Thursday, September 14, 2017

Well, it's been a while since my last post. Aside from a few auditions, and a nice role in the feature film, "Desolate," the acting side has been slow. There are usually slow periods in every actor's life and we need to find ways to be creative during those times.

I'm leading the funeral procession, as Pastor Mackentire, in "Desolate."

One of the main things I do is write: short stories, songs, sketches, and now a sci-fi fantasy novel. It's all about keeping the creative energy flowing. We are living in a time where we can shoot a short film or sketch on our phones and post it online. Or use a little bit better equipment and maybe make an ultra-low budget feature film.

Another project I'm working on is a podcast. Found a young woman who's going to be my co-host and we're going to do a funny podcast about life and love and all that crazy stuff. Will it be a hit? We'll see. I did a vlog with someone a few years ago and, to be honest, it wasn't great. But that's okay. I had fun, I learned a lot about doing that kind of project, and it fed my need to create. Not everything we do will be brilliant and loved by millions, but we learn and grow by taking chances and just doing something!

If you've got a project you've done that's online - let me know. I'll take a look, subscribe, or even promote it here.

I'll try and get back here more often, but in the meantime, if you haven't checked out the archives, there's plenty of good stuff in there in response to questions I've been asked.

 Cheers, 


Michael

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What's new & a great free film script site.

Hello all,

Been busy on some projects, so I haven't posted for a while. Was on the new Jane Lynch show, Angel From Hell (4th episode). And it got cancelled after the 6th show. Last time I shot scenes for a new show, it got cancelled before my episode aired, so I guess this time was better ...

Except - that means no residuals. If you're on a network show that runs for a while (as a co-star or guest star), you can expect to pick up another couple of thousand dollars in residuals when the show re-runs. If it gets cancelled, the pay checks end for everyone - star and extra alike.

Sold a short story I wrote, but since that has nothing to do with this site other than maybe what I've talked about in other posts - which is to get into something that goes along with acting - like writing - so you can create your own stuff and not always wait for the phone to ring with a call from your agent.

Anyway, for those of you who follow this blog, here's a nice link. It goes to a site with over a hundred, mostly new, film scripts. And it's free! Check it out for some scenes you can do in class, or as a great course in how to write a script that sells.

http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/free-script-downloads/


Cheers,


Michael

Thursday, October 1, 2015

You want me to do what!!? When does a physical action become a stunt?

A couple of years ago I booked a nice role on a fairly big feature film. After we had shot for about six hours on the first night, and done most of my dialogue, the director walked up to me and introduced me to the stunt co-coordinator. Why was I meeting the stunt guy I wondered. I had not been notified about doing any stunts when I auditioned for the role, nor had my agent been told about any when he negotiated the contract.

This happens a lot - especially on films. The director or writer gets an idea to add a small stunt for your character during the shoot. Not a big, dangerous stunt like driving a car through a ring of fire, or jumping off a four-story building onto an air bag. I'm talking about things like jumping into a cold lake, running a sprint, or doing a somersault.

We actors hate to look like a wimp on a set. With the crew standing around, it's difficult to say "No" to the director. Especially when he or she applies pressure - "You can do this." "It'll look great!" "Come on - be team member, we won't let anything happen to you."

First, even the simplest of stunts should be done under the watchful eye of a stunt coordinator. He's the one who can tell if something could go wrong (unless of course he's really new to the job).

Too many inexperienced directors, especially on low-budget films, have no idea what the difference is between a big, obviously dangerous stunt, and one that seems mild, but on which you could get hurt performing. In fact, because professional stunt performers are hired to do the big stunts, it's usually on the small ones that we actors get hurt. Cuts, sprains, pinched nerves, muscle tears, lung damage (from smoke and dust), etc. are some of the things that can cause short or long-term health problems.

So, how should an actor handle it when he or she is asked, while shooting, to do something physical that isn't in the original script?

First, you need to have a clear understanding of what they want you to do. Sometimes they'll start small, and then ask you to do it faster, longer, higher, etc. If you agree to do it, but it starts becoming too much for you - say "That's it, no more."

Next, you need to have an honest idea of what you're physically in shape to do.

Lastly, you have to have the confidence to stand up for yourself. On many films and TV shows, you will be the only one to do that. I've seen actors get hurt - actually bleeding - and the director says "You okay for one more take?"

