Sunday, January 30, 2011

You Must Act

The title of this post comes from a web site of the same name from which the aspiring actor can get much good information. But I have been thinking a lot lately about the people I advise and what they are currently doing. It seems to me that only a very few are actually doing any acting and that is troubling. You see, if you are an actor, you must act. That means that you must be acting in something.

I can hear the excuses from many: "I've been cast in something, but it doesn't start until next Spring," or "I'm waiting for may agent to call," or "I have an audition next month or next week," or "I'm not ready yet," or "I can't find any auditions," or a million other reasons why they are not acting. They need money and cannot take off work. And on and on and on, until, frankly, they just give up on ever being a professional acting. And the reason they have given up, no matter what it is they tell you, is that they did not try.

An actor, acts. That's what he does. He doesn't wait for a role to drop from heaven, he goes out and finds one. Oh, it may not be a professional role. It may be an amateur one, community theatre, student film, a volunteer spot on local TV. But it is a role. It is acting.. It is not sitting around making excuses why he is not acting.

Where ever you are located, there is an amateur community theatre, there may be student or indie films, there may be a college theatre program whose productions are open to anyone interested in participating. And, as I say in my book, "The Tao of Acting," if there is no other, make your own acting opportunity. "Oh, I don't have the ability to organize that," you may say. My only answer is then you may not have the ability to succeed professionally. To succeed you need to be outgoing and able to meet and talk to people, and that is what you need to organize your own theatrical production.

The bare truth is that if you are not acting, you are not an actor. If you are not an actor,then why keep pretending you are? The field is over crowded, get out and make room for those who must act.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Confidence, Acting, and Talent

"I need to build my confidence" or "I am shy" are two things I read that many aspiring actors and actresses confess. Of course, being in plays is the best way to build confidence. Speech classes are good as well. Professional actors need confidence in many ways. Of course they need confidence in their acting. If they are not confident that they can compete with the very best other actors, then they are not ready to be actors.

To become and to continue to be successful as an actors, aspirants must have confidence in their ability to introduce themselves to strangers. I know of an actor who worked many years as a professional, but when it came to introducing himself to strangers, he was shy. To advance professionally, an actor cannot be shy in this way. An actor has to network, and an important way of doing this is to introduce himself to people in the business--other actors, directors, producers, agents, and so on. If he lacks the confidence to do this, his chances of success are very limited. The actor I mentioned never progressed beyond playing minor roles.

The aspiring actor or actress has to have enough confidence to strike out into the wilderness of new places where they may know no one. It is often necessary to move to a new city to move your career forward. Having the confidence to do that is needed as well.

Actors have to have confidence in their ability to be interviewed. When they make an achievement, they will be interviewed perhaps locally by the media, perhaps on a national talk show. They must be engaging and charming and interview well.

Finally, the actor or actress needs confidence in their ability to be a self starter and self motivator. Acting is the kind of career that demands the aspirant to keep working on his or her career every day. You can't just sit around and wait for the career to come to you. You have to go out and make it happen. Every day. It is exactly the same as a home based business that requires you to make contacts and try to sell your product every day in order to make money. That is what an actor must do to be successful.

I often think that confidence is part of what we call "talent." Just being able to do the work well is a very small part of being talented. Talent must also makes itself known. And that takes confidence.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Acting is Not Free

I have discussed elsewhere in this blog about the fact that professional acting is a business and that it takes monetary investment like all businesses do. Recently, I have been helping some people with their dealings with their agents, and it occurs to me that often aspiring actors are given the wrong idea about agents and the cost of being represented.

Aspiring actors are always being told that legitimate agents do not cost you anything and all you have to do is pay them a small percentage of what money you earn as an actor being represented by them. While that is literally true, in a sense; in actual practice it will cost an aspiring actor a lot of money to have an agent. Here is why: First, the agent will want the actor to get new photos from a professional photographer--several hundred dollars. Second, the agent will want the actor to subscribe to one or more casting web sites as they recommend--up to a hundred dollars per year per site. Third, the agent will want you to pay for your comp cards or other duplicated material that they send to casting directors to try to secure you auditions--couple of hundred more dollars of expense. Fourth, you will want to have business cards and personalized post cards for your networking--up to a couple of hundred buck again. Of course you should have had these before you got the agent, but now that you have new head shots, you will want to update them. Fifth, some legit agents even have other charges for promoting you and putting you in their database. And, Sixth, you will need to get new head shots, business cards and post cards every couple of years so you always look like your photos.r

So the only difference between the legit and scammer agents is that the legit ones do not insist on your purchasing their classes or their photos to be represented, and in a few cases some legit agents want you to use their photographers for your new head shots.

Additional expenses for the aspiring and the successful actor include acting classes and workshops, private teaching, books, gym dues to stay fit and trim, union initiation fees and dues and additional casting web sites such as Actors Access or Casting Workbook.

No, acting is not free. It is a business and an expensive one that you must keep investing in to be competitive.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to get discovered

I recently read an article by the same title as this blog post and it inspired me to consider the topic. This is what I encourage you to do:

The first thing an actor needs to do to be "discovered" is to stay active as an actor. Keep doing community theatre plays, student and indie films and extra work. Be an actor. If you are not an actor you cannot be discovered as one.

