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.