Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

Yes, it's that time again. Time to pull out the same list of NYRs you've had the past several years and change the date while mentally committing to do better this year.

NYRs are really no different than goals set at another time. The problem is they are looked at and treated as something mystical and larger. How many NYRs are there that are not long term or continuous or set because someone else - doesn't matter who - wants it?

How many of 2011's NYRs are you frustrated with not accomplishing which are not realistically accomplishable in one year? Break it down into smaller steps. Paying off your debt within a year might not be financially possible, but taking steps beyond the minimum each pay period is possible.

There are continuous NYRs. I don't mean failed attempts at quitting smoking. I mean NYRs that were successfully accomplished in 2011 which should be continued in 2012. You might have been successful at your NYR to do more non-obligatory romantic things for your spouse in 2011, but if you don't continue in 2012, it was a false success. (The preceding was sponsored by every spouse in the world) These NYRs should, of course, be carried forward into the new year with the satisfaction of knowing the commitment is to continue being successful.

Are all of your NYRs truly your NYRs? How many of them did you set because it's the socially correct thing or you think it's what Mommy wants? I'd highly recommend discarding all such NYRs or making them your own. And not your own because Mommy said to! (On the other hand, don't cut off your nose to spite Mommy.) Make it your own because what you want for you happens to be in line with what Mommy wants for you.

Treat NYRs the same way you would treat goals made in March or August; in the setting and the doing. Celebrate the progress (short term goals) made toward accomplishing the NYR (long term goal). This will make your goals, I mean NYRs, a more positive experience than is traditionally associated with them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Being Thankful

Here are a few of the many things I am thankful for:

  1. I can belittle other posters on message boards with negative comments and make broad generalizations.
  2. I can wait for my agent to call (email - whatever) instead of looking for work to submit to.
  3. I can make crap, in every sense of the word, and post it online.
  4. I can gripe about how much my family time takes away from my acting time.
  5. I can sit on my butt and complain about how I never achieve anything...except, perhaps, a bigger butt.
  6. I can stick pins in a Voodoo doll, or put a hex on, or whatever a person because they, oh, got picked instead of me.
  7. I can search for fault in things with the same intensity with which Sherlock Holmes would search for a clue.
  8. I can be abusive to my body. After all, all types are needed in this business.
  9. I can speak ill of other people.
  10. I can get bent out of shape when things don't go according to my plan.
Of course, instead, I could...
  1. post comments which are more positive and hopefully helpful while avoiding making everyone in a given demographic a negative characteristic.
  2. look for opportunities.
  3. make things of good quality.
  4. appreciate how much my family loves me and what they add to my life.
  5. get off my butt and actually work at achieving something.
  6. sincerely congratulate others on their successes. Perhaps even promote them.
  7. find the positive in life. Even the trials.
  8. take care of myself. After all, there's not much need for medically unfit actors. Even if the character is.
  9. speak well of others, or, at least, hold my tongue.
  10. be flexible.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Business With A Capital B

Ever look at your schedule at the beginning of the month and think "I don't have very many acting commitments" only to review your activities at the end of the month and think "I did all that?"? Happens to me a lot. And that is just things involving physical contact. By physical contact, I mean non-virtual and not that other thing.

Why does this phenomenon of opportunities popping up during the month occur? Because I attend to the business side of my career. Networking event? I attend and endeavor to do the network part. Opportunity to pick up some knowledge/skill through legitimate channels which will be an asset next time a role comes up? Taking it. Research projects to self-submit to? Daily, except Sundays.

In fact, I do not think I have had a single opportunity arise because I was tending to the show side. I suppose it might be possible to find a Project B that I was cast in because I worked on Project A. But how do you think I got to work on Project A?

Concentrating most of your effort on the business won't stifle your creativity. The business side is what allows the creativity to be created.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Acting's The Ten Commandments

