Sunday, November 29, 2009

Stupid Questions

As a teacher, I encourage students to ask all the questions they can come up with and that there are no stupid questions. Well, that is a misstatement. There are stupid questions such as "Are there any good talent agents in NYC?" Believe it or not, but I have seen that questions several times. It is stupid because of course there are several. But I think the asker really wants to know something else, such as "Are there any talent agents in NYC that are legit that might be interested in representing me?" That is not a stupid question. And young people always want to know what is going to happen at an audition they have, but they fail to include what the audition is for. Most of the time when they do say what it is for, they don't say who is holding the auditions So what it boils down to is that the stupidity of the question is determined by how well it has been asked. People need to include all the info needed for the answerer to give a good answer. The askers need to ask precisely what they want to know and avoid over generalizing. And they could be polite. I got one today which was to the point and not really stupid, though it was 'way too broad a topic, but it was curt and ended with a demand that I answer. Well, I am happy to answer, even when the question is stupid because I want to protect kids from scams and help them when they need help. I don't really approve of homework questions, either; especially when they can be answered if the kid reads the assignment. But once in a while a homework question is so intriguing that I can't help answering it. One last irritation I will add here is that I really don't like to answer a question that can be answered if the asker will just google the topic. That's what I would have to do to answer it, so again I think it is a stupid question if the the asker is just avoiding putting out any effort on his own to answer it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things that are artsy and have nothing to do with acting

This is stuff that really irritates me and I have just run into it a couple of times today, "I can't relate to my character," or "this role will make me explore the dark side of myself". Yeah, right. Have these people never heard of 'acting?' Oh, well, maybe they have heard the word, but have no idea what it is all about. Relating to my character? Hello? Why do you have to do that? No one who plays Hamlet needs to 'relate' to him. Perhaps they are very happy with both parents alive and still married and they don't see ghosts, etc. How are they supposed to 'relate'? Well they are not. They are supposed to portray the role as Shakespeare presents it in the play. An actor is not the character. Any 'exploring the dark side?' Ha! Again, Hamlet contemplates suicide, commits accidental homicide and premeditated homicide. So is the actor supposed to do those things? No, of course not. He is supposed to represent the character. Statements about relating to characters or exploring one's personal dark side have nothing to do with what actors do. Actors react to stimuli in the imaginary circumstances of the play in a way honest to the time and playce and which communicates to an audience. They don't relate and they don't do psycholanalysis. They react. If there reactions are open and honest, they may reveal feelings that the actor generally does not care to reveal, but they do not do any harm. Let's cut the crap, people, and stick to what acting is about, not the artsy garbage of The Method and that sort of phony baloney/

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I must repeat myself.

Everyday I read about someone who has been scammed. They have taken classes from Powers or Casablancas or they have signed up and paid websites that claim they will get them in the movies or on tv. All these things are only interested in your money. Too many teens and pre teens are trying to become professional actors without ever having acted or without the knowledge and help of their parents. If someone wants to be a professional actor,it would be a good idea to be an amateur one first so as to prove they can act and to offer some proof of how well they can act. And it is quite impossible for a teen to become a professional actor without their parents making it happen for them. Child labor laws require someone to be 18 before they can sign a contract. Parents have to attend auditions and work calls with their minor children. If someone has never done any acting at all or is a teen without the interactive help of their parents, they just ain't gonna be a pro.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why we act.

It is time to talk about why people act, and, thusly, why they don't. People participate in amateur plays because they are great social centers, they are fun, and they get noticed by their peers. It is also great fun to act. Aristotle noted that 2000 years ago. Many people find it exhilerating to be in the spotlight and they have egos that respond to the attention associated with acting. Some are compelled to be actors. They may not be able to explain it, but they have to be actors. All of these reasons may drive these people to attempt to become professional actors, and a very few of them will succeed. Some may have reasons other than those I have mentioned here, feel free to comment.

