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4 Tips to Stand Out in Auditions When You’re New

February 17, 2020

Wendy Alane Wright is a former talent agent and talent manager in Hollywood. She currently works as an acting career coach and is the author of several books that offer step-by-step guidelines for aspiring actors. Secrets of a Hollywood Talent Manager—How to Break Into the Business is written for Los Angeles actors, How to Be a Star Right Where You Are is for actors who live anywhere but LA, and How to Get Your Kids into TV, Film, Print & Commercials Without Spending a Fortune is intended for parents. 

In her How to Stand Out in Auditions YouTube video, Wright speaks to performers who are just starting out, sharing four tips on how to shine brightly in the audition room.  

1. Be on time. 

Yes, it may sound basic, but punctuality is actually very important in show business. Arriving on time “makes you stand out in a good way—like a professional,” Wright insists. Of course, sometimes things happen that hold you up despite your best efforts—an accident on the 405 freeway, a flat tire, or perhaps a zombie apocalypse. But a pro will go to lengths to make sure those instances are minimized as much as possible. Punctuality is a sign that you value others and you respect their time; it demonstrates that you’re dependable—which is essential should you book the job and need to be a team player on set; it boosts your confidence when you know you’re on top of things; and when you’re on time—or better yet, 15 minutes early—you can take a breath and go over your lines so you can put your best foot forward in the audition room.

2. Memorize your sides.

Wright encourages actors to learn their lines—really know them inside and out. She insists doing so shows “You’re prepared. That makes you stand out in auditions.” (It should be noted that there’s some wiggle room here. Although casting directors do want actors to be familiar with the material, many will excuse actors glancing at the script if needed as long as they then look back up and give an engaging performance.)

3. Make interesting choices.

If the script calls for a specific emotion such as anger, Wright implores actors to dig a little deeper into their own experiences and imaginations to avoid giving a predictable, safe reading. “Human beings are complicated,” she insists. “When the casting directors are watching the same thing over and over and over and over, [a nuanced delivery] stands out because it’s different.” She refers actors to a book titled Building a Character by the legendary Russian stage actor and director Constantin Stanislavski. The book is the second of three volumes that make up his Acting Trilogy (An Actor Prepares is the first, and Creating a Role is the third). Building a Character discusses the external techniques of acting including the way a performer uses his or her body, movement, diction, singing, expression, and control. It focuses on detailed strategies and exercises to build a strong foundation for any given character, including vocal patterns, timing, and rhythm. “If you do the work as an actor, you’ll go deeper than what it just says on the page, and you’ll study human behavior,” Wright says. 

Take your acting career seriously.

Love acting and pursue it passionately.  Wright asserts, “If it’s really your passion … it’s more than just wanting to be an actor, it’s more than just having a pretty picture with some classes on the back; it’s about becoming a great actor.”  This commitment to your craft, to the profession, and as a collaborator will make you stand out, even before you’ve worked out all the kinks. When you’re grateful for the opportunities to do the work you love, others will notice you for the right reasons.

The Mandalorian Actor Emily Swallow’s Audition Was Delicate Because…

January 24, 2020

Actor Emily Swallow is known as Kim Fischer on The Mentalist and as Amara / The Darkness in the eleventh season of Supernatural. Recently Emily starred as the Armorer in the live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian on Disney+. (Yes, the show with “Baby Yoda.”)

Emily’s character, the Armorer, is masked, so just how does one portray a masked character at an audition? Emily needed to create a balanced use of emotion without physically showing emotion.

Take that, along with not even knowing what she was auditioning for, and you have a really delicate situation which could have easily been broken.

Many detours lead up to the road where Emily Swallow’s acting career is currently at, so let’s put it in reverse and then floor it forward to learn how she won the role of the Armorer and how her other acting roles have impacted her life.

After college where you earned a degree in Middle Eastern Studies, you studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. That’s a drastic change from your college major. What made you decide to take up acting after graduating from the University of Virginia?

