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The Actor’s Life for Me: How to Make a Living (and a Life!) as an Actor

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What do you need to succeed in the arts? Is it possible to make a living with an actor/actress salary? Learn the ins and outs of the on-screen or on-stage life in this guest post by Saint Paul, MN acting teacher Emily B...

 

While you may not have chosen a traditional career path, pursuing the life of an actor does not mean you must be flung out into the abyss without a safety net, prepared only to fly or fall. There are many ways to build a life worth living as an actor. In my experience, these are a few of them.

Know what you want.

This may seem like an obvious first step when choosing a career path, but its importance cannot be underestimated. Be realistic about your desires without losing the passion and enthusiasm you have for your craft. Consider the city you live in. Would you be happy staying there, working locally? If your desire is to act in television, film, or larger theatres, your geographical options may be confined to areas better suited to those goals. Labor unions like the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and Actors Equity Association (AEA) are more active in certain parts of the country. They provide benefits and establish a standard actor and actress salary based on the type of project. No matter where you end up, remember everyone is different and despite the many opinions you may hear, there is no “right way” to start a career as an actor.

Create your own work.

Not only is creating your own work essential to your artistic development, with potential to grow your visibility and connections in the field, it can be incredibly fulfilling! As an actor, if you wait for opportunities to present themselves without putting forth any effort, you will be waiting for a very long time. Find out how to enter local fringe festivals or write a play and cast actors you want to work with for a workshop production.

I can personally attest to the value of creating your own work. I spent the summer after I left drama school adapting Richard Boleslavsky’s 1933 novel Acting: The First Six Lessons with my father. We developed it into a two-person play that we performed for free in workshop-form at a library, a community center, and finally as a full production at Theatre West in Los Angeles. Representatives from Samuel French saw the play and it was published in 2011. An effort that began as a purely creative endeavor became something I now continue to benefit from (personally, creatively, and financially) years later.

Make a financial plan.

If one thing is certain about an actress salary, it is that it’s never certain. While not exactly glamorous, a financial plan is necessary to navigate the feast and famine of an actor’s life and to avoid burning out when work is slow. This will not look the same for everyone. Some people work full-time jobs to save up money and then take six months to a year off to focus on auditions, while others may find temporary work that they are able to leave easily when they are cast.

In my own experience, a balance between these two is ideal. I currently work part-time for a nonprofit arts organization and teach private acting classes. This allows me to remain financially stable and still have time to audition and work as an actor in film, theatre, commercials, and television.

Important: Remember that a “financial plan” is not the same as a “backup plan.” In my opinion, the phrase “backup plan” was created to undermine the professionalism and dedication of those who work in the arts. While a small percentage of actors are able to work without the support of a second income, it is common (and encouraged!) to make your finances work with your chosen career path. Find what works best for you.

Use the resources available to you.

Did you know you can write off travel for auditions, acting classes, headshots, and mailing supplies on your taxes? Many cities have nonprofit organizations that offer financial and legal advice to artists at little to no cost. If you belong to SAG-AFTRA or AEA, there are programs that can help you with everything from housing to retirement planning and access to health clinics.

Be kind to yourself.

If being an actor were easy, more people would do it. You have chosen this path, so own that choice. Remember not to get down on yourself if you go a while without booking something good. Create your own opportunities to fill the spaces between new projects. Find a theatre company or group of actor friends to develop your ideas and practice your skills. Keep training. Cultivate a supportive network of friends, family, and fellow actors to navigate the ups and downs.

While your chosen path is often competitive and unpredictable, it can also be deeply rewarding. Remember that your options are not limited to anyone else’s idea of what an acting career should look like. Give yourself time, space, practice, and patience. The best goal is not to simply make a living, but to make a life!

EmilyBEmily B. teaches acting in Saint Paul, MN. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance from Fordham University, and her Masters in Arts and Cultural Leadership from the University of Minnesota. Learn more about Emily here!

 

 

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So, Your Child Wants to Be an Actor? 3 Ways to Help Them Get Ahead

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Does your son or daughter have stars in their eyes and big Hollywood dreams? Find out how to tell if your child is ready for their acting debut–and the right things to work on–in this guest post by Glendale, CA teacher Nicole E...

 

Your child is the most special and precious thing in the world to you, but how do know if they are ready for the real world of a working actor? Lets face it, there are hundreds of kids arriving in LA everyday with the same hopes and dreams, and a lot of them have more experience or better connections. Living in LA is expensive, driving to and managing auditions can be extremely stressful, and facing constant rejection is hard for any adult, much less a young child.

