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Monday, January 30, 2017

FOR THE BEGINNING ACTOR



I’m sure you have already figured it out. 
Acting is an art form...and a business. 

For me,  

Acting is a journey.

I suggest getting an acting journal.
And I suggest you write down why you want to act.

There is no right answer, but your motive is important. A weak motive will crumble at some point along the way, whereas a solid motive can get you through everything. Everyone you meet in the business will know immediately whether your motive is for real or not. Your body language will tell them. 

As you develop your own inner connection to acting, please know that your connection is valid and no one can take that away from you. No teacher, no director (unless you let them). You belong in acting as much as you ever want to.
Your connection to acting is yours, it can be different from others. It is personal. 

Here is what you need and will not succeed without: 

a work ethic.  

The only people who get anywhere in this business work very hard. Commitment is a requirement. Think of acting like being a pianist or a dancer or playing pro sports. All require hard work. The thing about acting is that there is an illusion. The illusion good actors create is that it is easy to do this, easy to act, easy to get into this business and easy to be a sudden success. When you see an actor that makes you feel that its easy, go to imdb.com and look that actor's name up. You will always see that they have been working at it for while. Years. 

When a casting director or director holds an audition, they want an actor or actress who is ready to be on set and work as a professional. They don't want to hire someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

How do you get camera ready? Find a teacher and study. Not just any teacher. Find a good teacher who has experience as an actor in the business and experience as a teacher, they also need to have students they have trained who work professionally. Do your research on each teacher. Vet them. 

Once you find a good teacher, make a commitment. Maybe 3-6 months. Do everything they say (within reason) and after the 3-6 months, re- evaluate. Are you learning? Are you growing? Bring that commitment wherever you go. Never let anyone say you weren't committed to your work. 

Some teachers will let you audit a class before you join it. Sometimes they charge you, but you get to watch the class and see how it works. Some teachers don't allow auditing.

New Class

When you start taking a new acting class, you may feel like an outsider. This will pass. Every student in there was once new. Figure out the ones who are close to the teacher. If they are nice, talk to them and ask for help if they are not too busy. If they are rude, find someone else. Sometimes there is an outsider who has been there and knows how it runs, you could ask them. Just stay true to your motive, why you are acting in the first place. Listen to the others about the business. Where they got their headshots done, their demo reels edited, auditions. Utilize your acting journal for all of it.
Write down your goals before you do a scene and afterward write down how it went and what you need to work on. You can also do this for each audition. 

When you get up in front of the class to work, you may feel vulnerable. That makes sense, who wouldn’t? You are getting up to let the teacher see your work and to give you notes. Write down your notes. Work on them. When you get up to work, ignore the class. Just stay present with the teacher, that’s what you are paying for.

Learn the fundamentals of acting. Learn how to work on and off camera. 


Actorsaccess.com. 

You upload a picture and resume and eventually a demo reel, video of you acting. Agents can look at it. Every agent is going to want this, so just get it started on your own.


Practice Daily

You can read acting books. Acting blogs. Acting websites.
Watch acting teachers who are good on youtube. Watch "In the Moment" on facebook. 
There are many actor interview videos on youtube. I have lots of links to these things on my blog. Check out the Masterclass series of instructors—Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, etc.

You need income

Acting won't necessarily be an escape from a regular job, because class and workshops cost money. Unfortunately  no one pays us to study acting. 

Likewise, professional actors make no money between acting jobs. (Unless they receive residual payments from previous tv show gigs). Hence, we need to get a job to support us. All actors have to deal with this. 

Robert De Niro received unemployment insurance between jobs until Godfather 2 came out. 

You will need a job that allows you to leave when you have an audition. Everyone has to deal with this. Ask others for advice.

Headshots

Headshots and resumes are tools you must have. Look for a good headshot photographer. Not a portrait photographer but a headshot photographer. Look at their website and see what their work looks like.
Ask for advice if you know anyone in the business. Someone in the business for a year will know more than you when you are first beginning.


Your safety

If you are a woman, beware of men. Any man in power may be cool, or safe if he's gay, but straight men in power are sometimes a risk. Never go anywhere alone with one in the biz. I am talking of male teachers, producers, directors.

Always let a friend know when you are going to an audition or meeting. Use common sense. I suggest being smart and aware. Take good care of yourself.

If you act in anything that requires physical violence of any kind, ask for a fight choreographer. 

Agents 

You will need an agent to get you auditions. The agent needs to meet you and see you work. You should have a good monologue ready at all times. Agents will want to see you work. If you do a play, you can ask an agent to come see it.

Remember that agents are overwhelmed with wannabe actors asking for representation. They may be unfriendly, but don’t take it personally. This is where your motive and your track record help a great deal sometimes. You never want to tell anyone in the business that just want to be a star, or to be famous or to be on a hit show.
No one wants to deal with that. Instead, you can show that you are in it for the long hall, that you are training with a good teacher and are very serious minded. No outside dramas- including no drug problems, no drinking problems.

