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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

For the actor...by David Gray



David Gray:

HEY ACTORS! WHO WANTS TO STAR IN A PILOT?!
now that I have your attention. It's pilot season. What the hell are doing? It's just getting going. This could be your year. This could be your time. Work your asses off. Stay focused. Study, gym, study, create, study, eat right.... download extra scenes off of showfax.com just to work on. Don't hit the bars, save that money for wardrobe, classes, headshots, coaching. Have actor friends over to do play readings. There are wonderful 3/4 character plays out there by the likes of Mamet and Sheppard and John P. Shanley. that will constantly challenge you. Keep you sharp as a razor. Create a you tube channel. Create content for that channel. write a short funny short film about something that happened to you. Shoot it. Direct it. Star in it. Maybe it will suck, first time trying...it probably WILL suck. So what? Look at all you learned. Directing, writing, cinematography, not to mention character arc and development, dramatic structure...the list goes on. Hey! Maybe it DOESNT suck. Maybe you can grab thirty seconds of it for your demo reel. Maybe it goes viral on funny or die. You do know that when you are done you can submit to IMDB righ? Oh, you didn't know? Well you can. Now you have an acting, writing, and directing credit. All in a couple of weeks. So...what have you been up to the last couple of weeks? Kicking ass my friend, just kicking that ass. Never never quit. Keep banging on that door. Scavenge deadline.com, variety.com, zap2it.com...all the industry's websites. Be in the know. Send your against and managers food. Pizza, cupcakes, Starbucks cards. When they say only prepare scene three...prepare ALL of them. Anticipate direction. Remember actors, the most common note you will get will be to bring the scope of your performance up or down. It will look like this "let's do it again and....ummm...just....have more fun with it!" That means you were good but a drop stiff bring the scope up. Or, "take it down a little bit" well that means scope down. Obviously we know this. So why don't we prepare for it. Prep baby! Motor it up and down so your performance is ready. Then your transition upon receiving direction will seem effortless. Send your agents and managers food, baskets, gift cards, home made cookies. Develop relationships with casting directors. Help other actors prepare for their auditions. Look good, hair, clothes, body. Pay attention in class instead of playing on your phone. You do not absorb creative juju through osmosis, you have to want it. So want it. Want it so bad that you dont lay your head on the pillow at night without being able to answer the question "What did it do to further my career today?" And then do it. Got it? Good. Oh...don't forget to send your rep food.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Caught in the Act Book



 Caught In The Act: Actors Acting

We have long been fascinated by actors, by men and women who can call upon the alchemy that brings to life people who exist only as words on a page.

How do actors become actors, and why? What inspires and motivates them, and what does it take to do what they do?

Through formal portraits and interviews, we searched for the secrets of 85 of these talented shape-shifters, looking for both visual and personal truths. And by suggesting to them situations and characters, in the time-honored exercise of improvisation, we provided the catalysts for the creation of a wonderful cast of instantly invented people.

In the process, we were constantly surprised, delighted, and richly entertained, lucky to be witnesses to fantasy and transformation.

With Caught in the Act: Actors Acting, his 20th book, acclaimed photographer Howard Schatz explores the magical transformation that happens when an actor takes hold of words on a page and becomes another person.

Schatz demonstrates his mastery as a director, leading 85 actors to explore an enormous range of scenarios in
one-on-one improvisation, capturing the dynamic energy of the actors in full creative flight.

In addition, Schatz made powerful and compelling portraits of each actor along with an extensive interview, focusing on the creative process. Schatz gives us a unique window into the world of stage and screen.

Caught in the Act: Actors Acting will be available everywhere October 20, 2013.

Purchase Caught in the Act

This is a book to be savored slowly. The photos, the words, the sheer joy and fascination in seeing these professionals at work are an experience not to be missed.
Book Pleasures Review

Actor Testimonials

Being photographed by Howard Schatz is like taking a wild ride only to discover you’ve lost your brakes. I highly recommend it. —Jeff Daniels

Being interviewed by Howard is an intimate and wonderful experience. Very quickly you feel comfortable and wide open. Being shot by him even more so. Ideas of one’s self drop away as you engage with him in his process of photographing what feels like one’s insides as much as the obvious outer layers. —Melissa Leo

Howard fires whimsical one-line scenarios at you and has the uncanny knack of being able to co-erce actors into a mad state of play, forgetting the camera. —Geoffrey Rush

It was such a joy to work with Howard. We bonded on so many levels, and he continues to inspire me with his art. —Ken Jeong

Never a fan of the “acting exercise”, shooting with Howard has changed my mind. I adored every moment of our session together. His ability to guide, suggest and inspire
while providing a really creative place to play around was a joy. —Jane Lynch

Howard Schatz has a deep and profound love and respect for actors and the craft of acting. He acknowledges the mystery, eccentricity and insanity of the process and allows it to happen in front of his compassionate lens.
—Michael Imperioli

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: ACTORS ACTING
Howard Schatz, Beverly J. Ornstein and Owen Edwards
Celebrity Photography/Pop Culture
Glitterati, Inc.
October 2013 release
$65
12 x 12” hardcover 304 pages 52,000 words 85 actors featured
in more than 625 photos ISBN 978-0-9851696-9-5






This book is on Amazon.com used for much cheaper...

