Sunday, December 26, 2010

I want to be an actor but only for films

This is the latest nonsense I keep running into in questions about acting. Youngsters are so passionate about acting that they cry about not being an actor, but they only want to be in major films, no TV or stage acting. Of course, if it makes any difference what the medium is for their acting, such people are not really serious about acting. Almost all professional actors in films (and most TV is filmed or taped (same thing)), started acting in their high school plays and/or their college plays, and/or in community theatre. If someone really wants to be an actor, all they have to do is audition for an amateur play and if they have any ability they will get to do some acting. After being in a few plays, they will get an idea of the scope of their talent and can make a more reasonable decision about trying to become a professional as opposed to not having any idea if they can really act or not. Most of these film only dreamers also have no idea what acting in film is all about. All they see is the romance and excitement of what is shown on the screen. But that is not what the actor does all day. Film actors have to be up before dawn and report to costumes and make up very early, then they spend most of the day waiting for the crews to be ready for them. Then they get to act the short scene that is being filmed, perhaps doing it over and over again to get it right and cover all the angles. Then they wait for the next little scene, and so on, working often until after dark. Nothing glam about the daily grind of acting in a film. And then, of course, most actors spend most of their days looking for work and support themselves with jobs that are low paying and tedious. Going into acting for any other reason than you have to be an actor is going for the wrong reason. It is probably the most difficult way on Earth to try to make money or achieve fame. So unless you just have to act and you don't care whether it is on stage, on TV, in a commercial, or in a film, you don't really want to be a professional actor.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is it Impossilbe to Be an Actor?

This question is being asked more and more by aspiring actors who start to learn the realities of the profession. The answer is no, it is not impossible, but it is really, really, difficult. Acting is not like any other work in the world, You don't just say,"I'm and actor," and it is so. In most cases. people work for years developing a resume of experience and training, spend more years finding an agent(unless they are remarkably good and remarkably lucky). The problem is that there are tens of thousands more actors than there are jobs for actors. Therefore the tested, the known and the experienced get the work. A big part of the actor's job is to become one of these people. This happens by way of networking (as you will find it described in these blog posts). And it takes years for networking for a newcomer to get known and wanted by the directors. If you know what you are doing when you enter the search to become an actor, you have a chance. But if you do not know what to do, you have no chance no matter how talented you are. Is it possible to become a professional actor? Yes. It is possible to earn your living at it? Not in most cases. But if you have the grit to stick with it and the talent, personality and training and you do your networking, you have a chance. A few people become recognizable actors every year in movies and TV. So it is possible. If you'd like to try it the right way and are willing to work hard and work smart, I can help you. Those serious about becoming an actor write me at and tell me about your acting background. God bless, Doc

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ethnicity and acting as a career.

I have often been asked if a person's ethnicity would make a difference in their being a success as an actor or actress. The answer is that ethnicity does not matter. Talent matters. If someone fails to become an actor, it is not because of ethnicity, it is because of not being good enough; and that means perhaps by talent, perhaps by look, perhaps by personality, perhaps by lack of knowledge of the industry, perhaps by other obligations the aspiring actor does not have what it takes to succeed.

I was very fortunate to have had as a guest professor in graduate school, Fredrick O'Neal, an actor, theater producer and television director. He founded the American Negro Theater and was the first African-American president of the Actors' Equity Association, the union of stage actors in the USA. Fred was a great teacher and became a good friend for many years after he left the university and returned to New York. He was a charming man who told us this story about his seeking an acting career: he went to his father and told him that he wanted to be an actor, and Fred's father said, "All right. But remember if you do not make it, it will not be because you are black. It will be because you are not good enough." Anyone in these times that uses his or her ethnicity as a reason they cannot succeed at something is just playing the race card as a cop-out. I left graduate school in 1964 and Fred started his professional career in 1936! Long before Civil Rights laws and an African-American was elected President of the United States. So, you see. If he could do it then, there is no reason why a person of color or other minority ethnicity cannot do it now--unless, of course, they are "not good enough."

Talent is only part of not being good enough. Tens of thousands of very talented actors and actresses never have a career as actors. There are several reasons why this happens. They may not have a distinctive enough look. That does not mean they are not handsome or beautiful enough. It means that they just are not interesting looking enough. They may lack the personality to be an actor. Among the most prominent personality traits needed for success are charm, lack of ego, and determination. Many people believe the most common reason why people fail to be a success, despite their talent, is lack of knowledge of how the industry works. This is crucial. It has only been the past few years that colleges and even professional academies have begun teaching their students how to have a career. Still many of those classes are inadequate. The acting profession is a limited world that beginners have difficulty becoming members of. That is why I began mentoring aspiring actors--so they might have a chance of breaking into the world of acting. Yet another reason they might fail to succeed is having other obligations, such as a family or debts. Having a spouse and children is probably one of the greatest handicaps a beginning actor or actress can have. It is right that this is so. Marriage and family are solemn obligations, not to be taken lightly. Financial obligations, such as student loans, also are a great hindrance to success as an actor. If you have debts to pay, you need to make money to pay them. Beginning actors usually make very little money.

Well, I have strayed from ethnicity to other matters. Acting professionally is one of the most complex of pursuits. So many things are involved that it is much easier to fail than to succeed. It, indeed, takes a very special person to be an actor.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All About Agents

Once an aspiring actor has a good resume, he or she is ready to begin to work for a career. While building your resume and until you are well established as a professional actor, you need to network. My article on Networking for Success explains how to do that. Networking includes fishing for a agent. I call it fishing because that is exactly how the process of getting an agent works – just like angling for a fish.

The aspiring actor needs to find an agency within a couple hours of where he or she lives. Agents do not sign people who live out of state or at a far distance from the agency. Then you need to submit for representation according to the instructions given on the agency web site. Of course, you are wary of scams as described in my book, The Tao of Acting. Feel free to contact me anytime to check the validity of an agency.

You need a good head shot, resume and cover letter. (see How to Write a Resume, etc on this blog). You will be sending these things to the agency. Occasionally, an agency will have an open audition at a specified day each week or month and you can take your things and attend one of those.

Do not start looking for an agent before you are ready. It isn’t true that getting an agent is the first thing you need to do to become an actor. It usually is the last thing. First you need to be an actor, working in amateur plays and films, taking an occasional class and building a strong resume that is proof that you can make money for an agent. Trying to get an agent before you are ready just will disappoint you.

For more information about agents and how the work go to . It is a really good site with solid information.

Monday, December 6, 2010

All About Me, The Theatre Doc

This is the Theatre Doc--

About me/Filmography

I received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Colorado State College (now The University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley in 1959, and I taught high school English, speech and drama, and junior high art from 1959-1962. I earned the Master of Arts degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 1963. I taught four years at LSU in Baton Rouge and received the Doctor of Philosophy from Southern Illinois University in 1968. That year I became head of the Theatre Department of Southern Colorado State College (now Colorado State University Pueblo). I appeared in a dozen TV series and films between 1979-1989 including How the West Was Won, Centennial, The Chisholms, The Sacketts, Manhunt for Claude Dallas, and The Avenging. I performed Oscar in "The Odd Couple," Jonathon in "Arsenic and Old Lace," and Merlin in "Camelot" at The Old Town Dinner Theatre in Colorado Springs. I played Pertruchio in "Taming of the Shrew" as guest artist at Otero College, and appeared many times on the stage at the University of Southern Colorado where I was Director of Theatre from 1968 to 1996. I co-authored several plays, directed and served as chairman of the board of Entertainment Unlimited which I founded to purchase and run the Iron Springs Chateau melodrama dinner theatre in Manitou Springs, Colorado. I also wrote children's theatre plays and toured them in the southern Colorado area while at USC. I directed the first dinner theatre production in Pueblo, the first summer stock theatre in Pueblo, wrote and directed the first madrigal dinner in Pueblo, and produced, directed and acted in the first full-length play produced at the Sangre de Cristo Fine Arts Center. I also wrote, produced and directed many dinner theatre productions and children's theatre tours after my retirement in 1996. In 2006 I began mentoring aspiring actors via email, and have had many students throughout the country and around the world. In 2007 I wrote “The Tao of Acting, Mentoring for Aspiring Actors” which I continually update and which I give away free to those interested in a career as an actor. I also give free acting lessons to aspiring actors in the Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo area.


