Sunday, January 31, 2010

All my life I have wanted to be an actress....

I say 'actress' in the title because most of the letters I get like this come from preteen girls for whom 'acting is my life.' Astonishingly, most of these preteens have never done much, if any, acting. A great many of them are simply ga-ga over the Twilight series and want to be vampires or something to that effect. They have been seduced by the illusion of the movie screen and do not realize that what they are seening is a collage of tehnilogical marvels but that the actors really are not doing and experiencing all the things they seem to be experiencing. Acting is rather a boring job. The actors sit around for hours waiting for the crew to make the set ready for them. Then they go and do a few lines before the camera, and then they go and wait again. It is not glamerous or exciting as it looks. Most of it is humdrum, every day pedestrian work. To all you preteens: forget about acting except in the school plays. When you are a junion in high school and if you still think you may want to be an actress, then access this site and this blog and learn how to go about it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dealing with agents

Some of my advisees have been asking me to outline how to get an agent, and others are asking how to change agents. A bit of this may be redundant,but here goes.

To get an agent. 1. There has to be a talent agent whose office is within an hour or two's drive from your home. 2. You need to have a resume that shows that you have extraordinary ability, a head shot and a cover letter. 3. By going to the agent's web site or calling their office (make sure you don't call if they have a different preferred method of contact) and learn how to submit for representation. 4. Wait. If they do not contact you withing a month, they are not intereseted. 5. If you get an interview, study Chapter Seven of my book, The Tao of Acting, so you are properly prepared.

To keep an agent. 1. Read your contract. 2. Obey the rules they have. 3. If they get you an interview or audition, go! 4. If you get a job, be punctual, and pay attention to the qualities of professional behaviour. Be a positive representative of your agency.

To change an agent. 1. Read your contract. The procedure to break your contract will be spelled out. 2. If your agent does not have exclusive representation rights, you can have more than one agent..3. It is all right to submit to other agents while you are undercontract to a current agent, and you can go and interview. It is usually not a good idea to mention your current agent to the new agent. 4. If you decide you want to change, follow the procedure to break your current contract before you sign with the new agent.

How do you know you should change agents? If your agent has not got you an audition or job for more than six months, and you know there are jobs for your type, you could consider changing. If you have been doing only one specific area of work (dancing, commercials, background, etc) and you want to expand into other areas of work, you need to change agents or add an agent (assuming you are not under an exclusive contract) who can get you work in the new area.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I don't care what you say, I am going to be an actor.

Well, I hope you do become an actor. It is a terrific thing to be. I just want those who attempt it to really know what they are getting into. Professional acting is nothing like the Junior Class Play. It is a serious business that the investors have gambled millions of dollars on in the hope to make more money. My book, The Tao of Acting , and the recommended books therein let you know something about that business and how to be successful at it. It is not going to come fast. You cannot decide this morning to be an actor and be one next week. It takes years and years of preparation, of experience and training and networking. And it takes luck. And it takes a special personality. If there are, as Cohen says in Acting Professionally, only two or three thousand professional actors and there are tens of thousands of aspiring professionals in colleges and acting schools who graduate each year, what becomes of them? Frankly, most just give up after a while because they don't have the personal attributes to make it. And those that do make it may not be as talented as those that don't make it. Do you have a chance of making it? Maybe. If you are an extraordinarily gifted actor, have great personal charm, get yourself known, are photogenic (not necessarily beautiful or handsome, but interesting in some way), and you stay after it a long time and get lucky, you might just become an actor. That would be a good thing. Actors age and die like everyone else, and they need to be replaced by new actors. Maybe you will be one of them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My website now available

Visit my website for lots more info and a link to my free ebook, The Tao of Acting

To Teens who think they want to be actors

There are millions of teens all over the world who think they want to become actors. Every one of them thinks they are somehow unique in their devotion, persistence, or goals related to acting. None of them are. They are all the same. All of them. Everywhere. None of them have any real idea what being a professional actor is all about. They have heard that it is difficult to become a professional actor. They do not know what a professional actor does either on the set or between jobs. They do not know that acting is a business. If they are not US citizens that they may not be able to work as a professional actor here. I assume from what they say that they think an actor just acts all the time and somehow, magically, someone else takes care of anything else that is needed. A great many of these teens have never done any acting, but that does not deter them from assuming they are greatly talented. Well, that's the situation. Here's my message to teens: We really don't need any more teen actors. Most of our teen actors are unemployed. Producers don't really want to work with teens because of the labor laws,so they often hire young looking adults to play teens. In spite of what you see on TV, there are hardly any roles for teens compared to all the roles that are available. Most roles are for adults. Therefore, if you think you want to be an actor plan on trying to be an adult actor. You need to be in all the school and community plays you can. Do this even if you just want to be a film actor. These plays are the only way anyone can tell if you might actually have acting ability. If you can't cut it in your school plays, you aren't going to cut it professionally. Learn about how the profession works. Prepare now for the future. Don't get in a hurry to become a professional actor. That will only make you vulnerable to scams. If you are one of those who, as a high school graduate, still think you want to be an actor, read my book, The Tao of Acting, and learn an approach that has a good chance of really helping you to become a professional actor.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Preparation for an acting career

