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.