the life. All of the commercials I did would have been so much more awarding if I understood that premise. Pizza Hut, American Airlines, Formula 409 and Tang were opportunities to experience the life – to use my imagination and live it.   One commercial was Tang with Florence Henderson. In that commercial I had a child and went to visit my neighbor (Florence Henderson) and we sat on her patio drinking her Tang loving the taste of it. I didn’t know that I could actually create a life for my “character” rather than worry about my lines. I could have said,” I am this person living this life” – what was it like to have a child?  Did I watch her play sports or listen to her playing the piano? What was our ritual before I tucked her in bed? Create my relationship with my neighbor. How often did we come over on a hot summer and sit on the porch drinking Tang and sharing stories of our day – not trying to sell the drink Tang. If you want to see my commercials in the 70s and 80s they are on my “Stop acting” app that you can find on your iphone/ipad or vimeo on demand.

My advice – don’t be technical – create any life and enjoy the process!

 


M_HaberLogo_Photo

With 40 years of experience, Margie Haber is known as Hollywood’s top audition coach. What is it that Margie teaches? The answer to that question is within title of her book:  Margie teaches actorsHow to Get the Part Without Falling Apart.  Margie takes away the “three p’s”- Pain, Panic, and Performance Anxiety- from the cold-reading & audition process and gives back the “Big P” – POWER- to the actor.  She teaches actors her philosophy, “Stop Acting and Start Living the Life”, using her unique 10-step approach to breakdown the slice of life physically and emotionally, rather than intellectually.  Her revolutionary Haber Phrase Technique has helped thousands of actors use to use the page without losing the life, while supporting relationship and purpose. MargieHaber.com (310) 854-0870

We all need affirmation! (part 3)

October 25, 2016

In parts one and two of ‘We All Need Affirmation!’ we discussed the power of positive affirmations and a number of exercises of changing negative thoughts to positive ones combating those lingering, counter-productive thoughts.  In this final installment, are two exercises on building self-confidence and belief in oneself.

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Exercise: I believe in myself.

This next Affirmation will help you believe that you are good enough to be great.

Once again, write this down in your Actor’s Journal.

I believe in myself.

Then take a breath and say it out loud:

I believe in myself.

Say it again, quietly to yourself.

I believe in myself.

Feel it, own it and live by it. This should become your mantra, part of your morning ritual. Before you brush your teeth, drink your coffee, or pick up your cell phone, you need to look in the mirror and say “I believe in myself” three times.

You will immediately see a difference in yourself. You will gain a stronger desire to achieve your Want and you will be more positive about your prospects. Incorporate your mantra into your daily life. Say it to yourself three times before you go to class. Say it before you go into a meeting with an agent. Say it after a rough day before you go to sleep.

I believe in myself.

This Affirmation is especially effective before auditions. It will counteract any prior self-doubt and negative thoughts and statements about failing such as “I’m going to screw up this audition.” It’s equally as valuable after auditions to block any negative thoughts from re-entering your subconscious like “I just screwed up that audition.”

Also, to complement this Affirmation, try the following visualization exercise at home or sitting in your car before any audition:

Once again, relax, take a deep breath and imagine the inside of the casting room. Picture yourself standing in the middle of the room performing your scene with focus, energy, passion and the Confidence that comes with being fully prepared. Picture a casting director, writer, producer and director all sitting across from you, smiling, interested, taking notes and circling your name on their call sheet. As you finish your audition, visualize them smiling, thanking you for your work and telling you with a wink that they’ll be in touch. See yourself walking out of the audition with your shoulders back and your head held high, proud and satisfied with your audition, confident that you did your best.

Visualizing a positive outcome will fuel you with Confidence.

Exercise: I am a confident actor.

In this final Affirmation, I’m going to help you build upon the Confidence you already have. I’m going to help you find something you’re confident about and translate that into your acting. I’m going to help you accept that you can be a confident actor.

First, let’s find out where else in your life you feel the most confident. Steer it away from acting. Think of something you know you are good at, something that you believe you can do and do well. We all feel confident about something. Do you feel most confident about your relationships, at your job, playing a sport, schoolwork, giving advice, in sex?

Where are you most confident? Write it down in your Actor’s Journal.

