Create Your Reel – Broadening Your Casting with Original Scene Production
In this video by Create Your Reel, Retta Pugliano discusses how actors can broaden their casting range with original scene production.
In this video by Create Your Reel, Retta Pugliano discusses how actors can broaden their casting range with original scene production.
Acting is the ability to believe in an event as if it’s happening now. In film and television, it’s particularly crucial that the acting feels like it’s occurring for the first time. This is true, no matter how many takes are needed to complete the job; acting requires “intentional energy.”
Intentional energy gives the actor a focus by playing the consequences of the scene. Intentional energy puts the actor’s attention on the character’s need, and all listening is filtered through that need. A great example is in the film Moneyball, when Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill sit across from each other, juggling phone calls as they trade baseball players for their team. The intentional energy between them keeps the stakes alive.
Too much energy can be distracting. It can trip the actor up by circumventing listening skills, making random movements or being all over the room. Energy that is too low can produce similar results and cause you to deliver a dull and unexciting performance. Both energy issues disable the actor and demonstrate problems with mental focus, physical stillness and believability in the performance.
We’ve all heard casting directors, directors and industry professionals speak about how important energy is and that all great actors have a lot of it. So what gets in the way? Here are some thoughts I’ve come to that I hope will aid you in harnessing intentional energy.
Self-awareness can steal energy. If you are watching whether or not you are doing a good job, your energy will be disconnected from your intention. Your intention must stay with what the character wants, not the performance you want. Often what happens when you watch yourself is that you edit your ideas and the instincts that you think are bad, may actually be good. You can’t know this without trusting your instincts as you attempt to live into the character’s intention.
Another energy issue that happens is when you attempt to play a character that requires you to go beyond your own comfort zone of emotional expression.
If you have been conditioned to censor your own thoughts and emotions—to hide yourself from feeling what is real within you, there will be energy issues.
Often in life, there are times when we can kind of “check out.” Sometimes, just to survive our youth or current situations, we may bury our emotions thinking, that it’s the only way to survive. And our cultural upbringing has great influence on us as well. We might suppress our feelings so deeply that our own passion gets hidden. And when passion is buried, energy is buried.
Eye contact radiates energy and connects you to your scene partner. It gives you your eye line. It also helps the editor give you your close-up because if you look at the wall as you listen, while your scene partner is delivering their lines to you, it is difficult for the audience to perceive the relative space. You’re close-up might be lost to a two-shot so the audience understands the juxtaposition.
However, you never want to “stare” at your partner. You want to really listen and react. You want to be engaged in the life of the scene.
Let’s explore this. Right now as you read this, stop for a second and stare and then observe what happens…. When you stare, basically there is nothing going on. Staring is “checking out,” it is the opposite of listening. Connecting with your partner requires energy to listen and react. You do this naturally when you live into the character’s intention.
In a scene, there are three places our eyes can go: 1. With our scene partner. 2. Away from the scene partner and into our own thoughts, and 3. The environment—where you take it in and then use it to stimulate the energy to fulfill the moment. Each requires the actor to live into the character’s intention with focused thoughts so that living into the reality of the circumstance allows you to be fully engaged and in the moment.
Intentional energy is harnessed through Stanislavsky’s beloved principle called the “magic if.” Living into the circumstance as if it is really happening to you. In every scene and exercise you do, attempt to live into the “magic if.”
Along with this approach you will find it necessary to discover your character’s objective. If you do that successfully, you will have the opportunity to build on a focused energy. What and how you listen will determine whether or not you are winning your objective. These simple tools can be the source of a focused energy that allows risk taking and the building of an intentional energy.
For years I’ve been coaching talented theatre actors as they make the transition from stage to film and television acting. It seems the distinction between stage and film acting has become an obsession for actors who want to make the leap!
The ability to adapt between the two has undeniably become an extremely important skill for any actor who wants to be a working professional. I have worked with students who have thrived in theatre, be it starring roles on Broadway or repertory companies; but found themselves a bit befuddled when it came to translating their acting ability to film.