So how do you know if it’s all worth it? In my time teaching classes at a “find you at the mall” kind of place, I learned how to distinguish between the kids who actually had talent, and the kids who were being scammed. There were parents who were struggling to pay their bills yet were dishing out thousands of dollars on acting classes for kids, fueled by the idea that their child would become a gold mine. In reality, that’s almost never the case.

The most important question you can ask yourself is “Why are we really doing this?”. If it’s for money–you will fail. Fame–you will fail. Pretty much any reason other than your child having a burning passion for what they do–you will fail. This may seem harsh, but in this industry you have to be able to separate yourself from the parent role and look at things from an outside perspective. You can be the best actor mom in the world, but booking the job is up to them. In order for a child actor to work they have to master three very important qualities:

1. Articulation - You would be amazed at how many children struggle to say their own name when put under pressure. You have to work with your child on delivering a clean, clear slate (name, age representation). When a casting director is seeing 100 kids for one line in a commercial, any mumbling or a lack of projection can be reason enough not to forward you on to the director.

2. Memorization - If your child starts booking acting jobs, they will be expected to perform at the level of adult working actors. They will have a call time, and they will have lines. Whether your child is at reading age or not, you must always be 100% off-book when you arrive on set. The best thing you can do to prepare them is to practice memorization in all aspects of life. Have them relay the plot of a movie you just watched, sing songs without looking at the lyrics, remember the grocery list, or recite the alphabet; anything you can do to stretch their memory will benefit you when it comes time to work.

3. Stage Presence - There is simply no room for shyness in an audition room. Your child will have to walk into a room full of strangers and look them in the eyes. Your child has to be okay with being seen. Notice how your child responds to attention, ask their teachers how they respond when being called on in class, and ask them to preform for family members to see if they clam up or shine under the pressure. If your child is constantly putting on shows for you in the living room, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will do the same when commanded to. Work with your child to achieve a level of professionalism that will stand out. They will start to understand that when audition time comes, they need to shift into working mode and deliver. Have your child introduce themselves when meeting new people or have them perform for people whom they may not be as comfortable around. It’s all about stretching that comfort zone.

All of these points can be practiced at home, however your child can benefit greatly from professional coaching and acting classes for kids. You can lay the groundwork, but there will always be a clear separation between the children who are trained and the ones who are not. You want to give your child as many tools as possible so that they feel ready and capable of delivering a solid performance.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars a month, but you do need to find an acting coach that your child is comfortable with. This may take time, but it will be worth it when you see them start to hone their craft and become little professionals. The journey for child actors can be a long and difficult one, and it’s your job to make sure their egos and self-esteem stay intact. Focus on delivering a good performance every time, as opposed to booking the job, and be sure to let your child know that you are proud of them no matter what. The tools mentioned above are important, but the biggest thing you can give your child is support.

NicoleENicole E. teaches acting in Glendale, CA. She attended New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, and taught classes for International Preforming Arts Academy for two years. Learn more about Nicole here! 

 

 

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How to Get Into Acting: 3 Simple Success Strategies

3821894029_578c6ce1be_bWondering how to get into acting, or what exactly it takes? Here are three tips to keep in mind, from Tampa, FL teacher Matthew B

 

You can be successful in the entertainment business if you are prepared and willing to work hard to achieve your goals. I have provided three simple strategies in this blog post to help you succeed in the business. Each strategy has a personal story from my own career that highlights how it has worked for me.

1. Be willing to try a job in your arts career field that you may not have considered. This may be done by seeking out a paid internship or seasonal opportunity.
Example: In 2007, I was looking for a summer stock opportunity to supplement my acting education at UW-Milwaukee. A professor brought a theatre education internship in Florida to my attention and thought that I might be interested based on my personality and personal discipline. I applied for and was offered an education internship with Florida Studio Theatre and my entire career path changed after that exciting summer. I never thought about theatre education as a career until I spent those three months in Sarasota. That job opened the door to many exciting jobs. I would have never been a member of the theatre faculty at the Patel Conservatory, an accredited performing arts school in Tampa, or toured the Midwest as a tour director with Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre if I hadn’t jumped at the opportunity to be an education intern with FST.