If you have any of these issues, I suggest getting your act together if you really want to be in the business. I watched a close friend move to Hollywood, work with the best stars and then die on Santa Monica Boulevard from alcohol poisoning. There are many 12 step programs and they have actors in them as well.  It is quite common, and there is no judgement about it. There are even meetings with famous actors only. Addiction can happen to anyone. The biggest obstacle to getting help when someone is in trouble with addiction is denial-  saying there is 'no problem' when everyone else around you knows that there is because they are dealing with it. The business is stressful and there are more healthy ways to take good care of ourselves.

Commercial agents are also a good place to start. Then you have to take class to learn how to audition for and hopefully to book a commercial. If you book some nationals, this can help with a legit agent (TV/ film/ theater).

Many actors make extra money doing voiceovers. This requires a voiceover agent, voiceover classes. 

I also want you to get used to the idea that there are many others already in the business that may the same type as you. Beautiful, goofy, gorgeous, tough, badass, sweet, etc. etc.  When you get to auditions, you may see some of these people. Don't worry about it. Just remember that if you really want to do this, you stay in your lane. Stay focused. Ignore the others, because they can’t bring to an audition what you bring and vice versa. Each actor truly is unique.
 Having a good teacher will bring out what is your essence, what it is about you that can be an asset in the equation of casting.


Type

You walk down the street and you see someone, your brain is already figuring out, "Oh, she has expensive heels and a Burberry's coat,"  or "Oh, he looks like a trash collector,"  or "That lady looks like a ho," or "he's a homeless man."

We think in type. We identify each other with type. 
So when we watch a movie or TV show, we see a new character on screen and think, "Oh, she's the one who kicks ass, " or, "That guy is blue collar," or "She's the coquette."

Once we identify a type, we can follow that character. We understand a basic sense of who they are, which we have seen in life or on other shows and we understand their presence in the scene. We are literally providing details and feelings from our own life at this point. Many actors have talked about this. The audience provides their own associations to what they see. They project onto the actors. But if we see a character that we can't easily identify, we are not sure what they are or why we should feel for them. We are no longer "in" the story for that moment. We don't like that character, we don't like that actor. Because we can't connect with them. 

Writers, directors, producers, casting directors want their audience to be guided forward in the action of the scenes by actors who present a specific and identifiable type that serves their story. Hence, you want to train to solve their needs and believably embody a type while doing the work you love. 

The best thing I can tell you is to play many characters in your classes. Shakespeare literally trains actors in how to play type when they play his characters. Play different types of characters. Train your instrument to develop them and then you can bring that higher level of work into your auditions.

We have to train in order to maximize how we create the types that our instrument is capable of. 

When you watch TV and films, start looking at the types that are being used in today's shows. Learn them, know them, play them. Practice. Types change each decade,  maybe more. Keep your pulse on how men or women are being portrayed. Become capable of bringing these types to life. 


Take care of yourself 

Acting can be stressful. Auditions can bring success or rejection.  It's important to learn to take care of ourselves. Meditation, Mindfulness, Baths, Spas, Massage, Exercise, Yoga, etc. We need to establish a way to attend to  ourselves, our bodies, our minds, our hearts. A spiritual path or a spiritual teacher or speaker can help us a great deal. There are even apps that can help us with breathing, mindfulness and meditation.

Since we are the product, actors and actresses can become self aware of perceived flaws, so we have to instead be our own cheerleaders and be willing to say "F--- it!!" to self-criticism. 



Finally

Always be mature and professional when in a professional setting. I just mean be ready to work, hold your head high and bring confidence. If you don't have confidence, fake it. Never apologize for yourself in an audition. It's unprofessional. If you make a mistake in a scene, keep going. Unless they stop you. 

It's ok to make mistakes. We all do it. 

This is plenty to get you started. Remember what I said in the beginning of this email. You belong in acting. Your connection to it is yours and no one can take that from you. If you feel in your heart that you want to do this, follow your heart. Just remember to use your head and to trust your intuition. Ask for help. I don’t suggest trying to figure it all out yourself.

Any obstacles in the way are surmountable if your love for acting is strong enough. We don't let anything or anyone stop us. And if you decide at some point that you’ve had enough, that’s okay too. Actors can be anything.

If you can do anything other than acting, I suggest you do that. Because this journey is not simple or easy. But if you can’t NOT act, then you are starting off on the right foot.

Life is more important than acting. Your heart is more important that acting.
I am telling you now, because 
no teacher ever told me that.

On the Journey of acting, auditions are just stops along the way. And on the Journey, if you make good choices and take care of your heart, you will grow. Acting brings a type of growth that includes mental, physical, emotional and spiritual expansion, maturing and evolution. 


This is a link to the very first post on this blog. If you start there and work your way backwards, you will find a lot of useful information about everything I have mentioned in this post.  














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