Sunday, February 21, 2010

The daily grind

Probably the most difficult part of trying to become a professional actor is disciplining yourself to meed the daily grind. It is disheartening to start each day still without an agent, needing to get new head shots, looking in the trades for auditions, and going to your day job to keep a roof over your head. When I think of the dedication and drive needed by the aspiring actor to succeed, I think of the main character in the play Career by Lawrence and Lee (who also wrote Inherit the Wind). It takes him twenty years or more to go from young, eager aspirant, to the star in a Broadway hit. Just before he makes his entrance in the play, his agent, haveing stuck with him all those years, asks him "Was it worth it?" His reply is a firm, "Yes" and he turns and walks on stage to an ovation from the audience. One of my former students who had done quite well in LA and who has a pretty good iMDB page, recently quit and came home. He had been out there about 20 years or more. "Why did you quit"" I asked. He said that he had lost the ability to make contacts, that a fear of not succeeding overpowered him to the point that he just stopped trying. Another of my students, whom I have quoted in a couple of these posts, has been at the daily grind for thirty five years. He, too, has a pretty good iMDB page. And he is still trying, still facing the same daily grind that he has for thirty five years. Acting is his life and he has to do it. With that sort of drive, one hopes that some day he will succeed in a big way. These stories illustrate one of the main reasons why so few potential actors succeed. The daily grind that you face has to be met with an undaunted drive to make it. I truly hope that you all do.

Thursday, February 18, 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 my website). 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 good source.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Doc, write a book on acting.

I have had a few requests to write a book detailing my Tao approach to acting, but I do not feel it necessary to do that. I don't have enough to say about The Tao acting process to fill a book since I don't believe in exercises, analyses, and all that sort of nonsense. I have discussed The Tao appoach in the previous entry to this blog and in my article The Tao and the Art of Acting on my website. The sources I used to reach this approach (besides 50 years of teaching acting) are the recommended books on my website. Erik Morrris (No Acting, Please), Tony Barr (Acting for the Camera), and Harold Guskin (How to Stop Acting) have already written books about The Tao approach to acting, even if they did not know it. I an pleased to report that there is a new studio in LA, The Clay Banks Film Acting Studio, that advertises they are "a non-acting studio." It is a great pleasure to watch this newest approach to acting spreading and catching on. And I really don't think there is a book in me about Tao Acting. Like the process itself, it is so simple, that a few paragraphs are all that is necessary to understand it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Acting is Reacting

How, in practical terms, does one actually use the principle of reacting? In practical terms it is like putting you hand on a hot stove, you have an immediate reaction to that stimulus. Can you give me a specific instance how I might use that in a scene? As an actor in a scene you allow yourself to be open to all the stimuli of the scene, to receive them and to respond emotionally to them without inhibition. You are Tom in The Glass Menagerie, say, and as Amanda is clearing the dinner table she starts to go on about her 27 gentleman callers memories, as you are being her son and as you have heard the story a million times (the given circumstances of the scene) when it hits you, your automatic response is the irritation and disgust you feel as you say "Here we go again." You don't have to pretend to be irritated or disgusted, nor do you need to remember some time in your life when you were irritated and disgusted. You ARE irritated an disgusted because you are being Tom in this scene. You react, you do not have nor need a planned response.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

How do I get started....What? Again??

Well, today's most frequent question was "how do I get started?" The askers had a variety of situations, but most were very young teens. They have to understand that they are not going to be teen actors. We already have too many and besides the producers prefer to work with young looking adults. So there is only one thing left to do and that is to get mom and dad to make it happen, but the reality there is that if they are not already doing that and have been doing that for several years, you ain't go a chance. Wanna act? Then be in all the school and community plays you can and find out if you have any ability. That is step one. Always. Amd for adults as well, gotta get in some commuity theatre plays and check the old ability, folks. Sorry about repeating myself, but it needed doing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

English and acting

This is a topic that is getting more and more prevalent in the questions I receive, at least in my mind it is. The writer of the question wants to be an actor/actress but "don't no wat to do." Frequently, I admonish them that they will be acting in English so they had better get good at it. Most are too young or too undereducated to realize that knowing how to use the English language properly will make acting easier. It bugs me to see all the questions on Yahoo Answers about "what does this speech from Shakespeare (or just about any other playwright's works) mean?" If they knew the language, they could most likely figure it out using such things as vocabulary, sentence constuction, and reading the whole play as tools. No training I ever got helped me more in acting than that which I got in using English properly. Not only is knowledge of English going to help them in acting, but how on earth do they think they are going to get any one to read a resume full of errors, if the recipient of same even looks at it after getting a cover letter full of gangsta gibberish. I think it bespeaks of another theory of mine which is that many people think they want to be actors because they are too dumb to get any other kind of employment. But acting takes smarts. Lots of smarts. The more intelligent the actor, the more efffective he or she is likely to be. Makes sense doesn't it? Acting is communication. So learn to communicate, people, and then think about being an actor.