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UncategorizedMarch 28, 2020

The Benefits of Online Coaching for Actors

Even before Covid-19 caused us to hide inside our homes for an indeterminable amount of time, I was coaching actors via Zoom. I was even creating self-tapes for actors from these sessions by recording their end of the video chat. I coached actors in LA, outside of LA, in their trailers, even in their hotel rooms on location. Time and again, I’ve seen the benefits of online coaching for actors. Not only do I believe this form of coaching is good, I believe it may be better than coaching an actor in person. Here’s why.

  • Time is money and a commute is a time-sucker. A lot of auditions come up last minute and trying to fit in a drive across town with a day and a half’s notice is no easy feat.
  • Seeing you on my computer screen on camera makes it easier for me to see what the camera sees. Most of your auditions, even if you go in person, are filmed anyway and reviewed sometimes several times in the decision-making process. How your audition comes across on camera is everything.
  • I can record your end of the video chat so you can review your performance, even if you don’t need to create a self-tape. You can review the entire session if you want so you can listen to the coach’s feedback again and again and remember the adjustments and notes from the coaching session.
  • It’s good to start getting comfortable coaching online, just in case you need to do it because you’re out of town, or, I don’t know, a pandemic keeps you from leaving your home for awhile but you still want to submit an audition or work on your craft.
  • Sometimes actors need help with wardrobe, and when you’re coaching from home, you have direct access to your closet to show your coach all of your options. (This recently happened – I was coaching an actress and recording a self-tape and made her run upstairs and change her outfit to something more appropriate for the character!)

I’ve found online coaching to be very beneficial to actors. It also makes it easier for me to see the subtleties in their performance that I might otherwise miss in an in-person coaching. With the growing amount of self-tape auditions, partly because of Eco-Cast, versus in-the-room auditions (even before Covid-19), it’s been convenient for a lot of my clients to coach from home. Self-tapes can be a hassle if you don’t live with another actor or willing participant. There are places you can go that will provide a reader and put you one tape for a fee. With online coaching, you get the self-tape, the reader, as well as coaching from a professional acting coach, without having to leave home.

The film and television industry has come to a dramatic pause, so auditions are few and far between at most. This is a good time for actors to practice auditioning and nailing self-tapes. It’s also a good time to do monologue work since they seem to be back in fashion. This might be a good opportunity to get used to online coaching and see the benefits for yourself.

To schedule an online coaching, or for more information, email coach@losangelesactingcoach.com.

Comments

  1. Katherine

    March 29, 2020

    Hi. I wanted to get some idea about your online coaching costs. My main interest is to get better in taped auditions. I’m not interested in monologues but practicing audition scenes. Thanks.

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stand out in your audition los angeles acting coach
UncategorizedMarch 04, 2020

Opening Moments: How To Stand Out in Your Audition

One of the most important elements of an audition is the thing I see most often overlooked by actors – the opening moment. If you want to know how to stand out in your audition, don’t skip this crucial part of the process.

Every story has a beginning, middle and end; every scene should have that, too. That means that you need to find the beginning, middle, and end in your sides for auditions. If you want to stand out in your audition, aim to show the casting director a little play. Take them on a ride. Where does the ride start? You have to make that choice.

The scene does not begin when the first line of dialogue is spoken. The scene begins with whatever is happening that makes the character say that first line of dialogue. If you have the first line of dialogue in the scene – fantastic! Take your time setting up the scene with your behavior and emotional life before you say that line. Don’t be indulgent about it, but don’t feel like you have to immediately get to the dialogue. After being on the other side of the audition desk, I can say with certainty that having a strong opening moment before you speak a word is one surefire way to stand out in the audition room.

The scene does not begin when the first line of dialogue is spoken. The scene begins with whatever is happening that makes the character say that first line of dialogue.

The opening moment will ground you into your character’s emotional life at the beginning of the scene. That is probably determined by a combination of your character’s intention in the scene, and the moments leading up to when the scene begins, including your character’s thinking process and emotional life. You have to be coming from a place (physically and emotionally) and then take us on a ride from that starting point.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself about the scene and characters to help you find your opening moment.