2. Never give up! Don’t let rejection discourage you.
Example: In the second grade I was asked to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up for the spring choir concert and I immediately knew my answer. A clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I never gave up on that childhood dream and in November 2012, my dream came true! My dream came true after I attended three Ringling Bros. Clown auditions (2008, 2010, and 2012), many clown workshops and self-produced five original clown-theatre productions. I even took one of my productions to the New York Clown Theatre Festival. My dream came true after plenty of hard work and being rejected twice at auditions. I ended up touring as a clown and pre-show host with Ringling Bros. Circus for almost two years, only recently returning to Tampa to teach theatre again. Stay determined!

3. Broadway couldn’t survive without regional theatre.
Example: Think about how you became passionate about theatre or the performing arts. Chances are you went to several theatre summer camps, took a theatre class after school, performed in your high school’s musical, saw a play produced by a professional children’s theatre company or maybe even attended Shakespeare in the park during some point of your childhood. No one on this earth would have the desire to travel to New York to see CATS or WICKED if regional and community theatre didn’t exist because there would be no way to spark the passion to create or desire to see theatre in anyone as a child or young adult. I am proud to say that I love being a professional regional theatre actor. I have worked at great companies such as Orlando Rep, Skylight Music Theatre, American Stage, Broadway Dinner Theatre in the Dells, and Walt Disney World. Not once have I had to wait tables or wash dishes to make ends meet as an actor. Not everyone can be on Broadway, but being on Broadway doesn’t equal success.

Please check out my TakeLessons profile if you have been inspired by my blog and want to learn more about how to get into acting!

MatthewB

Matthew B. teaches acting, speaking voice, stage performance, and more in Tampa, FL, as well as online. He has his BFA in Acting from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Learn more about Matthew here! 

 

 

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6 Mistakes You’re Making on Your Acting Resume

acting auditionProfessional actors often can’t help but feel a little powerless when it comes to the process of auditioning and booking jobs. Sure, from the outside people think that actors have some say in creative aspects, but your input and personal preferences are really quite insignificant in the process (well, not until you’re on a Brangelina level at least). So while you’re on your way to superstardom, it’s smart to leverage the opportunities at hand.

The first area you have control of as an actor is the manner in which you’re represented to casting directors and agents. This starts with a professional and relevant acting resume. So pull it up on your computer now as we reveal a few common acting resume mistakes that could be costing you work.

1. Too Many Stats

You’ll need to give a director or agent just the basics about your physical appearance. Most acting resumes go a bit overboard with inseams, collar, bust sizes, and so on. Even eye and hair color don’t need to be stated as it should be pretty obvious from your headshot. To be frank, the director does not care about that kind of stuff – in many cases he or she only needs to know your height and weight.

2. Home Address

There’s no need to include your home address on your acting resume. It in fact comes across a little naïve, especially if you’re a young actress.

3. Unrealistic Age Range

Be careful about being unrealistic about your age range. In the hopes of getting more work, many actors list a large age range. This doesn’t help the person reviewing your resume at all. It’s actually better to leave out your age range altogether and let them decide if you’re suitable for the part or not.

4. Incomplete Work History

This section will naturally make up the brunt of your resume, so here are a few mistakes to avoid when outlining your experience:

  • Don’t just list the name of the character you’ve played before. The director gets very little insight if he or she simply sees Susan on Homeland. Instead, include your previously played roles as Guest Star or Co-Star. An exception to this rule is theater. If you’ve been part of a well-known play, then it’s OK to list the character’s name. As with all resume writing, make sure you’re speaking in the language of your potential employer.
  • While we’re on the subject of theater, don’t forget to include both the name of the director and the theater. Some would-be actors just include the director’s name, which doesn’t help if he or she is little known.
  • Don’t include work as an “extra” on your acting resume. Of course, we all want to appear super experienced, but extra work does not really mean much to directors or talent agents in terms of your acting ability. Also, don’t try to bend the truth – an extra role is not a feature. Integrity will ensure longevity in the industry when you make it big!
  • Don’t forget about listing student films you’ve participated in. Directors and agents do like to know that you have experience on set. Just remember to include the name of the school you shot for as well.

Also: the word ‘recurring’ is probably one of the most commonly misspelled words on an acting resume. Please get this one right – if you’ve played a recurring role make sure you’re expressing it correctly – ‘reoccurring’ and ‘re-occurring’ are incorrect words.

5. Lying About Languages

So we’re back on this issue of integrity. It’s important that you only list languages you are fluent in – and you must actually be fluent. Being able to pronounce a few words off a script is not enough. Some directors and agents will go as far as to test your fluency at your audition.

