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..