  1. NDA stands for Non-Disclosure Agreement. The production side takes these things very seriously...VERY SERIOUSLY. Mess this up and the rest of this blog might be moot to your dead career. Don't be the actor who ends up on a casting director's "do not bring in" list or a network's "do not approve for any show" list because of a NDA violation.
  2. Don't exaggerate or make up special skills. When casting asks if you can do X, they are not making conversation. Unless something like a major rewrite happens (You arriving to set and admitting you cannot do X is not considered a valid reason for a rewrite.), there is a 100% probability that whoever is cast will have to do X. Don't exaggerate or make up listings under the other headings either.
  3. Look like your headshot. Or make sure your headshot looks like you. If you were kidnapped and the only chance of rescue was searchers being able to identify you using just a single photograph how confident would you be if that photograph was your headshot? No, I'm not looking for you, the girl I'm looking for has long hair and it's blonde. No, I'm not looking for you, the guy I'm looking for is about 15 years younger and clean shaven.
  4. Training is career long. In other words, you have a career as long as you keep training. Classes directly related such as cold reading or improv are obvious options. But classes not directly connected such as the violin or judo are also good. Assuming you are a good learner, you can list it under your special skills. Take from the best teachers. I would qualify best as being up to date on the material and able to effectively teach it. Also, avoid gurus and classes that are demeaning. Being actors opportunities to work on our careers are endless. Even watching in production TV shows counts. Of course, there is not a TV shows watched section on a resume.
  5. Take care of your instrument. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Get an appropriate amount of sleep. Exercise. Don't smoke. Limit or cutout the alcohol. Of course, your instrument isn't limited to the physical. How many have gone off the deep end because the mental was not taken care of? Make sure you are mentally prepared to handle your career without relying on drugs. Actually, this one is a good idea for everyone.
  6. Remember, at the end of the day, it is a career not a mission from God. Where you place career when you prioritize the different areas of your life should be the same if you are an actor, doctor, plumber or car dealer. Take time to relax. Even a weekend trip can help rejuvenate you. With today's technology it is easy to keep in touch if being out of contact, even for a day, causes you to break out in a sweat.
  7. Have a well rounded life. There is life beyond the set/stage or getting on the next one. What that life consists of is up to you, but have one. Have interests outside of acting. In fact, outside of the entertainment industry. Yes, you might gain contacts or skills beneficial to your career, but that should be a happy coincidence. Other than the fact that this will make you a well rounded person and give you tools to add to your proverbial actor bag, it will help you avoid this thing known as burnout.
  8. DO NOT COMPROMISE YOUR PERSONAL MORALS. Feel free to mess up all the other numbers; it's only your acting career. Mess this one up and it's, well, personal. You need to know your personal morals to avoid compromising them. So, if you don't, I suggest figuring them out before it is decision making time. They are your morals, not society's so if there is something that is legal, popular and acceptable on your won't do list: perfectly acceptable. Obviously, the reverse is not true. Oh, this does not mean only accept roles in which the character's morals line up with yours, but feel free to factor it in to your decision making process.
  9. Network - this includes marketing. Both online and inperson. Celebrity wish lists and those you have the "hots" for aside, who would you want to work with? Bet the people on your list are professional, enjoyable to be around and most importantly, someone you actually know. Think others might use the same criteria when adding you to their list of want to work with? This is how the industry gets to know you. Make sure you become known for what you want to be known for.
  10. There is no "one" way to any aspect of an acting career. Any advice that comes your way, even from me, is through the filter of the giver. Should you do extra work? Are CD workshops a good idea? What type of paper should your headshots be printed on? You know where your career is at best. So don't just blindly follow the latest advice. But don't just outright dismiss it either. And allow others the same courtesy when deciding how adopting a particular piece of advice is best for their career.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Success and Failure

Going to karaoke with friends. Trying out for American Idol.

Registering to do extra work. Submitting for principal work.

Posting video of your cat on YouTube under the name "pinky743". Submitting your film to festivals.

Telling your family jokes. Participating in Open Mic Night.

From the title, you might be thinking I'm going to tell you which are successful activities and which are failures. You would be wrong. Each of these activities can be successes or failures. It is a matter of degree within the activity.

If you mess up doing karaoke your friends might give you a momentary bad time, but millions of viewers are not watching. If you mess up on American Idol... But record labels are probably not hitting karaoke venues looking for people to sign.

This in no way means those who dominate at karaoke should feel they are not living up to their potential if they do not try out for American Idol. Unless, of course, a singing career is on their list of things to accomplish.

Want the high reward successes? Then you have to do the activities with equally great rewards for failure because the rewards for both are always measured equally. So, instead of looking at all the ways you could possibly fail, look at what the result of success will be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Overcoming Yourself

In the movie Back to the Future, what was the greatest obstacle George McFly had to overcome? Hint: It was not Biff. Oh, and getting the girl to avoid having his brain melted by Darth Vader from Vulcan doesn't count. (I wonder what he thought when Star Wars and Star Trek came out.) It was his own self-confidence or lack thereof.