The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox --Wedding Guest
The White Buffalo --Buffalo Hunter
How the West Was Won (TV series) --Krater
I Want to Keep My Baby --Teacher
The Frisco Kid -- Camp Cook
Centennial (TV series)-- Batelle
The Chisholms (Mini Series) --Reynaud
The Sacketts (Mini Series)-- 2nd Miner
Heritage -- Board Member
The Avenging -- Warner
Manhunt for Claude Dallas -- Poacher

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Acting and education

I have received some email lately asking about aspiring actors and education. One student wanted to drop out of high school to become an actor. Another saw no reason to study in high school because he didn't think it would help him become an actor. Yet another thought my book, The Tao of Acting, made it clear that going to college was a bad idea for an aspiring actor and that all he had to do was be a waiter in the day time and act at night. Of course it is highly dependant on the level of the aspirant's maturity and experience, whether he or she continues getting an education after high school; but even if a minor were fortunate enough to get a professional job before graduating, they would be required by child labor laws to study with a tutor provided by the producer. A minor cannot drop out of high school and become an actor. That is impossible.

Furthermore, no one wants a stupid actor. Actors play roles from all historical eras, and they have to know how people lived and behaved in those days. Studying history and literature is excellent preparation for an actor. Actors also need to know how to write business letters, do simple bookkeeping to look after their finances and taxes, how to behave in social situations, and do a myriad of other things that they learn as they mature and as they study more about their language and their world. In many cases it is also desirable for an aspiring actor to go to college to achieve maturity and get needed acting experience.

It is true that I don't agree with having something to fall back on. The aspiring actor who has something to fall back on will do just that because it is so hard to earn money as an actor. But the actor does need to know how to earn a living while trying to become an actor, but that is part of the process and not falling back on something other than acting. It is important that aspiring actors learn how to support themselves before ever trying to become actors.

It is also true that I believe many colleges and professional schools are a waste of time and money. But again, that depends on the individual. And I make that clear, I hope, in my book; and since acting deals with every possible subject in the world, a solid educational background is not a waste for an actor. The aspiring actor has to know so much about so many things other than acting that staying in school and getting a good education is actually a requirement of being an actor. No one just has to “act” to be an actor. There are so few jobs and so many actors that the aspiring actor has to be able to compete intellectually as well as with talent. The actor must have lots and lots of experience acting. There is no on the job training. Professionals are expected to know their craft before they are hired. Acting is first and foremost a business and like other businesses it requires financial investment for tools and supplies and books and classes. Professional actors are always in classes for keeping sharp and for networking.

Someone aspiring to be an actor needs an impressive resume and that includes acting classes, some with noted teachers or at respected studios or academies. The academic degree is not a requirement for an actor, but it is not a hindrance either. As I said, no one wants to work with a stupid actor or one that cannot use the language correctly. Naturally, some students make connections and get opportunities via their academic pursuit. I have three academic degrees in theatre, and they put me in good stead when I did semiprofessional and professional work.

Acting is not for the intellectually lazy. It is difficult work mentally and physically. In my blog posts of Nov 13 and Oct 24 I state several advantages of going to college or professional school. I think there is much wrong with actor training in our country, but I also think it is very important that the actor be trained and in many more things than just acting.

What good is school in helping me become an actor/?

Teens often become disenchanted with school; and, if they want to be actors, they can see no purpose in getting a formal education. They have more than a few misconceptions to say the least. First, they probably think that acting is an easy job; and although acting itself is easy to do getting an acting job is quite difficult. Very few actors make a living at acting. Most have to support themselves doing other work. Second, no on wants to hire a stupid actor. The actor had better know what all the words of the script mean and how to pronounce them. Acting deals with every subject under the sun. Therefore, it is helpful for an actor to have a broad, liberal education. Third, another school subject that the disenchanted teen will not like is English. However, both the study of literature and grammar will improve the teen's ability to act effectively. Historically, plays have been considered literature and as such hold much from which the actor can gain. Performing Shakespeare, Moliere, and others requires both an understanding of verse forms and how they function, along with figures of speech, and grammar for in the mechanics of the writing of his plays, Shakespeare literally tells the actor how to read the lines and act them out. Fourth, an actor is required to write business letters in search of work, Knowledge of this sort of composition is a must. Finally, acting is foremost a business proposition. The actor needs to know how to operate the business of his being an actor. Therefore, the actor needs to know enough math to figure his share of contracts, to budget his investment in his business, and to do his income taxes.

So the message to the whining teen who is so bored with school and thinks because they want to become an actor they don't need the rest of it is that they are quite wrong. If they are going to be a success at acting, they had better be very good scholars, indeed. In the earlier editions of The Tao of Acting, including the one currently available on my web site, I say the Tao does not recommend going to college. But that is only for the more experienced and mature of high school graduates. The most of us gain a great deal in attending college. Not only do we broaden our education, but also we gain much in maturity and acting experience by going to college. Most successful actors in the UK and many in the US are graduates of colleges and universities or professional acting academies. It takes a good student to do that and to become a professional actor..

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cover Letters

I have been working with some aspiring actors on cover letters this week, and I have a couple of observations to make. First, if you do not know how to write a formal business letter full block style, you are not ready to be an actor. Acting is a business and you must me ready to conduct yourself like a business person. Get a copy of Brian O'Neil's book, "Acting as a Business" and read and study it. Second, unless the agent has specifically asked for something creative in your letter, keep it strictly business and very very short and to the point. Third, do not put any crap in the letter about how much you love acting or how you are trying to take it to the next level, or how hard you are willing to work. All that is understood by the person to whom you are writing and has no business in a business letter. Many letters from aspiring actors that I have read actually sound like the writer is begging for a part. Very bad form. Fourth, do not ask me for my advice and then not follow it. One young lady needed a creative letter for entering her submission to an agent. I wrote a very clever limerick for her letter. I found out some time later that she never submitted to the agency. If you are not going to follow through don't get started. Read my article on my website on Cover Letters, Head Shots and Resumes, and do what it says.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Do I Need to Go to Drama School to Be an Actor

Well, according to this information I found, you do if you are in the UK:

Professional training at a drama school is by far the best preparation for a sustainable career as an actor - the self discipline, industry exposure and techniques you acquire at a drama school are invaluable. A recent survey by the National Council for Drama Training and the Arts Council of England revealed that 87% of working professional actors (in the UK) have trained professionally at an accredited drama school. It is an incredibly competitive business – more so for actresses than actors I'm afraid - so training may help to give you the best chance possible to succeed.

Note that the above says 87% of working professional went to drama school. It does not say that a high percentage of drama school graduates are working professional actors because that would be false. Only a small percentage of drama school actors become working professionals because there are so few jobs in relation to the enormous number of actors who want those jobs. Thus, only the few, very best, and very lucky ever get an acting job.

I remain skeptical about many drama schools and almost all university acting programs in the US. That does not mean, however, that going to school for acting is a bad idea. It is a good idea for those aspiring actors who need maturity and acting experience.

One of the biggest problems with going to school for acting is how expensive it is. If you graduate with a huge debt to repay, it will be even more difficult for you to become an actor because you will be worried about paying the debt all the time.

I am also skeptical about the seriousness of people who claim they love acting and want to become actors. That is fodder for another post. God bless, Doc

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There are no small parts.....

I am constantly annoyed by people who ask, "How big the the role I just got in the school play?"
Such people come off as conceited and egotistic, more concerned about being important than in making the play important. It was the great Russian director and acting teacher, Constantin Stanislavsky who wrote, "There are no small parts, only small actors." He meant that only an insignificant actor was concerned about how large his role was. As a director, I knew how right he was. Actors who were too important to be in the chorus, were too important to be in the play in my opinion. The chorus was the most important part of the show. It was sometimes difficult to get people to be in the chorus, but it was always easy to find actors who wanted to play the leads.
When I became a professional actor, I saw the Stanislavsky statement at work among the other actors in my area. We worked in an area which was used as location for many films, but the roles offered to actors there were always quite small. This was due to the way films are cast. The main roles are always cast before filming even begins. By the time the casting director contacts an agent for roles to be cast in the location area, the only roles are the small ones. Some of my fellow actors were upset that our agent never gave them a chance to read for larger roles. They did not know how movies are cast. I tried to go to every audition my agent got me, and I took every part offered. Some of those jobs were extra work. Some had several pages of dialogue. I got a couple of parts without auditioning for them because my agent knew I could be relied upon to do the work enthusiastically regardless of the size of the role.
I had to take off from my teaching job to do some of the roles. But by doing the professional acting, I was able to teach my students how to become professional actors, and many of them did. My colleagues and administrators did not always understand how that was possible. A couple of my administrators once disagreed with me that my participation in films shot in our area was good PR for the school. They actually said to me, in a meeting disapproving of my work, "those are only little parts." I replied that there were no small parts. They said, "Oh, you don't really believe that." And I replied that I certainly did. Oh, well. The ignorance about the subjects that administrators supervise is well known.
The point of all this is that if you want to succeed as an actor, you have to be willing to be less important than the work.. Who cares how big the role is? Be darned glad you are in the show and do your best to make it outstanding. That way you will be a significant actor. Directors often see that and reward it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Acting Choices

Acting choices are the ways you have chosen to act your part. For example, the way you walk and talk as the character are acting choices. Great choices are those that are most viable for the role and are most creative and unique. To get better at making acting choices, spend more time studying the script and using your imagination to create the physical character so it is apt for the playwright's concept and unique to your portrayal.