6. Misleading Headshots

A good-quality headshot should accompany your acting resume. And remember that your headshot needs to look like you! Tempting as it is, refrain from having your headshot retouched. This image needs to be an accurate representation of what you look like right now. What they see on your headshot and who they meet in person for a screen test should be exactly the same.

So there you go! We hope that these tips have given you some insight on how to edit your resume, which can give your career an extra-polished nudge in the right direction! Looking for additional help with drafting your acting resume? Get some pointers from one of our acting coaches in your city. Best of luck!

 

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4 Acting Styles to Explore | Tips From a Pro

6821238623_f33d01f161_bA big part of becoming an actor is exploring various acting styles, and figuring out where your strengths are. Read on to learn about some of the different types, courtesy of Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T...

 

If you’re an actor starting out in your training, get ready to plunge into a variety of acting styles! As an actor you should familiarize yourself with all of the different acting styles at first, and then choose one to focus on. It is best to be well-rounded and to know the methods and skills used for each style of acting, and then see which style comes natural to you!

Acting for Film

This includes anything that is being filmed, such as movies, TV, webisodes, commercials, reality shows, hosting, and so on. Acting for film requires different techniques than you would use when performing on stage (which I will talk about in my next topic). Everything seen and heard on TV is different, when it comes down to the actual filming process of it. Most often you will not be in front of a live audience, but will perhaps be doing a scene with a partner. The scene may be shot by the director a thousand times before moving on, so patience and stamina are a must. You have to make the scene look fresh each time you film it, because you never know which take they are going to use! Acting for film requires you to go more into depth, while paying attention to your facial expressions in front of the camera and the volume of your speaking voice.

Acting for the Stage

Where in acting for film you do not have to project your voice as much, in theater you have to work on projecting your voice loud enough so that the entire theater can hear you without having to use a microphone! In theater, you may be doing the same show eight times a week, and again have to keep it fresh for the audience each time, as it is a brand new performance. On stage, you also have to be conscious of your movement, your surroundings, and how you interact with the other cast members, scenery, props, and so on. You have to be able to think on your feet if something doesn’t go exactly right on stage, and always stay in character. Unfortunately during a live show there is no “going back” – you can’t re-shoot like you can in film, so you you must move forward!

Classical Acting

Classical acting consists of mostly dramatic works, including plays, works by Shakespeare, monologues, and some comedy dating back to 1500 B.C. Classical acting is still appreciated today, and requires lots of training to perfect. To go more in depth with classical acting, I recommend diving into Shakespeare and other serious playwrights such as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Neil Simon. Work on those dramatic monologues, and perfect your delivery, accents, and scene work with props. Classical acting is not for the “wannabe” actor – it is taken very seriously and is highly respected. Most dramas took place over in Europe, so you’ll also want to become familiar with different times and points in history.

Improvisation

This is one of the more contemporary acting styles, which requires a lot of imagination and creativity! Based on having fun and letting loose, improv troupes are quite popular today, especially among the 20- to 30-year-old range. Improv training consists of learning silly acting games or acting out skits and scenarios, and is usually performed in front of a live audience on stage. If you’re interested in learning more about this acting style, try watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Saturday Night Live for inspiration! You can also take improv classes or find an acting teacher to help you improve your skills. With improv, you must be confident enough to perform on your own, but you also need to have the skills to perform in a group and work with your teammates!

Each actor is called to a different acting style, whether it be for film, TV, or in a classical or improvisational role. I encourage you to study each, and see which of the acting styles you enjoy the most! Best of luck!

LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

 

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Becoming an Actor with No Experience: Is it Possible?

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Dreaming of making it big on screen or on stage, but worried you don’t have the right amount of experience? Read on as teacher Matthew H. shares his advice… 

 

While becoming an actor may seem extremely difficult in and of itself, without any experience it may even feel nearly impossible. However, what we often fail to realize is that the process alone of becoming an actor is filled with lessons that add to our overall experience and skill set. In fact, there’s actually no such thing as no experience when becoming an actor. Regardless if you choose to act as a hobby or have dreams to make it big as a working actor, here are some tips to refine your skills and get noticed.

First, let’s go over some basic definitions:

What is acting? This may seem obvious, but you have to have a clear understanding of what the art/craft/profession of acting is before embarking on any sort of career in the field. Many definitions exist, but some of the most prevalent ideas state that acting is “reacting to given stimuli” and “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” These viewpoints have been adopted by many conservatories and theater schools that teach diverse techniques by famous actors and directors such as Meisner and Stanislovski. With this understanding of acting, we can say that acting essentially is an extension of living.