I am very confident when I …

Let’s say you wrote down, “I am very confident when I am driving.” That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert or a professional racecar driver. It just means that driving is something you feel sure of doing.

In other words, when you drive, you are not fearful of the road or other motorists. You feel relaxed, yet in control. When driving, you are cautious even when you’re talking to your passenger, singing to the radio, or talking on your headset. You feel free, at ease, your thoughts are flowing. You feel confident and the Confidence surges through your body.

Well, that’s how you should ultimately feel about your acting, whether it’s in classes, auditions or on the set. You should feel comfortable with the material. You should feel at ease in the room. You should feel strong about your intentions. You should feel confident. You should feel like you’re a good actor.

I want you to think about that activity, the one that makes you feel confident. Picture yourself doing it in your mind and feel the Confidence rise in you. Attach that powerful feeling to the following words. Write it down and say it out loud three times:

I am a confident person!

Carry that feeling and that positive thought into the classroom, meeting or your next audition. Experience the difference it makes.

Translate those feelings of Confidence into your acting. Say it out loud:

I am a confident actor!

As you work on your Confidence in and out of acting class, this mantra will ultimately become your personal truth.

Now you have four personal Affirmations to work with in gaining Confidence and sustaining it on a daily basis. Take these Affirmations and write them on a Post It. Hang the Post It on your computer, your bathroom mirror, your dashboard or put it in your wallet to always carry with you as a reminder.

I am good enough to be great. I believe in myself. I am a confident actor.

 


Scott SeditaWhether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

We All Need Affirmation! (part one)

October 7, 2016

When I was an agent in New York, I found that many of my young clients lacked the confidence they needed to book the job. Even though they were trained actors, something inside them (some negative voice or event) made them second-guess themselves, which interfered with their acting work. As much as I told them to “believe in themselves,” the seeds of self-doubt kept creeping into their conscious minds. I decided to take action. So I taught them the power of Affirmations.

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Affirmations are positive thoughts you speak out loud. They are designed to alter the way you think and feel about yourself. Affirmations invigorate you, encourage you and pump you up when you feel uninspired, deflated or defeated. There’s a lot of power in “thoughts”…positive ones and negative ones. Before I get to the positive ones, let me talk about those destructive, negative thoughts that attack your confidence level. Let me show you how to get rid of them.

Negative thoughts begin in your subconscious. They were planted there by past negative experiences or events. You could say your negative thoughts are a by-product of your negative experiences. These negative thoughts are formed into damaging statements that you say to yourself or speak out loud (sometimes in front of others):

“I’ll never be happy.”
“I look ugly.”
“I feel unworthy.”
“I’ll never be a good actor.” “I’ll never succeed.”

Do any of those negative thoughts or statements sound familiar? Are they part of your vocabulary? The problem is, when said often enough, your subconscious mind believes these negative thoughts or statements to be true. They become true only because you consciously believe them to be true. That’s how the vicious cycle of self-doubt begins and never ends. It’s these negative thoughts that prevent you from achieving your career goals.

First, you need to consciously stop planting those negative thoughts in your mind.

Second, you need to stop saying them out loud (be diligent in catching these negative thoughts). Finally, you have to reprogram those negative thoughts that have already taken up residence in your subconscious. The only way to reprogram them is to change them in your conscious mind.

Exercise: I am… 

Your first Affirmation is meant to uncover your negative thoughts and turn them into positive thoughts. Choose a negative statement you find yourself saying and change it to a positive statement. Make sure you start your positive statement with the words, “I am.” Those two words are very powerful and serve as a command meant to lead you to a positive outcome. Make sure you write down your positive statement in your Actor’s Journal.

For example, using the negative statements I mentioned earlier:

If you say, “I’ll never be happy,” change it to “I am happy.”

If you say, “I look ugly,” change it to “I am beautiful.”

If you say, “I feel unworthy,” change it to “I am worthy.”

If you say, “I’ll never be a good actor” change it to “I am a good actor.”

If you say, “I’ll never succeed,” change it to “I am succeeding.”

Positive affirmations need to start with a positive declaration. Look at what you wrote down and say it out loud. The more you say it, the more you’ll train both your conscious and subconscious mind to believe it.