Last thought - be extra careful if the director springs this new stunt or physical action on you on the last day of shooting. If he thinks you might get hurt and not be able to work for a while, he may do this physical action at the end of your scenes, so that if you do get hurt, it won't interfere with the film's schedule. Does that sound like the director is a real a**hole? Yeah, but not necessarily intentionally - often he just wants to get whatever ideas he thinks are "cool" onto the film or video.

NOTE: This same issue comes up with nudity. It gets thrown at you on the set. Ultimately, we have to protect ourselves. That means reading our contracts, getting enough sleep, water, food, etc., and saying "No" when something doesn't feel right.

And what about the stunt I was asked to do on that film a few years ago? After talking it over with the stunt coordinator, I felt I could do it with no problems. However, I declined the stunt coordinator's help, so that I would be in control of the stunt - how hard I fell - instead of having him jerk me to the ground using a leash. It worked great, and I didn't get hurt. (But I still was not happy that it was sprung on me at the last minute.)

Cheers,

Michael






Saturday, September 19, 2015

When you don't fit the character description

Last Monday I had an audition for a role that I was sure I wouldn't get. I was younger than the description in the breakdown, but since it was for a casting director who I liked and who has called me in for other roles - several of which I've booked - I went off to Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

I did my audition and two days later my agent called to tell me I had booked the role! This isn't the first time I've gotten a role when the breakdown description sounded really different from who I am.

We have to remember that a casting director isn't going to waste their time calling in actors who are not going to be considered for the role - especially if the CD knows you.

We can end up sabotaging ourselves with negativity before we even get close to the audition time with stuff like: the breakdown says the character is six feet tall, but I'm only 5'10", or it says blonde and I'm a redhead, etc. (Or, in my case, it says "full head of hair," and I'm bald.)

And even if it turns out that the CD can't convince the director to change his mind about how tall the character should be, or whatever, it still gives you a chance to do your thing in front of a CD. And if you give it your best, they will usually remember you and call you in for something else.

There's also been several times that I've read for a director and when I was done, he handed me the sides for another role and asked me to take a few minutes while they auditioned other actors and then come back in and read for the new role.

And then there are times when I'll use the negativity for the character (if he's a negative type guy), or to take the edge off an important audition. But, you really have to know yourself, and have enough experience, to use negativity in a positive way. Otherwise it can mess up your whole performance.

It's best, especially when starting out, to carry a positive attitude into every audition. Remember, out of dozens or hundreds or - in the case of professional auditions in Los Angeles - maybe thousands of submissions, the CD has called you in to read for the role. That alone should give you a boost of positivity.

Cheers,

Michael



P.S. - Next time, I'll talk about getting physical on the set.






Sunday, September 6, 2015

Demo Reels - reels or clips?

I just redid my demo reels on Actors Access, so I thought this would be a good time to discuss the changes in demo reels.

So, what's new? Most casting directors prefer that demos be no longer than a couple of minutes and less is better. That means two minutes for a mixed demo (one that has both comedy and drama on it).

But there's an even better and more preferred way of doing things. And that is separate, one minute comedy and drama demos with two or three clips of your best (and fairly recent) roles on each reel.

And this makes sense - if a CD is looking for an actor for a comedy role, they really don't want to sit through all your dramatic stuff to see the comedy, and vice versa.

On my comedy reel I have two clips - one over-the-top and one very dry. The reason this is the way to go is that a role may have more than one level; the character may have a story arc that takes them through a range of emotions or reactions. A clip (especially a short one) often only shows one type of emotion or attitude. Of course the CD must watch both clips to get this, but the larger and more complex the role that they are casting, the more willing most are to do this.

This is the same with drama - you really only need two or three different clips to show a range. And don't make the mistake of falling in love with a particular scene - if your clip shows only one type of emotion, reaction, or attitude, there's no reason for the clip to be a minute long. I have seen actors use a clip that is 3 minutes long and they are sitting at a table having a low-key discussion with no change in emotion. A busy CD will most likely watch about ten or fifteen seconds of this and bail.