I think it took me a beat longer than pretty much everyone around me to know I would wind up an actor. I grew up with incredibly encouraging parents; they always told my brother and me that whatever we decided to pursue, they just wanted us to be happy. Well, there were a lot of things that made me happy – singing, acting, playing the piano, history, literature, political science – and, since I didn’t know anyone in my immediate sphere who was a professional actor, it just didn’t strike me as a thing I could aspire to. But I loved history and politics and learning about different social and geopolitical perspectives, so when I went to UVA and started focusing on a major, something related to foreign affairs really excited me. I thought I’d go into the State Department and be a Foreign Service Officer, and I did intern at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute for a summer. BUT I was spending half my time on this major and thesis and the other half performing in Drama Department productions. And I feel really fortunate that the department at UVA was so welcoming to non-majors, because I don’t know if I would have committed so much time to it otherwise. So…my last year of undergrad, one of my teachers, Richard Warner, asked me “Have you thought about doing this professionally? Because you clearly love it, and I think you could.” And we agreed that I’d benefit from going to a conservatory where I could develop a process; I’d sort of been flying by the seat of my pants and going on instinct, and I worked with some wonderful directors at UVA, but I didn’t really have a reliable way into climbing into a role. He helped me cook up a dozen monologues and off I went to New York for a couple of weekends to audition for a whole slew of programs, including NYU and Juilliard. When I got into NYU, it felt like too incredible an opportunity to pass up, so I walked through the door, and I’m forever grateful for that opportunity.

What did your family say when you told them you were going to be a full-time actor?

This is where my first career choice came in really handy – the idea had been to become a Foreign Service Officer and head to an embassy in the Middle East. So when I told them that I was just going to New York City, they were thrilled! Seriously – they have been my biggest cheerleaders, and have always encouraged me through the ups and downs.

Once you were in NYC, how did you get your agents and manager? How come you have different agents for voiceovers vs. acting on screen?

Our class did a showcase just like the dozens and dozens of other programs and, incredibly, I wound up with the agent that would be my agent until earlier this year, when she became my manager. Her name is Hannah Roth and I signed with her at Buchwald for theatrical work; I signed at the same time with Abrams Artists for commercials and voiceover work, and I’m still with them as well. I worked without a manager for the first six years of my career because Hannah was such a personal agent, and we didn’t meet anyone we wanted to bring into the team. But in 2010 I met and immediately clicked with Lisa Gallant, who was my manager until this year. Lisa had seen some of my TV work and came to see my play Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at The Old Globe in San Diego, and we knew we wanted to work together. When Hannah left Buchwald to start 11:11 Entertainment this year, Lisa was beautifully understanding about me wanting to continue to work with Hannah, so we parted ways.

So – Buchwald handles my TV, film and theatre work, and Abrams represents me for commercials and voiceover; both agencies are large enough to have separate departments for these different mediums, and I clicked with different departments at each when I graduated from Tisch, so that’s why I went with different agencies for Theatrical vs. Voiceover / Commercial work.

You came on as Amara / The Darkness in the eleventh season of Supernatural. What was it like coming onto a show where all the main actors have already been working together for 10 previous seasons? Who was the first actor you met for Supernatural? Was it on set or at a party or somewhere else? Is it uncomfortable coming onto a show where everyone already knows each other?

You never know what to expect going into a long running show, but Supernatural is one of the warmest, most generous and most playful sets I’ve ever stepped foot on. I was welcomed immediately – before I even got to set! I remember Ruth Connell reaching out to me because she was in the same episode and she asked me to brunch with Briana Buckmaster and Erica Carroll, both actresses who had been on the show. It did so much to put me at ease because they were all incredibly down to earth and sweet and fun. But when I actually got to set I saw I had even less reason to worry – Jensen was the first person I worked with, and he made me feel completely welcome. In a way, it was completely opposite to the experience Amara had, because she was an outsider who was decidedly unwelcome. It was great for her, though, that I could use the nerves that I felt about trying to get to know all the names and faces in service of playing HER unease.

After working on Broadway and various other East Coast theatre and television productions, you made the move to LA. Why? What was the job you were offered that was shot in California? Who did you room with before you found a place to stay?