As in acting, make sure those words, and the feelings behind them, come from somewhere deep inside you. Concentrate on what you’re saying and feel the negative thought leave your mind and body as you let the positive one in. Each time you say it, believe that you are truly letting go of your negative thoughts and the feelings that are attached to it. Believe in the positive words you are now saying.



SeditaImgWhether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

What’s so Special about those Skills?

August 17, 2016

Most actors list some “special skills” on their resumes, but have you ever stopped to think about how this information actually helps casting know if they should call you in? Do your special skills tell us anything useful? I can promise you that these things have influenced my castings many times in the past.

I have needed all kinds of special skills from actors, so having it on the resume was helpful in order to be called in to read for those parts. Perhaps we need strong swimmers or someone with a martial arts background. Maybe we need someone with proficiency in a language or accent. The character could be a dancer, a surfer or anything else that would require us to see you in action. Having the required skill saves a ton of money for production because we don’t need to hire a double for you every time you are on a horse or surfboard.

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Sometimes we need a character with a specific accent or language. I shot a Korean short a few years back and they wanted characters that could speak fluent Korean. This allowed the director to infuse each scene with a mix of English and Korean dialogue that would seem natural for someone who lives in America but was born in Korea.

If you do put your skills on your resume, please make sure it is something you can do with ease. Don’t put surfing on the resume unless you can do it on set tomorrow and look good doing it. If you used to ride horses as a kid and you put it on your resume, you should hit the stables a couple of times a year to keep it fresh. I had an actor tell us they were good on a horse who then got to set and fell off the horse, almost breaking his leg. That is a great way to burn bridges with everyone involved with the project because you misrepresented your skill level to get a job that should have gone to someone else.

I want to see things like swimming, skiing, surfing, horseback riding and things you might actually have to perform on camera. Your cooking skills will never help me cast you. I don’t need things like typing, computer proficiency, taste in books or anything like those. This is an acting resume and not a profile for an online dating site.

Also, everyone says they are great with animals and kids so leave this off your resume. Your resume should show me things that you can back up. You can tell us how many years you rode horses or ran hurdles. Be specific. Stand out. If you won awards for your gymnastics, tell us on the resume. I don’t need every award ever, but just a clarification of the level you competed at and when you did it. And, again, keep those skills sharp.

If you put it on your resume then it is fair game in the room. When you say you can juggle on your resume be prepared for us to hand you three tennis balls and ask to see you juggle them. When I noticed “magician” on an actor’s resume I asked him for a demonstration and he immediately pulled a coin out of his pocket and showed us some nice sleight of hand. On another occasion, an actress claimed on her resume to be able to do a Paul Lynde impression so I could not resist the temptation to ask her for a sample. She didn’t miss a beat as she launched into one of the best impressions I have ever heard.

When listing things under “special skills” on your acting resume, you should consider if they are actually something that helps us cast you. If not, leave it off. And if you cannot think of anything you would list under “special skills” it might be time to get some! The horse stables are open every day and so is the beach. Develop some skills so that you can add them to your resume. Every audition could be the one that changes your life.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

 

Ten Seconds – PT. 1 OF WHAT DIRECTORS LOOK FOR FROM ACTORS IN AUDITIONS

August 15, 2016

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How long was your last audition – two minutes? If you were prepared with a driving intent, connected alive relationships, dynamic choices AND you started with a strong opening beat than, yes, it probably was 2 minutes.

However, if your first beat was unfocused and weak, it was probably only 10 seconds long.

You see, the first ten seconds is when you need to grab the people in the room and get them to pay attention. Right before you read everyone in the room is waiting for you to blow them away, and hoping that you’re the one. But, if you haven’t prepared your piece in a way that allows you to get out of the gate fast and engage them from the very start – you’ve lost the room.

FirstImpression

Your opening beat will either draw people toward you or push them away. It will secure their full attention for 2 minutes or close the door after 10 seconds.

I hear actors say too often that their reading started off a bit rough, but it picked up after a few lines. Too late. They may let you continue, but you have already been dismissed from their minds and their consideration.

Remember as well that the people auditioning you, whether in the room or on tape, are logging information as to what you would do if you actually had the job. If it takes you one, two three beats to get into a piece what does that tell them? It tells them that when “Action” is called on set you won’t be able to deliver the opening of the scene. If you need warm up beats in your audition, they will assume that’s what you’ll need on set and nothing will have them looking for someone else faster than that.