Creating the physical character is the truly creative art of acting. The playwright has already created the emotional character. Sometimes the playwright also specifies certain physical characteristics of the characters. You use those and add your own twist on them to make your performance unique. But you always remain true to the playwright's concept of the role. That you do not meddle with. For example, I once saw a play in which one of the principle roles was changed from male to female, which, according to the director of this production, allowed her(the director) to make the play a statement about feminism. Problem was that both the character and the message of the play as presented by this production was not anything like the playwright's intent. Bad creative choices.

The emotional character has been determined by the playwright. You don't get to make a lot of choices in this area of your performance. Most of your responses will be those that the playwright planned on. If you are a highly sensitive and well trained Ta0 actor (see Tao and the Art of Acting at my web site), some of the emotional responses you have in your performance will not have been anticipated by the playwright. That is OK as long as they do not change the intent of the play. It is you, yourself, your emotional responses that make your performance unique, vulnerable and dynamic. Excellent choices for the actor!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What college is best for becoming an actor?

This is another frequent question. Unfortunately the premise of the question, which is that one learns to be a professional actor by going to college, is wrong. There are a few good college acting programs, and I mention them in my book, The Tao of Acting. However, acting and academia is not a good fit. Most college acting programs are hampered by having to meet academic goals and having objective grading standards. Acting is quite subjective and should not be shackled by academic rules for objective goals. While superior programs exist both in the US and in the UK, the truly talented and experienced high school graduate would do better in a professional school or academy. First of all the program is shorter, usually two years rather that four, and that give the student who graduates from the professional school a two year head start over competition his age. Of course, the gifted and mature student who goes straight from high school into professional acting without going to either kind of school is ahead of students at both. A few have done that, like Heath Ledger and James Dean, for example. \

The problem is that youngsters have been taught that they have to go to college to get anywhere in any field. It simply is not so, especially in acting. The idea that people become actors by going to colleges and or acting schools is so wide spread that every year we are inundated with tens of thousands of graduates for whom there are no jobs. Acting is unlike any other profession. What matters in acting is your look (not necessarily beauty), your talent (which must be extraordinary), your personality (which must be a lot of things pertinent to acting careers), your knowledge of the industry and how to navigate in it so as to get ahead, and LUCK.

While there are some snobs who think it important that an actor study at a particular place, casting is never done on the basis of where someone when to school. It is based on if you look the role and if you can act the role (both of these things superior to the competition).

So school is not the important thing in being an actor. But if you choose a school what you put into it will determine more about what you get out of it than the curriculum will. In my mind the purpose of college for an actor is to give him or her maturity and acting experience. If they happen to make some connections with the profession while they are there, all the better. The better acting schools will have classes in how to become a professional actor and/or a senior showcase for agents and casting directors. Good acting schools are very expensive ($30K a year and up). They are also very selective (Julliard takes fewer than ten new students each year). And they will drop students who do not make sufficient progress. It is very difficult to get into the better schools, stay in them, and graduate. And then it is very difficult for most the their graduates to get a job. (Because there are so few jobs).

The subject question of this post will long be debated with no definite conclusion. How the school fits your needs is more important that the school's reputation. And I must emphasize again that no school can guarantee you an acting job.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How do I get noticed?

Now here is a fequent question that I am asked: How do I get noticed? The answer is that you have to be prominent in the industry to be noticed. How do you become prominent in the industry? Networking. Aspiring actors often think that all they have to do is be seen by a casting director, agent or director and they will be cataputed into stardom. Nope. It doesn't work like that because getting noticed is not the first thing that an aspiring actor has to do. First, they need to get prepared to conduct the business of being an actor, and that involves networking. And networking involves getting one's tools together: business cards, personalized post cards, resumes*, head shots, demo CD, and web page. (If you think of other tools the actor needs for networking, let me know.) Doing all that usually take a few years. But the more diligent the actor is on getting it all together, the quicker he or she will be ready to network. Of course, the serious aspiring actor has as much of this stuff together as soon as he or she is out of school and ready to try the professional world. Minors need their parents to do their networking for them if they want to be professsional before they are 18..
Networking will get you auditions. And in the auditions you must shine and get the roles. Then in the roles you must shine and get noticed. When you are noticed in a small role, you may be given a larger role. But it has to do with you and your effort in networking and your talent and personality in performing. If you are truly outstanding you will be noticed. To be noticed in the professional world takes knowledge about how the industry works and how you can best navigate that industiry. Learning that takes a while. Preparing for it takes a while. Getting noticed takes a while. It adds up to years and years of preparation and networking and struggling with smaller roles. Finally, as always, it takes LUCK. By chance we are given opportunities. By preparation we can take advantage of the opportunites and get noticed.

* Of course to have a resume that is worth anything requires years of experience and training. And one networks while building their resume. You begin with what resume you have from school or whatever experience you have. Then, you constantly add to it, more and better roles in amateur plays, extra work, professional classes, and so on.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Prepare or Fail, Your Choice.

Too many actors jump the gun and try to become professionals without the necessary background and knowledge to succeed. I try to get aspiring actors to read my book and blog, but for the most part I am sure they do not as they never ask any furthere questions about it. Most I never hear from again. Several ignore the suggestion to do the reading which shows a real lack of interest in working to be an actor. YOU CANT JUST GO SAY YOU ARE AN ACTOR. You have to prepare (often for years) and know as much about this business and how it works as you can. Since professional acting is so different from all other businesses, you have to be prepared especially for it. Why do you think so many people do not succeed as actors? I can tell you it is not for lack of talent. Many very talented actors fail to be professionals. Many not so talented people succeed at it. All you have to do is watch TV to check that out. The difference is that those who succeed know what they are up against and know how to go about becoming an actor. Aspiring actors are almost never given this information when they go to college or professional academy . There are several books for apsiring actors to read, The Tao of Acting and some of those recommended in it are essential. Candidates for acting careers are not proceeding in a way to succeed if they are not properly prepared.. The reason people fail is that they are unprepared. Do not be one of them. Join those whom I mentor by contacting be at and we can get you on the right track. God bless, Doc

Sunday, October 10, 2010

More on Networking

I was reading yesterday about networking at a web site and the writer was going on about how important it was for you to get to know people because who you know is so important. Well, yes, in a way. I prefer to turn that on its head and say your success is dependent upon who knows you. Either way it is important that you know people in the industry who can help you and it is important that they know you. To do effective networking you have to have the proper tools. Resume and head shot, of course, but also business card, personalized post cards and demo reel. It is very easy to put off getting these very important tools so I urge you not to delay and get these things together. Everytime you meet someone in the industry you give them a business card and ask them for one. The card is described in Networking for Success on my web site and is an appendix to my book. This means you have to carry quite a few cards with you at all times. If you have a job you can exchange cards with the other actors, the director, the AD's and others you may meet. When you get home you organize your cards in an album or rolladex. When ever you work with a director or casting director it is vital that you get their business card, and when the gig or audition is over, whether you are cast or not, you send them a postcard expressing your gratitude for the work or the opportunity and saying that you look forward to working with them again. The postcard is also described in my book and on my web site. When holidays come around you send the people in your collectiong of business cards, a greeting card with a note about your latest work and your business card in it. You also carry your head shot and resume with you at all times. This is easier if your resume is attached to the back of your head shot. Use commercial double sided tape. Do not try to make your own double sided tape. If you should happen to stumble into a director, casting director or agent, you want to get your head shot and resume in their hands,saying you would love the opportunity to work with them. Now the last tool is your demo reel. This is the hardest to get for beginners, but it is very important. You might want to work up your three monologues and go to a studio and have a professional make a CD of your doing them. If you are in any films or stage shows, try hard to get a CD of your performance. Put everything on one CD and make several copies. Carry a few with you and be prepared to give them to casting directors, directors and agents that you may run into. Okay, so you are loaded down with business cards, resumes/head shots, and CD's. Good, you are ready to network and get yourself out there and known by the people in the industry. I know, the cost of all this sometimes overwhelms the beginner, but you must never forget that acting is a business and you have to invest in your business if you are going to make it succeed. Thus, the first thing on the aspiring actor's list is to get a job so he can make enough money to pursue his goal. God bless, Doc

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

working with your agent

Hypothetically, if I sign with this good agent, how would I get put forward for a role in a production (any production)? would I say "i know XYZ theatre is casting for ABC play, would you submit to them for me" to the agent?