  • Where am I physically coming from? Did you just arrive somewhere? How did you feel on the drive over? Have you been waiting for someone? Were you expecting this interaction to take place or were you on your way to somewhere and didn’t anticipate this conversation?
  • Where is the scene literally taking place? Are you in a public place? Private home? Our setting can influence the way we behave so don’t forget to take that into consideration. It’s your job to set up the scene in those opening moments so take a beat to establish where you are so casting can be right there with you.
  • How am I feeling before the scene starts? Remember your job is to know what the character knows when the scene begins and then really listen to what new information is revealed, and behave accordingly. Don’t anticipate what happens in the scene. If the middle of the scene is about your character getting bad news, your character might be in a great mood at the top of the scene, not anticipating what is coming. Don’t play the end of the scene!
  • How do I feel about the other character(s)? Are you happy to see them? Are you dreading this conversation? Do you have something that is difficult to say so you may be feeling hesitant? Is this a person you know or someone you’re meeting for the first time? What did you expect them to look/behave like? (Hint: probably differently than what they do look/behave like! – take that in!) Make sure you cast all the other character’s in the imaginary world.
  • What am I expecting to happen? You should always expect something a little or a lot different than what happens, because that’s how life is, right?! Set yourself up to discover! If you’re expecting a proposal and then we have to watch you live through a break-up that’s going to be so much more compelling! Be careful not to make choices out of context of the script. Story is the most important and your job is to tell the story the writer intends to tell.
  • What do I want and what are the consequences if I don’t get what I want? Obviously, you must know your character’s intention in the scene. Make sure you’ve also explored what happens if things don’t go your character’s way! High stakes!

Give yourself permission to take a beat or two before that first line to live in an emotional state, and to behave accordingly, given the setting, mood, relationship, intention and expectations. Don’t feel like you have to rush it. Just give yourself that time to get grounded in the imaginary circumstances so when you do say your first line, it’s coming from a truthful place within the character. Sometimes all of that work just gives a subtle adjustment to how you start the scene, but it will make a huge difference in your overall read, and will definitely make your audition stand out.

Questions for the coach? Drop them below!

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self-love self-care actor
UncategorizedFebruary 14, 2020

Acts of Self-Love: Self-Care for the Actor

Self-care for the actor means an increase in stamina. If you’re in it for the long-game, you’ve got to have stamina.

Because we are our instruments, practicing self-care for the actor is crucial for optimum performance. The older I get, the more I understand that self-love isn’t necessarily about pampering yourself (although that counts too!) It’s also about doing things you don’t feel like doing because you know they are good for you. Sometimes I play a little trick on myself when I don’t want to do something – I’ll tell myself I’m doing a favor for my future self. Even if that’s getting the coffee pot ready before I go to bed and setting a timer when I’m super exhausted. When I think of it as something kind that I’m doing for my tomorrow-self, it’s easier to muster up the energy to go that little extra mile. As an acting coach, I talk to students a lot about self-care because we are our instruments and it’s important to take care of your instrument. Here are some ways you can give yourself a little love all year long.

Meditate

I can’t encourage this enough. There are so many reasons to meditate and even though it can be difficult to begin a regular practice, your future self will thank you for doing this work.

Go To Bed Early

Or let yourself sleep in! Rest is so important for our bodies to be able to self-heal from everything we put them through. Personally, I find when I’m sleep deprived my mental health suffers greatly. I sleep for my sanity.

Eat Healthy

Cutting out sugar, or whatever else might make you feel sluggish, is a wonderful gift you can give yourself. Put more fresh fruits and veggies in your body — food is medicine!

Get Rid of Stuff

Taking the time to clean out your closet or organize your desk is an act of self-love. Again, think about how grateful your future self will be when you take the time to de-clutter. It’s magic.

Sing In The Shower

Seriously, it will raise your vibration. Try it and I dare you to write me and tell me it didn’t make you happier.

Say No

Sometimes self-love looks like drawing boundaries and taking things off your plate. You can’t show up 100% for everyone and everything. If you’re not sure what you should be saying no to, think about what you want your future to look like and ask yourself if the things on your plate align with the trajectory that is going to get you there.

Ask For Help

If you’re struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety, fatigue – seek help from a friend or (better yet) a professional. Admitting that your life is falling apart and giving yourself the gift of receiving help from others is one of the greatest acts of self-love that I can think of.

Invest In Yourself

For actors, that may look like taking a class, new headshots, producing a piece of footage for your reel, an account with Actors Access or Backstage, or even getting a new haircut and some highlights. Whatever your profession or passion might be, spend the time and money to invest in you. Practicing self-care as an actor is a way to demonstrate to yourself and the Universe that you have value and you believe in yourself. When you commit to self-care as an actor, you are adding value to your instrument.

The “esteem” part of selfesteem comes from the Latin verb aestimare, meaning to value. The “self” part is self-explanatory, referring to you, yourself. So think of selfesteem as how you value yourself.
(https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/self-esteem)

Bubble baths and home facials are lovely, and you should give yourself those things if they bring you joy. But I challenge you to think of things that might be a little bit more difficult to do, but will pay off in the long run by helping and supporting the future you. I hope each day of your life is filled with acts of self-love. When we know how to be loved, we get better at knowing how to love others, too.