Also consider that you have to earn their attention. In a performance the assumption is that if people are watching you they are paying close attention. Not so in an audition. There may be people sitting in front of you and looking in your direction, but the degree of attention they pay has everything to do with how you open the piece. When you pick your eyes up and connect to the reader and to your choices, it has to be so compelling that they can’t look anywhere else. If you aren’t fully present from the first moment, they won’t be fully present with you after that.

The beginning of a piece is a real test of your preparation skills and your confidence in the decisions that came from applying those skills. You need a way of preparing that helps you to find an overriding intent that sets you firmly and passionately on your path from moment one – a technique that allows you access to the chambers of your heart that house the most personal and resonant relationships, so that your connections are strong, revealing and captivating right off the bat – a way of working that also brings out the brightest, most dynamic and original choices that hook them immediately and make them realize they’re seeing someone special.

Actors who work have the confidence to jump into their read. They trust that the net that they have woven during their preparation will keep them a loft so they are free to take the initial leap and then continue to soar.


 

CraigWallace

Craig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at wallaceauditiontechnique.com

 

 

Tips For Kids To Win Auditions

August 14, 2016

 

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You know the expression “kids say the darndest things”? This is where the spontaneous, organic personality of the child can win them the job. Interview questions are almost always asked when a child auditions for a commercial, TV show or film. There is no copy for them to learn, no scene to play. You’re just asked random questions by the session director, casting director or director. The goal of this is to observe the child’s personality.

I dreaded this type of audition, and for years I never booked one. I focused obsessively on the questions, and agonized over my answers.

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One day, a session director told me that the director and clients often watch these auditions with the volume turned completely off. Immediately, I realized the purpose and potential of the random question. It’s all about our personality—how we come across on camera.

Using this nugget of information, I changed my whole approach to this audition.

Since it’s your personality that they are looking for, I needed something to talk about that turns me on, that I am passionate about, something I can discuss fluently without worrying or running out of specific details.

Now I always talk about one of three subjects that make my eyes and face light up: hiking, my son, or my dog, Sparky. To sail through the interview question audition with ease, you must approach it the same way: The child should have three things that he or she is passionate about, subjects that they can talk about easily and effortlessly and in detail. The details let’s the child’s personality shines through. Here are some ideas:

  • Your favorite game or at home activity
  • An anecdote about a family member
  • A story about your pet
  • Foods you love or hate

When asked a question, find a quick way to segue or transition to talking about one of your favorite subjects.

Keep your answers brief, but detailed and specific. The more details and specifics the child can add, the more the personality comes out! The truth is, they are just trying to see your personality on camera.

Beware of three taboo subjects—avoid this at all cost.

Acting

They want you to be an actor and a skilled one but do not want to hear about it. They secretly think they are discovering you in the local farmers’ market and putting you in their commercial campaign.

Politics

Politics are just too controversial and should be avoided at all costs. Even if you’re running for senate, leave it alone! This should not be a problem for most kids anyway.

Religion

Anything having to do with religion is generally taboo.

Kids who can relax and just get chatting about one of their subjects or a funny anecdote always are remembered, as being memorable is the key helping you get booked for jobs

The beauty about this technique is that you never have to think about the answer because you already know it.

Practice this technique with some of these commonly asked questions and see how it works for you:

  • What was your favorite vacation?
  • Do you have any hobbies?
  • Any plans for the summer?
  • What’s your favorite subject in school?
  • What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
  • What do you do when you get home?
  • What kind of foods you love?
  • What kind of foods you hate?
  • Who is the most important person in your life?
  • What is your most treasured possession?
  • Which is your favorite TV show?
  • If you had a super power, what would it be?
  • If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?

The answers should never sound prepared or rehearsed, but spontaneous and honest. Why? Because kids do say the darndest things!


Judy Kain has been a full-time actress for over 35 years, appearing in over 80 television and film roles and 375 commercials. Judy teaches her successful audition technique to thousands of students at her Los Angeles studio, Keep it Real Acting. Judy has won multiple awards, including Backstage Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Award for “Favorite Audition Teacher.”  Her latest book –  I Booked It!: The Commercial Actor’s Handbook – teaches readers practical techniques for booking acting jobs.  Available now at Amazon and through her website, keepitrealacting.com.