This is a difficult subject. Your agent is going to know of a great many films and plays that are casting that they are not going to put you forward for. Why? Because they do not think you are the right type or have the fully developed skills needed. I think it is something that you should discuss openly with them at signing and find out what their attitude is. Hopefully, they will be open to hearing about the casting, but I think their answer would be "Thank you, I will get in touch with them and if there is anything in it for you, I most certainly will put you forward for it." Some agents feel that it their job and only their job to find openings that they can put you forward for. My agent did not like her actors going to auditions without her knowing about it in advance. and her casting director (the woman in the office that put people forward for roles, was not really open to the actors suggesting that she should put them up for this role or that). The thing is that directors, agents and casting people see us quite differently from how we see ourselves. Thus, I also think it is a really good idea to work with your agent on your selection of monologues.....hopefully he 0r she will be willing to put in a bit of time with you on such matters. Anyway it would not hurt to ask about that in your interview with them as well. The agent may have his own idea about the number and kind of monologues you should have a the ready. Another thing your agent will probably feel strongly about is your head shot. My agent picked all the photos for my comp card even before I had seen them. As I often advise, I had not had expensive photos taken until I was signed. I used one of the photographers she advised. He was also an actor with the agency and I knew him. These are a few hints on working with your agent. There will be more as they come up.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I have decided to pretty much ignore answering questions starting "I need a monologue" on the forums I participate in because choosing a monologue is serious business for the aspiring actor. The problem is that in order to match a monologue to an actor you have to know that actor really well. When I do answer, I say "a monologue has to fit an actor like a glove." But that I mean the role is suited to the type and age of the actor and the actor could conceivably be cast in the role. Then there are all sorts of othere requirements for a good monologue. They have to be fresh, not over done. They have to grab the listener's attention and make they want more when it is over. The problem I see on Yahoo Answers is that most of those asking for monologues have no acting experience at all. It never occurred to them that they should be reading plays so they can find the monologues they might need some day. I wrote earlier about the folly of wanting the monologue to be a certain type of role. That is so the actor can show off what he or she thinks is their forte'. That or they are trying to match the monologue to the role they want to get at tryouts. At any rate it is the wrong approach. And of course there are two other practices that I abhor regarding monologues: original monologues, or acting class assignments for orginial monologues and using monologues for auditions for amateur plays. Actors work from carefully crafted scripts,not junk they have written. The class is ACTING, not PLAYWRITING. And there has to be a better way to weed out the huge number of actors auditioning for high school or community plays. Seems to me to be a waste of tme. Oh well, I know I am old fashioned.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Road Not Taken

I am really frustrated again by the naivte of people who say they are greatly talented and want to be actors. Well, to be fair only some of them say they are greatly talented. Anyway, talented or not, the aspiring actor who cannot follow the most simple and common sense instructions on how to prepare to become an actor is driving me mad. Over and over and over and over I am asked to supply monologues for aspiring actors for auditions from everything from the school play to the RADA. In my book, The Tao of Acting, and in countless answers on Yahoo Answers, I say that these aspiriants must read plays, lots and lots of plays. And you know what? I don't think any of them do. Well, that's ok in a way. At least we won't have them around to clutter up the path to success for the truly prepared actor. I had an advisee of mine ask me for advice about something a little while back. I said I had written about that in my blog. He admitted that he did not follow my blog. Another drop out in the making. Here is a perfectly good source of practical info about acting and having a career in acting and he chooses to ignore it. Well, lots of luck to those who cannot or will not follow simple, practical, common sense advice. And I guarantee you they will not be around to get in the way of someone who is really and truly serious about becoming and actor and is preparing for it as advised.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Two questions that drive me wild.

Of all the questions young people ask about acting these two make me most frustrated: 1). Is such and such a big role? and 2) How shall I play my role? The reason these questions bother me so much is that they illustrate that the asker is not really into the theatre and acting. Those who ask how big their parts are obviously have no patience. When they go to rehearsal, they will find out. Or they have never heard of Stanislavsky's famous saying "There are no small parts, only small actors." This means that there are no insignifican parts, only insignificant actors. Every part in a play is put there by the playwright to help make the play better. As far as the effectiveness of the play is concerned all parts are equal in importance. When I was directing, i fequently said that the chorus parts in musicals were more important than the leads as far as casting was concerned. Everyone wanted to play the leads. It sometimes was difficult to find chorus members. When I was acting in films, I did not always have the support of my administrators. Once in a meeting with my department chairman and the dean of our school, one of them denigrated my film acting saying, "That is only a small part." I replied that in the theatre we believed that there were no small parts. One of them said, "You don't really believe that?" I said, "Of course I do." And I still do. Every role in every play is as important as every other role.
Now asking about how to play one's role is a question that occurs to many actors. The problem is whom you ask. If you ask anyone but the director of the show about how to play your role, you are being disloyal to the director. As a director, it is their job to make sure each actor plays their role well. When you ask anyone else,you are undercutting the director's job and authority. It is also an unprofessional way to behave. In many theatres it is cause for being dismissed from the show to ask anyone except the director for help in playing your part. Avoid it at all costs. Conversly, it is just as bad an offense to offer help to someone whether they ask for help or not.
Respect the director and the playwright. Make sure you seek information for the right reason and from the right person.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

So Many Peope Want to Be Actors, Do I Have a Chance?

A good question. But the answer is that of the hundreds of thousands of people who say they want to become actors, only a handful will actually try. It is just too hard for most people who when they learn how hard it is, they fade away. I said in my book that these thousands of people are the cholesterol that choke the arteries of acting. Those really talented people who drop out or never make it may have had a better chance if they could have got through the crowd to be noticed. That is why we network, to get though the crowd and be noticed. You will also be noticed by your look, your experience, your training, your personality and your know how regarding the industry. Every one who wants to be an actor has almost no chance of ever earning a dime at acting. But a few do become actors. They are dedicated and unbending in their determination to succeed at acting. Hundreds of young people ask questions about becoming an actor that start "I want to be an actor, but...." And there you have it. If you have any reason at all to doubt that you can become an actor, forget it. Those who succeed know they will become actors. They just never give up. The multitudes do give up. Simple as that.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why is it so hard to become an actor?

One of the questions I frequently have to answer is “Why can’t I just go audition and start acting?” There isn’t just one simple answer to this question, but one of the big reasons is that you have to compete with tens of thousands of other actors for every job you want. These multitudes of unemployed actors are the reason why so many people, like teenager’s parents, for example, believe it is impossible to succeed as an actor. Why are there so many unemployed actors and where did they all come from?
Thousands of young teens enchanted by Disney Channel programs and The High School Musical(s) and with no idea of how to become an actor want instant fame and fortune as actors. They are all star-struck and think they are pretty, cute, dainty and talented; but they are not. Older teens with inflated opinions of themselves from a kind word from a friend or relative are similarly doomed. These are the ones who will have the most difficult time becoming actors. They have joined the ranks of the traditional young adults seeking employment as actors who mainly come from colleges and professional acting schools, and whose prospects are not much better. Adults 25 and older actually have the best prospects for a career since casting character actors taps a much smaller pool of talent than that of teens.
Most unemployed actors are graduates or former students of colleges and drama schools who have been told two big lies: 1. They have been told they have been prepared to seek jobs as actors; and, 2. They have been told there are jobs for them. Neither statement is true. If it were, they would all be acting. Many colleges and drama schools do not teach how someone who wants to act can actually get a job as an actor while the colleges offer them a minimum of real acting training. Making it worse is political correctness and the desire of the schools to keep operating and providing a living for their employees; this prevents them from telling their students who have no ability and no chance to make it to hang it up. And there just are not enough jobs to go around. There haven’t been since acting became an academic subject.
Professional theatre and cinema (which includes television) have always had a very limited number of openings for new actors at any given time. The job market is so inundated by people who want to be actors that any opening is soon filled.
Acting is now taught at every level of public and private education. Acting schools and studios have popped up all over the place. And they have begun a cycle of self-support that feeds the lies and floods the ranks of unemployed actors. Many of those who have failed to get work as actors or who found that it was too much work to keep trying to get work as actors now teach those who want to be actors. Many of those who want to be actors graduate from schools and academies in which the former failed actors teach and they repeat the cycle. All those thousands of schools and studios every year are sending out tens of thousands of aspiring actors who wander into the maze of trying to find a job as an actor. They are the cholesterol that clogs the arteries that lead to employment as an actor.
No wonder it is so hard for an actor to get a job! Hard, yes, but impossible, no. There are things that the properly trained and properly advised aspiring actor can do that will put him ahead of the competition. These are the things that I teach at and in my free book, The Tao of Acting. It remains very difficult to become an actor. If you can outlast the other aspirants who will eventually drop out and if you have the proper training, you just might succeed. But I will tell you the real truth, and if you don’t want the hard work or can’t do it, you will do the industry a favor by doing something else.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why Can't I Be Like All Those TV Stars?