Next the aspiring actor needs to be in a professional acting class as often as possible. This is where you network and become known as part of the professional world. Take audition, cold reading, and film acting classes and workshops. You can be in a class and be in plays and films at the same time.

Of course while doing these things, you are practicing "Networking for Success" as I describe it on my web site and in my book. Along with this you need to study how the business works, reading all you can about it in books and articles that you can find and in those that I suggest. Learn who the more effective agents are in your area. Learn who the casting directors are who are working in your area. Stay up on what is happening in the business, where films are being made and why.

Make sure you are working in places where there is a lot of opportunity for work. When you apply for an audition, make sure it is for a role you are suited for. If they want twenty-something middle eastern types, and you are a 19 year old blonde or thirty year old red head, forget it.

This is a direct steal from the article I read but it is an absolutely brilliant strategy: Surround yourself with people who are successful as actors, who are making it professionally and avoid hanging out with those aspirants who never do anything to get ahead. Learning who the winners are and what they are doing can help you, hanging with the losers will make you one of them. Keep moving forward in your career.

Frequently review what I say about developing the proper behavior and the lists of such that I have from Mamet and Franklin in my book, The Tao of Acting. Make sure you are emulating them.

Everyday renew your resolve to succeed and plan two or three things you are going to do that day to move your career forward. Stay acting and positive. keep your networking tools up to date and more impressive, build your demo reel, and remember to send out post cards., do charity work, and get your name and photo in the newspaper or on TV for it.

Finally save up to attend Regional Unified Auditions where you will be seen by lots of directors casting semi professional and professional theaters. There is no better place to be discovered than on stage in a professional theater. Do your research and find out where and when these will be held and budget your time and money so you can attend. There are several of these use them as stepping stones to your career. If you are getting nowhere in your career where you are-- moving to another area might make more sense than keeping repeating what is not working for you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Substance Abuse in Professional Acting

The loss of Heath Ledger to a drug overdose did not create the outrage in the film industry that it ought to have done. Here was another great talent lost at a young age. Why did it happen and what can be done about it?

Working on a film as an actor is very stressful and tiring. Getting up before dawn every day and working until after sundown is the common practice. Most of what an actor does during these long days is wait around to be called to do his or her takes. Then when finally called, the scenes are shot over and over and over again to get them just right and to cover them from all angles..The acting itself can get quite tedious and tiring. Often stars like Ledger are put into one film after another with little rest in between. And that compounds the problems.

In between films, an up an coming or established star is expected to make the rounds of parties at producers, directors, casting directors and others' homes so they will be seen by all the best people and become someone who will be wanted for one of their next films. Often the actors will be accompanied by other up and coming actors in a sort of 'blind date' situation. This creates a great deal of stress as well,and partying where there are drugs and alcohol easily at hand as they are at most of such events can lead to abuse.

There are some reasons why there is so much substance abuse in the business--boredom plus money plus being overly tired and stressed all the time. These are not excuses. Many actors do not have substance abuse problems, but it takes very strong will power and character to avoid them.

The Screen Actors Guild should lead a campaign against substance abuse. They have immense power and should be looking out for the well being of the actors. They should find a way to penalize those who make drugs so readily available on movie sets and at Hollywood parties. But the final campaign has to be the actor himself or herself to just say, "NO!" to drugs and alcohol. It would be far better in my opinion for an actor to have to take a day or two off from working on a film than for him to start using drugs to keep him awake, give him energy, and allow him to sleep.

Being Nice and Success

One of the precepts in being a successful actor is to never make an enemy. I thought I would share a couple of stories with you that illustrate the wisdom of that guideline.

This story was part of someone’s answer on Yahoo Answers and makes a very important point about becoming a successful actor. I forget who posted it, but I was so taken with it that I copied this little story:

"Also always be nice! I had a friend who was rude to a guy by closing the door to the elevator on him on purpose when she was on her way to an audition and he ended up being the casting director!" Can you imagine the embarrassment for this actress when she found out to whom she had been rude. I can almost bet that the casting director was very kind about the whole matter and tried to assure the young woman that everything was fine. I can also bet that she did not give her best audition and that she did not get the role. Indeed, you should always be nice. No one wants to work with unpleasant, rude, selfish or egotistical actors.

The second story concerns one of my advisees in NYC, a young woman trying to break into professional acting. She had had a chance meeting with a famous talent agent on an elevator and he agreed to represent her. He wanted her to get new head shots, as agents usually do when they take on a new talent. He suggested that his secretary take the head shots as she was a photographer and he liked her work. But when the photos were done, the young lady did not like any of them and set about getting other photos from another photographer. Doing this she had to postpone meeting with the agent until the newer photos were ready. When they were and she called the agent's office to reschedule her appointment, the agent's secretary told her that the agent was no longer interested in her and had taken on a different talent. A rare and possibly career-making opportunity was ruined. Never ever let your ego get in the way of going along with your agent and how they operate. And never ever forget that the secretary of any business controls who gets in and who doesn't get in to see the boss.

When you are in show business, you make friends with everyone from the custodian and maid to the producer and director. It is important that you are known throughout the industry as a nice,cooperative person. And in show business, today's lackey is often tomorrow's big shot. Never make an enemy.