Personality

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Availability & The Working Actor

July 19, 2016

Are you available? Wait. Before you answer, you might want to read the entire blog.

Every actor I meet tells me they are 100% available to audition and to work. But then when some of them get the call, they are either not available at all or need a reschedule. Sometimes this is possible but most of the time the casting director needs you when he or she makes the request. A lot of parts are cast in one session. And why look at tape when I have a dozen amazing choices standing right in front of me in the flesh? We can adjust them. We can pair them up. We can even mix and match. Most importantly, we can chat a little and get to know you for thirty seconds. Thirty very important seconds.

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You’re not available for my projects unless you live here. Here’s why.

I used to travel to Scottsdale, Arizona regularly to conduct classes and seminars. Each time I stood in front of the class they almost unanimously stated that they could be as easy to hire as actors from Los Angeles. That was a pretty unrealistic promise but since some of them worked for airlines I gave it a shot. Some of them actually showed up on time and were very professional. The trouble popped up when I needed them to come out two days later for the callback or two weeks later to read for another role in a different episode of my TV series. That first trip out was the charm but the L.A. actor shows up over and over without difficulty.

And then there is the issue of the holidays.

The problem of availability just came up on a feature I was producing last December. I needed to hire a couple of actors at the last minute. They wouldn’t need to audition. They just had to show up. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? But I was looking on December 18th for them to work on December 21st. I reached out to several actors and no one was available. They were either already out of town or would be by the work date. Of course I found my actors eventually, but I thought it was a shame that some actors missed out on a paying role in a union feature because they chose not to be available in December.

When producers or casting directors need you to show up on the set, the only response should be “where and when?” The actors I reach out to are the ones that have proven to be on call year-round. I’m not mad at the other actors, but I can’t hire them.

You are NOT available if you are in a play without understudies. I cannot hire you and guarantee a stop time. Why would I? I have thousands of actors who are available 24/7. Whether it’s a studio film, a network series or a tiny indie, you must be available or you are wasting our time coming in. This happens way too often and it damages relationships between actors and casting directors as well as those between casting directors and agents.

You are not available if you can’t be in my office in an hour. Many of you have jobs that aren’t as conducive to auditions as you want to believe. You have to rush to every audition. You are not at your best when you are there and you then rush back to work. If this is you, you need to find a new job asap or you made the trip out here for nothing.

You’re not available unless you bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. You cannot move home, move back to L.A., move back home and repeat the cycle over and over expecting this to work for an acting career. The majority of actors who leave L.A. do not return. The one thing they all have in common is that they are not working actors in film and television today. Move here. Stay here.

Don’t say you are available unless you are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. As I learn every time I cast a project, there are actors out there who just don’t seem to know their own availability.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

Are you Ready for your Audition?

May 17, 2016

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You’ve memorized your lines. Great. That is a very important step, but it is only one small step of a larger process. Don’t shortchange yourself by skipping the rest. Below is a guide to help you cover the bases of audition preparation and give your character the tools to live truthfully within any circumstance. In other words, this is a guide to help you do your homework.

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Know the Tone

What is the tone of the show and the world you will be living in? Do your research. If it’s TV, watch the show! If it’s a film, see if you can find something else by that writer or director. If none of these references are available, make logical choices based on the script. What is the atmosphere of the show and particularly, of your scene? What is the Tempo? Rhythm? Is it Drama? Comedy? Light? Dark? Do the characters power through their situations or does the show encourage long shots where the characters indulge their feelings? Know what world you are entering before you start!

Know your Role

Where do you, as your character, fit into this world? What purpose do you serve? What is revealed, discovered, or established in this scene that might be important to the story line and what role do you play in that? Look for moments of discovery within the scene. Is there a moment where something shifts? Is there a reveal? Make smart choices based on this information.