I recently received an email from a teacher who thanked me for this blog and said all her students think they are going to be the next star on Disney or Nick. Yeah. Them and the ten million others that write to Yahoo Answers and othe forums on acting every year. I have to admit that there is something wonderful about being a professional actor. It is a great thing to be. I loved it. But it didn't just happen without preparation and hard work. Once twenty or thirty years of that was done, professional acting just fell into my lap, so to speak. The same is true of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato and the other Disney and Nick stars. With rare exception they worked and trained to be actors. More importantly, their parents were active in providing them the experience and training they needed to do the work. As I have said before, what we see on the tv and cinema screen is not what the actor does when he or she goes to work. There is make up call, and there is costume call, there are rehearsals and there are long long waits for the crew to be ready for you and then there are retakes and retakes and retakes. It is not all glamour and fun and games. We only get to see the fun and games and the glamour. We don't see the actors arriving at dawn for their calls. We don't see them doing the retakes after something or someone messes up. We don't see them waiting and waiting for the crew to be ready. Everyone wants to be an actor because it looks so easy and wonderful. And it is easy IF you have the extraordinary talent, experience, training, personality, and support necessary to do it. You find out if you do by being in school and community plays and by going to professional acting school when you graduate high school. That is one heck of a big IF my friends. Only a handful of the tem million will someday make it as an actor. Yep, that is one heck of a big IF.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Professional acting is a Business

One thing I am sure that the vast majority of young people who want to be actors do not know about being an actor is that it is a business and like all other businesses there are lots of things that cost money. The actor is a salesman who must sell his product which is himself as an actor. There are several possible customers: agents, casting directors, directors producers, etc. In order to be a successful salesman, the actor needs to invest in several tools: head shots, resume copies, business cards, business post cards. Additionally he will need to pay for books, classes, union initiation fees and dues, etc. To get the money to invest, the actor needs a "day job" and learn to save for his investment. At the same time the actor must work to be more and more appealing to his customers. He does this by building his resume with acting experience and a few classes. It may take years and years for the investment to pay off, if indeed it ever does. But the actor with the best chance of success is out there everyday making contacts, selling himself and moving his career forward. It is not like the class play, is it? It is frustrating work that never ends until that magical day when preparation meets luck and the break happens. The serious actor reads and rereads Acting As A Business by Brian O'Neil, and The Tao of Acting by Dr. Kenneth Plonkey. These books contain much information about how to run your acting business in order to make it more likely that you will succeed. The career is out there, you have to go out and get it. It is not going to come to you or be handed to you. Only your hard work will make it happen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Acting Is My Life

In my over fifty years of teaching acting, I have heard this statement a lot. I don't think anyone who uttered it in my presence ever became a professional actor or actress. It is usually young females who say this,but of course they have no idea what professinal acting is really like. For a real professional actor, acting is their life. They give up nearly everything in order to concentrate on acting. They forgo personal realationships, material possessions that most of us consider necessities, and they live in abject poverty while trying to break into the profession. When acting is their life, nothing else matters and they get on with it. Most people who eventually become professional actors do not have to ask what to do next. They just keep acting and looking for acting opportunties until they get an agent and learn how to advance in the business. They invest their lives in the process of becoming actors. It is a long and difficult road to travel. For some of us lucky few for whom acting is our lives, the path has not been difficult. We just kept acting until we stumbled upon the first professional employment and kept acting all our lives in whatever situations, amateur, semi-professinal or professional that we could participate in. That made acting our lives.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An Acting Career Must Have a Sound Foundation

Over and over again I see young people (and adults as well) wanting to know how to start a career in acting. Mostly, they want to know what web site or 'acting agent' will put their mostly untested talents in front of producers, directors and thusly in front of the public as new and shining stars in the firmament of Hollywood. Of course, that is not how people become actors. Oh, there may have been one or two people who went from being just another person in this world to being a film star. They among the hundreds of thousands or even millions of those who want to become actors. Such a rare event is the mythology of Tinseltown, and it is reapeated over and over like the myths of Ancient Greece until most of the innocent and unschooled actually believe it is the way someone becomes an actor or actress. But it is MYTH. There may be some truth in its creation, but the truth becomes lost in its retelling over and over. In REALITY, an acting career needs a solid foundation. The main feature of that foundation is experience. Experience is acting in plays and films. Plays are the most numerous and easiest to access. Thus, almost every professional actor begins his or her career by acting in the school and community theatres available to them. Amateur theatre is the well-spring from which careers are begun. And I am not speaking here of just a few plays as the foundation for a career. (One naive youngster actually wanted to know the exact number of plays that should be on their resume before submitting to an agent for representation.) The foundation of a career must have as many plays as possible included. I had been in perhaps fifty or sixty plays in the years between ninth grade and the time I auditioned for a speaking role in a film at forty years of age.
I had also read a great deal about acting and having a career in acting. Several books on each topic were in my background and I am still reading such books long after my retirement. I had also been in a government film and had been an extra in a film when I auditioned for my first speaking role. With my background, getting the role was easy. I knew how to act, how to audition,and how to do the role. I was an excellent actor with a very sound foundation. Now, it is not necessary for all aspiring actors to spend twenty years from their college graduations preparing to become professionals. But it is necessary to have as much experience as one can get to really have a sound foundation for their acting careers. I do not recommend colleges for professional acting preparation, but colleges are often the very best way for someone to get a lot of experience on stage over a four year period of time. It does take time, years and years in most cases, for someone to become a professional actor. Those years are the time the aspiring actor spends building the foundation for his or her career.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Second Thoughts on Actor Training

Lately, I have been suggesting to a growing number of young people that they go to college or a professional academy to train for an acting career. I still don't think either the colleges nor the academies give a rip for the individual student, but so many young people who want to be actors are so woefully lacking in experience that the ony way they can get it is to go to college. And there are some areas of professional acting that are so difficult to break into that the student just needs as much training as he or she can get--musical theater is one of those areas. All of NYC theatre is very snobbish and they care alot about the applicants' training and experience. Film is much different--they could care less if you have training, they only care if you look right and can act the role effectively. Many people and institutions of acting in NYC simply believe that only live theatre is really acting and film work is something akin to prostitution. Of course they are wrong to harbor such bias. Their bigotry often becomes aparent when they take jobs in films. I still am highly suspect of all insitutionalized acting 'training.' Acting is a natural talent that one must be born with. It cannot be taught. But musical theatre is so demanding that it takes years of training to compete. All it takes to complete generally as an actor is talent, personality, experience and just a little training -- two or three classes or workshops that are evidence that you know what you are doing. And of course, as always, LUCK.

Friday, July 16, 2010

when reality and idealism meet

It would be easy to write about this topic in relationship to all the teens on Yahoo Answers who think they are wonderful actors but have never been in a play. Yeah, right! But I wanted to talk about my own idealisn and the reality of many young people who want to be actors but are light on expereience. It that case, you almost have to go to college to get experience, it takes too long in commuinity theatre. At a good state college theatre program with a summer stock, you can be in up to nine or ten plays a year. My advice of course is not to be a theatre major if you want to be an actor,because it is too easy to get distracted and wind up a teacher or a techie. Nothing wrong with that I was a teacher for years and I have know techies who have had outstanding careers. The point is, however, that you want to act. So you pick a school where you can be in the plays without being a theatre major. There are plenty of them, because there is always a huge need for good actors at smaller colleges and so they allow anyone to audition for their plays. My idealism is that someone who has a great background can come out of high school and start working toward being a professinal actor, but the reality is that there are so few of those people that I have begun recommending college more and more often. It can work for you, especially if you have a good mentor. You are only 22 or 23 when you graduate college, a good age to start working on becoming a pro.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Finally, the scams are revealed.