My first trip to LA happened when I tested for a CBS pilot to play Freddie Prinze Jr’s (older) sister; I read for it with Meg Simon in New York and got the call that they wanted to fly me out…it was very surreal, because in real life I’m three years younger than him, but in the show I was supposed to be five or six years older and half Italian/half Puerto Rican (I am neither). My experience was limited to the Sheraton at Universal Studios and the Warner Brothers lot, and LA felt vast and unfamiliar and fairly daunting; I didn’t have set plans to go back anytime soon. But, as is often the case in this profession, the unexpected changes our plans… later that year, I opened High Fidelity on Broadway and had signed on for a year, so I thought my location was pretty set… that is, until we closed after less than a month. That was the beginning of December, which meant pilot season was just around the corner.

Hannah, my point person at Buchwald in NYC, had just moved to the LA office, so we decided that my newly branded status of “unemployed” was as good a reason as any to try an LA pilot season. I think I stayed out there just over a month, and I got in the room with some good casting directors for some great projects, but didn’t land anything (since that first test, I’d say I’ve tested 15 times, and booked three of those pilots/shows). For the next few years, I’d continue to take short trips to LA, building relationships with casting directors and auditioning. I’d sometimes stay with friends in their guest rooms and sometimes I’d sublet. It was a great way to get to know the city, because I lived all over during those years. It always seemed like I could find a car to borrow off of someone who was working in NY while I was in LA and, when I couldn’t, I used Rent-a-Wreck or something similarly glamorous. Grin.

For a few years, it just seemed like LA didn’t have anything substantial to offer me besides guest spots, so I’d wind up back in New York or off to the Guthrie or Old Globe to do more theatre. My agents have always supported my desire to continue acting in theatre, and we tried to find a balance that would make me available during busier TV times. Then I got an opportunity to play Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Guthrie, and I did the thing you’re “never” supposed to do – I left town during pilot season to do a play in Minnesota. But I LOVED that role, and doing it at the Guthrie was one of those bucket list items. So…I’m in Minneapolis in the dead of winter doing a dream role and it turned out all that time I’d put in in LA paid off, because casting directors wanted me to go on tape constantly. I had one of my busiest pilot seasons ever and, because I was doing work I loved, I was turning in great auditions. One of those was to be a series regular on the David E. Kelley/Sanjay Gupta pilot Monday Mornings for TNT. Bill D’Elia was directing, and he and David loved my tape and said they were even more intrigued when they heard I was playing Maggie. I tested for that pilot on tape from Minneapolis and booked my second pilot and the first that went to series. If that’s not encouragement to listen to your gut, I don’t know what is.

When Monday Mornings got picked up, I decided to move my things in NY into a storage unit and commit to LA for the six months we’d be shooting. We were down at Manhattan Beach Studios, so I sublet a place at the beach, and I found my happy place. I realized that living by the ocean gave me a greater sense of calm and gave me space to breathe.

Monday Mornings only lasted a season on TNT, so I found myself back in New York, but shortly after returning I went on tape to play Agent Fischer on The Mentalist, flew to LA to test with Simon Baker, and found myself an LA resident again. This time I sublet a friend’s place in Venice even though I was going to be shooting in Burbank; I figured I’d have to drive long distances no matter where I lived, and I was hooked on the beach.

My season of The Mentalist was 2013, and that started a period of me being in LA far more than New York. I still felt very connected to New York and still auditioned for work in New York, so I maintained those casting relationships, but LA had more love for me, so I found myself living there more. I was based there with short trips back to NY for the period between 2013 and 2018, but then I got married; my husband is blessed to be part of a successful show (Come From Away), so now New York is home again. I still spend plenty of time in LA these days because SEAL Team shoots there, and I really like spending time between the cities. I feel like they balance each other out nicely.

Your husband Chad Kimball is also an actor. Is there ever a fear of paying the bills since you both have jobs that could end like that <snap!>.

We’ve both known that fear, but we’ve made good choices with our money during the more lucrative times so we’re not living in fear of the work falling away. I think we also choose actively to live in faith that the work will come, and it has been true for us; we’ve both had dry spells, and those dry spells provide opportunities for growth in other parts of our lives, but we have been blessed to be busy these past few years, and we’re investing our money wisely.