Comments

  1. Scott

    February 15, 2020

    GREAT!!!!

  2. AffiliateLabz

    February 15, 2020

    Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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UncategorizedFebruary 04, 2020

The Magic and Power of Yes, And.

I’ve been a student of acting for 25 years and very little of my training is in improv. Sure, I knew how to improvise in a dramatic scene because that’s how one of my coaches taught emotional preparation, but those silly theater games – not so much. The last few years I was living in Boise and would spend weeks at a time in LA. During those trips I got so lonely and depressed and grew very tired of sitting around a friend’s apartment waiting for the phone to ring. On those dark nights I would take myself to a UCB show. One hour and seven dollars later my mood was instantly lifted. Laughter is great medicine, but I think the best part of it was how inspired I was by the in-the-moment storytelling. I loved that the experience was just that – an experience. I was witnessing improvisers create something right before my eyes that would never happen again. Every show was different, and we were all there to witness it unfolding – the audience and the performers.

I decided to explore improv for several reasons. First of all, I want to be able to do what those improvisers did! Not just because they were amazing at it, but because they were always having so much fun. The second reason is that it scared the hell out of me. I have a habit of throwing myself into things that scare the hell out of me, and it’s always paid off. I was feeling stagnant and I knew that in order to grow I would have to be willing to be uncomfortable. Professionally, I knew it would look good to have improv training on my resume. Since I was trying to re-introduce myself into an industry that I had been away from for a while, I knew I needed opportunities to perform and network.

I started with a week-long intensive at UCB followed by a workshop at The Groundlings. I’m currently in the last week of Improv 1 at Second City in Hollywood and have already signed up for Improv 2 starting immediately after our class show. I can’t get enough. It’s giving me everything I need right now, even the things I didn’t know I needed.

When I was living in Boise, I met a lot of wonderful, magical humans. Seriously, there’s something in the water there. Of all of these wonderful people that have touched my life, one of my absolute favorites is a fierce, funny, fun, compassionate, loving, hard-working, inspiring woman named Megan Bryant. In my eyes, she’s the Queen of Improv in the Treasure Valley. Here’s the thing: Improv isn’t just for actors. Megan teaches improv for everyday life. Improv is a growing trend in corporate training and Megan has been hired to share these techniques in business settings to consistently boast noticeable results . Employees get better with communication and thinking on their feet. Her approach fosters innovation, confidence, trust, team building and creativity.

Pug and Ampersand Light on Couch. Because I love pugs, and I’m learning to Yes, And.
Photo by: dosecreative

I wanted to dig a little deeper into the phenomenon of improv’s ability to change people so positively and profoundly, so I reached out to an expert in the field and asked some questions. Here’s the recap:

What was your introduction to improv?

My brother, Gavin, invited me in 2006 to come and play with a local troupe that was in Boise at the time. I had never even heard of it (improv), even though I had been in theatre in junior high and high school. So, I stumbled upon it in my early twenties and never looked back. I joined in thinking it would be this fun, creative outlet on the weekends.

I was in the corporate world – I was a bank manager. Really early on, like within weeks, I started to notice the way my attention was shifting, the way I was listening in everyday life. For me it really quickly showed an automatic life transition. The skills had a life application and a mindset of presence and positive vibes that are naturally in improv.

Having an acting background in theatre, what was the major difference you noticed in the training?

It was goofier, which isn’t the way I teach it but the way I learned it. It was about making big choices, taking risks. It allowed positive interaction and storytelling in a way that didn’t require rehearsal and I loved being off script.

What would you say your biggest struggle was when you were first learning?

Honestly, it felt so at home to me that the only real struggle was that I couldn’t get enough of it.

The way that I learned it was in a group that had a really structured way of using gimmicks and I wish it had been more of a free form because it became more of a crutch. It’s still part of my evolution, getting out of the gimmick.

We overcomplicate things a lot in a performance realm and when it’s so gimmicky people wouldn’t even have a grounded character most of the time because they were so in Yuk Yuk mode that they would lose the character and the relationship because they’re just trying to execute a gimmick. It’s important to remember that most of the time people laugh because they see something relatable, not necessarily because something is super jokey.

What are the major elements in improv training that have helped you in your life?