I have been warning young, starry-eyed people about the 'talent fair showcase' type of scam for years, and I was delighted to find this answer to a question regarding Barbizon on Yahoo Answers. The pity of all this is that thousands of unsuitable people will continue to think they will become stars if they just do one of these things like iPOP or IMT or Hollywood Here I Come, Explore Talent, etc, etc, etc. Parents always think their kids are pretty,cute, dainty, and talented, even if they are just the opposite, and not wanting to disappoint thier kids, they spend thousands of dollars to send them to these showcases. Every once in a while a really talented, photogenic person will get an agent and work from these things, but all aspiring models and actors and their parents should watch the following videos.

The Today show did a piece about their "auditions"…Or read this transcript and watch the video clips from the Dateline investigation

The scam is not that they don't do what they promise. They do that. They give people a chance to be seen by agents. The scams is that they have no compunction about taking thousands of dollars from completely unsuited people and sending them off to these things to get no results whatsoever.

My advice to people about these things is that they are for the very very talented, very very photogenic and very very rich. If you are not all of these things, don't go, because the chances of success are the same as for all aspiring actors about one in a billion.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Foul Mood

I am in a foul mood today. Just learned I need surgery next Monday, and I am not thrilled. Hopefully it will fix what ails me of late and I will emerge from convolescence a happy camper. Unfortunately, I don't think there is any cure for the plague of young teens and preteens who want to become actors (mostly females). They report that they are very talented, often have no experience, that their parents are not in favor of it, or that their parents support it (which means they have said "yes, dear" in response to some question or other about acting). Only one or two out of thousands report that their parents are willing to work to make it happen which is the only way it can happen. Most report they want to be on Disney, but it is obvious that they do not live in LA, so that is again a never, never situation. Otherwise, they want to be famous as soon as possible. But none of them have any idea how to get started as an actress. It never occurs to them to be in the school plays. They want to be film and tv stars, because they think it is easier to act in those media. Ha. They had better get some acting experience and the only kind available is school and community plays. No magic web sites exist that turn nobodies in Nebraska into Academy Award winners in Hollywood. That isn' t what agents do, either. Poor dears, not a hope in the world for them. You see, people who want to be actors, really want to be actors, are already acting in plays at school and in the community and they are learning what to do next. Fortunately for all, the afore discussed preteens and teens will change their minds soon, especially when they learn their parents have to be involoved, because most of them haven 't told their parents they are dying to be actresses, because their parents are sure being an actress is one step below being a prostitute. At least by this time next year, the current crop of would be actresses will have faded away and will be, depressingly, replaced by a new crop of their clones.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What are the steps in becoming an actor?

There are no particular single set of steps of becoming an actor. Everyone who becomes an actor does it just a little differently from everyone else. It is going to vary from person to person. I recommend that someone wanting to become an actor when they are an adult, begin by being in all the school and community plays they can. This is also the best advice for someone wanting to become an actor while they are still a minor. Then when your participation in these plays indicates that you have the extraordinary talent needed for professional acting, you should take some well selected professional acting classes. When you are a sophomore in high school it is time them to start thinking about how to proceed, whether to go right after it, or whether to go to acting conservatory or whether to go to college. What you have done up to that point will help you make that choice. My free e book, The Tao of Acting, comes as close to any to setting up a workable plan to become a professional actor. Given you have the talent and personality and know how and luck of course, the Appendix on Tao and Having a Career in Acting may work for you.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What makes a good college or university for acting?

There are many ways to approach this question, but I warn you the answers are not going to be what you would suppose. For example, it makes no difference who the alumni of the school are. Lists of successful alumni are nothing but public relations. Reputation is also of little value in some cases. Mostly is it based upon the past and the present is what is important. Julliard may no longer be the top acting school in the country. The professors have changed and there are a great number of new schools with excellent programs. What really matters is how you and the school fit to make a path to help you achieve your goals. You can’t just attend the school. You have to make connections with people in the business while you are in school and take advantage of any opportunities that come your way. The number of plays they produce each academic year is important. And if they have a summer stock theatre is important. Because you want to get all the on stage experience you can. It is much more important than the classes. The best schools for acting will not have a tech lab requirement for acting students, but they are very rare because most schools have not figured out how to provide the scenery, costumes and lighting for shows comically without using student slave labor. Now this is not necessarily a really bad thing. If well done, tech calls for the actors make for unity in the theatre company. My summer company required that any member not in rehearsal went to tech calls. But later on, I was able to build and paint all the sets for a summer season so tech calls were limited to set up and strike. With costumes, props, and lights being handled by scholarship holders or staff, it was a terrific company. I belonged to several summer stock theatres where the actors had to do tech calls. No problem. It was part of the company. So what makes a good college or acting? I think you do. You get out a place what you put into it. A small state college might be terrific for an actor who really works at it and a huge university like UCLA may be a place where you just get lost in the crowd.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What is the difference between union acting and non -union acting?

The acting unions, SAG (movies, and some TV ), AFTRA (radio and some TV) and EQUITY(stage) set the minimal working conditions and a salary schedule for actors. Productions that are supervised by these unions are required to see that the actors are paid a reasonable amount for their work, are not overworked without additional compensation, and they must provide reasonable working conditions. Non union productions do not have to meet these minimal conditions and salaries, Thus, union acting is better paid and the actors are better cared for. Non union acting can be semiprofessional, which pays the actors something but not up to union standards or it can be amateur in which there is no pay whatsoever. Which do you think is better? Which would you rather work for? You do have to earn union membership and pay a substantial initiation fee and quarterly dues. AFTRA is an open union and anyone can join just by paying the fees. Being a union member does not guarantee you work, but you are eligible to atttend auditions for roles that suit your age and type. These auditions are usually made available to the actors by their agents.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How can I get an audition for a role in a film?

Gee I wish it were easy to do, but it is not. First of all, all the lead roles and main supporting roles are cast without auditions by the producer simply offering the role to an actor he would like to have in the film. And should the actor not be available or not want the role, the producer has plenty of other people he will settle for. For example, the producers wanted John Wayne for the role of Dirty Harry, but he turned it down, citing too much gratuitous violence, so they wound up asking Clint Eastwood to do it and he said yes. These guys do not audition for roles, the producers send them scripts hoping they will want to be in their films. The same is true of the supporting roles. The producers ask known supporting actors of reputation, like Dub Taylor for example, to be in their films without auditions. By the time auditons are held for roles in the film,only the very smallest roles, one to five lines for the most part, are left, and you have to have an agent to get an audition for one of those and then you have to nail the audition. Well, that's the way it is done. Oh. How do some actors become overnight stars? First of all they have done a lot of very small roles and then some producer is impressed by their performance and asks them in for an interview and perhaps a reading. They get a main role and are suddenly an overnight sensation. Trouble is it probably took many years of struggling to get there. Exceptions like Robert Pattison exist, but consider he struggled for years to be an actor, was broke and living in his agent's flat when she convinced the producer of Twighlight to meet with him. Once in a while an agent is so taken with a talent that they will devote their career to promoting that one talent. That's a fantastic situation, but it is extremely rare. By and large asprining actors get roles in films via their agents. These roles are quite small,but occasionally some actors get noticed and move up. Most just fade away and become accountants or something.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stankslavsky's Method of Physical Action

This topic is so oft repeated at Yahoo Answers. Students of Stanislavsky's teaching don't seem to get it. The Method of Physical Actions says that the honest expression of emotion comes from the action the character does. This theory is very much like that of the James-Lange theory of emotional expression: "This theory and its derivatives state that a changed situation leads to a changed bodily state. As James says "the perception of bodily changes as they occur is the emotion." James further claims that "we feel sad because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and neither we cry, strike, nor tremble because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be." I have discoverd further support for these theories in the application of language origin theories to acting. Upon discovery that each word, phrase or sentence in a line of dialog there is represented both the physical and the emotional response of the character; the playwright, director and actor find the basic truth and honest presentation of the action, the emotion, and the thought of the play. See The Tao of Acting and Language Origins and Performing the Role on my web site.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why can't I just go audition and start acting?