Let’s talk about Star Wars The Mandalorian. For the auditions, there was a codename called “Untitled High Budget” so actors didn’t really know what they were auditioning for. Were you given sides that are actually from the script? What did you wear? Who was in the room with you? Did you have a callback? Were there chemistry tests? How did you know when you got the part? Who told you? Where were you when you found out? Who was the first person you told?

Ha! It was pretty darn mundane. My agents said they were pretty sure it had something to do with Star Wars, but because there had never been a Star Wars series, and NOTHING had been discussed about The Mandalorian yet, I had no frame of reference. It wasn’t clear how big the role would be or even what the context was, so I approached it like I do any other audition – since there was no script for me to gather information from, I just had to go with the breakdown and with my gut responses to the material. As I recall, the audition sides were similar to the scene with The Armorer in Chapter 3; I was definitely calling order to a group of people and breaking up a fight, and something along the lines of “This is the way” was in the sides. I was told the character would be masked, but I did not audition masked; I did, however, try to focus on very deliberate movement and less facial expression since I knew that would be more important in the playing of the role. Because the character was described as “Zen,” that was an easy thing to factor in. I think I wore a long dark colored jacket and pulled my hair back; I tried to keep it very simple. I was reading with Jason Stamey, who is a Casting Associate at Sarah Finn Casting. He gave me some really helpful adjustments based on the feedback they’d gotten from other auditions, and he was the one who told me to try a take with a British accent. The role was originally described as being a British woman in her 50s-60s. And that was it! I was in the middle of doing HENRY IV with the LA Shakespeare Center, and I think I found out during the run that I’d gotten it, so I probably told some castmates after I told my husband. I was excited but still pretty in the dark about what exactly it was, so I didn’t know what to expect! And I wasn’t allowed to say anything about it (major NDA), so I had a good excuse to stay cautious and mellow about it.

After you won the role of the Armorer, how long was it before you started work? Did you go in for costume fittings, table reads, etc., before the actual first day of shooting?

 As I recall, I found out in July or August and started filming in October. In between, I was planning my wedding and getting married, so other things are a bit vague in my memory! I had a few costume fittings where they took a cast of my torso and showed me what it was going to look like, and THAT’s when I started to get excited. My costume is the work of unbelievably skilled craftspeople and it took a long time for them to finish it. They even flew someone out overnight for a fitting while I was in New York and couldn’t get away to LA, so it was done with great care. We had no table read and I didn’t get a chance to talk much with Jon Favreau or Dave Filon until I got to set the day before shooting, but at that point we had great conversations about tone, other movie references, and how The Armorer fit into the Mandalorian’s journey.

In high profile, “secret” jobs such as The Mandalorian, what would *really* happen if you spilled the beans and showed the world your costume and discussed what you were working on?

I don’t know what the exact repercussions would be, but it would feel to me like I was betraying a trust and disrespecting the work of my fellow actors, crew, and the whole production. I’m sure I’d at least get a stern talking to, but I’ve never tried to find out about exact penalties – I’d rather stay out of it!

Have you ever worked with green screen? What’s that like? Do they put markers on the floor or objects for you to look at that will later be filled in with CGI?

I first worked with one on The Mentalist – we had an episode set in New York, and they used a green screen for the Manhattan skyline. So I didn’t have to deal with a lot of imaginary objects. We did use green screen for some of the weapons forging in The Mandalorian, and there were markers in place as reference points for things I was making or looking at.

You do appearances and attend conventions. What’s it like going to these events? How is your day organized? Does a car pick you up or do you have to get to the event on your own? Is there hair & make-up or you do your own? What’s it like talking to the fans?

It varies from event to event. Transportation is provided if it’s out of town, and our day consists of panel discussions, taking photos with fans, signing autographs, and sometimes Meet and Greets with a smaller group of people, karaoke and, at the Creation Entertainment conventions for Supernatural, a Saturday night concert. I do my hair and makeup on my own.

Talking to the fans is a huge gift. One of the things I love about theatre is that you have a direct connection to the audience, but in television you don’t get that. So it’s always interesting to hear what the fans connect with or what they like and dislike about a show. Because of the travel involved, the schedule can be tiring, but sometimes I get to stay an extra day or two in one of the cities and explore, and that travel has been a huge gift.