People do not act because they fear being closely observed by their peers, or they do not think it a worthy activity. Others simply have no desire to do so. Yet, many who want to act, do not act because they have lifestyles that prevent them devoting the necessary time for it, or they have doubts about their ability to do it well. It is really easier not to act, than to act; and therein lies the reason most who say they want to act do not act. Acting requires real devotion and determination on top of talent. It also requires a pleasant and even attracting personality.

The sum of all this is that it is up to the individual to act or not to act. It is a personal choice. So if you say you want to act, get acting, there are always places like community theatres that need actors and there are things to do to become a professional if you are quailified.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where do I go, how do I get started?

Even those with some experience acting in plays or modeling are unsure about how to move into professional acting. For most actors it is not something that happens all at once. It takes a while, even several years, to get prepared and move into the professional acting circles. Usually a person doesn't have to go anywhere at first. Most actors can start preparing right where they are by being in all the local plays they can. And if there are opportunities to be in indie films and to do extra work, that can help as well because the first thing an actor needs is a resume that documents their talent and their training. The roles one has done documents talent and the professional classes taken at acting studios documents training. But if you are in some acting wasteland, like Minnesota, Main, or Kentucky (there are lots of other states that are not conducive to becoming an actor), when you have exhausted the local opportunities you will have to move to where the action is. Now I don't mean LA or NYC, for while they have the reputation of being the acting centers of the the country, they are really very poor places for the beginning professional actor. Both are in economic turmoil as of the present time (Nov, 2009), and it is very difficult to earn a living there, let alone get an acting job. But there are places where films are being made and where there is lots of theatre to keep one's resume improving. They include, but are not limited to Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio, and San Diego. So you get started by acting in all the local plays where you are. That's it in a nutshell. Read earlier posts on this blog for additional information about becoming a professional actor. God bless, Doc

Monday, November 16, 2009

Everybody is wrong.

I keep getting email in which the writer notes that "everybody" says this or that about acting; and I am yet to see an instance where what "everybody" says is correct. The general public hasn't the slightest idea what professional acting is all about. I think it is really important for all people who are thinking about becoming actors to ignore what "everybody" says. It does them no good to get bad information. The same thing happens on Yahoo Answers where the blind try to lead the blind all the time. Someone asks a question about acting or becoming an actor and they get all kinds of answers form their peers who, in most cases, know no more about the topic than the asker. Would "everybody" just shut up? That would be more helpful than giving misinformation to people. And people, stop listening to "everybody!"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting into character

I am often asked how an actor gets into character and finds the emotional responses that are proper to the character for a monologue or role. Understanding what the acting process is , what a playwright writes when he writes dialogue, and how to be an effective actor will help an actor 'get into character'. The acting process is what an actor does to become the character. The actor does not create the character as the playwright or screenwriter has already done that. What the actor does is to stand on stage or in front of the camera in place of the character. He represents the character. He does this by first establishing the physical character. Using the information in the script and any other sources about the way this character would look,, the actor adopts the posture, walk, gestures, voice, mannerisms, and dress of the character. This however is not the acting. This is merely providing the physical 'vessel' in which the character resides. It may take lots of creativity and imagination and research to do this, or it may take none at all because the vessel of the character is exactly like you physically. No matter. Becoming the physical character is the first step in the acting process. The acting of the role is the responding to the stimuli of each moment of the scenes of the role. This is done without pretense or artificiality. The actor allows him or her self to emotionally respond fully and without inhibition to the stimuli of each moment. These responses are guided by the script. The lines of a play or filmscript are indications of the emotional and physical responses the character is having to the stimuli of the scene. So while the actor is emotionally responding to the scene (with his or her own emotional response), he or she is saying the dialogue. The character's physical response is also in the speeches. The lines tell the actor what to do physically. This is why Shakespeare says to "suit the action to the word, the word to the action." Following this process of 'acting', the actor is most likely to be effective in his or her acting. Today's effective actors react, they do not 'act' which is to say they do not pretend. Thus they are most creative, and vulnerable. They have gotten into character.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I have been advising hundreds of 'aspiring actors' from all over the world for about three years now. I am the top contributor to Yahoo Answers Theatre and Acting forum and a frequent contributor to All Experts theatrea and acting forum. Of all those I have advised, of the scores to whom I have sent my free book on preparing for a professinal career, only about a dozen are doing anything much to further their desire to become an actor or actress. Most of them just disappear, especially the preteens and teens, and that is a good thing. We don't need any more teen actors. If you have watched Disney or Nick lately, you know we have more than we should have. Of those I advise who are actually preparing for professional acting and actuaIly doing some acting, I only hear from two or three regularly, and from about a dozen occassionally. I suppose this is also a good thing, as we have tens of thousands of aspring actors that we do not need. But those two or three are getting somewhere, and the dozen are trying.

