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Monday, November 5, 2012

Auditioning - what do they want?

There's one thing I wish I had known many years ago when I first started auditioning for film and television. Myself. Because that's what most of those casting directors and directors really wanted to see - my personality, my original essence. Me. I alwyas tried to hide who I was inside the character - putting myself aside. Lots of stage-trained actors make that mistake. Because film acting is different. Both the business and the craft. The close up changes everything. When the audience can see what's in your eyes, they know when you are being truthful and when you're not. So revealing yourself - something real and deeply human, becomes important. It's not something you can fake, though you can manage it - control it, if you are very well trained and experienced. But that can take years. So how do you handle auditions when you're starting out? I say, use who and what you are. If you're walking into the room with a massive case of nerves - put those nerves into the audition. It may not be right for the character, but it will be real and far more intriguiing than you shutting down and revealing nothing. When you walk in the door, be yourself - as openly and honestly as you can. Weirdly enough, it can take practice being who we are. Becuase most of us are masters at hiding our true selves - our fear and love and passion. Classes help. But you can start making small choices in your real life to experience what I'm talking about. Try expressing something real to someone you don't know well. Say something honest that makes you feel vulnerable, raw. You may fear rejection or derision, but often, I've found that people respond with revelations of their own, if you go first. The choice to be real, to stop acting as if you are perfect, or calm, or uafraid, is an important one for any actor. Try it. Be yourself....and see what it feels like.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I recently taught a Business of Acting seminar - and there was some good news. When I researched TV series and films being shot in the region it was clear we are in an upswing. There are a number of current TV series casting - from Drop Dead Diva, Army Wives and Homeland, to a new pilot called Nashville. Plus, an impressive number of films. But there was bad news too. Most of these were shot in neighboring states, not Tennessee. And sometimes, state film commissions give added incentives to production companies to only hire local talent. So even if we're willing to travel, we sometimes don't have access to the work around us. It's a shame that Tennessee isn't really competitive. While the states around us are offering 30 - 35% tax rebates on the money these productions spend, Tennessee doesn't match that. If you check the Film Commission website, (here: you'll see them trumpeting a 32% rebate. But it's not that simple. It's actually a 17% rebate, with an additional 15% headquarters incentive. Simply competitive. That's why Georgia and North Carolina and Louisiana all have 20 or more productions listed for 2011. Tennessee has five. And one of those was a singing competition. So what are we to do? Well, work hard to promote ourselves to out of state casting directors. Use online submission sites to compete. And work to change the political climate in Tennessee to one that recognizes the value -culturally and economically of all the arts, including film. You can call or email your state rep or senator and ask why our film incentives aren't competitive. They need to hear from you. Most of them would be surprised at the number of their constituents interested in the subject.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's a thrill when it happens. An actor finds the courage to be so raw and real it takes your breath away. It happened for me today, during a private coaching session. A local actor (you know who you are, you fabulous woman!) came in and let everything that is happening in her life into the scene she was working on. She brought her fear and apprehension, her heartbreak, her utter vulnerability, hiding none of it. Now THAT is exciting, compelling acting.

We talked a bit about the masks we wear. About how we hide who we are, or try to change what we feel in the moment. You simply can't control everything and when you stop trying to, magic can happen. You put everything, your whole, imperfect, struggling self into the character and your work connects.

I can't take credit. This actor walked in the door with all her defenses down. But it was a real treat watching her work - watching her use not just her head, but also her heart to allow each word to sing with truth.

That's why we do this folks. To make a genuine human connection. To honor what's inside each and every one of us. And that takes the kind of courage I saw today.

God, I love actors.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I get all kinds of questions. About building skills, getting headshots, how to manage nerves. But the hardest questions to answer are the ones about getting work. The unspoken subtext is, "I'm spending money on photos and reels and classes etc., when do I start making money?" The answer is different for everyone. It all depends on a combination of factors - some of which you can control, some you can't.

