Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is it worth it to try to become an actor?

I am frequently asked if being an actor is worth the time and strauggle that it takes. In way I am glad to be asked this question because it shows the asker has some idea of what an aspiring actor is facing. I am also glad the person asked the question, because it tells me that they do not have what it takes to be successful at acting, and that is an unflagging devotion and drive to get there. Thus, I can dissuade them from trying. We have 'way too many aspiring actors as it is. There simply is no room for them in the profession unless they are extraordinarily talented and charming.

When faced with the question of worth regarding an acting career, I can say the following:

First here is what I know. I know that everyone except the idle rich needs to have a 'day' job, or what I have started calling, a survival job, if they attempt to become a professional actor. So if worth it means is it financially worth it, the answer is not in the vast majority of cases. I also know that the vast majority of people who attempt an acting career will not succeed. I also know that acting is unlike any other profession in it's high qualifications and it's lack of steady employment. This is true even for the most talented of actors. The main thing an actor thinks about and works at is finding his or her next job. I also know people who have been very poor all their lives but because they have been actors. They feel it was worth it. They are still in the acting profession and work as actors as often as they can. But they have never earned a living as an actor. To them being an actor is the only thing that makes life worth it.

Now, here is what I think. I think that anyone who has any doubts about attempting a career in acting should not do it. If you have doubts at the beginning, you are going to quit somewhere along the way because it is too hard and you'd rather have a "normal" life with a spouse or life partner. If ou'd like the basic necessities and the usual luxuries that "normal" people have and the steady relationships that most people have, you are not actor material. To an actor, acting comes first. To most people there are lots of other things that come before acting. This is true even of most who say they want to become actors. I think that most people who say they want to be actors, would give it up if they knew what life would be like if they were struggling actors. I think most of them want to be the characters they see on the screen and don't really want to do what is necessary to be an actor. Sure they want to be stars, rich and famous, admired and unwanting. But that is all fantasy. Being famous is a bummer.

Hey! If you are compelled to be an actor and will not be dissuaded, contact me. You are the sort of person I want to help succeed as an actor. Go to my web site and hit the contact button. God bless all aspiring actors, those who will give it up and those who won't. Doc

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What about SAG?

Aspiring actors always have questions about the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and how to become a member, so after being asked the following questions by a young lady reading my book, The Tao of Acting, I decided the information was worth sharing here. Her questions are in black and my answers are in red. These replies refer only to the acting unions in the USA. Membership requirements for actors unions in Canada or the UK are quite different.

· How exactly does an actor join SAG? Do I have to have a speaking role in a big studio film, or can I just call SAG up and ask to join? You either have to have a speaking role in a SAG supervised film or you have to be an extra in three SAG supervised films and get the SAG vouchers before leaving the set. AFTRA is different, but you need to treat them similarly, and that is you do not want to join a union too soon. Once you are eligible and want to join, you go to the nearest SAG or AFTRA office, pay the initiation fee of $2777 and the first six months dues, and you are a member.

· What benefits do I get from SAG? Decent working conditions, fair pay for your work including overtime, and a health and retirement package if you are active enough.

· What does SAG Eligible mean? It means you have met the qualifications for membership, but have not yet joined.

· What is a background actor? An extra. Sometimes referred to as a non-speaking role or atmosphere.

· What does paying dues mean? Literally it means that every six months you pay the membership dues, seventy five dollars, I think. Figuratively paying your dues means that you have done the necessary preparation and put in the time to qualify as something.

· If I join SAG, am I only allowed to accept or be a part of certain SAG talent agencies or SAG films? Can I not do independent films or amateur theatre? You can have any agent you like, but you would be foolish not to have a SAG franchised agent. You cannot do non union films, but you can do amateur theatre.

· If I am not an SAG member, will certain talent agencies not represent me? For instance like William Morris Endeavor, or United Talent Agency? Agents want to represent marketable actors who will get union work,so they want SAG eligible or SAG actors, or actors that are likely to earn SAG membership quickly. The big name agencies will not even look at you unless you are known in the industry and working steadily.

· Does a professional actor HAVE to be an SAG member? By definition in my book, to be a professional actor you must belong to an actor's union==SAG, AFTRA or AEA.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to give a better audition

One of the common problems of young actors is that they get nervous before an audition and they want to know what to do to overcome their nerves and give a better audition. I was amused to discover that the largest Internet website devoted to providing information to young actors has just got around to addressing this issue and provides the same advice that I have been giving for years.

The solution in a nutshell is to make the audition experience on at which you, the auditioner, has fun. We wouldn't be acting if it weren't fun. Acting is one of the few careers that pays people to play. I encourage actors to learn and use the following mantra: Acting is playing and playing is fun. When ever I act I am going to have fun. Repeat over and over while you are relaxing until you find that you are approaching all acting experiences--rehearsals, performance and auditions with a more positive and relaxed manner. There is nothing to fear in an audition. They do not shoot the people who do not get the role. And there is always another audition so if this one doesn't work out, who cares? The next one will be for a better gig.