One of the questions I frequently have to answer is “Why can’t I just go audition and start acting?” There isn’t just one simple answer to this question, but one of the big reasons is that you have to compete with tens of thousands of other actors for every job you want. These multitudes of unemployed actors are the reason why so many people, like teenager’s parents, for example, believe it is impossible to succeed as an actor. Why are there so many unemployed actors and where did they all come from?
Thousands of young teens enchanted by Disney Channel programs and The High School Musical(s) and with no idea of how to become an actor want instant fame and fortune as actors. They are all star-struck and think they are pretty, cute, dainty and talented; but they are not. Older teens with inflated opinions of themselves from a kind word from a friend or relative are similarly doomed. These are the ones who will have the most difficult time becoming actors. They have joined the ranks of the traditional young adults seeking employment as actors who mainly come from colleges and professional acting schools, and whose prospects are not much better. Adults 25 and older actually have the best prospects for a career since casting character actors taps a much smaller pool of talent than that of teens.
Most unemployed actors are graduates or former students of colleges and drama schools who have been told two big lies: 1. They have been told they have been prepared to seek jobs as actors; and, 2. They have been told there are jobs for them. Neither statement is true. If it were, they would all be acting. Many colleges and drama schools do not teach how someone who wants to act can actually get a job as an actor while the colleges offer them a minimum of real acting training. Making it worse is political correctness and the desire of the schools to keep operating and providing a living for their employees; this prevents them from telling their students who have no ability and no chance to make it to hang it up. And there just are not enough jobs to go around. There haven’t been since acting became an academic subject.
Professional theatre and cinema (which includes television) have always had a very limited number of openings for new actors at any given time. The job market is so inundated by people who want to be actors that any opening is soon filled.
Acting is now taught at every level of public and private education. Acting schools and studios have popped up all over the place. And they have begun a cycle of self-support that feeds the lies and floods the ranks of unemployed actors. Many of those who have failed to get work as actors or who found that it was too much work to keep trying to get work as actors now teach those who want to be actors. Many of those who want to be actors graduate from schools and academies in which the former failed actors teach and they repeat the cycle. All those thousands of schools and studios every year are sending out tens of thousands of aspiring actors who wander into the maze of trying to find a job as an actor. They are the cholesterol that clogs the arteries that lead to employment as an actor.
No wonder it is so hard for an actor to get a job! Hard, yes, but impossible, no. There are things that the properly trained and properly advised aspiring actor can do that will put him ahead of the competition. These are the things that I teach at and in my free book, The Tao of Acting. It remains very difficult to become an actor. If you can outlast the other aspirants who will eventually drop out and if you have the proper training, you just might succeed. But I will tell you the real truth, and if you don’t want the hard work or can’t do it, you will do the industry a favor by doing something else.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stage Fright

Everyone feels stage fright at some time or other. When actors become so nervous about auditioning or performing, they need to do something to combat it. Of course experience helps a lot. The more you perform the less nervous you should be about it. And when performing concentrate on what you are doing moment by moment. Letting yourself think about the fact that you are acting is detrimental to your performance. You have to listen to the play with all of your senses every minute. Do the acting, don't think about the fact that you are acting.

Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves why we are performing. If we act because we think it is fun, it is often a matter of using the following mantra: "Acting is playing and playing is fun, whenever I act I am going to have fun." Auditions are just another chance to act and have fun. Whether you get the role or not is not so important. There will always be another audition. However, sometimes a person has really serious stage fright. In that case seeing a hypnotherapist is usually effective.
When auditioning, assume an air of energy, enthusiasm, and friendliness. Be happy and have a great time from the time you leave the house until you get back home. Break a leg!

Friday, June 11, 2010

How do you recognize talented actors?

. First of all, when they read from a script or participate in a scene or a play, they do so with energy, enthusiasm; and they do so in a way that makes me accept them as the role, believe them as the role, and the way they ske the lines was with meaning and emotion that is easy to accept as genuine and easy to undererstand. The untalented are basically dull people, egocentric people, people who talk about how good they are, but never deliver in auditions or performances. They have trouble reading the lines with meaning, mispronounce words, and often do not understand who their character is and what that character is doing and saying. By and large, I have to say that acting talent is closely aligned to natural intelligence. One is born with acting talent and those who are also born with intelligence are superiorly talented. However, I have had an effective actor who had an IQ of 80. This fellow wanted to be in the play so badly that he worked like mad so he could meet all of the qualifications of talent that I opened this message with. Determination is one of the personality traits of talented actors. And an engaging and charming personality is another.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Charisma is the most elusive of the qualities of acting. And it has many parts such as charm, identification, energy, and attractiveness. I don't think that those uneducated in evaluating acting are even aware of charisma. The actor's charisma is a part of his personality off stage as well as on stage. He must be charming and attractive to agents, casting directors, and directors when he is just being himself as well as to audiences when he performs a role in a play. Of course playwrights help the charisma of an actor's performance by writing a role loaded with charisms. Think of Whiteside in Man Who Came to Dinner or the leads of Private Lives by Noel Coward or All the roles in Neil Simon's Come Blow Your Horn. Mozart in Amadeus. These are characters that are loaded with charisma that the playwright has instilled in the writing. The most attractive roles in plays are always those that the playwright has instilled with charisma in the creating of those characters. Charisma is what an actor needs if he or she is going to be an effective professional. If the actor has great charisma, he or she may become a star.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How do I improve my acting?

One of the most frequent questions I am getting these days is from young people asking how they can improve their acting. Most want to know where a good acting school or coach is located. But the best way to improve one's acting is not in classes or acting lessons, but from experience acting. Remember classes are training. Being in plays and films is experience. Virtually none of people asking these questions are union actors, so the answer is relatively simple: Be in all the school and community amateur plays you can find to be in. Additionally, you need to be aware that talent cannot be taught. If you are not a good actor to start with, all the classes and coaching in the world is not going to make you a professional actor. My standard advice is to be in a lot of plays and see what sort of roles you are getting. If you are not getting good roles and being complimented on your performances, there is no point in spending money on acting classes or lessons. But once you have some evidence that you may have outstanding ability, acting classes and lessons can give you things to use in your performances. You have to be very careful when chosing acting classes. There are many scams out there and most acting teachers are just in it for the money. The better studios will offer classes, workshops and showcases designed to help you get started as a professional. So, get lots of on stage experience, even if you want to be a film actor, before spending money on acting lessons or coaching. Choose you acting classes wisely and always beware of scams.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How teens become actors and actresses

It is really appalling how many young teens and preteens want to become professional actors!! (I will use this term for both sexes throughout). What makes it so appalling is that there are hardly any jobs for the millions of aspiring youngsters, and most of those jobs are going to go to kids who are already experienced perofessional actors with agents and so on. Another thing that makes these aspiring, teeming teens appalling is that they have no idea what it is like to be a professional actor. Believe me, it is nothing like the school play nor what you see on the tv screen or at the cinema. Search back through my previous posts in this blog and you will learn much about professional acting that no one in school ever tells you. Now. How do we turn this appalling situation into a positive one for the aspiring actors? Parents. No teen ever became a professional actor without the active participation of their parents paving the way for them. Your parents don't have to be famous to do this, but famous parents of course know the people to contact before they start, and your parents will have to find out who they are the hard way, through networking. There is an article on networking on my web site, so we will move on. It probably takes less time for a famous parent to open the doors to professional acting to their kids than it will your parents. Therefore, the next thing that makes teens actors is time. It takes years in most cases to be a success a promoting one's kid into professional work. You will read elsewhere in this blog about many actors who spend their entire lives trying to become actors, but they always have to support themselves by other means. It is a cruel and heartless business. Business is the keyword. It is no longer fun and games, though acting itself is always fun, but being an actor is terribly difficult and always takes luck along with all the other attributes needed for success. So, good luck, aspiring teens. I hope your parents help you achieve your dreams.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Age and acting

There are lots of questions about age and acting. Am I too old? too young? How old do I have to be? How old do I look? What is my age range? None of these questions are really important to acting since you are never too old or too young ( as long as your parents are really, really for your being an actor, because you do have to be 18 to sign a contract with an agent or to sign a contract to play a professional role; and if you are not then a parent has to sign for you). A parent also has to apply to an agent for representation for you until you are 18. But talent knows no age boundry. You can start at any age from 1 to 1o1. Another thing that eveyone needs to know about age and acting is that age nor age range ever goes on a resume or anywhere in correspondence about your acting. Nor does it go on your photo. Age range (a completely subjective and aritifical thing which should be eliminated from all references to acting) is something that agents and casting directors decide about you from looking at your picture and hearing your audition. Lots of people look younger than they are, much to the delight of film and tv producers who would much rather work with a young looking adult than a teen because of the restrictions of child labor laws. Also, there just are not many roles for kids, pre teens and teens. I know it looks like there are gobs of them if you watch Disney and Nick, but compared to adult roles the number is really, really small. So the younger the actor, the more difficult it will be to get a professional acting job since there are so few of them and so many young aspiring actors. Producers also want young actors to have lots of experience so they can be sure of their abilities before signing them. This little rule of thumb also holds true for all actors up to about 50 when a director is more likely to trust someone to come through for them because of their maturity. Age, is it important? Not a whole bunch. Experience, now that is important!

