fbpx

The Article Actors Really Don’t Want to Read

January 19, 2016

JanInsiderHeader_2016

The following is an excerpt from my book Scott Sedita’s Guide to Making it in Hollywood: 3 Steps to Success, 3 Steps to Failure. 

MAKING IT LARGE COVER-1

I had a student in my 10-week Acting class who was a very good actor. He had the talent, the confidence and the perseverance. I’ll call him Tom. At the end of the ninth class, I handed everyone a short monologue to work on for the final night. Throughout the course, Tom and the other actors learned specific acting tools and techniques to help them bring scenes and monologues to life. At the last class, I was excited to see everybody’s final work, especially Tom’s. He had “arced” several times over the 10 weeks, making significant strides in his acting as well as his ability to bring his own essence and personality to the material. With his strong build, intense look and deep emotion, I gave Tom a monologue that was perfect for him. I looked forward to seeing what he would bring to the role of a young soldier back from Iraq telling his story of what “really happened” over there. When Tom performed his scene in class, his natural instincts, acting training and intellectual understanding of the material were clearly showcased. He understood the text, the character’s Want and Obstacle, as well as the tone of the piece.

Unfortunately, Tom’s monologue never came to life. He brought no subtext, depth or real emotional connection to the work. It was clear that he hadn’t done enough preparation. When I asked Tom specific questions about his character, he came back with vague answers. Tom finally confessed that even though he had the piece for a week, he “hadn’t really worked on it.” Tom said that after he read the monologue, he loved it and instantly related to the character. He wrote down notes of what he wanted to do with the material and was excited about performing. He had even hoped that he could use this piece for an upcoming agent meeting.When it came time for Tom to work on the monologue over the week, something would inevitably come up (girlfriend problems, roommate problems, job problems). He found himself constantly putting it off until the next day. In fact, he waited until just two hours before class to really prepare.

SUDDEN-FEAR_MAIN1520

I said to him, “But I thought you loved the piece, that you identified with it, and were excited about performing it.” Tom replied sheepishly, “I know, I know.” Then he shrugged and said, “I guess I’m just lazy.” I said, “No, you’re not lazy. You’re fearful.” As you can imagine, Tom was caught off guard by my response. As a proud young man, he didn’t take it well when I told him he was afraid. I explained to him and the class that there really aren’t lazy actors, just fearful actors. I told them that laziness is just an excuse used to hide what’s really going on which is fear.

As artists, we have chosen a vocation where Fear runs rampant. Fear can control everything from our day-to-day activities to our destinies. Because of the inherent instability of this business, actors have no clear path, no certain future…and that can breed fear. Because of that fear, we all have the ability and the potential to sabotage our careers. I’ve seen many actors do just that. I’ve seen actors consciously put off studying and honing their craft. I’ve seen actors talk themselves out of career opportunities. I’ve seen actors make excuses for not doing what they came out to Hollywood to do. I’ve seen actors let various distractions get in their way, leading them to take wrong actions. I’ve seen actors let their beautiful, innate acting talent wither and die. I’ve seen actors quit, never fulfilling their destiny. This all comes from fear. It is fear that will stand in the way of achieving your want of becoming a successful actor.

Fear is a broad topic. There have been hundreds of books, dissertations, articles, seminars and a plethora of TED Talks tackling the complexities of fear. Through many years of working in this industry as an agent, casting director and acting coach, I can attest to how fear plays an active role in the lives and careers of actors. What is fear? Fear is the anticipation of something terrible. Fear is anxiety and a lack of courage that causes trepidation about everything we do.

Fear is the enemy of ambition. Fear paralyzes us and drives us to inaction. Even worse, fear drives us to actions that will be destructive to our lives and our careers. For you actors, fear permeates throughout both your craft and your career. Fear is a lingering feeling that all actors share in some way, shape or form. Actors fear that they’re not good enough, that pursuing a career will be too much of a struggle, that they won’t be able to accept the changes an acting career will bring to their lives. Those are just a few examples. Unfortunately, you have to experience fear in order to overcome it and achieve success. Only when you face your fears can you experience positive outcomes. You need to push yourself to take risks, to overcome obstacles, to confront those things that are holding you back and get past them. If you don’t face your fears, they will consume you and you will fail.