The following is the beginning of a series of videos and articles that will continue to shed insight into this important skill and the differentiation between stage and screen acting. Read more
by: Suzanne Lyons
Early on in my producing career here in Los Angeles I would be at a party or event and all too often people would approach me and say, “Suzanne, I hear you’re a film producer. I’m an actor, here’s my headshot.” Or, “Hi, my friend told me you’re a producer. I’m a director, here’s my reel.” Or, “Here’s my screenplay,” “Here’s my composer CD,” etc…
It drove me crazy! In every other business in the world we create relationships (or should!) first. Don’t just jump right into action, “Please read my script.” Create a relationship, talk about the possibility of working together, the opportunity and the benefits that could be provided and then, and only then, make a request (take the action.)
Like location is to a real estate agent, the same holds true in the entertainment industry. Instead of “location, location, location”….. it’s “networking, networking, networking.” You want to create authentic relationships with people. In a six week long workshop I led years ago the homework was to have a party each week and at the party (and during the entire six weeks) you were not allowed to talk about your career. So often when we’re meeting people for the first time or we’re in a group of people, we get nervous or scared and we feel comfortable only talking about our jobs and careers.
The idea of not being allowed to talk about your career for six weeks really helped people break that habit. It forced people to talk about something other than their career! So, if you loved hiking, you invited your friends to go hiking and you asked them to bring along the casting director friend of theirs, because you’d done your homework and you knew that she loved hiking as well. Or you knew that director you wanted to meet loved gourmet cooking as much as you did, so you asked a friend of yours who knew him to invite him to your gourmet cooking party. Your friends felt comfortable inviting their friends because they knew you weren’t going to talk about anything other than hiking or gourmet cooking.
During that workshop if someone asked you what you did, you told them. But the whole idea was to get people sharing about the things in life that they loved, the things they were excited and passionate about. Not just their career. It was a lot of fun and what surprised me more than anything was that during that six week seminar the participants got more jobs than in any of the Flash Forward Institute seminars combined! People got back in touch with who they were and all the other wonderful aspects of life that they loved.
No matter how good of an actor you are or how well you have prepared, once you enter the waiting area and then the audition room, if you don’t know how to “be” in that war zone then your audition work could suffer. Sitting in the holding area with a dozen or more actors, waiting up to an hour or being rushed in with little or no preparation and sometimes getting confusing direction can be very disconcerting and are not usually conducive to actors’ doing their best. Here are several actions that can be taken to help you feel confident, prepared and empowered.
Arrive early: Never be late or even on time because you won’t have options if the session is running on schedule. Be early so you can get settled and focused and have time to adjust your hair, makeup and/or wardrobe, and prepare the audition material. When you are early, you have options.
Ask questions: When you need clarification on the material or what is expected, ask the assistant who is supervising the sign-ins in the waiting area so that you can get the most from your preparation. If you are not sure how to pronounce a word or the product name, ask. If something doesn’t make sense, ask. It’s better to ask questions before rehearsing than to get corrections from the session director in the audition room and have to adjust your work right before auditioning.
Find Out the “Tone”: Every commercial has a style or “tone” that should be factored into the preparation. You might get answers like natural, comedic, quirky, over-the-top, fun/playful,serious, warm, upscale, authoritative, vulnerable, earthy, edgy, over-the-top, understated, etc.
Do your audition preparation: If you haven’t obtained your copy in advance, do your preparation: investigate, motivate, and find your connection and interpretation. If you did receive the copy and worked on it in advance, review your choices and work on your connection. Find a place where you can rehearse in a full voice.
Rehearse with your partner: When you are doing scene auditions, either the casting assistant will assign you a partner(s) or you should check the sign-in list and determine the actor(s) with whom you will probably be paired. This is especially valuable when auditioning with children. Rehearse with your partner(s) or, if there is no dialogue, spend time getting comfortable with them.
Work on several interpretations: Locking in only one way of doing an audition can be problematic. First, it usually creates a fairly shallow interpretation. Second, if the session operator wants a different approach, it can be hard to shake the work you have locked in. Finally, if asked to do the copy or scenario a second or third way, you won’t have it. Work on several approaches.
Deal with your nerves: Every audition is a precious opportunity to work, make money, create contacts and fans and move a career forward. When actors fixate on these expectations before auditioning, it normally creates anxiety and pressure. Don’t focus on disempowering thoughts and questions This “noise” is normal. How you deal with your questions, concerns and expectations will determine how much power those thoughts have. What you think influences how you feel, and how you feel impacts your audition.
