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Spending Money on Mastering Your Craft

by: Carolyne Barry

One of the more challenging realities of becoming an actor is that it can and will get expensive. The cost of classes, pictures, marketing, demo reels, scripts, theater company dues and union initiation fees and dues, showcases, etc. etc., etc. adds up big time. Even participating in graduate films and small theater will necessitate spending some money on wardrobe, make-up, and props not to mention gas and parking fees.

The sobering news is that almost any other profession you choose will probably cost you much more, however, with most other professions you would have a somewhat better chance of earning a steady income, -unless you are in the 5% who can make acting a career. When embarking on other professions, you would have a good idea of all the necessary expenses for your training, start up business costs and the money you would need to get you through the first few years.

Unfortunately, most new actors don’t stop to consider all the costs involved with the necessary training and marketing or have a plan to finance their career. Often that means major obstacles are in place before they even get started. Some get lucky and fall into situations and opportunities that help make it easier. Some have rich families or influential friends.

Nevertheless, new actors must “get real” and go into this business as if it were a business. (It is easier to get lucky when you are knowledgeable and have a plan). I STRONGLY suggest that you put together a financial structure.

For more detailed info on Spending, Saving and Earning money for your acting and performing career, check into my book HitTheGroundRunning.

Commercial Agent Meetings

You have submitted your photo, resume and a succinct and engaging cover letter to several commercials agents and you have interest from one or more who have set-up meetings. Now what?  How do you prepare for your commercial agent meeting so you will have a great interview?

Before the meeting, research the agency so you will be able to knowledgeably talk to the agents.  For the meeting:

  • Be on time (even though you will probably have to wait)
  • Dress and groom yourself appropriately for who you are and to meet a person(s) who can help with your career
  • Bring additional pictures and a reel of your acting work (if you have one)
  • Bring a list of your commercial industry contacts (if any)
  • Be prepared to read commercial copy (some agents do readings, some don’t)
  • Be in an authentically positive mood
  • Ask questions that will help you determine if that agency would be the right one for you.

It is important to remember that you will be interviewing the agents as well.  So many actors are happy to have the meeting that in an effort to be signed they are often afraid to let their true personality show and are hesitant to ask questions.

During your meeting, agents will be evaluating you to determine if you are a fit for their agency. They will look at many things: physicality, personality, type, essence, age, credits, professionalism, talent (if they have seen you in a class or production, have auditioned you in their office or have viewed your reel) and if they need and/or want your type for their rooster. Bottom line, you are a product to them. This is a subjective business. Each agent will choose clients based on his or her criteria, taste and needs.

YOU HAVE A CHOICE

There are many commercial agents, smaller theatrical agencies and managers who sign actors based primarily on type, a look and/or personality. Talent is not their main focus. Do you want representation that submits just your look or one that represents you and your talent?  I suggest that you encourage your potential representation to see you act. If they don’t do auditions and there is no professional work to view, consider shooting some quality video of yourself doing two or three short commercials and/or short scenes. (If you do create your own reel, make sure it is edited together and does not run more than three minutes.)

It is important for whomever you go with to know your work in order to best represent you. If you are anxious to get a “start-up” agent or acting is a hobby, the distinction of them wanting your type as opposed to you and your talent may not be important. If you have choices or can be patient, then signing with someone who appreciates your talent is better for your career. Being an actor whether for theatre, TV and Film or commercials is a business. In order to be a success, you need to train, market, promote and select representation that gets what makes you special, guides you and creates opportunities to book work.

To be prepared, check out my FREE video, MEETING with COMMERCIAL AGENTS at mastertalentteachers.com in which three top Los Angeles Agents talk about what they look for in their meetings with prospective clients.

If you missed the first article in this series covering HOW TO SUBMIT TO AGENTS, you will find it and the accompanying video in the archive on my COMMERCIAL page at mastertalentteachers.com. In my next article, I cover how to create a successful relationship with your agent and thus get the necessary opportunities to audition for and book television commercials.  Don’t’ miss it.