There's one more way that demos can be placed on an acting site. I don't think it's as good as the one minute comedy or drama reels, but here it is. Actors are putting up individual clips (scenes). So instead of a comedy reel with three clips, the actor will have three separate clips on the web site. The idea is that your agent will pick the right clip to submit (just like he does with headshots).

Here's the main problem I have with using separate clips:

If a CD is looking for a dramatic actor with a range - for a larger role - they are not going to look through all your clips to see that you can do a range of dramatic acting. 

Note: Your other clips are up on the actor site along with the one that is attached to your submission. But, just like a CD is not going to look though all your headshots, they're not going to click on all your other clips. That's why I think it's better to have all the comedy clips in a one minute reel and the same with drama.

Hope this helps you think through your online presence as an actor.

Cheers,

Michael




















Saturday, August 29, 2015

The frustration of too many directions.

Hi

It's been awhile since my last blog and it would be great to say I've been so busy acting that I haven't had time to write. But the truth is we're just getting out of the slow casting season (April - July). Finally things are picking up for major auditions. Yeah!

What I've been doing these last four months when things get slow is the same thing I advise others to do - stay busy doing creative stuff. Writing sketches, doing some improv work, reading an acting book, watching good films, updating resumes and headshots online, that kind of stuff. I've been teaching an improv class out in beautiful Malibu - and I join in on the warmups. That way I get paid to teach, and I get to keep up my improv skills.

Anyway - today's post is about the frustration off getting too many confusing and conflicting directions from a casting director (or more likely, a session director).

Okay, you have an audition - co-star role, three lines. What do you do if, when you enter the room, the CD says something like this:

"Okay, the character is angry, but not too angry, and we really want to see that he's actually vulnerable, but with an edge."

There's no way to do right by all those emotions in three lines. In fact I just recently had an audition like that. So, what did I do? I did what I thought was right for the character and picked the one direction the CD gave that jived with what I had been rehearsing. When I was done the CD said, "Okay, let's try it again and bring out the edginess a little more."

Once the CD saw my interpretation of the role, he was able to narrow down his direction a little more, which helped me on the next take.

So, in those situations, pick one or two character emotions, especially if it's a short audition, and use those. If you commit to them - and that's key - the CD will almost always do another take with you. And that's a good thing - CDs are seeing a lot of actors and they are not going to waste their time doing multiple takes with an actor they think sucks. In fact, in most cases, the more takes they do, the more interested they are in casting you. If they see something they like in your first take, they will work with you to get the role on tape that the producers want.

As always - enjoy the journey. And send your questions!


Cheers,


Michael











Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My film's in the theaters!

Hi Dear Readers,

It's been awhile since I last posted. I've been working on a post-production budget for my feature film, Night Tour," as well as writing some sketches for my friends and I to shoot for Funny or Die.

Last week I went with a friend to see the film I'm in - "Little Boy" - that's been playing in theaters around the U.S.




I'm Gilliam, the owner of the general store
Going to see the film

I had a few good scenes, but they also cut some of my stuff. And that happens to many actors, both unknown and known actors. There's all sorts of reasons why that happens: sometimes the film is simply too long and the filmmakers need to shorten it, or maybe it just drags during the subplot that you're in. Dropping a slow subplot is an easy way to cut a chunk of time from a film. It usually has very little to do with your acting, and more to do with the editing of the film.

A friend of mine - a very good actor with lots of television credits - was hired for a TV role a few months ago. After they shot it, the producers had to trim the show down to fit in a half-hour format (usually about 24 minutes). And, you guessed it, they had shot a bit too much and just chopped out my friend's scene.

Because of this, I'm usually careful of how many friends and relatives I tell about my new role. It can be embarrassing to have all your friends tuning in to see you, and you're not there! But that's the nature of the business - sometimes it happens. And it can happen in a TV show, a film, or a commercial. I usually wait until I've seen the TV show and then send a link if it's online somewhere - and most TV is online someplace. 


If it's a film, I might check it out on opening day and then tell my friends. Or, if you've been called in to do some ADR work after the film is shot, you can be pretty sure you're going to be in the final version.

Anyway, it was fun to see myself up on the big screen, because I've mostly been doing TV since my last film, "Priest."

Don't forget - if you have a question, feel free to write in the comments, or email me, and I'll get back to you with an answer. And thanks for reading this little blog - I do appreciate it.

Cheers,


Michael