Stay relaxed and focused: After you have done a thorough preparation and while you wait, don’t continually run your lines and review your choices, either out loud or in your head. It’s been my experience that when actors do this, they create anxiety and make themselves insecure. Don’t let the frustration of having to wait negatively affect your mood, energy or mind-set. Do whatever works to keep you focused, confident and positive, e.g., meditate, sit quietly, read, laugh, walk around by yourself, etc. Don’t chat with other actors unless
rehearsing or getting comfortable with them. When you know that you will be next, review your choices, lines, objectives, motivations, etc. – but only once or twice more.
Energize and prepare to commit to your choices and instincts and to enjoy the audition. It’s your time to be an actor.
By Diane Christiansen
Finding your “niche” or your “brand” or your “type” seems to be daunting for most actors, including kids and teens. Yet it really can be a fun process. Possibly the reason for any difficulty is because actors have this idea that they can play anything. However, Agents and Managers have to market you, to them you are a commodity. Our intention is to make it easy for them to do.
Here is a great exercise that we do in our classes to help you know how to market yourself before you showcase your work and/or interview with Agents and Managers.
You can do this with any group of 5 or 6 people. Try this; have 5 or 6 people watch you walk into the room, the more objective they are, the better. Ask each one of them to tell you what kind of role you look like you can play. Each of us carries ourselves a certain way, and each of us give off a certain “vibe”. They are going to say things like “The Jock, the Nerd, the Cheerleader, the boy next door, the Prom Queen, the smarty girl, the Best friend, the leading lady, the Social Worker, the Cop, the Detective, the Urban Professional, a Gang member, the Politician, the Doctor, the Lawyer, the blue collar worker, and on and on. Once you’ve collected those five or six ideas, you should be on track with your obvious “Type.”
At that point, you can package yourself that way to Reps and if they are seeking that type, bingo! You’ve hit the mark. I know you don’t want to be type cast, but that’s how careers get jump-started. You have to get your foot in the door. Once you’ve been the Nerd fifteen times, you can expand your range and convince your Reps to try a new look or photo. But in the meantime, go for what you are, it’s the perfect way to start your career!
I am sure you have wanted to know why or why not you do not book Commercials when you feel you have done a great audition (and even when those running the session have let you know you did a great audition). You might get an avail or are put on “Hold” but then you don’t book the job. It can be very frustrating. Often there is no definitive reason so I believe it would be helpful for you to understand some of the business and subjective factors being considered that often have little to do with you, your talent or your audition.
Consideration that could determine why you will or won’t be cast:
Other Way To Go: When the commercial CD gets the breakdown and selects the actors for their session, many get creative and add actors who are “another way to go” for the role. And often, some of these actors could change the direction of the casting.
Role is cut or changed: When watching the casting, the director and/or advertising executives might determine that a part is not working and then could cut it out, replace it with another role or choose to go with a different type of actor.
Matching: When casting a spot with multiple actors, the matching or pairings need to look like they could be couples, friends, workers or a family. And yet in a group of friends, office employees, neighbors, etc., it is preferred those cast be of different ethnicities, physical types or hair color – because many commercials need to appeal to various groups of people.
Identifiable and Aspirational: Commercials need to appeal to target markets. The actors cast in the spot must be people that those the spot is designed for will find aspirational or will identify with. And thus is a major factor in the casting. This is why casting specs are pretty specific as to age, gender, ethnicity and physical types. Then, because these considerations are often subjective, each group of people doing the casting and various target markets could create diverse factors that would make different actors identifiable and/or aspirational for various products.
Chemistry: When matching couples, families, friends, workers, etc., they need to work well together and have a chemistry that creates the feeling that they belong together. And it is something that is there or it is not and it too is subjective.
Compromise: Those doing the casting are not always in agreement on who they like in a role. In that case, so that no one looks bad, they may choose another actor (who might not be as good or as right). It happens.
Personal Preference: Directors and advertising execs are human and have preferences. Sometimes actors might remind one of someone they like or don’t like or another actor that may be too recognizable. Casting preferences can work for an actor or against them.
Knowing these factors should help you understand that when you believe you have done a great audition why you may not book the job. I know it is frustrating and seems unfair but realize that these same factors that might work against you for one job might work in your favor for others. And in order for you not to take it personal and to protect your confidence, I suggest that you remember this, “You didn’t lose the commercial, someone else booked it” – this time.