Who are actors? Based on the above definition of acting, we all are actors. Everyone you encounter on the street is an actor. All people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, social status, and so on necessarily are performing on a daily basis. We all react to stimuli in different ways, having to negotiate all sorts of situations in which we find ourselves. In fact, as individuals we are placed in multiple roles that we have to fulfill (son/daughter, coworker, friend, student), sometimes simultaneously. So rather than worrying about becoming an actor, we should focus more on tapping into the actor that is already inside of each of us.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s address the real question: how do you become successful as an actor? Well, the short answer is to just act. If you want to make it on Broadway or in Hollywood, then you’ll have to join the appropriate union (SAG, AE, etc.). Gaining membership is tricky, as these organizations have unique systems that require having performed in certain types of shows. The best way to overcome this is to find as many different opportunities as you can and audition. Do the community theater musicals, help your friends out with a role in their film class’ final project, make your own YouTube series, do whatever comes your way. This will give you the experience you need to hone in your acting skills, as well as create some visibility for yourself within the greater acting community. Someone may see you in a small, unpaid role and think that you’d be perfect in a larger production. In this regard, flexibility is an actor’s greatest asset.

While there is no one right way to become an actor, you cannot wait to “get discovered.” In fact, you have to go out of your way to make people notice you (for the right reasons), and then you will be one step closer to realizing your dream of becoming an actor.

MatthewHMatthew H. teaches a variety of subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ. He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here! 

 

 

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Acting 101: What Can I Expect at My First Acting Lesson?

6644062535_e2e0422733_b Gearing up for your first acting lesson? Here, teacher Matthew H. explains what to expect at your first lesson, including some of the acting exercises you’ll likely do, and more…

So this is it. You’ve always wanted to act and made the first step in the right direction: taking acting lessons. While some celebrities have had incredible luck with “being discovered,” the vast majority of talented actors and actresses have extensive training, whether attending one of the top acting schools or conservatories, or having taken private lessons.

What can you expect at the first lesson? You may have had a small role in the ensemble of a high school musical or community theater production. You may have zero experience whatsoever and feel like you’re taking a bit of a risk with this investment for your future. Either way, you probably will be nervous and feeling somewhat vulnerable on the first day. That is a good thing! Regardless of the specific technique, acting is all about accessing different human emotions and relating to others based on shared experience. An actor is constantly putting himself or herself in vulnerable situations for an entire audience to see. Tap into that raw sensation and embrace it!

You might take a private lesson or feel more comfortable taking a group class. Regardless, you will be exposed to a bunch of different acting exercises and “games” that will seem awkward at first, but will gradually grow on you until you are not only comfortable with them, but looking forward to participating in them! An actor’s major tool is the body, and anyone interested in getting into acting will need to have complete control over everything their voice and body does. To do that, most lessons typically begin with physical exercises of some sort. You may spend some time working on breathing, such as how to properly take in a large quantity of air and use it to its fullest potential. This will aid in reducing anxiety and improving the quality of your speaking voice, which is vital in both stage and screen acting.

Next, you most likely will continue with a few minutes of stretching to loosen up your muscles. Since almost all plays, musicals, movies, and TV shows (unless you are playing a character in a coma on a soap opera) require movement, you have to be very aware of how your body works. Leg stretches, shoulder rolls, and maybe even some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing will make an appearance. The goal is to eliminate any tension your body is holding onto as much as possible. Doing so will allow you to easily engage when on stage.

Now, we enter into the more “awkward” aspects of a lesson: preparation exercises and improvisation. Acting exercises and theater games such as “zip zap zop” keep actors (in a group setting) on their toes as they have to maintain their focus and attention. While the activity may seem ridiculous at first (shouting nonsense words while making unusual gestures), this leads you develop basic acting skills such as the famous “living in the moment.” Additionally, improv games (anything from “Whose Line Is It Anyway”) will keep you on your toes as you further fine-tune important skills like paying attention, maintaining eye contact, and working together while you start to develop and craft characters, however profound they may or may not be.

Eventually, the more lessons you attend and the more advanced you become, you will tackle monologues, scenes, and perhaps even put on a full-length performance to help gain experience on your quest to getting into acting. Depending on your level and particular needs, you may venture into audition preparation and go over ways to carry yourself and present a headshot, in addition to nailing cold readings. The best teacher is real-world experience, and acting lessons will provide you with what you need to make the most out of those experiences!