But I do know this: the people who treat acting as a business tend to work more often. You need to understand the market and what you have to sell. You need a creative business plan. And then you need to work that plan - hard. It doesn't matter whether you're a 'hobby' actor or a SAG member - in our 'right to work" state, everybody faces the same set of variables and competes for the same work. So even if it's just a hobby for you, you won't get the work if you don't understand the standards and expectations of the industry.

One of the best (and most frustrating!) things about this business is that it's always changing. You need to know how to ride the waves of change. Making your own work is one of those waves at the moment. Does that thought make you break out in hives? You're not alone. But creating work for yourself and promoting yourself is far less scary when you understand the market and have a business plan.

So bring your questions to my BUSINESS OF ACTING seminar. Everything you ever wanted to know about being a working actor in and around Knoxville but didn’t know who to ask!

This 2 1/2 hour event will cover:
  •  Where's the work? 
  •  How do I sell ME? 
  •  Working with an agent 
  •  Online submissions 
  •  Union or Not? 
  •  Pictures and resumes and reels, oh my! 
  •  Getting experience 
  •  What Casting Directors want 
  •  Audition Tips 
  •  Putting Yourself on Tape 
  •  Making Your Own Work 
  •  Surviving the Craziness 
  •  And more…. 

You can choose from one of two sessions, both of which meet at Panera's in Bearden. Sunday. March 11 @ 12:30 or Saturday, March 24 @ 11:00. The costs is $35.00, payable at the door by check or cash or online by Paypal. Seating is limited, so shoot me an email or call me at 659-3314 and I'll add you to the list!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Being an actor who is pursuing professional work in Knoxville, TN can be very lonely. You sometimes feel you are working in a vacuum - trying to figure out what your next step is, wondering if there is more you can do, wishing for colleagues to talk with about this crazy business! Well, you are not alone.

I'm putting together a short seminar on acting in Knoxville and the region. What would YOU like to know? Leave a comment and I'll research the answer to your question and make sure it's covered.

We need to stop struggling in isolation and join forces to share our questions and knowledge.

The seminars will be 3 hours long and you'll have two dates to choose from in early to mid March. So, what do YOU want to know?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good news! You can now pay for acting classes online using your credit card or paypal account!  Just look for the Pay Online with PayPal page listed under Home to your right. Click and follow the links to the secure PayPal page.

I'll get an email notification of your payment. If you have any questions or concerns - send me an email.


Why do I need acting classes?

I do believe anyone can act - play with any 3 year old and you'll get a lesson in creating a moment of truth and adventure. But unfortunately, as we age, most of us learn fear. Fear of our own emotions, or making a mistake, of making a fool of ourselves. Acting class can help unlock the inner actor you were born with and have forgotten.

And then there is the question of technique. To be a really good actor, it helps to develop a way of working, a process for developing character and moving your character through the story in a way that excites the audience. You can do that by working - doing play after play after play or being on a long-running television series. Working lets you hone your craft in a real world setting - but how many people get that chance starting out? Precious few. 

So, you study. You read books and scripts, you watch movies and plays - but nothing replaces DOING for building skill and confidence. Malcolm Gladwell wrote that you must perform something 10,000 times to achieve mastery - whether it's playing a guitar, throwing a pot or performing in front of an audience. 10,000 sounds like an impossible number - but his point is apt. You get better with practice. Period. And acting class is a place for trying out techniques, pushing yourself, finding what works for you. You learn from direct feedback on your work and you learn from watching others perform.

You can't learn to act by thinking about it. You have to get up in front of someone and do it. Again and again and again. 

Only you know how many acting classes you need. Maybe one jump starts you and makes you feel ready to audition. Maybe you need to take several in a row to build your confidence. Some actors treat class like a tuneup - a chance to stretch themselves in a supportive environment.

The point is - there's no one way to become an actor - but the honest, informed feedback you find in a class is a good way to improve.

So try a class. Bring your whole self - questions, doubts , dreams and all. Acting class isn't a place you learn how to be "perfect" or even "right". It's a place where you learn how to use your "instrument" - body, voice, intellect, energy and emotion - to bring the humanity of a story to vibrant life.

And besides, it's more fun than a barrel of monkeys!