Think of someone skydiving for the first time. Regardless of how much that person wants to experience the thrill and how much they have prepared for this moment, there will be some Fear leading up to the actual jump. In fact, there can be so much Fear that they may even second-guess whether they actually want to jump. At that point, they have a big decision to make. If they back out, they won’t experience that thrill of jumping or that satisfying feeling of accomplishment. If they muster up their strength and courage and take the leap, they will have a life experience they can be proud of.

Now, apply it to an acting career. There will be times when you will have a meeting with an agent or an audition for the perfect role. You will inevitably experience some nerves and fear before these career opportunities. You might fear that you won’t impress the agent or that you’ll forget your lines in the audition. Once again, you will be faced with a choice. For some actors, that fear can overwhelm them and they’ll sabotage themselves. They’ll be late to the agent meeting or they won’t properly prepare for the audition. They won’t face their fear and the result will be a negative effect on their career.

The right choice is to acknowledge that you have fear and decide that you’re not going to let it get in your way. You need to make the choice to work past it, envision a positive outcome, and then…make the jump. I promise you that when you do, you will be satisfied with the result. When you face, experience and overcome your fear, only good things will happen. You have to always remember that fear is just a feeling…not a fact. As you learn to embrace and integrate your fear, it will lose its power to dictate your actions. You need to change your definition of fear to “anticipatory excitement.” If you did not feel fear in this business, then it would not be your heart’s desire. Fear is never going anywhere, so you have to decide how you relate to Fear.


To learn more about the different types of fear, and how to overcome it, check out Scott Sedita’s Guide to Making it in Hollywood: 3 Steps to Success, 3 Steps to Failure.

Whether 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.

© Ron Rinaldi Photography www.ronrinaldi.com

 

Scot_Sedita_logo

Hand gestures with purpose

January 10, 2016

What are your hand gestures communicating to others? Whether you’re conveying a character as an actor or gesturing in your personal life, your hands are busy communicating something to others–but what? How exactly to interpret any type of body language has long been a source of intrigue as well as controversy. Interpretations in one culture or country can vary from others, and it’s disputed which body motions are considered universal. That being said, various body-language experts over the years have shed light on commonly accepted connotations of certain hand gestures within our culture. In the clip above, Allan Pease, globally known as “Mr. Body Language,” humorously reveals the power we hold in the palm of our hands as we seek to communicate with others, to motivate them, and to win them over.

Pease demonstrates how much information can be exchanged in a simple handshake; it’s significant because this introductory interaction has the potential to influence your feelings about the other person–namely, how dominant, equal, or subordinate you feel to them–right off the bat. Pease also demonstrates how keeping your palms turned upward while giving instruction results in a largely receptive response from others, whereas giving the same instruction with palms turned downward–or worse yet while pointing–triggers a more resistant response from others.

After watching this video, you’ll likely find yourself paying closer attention to your own hand motions as well as those of your friends, family members, and colleagues. Use caution in your interpretations though. As Pease asserts, “One gesture could mean perhaps a dozen different things.” To avoid misunderstandings, he suggests people look for clusters of gestures instead of simply relying on one. When a speaker touches his or her nose, for instance, this might suggest a lie is being told, but it could also indicate that person simply has an itchy nose or a cold. However, if a speaker rubs his nose, then rubs his eye, and then looks downward, this cluster of motions is more indicative of a lie.

Research suggests that body language accounts for a whopping 55 percent for the overall information transmitted during interpersonal interactions. Tone of voice is attributed to 38 percent of the message. And astoundingly, the literal words spoken account only for 7 percent of the message conveyed as we converse. So, the unspoken forms of communication can clearly amount to a treasure trove for actors. This knowledge can also benefit a person’s personal and professional interactions overall.

Here is another clip of Allan Pease talking about how to be a people magnet.

Battling Nerves

October 12, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 2.30.53 PM

One of the biggest problems for actors are how to combat nerves. It can derail even the most prepared actor. I’ve had dozens of actors ask me how to quash this audition killer. The answer is manifold. When I studied in conservatory, we had relaxation classes, complete with visualization exercises, including lying on the ground pretending we were hollow and filled with liquid.  This liquid would slowly drain from our body, pulling the tension along with it. We would start at the tips of the toes, working through the ankles, the legs and so on. By the end of the 45 minute class, half of the students were either asleep or very relaxed. Which is great – IN THE CLASSROOM! But what are you going to do in an actual audition situation?