For more information on Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/

Acting or Scene Study Classes – What’s the Difference?

By: Carolyne Barry

It is important to understand the differences between “Acting Classes” and “Scene Study”? Up until recently, because I never really thought about it, I believed they were synonymous. Even the dictionary does not differentiate. But after researching the concept, I now know there is a big difference and you should to.

I believe the major distinction is like the difference between a “house-building” class and a carpentry class. One has an instructor to oversee the construction of the project, and directs the student carpenter on what needs to be done to the walls and railings, etc, -helping direct him/her to build that particular house before moving on to the next one. Whereas in a carpentry class the instructor teaches each student how to master the use of each tool, thus making him a master carpenter first, before empowering him to go off with confidence in applying his skill set on most any project. For the actor, who has no clear set of “tools,” he will eventually be lost without his scene study teacher, who in many cases held the actor’s hand until the scene was brought to fruition, – thus giving actors a false sense that they are ready to tackle countless scenes that have yet to even be written. In contrast, in a good acting technique class, the tools to be a great actor are taught first, and then applied to scenes, making the work more about the growth and creativity of the actor than the fulfillment of the scene as the teacher interprets it. In short, a scene study class may make him or her feel good about their work, but in truth they will learn more about their scene than they do about themselves as artists.

For those more dedicated to developing the building blocks to strong techniques (especially new actors) then “acting classes” are the way to go. I personally recommend starting with an acting class with a teacher who is using established techniques or maybe their version of it (which many do). Training this way gives new actors the foundation and tools to eventually not be dependent on their teachers to create quality auditions and work. This is why I am a fan of new actors as well as some self-proclaimed professionals starting their training with ACTING classes.

How to Select Your Best Teacher

or waste time and money

by: Carolyne Barry

The teachers you choose to train with will be a major influence in the development of your craft and thus will have a strong impact on your career. But so many actors choose teachers for the wrong reasons: either they select one who is less expensive, offering some kind of deal, located close to where they live, recommended by unqualified sources, they know actors in the class or ONLY because the teacher is or has been a casting director. These are not good reasons for such an important decision. Don’t be one of those reckless actors who wastes money and time going in the wrong direction. Be in control of your career and those you are assembling for your team.

To make your best choice(s), I suggest this plan:

  1. Research
  2. Audit
  3. Ask Questions
  4. Consider your Chemistry with the Teacher

Audit at least three candidates then make your selection of the teacher who can help make you the best you can be and the one you can see yourself staying with till you get everything you need- before moving on. For commercial classes it can be a few months and for acting it can be several years. CHOOSE WISELY.

DO YOU KNOW YOUR TYPE?
I believe one of the big mistakes many actors make is not being clear on their type (or as often referred to as a brand). Most believe that they “are actors and can play many roles”. In a majority of theatre productions, you can because of the distance between the actor and audience. But on-camera, which is more intimate, who you really are and what your look represents is obvious and there is usually no hiding behind character make-up and wardrobe.

Although it can be vital to your success, for booking commercials as well as theatrical work (especially when first starting a career), most don’t give determining their type the time needed to figure it out. When you know your type/brand: you can shoot headshots that better serve you, intelligently describe yourself to your representation, and submit yourself for roles that you have a better chance at getting. Knowing your type can be very important, but how do you determine what it is? It is not easy for most. You may need help from others because it is difficult to be objective about ourselves. Most actors tend to label themselves as more or less than how they choose to see themselves. That is why it is important to investigate.

During your investigation, you must honestly look at your:

  • Age
  • Physical Appearance
  • Personality Type
  • Essence

You might need assistance in labeling your type, so I suggest you put together a concise questionnaire using those four factors. Then question teachers, friends and some strangers. Strangers can often be more objective. Be sure them know that you need honesty. And you must accept what they say (with no comments from you) so they can be truthful.