And now for some trivia:

a) What have you done in the past that you no longer have time for now?

I want to make more time to play the piano. I love it and used to play more, but it tends to fall by the wayside.

b) Name something you WANT to do but will never do. Why won’t you do it?

I can’t say I’ve ruled anything out just yet.

c) What drives you absolutely nuts in a bad way?

People who stand RIGHT next to the conveyor belt at the bag claim so you can’t see what bags are coming out and have to ask them to move if you DO see your bag. Why can’t everyone just stand a few feet back to make it easier for all of us?

d) If you could have any vehicle in the world, what would it be? Why don’t you have it?

A VW Surf van.

If you could interview yourself, what is the first question you’d ask? What’s the answer?

Cats or dogs? Dogs. Cats make me feel like I’m imposing on something REALLY important and they’re just barely tolerating me.

Emily Swallow

What advice do you have for actors just starting out?

Be prepared for hard work without immediate rewards; you have to trust that.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I have a love for the ocean and, because of all the trash I saw in the water while I was out surfing, I started to do volunteer work for the Surfrider Foundation Los Angeles Chapter. It’s an environmental nonprofit focused on the protection and enjoyment of our oceans, waves and beaches. I run a program called Ocean Friendly Restaurants, which is focused on reducing single use plastics, increasing energy efficiency and water conservation and encouraging sustainable food practices at restaurants. Because restaurants have such a huge impact on the waste flow and can be leaders in influencing consumer behavior, it’s a program that has gained a lot of traction in the last couple of years.

 

FOLLOW EMILY SWALLOW:

Instagram: @bigEswallz

Twitter: @bigEswallz

Website

EMILY SWALLOW’S BIOGRAPHY

Emily Swallow was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Sterling, VA and Jacksonville, FL.

She earned a BA in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Virginia and interned at the State Department, but an acting teacher at UVA noticed her passion and talent for acting and singing and encouraged her to pursue further training. She auditioned for the prestigious NYU Tisch Graduate Acting Program and was accepted into their MFA Program.

On television, Emily is best known for Supernatural, The Mentalist, How to Get Away with Murder, Monday Mornings, and the highly acclaimed Disney+ Series The Mandalorian. She can also be heard as the voice of Dracula’s ill-fated true love, Lisa Tepes, in the Netflix series Castlevania.

Emily continues to act on stage whenever she can, starring in world premieres of Donald Margulies play The Country House at LA’s Geffen Playhouse, opposite Mark Rylance in Louis Jenkins’ play Nice Fish at the Guthrie Theatre, in John Patrick Shanley’s musical Romantic Poetry at Manhattan Theater Club and in High Fidelity on Broadway. In summer of 2018 she played a lady AND a charlatan opposite Tom Hanks’ Falstaff in the Shakespeare Center Los Angeles production of Henry IV Parts 1 & 2. She was part of the LA Drama Critics’ Circle Award-Winning 2016 production of Disgraced at the Mark Taper Forum in LA and she won the Falstaff Award for best Female Performer in 2010 for her performance as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew at the Old Globe in San Diego.

Emily is a gifted singer; she has done her share of musicals and rock concerts. In 2012, Emily and fellow singer/comedienne Jac Huberman created a stage show called Jac N Swallow, which they perform in New York at the Laurie Beechman Theater and Joe’s Pub. They would like to do the show again; will someone please babysit Jac’s kids?


Ilana Rapp is s a former (child) actress with Broadway, film and television credits. She has written for The Huffington Post and writes entertainment pieces for Casting Frontier, NYCastings and New Jersey Stage. She is a huge fan of the television show V. Ask her why her favorite number is 22. Follow Ilana on Twitter @LizardLadyNJ

 

 

How to Embrace Fear in Your Next Audition with Greg Sims

November 26, 2019

“Everything changes when we give up trying to get rid of fear and just make friends with it.” — Greg Sims

Greg Sims is a professional actor and goal setting coach. His clients include everyone from multimillion-dollar pop stars, to school teachers, to Netflix executives. He helps them set goals and create the lives of their dreams.