MatthewHMatthew H. teaches a variety of subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ. He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here! 

 

 

 

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How to Audition for a TV Show | 5 Steps for Success

8696114399_7b222a9e35_hDreaming of making your debut on TV? Here, acting teacher Liz T. shares her tips for how to audition for a TV show… 

Want to be on TV? You’ll first need to get some acting training under your belt, and establish a strong knowledge of current dramas and comedies on TV. Then what? Here are your next steps…

Film Yourself

Because it’s TV, casting directors will want to see how you look and act on a screen as opposed to a stage in a live theater. At home, try filming yourself on an iPhone, Macbook computer, or other film recording device to see how you look! Sometimes how we think we look on film is very different than how we actually look! When you do this, think about these questions: Do you look comfortable on film? Or are you making a lot of weird facial expressions, such as blinking a lot, touching your nose, biting your lips, or raising your eyebrows? See if you have any habits that you can break before you step into the audition room!

Also, it is not recommended to wear white or black clothing in front of the camera, as this can wash your skin tone out. Wear something flattering and a neutral color; casting directors don’t usually like busy patterns or stripes.

Critique Yourself

If you are doing an acting scene either alone or with a partner in front of the camera, you want to make sure your speaking volume is accurate. You don’t need to speak too loud, as on a Broadway stage when you are trying to project your voice to the back of the audience; the camera and microphone should be able to pick you up at your normal speaking voice. But it shouldn’t be so soft, either, that they can’t hear a word you are saying.

Also, make sure you don’t look directly into the camera all the time, or directly at your scene partner. When you do your “pretend” filming experiment at home, notice where your eyes are most of the time. Are they rolling around, looking cross-eyed, or are they glued on one thing? They should look natural, with some movement, but nothing too still or sporadic. When you look at your reading, make notes of where in the scene or lines you should look at the camera and at your scene partner. Perhaps it is a romantic scene, and you are saying “I love you.” You may want to try two different approaches, one directly into the camera, and one at your scene partner. Think about these techniques. Study your favorite actors and see how they do it and what makes an impact on you!

Join SAG-AFTRA

Similar to movies, you will need to be part of the SAG-AFTRA Union (Screen Actors Guild & American Federation of Television and Recording Arts) in order to audition. If not, you can start by attending non-union auditions.

To join the union, you will need to start working in TV as an extra or stand-in. If a director hires you as a non-union actor in a role that is meant or contracted for a union actor, you’ll receive a waiver each day you work – and once you receive three waivers, you can then apply to join the union. If accepted, you will need to pay a union initiation fee of approximately $3,000, along with monthly dues. It is a very big investment, so make sure it is something you really want to go for! Being part of the union, however, will ensure that you are being paid and treated fairly on set, and you are also eligible for health and retirement benefits.

Finding Auditions

Of course, if you want to learn how to audition for a TV show… you’ll need to know where to find the actual auditions! Try websites and resources such as:

These sites mostly post auditions for big cities such as New York, LA, Orlando, Boston, and Chicago. Some of these websites will require a fee to join (it is worth it!). And some you can submit your headshot and resume online to the casting director, without having to audition in person.

Prepare Yourself

If you do receive an audition time slot, or are attending an open call, don’t panic! You will need to bring your headshot and resume to the audition, and also be prepared that it could take as little as under two minutes, or you could be in the audition room for an hour. Be prepared for both scenarios.

In the audition room, there may be one or several casting directors. Sometimes you will be given the script or “sides” a few days or weeks beforehand, or sometimes you’ll get it on the spot! If you are reading on the spot, it’s good to practice these types of “cold reads” before your audition. Find a friend, and test yourself reading lines or monologues. See what your natural reading tendencies and acting choices are.

When you walk into the room, be very polite and be yourself. Sometimes the casting directors will want to chat and have a conversation with you, but other times they just want to focus on the audition. Try not to distract them. In a TV audition, it will most likely be filmed. Sometimes they will send it to another casting office in LA or New York, so you must be as comfortable as possible auditioning with a big camera or several cameras right in front of your face!

