Friday, May 30, 2014

Some reasons to make your own videos

Hello all!

I've been working on finishing the edit for my new video for the website, “Funny or Die," and I got to thinking about reasons why we creative people (especially actors) should make our own videos. Inexpensive cameras, and editing software, make creating a video possible for almost all of us, so let's take a quick look at some of the reasons to make one (or more).

Looking to get experience performing on camera. This is a great reason for someone new to the business to get in front of the camera. You can do as many takes as you want, and watch yourself. You'll get a good sense of your mannerisms, and “on-screen” presence.

Looking to break-in. People do watch videos. And not just “regular” people, but also people in the casting business. Often a casting director will have his or her assistant prowl around the internet looking for interesting new performers.

Getting feedback. If you put a video(s) up on a site like “YouTube,” and do a little social networking, people will see you and give you feedback. Yes, sometimes people will say crappy stuff about you, but then some people say crappy stuff about Brat Pitt, so this can be a good way to get used to it. And some people may compliment your work as well, and that's a way of seeing what works (and doesn't work) for you as a performer.

You're Looking to change your image. I just saw that Charlize Theron is going to be in a comedy film. And that's interesting because she has mostly been known for doing very serious roles in films like “Monster,” and “North Country.” But in the last few years she's been doing comedy sketches on Funny or Die and and now she's in a comedy film.

You're looking to boost your career. Sometimes an actor's career just seems to stall and not only can you get yourself out their and be seen, but it will really make you feel better about yourself if you're doing something proactive.

You want to expand your talents into writing, directing, etc. Many actors like to also write and/or direct, and doing this a few times is a great way to not only get experience, but also to figure out if it's something you want to spend more time pursuing.

You want to express a personal point of view. Sometimes it's very satisfying to be able to express yourself as yourself and not behind a character. You can talk about anything: politics, why people should adopt animals, or just what's going on in your life. You can do this with a regular blog, or as I plan to do in the near future, with a video blog (or vlog).

Finally, maybe you just want to express your own artistic vision. When we do this, we're not going for some specific goal, like getting discovered – we just have something to say and we make some kind of artist video to express our inner self. You just do it because you want to do it and it can be weird, or silly, or just a bunch of swirling colors pulsating to a friend's musical score. Whatever.

So, there you go – a few of my thoughts about doing videos. And now it's time for me to get back to work on my own video and get it finished and online. Even though it's just a silly little improv I did with a friend, I like it and that's what really counts when you're doing your own stuff.



Friday, May 23, 2014

What should I wear?

I had a commercial audition the other day. When I got the email notice from my agent, it told me the time, place, casting director, and all the other information I needed to get to the audition. It also had a “wardrobe description” as to what to wear to the audition. And this is where most actors would go a little crazy. Because it said to dress as close to the look of a medieval knight as possible! A medieval knight?! Yeah, right … I just happen to have a suit of armor hanging in my closet.

If you go out on enough commercial auditions (and this happens more often on commercial auditions than ones for TV or film), every now and then you will get one of these impossible wardrobe suggestions. I had one once that suggested the actors wear purple robes (with gold trim), feathered headdress (helmets) and sandals. Don't ask what we were supposed to be – I've completely erased it from my brain. Or you could be asked to wear 1960's style clothes to look like a hippy.

So, what do we do in these extreme cases? The first thing is not to panic. Most of us – even characters like myself - do not have a huge closet packed full of costumes from every era (starting at about 6,000 B.C., and working our way up to the present (or maybe even into the future).

The second thing we don't do is go rushing out to our local thrift store searching for that suit of armor which, unless some medieval knight felt like donating his old suit, is not going to be there anyway.

Note: That said, if you do any character parts, or extra roles, it's always a good idea to drop by your local thrift store now and then and pick up a few items that can be used for many roles. For example, I've bought a bunch of vests and bow ties, and other stuff that I wouldn't wear in my regular life, but come in handy when I go out for roles like a professor or nerdy teacher (which I do a lot).

So, what do we do when faced with a weird, bizarre, off the wall wardrobe suggestion? We do the best we can. We get a little creative. We do an internet search and see how people really dressed in that era. Then we can often “suggest“ the part with a few little things. 

When I checked out what medieval knights wore, I saw that it wasn't just armor. That was for battles. In their regular life, they wore stuff that looked like long-sleeved T-shirts, with a sleeveless, gray T-shirt on top of that. Hey! I have those! So, I put the T-shirts on, and some skinny black pants that could pass for tights, black tennis shoes, and off I went.

And you know what? I expected that there might be some actor there who works at those Renaissance fairs, who might have a “real” costume, but nope – in fact, I think I was the closest one there to wearing what a casual medieval knight might wear.

And last, but not least – even if there was somebody there with a full costume – the casting people, and director and producers are first of all looking for good actors, not just somebody with a great costume (unless it's extra work).

So just do your best. And don't let the feeling that your costume is not the best, get in the way of having confidence when you walk into the room to audition. Great, confident acting will beat a great costume (almost) every time!