Know your Relationships

What is your relationship to the other character(s) in this scene? Be specific and in-depth with your answers. Saying, “He is my boss” is not enough. Saying, “He is my boss and the sight of him makes my blood boil. Nothing I do is ever good enough for him and I’m F-ing sick of it!” is much more helpful. Not just, “He is my husband” but, “He is my husband and even though we are supposed to be professional right now I can still smell his hair and feel his warmth from when we were in bed together 20 minutes ago.” Or “He is my husband, but I think he’s lying to me about something so every time he looks at me in earnest, I feel betrayed.” The point is, build a relationship rather than simply titling it. There is no way to overemphasize the importance of a clear relationship and strong points of view.

Establish Need and Approach

What do you need from your partners in the scene? Make strong choices. What will happen if you don’t get what you need? What will happen if you do? Use your talent and imagination to build circumstances for yourself that strengthen this need.

Why? Why do you need it? Why from this person/ these people? Why NOW? Why is it important?

How? What are you DOING to get what you need? This is where actions come in. DO SOMETHING to the other person to get what you want. Put your focus on your partner. Beg, convince, educate, mock, tease, belittle, guilt, befriend. Choose one or many things to DO. Acting is DOING. Try out different actions and see if they work. If they don’t… try new ones!

Test your choices

Rehearse! Once you are solid in your Given Circumstances and you are familiar with the script, REHEARSE. Keep working until everything you do/say/feel is inevitable for this character in this situation. Put your focus on your partner and go after what you need. Track their responses (these sometimes need to be created by you) and react in the moment. By this time, you know who this person is to you and what you need from them. GO AFTER THAT! Allow yourself to trust your choices and be alive in the moment. If something isn’t working, adjust one of your choices and try again. Do not skimp on your preparation!

Always consider it an honor to be given the chance to act and to reveal the humanity of any character. Take your job seriously in the way that you prepare. Then, in the room, LET GO. Learn to trust your preparation and live truthfully in the moment within the dramatic circumstances you have created. Trust yourself. Trust the work you’ve done. Trust your talent. Only when you put in the effort this work deserves can you be truly confident in what you have to offer… And if you are confident in what you have to offer… Others will be too! Now, go knock ‘em dead!

 


Suzanne SchmidtSuzanne Schmidt has spent her recent years acquiring a Masters in Acting while simultaneously teaching and coaching acting at Northern Illinois University. She has a background as an actress, director, singer, theatre company co-founder and producer. Before moving to Illinois, Suzanne spent years as a working actress in Los Angeles and you can see her in the upcoming season of Sons of Anarchy. Suzanne is trained in and thus her coaching is inspired by the methods of Constantine Stanislavsky, Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, Michael Chekhov, Catherine Fitzmaurice and Lloyd Williamson. Suzanne’s goal is to help her students establish the truth within their character’s given circumstances while realizing the inevitability of the words and actions of their character.

 

Suzanne Teaches A to Z Theatrical and Theatrical Thursdays at Keep it Real Acting.

 

Casting Tips For Your First Project

May 13, 2016

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Are you planning to produce a commercial, web series, film or TV show this year?

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Contrary to popular belief, actors are not (always) desperate to be in your project. You want the best actors, don’t you? Great actors don’t struggle to find work. Work finds them.

Here are some general guidelines to assist anyone that wants the best cast they can get for their project.

Friends

You will benefit greatly by avoiding the most common error first-time producers make. Don’t just give the parts to your friends. Hold auditions and let them earn the roles. They’ll feel better and you’ll have the best cast. You’re not really a producer until you’ve told some of your friends that they didn’t get the part. Anyone can hire his or her friends. Sometimes the hardest part of casting is not hiring your friends.

Costs

There are plenty of perks that do not cost a dime. Nice billing goes a long way; so does a serious commitment to delivering back end profit participation. Something as simple as a contractual agreement to delivering footage to an actor in a timely manner will show actors that you plan to have a long-term relationship with them. Feed them well. Doesn’t have to be costly, just don’t serve up fast food every day.

Casting Director

Get a casting director. You have nothing to lose by asking around for a hungry casting director as many of them will cast a commercial or short film to mentor a young filmmaker. There are also casting associates and assistants around who would love a casting director credit.

Auditions

Auditions are your first impression. Make a good one. Your goal is to make every actor want to be in your project so that you will have your choice of the top talent. Actors want to see that the people running the production know what they’re doing. Be confident and think ahead about the questions that may come up about the script, the characters and the scenes.