It will probably take more than what I prescribe here but this is a good beginning. What you learn about yourself during this investigation into typing should be of great benefit to you personally and to your career. Have fun learning how others perceive you.

Insider Tips for Doing Your Best Commercial Auditions and Book Jobs – Part 2

Commercial auditions are challenging for most actors. Audition material or scenarios are at the most 20 seconds, which means you need to be up to speed right away. No time to get into the material. You are only in the audition room, on an average of 5 minutes. Just a few minutes to get comfortable, answer questions, take direction, hopefully get a rehearsal, slate and do one or several takes.

I believe that the following audition pointers that I formulated from personal audition experience, teaching thousands of students and observing actors who have auditioned at my casting sessions, will serve well your auditions for commercials (as well as TV and film):

  • As you walk into the audition, don’t think about anything you worked on. Let it all go. Be present to whatever happens.
  • Be respectful, positive and professional without losing your personality.
  • Give full attention to the person who is directing you: Don’t be distracted by anyone or anything. When you are being given direction, don’t be figuring out how to do what they are saying. Just listen and trust that you got it: otherwise, you might miss input.
  • If clarification is needed, ask questions. Questions are only irritating when they are unnecessary. Those running the session won’t think less of you because you request answers. Their input will help you to do a better audition for them.
  • While being recorded, if they talk to you or ask questions, don’t second-guess what they want to hear. They probably want to get to know you and see your personality. Just talk to them as opposed to trying to impress.
  • If the session director or CD is rude, short-tempered or seems ambivalent, do not take it personally. It may be their nature or they may be dealing with problems or previous actors who tested their patience. Stay pleasant, positive and do your work.
  • “Get centered” before starting your audition. Breathe, take one or two seconds before beginning or find your own way to “get centered” but don’t take a self-indulgent period of time to begin. Don’t be influenced by the anxiety or negative energy of those running the session.
  • Do not rush your audition. When actors are nervous or “in their head,” many speed up the dialogue or their improvised scenarios. When actors are connected and focused, they don’t rush. On the other hand, don’t speak really slowly or take long pauses between the lines.
  • Stay Focused. Whether you are auditioning for one person or a group, reading 
into a camera or speaking to an actor or a few actors, auditioning with a bad actor or a great one, in a small room or a large theatre, stay focused and don’t allow unexpected incidents to upset you and/ or put you “in your head.” No matter what happens, go with it and adjust quickly.
  • Motivate Out. For improvised and scripted on-camera scenes, when possible, find a way to “motivate out” your actions and/or dialogue at least fifty percent of the time to maximize your facial exposure. Most new actors constantly look at their partner(s), which keeps them in profile and they are upstaging themselves. Don’t cheat out. Learn out to “Motivate out.”
  • Look into camera. When auditioning with a reader and told to do the dialogue looking into the camera, don’t look back and forth between the two. It makes you look nervous.
  • Use the cue cards when needed. Most actors feel they will do better if they memorize the audition dialogue. That is true for many but if for one millisecond you are not sure of it, LOOK AT THE CUE CARD. It is there to help your audition. If you are convinced you know the copy and are stubborn about looking at it then you will go in your head to try to remember and will often loose the flow of your audition.
  • During the read, trust and commit to your instincts. Unless given a specific direction, don’t consciously perform anything you rehearsed. Some of the choices that you rehearsed might not feel right in that moment. Don’t interrupt your instinctive interpretation trying to perform them. Allow for your read to flow – you will most likely organically do most of what you rehearsed. When you are connected and “out of your head,” you are open to instinctive moments that are often better than those you planned.
  • Ask to do it again. When you feel your solo audition was lacking or if you have another interpretation that you would like to do, politely request, “If you have time, I would like to do it again” or “do another interpretation.” It is not a foul to ask. If they refuse, say “thank you” (mean it) and leave. It’s worth asking.