Punching Biff might have gotten Biff to back off, but realistically it would not transform him into a published science fiction writer. Until he gained the confidence to submit, his stories would remain in his desk drawer. Biff, Lorraine, Marty and party might be a help or a hindrance, but the proverbial buck stopped with George. After all, the key word here is "self".

Do you have "science fiction stories in your desk drawer"? Yes, you do. I know this because we all do. So, what area are you holding yourself back in and what are you going to do about it?

Overcome the internal obstacles and the external obstacles will significantly lessen or disappear completely. Focus on the external obstacles and it will be an uphill battle with no lasting pay off.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's Slow So My Acting Career Is On Hold

How up to date would you want your attorney to be if you were facing criminal charges? How much recent hands on experience would you want the surgeon performing your operation to have? Other then when specifically looking for new talent, think filmmakers might feel the same way about casting actors?

Granted, of the three, the actor is the least important to get right. After all, casting an incompetent actor is highly unlikely to result in prison or death. (Others working on the project might be tempted to kill the aforementioned.) But that is no excuse for being mediocre.

So, what can an actor do to keep current and in practice? A non-judgemental list of some possibilities:

  1. Self-produce

  2. Actually get cast and be on set

  3. Audition

  4. Showcases

  5. Workshops

  6. Classes

  7. Attend plays

  8. Watch recent movies/Current TV shows

  9. Attend industry events

  10. Acting groups

  11. Update your marketing materials

  12. Read industry related articles

  13. Non-acting interests

Some commentary on the list:

  • #8: Not as a fan. This is to, for example, study an actor's approach to a role. Of course, nothing wrong with watching purely as a fan.

  • #10: This would be things like getting together with other actors to read scripts.

  • #12: It is absolutely essential that you read my blogs. JUST KIDDING! But I am thinking more of a SAG/AFTRA merger discussions type article than an actor's alcohol wows type article.

  • #13: Yes, you read correctly. A reminder to actually have a life outside of acting. Much better than "obsessed actor fixated on acting".

There is always something you can do to work on your acting career. Oh, and if you think you are good to go, keep this in mind: Series regulars and actors consistently cast as the lead take steps to better themselves.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Booking the Room

A few weeks ago, I auditioned but did not book a particular project. The email notifying me was very complimentary. I bumped into the producer at an industry event a couple days ago. Learned a couple things from our conversation:

  1. The email to me was the only one to go beyond the generic "not right" note.

  2. He was definitely going to be knocking at my door if he ever had a part which was right.

I felt as great about this as I would have had I actually gotten the role. Why would I feel as great about "booking the room" as I would about "booking the job"?

  • BTR means you made a good impression. They want to work with you in the future.

  • BTR means you gave an excellent read. One does not BTR on a slightly above average read.

  • BTR means if someone they know is looking to fill a role you would be right for, they might recommend you.

So, how did I book the room? Three words: Strong Character Choice. It was my interpretation of the character which impressed him.

How do you know you booked the room?

  • Booking the job is deceiving clue. You could have been choice number five. (Highly recommend thinking of yourself as the first choice. It's better for the ego.)

  • Not booking the job is a deceiving clue. You might have given the best read and still not be right for a particular role.

  • What is said in the audition room is a very bad clue. They are not going to say "That sucked. I wouldn't cast you to play yourself in a surveillance video. You'll be notified Tuesday if you got a callback." Even if that is what they are thinking.

  • Having them tell you in a neutral setting like my case is a very good clue. There was no reason he needed to bring up my audition at the industry event.

  • Getting called in for future reads is a very good clue. It means they think you have potential and are trying to find the right fit.

Booking the job is short term. Booking the room is long term. So, book the room.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Do You Approach Your Acting Career

There are many ways to approach your acting career. Let's look at the examples of two actors, A and B.

  • A is proactive in looking for work. B expects his agent (don't ask how he got an agent) to do all the work.

  • When A is going to be unavailable, which is the exception, he books out. When B is going to be unavailable, which is the rule, he simply doesn't show up.

  • A attends industry events in order to network and support others. B also attends industry events. Particularly those that have an open bar or showcase a project he was involved in.

  • A prepares for his auditions by reading the script, making strong character choices, etc. He also keeps his cold reading skills sharp just in case. B gets a copy of the sides when he shows up at the audition and glances over them once before going into the room. The only time he cold reads is in the audition room.

  • A looks like his headshots. B, not so much.

  • A is a pleasure to work with. He shows up on time, prepared, and is considerate of others. B is not a pleasure to work with. He shows up late, unprepared and gossips.