Here are the top five I teach in my workshop—

Yes, And – Acceptance and acknowledgement of whatever has been presented. Not that we’re agreeing, which is a huge misconception in improv. In the world of improv people teach that you’re supposed to agree, and maybe on stage you can do that, but in life it’s an acceptance and acknowledgement of whatever just happened, and then requires that you do something with it. When brainstorming on a new idea, it keeps you from being stuck in a rut. You have to make a decision, add new information, you have to take whatever happened and move with it. It’s not always necessarily about right or wrong. When you’re dealing with real life, if we say “yes, and … let’s try this thing – oh, now I know I don’t like to go running.” But if I never tried running, I wouldn’t know that I hated it. Sometimes it’s a way to fail faster. It’s a way to keep what I see as a “ready” position for life. It’s a very action-oriented space to be in – Yes, And. It allows us to stay in the most positive mindset when faced with something difficult.

NOTE: Yes, and” is a pillar of improvisation. It’s the acceptance principle — when someone in a scene states something, accept it as truth. The “and” part of this principle means to build on that reality that has been set.

Yeah, But – is the archnemesis of Yes, And. It’s the blocking mechanism that keeps us from making progress. Teaching those hand in hand allow people to see for themselves if they are Yeah-Butters in their life or find out who are the Yeah-Butters in their world. If someone offers an idea in a work meeting and they get Yeah-Butted, they’re going to shut down and not want to keep offering up ideas. People who operate from a Yeah, But place are not able to provide a safe space for all the things to exist because they dismiss rather than accept and acknowledge like in Yes, And. Yeah, But is the killer of ideas, and in improv it’s the fastest way to derail a relationship in a scene.

Suspend Judgement – To suspend judgment. A long time ago I started using Suspension of Judgment. We are naturally very judgmental and critical of ourselves and others – but to suspend judgment and actively think about our thoughts and notice that we are judging, we can take a moment to suspend it and pause before we react. In the moment in a scene, if something comes from way out of left field, we can allow a little bit of space, a little bit of silence while the audience is also adjusting to whatever just happened. In that moment you can quietly explore how you want to interact with something you are feeling critical about. It allows us more control and power over our ability to navigate through judgment, because there’s no doubt judgment will non-stop happen in our lives, but if we are aware of it then we can decide if we have to react.  Does it actually affect us?  If we are going to react, what is the best-case scenario? Is this a relationship that matters? Is this a work task that’s important? Whatever it is that we’re judging, we get to then control what our output is that we are putting back into the world around us if we take that moment to pause before we just immediately execute.

Participating Fully – That’s derived from being present in the moment, but for me, being present in the moment is a bit passive. You can be present for something without taking ownership of it. Participating fully really means you are putting skin in the game, contributing ideas, taking risks, expressing your opinion and taking ownership of your own experience, whether it’s a performance or in real life. This ties into Yes, And – the moment you fully participate. If you really try something you’re going to know if you want to keep doing more of that or if you don’t like it. If you meet a person and you’re really engaged and you’re learning about them, you decide if they’re going to be part of your life and in what capacity. This applies to everything – work, school, learning, skydiving – you’re not only there and present in the moment, you are engaging.

A Space of Respect – When you are activating all four of those other principles, it allows you to recognize how much we as individuals want to be honored and validated in who we are, that our experience from the day we were born up until this moment now is valid. It’s what I’ve experienced, it’s through my lens, it’s the way I perceived it and I want people to respect that. If I want that for myself, I have to offer that to other people. For me that’s what brings it full circle as a real way to live an improv experience.

As a teacher, what do you see is a common self-sabotaging behavior or belief in people that limits their experience?

People who are by nature Yeah-Butters are people who are naturally living in a victim space and everything is happening to them, no matter what it is. If people lack the self-awareness that they are blocking themselves, they can’t do anything else with it. They will constantly make excuses of why it (improv) doesn’t work, not that they aren’t doing it, but that it doesn’t work. I can see in someone’s body language that they are guarded, probably because they’ve been Yeah-Butted so hard in their lives.

Improv, for me, is personal development. Some people don’t really want to do the hard work, they just want to float along and put their blinders on and not allow it. Any of those struggles are probably more deeply and psychologically rooted than stuff I can legally address without some certifications. (LOL)

Some people don’t realize that they are the key to unblocking themselves and there’s only so much anyone else can do to help them. It really does take repeat efforts. There are only a few companies that are smart enough to bring me in quarterly, so I get to work with the same people more than once. They want the growth and the change and discovery to be their own ideas. I try to do the exercises in a way that people get to see the way that they show up, almost in an exaggerated way, but it is still true to them – so people can go “Oh, I’m the one that does that” and know that they’re not going to be judged harshly for it. The key is being able to have enough time with them that they can see it for themselves and go “Now that I know better, I can do something different.” But they need it to be their idea.

