Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Demystifying getting into acting for the camera biz

1. Have a burning, yearning desire to act.

Not to be famous, to be rich or to get revenge on the kids who harrassed you in high school by becoming 'someone.'

You gotta love the craft and art.

2. Get proper training.

Know what you want to learn. Ignorance can cost you plenty of time and money - as you pick up bad habits and huge credit card debts along the way.

A bazillion places prey on eager kids and their parents, telling them they're super talented and should be a model or on TV or in movies when they're really only out to rip you off. Some of these guys actually have weird set-ups like some car dealers - like having 2-way mirrors that watch and listen to parents and kids discuss the "opportunity" that seems to be magically put before them.

As they spy on potential customers, they know what concerns they have and address them immediately as they re-enter the room. Someone who worked in one of these places told me about this practice. It's the reason she quit.

Check with regional SAG, AEA, or AFTRA offices to find qualified coaches and classes in your area who work with camera actors.

You can't go too wrong by checking out your local community college or university acting classes. Almost all school classes, however, focus on theater acting rather than acting for the camera. Some schools insist that students study theater for at least a couple years before allowing them in front of the camera.

Most schools, teachers and coaches won't diss other schools, teachers or coaches, even if they know they aren't the Real Deal.

OTOH, there are some not very good teachers and coaches who will diss very qualified teachers and coaches in an attempt to prevent people from working with them.

Classes should NOT be excessively expensive.

Best thing: find out how successful the actors are who study where ever, with whom. If folks are getting work? That should be an indicator.

3. The elements used for auditions:

a. great attitude - know yourself, have confidence, show us your chops, don't be too eager to please or just do what you think we want. The only reason to audition is to network. If you go in desperately wanting the job? You'll never be able to get that out of your subtextual essence enough to completely become the character.

b. proper slate (most people are taught this is perfunctory - something that needs to be done and get out of the way - instead of your important first impression).

c. a great casting interview. All that information they ask about you - this is the key to working your way up the food chain. The higher you go, the more important it becomes.

d. improv/commercial. Being able to improv and do a great commercial will always help your audition tool box. Asking you to do a commercial for something only gives you a hook on which to improv.

e. cold read. This is one of the most commonly used means of evaluating an actor's ability to come up with great characterization quickly. Making strong choices boldly! If you don't know - a "cold read" is one in which someone hands you a script and gives you a short period of time to prepare for the audition - usually about 10-15 minutes.

f. monologue. Generally we want to see monologues against type. Meaning that if you look innocent and vulnerable, you want to present a tough or sinister monologue character. A monologue is not a character study.

The monologue has a beginning, middle, end; the character goes through a change. For camera, they should be 1-2 minutes long, max.

A character study is more theatrical and is generally considered a monologue in theater. It usually has a character rumenating or reflecting without going through any change. Theater monologues can run 3 minutes (5 minutes used to be the norm).

If you have these skills with a good headshot -- you're prepared to audition!

Mind you, there are a dozen different ways to approach your entry into the business - but without these skills, chances are your longevity will be limited.

One of my actors was told by an "actor" who lives in an area where a *lot* of work is available for actors that all he had to do was keep showing up for auditions - that training wasn't really necessary - and that one day pow! He would be cast and start his career.

The person giving him this advice had been "auditioning" for SIX years -- I can't imagine that he would still be seen by even no budget indie projects -- and had never landed a job. He had received call backs, but only first call backs.

This "actor" hung out with some people who were actually trained and got work so he could feel "in," and believed his partying, drug and alcohol use would somehow hasten a career.


Meanwhile, it's also crucial that you understand how the business works. I am always shocked when I hear how far off base so many people are about how it works, especially people who are just starting out.

The most important thing you can do is remember who you are - really - and continue to be that person. It's tough to do because so many people try to pressure you to do or not do something - but it's still paramount to get quality work and establish a solid career.


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