Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Audition Nerves

Just saw part of an episode of America's Got Talent while I was doing the Wii. The last one was a girl - probably early twenties - singing and playing guitar. Something she had been doing since her mid teens. Talent wise she sounded pretty good. However, she apparently wore her nervousness on that proverbial sleeve some wear their emotions on - wasn't looking at the screen so don't know her facial expression. First time I saw the judges express concern about one of the contestants being able to handle performing at a big Vegas show. (The reward for passing this portion of the show.) In other words, first time I've seen the judges consider giving no votes for a reason other then lack of talent. She got two yes votes after saying she would do whatever is needed.

Some of the judges' comments:

"I'm going to have to vote no at this time." (Read you have talent, but I don't think you can perform at the level necessary.)

"The next stage is a performance in Las Vegas in front of a large audience. I'm not sure you could handle that level of a show." (Read I think you could handle a coffee house - under five - supporting, but not a major venue - series regular - principal)

"You were extremely nervous during your performance and that makes us nervous for you." (Read you were upstaging yourself.)

"Instead of nervousness I saw young talent gaining experience. It's a yes vote for me." (Read don't beat yourself up over any audition. You never know what they are thinking - OK, invites to Vegas or callbacks are pretty big clues.)

"Your performance was good, but you didn't own the room." (Read there are lots of actors up for the role that are good. You need to bring great if you want to stand out.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Camera Presence

Awhile back I took a workshop from a CD on auditioning/cold reading. At the time he was casting a sitcom which is no longer airing. The first part was choosing - from a list of about six distinct supporting characters meeting at a support group the show's main character belonged to- the one we would cast ourselves as. He then went over which character he would cast each of us as. Don't remember what type (Yes, types was the point of this particular exercise.) he saw me or which I saw myself as.

I do remember a comment he made. He said he would be concerned about casting me because he felt I would draw focus from the regulars. He was referring to my camera presence. Great! Need to work on strong character choices? Doable. Need to work on line delivery? Doable. Camera presence draws focus from the regulars? How do you deal with that?

My approach: Dumb down my camera presence. Not! Wouldn't know how if I wanted to. Actually, I am doing what I would be doing had he not expressed his concerns. After all, it was just one person's opinion and it isn't something I can control. My focus is on things I can control such as developing my skills such as improv, script analysis, networking...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Film Contests

24 Hour film festival contest shooting this weekend. Signed up for one of the team's actor pools. Haven't heard back, so figure my level of acting is so far beyond the other actor's that the team leader is afraid I would upstage them just standing in the background. I'm kidding about the upstaging part. At least I hope that wasn't a deterrent. (Have been told in a workshop that there would be concern about my personality pulling focus from series regulars - but that is a blog for another day.) The rest - signing up to be on a team and not being cast, unless the team's rough schedule is majorly behind - is true.

The thing about contests like this for actors is until the script is written it is not known if there will be a character for which they are the right type. Since the script is not written until the contest starts... Would I have preferred to get the "there's a part for you" call? Absolutely. Duh! I also realize that this is not a "write a script to showcase my acting" contest. Upon seeing the finished film, will I agree that script wise the casting choices they made? Possibly. It has happened before were I auditioned for a role and after seeing the film had to admit the actor cast was more the appropriate type. Not that I'm submitting for roles I'm obviously wrong for. (Another possible blog subject.)

Coming up in just over a month: The 48 hour film festival. I'm going to sign up to be on a team. Believe it will be my third time. Would have to look at my acting journals to be sure. (First year for the 24 hour.) At any rate, I haven't been cast yet. Hopefully the team I sign with will end up with a script which as a role I'm right for. Keeping fingers crossed more for lead than supporting, but will just as enthusiastically do either role.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Working for Peanuts

Attention filmmakers! "There will be food on set" is not an acceptable substitute for money. There seems to be a recent phenomenon of mentioning that there will be food on set. The food in mind is generally bags of chips, pretzels... Even if it was chicken enchiladas or crab stuffed salmon it would be somewhat insulting. Okay, I admit I would probably be open to a barter deal if the filmmaker is a butcher in his/her other life. Some nice cuts of meat for a day or two on set. Filmmakers seem to think actors will work for peanuts. Actually, filmmakers know they can get actors for less. As actors it is our fault. Seriously, how hard is it for filmmakers to fill roles for no pay or credit/copy projects? (Actors: Ever notice getting a copy seems to be easy when it is a minor role you wouldn't think of including in a demo reel but more difficult when it is reel worthy?) I admit I worked these type of projects first starting out to gain experience and build up my resume. A lot of projects with Art Institute students or Indy filmmakers on the first few films. Similar to interning at a law firm or doing residency at a hospital. The difference? Actors are the only ones that stay at this level. Probably why filmmakers consider food on set to be a pay increase from no pay.