I occasionally get a reply from a kid somewhere that I was discouraging. Some thank me for my honesty. Ocassionally, I am amused by some very egocentric brats who have even resorted to calling me an obscene name, usually not too creative a one. I think it disturbs the teens alot when they learn their parents have to make things happen for them and they can't do it alone. Many continue to try, and sadly for them and happily for the industry, they will fail. I say happily for the industry partly out of the fact that it takes a realistic view of things and a willingness to follow directions to succeed. Kids think that if their mom says, "yes, dear, if you find something, I will take you to it, pay for it,or something similar" that their parents are supporting their becoming professinals. Not so. Poor dears do not realize their parents are only patronizing their fantasies, and hoping like mad they will not find any thing. Too many find scams and they waste their parents' money on them. But that is why the scam exists. It feeds off of the overly eager, naive dreamer.

I cannot encourage anyone to attempt an acting career if he or she is not really doing something about it. And I don't mean writing for advice on Yahoo Answers as the most recent spoiled, self-centered brat was observed having done this morning asking the very question she had asked me. I was very amused. But to be an actor, on must act as often a possible in something, amateur theatre, as an extra, indie films, something. And they must follow a plan that really will help them, such as The Tao of Acting sets forth. And that includes teens who just won't believe what he truth about profssional acting is. Most who get my book, zip through it (it is a very easy read) and report to me that "it was very helpful", but they never have a questiona about what it says or if I asked them probably could not tell me how it was helpful.

Sometimes I wonder, "Who is discouraging whom?"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Visiting LA for Spring Break and I Want to do Some Auditions

I get quite a few variations on this idea all the time. It is a really bad idea. A stranger to LA who has no connections to the film industry is simply not going to find any auditions that they can attend. No one will want to see a 'visitor' anyway. Often auditions require call backs which might be a couple of weeks later. If you are back in Ohio or whereever, how are you going to get to the callbacks? You are not going to get auditions in LA unless you have an agent in LA. You are not going to get an agent in LA unless you live in or near LA. People who assume they can just walk into LA and start auditioning are just showing their naivete. It just doesn't work that way. Acting is not like other work, where you can get up one day and say, "I am going to apply for a job at Walmart." That you can do. What you can't do is wake up one day and say, "I am going to apply for a role in a movie." It often takes many years for a really good, well experienced and trained actor to get a role of any size in film or TV.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Is it important to attend a highly regarded acting school?

Here is a topic that I have recently changed my mind about. And I have not yet incorporated my newest thinking into my ebook. But there does seem to be some value in having a 'big name' studio amongst your training on your resume. This is especially true in NYC where snobbishness about several areas of acting still exists. But in the everyday business of casting roles, casting directors are more concerned if you look right for the part and if you can act it well. Any training you may have had is of little consequence. But just to cover the bases, here is what I recommend: while you are building your resume take one class or a summer workshop or some other short course at one of the 'big name' schools. That will get the name on your resume and that is what counts. For example it might mean something to somebody that you attended The Strasberg Institute, but they will not be able to tell by your acting if it is "Method" or not. Effective acting is effective acting and that is the goal. Just watching, no one can tell how you got there.