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.  














Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Kid Comes First: Suggestions for the parents of a young actor

Suggestions for the parents of a young actor
by Corey Parker



In this blog post, I address some topics that I believe will be helpful for you to address as a parent of a young actor/ actress. Take whatever makes sense to you, and leave the stuff that doesn’t.

I have coached many young actors, kids and teens. I have met many parents of young actors. I was a young actor as well. I think the best thing you can do as the parent of a young actor/ actress is to inform yourself as well as you can about all aspects of his/ her work in the business.

Auditions are opportunities to get jobs in the real, professional world of acting. This means that auditions can be a form of pressure, as are any opportunities for a person to get work, including adults. Further, there are many other issues that can go on for a kid in this circumstance.

For example, is the love and approval of the parent going to increase with a booking the job? Or is the love and approval from the parent going to decrease if the child does not succeed in booking the job? 

What are the feelings of the parents, do they show their own disappointment when the kid does not book or do they properly parent and support their child instead? Kids want to please their parents, they want their parents approval and love. They do not want to disappoint them or to be a disappointment to them. Long term psychological damage can take place if the young actor is demoted or reduced consistently in the process of trying to book jobs. The young actor can internalize this dynamic- ‘book the job or be worth less.’ They may erroneously decide that they must succeed, that they must be in complete control of the casting process in order to have inner worth and that it is their role to do so…or else. In other words, they believe they must book the job. It's important to know that actors may book one in ten auditions or less. Conditional love based on auditioning can be internalized by the child and  can have potential long term manifestations for the child/ teen are related to 1) self worth, 2) inability to cope with stress, 3) fear, anxiety, panic and 4) shame (the experience of something being inherently wrong with them as a person). There is a long list of innocent young actors who had such struggles. 

The Solution 

The solution is in awareness from the parents. Ensuring that their young actor or actress learn healthy beliefs and coping skills, forms of play, and proper training.



Play: kids need to play. It serves them developmentally. This is very important for young actors as well. They need to have play, because it reduces stress, it can serve a positive sense of self and releases anxiety. Without play, their world of auditioning becomes more and more fraught, more overly important, and is potentially a source of pain and worry in their lives.

Training: Talent is not enough. Every agent and coach knows this, every casting director knows this. Your child needs to be training when he or she is not auditioning.  Training is a way to weave ‘play’ into her work, particularly in the setting of auditions. I suggest mock auditions that create positive habits (inner and outer) for the audition process. Habits are very important in the long term. For example, how to deal with tension in auditions, how to play and try different choices, how to let go, how to breathe properly, how to handle it if you make a mistake, etc. 


These habits are important and take time and practice. In the right setting, that work may seem like play at times. Find a good teacher.  Good teachers bring good habits and bad teachers teach bad habits. 



Coaching for auditions: This is a wonderful way to offer support for the actor. The actor is supported and feels their growth in the audition scenes. On the other hand, I feel it is counter productive to only work on actual auditions with a coach because there is no time for overall training: to learn technique, to bring play into the young actor’s mindset and instrument, no time to work on habits.

Training should be fun and should allow her to meet other kids who deal with similar issues. Some kids will be buttheads. Prep him or her for that. Just to be polite but don’t let them under your skin. If a kid brags about their work/ resume, go listen to your headphones or talk with someone else. Don’t let people get under your skin.



Parent coaching at home: When parents coach the kid at home, it is very important how you approach the work sessions. These sessions can become about the kid wanting to please the parents, which all kids want to do. That can be a very different dynamic than the kid working with a coach who does not hold the parent’s power and who knows what he or she is doing. Parental coaching must include constant encouragement presented credibly. Literally, every time the kid runs through the scene or scenes, the young actor needs to hear encouragement about the good aspect of their work—every time. All actors need encouragement. Even the greatest in the world. Most importantly, young actors need to know that they are loved throughout the parent coaching process and that they will be loved even if they don’t book the job. Be aware at home: are you coaching ‘results’ or ‘process’?

Results vs. process: I believe there are two ways to work—results or process. I teach with process, giving creative ideas to the imagination so that the actor (including adults) can play with these suggestions and be affected by them.

Result-based coaching consists solely of results given verbally—"be happy," "be funny," "make a serious face," etc.  When a child is taught only with results, they leave their creativity behind and try to satisfy the teacher or parent by hitting that desired result immediately, which can elicit a performance that is robotic, leaving all their authenticity and creativity at the door. From my experience, this is the last thing casting director’s want to see.

We don’t see the young actor at their best this way, we never will. Also:  if the coach uses a creative process and the kid goes home to a parent who then uses result,  the kid will tend to do the results,  the parent’s way, despite what the coach taught creatively. Result oriented work is the lowest common denominator for an actor. A person may book a commercial with it, rarely will it be used to build a career.