  • A sincerely wants the best for his fellow actors. Even the ones that are often up for the same roles as him. B does subtle things to try to sabotage other actors. (FYI, B's behavior will usually backfire for several reasons.)

  • When A posts on actor forums, it is done with the intent to help and give others another option to consider. When B posts on actor forums, it is to belittle those with differing view points.

  • Whether it's a formal class or getting together with other actors, A is constantly taking steps to better his acting skills. With the exception of CD workshops in order to "be seen", B never works on his acting skills.

  • A realizes this is a business and treats it as such. B doesn't bother with the business aspect.

So, are you an A lister or a B lister?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dreams, Goals, and To Do Lists

Dreams: These are things you want to achieve. I also include the recognition you hope to obtain. Things like being an "a-lister", having own sitcom, being lead in Broadway production, getting hand prints in that cement thing, being profiled in Vogue and being one of People's sexiest.

Dreams are the show side of an acting career and the acknowledgement of others regarding said career.

Goals: These are what those who are not a Disney Princess need to do to obtain their dreams. Things like taking acting classes, putting together a demo reel, attending industry events, taking care of your product (that's your body), looking for work and being available.

Goals are the business side of an acting career.

I could dream of having my own sitcom all day, but until I take the steps to make it happen it won't. In other words, if I don't do the business part, I won't have much to show for the show part.

To Do Lists: I'm just throwing this one in because, well, it's how my humor works. These are things you simply have to do occasionally (or have someone do for you) such as laundry. It might or might not be acting related. Sometimes you might be putting together wardrobe choices. Other times you might be out of clean underwear.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Your Audition Begins When

the first line is read? you slate? you enter the room? your name is called? you sign in? you enter the building? you get out of your car? you leave for the audition? you get your stuff together? you wake up that morning? you are notified of the audition? you...?

Perhaps I should point out that there are actually two auditions. The one everyone thinks of. You know, the one during which sides are read and you hope the powers that be see you as the character. And the one where you play yourself.

This is about the audition where you play yourself. And it is constantly happening. Constantly happening because you are consistently developing habits which define you. Habits which will come out on set, regardless of how careful you are to keep them in check. Not every set, but eventually because in the end we must be true to who we are.

How do you play yourself? Sorry, can't tell you. There are too many factors I don't know about you. I would, however, highly recommend knowing yourself. And I don't mean knowing the name on your driver's license. I think this is where a lot of celebrities get into trouble. They are constantly being the personality their agents, managers and public relations decided on instead of being their authentic self. Yes, it is possible to make your authentic self work in harmony with your brand regardless of how different they might seem at first glance. Because your authentic self is not a one note person and your brand should not be either.

What does being yourself have to do with auditioning? Whether you're playing the title character or Under Five refers to the number of syllables you speak, you will spend a lot more time as yourself. You are the character between "action" and "cut". The rest of the time, you are pretty much yourself.

Does this come into play during the casting process? Every CD could probably, from projects they worked on, list actors that have not been hired, or were fired, or won't get called into their office anytime soon because of the actor's behavior. The good news: You can develop any habit you want as well as break any habit you want. Yes, it will take work, but it is doable.

Think of it this way. Someone who tells inappropriate jokes, burps in peoples faces and belittles others asks you on a date. You'll probably say no. But let's say, for the sake of discussion, you say yes. And let's assume this someone genuinely tries to be the perfect gentleman or lady on the date. How long before that joke slips out? And you'll probably spend the evening waiting for a face full of burp.

You think I'm kidding or you can reach a level in which your personal behavior won't effect your acting career? Think again. Look at Charlie Sheen and Two and a Half Men. Judging from his salary, I'm guessing he did a superb job playing the character, but he was fired because of his personal behavior. (No idea what the "official" reason was, but I can assure you he would be filming an episode had he behaved differently.) About the only thing bigger is if something like Jerry Seinfeld being fired from Seinfeld had happened.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What would you do

...on camera (or stage, but I'm going to concentrate on camera). First off, for those of you thinking an actor should gratefully accept any role and do whatever the director wants -on set- until reaching A-list status, you are wrong. Well, at least as far as the second part goes. One should always be grateful. And one should never sacrifice their morals.

This goes beyond the standard nudity example which is complex just by itself. If the producers reach as certain dollar amount, do the clothes come off? What about implied nudity? Just your butt? Lot to think about. Highly recommend deciding before the powers that be ask for your decision.