There is a lot involved in learning to do your best at commercial auditions.

For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com and for more information on Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/

Great Commercial Audition Preparation Tips – Part 2

Auditions can be tough to come by.  You want to do well to have a better chance at booking the job as well as leave a favorable impression so that you will get more auditions with the casting director.  Unlike theatrical auditions where you know you will normally be reading a script with a reader or sometimes another actor, there are many types of commercial auditions: dialogue, one-liners, monologue copy, short scenes, longer scenes, two or more person scenes, improvisation, reactions, skills, questions, etc. etc.  Some auditions require no preparation.  But most require a little and some a lot.

Audition preparation differentiates the professionals from the amateurs. Here is what professionals do:

Get correct information: When you receive an audition call, text or e-mail, note ALL the data. You don’t want to prepare for the wrong role or go to the wrong address.

Confirm appointments: Call, text, e-mail or respond via the casting sites to whoever contacted you to confirm your audition. If you don’t confirm in a timely manner they will assume you are not going and will assign another actor the time that was delegated to you.

Obtain the commercial copy in advance: Before most dialogue commercial auditions, CDs post the copy on submission websites for the auditioning actors. Join these sites so you have access.

Prepare material: material when posted. Ask your representation if there is copy. If there is, arrange to get it. If it’s not up on one of the sites, ask your agent or manager if it can be e-mailed or faxed. If not, get to the audition early. When there is copy, the more time you have with it in a quiet environment, the better your preparation.

Investigate, motivate, find your connection and make choices. Prepare several interpretations.  Professionals usually approach theatrical auditions working with a “who,” “what,” “where,” and “why.” Yet many don’t consider using these acting basics for commercials. If they work in every other medium, why would they not be of value for commercials? – especially now when the tone for most of them is underplayed, natural and realistic. Many actors feel that all they have to do is memorize the material to be prepared.  Memorization can be helpful but finding your own connection to and interpretation of the role and material, I believe is much more valuable.

I strongly believe that if you prepare with these basic acting tools they will help you to do better auditions.

Select wardrobe: Wardrobe helps define the character for the actor and offers a visual image for “the powers that be.” On the casting breakdown, in the script, or from your representation, ascertain what kind of wardrobe you should wear.

Don’t be on time: – BE EARLY

When you are early you have options.  If you arrive at the audition early and there a lots of actors waiting then go ahead, sign in and go prepare.  If you get there early and there are just a few actors, look at your script or story board, prepare and relax yourself for a few minutes then sign in on time.  You work too hard to get auditions, you never want to feel hassled so you can’t do your best work in the audition room.

I recommend that you leave plenty of time (when possible) to travel to your commercial auditions so that even with traffic, maybe getting lost and finding parking, you can be early.

Walk around while rehearsing at your audition: With dialogue, while you are preparing, walk someplace close by to rehearse in your full voice.  When some actors sit and rehearse quietly, it is sometimes tricky to go on-camera and switch to their full voice. Some even speak in an “airy” voice which can be disempowering to their audition.  Also, walking around and speaking in your full voice helps maintain a good energy. Be sure to keep an eye on how the session is running so that they don’t have to go looking for you.

Stay focused: While waiting in the lobby, prepare (or if you have already done so) then review your choices and put yourself in a relaxed, positive and confident state of mind. Focusing yourself this way, I believe can really make a difference for most actors.  If you see friends at the audition, feel free (if there is time) socialize for and few minutes then go back to relaxing and focusing your energy.

There is a lot involved in learning to do your best at commercial auditions. For additional insights and tips, check out my book Hit The Ground Running @ www.hitthegroundrunningbook.com and for more information on Commercial Acting Classes: http://carolynebarry.com/workshops/commercial/
 

Great Commercial Audition Preparation Tips – Part 1

Auditions can be tough to come by. You want to do well to have a better chance at booking the job as well as leave a favorable impression so that you will get more auditions with the casting director. Read more