A smile. If a young actor is taught to smile whenever they are asked to and to smile a really big forced smile every time, that child will bring a plastered-on, obedient smile in the casting office, as dependable as a miniature robot; whereas, if the young actor is taught that to smile means to smile as if smiling at their best friend or at their favorite grandma, that child’s imagination can play and the casting director sees a relaxed, open and authentic young actor.  Think of your best friend when you laugh, or when you laugh hard at a joke with someone. Who is that person? If a smile starts to form, it is authentic, real and it brings you joy. You work until you find the choice that works for you. My son makes me smile. I had a best friend in High School who always made me laugh. I smile when I think of him. And I can share that smile when I get in the audition room, just like I would share it with another person. I let the camera capture what is authentic. Regular training offers habits that can translate into a happy kid and the ability to be a healthy actor who enjoys the process of acting.

There are parts of the audition that the actor can control and parts of the audition process that the actor can not control.

I believe this must be taught to kids so they don’t take on full responsibility for the outcome of an audition.  What they can control is going in the room and having fun, being their authentic selves and doing their creative work. Nothing else about the audition process is up to the kid. Don't ask them to do any more than that. 

The kid can’t control the final decisions that are made. Sometimes even the casting director cannot control that decision (any time the director is the one making the choice). This is important for the parent to understand and to teach the young actor. The young actor is not wholly responsible for getting the job. And what a lot of pressure that would be for any kid.  Many of us have heard the parent in a waiting room at a casting office telling their child that they must get the job and make the parent happy. This is not uncommon. Yet, the child has no definitive chance of controlling this. How frustrating and confusing for the child. For me, the kid is more important than the job, and this rule is written in stone. The kid comes first. 





Memorization: There are different ways to memorize. I am not a supporter of mere memorization of words only. The brain learns by making connections. Mere word memorization does not give the brain sufficient connections and the result will be forgetting words and feeling lost. It’s like memorizing math problems.

The other way to learn is to understand the meaning of the sentence, what is really being said.  The lines start to make real sense and we find connections to words beyond how they initially impressed us (or didn’t). This allows the brain to make connections and to a deeper meaning. If the actor goes up on a line, they just ask themselves what are they missing about that line, what is it really saying? Say the meaning of the line out loud. The actor may get it on his or her own, but it can be fun to explore what's happening. Acting can be like detective work. 


If an actor keeps forgetting the same line, this means the actor has not yet pierced it’s meaning and why the writer even put it there in the first place. We ask questions and the brain reconnects and the actor is on his way. It's similar to being told a math equation but not remembering it--you can use lemons or eggs and count them out and create a physical representation for the equation. The brain can make a connection. When my son struggled as a kid with Pythagoras' theorem, we studied Pythagoras' life, and when we saw him as a real person, our brains made new connections. 

There are infinite possibilities and acting itself can solve these questions. Our brain just needs to make connections. 

You can also develop the abililty to find associations to nouns in a line. The line mentions a tree or a car or the sky.
There are lots of trees, so a choice has to be made about what the actor is describing.  Maybe it’s a healthy maple tree you saw outside your window as a kid, or it’s a sad weeping willow. Finding an image that serves the intention of the writer and creatively instigates the actor’s imagination is another way of allowing  the brain to find yet another way to make connections.

Writing the entire scene out is another way to help learn or reinforce learning. This can be done as many times as necessary.

Dropping a line. This is normal for all actors. The young actor needs to know this. The best case scenario is that the actor is able to look at the script for a moment, pick themselves back up and move forward. It’s human. The actor need not feel that they have failed if they drop a line. That is where bad habits create severe pressure for auditions. If the child feels too much pressure internally, then going up on a line is equated to failing, and possibly failing their parents’ expectations, which is a Big Deal to them. No child wants to come out after the audition and announce that they didn’t do as good as the parent wanted. Some children might lie to the parent and say it went well. This kind of dysfunction does not serve anyone. The child will never do their best in the short term with that kind of thinking and they will develop bad habits in the long term.

Reality: in an audition, the child is allowed to make a mistake. Just  pick it up and move on with the scene. When actors make a mistake they are focused only on their mistake and are unaware of all the different factors involved in that moment—the casting director's problems, the pressure they are under, the director the producer, the network, who has the power, etc. All of this is going on at the same time as our auditions. 


The casting director is rooting for the young actor always, because they want to cast the role. If you drop a line, just keep the scene alive and get your head back in to it. Once the actor leaves the audition, go get ice cream! Or a treat and let it all go. Go back to life. Find positive rituals that accompany each audition. When my son went to kindergarten, I promised him I'd make it up to him by taking him to Baskin Robbins afterward. He loved that. We did this each year of his schooling. Now is he is a freshman at college and after the first day of each term, we go get ice cream. Auditions can be handled creatively if we acknowledge what our kid goes through and we parent them. 




I suggest you read a book called: “Pretty Babies” by Andrea Darvi. It is rare, can be found on Amazon. It is old, but much of it is still important for the parent of a child actor. This book can offer a great deal of valuable knowledge for the care of your young actor in the long term throughout this process. The author interviewed many real young stars, casting directors, directors, etc. all on this subject. She was a young actress and worked with a number of big time actors, directors, casting directors and producers.

Much respect,

Corey