People are always asking if they need to go to acting school or college to be an actor. A similar question is if they should major in theatre when they go to college. The answer to all these questions is NO. Actors do not have to go to acting school or college. What they need is the unique combination of superior ability, interesting look, personality, and knowlege of the the business of acting. With those resources someone can seek an acting career without he enormous cost and waste of time of higher education. If someone is an actor, they will be doing that without having to be schooled in it. Professional actors should go to classes to network more than to study acting. There is a big difference between a student of acting and an actor. Actors are much more rare than students of acting. Too many young people think that they can become actors by reading books on acting and going to acting classes. While it does not necessarily do any harm to read books and go to classes, it can be a way of avoiding the real world that an aspiring actor faces. This is where his personality comes in. The aspiring actor needs to be a good self starter, willing to face hardships and rejection, and be persistent. These personality traits are absolutely necessary to support ones acting talent. The aspiring actor has to go out and scratch and dig and scramble to find auditions and an agent. Such things do not come easily and it may take an entire lifetime to get anywhere at it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Whos the actor here?

I have become a bit peevish about aspiring actors of all age asking me to do their leg work for them. I think someone who wants to be an actor or be in the school play and needs a monologue, needs to find it for themselves. I think that any of the people who ask me for help can find things on the web, like auditions, community theatres, and any miriad of things that I am asked to find for them, can find them for themselves. They are the actors. I am the mentor. I make suggestions and recommendations. I am not going to get any work or money out of this, They need to learn that to be an actor, they are going to have to do a lot of things on their own . If they are not good self-starters, they will never make it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How can I get discovered?

This is another common misconception of young people wanting to be actors. People are not discovered any more. The talent scout went out with the studios last century. The only 'talent scouts' out there are usually working for some scam or other, so be careful. It does happen that someone in the business will see an unknown actor or actress perform and be so impressed that they help them get their careers going. That is a kind of discovery, but it only comes after the actor or actress has done the basic work needed to succeed. They have tons of acting experience and some good training and may or maynot have an agent. But they are getting work in amateur and semipro productions and pehaps occassionally in professional productions. And that takes considerable effort and investment of time and money for all the tools one needs. The point of all this is that the aspiring actor or actress cannot just sit there and wait to be discovered. In the business today, the beginner has to claw their way into the profession. It is a process that could take many years, so the aspirant has to love the climb.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stars, actors and acting

I recently had a discussion with a young lady who opined that movie stars were not actors. This is a kind of snobbery that has existed in the arena of acting since the cinema was created. Stage actors have always felt that what they did was the only 'true' acting. It is akin to the prejudice that serious drama is more important than comedy. One source of her reasoning was that she often felt certain movie stars just did not seem believable to her. I believe that aspiring actors often say that they think a lot of TV and movie stars are not very good actors, and that they say this because they are envious of the stars having become a success as actors and they have not. They all deny this charge, of course. But there really is no other answer. Actors do much more than 'act' to become successful. They get a lot of experience, they take classes, they network and they network and they network. Acting ability is only a part of what is needed for success. Personality and experience and training and LUCK is needed as well. Now another factor contributing to aspiring actors believing that stars do not act (and a reason for stage actors to be prejudiced agains film actors) is that aspiring actors and stage actors,even those with experience, mostly do not really understand what acting is and what actors do. Actors represent fictional characters on the stage or screen. Film stars do this as do stage actors. The differences between the characters that some film stars play are sometimes slight, but they are always there. It is true that a film star may play him or her self in a cameo in a film as do other celebrities who are not actors. But when a film star is playing a role in a film, they are not just being themselves. They act doing things that they would never do in their everyday lives and they do things in their everyday lives that they would never do in a film. "Acting is being other people," says Don Richardson in Acting Without Agony. He is absolutely right. The roles we play on stage or screen are not ourselves. And thus, when a film star plays a role in a film,he or she is doing exactly what any actor in any media does. They are being other people. Whether or not you think they are effective at doing that is another matter. And having a sound basis for judging the effectiveness of acting is another matter. But I hope this helps people understand that movie stars are acting and they do exactly what stage actors do only they do it for shorter periods of time and more subtlely than stage actors do it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is this website legit?