If you would like to practice reading lines, work on your monologues, or learn more about how to audition for a TV show, I would love to start working with you today! Contact me through TakeLessons!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

 

 

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How to Audition for a Movie | 6 Tips for Success

3279700572_374d060a96_bWhat does it take to audition for a movie and make it to the big screen? Here, acting teacher Liz T. shares six important tips for success…

Are you an actor interested in learning how to audition for a movie? Now is the time to get started! Many major movies are filmed in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and London, and now even smaller cities are starting to boom with filming. Whatever cities you are closest to, research the local film office. Every state also has its own film office, which will have all the information about what is filming in the state, auditions, and so on. To find yours, a simple Google search usually works. For example, if you search for “Massachusetts State Film Office”, you should see a website like this.

Find Your Role

For most films, it may sound superficial but looks really are everything! You will need to try to assess which characters you could play on film. For example, do you look like a high school student? Could you portray a daughter, or a sister? Or could you play the dreamy boyfriend? Think of all the different character possibilities you could portray, and start looking for auditions! And when you see an audition notice for your character type, audition!

Find Smaller Productions

If you are diving into film for the first time, you don’t necessarily have to try for the major, commercial films. You probably don’t realize it, but whatever city you are in there are many independent and student films being created and filmed all the time! This is a great way to start out, and see what it is like being on a film set! If you’re a college student, I also encourage you to get involved in your school’s film department. Many students will need to make films for their majors. These won’t really pay, but it’s a great way to start learning about film, and how to act on film. Also, low-budget independent films and short films are a great way to get a speaking part!

Find Background Work

If you have done your acting training, maybe taken some acting lessons or classes, and want to pursue it even further, don’t be be afraid to go for the big budget films! Films are being made everyday, and usually need tons of extras. Extra or background work is fun – you will learn so much about film, get a decent paycheck, and perhaps even be featured on film! Having done extra work a lot myself, I thoroughly enjoy it, and have worked with some amazing directors and actors. The part may be small, but you never know – depending on your look, and how you act on the film set, and being at the right place at the right time, you could get bumped up into a featured or speaking role. I have seen this happen a number of times!

If you want a speaking role, or a main role in a film, doing extra work is essential before you can hit these goals. Extra work will help you become comfortable on camera, get used to the terminology, and learn how a movie is made. You may or may not need to audition for extra work. I encourage you to research online for local casting directors – try searching for something like “Background Casting Directors” and a list should come up near your city. You then can register to have your headshot and resume on file, and if they have a role open for your type they will get in touch with you. You may or may not have to pay to register for them.

Keep an Eye Out for Audition Notices

Many audition notices are posted online on sites like Playbill, Backstage, Actors Access, and Casting Networks. Some of these trade websites require a monthly fee to subscribe to, and some of them even allow you to “audition” by submitting your materials online, rather than going in person. Your materials should include a headshot and acting resume, and perhaps a reel of video footage. With the industry changing so much these days, it’s easy to get headshots taken and get some film footage with YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, and so on.

What to Expect at an Audition

At a film audition, expect a lot of other people auditioning for the same role as you. There is going to be a lot of competition. Sometimes the writer or director may be present in the room, or it could be interns from a local film office, who will film a quick take and send it out to LA for more consideration. No matter who is in the room, you should always remain professional and courteous at all times. A film audition will usually consist of you reading lines from the actual movie, say with another actor, who they are also considering for a role. Sometimes you will have seen the script before, and other times right on the spot they will give it to you! The casting team has many people to see, and are usually tired from auditions, so you’ll want to make their job easy for them – being prepared and not asking too many questions is the way to go!

Work Your Way Up to the Union

Working in film and TV, you will eventually need to be part of the union, which is called SAG/AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild, and American Federation of TV and Recording Arts). The union will make sure you are paid fairly, have health insurance, are not working under unethical circumstances. Many of the main roles and speaking parts in major films are cast with actors represented in the union, and usually only actors in the union can audition for that role. If you are not in that union, you are then considered non-union. Non-union actors are paid less, and some movies that need 1,000 actors will hire non-union actors only. So now you are probably wondering, how can I get in that union? It will take some time, work, and dedication!

You will need to do extra work for a few years before getting into the union. If you audition for a film as non-union actor, and are offered a union role right away, the production will grant you the opportunity to join the union. No one can just join, you have to earn your way up! Also by doing extra work, sometimes you can earn “waivers,” which are given when the role is meant for a union person, but they cannot possibly find a union person to fulfill it. For example, if they need a set of identical twins on set! Each day you work on set, you will be given a waiver, and once you earn three waivers (three days on set), you become eligible to join! Hooray! All your hard work has paid off! However there is an initiation fee of approximately $3,500 to join, and once you join you can’t do work that is not covered by a SAG/AFTRA contract, meaning you can’t do non-union work.