Greg recently sat down with Casting Frontier to share his advice for booking auditions, growing as a performer, and dealing with fear and anxiety.

From Addict to Coach

A professional actor since the age of 19, Greg’s career was on the rise until his addiction to drugs and alcohol got in the way. In 2002, he hit rock bottom. Through the guidance of others who had been in his position, he was able to overcome his addiction. In recovery, he learned to accept what was within his power and release what wasn’t.

Not surprisingly, his addiction had left his acting career in shambles. Greg began to apply the skills he learned in recovery to acting.

“My technique is this very stoic philosophy that there are things we have power over and there are things that we don’t,” Greg says. ”If we focus on what we have power over we lead happy, meaningful lives. And if we focus on what we don’t have power over we drive ourselves crazy.”

By taking things one day at a time and setting small goals, he was able to book acting jobs and get his career back on track. 

Now that he was healthy and thriving Greg returned to another love, teaching. He began to share his technique with his acting students. His unique approach resonated with actors and led some to seek private coaching with him.

For the past 11 years, Greg’s been coaching actors just starting out, series regulars, and celebrities. Here are some of the techniques, exercises, and advice he gives to his clients. 

Casting Calls and Goal Setting

Greg’s top tip for how to book more acting jobs comes down to goal setting. He recommends giving yourself a deadline. If your goal is to book a breakthrough role — set a date.

“Keep in mind that the date is just a game we’re playing,” Greg says. ”It’s just so the mind has something to focus on. If an actor says ‘my goal is to book this breakthrough role’ and it’s open-ended — you go back to sleep, because you have all the time in the world.”

Greg also advises his students to work backward. Determine what smaller steps you need to take to achieve your goal.

Do you have a great agent who is getting you career-building auditions? If not, you’ll need a killer demo reel to sign with a good agent. No demo reel yet? Ok, then the step before that is to get some dazzling material that shows off your skill and magnetic personality. 

That’s your first goal. Book some smaller roles. This will allow you to build a reel that gets an agent’s attention. 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

In his experience, Greg knows the key to growing as a performer is to do what scares you.  

“90% of the actions that are outside of your comfort zone are going to be the most effective,” Greg says. “Because the ones that are in your comfort zone you’re probably already doing. And they haven’t worked.”

Greg shared one of his favorite exercises to help actors find actionable ways to achieve their goals.

3-Day Brainstorming Exercise

For 3 days in a row, when you first wake up in the morning, grab a journal. Spend 20 minutes brainstorming actions you can take to reach your goal. Don’t judge. Just brain dump. By the end of day 3, you should have quite a list. 

Now pick the scariest thing on that list and start there. If sending cold emails to agents terrifies you — that’s a sign you should flex that muscle. Break it down into easy, manageable steps. Instead of saying you’ll spend all day cold emailing, start small. Do some research and find agents to reach out to. Start drafting your email.

“It’s just each day coming up with one thing,” Greg says. “One thing that you’re going to do for at least 20 minutes outside of your comfort zone. Aim to do that.”

Maximize Your Down Time

“People think they don’t want a balanced life, but they really do,” Greg says. When you find yourself between roles or not getting a ton of auditions, this is the time to focus on other aspects of your life.

Work on strengthening your relationships or getting in shape. Learn French, take up archery, volunteer for a cause that matters to you.  When you let go of what’s not working, you leave space for your life to sort itself out. 

“I believe that the biggest block most actors have is they’re worshiping their acting careers. They’re in obsession with it,” Greg says. Acting should be a part of your life, but not your whole life.

Agents and casting directors can tell when you’re miserable. By finding people and activities outside of acting that make you happy, you become a well-rounded person. And you have more life experience to draw from when you’re playing a role. 

Embrace Your Anxiety

“Fear and anxiety don’t have to go anywhere,” Greg says. “I think many actors have this fantasy idea about being in the moment. I should feel such confidence or I should feel like the character feels or I just need to be in this pristine ‘in the zone’ state. 