Have you ever seen anyone go from being a Yeah-Butter to a Yes-Ander in their life?

Oh yeah, all the time. Sometimes people recognize it in the middle of class and sometimes months or years later people realize it. Someone just recently shared with me that switching their mindset as a result of a workshop saved their marriage.

What qualities do you see in people who take to it really well?

Natural Yes-Anders. People who generally like to learn and grow and want to be better in life. Some people that just already naturally get the human side of life – I don’t know how it’s gotten to the point where it’s so severely lacking.

I have used it to get through the hardest parts of my life. It’s easy to say yes when something seems fun and it is way harder and yet more rewarding when you have to Yes, And when the going gets tough.

Sometimes it’s a way to fail faster.

Megan Bryant, Queen of Improv

Megan’s love of improv is demonstrative of how comfortable she is stepping into the unknown and having faith that everything is going to be okay. This is probably one of the most valuable qualities a person can have, because everything is in the unknown. Willingness to go into unknown territory is how our lives get bigger.

I didn’t know how much I needed it and how much it would change my life until I jumped in with both feet. Improv is teaching me how to be fully engaged in the moment, completely invested in and trusting of other players, and let go of trying to control the outcome. It requires faith that if you absolutely show up in the moment you are in, everything you need in the moment that is coming will be there for you when you get there. It’s shown me that anything and everything that shows up is a gift, if you choose to see it that way. Most importantly, it teaches you the art of radical acceptance.

Learn more about Megan Bryant.

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UncategorizedJanuary 24, 2020

Monologues Require Listening

One of the most important elements about acting is the one that actors often forget about again and again: Listening! To remind an actor in a scene with a partner to really listen can open up so much truth, possibility and nuance that it can quite literally transform a performance. However, this seems to be something that is often overlooked in monologue work.

My very first day at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, my teacher (the great Andrew Benne) asked us to perform our audition monologues that got us accepted into the school. I later learned that my section (or class), Section 12, was the section with the highest audition scores in the entire academy. That first day of watching everyone perform their monologues was surely proof of that little fact. Everyone was so talented it was overwhelming. Then, Andrew asked us to cast the character to whom we were speaking in our monologue from our group of classmates. With a living, breathing human being in front of us, whom we could interact with, touch and take in, every single monologue was a completely different performance – with more emotional life, risks, vulnerability and subtlety. I’ll never forget that lesson. Working with another person on the other end of that monologue informed the performance in such a powerful way, we all instantly went from shmactors to actors.

Try this with a monologue! If you don’t already have a monologue in your pocket, this is a great opportunity to find one and to also practice memorizing. 

If you don’t have another actor you can play with, just cast someone in your mind that would be a strong choice for another character on the other end of that monologue. Try not to be too technical about it, just keep changing your casting choice and notice the difference in your delivery every time. This is a great acting exercise you can do on your own that can really improve your work.

Comments

  1. SEO Services

    January 29, 2020

    Awesome post! Keep up the great work! 🙂

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UncategorizedJanuary 16, 2020

No Small Parts

Sometimes those roles with fewer lines can be more difficult to prepare because we have less information about the character. Your job is to fill in the blanks. In order to find the strongest choice, figure out what the whole story is about and how your character fits into it. If it’s a one or two line co-star, chances are your purpose is to reveal more about one of the main characters or to help move the story forward. You might just be exposition, so resist the temptation to make the scene about your character. If you cut your character out of the script, what is missing? That’s a good place to start when you are trying to figure out the reason for your character in the story.

Within context of the story, start to make choices about the surrounding circumstances and your character’s relationship with the other character(s) and their point of view of what is happening. Then, rather than focusing on how to say the line(s), understand what their behavior is and go from there.

Remember, acting is behaving. And behavior is a manifestation of our inner emotional life. Your character, even with one to three lines, is a full human being with inner life to explore.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Rg9qyQ7yF4
No Small Parts – LosAngelesActingCoach.com

Homework Assignment:

Find sides for a character with just a few lines and practice understanding where they fit into the story. Make some choices about their point of view, relationships and surrounding circumstances just to see how many different things you can do with the scene. Remember that you don’t want to take away from the whole story. Storytelling is a collaboration, and your co-star role is one piece of a much bigger puzzle. Your job is not to show off your talent. Your job is to serve the story. Have fun and break legs!