Knowing these tips for how to audition for a movie is your first step, but keep in mind working your way through the film industry will take time. But with hard work, patience, and persistence it will pay off, and you will have fun doing so. As always, best of luck!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music, including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

 

 

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Acting for the Camera vs. Onstage – Is There a Difference?

Stage Acting Verses Camera ActingMany professional actors have flawlessly transitioned between acting onstage and acting for the camera over the years. While the two mediums are distinct and require a specific skill set, there is much debate about how different they really are. In this article we’d like to take you through a few of the common differences between stage and screen performances, as well as offer some advice on technique and approach should you aspire to hone a well-rounded acting skill set.

People are often quick to point out that the biggest difference between acting for the camera versus the stage is the size and sound of the performances. There is some truth to that, but it’s not entirely true that the stage is always ‘bigger’ than the screen. In fact, most award-winning film performances don’t consist of still, soft-spoken acting. ‘Big’ can also be expressed on screen, provided that it comes through with an authentic heart.

Audience Location

One of the major differences between acting for the camera versus acting onstage is the location of the audience. As a stage actor, you would be performing to members of the audience who could easily be seated more than 100 feet away from the stage. In order for the audience to fully experience the sights and sounds of your performance, you have to act with the back row in mind. Even though your cast members may only be a couple of feet away, you need to create a larger than life expression of your character to allow for optimal audience satisfaction. (Although this is broadly speaking – many beautifully subtle stage performances have rendered audiences breathless, though they are usually linked to iconic plays that an audience would be familiar with. We’ll get to this later.)

When it comes to acting for the camera, however, you only need to be audible and seen by your cast and of course, the camera. With the camera and microphone always on you, as a film actor you can confidently speak to members of your cast as you would in real life. Just remember, it needs to look and feel real. Say, for example, you’re on set running lines with a co-actor. If someone were to overhear you two, it should look and sound as if you’re having a conversation – not at all like you’re rehearsing. If they can tell that you’re rehearsing, then you’re simply doing it wrong.  As a screen actor, it is your responsibility to speak and move as you would naturally.

Also remember that when a camera and microphone is involved, reality as you know it becomes slightly distorted – at times it would serve you well to project even less than you would in real life. To help you develop in this area, try rehearsing a few subtle face ticks in front of a mirror, such as lip quivers, eyebrow lifts, and so on. Successful acting for the camera relies heavily on these minor facial expressions.

Material Familiarity

We all grew up watching our favorite plays and musicals, and can’t help but return to theaters to watch them being performed even as we get older. We know all the songs, can anticipate the lines, and even know when things have been changed. By nature, theater is extremely repetitive. Popular shows will no doubt be put on by various companies around the world. And while all this helps to build the brand and sell tickets well in advance, it also makes the audience familiar with the show’s material  - and this is not always ideal. For stage actors this means that every line must be right – most audiences want to hear a play the way it has been written and get pretty disgruntled when there are dialogue errors.

Screen actors have a little more room to breathe in this area because the audience likely has never seen their scripts. Depending on the writers and direction, words can be changed even up until a few minutes before ‘action’.  So for aspiring film actors, you can take comfort in the fact that it’s OK to mince your lines slightly during an audition – the most important thing is that you deliver a unique and convincing performance.

Character Familiarity

Similar to the familiarity audiences and critics will have with your material as a stage actor; they’ll also be inclined to compare your performance to the distinguished ones before yours. Once again because of the repetitive nature of theatre, audiences and critics alike will only give you freedom to a certain extent. On stage, the familiar is the thing that sells your performance – people come to see what they expect to see.

Acting for the camera, on the other hand, leaves an audience and critics with little or no reference point at all. This is a handy tip to remember when you start auditioning for film: the director is looking for a version of you that suits the story they have already created. The key to not overacting is to get into your character’s mind, and remember that the director is looking for you and your reactions to this imaginary situation.

If you’re an actor trying to transition between these mediums or simply looking to increase your audition skills, working one-on-one with an acting coach can definitely help. Typically an acting coach with experience in one or both of these mediums will help you find your own style and technique in preparing for auditions, acting for camera (filmed and critiqued), dialects, non-verbal acting, and even resume writing. With the right support and training, you’ll be primed for the spotlight, no matter where you land!

 

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