Two off topic comments about nudity.
  1. If it is not on camera, it does not need to be exposed. Even if it is your chest and your bare back is on camera.
  2. There is no reason to suddenly write your clothes out of the script. So don't be pressured out of them. If you're willing to do it, fine. Just make them renegotiate first. And charge more than you usually would. After all, most places charge extra for rush jobs.

So, besides nudity, what else should an actor consider?

  • Would you do a scene wearing just underwear?
  • What about underwear designed with the opposite sex in mind?
  • How about clothing with intimacy in mind? This includes everything from the lingerie stores at the mall to kinky leather bondage stuff.
  • Would you portray a gay character with make out/sex scenes?
  • Would you do those scenes if the character was straight?
  • Are you willing to smoke? Herbal cigarettes? E-cigarettes?
  • Are you willing to alter your appearance? I mean in such a way that your current headshots won't match your appearance for the next six months.

I suppose there might be other things to consider, but you get the idea. Notice how all the bullet points are things that cannot be faked. That's why drinking is not on there. You can take apple juice and call it beer or pee or alien mind control fluid. You can even stretch artistic license to the limit and call it apple juice. But you cannot stick a ballpoint pen in your mouth and call it a cigarette.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen is merely the latest in the line of actors who have said or done something to make their publicists really earn their money. However, his case is particularly bothersome. Why?

  1. He is a series regular on an in production series. A series that has been put on hiatus due to his antics. And those antics must be pretty bad. Perhaps more than we realize. After all, shutting down production is a major decision. Not one that's made simply because the star called a producer "Mr. Poopy Pants".
  2. He is completely unrepentant. Sure, a lot of the "repentance" of the others might be PR motivated. But at least they are not going out of their way to claim it is everyone else's fault.
  3. He has gone on the biggest ego trip since...well, at least he's not some general who is in a position to command his army to invade a neighboring country. Demanding a doubling of his salary? Being tired of pretending not to be great? Hmm, I'm thinking Exhibit A of drugs do mess with your brain.
  4. I doubt he is getting the help he needs. He claims to have been cured of any drug addictions. I suppose that is possible. I am not an expert in this area. But, like I mentioned, I have my doubts. #1 through #3 do not seem like the actions of someone trying to clean up his life.

Is Charlie's acting career over? He is not dead (literally) so a comeback is possible. However, it has been seriously wounded and he has not been taking care of healing. In fact, he has been aggravating the wounds. Charlie might be the greatest actor in the world. He might even be a wonderful person, under better circumstances, to be around. But if I were producing, I would not feel comfortable having him on my set. I would be asking "Is getting Charlie to sign on important enough to risk a breakdown in the middle of shooting?".

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Casting Notices


When putting out casting notices, insulting the talent you hope to attract is probably not the best approach. Seriously, if "thinks showing up two hours late, drunk and unprepared is the standard operating procedure for actors" is the vibe I get from your notice, I'm not even going to consider your project. When I see such notices, I think "I wouldn't want to work with such a jerk".

I have better things to do. Like work with filmmakers that appreciate actors and don't look at them as evil necessities.

Oh, on a side note, consider where and how you are posting your casting notices. If you post on craigslist and your entire notice is "submit to be in an awesome feature film" and a craigslist email address, there probably will not be much experience among the submissions. Those with experience will think it is an outright scam or that you don't know what you're doing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Level of Dedication

While waiting for my turn to get a haircut, I flipped through Vogue. It was the edition with the Natalie Portman interview about Black Swan. Didn't read the article; when I said flipping through, I meant flipping through. However, I notice a photo caption that stood out. It mentioned that she practiced ballet eight hours a day the two months before shooting started. (Of course, this is not the extent of her ballet training.)

Reading things like that causes me to ponder the level of my dedication. If she had put in the amount of effort, I do...Would Black Swan be one of the must see films? Would her name be popping up in connection with various acting awards? Don't know about the film, but I highly doubt anyone would even remotely think of the performance as reward worthy.

Sure, it would be easy to excuse my level of dedication. I could point out that I have a day job, and it's possible she wasn't footing the bill for the ballet lessons. But that would be a cope out. Without looking at the list of actors, I can safely say that each one being considered for an award put in his or her dues.

I can safely say the actors put in their dues because it is impossible to reach that level of acting without doing so. And the level of dedication I establish now will, by habit, be the level of dedication I will have later.

Therefore, I am going to increase my level of dedication toward my acting career to that which Natalie put in toward her role. Why? Because I want to reach that level.