“As human beings, we can’t control our feelings when we try to get rid of fear. It just makes it worse. What you need to do not only in the actual scene, but from the moment you enter the casting office, is to understand that you can’t control your feelings. You can act through them.”

Fear and anxiety make you a real human. And that’s always more interesting to watch than a glass sculpture of an actor who is set in his ways.

If you struggle with nerves and anxiety on-set or at casting calls, Greg suggests you focus on your “doable job.” You can’t control anything else anyway. Pick an action for yourself and direct your energy toward that instead of your nerves. 

“The action I play with all casting directors is to let them know they’re in good hands. That’s my job,” Greg says. “From the Associate to the main CD, to any actors in the hallway talking to me. I’m just letting everybody know that they’re in good hands.”

Once he’s in the audition room, Greg shifts his action to one that works for the audition scene.

“I don’t think of creating a character,” Greg says. “I choose an action to play with the reader. I look the reader in the eye and let the lines mean anything and just focus on comforting them if that’s my action. And everything that happens from missing a line to bumping into something, I keep returning to that action. It creates this illusion for the viewer of a character because it’s just me.”

Get to Work

Ready to give goal setting a try? Grab a journal, pick a goal, and set a date. Take small, doable steps every day to reach your goal. Give Greg’s 3-day brainstorming exercise a try if you’re feeling stuck. 

For more information about Greg’s Power Audition Technique visit GregSimsPATH.com.

And for more information about Practical Goal Setting Technique check out PGSTcoach.com.

An Audition is Not a Test

May 25, 2018

An audition is your time to perform for the purpose of showing how you would do a part in a film, TV show, commercial, etc. It is a chance to show a sample of your creative work.

While this is a simple definition, it is an important way to view auditions. Surprisingly, even many experienced actors we talk to don’t.

Even if the actor is skilled and well trained, develops a character that fits the story and genre, has rehearsed enough to make what’s on the page come to life and is excited about the audition— something happens once they arrive at the audition. That something can be the difference between booking and not.

Once in the room, if the actor veers away from “showing a sample of their creative work” and the focus becomes “Do they think I’m good enough? Will I book it? What do they think about me? Are they judging me? Will this pay the rent?”, the actor dramatically weakens their ability to do what they are there to do: create a spontaneous and real living moment as this character. In other words, PERFORM.

An audition is a performance.

From an acting perspective, the only difference between an audition and other performances is the size of the audience.

An audition is a chance to show how you would create and perform the role. There isn’t a “right” way to perform it. There is the way you as the artist, the actor and the creator of the character would perform it, should you get the part. It’s your take on the character and their approach to life. It’s a sample of your creative work.

In the audition, the more you are focused on and participating in the life of the character you created, the more you and your audience (Casting Director, Producer, Director, etc.) will have a real and rewarding experience as the performance plays out, the more they will want to see you perform it again in whatever it is they are casting and the more they will want their audience to see you perform it.

Experiencing an actor being a character who is fully living life in an authentic and engaged way is what any audience member—from a ticket buyer on Broadway to a Casting Director on the Paramount Lot—responds to.

Focusing on doing consistently strong work that contributes to a story—and doing what you love—is not only personally artistically rewarding, it will win you respect from your peers, booked jobs —and perhaps even a big, fat movie star career and paycheck.

An audition is a sample of what you do. Do it with confidence and commitment. Let casting make a choice based on what you do and how you do it, not based on you trying to “do it right.”

If you need help refining what you do in auditions, reach out to The Acting Center. We’re experts at isolating trouble spots and helping you deliver consistently stronger and more effective auditions that lead to more bookings.


 


The Acting CenterThe Acting Center helps actors to gain control over their work, teaching them to rely on their own instincts, imagination and choices. Our scene study and improv classes produce confident actors who bring an original voice to every production.

In fact, the most distinctive thing about an Acting Center student is how different each one is. We train actors to speak in their own artistic voice—producing characters that are rich and layered. They become the artist they always wanted to be.

Theater, television and film are all collaborative mediums, so an actor must work well with other actors, directors, casting directors and many more. Our technique trains them to do just that! That’s why directors love to work with Acting Center students.

 

 

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.

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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.

 

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