When you call actors in to an audition, provide them with the entire script. This will help them understand tone and content. It will also show them that you understand how their process works. It is possible to audition with only sides, but if you want actors to do their best, give them all the tools. Besides, “no script” makes it seem like it’s a bad script.

Choose sides wisely. Consider how much time you will want with actors and read each scene out loud to know how long they take. The more actors you see, the greater your choices. You do not want your casting sessions to run long because you didn’t calculate times properly.

Only hold callbacks if you need to hold callbacks. Justify this with new sides or by pairing the actors up to check for chemistry. Don’t just call actors back because you are indecisive.

Etc.

A little water goes a long way. For $3.00 you can provide water for the entire casting session. Can’t afford trailers? No problem. Private rooms will suffice. You want your cast to have a quiet space so they can be at their best.

There are many ways to complicate the casting process. Use these guidelines and you can avoid most of them.

Post free casting calls for your projects anytime at Casting Frontier.

 

The Best Reasons You Didn’t Get The Part

April 15, 2016

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Can there ever be a good reason not to get the part? I know that you’re probably thinking “No!” Trust me, that’s the wrong answer.

I know that many actors walk into my office with one thing in mind, and one thing only: Booking that role! That’s a nice goal, but anyone who has worked in casting more than a couple of years will tell you, that should not be the goal on that day. Your goal every time you walk into a casting office is to deliver a strong enough audition for us to call you again in the future. Do that enough times and you will work. A lot.

 

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Actors that understand the long-term aspect of auditioning tend to be the ones that book over and over. It’s about booking the room so that we call you in for years for many of our future projects. We don’t look at it the same way as actors. If you deliver consistently in the room and you are the right look, I want to use you in the best way possible. I do not want to waste my time reading you for a part you aren’t going to get.

There are actually several great reasons why you didn’t get the part.

If the part went to a name, it is one of the best reasons you were not cast. It means that they had the money for a name and that name accepted. Nothing was going to get you that part if the name said “yes.” We often have offers out to names while we are seeing other actors. We might cast the role while you are sitting in the waiting room. If this seems harsh then you are forgetting the cardinal rule of casting. The project always comes first. Over you, over me and maybe even over the producer.

Another good reason you might not have booked is because we decided after reading you that we were going to hold off until something better came along. What a compliment that is! I have done this so many times. I read an actor for a small role. I had never met them before. They blew me away. But since they didn’t get a callback for that small role they assume I hate them. Oh, so wrong.

This happens in television every day. We assume we have 100 episodes to cast and how we use each actor matters because anyone can say one line, but only a small percentage can handle a strong guest-star role. Add to this equation actors with very specific looks and it can be a true shortage if the show lasts long enough. We want to cast you however it best benefits the project.

And here’s maybe the most important reason an actor didn’t get the part and it’s a beauty. You simply weren’t right for the part. Sure, you may have fit the general, physical description in the breakdown, but so did a thousand other actors. It doesn’t do you any favors to cast you when you’re not right for the part. There’s nothing worse than the wrong actor in a role. How many times have you seen this in films and on television? It ruins the entire project.

I know you would all like nothing more than to book the role. But it’s important to remember that on any given day, it may not happen, and that actually may be for the best.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

 

5 Tools For Actors To Stay Sharp

March 14, 2016

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As an actor, you are always training regardless of whether you are seasoned or just starting out. You want to say, “I have a craft.” You are always in the pursuit of sharpening your tools. You are looking to keep your instrument alive responding, open to stimuli. Actors depend on having an instrument that works. You need to exercise it. Here are five basic essential things you have to work on constantly.

1. Script analysis.

Pick up plays and screenplays and break them down. Understand the script analysis of it from A to Z. Make a list of events—relationships, wants, conflicts, and obstacles—and look for what is not obvious. That’s good script analysis. Look for the deeper meaning of things. Go out on a limb in your analysis. What could be the extra layers of complexities that exist? Those discoveries will lead you to make choices that are off-kilter. Again, the more you train yourself to do this exercise, the easier it becomes to do this intricate work.