This is why I have stopped doing no pay projects. Occasionally, I might take one just like a lawyer might take on the occasional case that cannot afford the normal fee. After all, it is not always about the money. And it is not about getting on set. Imagine a lawyer mainly doing "if you cannot afford a lawyer one will be appointed to you" cases just to get up in the courtroom. Despite the importance of everyone, regardless of economic means, having legal protection, it would be hard to take a lawyer that does these type of cases 90+% of the time seriously. The same is true for actors that spend their entire careers - I use the word loosely - doing no pay projects seriously.

This is why when I come across a no pay project that I am interested in I inquire about the possibility of pay. So much per day; deferred percentage. Any arrangement is satisfactory and I am not asking for break the bank 35% of the budget amounts. If the filmmaker is unable to move beyond the no pay I politely decline and wish them luck. It is as important for me to develop the habit of working for pay if I want to increase the level of my acting as it is for filmmakers to develop the habit of paying if they want to increase their level of film making. Acting is my career not my hobby. It is time to take it to the next level.

Monday, June 14, 2010


SAG and AFTRA have been going back and forth on the "merger" thing for some time. It can be easy to wonder why all the controversy - the heating up and cooling off of talks. Just merge and make it more convenient for actors. But it is more then deciding the merged union's name and figuring out how to combine two boards. The two have different requirements to join, different fees and benefits. There are actors who belong to both, and those who belong to one but not the other. Simply put, lots of issues to address. I am for dealing with these issues and merging the unions. Back when an actor either did TV or film, but not both and new media such as webisodes didn't exist, separate acting unions might have made sense. Today, actors are doing both. Series regulars do movies during hiatus. Actors knowing for film work showing up on TV episodes. Films are made out of TV shows shortly after the series wraps. During the recent period of time one of the unions had difficulty agreeing to a contract, most series signed to have actors from the other union cast. For most actors, the biggest issue in what union a series has a contract with is remembering which card to pull out of their wallet. Imagine how much stronger of a bargaining position actors would be in with just one union bargaining with producers instead of two competing for a contract.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

California Casting Director Workshop Law

This year a new law regarding casting director workshops went into effect in California. I know this because I try to keep updated on the industry. At least some aspects of it. From my understanding, these workshops need to be bonded and have some instruction planned. Collecting headshots and resumes is apparently highly discouraged but not a specific legal "Thou Shalt Not". Personally, I tend to favor such a law. Not to rein in the unscrupulous casting director, but to protect the naive and idiot actors. There are actors who will spend $200 to do a scene among 20 scenes instead of a free workshop in which the same casting director gives instruction of, for example, auditioning technique. Perhaps this is why some actors are upset by the headshot/resume thing. I would attend the free workshop. Why? Because I look at each workshop, seminar and class as an opportunity to learn new skills, not get on a casting director's "need to cast" list. Although, that would be a great bonus. http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/2010_05.html

I took a Saturday workshop on the business of acting taught by the main local casting director a year or so ago. No monologues, scenes, etc. was specifically stated in the advertisement. I took this workshop because I felt she would probably know a thing or two about the business side of acting. (I still have the handout and refer to it.) If I felt would not be able to learn something noteworthy from this workshop, I would not have taken it. I know there are those that would disagree. One actor (who took a different session & shall remain nameless) actually told me that he hadn't bothered applying what he had learned and the only reason for taking the workshop was "face time". Which approach do you think will be more effective for a long term acting career? http://castingscoop.blogspot.com/2009/01/go-pro-workshop-for-actors-sat-jan-31st.html

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gays Playing Straight

Apparently there was as Newsweek article (haven't seen it) questioning the ability of gay actors to play straight characters. Might it be the viewer's perception? Is the viewer being pulled out of the show's world by thinking that actor's gay? There have been times that I've been watching a film starring a recently deceased actor and find myself thinking: He's dead. Kind of distracting. Imagine how unenjoyable Doubt would have been to watch if you spent the entire movie thinking She's a Baptist, he's a Jew, she's a whatever.

Ever have the experience of seeing a movie and then seeing it again after learning one of the actors is gay? Do you look at that actor's performance in a different light? Do you suddenly see "gayness" coming through? This has nothing to do with your views on homosexuality or the actor's abilities. It's your (the viewer's) ability to suspend reality and be drawn into the world of the show.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Acting Misconceptions & Getting Started

Acting had always been on the back burner, but I did not get into it until a few years ago. I had some misconceptions. First, it didn't completely register that supporting characters were played by actors. The grocery store clerk was played by an actual grocery story clerk. Wasn't (and still am not) quite sure how to start out doing the main characters. Second, I thought sex scenes were required. This is NOT reflective of the type of shows/movies my parents allowed me to watch. Think this was a result of adults talking about the quality of programing getting worse.

How did I finally get into acting? During a slow time in the market for what is now my day job, I researched some other possibilities and came across one of those "For $200 sign up fee, we'll send you casting notices" sites. Don't remember the site, but from it I was able to locate my agent. However, I think the particular casting notice might have been a little late. But, I was off and running with my acting career and haven't slowed down.