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UncategorizedJanuary 14, 2020

How To Have An Acting Class By Yourself

First of all, if you are living in an area where there are acting classes you can take – you should be doing that. Because I work with actors that live all over the country, I get this question quite often: If I can’t go to class, what can I do to work on my acting? I recently coached a student online who was preparing for a role in a short film. One of the things I suggested to her for preparation was doing an activity as the character to see what she might discover about the character’s life and thinking process.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Meisner‘s activity exercise, I’ll first explain that, then I’ll tell you how you can do a version of this on your own without a teacher or class.

The assignment is to come up with an activity, something you have to physically do with objects (steer clear of anything on a computer or phone) with a set of guidelines and obstacles. Come up with something simple, but that requires your full attention to complete. Great examples of activities are:

  • packing a suitcase for a specific trip
  • getting ready for a specific event
  • repairing a broken item
  • making something: food, puzzle, craft

Then your job is to come up with surrounding circumstances. Why are you packing the suitcase? What is the event? Why does the broken item need to be repaired? To whom does it belong? For whom is the food or craft you are making? This is a good opportunity to make strong choices. The strongest choice here is always whatever has the highest stakes and therefore would naturally create the most emotional life.

You should be very clear about what the consequences are if the activity is not completed just so. Meisner demanded that actors aim for a standard of perfection – if your activity is to glue back together a broken plate, the goal should be that you want to make it look like it was never damaged in the first place. If you choose to knit a sweater, you’d better have a photo/pattern of that sweater and be making it exactly like that.

Make sure whatever you choose for your surrounding circumstances is somewhat grounded in reality, but not something you actually have to do in your real life. Don’t let the activity be wrapping your mother’s birthday present if that’s something you actually need to get done. The point is to practice using your imagination. However, don’t choose something too far outside of reality. You want to give yourself a setup that you can really believe is happening.

The next piece of circumstance you give yourself is urgency. If it would normally take you an hour to get ready for a black tie event, you should give yourself (in your imaginary world) 35 minutes until the imaginary car is coming to pick you up. (And there better be some serious consequences if you don’t arrive on time!)

When I’ve given this assignment to students in the past, once they’ve started their activity and I can see that they are living in the world they’ve created, I’ll have another actor knock at the door and need something from them. Sometimes they can only communicate by repeating one word back and forth instead of improvising dialogue. This is so they get used to using behavior to live in relationship, rather than feel like they need to be storytellers. It’s not about the story here. It’s about living in the imaginary circumstances and dealing with the obstacles. Remember, acting is behavior. If the actor is really committed to the circumstances (they believe it’s really happening) and they are really taking in their partner’s behavior, emotional life naturally occurs.

I love the activity exercise because it reinforces to actors that their job is not to conjure up emotion, it’s to really believe in the imaginary world, fight for what the character wants, deal with life, and not know what’s going to happen next. They learn that making strong choices and really living truthfully will create organic emotional life. It’s a beautiful thing to watch an actor realize that they don’t have to manufacture emotion. They just have to commit, trust and go on the ride.

Going back to the purpose of this blogpost – to give you an assignment you can do on your own – here is how you can apply the principles of this exercise on your own.

If you have a specific role you are working on, think of an activity that the character would do that they don’t necessarily do in the scene. A good choice would be something that they might be doing in the scene previous to the one you’re working on. So, if in the scene they are arriving somewhere, maybe the activity is packing a suitcase or getting ready. If in the scene someone is coming over (and they are expecting that person), the activity could be cleaning your apartment or preparing a meal for them. Allow yourself to really live in the character’s world and set a timer so you can keep yourself engaged with real urgency. See what kinds of emotions come up for you. If nothing very exciting or dangerous occurs for you internally, you either haven’t made strong enough choices, or you’re not really believing the imaginary circumstances.

Download the activity checklist below!

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UncategorizedJanuary 08, 2020

Audition Hack: Cast All Of Your Off-Screen Characters

Make sure when you prepare for an audition, you make a really specific casting choice for whomever you’re supposed to be in the scene with. If the other character isn’t cast yet, choose someone that works for you in order to give your character strong point of view and the right emotional life.

I always either use someone from my real life or another actor that I’ve worked with who is a strong casting choice. You should avoid using famous actors that you don’t know personally, or just using an idea of a person. The whole point of this is to make your performance more specific and to ensure that you are emotionally affected by the other character in the scene.

The same goes for any other character that is mentioned in your scene. Make sure if another person is referenced, you have a made a choice about who is cast in that role that works for you. That way, when that character is mentioned in the scene, your point of view about them will come across, however subtle.

I recommend doing your casting first because it can really inform the rest of your preparation and help lead you to strong, specific choices right out of the gate.

Break legs!