Monday, May 17, 2010

My girlfriend and I are planning to move to NY to become actors

I hope I am not boring anyone with a rehashing of an old idea. The concept of a couple attempting to become actors together may seem romantic and exciting. Unfortunately the early years of struggling to become a professional actor are usually anything but romantic and exciting. They are usually driven by poverty and rejection and desperation. Then one of the couple will progress in his or her career faster than the other one. This causes resentment and evy and will destroy the couple. I don't care how much they swear to one another that they will be supportive if one makes it and the other doesn't make it, the one that doesn't make it will exit quickly. In The Tao of Acting I caution aspiring actors not to fall in love with anything or anybody except acting. If you want comfort and a big screen tv, don't try to become an actor. If you want a nice home with new appliances, don't try to become an actor. If you need the attention of a significant other to be happy, don't try to become an actor. Acting is a demanding obsession and requires your full focus. When you get into a brief relationship, avoid pregnancy! Acting professionally is something a person has to do on his or her own. It is so hard to do that any distraction must be avoided.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How long will it take me to become an actor?

Boys and girls, because I use the term actor for both... boys and girls, it doesn't matter what you do, you may never, ever become an actor. This is especially true for the young lady who wanted to know how long it would take her to climb the ladder of success as an actress from local tv commercials to stardom, because there is no ladder to climb. Some people just to directly to stardom. Some people never even get on a local commercial. Some people are in plays and films acting opposite big stars, have training with the very best people, and still never earn a living as an actor. Acting is not like any other job. You can start as a part time furniture assembler at Walmart and work your way up the ladder of success to being a store manager or into a job at corportate headquarters. But everyone who acts is an actor, whether it be a background actor, a day player with two lines, a featured actor with several scenes or a star with his name above the title. They are all actors. How did they get to be actors? Well via several paths. Mainly somebody who chooses actor for a film or play was made aware of them, called them in for an audition or interview and hired them as an actor. That's how to become an actor, but some of the actors will have been working on becoming an actor for a long time and some may not even have thought about it. A person doesn't choose acting, it chooses the person. It's like agents. The actor doesn't choose the agent, the agent chooses the actor. Well, then, ok, Doc, I see what this is all about: it is diffiuclt to become an actor and somebody needs to choose you. RIGHT! So what can someone do who wants to be an actor? They can start being an actor. They act in everything they can find to act in. They read a little and take a couple of classes. They make themselves known in the industry via networking. They don't care how long it takes. They just keep at it, even if it takes their entire lives, because they are actors.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What's Better Than Acting?

Last time I wrote on the question, 'How do I jumpstart my career?' I continue to think about such topics even after the post has been published on this blog. And so to answer a question with a question, "What's better than acting?" You want to be an actor, then get acting in everything and anything you can find. The acting world is very small and the professional side and the amateur side often overlap. So to be a success, keep at it. Act all the time. Besides, what is better than acting? Nothing. If we thought something was better, we would be doing that instead of acting. So take measure of yourself. Are you acting in something right now? No excuses. Remember any reason you can give as to why you are doing something to move your career forward is a reason why you are going to fail. Are you living the actor's life? Which means: have you forgone all things except acting? Aw, gee, that is really hard to do. Yes, I know. But becoming an actor is the hardest thing in the world to do--unless you are always working on it. Really working on it. You aren't waiting for the right time to come around, I hope. Because that never happens. Now is the right time if you are ever going to succeed. Surely you are not waiting until acting come to you, because if you do that, nothing will ever happen. Yeah, yeah, I know you have to finish school, but you can do that and keep active as an actor. Among the dozens of contacts I have had this week, I have had communiques from some interesting advisees. Three of them are actively pursuing their careers every day. One by auditioning and reheasing every day. The other by auditioning frequently and booking some jobs,and by working with young kids who want to be actors. They are very busy with acting all of the time. the third is enrolled in a high profile acting class next month, is eligible for union membership, and has a day job as a voice actor, so he is involved with acting every day. A fourth one reports that he has had some auditions, but because the directors did not agree with his character interpretations, he did not book anything. He also argued with them about it. He is giving up acting to be a producer, and that is probably better for him than to continue as an actor who always argues about characterization with the directors. The fifth always has a project in the future. He will get around to doing something when something else happens. He is comfortable in his everyday job and will get around to taking a class someday.. But he is not doing much more than surfing the web occasionally looking for auditions and classes. He is not taking any risks and is pretty much in his career where he was six months ago. Three are really into acting; one has decided arguing with directors is better than acting; and the last has decided what he is doing right now is better than acting. Which of the them do you think is going to be the next to book a paying job? I think it is one of the three who are involved with acting every day, becasue that is what will jump start their careers. In fact being a good self starter is what will make or break careers. So ask yourself, "What is better than acting?" And if f there is nothing better, then get acting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How can I get my career jump started?

Now here's a question from someone who is not at all ready for professional acting. Why? 1. Because they do not have the knowledge and experience for it or they wouldn't ask the question. And 2. Because they think there must be some little trick to becoming a professional actor. To deal with the second reason first, there is no short cut to becoming a professional actor. You wouldn't expect there is a short cut to becoming a brain surgeon, would you? Of course not. You would need years of experience, training and know how to dare to become a brain surgeon. Acting is the most difficult of all professions to make a living at. The competition is unreal. How could a beginner expect ot compete for roles with the best actors in the world? They simply can't. And as far as reason one is concerned, acting is a unique profession. It is essentially closed to newcomers because the casting directors want to use the same experienced well-known actors in every production. To crack the wall surrounding this profession requires that you know how the profession works, how people get to be known, how to promote your self, and how to be the kind of person the casting directors are looking for. Even with all the experience and training of reason two and with all the knowledge of reason one, many super talented people fail to ever get a professional job, or if they do, they fail to parlay that into steady work as an actor. Why? Again because of the nature of the business. Film, theatre and tv productions are enormously expensive. Millions and millions of dollars are invested in each film or play or tv show. Those that invest the money want to make money on their investment. Thus, they want to go with the sure thing, the experienced, well known actor. Beginners are pretty much shut out from this process. You have to have enough experience and training and know how to get someone to take a chance on you in a small role, do that well, and be offered another and then another until you are known as a reliable, talented actor. That might take a life time. The roles don't just follow one upon the other. You will not be cast ten or fifteen or twenty times for every one time you are cast. Perpare, get youself ready. Build that resume.Put in the years and learn. You might get a jump start after having been in the business a long, long time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Truth or Encouragement?

I have always tried to tell the truth to those who seek out my guidance on acting as a career. I have been accused of being less than encouraging and therefore heartless when I tell youngsters who are obviously just dreaming that they are not going to be on Disney and they should come back to reality and perhaps see if they are talented enough to seek a career as an actor as an adult. There is another advisor of aspiring actors that I know that believes all those who dream of being actors should try their damnedest to be one. Here's the problem. By advising the untalented to seek careers is a waste of time and effort and money. It is in the end cruel and heartless to encourage someone to do something at which they will fail. I believe it takes extra ordinary natual talent, a special personality, tons of experience, and know how about the acting business to attempt to become a proessional actor. I teach my advisees how to tell if they have the talent and in my book, The Tao of Acting, I set forth the personality qualities they must have. I always encourage them to keep acting, not to go through long periods of inactivity even if they have to do amateur plays. And finally, I provide them with information on how to network and how to get an agent and how to audition so they can move forward, What they must never do is sit around and wait for the career to come to them. Because that will never happen. They have to go out every day and make some sort of step forward if they are going to succeed. Now once I am mentoring an actor and as long as he or she continues to move forward with their career, I will continue to mentor them. But I really don't like to be a nag and I much perfer the actor to do the work that is necessary without me telling them over and over again, what they should do. Now that's the truth and if is is not encouraging, too bad. There are too damn many people trying to become actors anyway.