Another common question is about the validity of websites, mostly for casting. Some go so far as to claim their site will provide you with auditions for major films and TV show and even claim they will make you a star. They know that even if people know that "if it sounds too good to be true, it is," that they will ignore that advice when offerred what they really want. Unfortunately, what most aspiring actor want is instant stardom. More unfortunately, it never happens that way. My fingers are tired from typing "it takes years to become a professional acting." But most of the teens I correspond with don't want to wait, ignore all advice to STAY OFF THE WEB, and keep looking for the magic website that will catapult them to Hollywood. These are the teens who will never make it. Who will eventually give up and become accountants and secretaries. It would be a lot better for the acting profession if they gave up now and stopped throwing away their money on websites that will do them no good. This blog has set forth the truth about professional acting and what someone needs to do to become an actor. But teen fantasies are strong and teens hate to be told they are wrong or what to do. So I guess we are stuck with a glut of unprepared, undertalented, ignorant wannbe actors. No one said life was easy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Devotion, the Method, and Hurdles to Overcome

Acting as a career is not what we see on the tv or cinema screen. Far from it, the career of acting takes all sorts of devotion, leads you on a twisting path rife with pitfalls and strewn with barriers.
My former student in NYC writes about these things:

Devotion: "I burned my bridges behind me and left college without a degree. The young actor must be dead set upon an acting career. He must realize he is not only trying to get work, he is entering a whole new way of life. His parents will not be pleased when they see him dressed in hand-me-down clothes and living in dive hotels. And he will not be pleased when he, also, is the proverbial snowball in hell. He will already be in possession of this general truth but the problem is he secretly believes he is the exception to the rule."

The Method and more: "I have used this book [Acting Professionally by Rober Cohen] as a virtual Bible since I left [home]. Thus, I avoided scams, traps, the too good to be true propositions, etc. You mention, repeatedly, the importance of simplicity in acting. It is fair to say that the purpose of any technique should be simplicity, not to complicate. Under no circumstances should the homework for a role be agony. I don't like agony. Agony hurts. You are correct again when you write about Affective Memory. I abandoned any such method of work many years ago. And let me take this opportunity to declare that confusion around this issue has been the biggest stumbling block in my life. Had it not been for the quagmire of self-indulgence, literal feelings, warped perceptions, etc., I might have progressed a lot faster in my career. ... Now, acting should indeed be fun. I consider the homework fun as well. We do it because we love it."

Hurdles: "Acting class is a place where you go to practice the craft. If you can only learn acting by really doing, then acting class is where you are going to be doing it. Theater at large will not allow you the luxury to learn on the real stage. If you lack training and experience, they are not going to risk the show so you can learn to act. You have got to practice somewhere. You cannot do it in the street. Or anywhere else in public. You need a formal audience. Where else are you going to find one? Now, it should be needless to say that while you are studying, you should still be seeking any and every real production project to act in. You go to any audition you can find. But don't be surprised if you are just starting out, that getting cast can take a few years. You not only have talent and craft hurdles to overcome but political ones if you are vying for the choicer roles in the choicer productions."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Talent and Toughness

More from my former student in NYC: "Actors, as you have said, are born and not made. An aspiring actor should honestly evaluate the feedback he receives, or does not receive, as he performs. This is the feedback that he receives from the very first play he was seen in --the very first class that he ever took." {Everything he has done} "before he ever takes that first step toward New York or Los Angeles. Are you outstanding or considered outstanding as a performer NOW? Have you ever received a standing ovation? Do people laugh along with your performances? Do people want to cast you? Do other actors and student directors approach you and ask you to work with them? Does this happen consistently and despite the fact that you are still lacking in professional training and experience? How do you feel about it" {the feed back and your talent}? "When broaching the subject of your potential as a professional, do others encourage you? Maybe not all others, particularly parents, but at least some others. What does your mentor say? I say if you cannot answer many or most of the questions above in the affirmative, it might be time to reconsider your vocation. Do not come here with no more than stars in your eyes. This is what the predators in this business want you to do, so they can tell you what you want to hear(which is not true), and then sell you expensive photographs, and classes -- and leaving you with nothing but being broke. In the more egregious instances, you may be sexually assulted or harassed. BEFORE YOU COME HERE, BE SURE THAT WHAT YOU ARE BRINGING WITH YOU IS A VERY STRONG TALENT AND A VERY STRONG BACKBONE. And even at this, it may take you twenty years to get up in the lights. The big lights, I mean"

You can see how adamant he is about being prepared before you go to NYC or LA, that you have outstanding talent and that you have the determination to stick with it for your lifetime. Just how hard all that is he writes about in another email to me which I will post tomorrow.