And don't forget - for a lot more audition information - check out "An Actor's Guide to Auditioning" here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Looking for a commercial agent

Back in November (2013) I wrote a post called: “How do I start looking for an agent?” I'd like to update and get a bit more specific.

I'm signed “across-the-board” with my current agent – which means he reps me for both theatrical (films and television) and commercial. However, I'm considering finding and signing with a separate commercial agent. There's a few reasons for this decision. My current agent does a good job of getting me out on film and television auditions, but I think an agent who specializes in commercials might get me more auditions than I've been getting.

Most, but not all, working actors will have serrate agents for different areas of work. That's because very few agencies are good at everything, especially at the smaller, “boutique” agencies where there may only be one or two agents.

So, I'm starting to put together a new package to submit to commercial agencies. I'll include two headshots – these are the two that get me called in the most – with résumés, and a brief cover letter. The headshots are not just the same look – smiling and not smiling. They are two different types of characters that I play most often in commercials – a “professor” type, and a “farmer” type. That helps agents see a range.

The cover letter will mention that I'm looking for commercial representation, that I heard their agency was a good one (never hurts to throw out a little flattery – but don't overdo it), and that my last two commercials were nationals that ran for over a year.

I'll be preparing both a “snail mail” package and an electronic one. Some agencies like emails, some still like getting hard copies. One of the advantages of sending your stuff in by email (besides saving money on postage) is that you can include a link to your demo reel, if you have one (and you should have one if you're looking to sign with an agent).

I'll write more about my search and whether or not I deside to sign with a seperate agnecy. And let me know if you have questions about finding an agent.



Thursday, May 8, 2014

Is modeling a way into an acting career?

Although a few models have broken through into serious acting careers, modeling is not a slam-dunk gateway into acting. We are all aware of the exceptions, from Lauren Bacall and Lauren Hutton, to Cybill Shepherd and Monica Bellucci, and especially Charlize Theron, precisely because they are exceptions.

A few others, such as Tara Banks, have become “personalities.” Some, like Cindy Crawford and Kathy Ireland, were business-minded enough to have developed their own clothing lines or other designer goods. Of course, what all these models have in common is that they were top models; they were well-known before branching off into other areas. Also remember that modeling is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work to become even moderately successful.

At some point in their careers, models are faced with a life choice: either go into some non-show business area of life (starting a family, pursuing other business interests, etc.), or else get serious about training as actors (attend classes, audition, perform in plays, etc.). And like many struggling actors, they may find themselves drawn to other areas of the business where they become casting directors, writers, agents, producers, and even the head of a studio, like Sherry Lansing.

If you're a model with aspirations to be an actor, start taking acting classes while you're still modeling. This way, when the time comes for you to make the change, you will have a head start.

And remember, even if you are making a lot of money and flying all over the world working as a successful model, that doesn't mean you will not have to begin at the bottom of the acting profession. You will probably have to audition for the same jobs as everyone else who is starting out: commercials and low budget independent films. No matter how beautiful or handsome you are, in order to be taken seriously as an actor, you must know your craft.

For the models who only want to be in front of a camera, making their living, a hosting gig may be the way to go. There are hosting classes in Los Angeles and New York. While not “acting” in the regular sense, hosting still has special skills that need to be learned. And get an agent who specializes in those kinds of jobs – not all agents are tuned into the world of hosting.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Should I act in student films?

Unless you’re working a great number of acting jobs, or have already reached your goals as an actor, the answer is yes, you should do student films. Although there are a few reasons to be cautious about accepting this kind of work, they are outweighed by the reasons for doing it.
The plus side includes: gaining experience in front of a camera, getting the chance to do lead roles or explore interesting character parts, having the opportunity to do many different types of roles, practicing and refining your acting technique, working with future feature filmmakers, and (hopefully) getting a copy of the final product for your demo reel.

You may also be seen at film festivals, where people may come from all over the country or world (depending on how well-known the festival is). And sometimes - even if rarely - some filmmaker may see your performance and ask you to be in their next film (maybe even a feature!). There are even a few festivals that give out awards for acting.

Now we come to the downside of doing student films. Many actors end up receiving copies of their films only about fifty percent of the time. This happens because student filmmakers sometimes do not complete their projects (due to changing their courses and/or majors), and some simply “flake out.” (This may happen when the filmmaker completes the film, then gets involved in another project. Or the semester ends, and he forgets to send copies to his cast.)
Also, don't get your hopes up that a good role in a student film will lead to starring in a studio film. Student films are generally not seen by that many industry people, although the internet has opened up many venues for showing these projects to the public, and of course there are the festivals I already mentioned.

One other thing - doing a student film will not qualify you to join SAG-AFTRA.

Note: If you're in SAG-AFTRA, you may only work on student films if they are shot under a SAG-AFTRA contract. Among other things, in order to qualify as a SAG-AFTRA project, the film or video must run under 35 minutes.