When they call your name, are you going to tell the casting director, “Oh, I’m sorry, I have to lie down for a little bit. I’ll tell YOU when I’m ready … ” It’s just not going to work. So here are a few practical tips for battling this Nerve demon.

Stressed actor

1.  PREPARATION:

Nothing is better at battle nerves than by being super prepared. If you go into that room and you know you are going to do something that no actor is going to do. If you have found profundities. If you have found a contradiction, a duality to play. In short, if you know you have a kickass performance to do, that no one else will approach in scope, there’s a good chance that you will be sitting in that waiting room chomping at the bit to get in there.

2.  THE MOMENT BEFORE:

We all know about the moment before. If we are shooting a scene, where we have to kick down a door to fight ten evil ninjas, then while the assistant director is saying, “Lock it up. Very quiet, we are rolling,” we are preparing outside that door, pumping ourselves up, ready to engage those ninjas. We are not standing there passively waiting for the director to call, “action!” Why then, in an audition, do we feel we have to shortchange our process? If you actually play that moment before in the room (yes, inside the room, in front of everybody) by the time the actual scene starts, they (producers, writers, casting director, etc.) will not exist to you anymore, and they will be vapor. Furthermore, playing that moment before in the room, gives you the opportunity to play something unique and profound that another actor may not.

3.  PERSPECTIVE:

I know as actors that we feel we are being judged in the audition. We are being judged as artists. We are being judged in regards to our abilities as actors. We think the casting director is sitting there thinking, “Hmm, is this guy any good? Because if he’s not, I am going to call his agent and tell them they suck!” In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The casting director is pulling for you. When you walk in, he or she is praying, “Please Dear God, Jesus, and Mohammed. Let this next actor, ‘get it’ and make my job that much easier. I have to find somebody to bring to the producers today and I haven’t seen anyone worthy since lunch.”

You see, dear actor, their butts are on the line too. They have a job to do. They brought you in because they believe that you can play this role. You are being given an opportunity and when you are given an opportunity to step up and impress, it’s time to do just that.

Always remember why you started acting in the first place. Whether it was singing songs at your dear Grandma’s birthday or playing all the parts from a Saturday Night Live skit at the breakfast table for your family, it was just for the love of performing. There was no pressure, no judgments, just joy. Try to get in touch with that love and that innocence once again. Try to find that young artist without guile, without pressures and say, “I’m going in there anyway. I think this time, I’m going to get out of my own way. I am going to give myself permission to win.” Give yourself permission to win my brothers and sisters, then go and do it.

 


 

DavidHeadshotGrayStudiosLogo

David Gray is the master instructor and co-owner of Gray Studios. A longtime student of acting, David Gray grew up on and around the stages of New York City. He is a graduate of NYC’s High School of Performing Arts. He studied extensively after high school with his prime mentor Anthony Abeson. He also attended H.B. Studios where he had the pleasure of studying with such teachers (and actors) as Herbert Bergoff, Carol Rosenfeld, Bill Hickey and Uta Hagen. As an actor, David has performed on and off Broadway. Most notable was his critically acclaimed portrayal of Rodolpho in the Tony Award Winning production of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge. David most recently played Todd Palin in the critically acclaimed HBO movie, Game Change. Checkout out at GrayStudiosLA.com – 818-582-3943

Fabulous First Impressions at Your First Agent Meeting

January 7, 2013

You’ve been putting yourself out there for a while hoping to get an agent. And suddenly an agent indeed calls you in for a meeting. Before you start celebrating, it’s time to get down to the business of preparing. Yes, figure out what you’re going to wear and how to do your hair; but more importantly, be ready to answer questions such as “Lots of actors walk through these doors. Tell me, why should I represent you?” Even the coolest and smoothest speakers can get thrown off by such open-ended questions when juggling the desire to make a good impression, filtering their life story into a simplified response, maintaining an easy rapport, and displaying a unique quality. Not as easy as it seems! Agents need to get to know you in a short, limited time to figure how you may fit into their agency, and then get back to the work of finding jobs for their clients. Be smart and show your appreciation by coming prepared.