2. Creating characters.

You should constantly be thinking about creating different characters. Keep writing backstories for different characters. Create profiles, composites. Keep exploring their physicality. That is always the way into finding out who they are. What are the most controversial events that could have happened to them? Read lots of biographies. It will inspire you to find twists and turns. Interview folks, ask them about their lives, and uncover their secrets. It will give you ideas!

3. Improvising.

Yes, you have to be able to improvise and think fast on your feet. To be able to put it in your own words makes you able to own the material you are working on on a deeper level. Also, knowing you can improve the scene makes you fearless—a feeling that you could handle anything. You can have a lot of fun getting out of your head in that way and completely forgetting what the next moment is. You really have to trust your impulses and channel them in the most creative way.

4. Knowing the words.

Work on committing lines to memory. If someone comes to see you perform in a play, remember that cliché question they ask you backstage, “How did you learn all those lines?” But all joking aside, for some actors, memorizing can be a challenge. The breaking down of the script, knowing who the character is, and improvising the dialogue before committing to the words that are written can very much help you with this tool. Again, it’s a muscle that you have to train. Memorize a poem, a song, a monologue, or a scene every week. Once you understand the intent of the line, say it and make it yours over and over again. Your body has muscle memory; it remembers. Although improvisation is wonderful, if Aaron Sorkin or David Mamet wrote that script, you will need to get it perfect word for word.

5. Knowing how to work in front of the camera.

Yes, practice makes perfect, but the moment a camera is filming you, everything is different. Learn to watch yourself and learn from it. It’s important to understand if the choices you are making are reading. Look at what your body is doing; look at what your face is doing; see how you take direction and implement the adjustments quickly. As you try out different choices, find out which one is the strongest and which one plays the best.

Every tool mentioned above is a muscle that needs to be worked on consistently in order to strengthen your craft.

Once you have that foundation, repetition will deepen your work as an actor. So roll up your sleeves and get to work!


Michelle Danner is a renowned acting coach who works with A-List Actors privately as well as on set. Michelle trained with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen and was voted favorite acting coach by Backstage readers and featured coaching Andy Richter on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.  Michelle has two books coming out in 2016, The Daily Ritual and The Golden Box.  Please find more about Michelle and her acting classes at michelledanner.com.

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Actor, You’ve Just Won The Lotto (Part Two)

March 10, 2016

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The sexiest choice isn’t always the smartest choice.

The most frustrating thing for commercial casting directors is that there is very little recourse to hold an actor accountable for backing out of a booking. If we cancel an actor after he has been booked, the actor is entitled to a cancellation fee, which on SAG-AFTRA jobs is a full day’s pay for the number of days the actor was booked. If an actor accepts a booking and then later decides to back out of it, however, there is no reciprocal rule that says the actor must pay something back to production for the breach of contract. In theory, the actor could be sued and held accountable financially, but in practice, it makes much more sense to hire another actor and move on. The only thing we can really do is to put a permanent note on that actor in our database. I’ve never been a fan of the practice of black-balling an actor, but the lack of professionalism exhibited when an actor doesn’t honor a booking as a verbal contract is hard to ignore. Casting directors remember things like that. We always remember.

One time I had to tell a producer the day before a big car commercial that one of the principal actors decided she would rather do a table read for a film with Quincy Jones than work in the commercial. The producer screamed at me and threatened to sue the actress for the budget of the commercial shoot (somewhere in the mid six figures I think), which was ridiculous, because the twenty-something-year-old actress was about as likely to have that kind of money to pay for production as any other struggling artist or recent college graduate barely paying off student loans. Ultimately, we ended up hiring the backup, who turned out to be great. The director of that spot has gone on to use her in several other commercials since then. I never heard whether the first actress got the gig with Quincy Jones, but I do know one producer who made it abundantly clear that we are never, EVER supposed to call in that actress for a project she is producing… and that producer works on A LOT of commercials. I hope it was worth it. I bet Quincy’s really cool.


 

Justin Radley

Justin Radley is a partner ASG Casting where he contributes his familiarity with both the SAG-AFTRA and non-union talent pools to find the best talent for commercials, television, and web-based content. His understanding of the SAG Commercials Contract and the CoEd (Industrial) Contract allows him to provide clients with sound advice on both bidding and talent negotiations.  Camera Left / Stage Right — a part of ASG Casting — offers a number of acting classes throughout the year.

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