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UncategorizedJanuary 03, 2020

Actor Challenge: 4 Things You Can Do To Level Up This Year

If you don’t have auditions rolling in, and you don’t have access to an acting class, there are still things you can do to improve your skills and nurture your career. I’ve only listed a few.

If you are serious about acting, don’t just wait for roles to come to you. You have to be proactive and there are so many things you can do to take control. It’s really easy to get frustrated, feel helpless, and make a lot of excuses about why your career isn’t going anywhere.

1. PRACTICE AUDITIONING

Make a list of shows that you think you should be on. Find sides online or transcribe the scenes from your TV. You can also find scenes on mocksides.com but I recommend you find actual sides for televisions shows that you think you’re right for. Give yourself a few hours in the evening to work on the material as if you had an audition the next day. The next morning, put yourself on tape. Give yourself ONE TAKE to nail it. Do this at least once a week, more if you can!

If you’re not going out on auditions all the time, you want to make sure that when an audition does come along, you’re in as good of shape as the actors who do audition all the time. Find an acting buddy that you like to work with and commit to reading with each other and helping one another out with self-tapes. Practice practice practice!

2. READ SCRIPTS

You can find so many scripts online – for movies and television series. Read as many scripts as you can. Learn how to understand the material. Get good at reading the tone and getting a feel for the story. Pick a character you would want to play in the script and think about that character’s arc and how they help tell the whole story. Ask yourself what you qualities you have that would help bring that character to life. Approach it like someone handed you the script and offered you the role. How would you begin your work? This exercise will not only help you develop your own process, it will also help you see the areas you need to improve.

3. REVAMP YOUR PACKAGING

Is your headshot and resume a good reflection of your talent and experience? How about your profiles on Actor’s Access and Casting Networks? What about Backstage? If you don’t have one, set up a profile for one or all of these websites and make sure your profile stands out but is also an accurate reflection of your casting. Give your packaging an overhaul and be honest with yourself about what is missing. A casting director once told me that the thing she’s most interested in seeing on a resume is an actor’s training. What does that section look like for you? Get to work!

4. CREATE REEL FOOTAGE

First of all, get clear about your casting. Not just what you like to do or what sounds fun – try to focus on what you think your casting is and be realistic. Actors are afraid to get pigeon-holed, but sometimes we have to embrace our “type” to get our foot in the door. If your look and essence scream “clumsy office manager” or “soccer mom” – you should have footage of you playing those types of roles. Write a one or two page scene and get someone who knows what they’re doing to help you film it. Not a writer? Ask a friend or find a scene on mocksides.com – they give you full permission to film scenes for personal use. No excuses!

Being successful requires being proactive and not waiting for life to come to you. It means you’re on offense, not defense. You’re active, not passive.

Benjamin P. Hardy

If you really want to go far this year, it’s up to you to take action. There are a lot of talented actors out there. The successful ones are those who are willing to do the hard work. Take charge of your destiny. Life is short – start running toward your dreams like you’re on fire!

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UncategorizedDecember 02, 2019

10 Books Actors Should Read Right Now

Suggested Reading from an Actor / Acting Coach. Calm down everybody, just start with one.

As an avid reader, I’ve been deeply impacted by many books throughout my career. Some are books about acting, but many are books that have nurtured the artist in me and have opened my eyes to some wonderful tools for living my best creative life.

Of course I have to first suggest the book that I co-wrote with casting director, Catrine McGregor CSA. I find that the most common questions actors ask me are answered in this fun little nugget that is equal parts information and inspiration. I learned so much from Catrine in the process of the writing this book and I know you’ll learn a lot from our conversations about the biz.

  • The Actor’s Art and Craft by William Esper and Damon DiMarco
William Esper, one of the leading acting teachers of our time, explains and extends Sanford Meisner’s legendary technique, offering a clear, concrete, step-by-step approach to becoming a truly creative actor. Esper worked closely with Meisner for seventeen years and has spent decades developing his famous program for actor’s training. The result is a rigorous system of exercises that builds a solid foundation of acting skills from the ground up, and that is flexible enough to be applied to any challenge an actor faces, from soap operas to Shakespeare. Co-writer Damon DiMarco, a former student of Esper’s, spent over a year observing his mentor teaching first-year acting students. In this book he recreates that experience for us, allowing us to see how the progression of exercises works in practice. The Actor’s Art and Craft vividly demonstrates that good training does not constrain actors’ instincts—it frees them to create characters with truthful and compelling inner lives.

This is the most valuable tool in my toolbox. I believe this is a book every actor should read. This clear and inspirational breakdown of the work continues to teach me. I go back to it over and over again. Get it!

