Actors, Unplug!

February 10, 2013

“To experience, to engage, to endeavor, rather than to watch and to wonder–that’s where the real meat of life is to be found.” –Ben Saunders

In today’s technologically advancing world, the notion of a tech-free life with no computer or cellphone is nearing extinction. Most everyone’s life has evolved into a cellphone-talking, Internet-surfing, texting, Facebook-posting, emailing, gaming, blogging, voice-mail checking, tablet-pressing, iPod-listening, GPS-relying hybrid existence pulling us several directions at once. But wo, wo, wo, wait a minute! Wasn’t all this technology supposed to make our lives simpler? More convenient? Save time? Streamline the lifestyle? Technology can indeed empower all of our lives with its instant information and mobile communications, but it can also enslave our consciousness and steal our precious time. In a recent study, Mental_Floss reported 68% of people surveyed experienced phantom ringing: the feeling that your cell phone is vibrating when it is, in fact, not. Obviously, technology takes up a lot of space in our conscious and subconscious minds.

With technology getting more and more complex and exceedingly immersive, it might be time to consider how many sunsets you’ve missed, how many swings you haven’t swung, how many hills you’ve yet to ascend, because you’re tethered to a machine! Lets face it, computers are a part of our lives, we communicate with friends and family, we get our news online, we organize our finances, and we upload our videos. It’s a beautiful thing. But more than anything, an actor needs to be in touch with what it means to be human. And that can especially be gleaned through uninterrupted human interaction, unleashed time outdoors, sheer adventure–and lots of it.

Explorer Ben Saunders encourages us all to venture outside more–not because it’s always pleasant and happy, but because that’s where the meat of life is, “the juice that we can suck out of our hours and days.” While Saunders’ idea of adventure may be to walk from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again, your version of delving into life can take on any endless shades and variations. There are times to replenish your spirit with the steadfast beauty of nature, have a heart-to-heart with a friend, get into the hustle of city life, play a game of hoops, and on and on. Yes, with first-hand, tech-abandoned experiences comes risk: you’ll get bumped and bruised, but will also be surprised with unforeseen joys and beauty. That’s the point! Each new journey enriches your life, builds upon your empathy, humbles and edifies you–and, most importantly, makes you a better actor!

It’s key for all actors to complete an online profile so their career has the chance to get rolling; it’s wise for an actor to have a personal website; and it’s essential to network responsibly. But then, for goodness sakes…get out in the world and live fully, with conviction, without interruption, and unplug from technology. You won’t regret it.

The Irreplaceable, Human Actor

January 28, 2013

Science fiction books and movies have cautioned audiences for decades of a future in which humankind’s technological advances would ultimately lead to humanity’s own demise. Well, according to a recent Associated Press analysis, this forewarned future has arrived.

According to the analysis, five years after the start of the Great Recession, a frightening new reality has emerged: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries across the globe. This may seem obvious to all who watch the nightly news as a steady stream of conversation covers the concerning topic of lost jobs. However, according to the Associated Press, the situation is even worse than it appears. Experts who study the labor market argue that most these middle-class jobs will never return, and millions more are bound to disappear–not because they are being outsourced to other countries like China; rather, they are vanishing in the service sector, which accounts for two-thirds of all workers. The culprit? Technology.

While it’s established that for three decades technology has diminished the amount of jobs in manufacturing, now robots and machinery are overtaking many service jobs in large corporations, small businesses, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and medical facilities, retail establishments, the military as well as impacting just about every kind of organization that employs people. The growing trend affords consumers self-service capabilities giving us a certain amount of control: we can shop, be educated, transfer money in bank accounts, and renew library books conveniently from our homes for instance. Many can work while on vacation due to modern technological advances. The consequence of these modern marvels is that many people were laid off. Also, consumers can find this new set up frustrating, for example, when they need to deal with an automated answering machine instead of a living, breathing human when an issue of customer-service occurs.

But it’s the loss of the mid-pay jobs that hurts the most. Research firm, Moody’s Analytics, asserts that while 50% of U.S. jobs were lost in mid-pay jobs during the Great Recession, only 2% of the 3.5 million jobs gained are in the mid-pay range. This reflects a stark difference from previous recessions, in which 30-46% of jobs created were in mid-pay industries. Other studies that categorize jobs differently conclude similar findings.

For centuries, technological progress reduced the number of employees required in businesses around the globe. But over time, more work was created along with increasing opportunities for greater wealth. This pattern has changed along with the Great Recession, however. The lagging economy forced employers to cut costs drastically in order to survive. Replacing people with technology was a no brainer for businesses. But as the economy takes turns for the better, what business is likely to get rid of their money-saving technology and replace it with significantly higher-costing employees? Occupations that have provided a middle-class lifestyle for generations can now vanish in a few years. For example, power companies started installing technological “smart readers” outside homes; this has resulted in a plunging number of meter readers in the U.S. from 56,000 in 2001 to 36,000 in 2010, according to the Labor Department. In ten years, than number is projected to be zero.

Experts are predicting now that there is virtually no end to the manner in which computers are forging a new work landscape. Some argue software will eventually threaten the livelihoods of lawyers, doctors, and other highly skilled professionals.

With increasingly sophisticated software, machines and devices replacing humans in the work force, some questions for actors are: Can smart machines do your job? Can a machine sell a product or service over a TV screen? Or does that require an actual human being? Will all movies go the route of animation? Or will people always gravitate to movies, TV, and theater featuring Homo sapiens just like themselves? Please share your thoughts and insights on this provocative issue.

Casting Calls & Beyond with Technology

January 24, 2012

Technology continues to open new doors for actors to be discovered. Novice or undiscovered filmmakers are seeking a competitive edge by sifting through the Internet looking for opportunities to be seen. Well, If you want your work to be viewed and your voice to be heard, chances are there is a platform out there waiting for you! The 48 Hour Film Project is a great way to test your mettle under the pressure of a two-day deadline. If you’re budget challenged, but have a powerful idea, maybe the Filminute (One-Minute) Film Festival is right up your alley. How about filming street theatre and posting it online? You might want to try a webisode like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; they haven’t done too badly.

The commercial market has become a very fertile place for up and comers in the film industry. Recently, Chevrolet organized Chevrolet’s Route 66 contest. It called on filmmakers to create a 30-second spot about Chevy—and the winner’s ad will air during Super Bowl XLVI, and be awarded a $10,000 grand prize.

Talk about exposure! This Super Bowl is predicted to be the most watched in the history of the game.

26-year-old Zach Borst from Long Island, N.Y., wrote, produced, and assembled a one-minute ad about a graduate receiving a Chevrolet Camero as a gift from his parents for the competition. He used his friends as actors, for production help, and to secure  locations. Talk about your DIY attitude!

Borst’s commercial was selected as the winner, beating 198 other submissions and 400 scripts. To air the Happy Grad commercial, Chevy will spend at least $3.5 million for 30 seconds of airtime. Check out the winning Chevy Happy Grad Super Bowl ad here.

These technological avenues empower actors to be more proactive in their careers. While you’re waiting for your next TV audition and casting call, you can get creative. Do you have a great commercial idea? Grab your acting buddies together and submit your ideas to the next contest.