The actor must always enter the audition with a positive attitude, sure of what he or she is going to do and is doing. The very first few seconds of the audition can be the most important of all. The casting people make up their minds about the candidates for roles very quickly, so even if it appears that the auditors are not paying attention to you, you must combat this with an enthusic, energetic and friendly attitude.

You go in, take you place and slate with all this positive energy. Often it is a good idea to make some positive observation about the environment of the audition, even if it is a bare class room or a drafty old stage. Walk out and say, "This is fantastic!" or "Wow! I feel great up here!" and then slate and do your audition. Instructions for slating and auditioning are found in Chapter Seven of my free ebook, The Tao of Acting. available on my web site:

Rehearse and rehearse your audition from your enthusiastic comment, to your slate, to your monologues, to you exit. Make them positive, energetic and fun. Fun is the operative word. Acting is playing and playing is fun. An audtion is just another chance to act and have fun.

Now go out an nail that job.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Luck and Connections

I have run across a lot of people lately ascribing success in acting due to luck and who you know. I am sorry to disagree with the idea that in order to succeed as an actor you have to have connections and luck. I used to believe that luck was needed to succeed as an actor (a belief strengthened by the fact that there are so few successful actors), but I now think that is a naive idea just like thinking that only those with connections can succeed as actors.

Luck and connections are excuses for failing. "I was unlucky." "I didn't have connections like Miley Cyrus did." What really makes people fail is that they are unwilling to do the work needed to succeed, or that somehow they never learn what they have to do to succeed. They never learn the kind of work they need to do and how to go about it. That is why those of us in the mentoring business believe so strongly that aspiring actors need mentors.

It is really popular to blame ones failures on some outside or mystical force. "I failed because of racial bigotry." Or lack of connections. Or lack of luck. Or lack of money. You see none of these things really has a bearing on your talent or your personality, or your work ethic. All of them can be overcome by talent and the proper kind of hard work.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. One of my NYC students had a chance meeting with a famous agent in an elevator. Luck? Well, that far perhaps, but when she mentioned to him that she had just finnised a course at a well respected acting studio, he was impressed. Then she had the motivation to go to his office the next day and meet with him. He took her on. If she had not been well prepared at the acting studio and if she had not taken it upon herself to follow up on the meeting, she would not have got a chance to be represetned by him. When the oppotunity presented itself she was prepared. I had been a semi-professional and amateur actor for over twenty years when I heard about a film audition in a near by city. I prepared for the audition and attended. Because of my long experience, I was cast. The agent doing the casting call became my agent, and I got the first speaking role in a major TV series that I auditioned for. Luck? No. Preparation meeting opportunity.

I think everyone has it backwards about connections. They are always saying your success depends on who you know. Wrong. It depends on who knows you. Such people who have it backwards do not really understand what networking is and how to go about it properly. The purpose is to get yourself known in the industry, to build a positive reputation as an actor for yourself. Connections are built through your networking over all the years you are in the business. Like taking acting classes or having an acting coach, networking is something you always need.

Talent, love of acting, and dedication are plentiful. Solid preparation, charm, industry knowledge and mentors are much more rare.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Overcoming Inhibitons

Many aspiring actors have written to be saying that they have trouble expressing emotion on stage. They feel the emotion, but they just cannot get it to come out.

Acting involves giving free and open expression of ones emotions. But many would-be actors are inhibiting themselves by worrying about what others may think of what they are doing (crying or screaming or whatever) and they are worrying about how they may look doing those things. The actor's mindset must be that she doesn't care what people think; and furthermore she enjoys the opportunity to have free expression of her emotions. That is one of the joys of acting--society makes us suppress our emotions but acting allows us to express them fully which is a refreshing and enjoyable experience.

To be an effective actor, the actor has to get out of her head. She gas to stop thinking about what she is doing and what others may think of it. Acting is not thinking, it is emotionally responding. Acting requires that the actor's entire being (all of her senses) focuses on the scene, and does not allow her mind to wander into thinking about other things. Concentration is one of the basic requirements for the actor.

Aspiring actors can practice emotional expression without inhibition in acting classes or with a good acting coach. And they can read about how such expression works and how it is the basis of acting in such books as How to Stop Acting by Harold Guskin and The Tao of Acting by Kenneth Plonkey.

On my website there are several articles that may help actors with emotional expression as well: "Modern Times Need Modern Methods", "Tao and The Art of Acting", and "Truthful Acting". When you go to my web page at you will find these articles under the Acting Theory button on the drop down list.

Finally to address one other problem: acting is not leaving yourself. In order to be effective the actor allows her emotions to be expressed. Actors do have get out of their heads: they need to stop thinking about what they are doing and just do it and not think about anything but the scene. Actors have to learn to like who they are and how they look and to heck with the rest of the world (as long as they are getting parts). It is not necessary to be a beauty queen to be an actor. It is necessary to be able to act without inhibitions. Experience on stage should help a great deal. Go to my website, read my book and the articles and ask me lots of questions. God bless, Doc