  • Audition by Michael Shurtleff
The book is filled with practical advice for actors who want to know exactly what to do at an audition. Shurtleff, a casting director who worked on both movies and plays, gives a detailed exploration of some precise accounts of every day behavior which can be useful to non-actors as well. There are four sections of the book: 1) Basic, practical advice on the technicalities of the audition, 2) The twelve guideposts for actors to guide their emotions (including case studies), 3) Things actors need to know, and 4) General observations from working in theater.
 

At this point, it’s a classic for the aspiring actor. The twelve guideposts should be printed and posted in the home or office of every working actor.

  • ACTING: The First Six Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky
In his beloved classic, Acting: The First Six Lessons, master acting teacher Richard Boleslavsky presents his acting theory and technique in a lively and accessible narrative form. Widely considered a must-have for beginning as well as established actors, Boleslavsky’s work has long helped actors better understand the craft of acting and what it takes to grow as an artist.

If the reading list is overwhelming, start with this fun read that should be in every actor’s book collection. It’s a lighthearted way to fall deeper in love with the craft and will make you want to commit to your own growth as an artist.

  • Audition for Your Career, Not the Job by Tim Phillips
AUDITION FOR YOUR CAREER, NOT THE JOB covers steps you can take and specific skills you can put to use immediately to feel more confident about your performance in your next audition and make a great and lasting impression on casting directors and producers. If your work is consistently first-rate and memorable, then every on-camera audition is an opportunity to advance your acting career. This book will teach you techniques that improve your ability to read and interpret the sides quickly, helping you to trust your instincts and craft strong, bold, specific acting choices, and setting you up for an active and profitable career.

My favorite thing about this book is the way that Tim Phillips talks about Sherlock Holmesing the text. Not only will this book help you craft a nuanced and emotionally alive performance, it’s filled with practical advice for getting the job done in the audition room.

  • Screenplay by Syd Field
As the first person to articulate common structural elements unique to successful movies, celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher and bestselling author Syd Field has gifted us a classic text. Syd Field is revered as the original master of screenplay story structure, and this guide continues to be the industry’s gold standard for learning the foundations of screenwriting.

I believe all actors should understand the basic elements of story, even if they don’t intend to become writers. Having this background will enlighten your process of creating a character, understanding arc, and knowing your role in the storytelling process. There are many books on the fundamentals for storytelling but this is a great place to start.

  • The ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron
Julia Cameron’s novel approach guides readers in uncovering problems areas and pressure points that may be restricting their creative flow and offers techniques to free up any areas where they might be stuck, opening up opportunities for self-growth and self-discovery.
 The program begins with Cameron’s most vital tools for creative recovery – The Morning Pages, a daily writing ritual of three pages of stream-of-conscious, and The Artist Date, a dedicated block of time to nurture your inner artist. From there, she shares hundreds of exercises, activities, and prompts to help readers thoroughly explore each chapter.

The work of the actor is the work of the self, and I can think of no greater tool to self-discovery for an artists than this book. Buy this book and make a commitment to yourself to to discover and recover your creative self. I’m a daily practicer of Morning Pages and encourage my students to do them as well. I find that, at the very least, they help get the noise out of my head – and I have an extremely noise head.

  • The WAR of ART by Steven Pressfield
In this powerful, straight-from-the-hip examination of the internal obstacles to success, bestselling author Steven Pressfield shows readers how to identify, defeat, and unlock inner barriers to creativity. THE WAR OF ART is an inspirational, funny, well-aimed kick in the pants guaranteed to galvanize every would-be artist, visionary or entrepreneur.

One of the most profound milestones of my own personal growth was my acceptance that resistance is part of the creative process. Knowing that it was universal took away a lot of excuses I was making to not give myself permission to create. This book is incredibly painful and nurturing at the same time. Read it and enjoy the ride.

  • The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with the perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.

Actors should meditate! If you are struggling with a commitment to a regular meditation practice, read this book. It’s not necessarily about meditation, but reading it made me think about meditation in a different way and allowed me to commit to a practice that has been a game-changer for me. This book is soul food.

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
With profound empathy and radiant generosity, Elizabeth Gilbert offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

I read this book when I was in a very dark place and it helped bring me back to life by giving me a profound shift in perspective. I was able to let go of what I wanted creativity to give me and learn how to live a creative life just for the sheer pleasure of living a creative life. This book is delicious. Get it!

The book you don’t read

won’t help.

–Jim Rohn

After reading one of the books from this list, please give me a full report on how it helped you by starting a discussion on the LosAngelesActingCoach forum. Is there a book that has impacted your acting journey that isn’t on here? Please share it with me. I’m addicted to books!

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