The Demeanor Advantage

First of all, some experts maintain your body language accounts for over 90% of what you communicate in a job interview, meaning your overall demeanor is arguably more important than your verbal response. So you want to get into a favorable, confident frame of mind. There are many techniques people use to go about doing this from yoga to deep breathing to positive affirmations. If it works, do it. But remember some of the scientifically proven techniques based on recent brain research to get into that confident, authentic zone. Three examples include taking two minutes to pose in power postures, including the classic Wonder Woman-legs-apart-fists-on-waist position. Read here for this quick, easy technique. Or embody a calm, happy manner by simply focussing on the present, and avoiding any distracting thoughts (whether positive or negative) that compete with your focus. Or tap into your inner happiness by using exercise, gratitude journals, and performing random acts of kindness–all of which optimize genuine positive human interaction. The mechanics of sending positive messages through body language involve sitting up straight (as opposed to hunching), leaning forward to show you’re engaged, keeping hands relaxed and away from your face, as well as breathing before you answer a question. A strange tip for maintaining eye contact is to choose one of the interviewer’s eyebrows and look at it; this creates a sense of listening intently without seeming too intense. Read here for more tips on body language at interviews. 

Articulating Verbal Responses

To begin with, verbal responses to the agent’s interview questions should illustrate a short-hand version of your history as an actor, where your career stands as of today, as well as your career goals. Imagine questions you will be asked, and practice ways to answer each one using clear, concise wording. If you want acting to be your profession, you need to make sure you speak professionally. Adding some humor is a plus to keep things feeling down to earth; using words from the Most Annoying Word List of 2012 such as “whatever,” “just sayin’,” and the classic “like” rate as cringeworthy. Emphasize your creative problem solving and ways you’ve grown stronger when addressing any drawbacks you’ve encountered along your Thespian journey. And make certain to prioritize your storytelling with illustrations of what makes you a shiny, remarkable, and unique candidate for their agency.

When practicing at home, make sure your answers last less than a minute but no less than 30 seconds using a calm manner. But don’t get too rote; being responsive to the agent is important. First impressions can make or break an acting career, so use this time to prepare. It can mean the difference between having a meeting with an agent, and actually having an agent.

Can Your Posture Really Change Your Acting Career?

October 14, 2012

Wonder Woman in power position

“Fake it till you become it.” –Amy Cuddy

What position is your body in right now as you read this blog? Are you slouching with your ankles crossed? Do you have a leg kicked up on the desk? This might seem like a trivial question, and you might firmly believe your current posture has absolutely no bearing on the success of your career and life. But how important is your posture really? We’ve all heard how the simple act of smiling can actually make you feel happier, but recent scientific evidence is taking this line of thinking a step further. Harvard Business School professor and researcher, Amy Cuddy, studies how significantly our nonverbal behavior influences others as well as our internal selves.

All actors know what it feels like to be “on”–confident, passionate, comfortable, authentic. This is the best state of mind to enter an audition, give a speech, and even get a date. All actors likewise know how it feels to have an “off” day–insecure with thoughts of self-doubt, and a sense of being overwhelmed. It’s disheartening to return home at the end of the day feeling you didn’t show your best self, and beat yourself up over it.

Cuddy explains how simply opening your body posture for two minutes actually changes your testosterone levels (which, in turn, increases your sense of power) and diminishes your cortisone levels (this reduction makes you less reactive to stress). So what does this mean to you as an actor? It boils down to this…

 

Mick Jagger in power pose

Before your next big audition, DO NOT:

Sit with your legs or ankles crossed, hunch your shoulders, cross your arms, rest your head on your hands, or writhe on the floor in a fetal position. Any of these postures make your body smaller–and this affects your hormone levels so that you actually feel less powerful–and worse, perform less powerfully!

Here’s what you DO instead:

Take two minutes, and get yourself in a power pose like Wonder Woman’s legs-apart, fists-on-waist position. Or stand with your arms triumphantly reaching over your head. Or sit back with your hands clasped behind your head–anything to literally open up and make your posture larger.

That is all there is to it, folks! Two minutes.

TIME Magazine is calling Cuddy’s research on posture a Game Changer. “Using a few simple tweaks to body language, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy discovers ways to help people become more powerful.”

So now not only can you enter your auditions emboldened with this knowledge, but you can also take your acting skills to the next level of the game. When asked to perform that lowly, subordinate, or strong, compelling lawyer, teacher, house wife, or gang member, use this bountiful resource of body language research to deliver a masterful performance. And remember this trick the next time you go for new headshots!

Click here to here to listen to Amy Cuddy’s informative, personal, and moving talk, and learn tips to fake it till you become it.