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 One Step Can Change Everything

by Savvy Actor Co-Founder Kevin Urban

Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy that can be captured in this familiar yet powerful quote –

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.” – Lao Tzu

As actors and human beings, fear of failure can be one of our biggest stumbling blocks. Sometimes the fear is so great that we avoid our task completely.

In the book, “One Small Step Can Change Your Life,” Robert Maurer suggests we ask small questions, think small thoughts, take small actions and solve small problems. His theory is that sometimes we need to train the brain to change over time. Going small is one way to bi-pass potential fears and allow the mind freedom to think of creative solutions.

So a question for you…
What small things can you do to help set yourself up for success?

An example from “One Small Step…”:

Working out, especially after taking some time off can be overwhelming. If you want to get back to an early morning work out routine, maybe it’s wearing your workout clothes to bed. Sleeping in them already gives you that first small step toward working out plus they are toasty when you get up in the morning! Once you’re up and dressed you’re that much closer to getting yourself to that gym.

When you think in terms of small steps the overwhelm can go away and allow you to take action.

Think Kaizen for 2013. Take that first small step and before you know it, you’ll take another step and another step and another step toward success.

How to Cultivate Great Story Ideas

By: Minda Burr

How do you develop an idea? Where do you even begin if you don’t know what you want to write next? So, I am going to ask you SIX KEY questions, and I want you to answer them from your from your heart and soul – from your gut – instead of from your conscious mind, because that is where you have access to your own unique ‘authentic voice’.

  1. The most obvious question – What do you feel passionate about? What is genuinely interesting to you? And if you’re writing a screenplay, novel or stage play — what characters would you like to dive into, live inside, talk like and behave like for awhile? You are going on an adventure and a personal journey with these characters, so you might as well enjoy yourself. What we are emotionally connected to, we are much more committed to. Obviously Nora Ephron was intrigued by the dance of Love between charming, intelligent and witty characters for example, in “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” – while the Cohen Brothers preferred to swim in dark waters with deviant characters in “Fargo” and No Country for Old Men”. What water do YOU want to swim in??
  2. Are you a great observer of life and the “human condition”? Does it fascinate you to the point that you start conjuring up scenarios about where Life might be going? Suzanne Collins did a brilliant job of that in the “Hunger Games.” She took two somewhat disturbing trends in our society today and exaggerated them in the future in a fascinating way: First, she takes the ever widening gap in our society of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and catapults us into a future where the rich are now living outrageously opulent and SELF-indulgent lives in separate cities! They now live far, FAR AWAY from the deprived poor who live in concentration camps and are forced to hunt for their own food to survive. In the second current trend, she highlights our society’s obsession with ‘reality shows’ and takes us into a future where the most popular entertainment for the rich is watching the poor people stalk and kill each other. Then the victors become media sensations just like the Kardashians are today! Fascinating.

    QUESTION: Is there something that YOU see in the future that could be the natural outcome of what the way we are living now?

  3. Are you FUNNY? Do people think you are witty and they laugh a lot when they are your presence? If you can do it in person, you can put it on paper. If you are funny that is GOLD – do not squander your talent. And you have SO many arenas in which to cultivate it.
  4. Are you able to laugh at the ironies of life and how incredibly idiotic we are sometimes as members of the human race? Nobody does that better than Larry David did with “Seinfeld” and now “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. He has such a UNIQUE and interesting slant on everyday reality and he writes such flawed characters in mundane and sometimes ridiculous circumstances, that he allows us to laugh at ourselves for being human. If you have that gift, SHARE it.
  5. What knowledge or EXPERTISE do you have that is worth entertaining other people with? Look at what a Law career did for John Grisham and his series of best-selling books that became big movies, like “The Firm” and “A Time to Kill?” What expertise do you have that could be the foundation for a great idea?? It doesn’t matter if you’re a former bronco bull rider or a reformed sex addict – there could be ‘Gold in them there hills.’
  6. “Seemingly” OUT OF NOWHERE GEMS. What ideas have popped into your head out of nowhere and made you think, “This would be a great story or topic!” Pay attention to those! Those ideas out of nowhere are your heart and soul talking to you. They can also come from the Collective UN-conscious. Which means, that if you don’t write about, it someone else WILL. When those moments of inspiration happen – write them down immediately or call yourself and leave a detailed message. Or get one of those recording devices. Don’t assume you’re going to remember it because you most likely won’t. Inspiration comes in a FLASH – and is often gone like a puff of smoke if you don’t record it.

Chatting With The Casting Director…Do You Have Any Questions?

by: Holly Powell

You made it into the audition room successfully without tripping and are focused and ready to go with your choices. And then…(a) the Casting Director decides to chat a bit; (b) no one looks up at you; (c) they ask, “Do you have any questions?”

So many actors in my classes tell me how focused they are when walking into the audition room, sure of their choices, and then the whole thing unravels because of something the Casting Director, Director or Producer say or do. First, if the Casting Director, Director or Producer starts to chat with you, this is a good thing! But a lot of actors get unfocused while chatting is going on and when the Casting Director decides chat time is over and says, “Are you ready to start?”…looking at their watch… the actor feels rushed with the need to hurry up and begin.

When chat time is deemed over, make sure you take 5 to 10 seconds to get back into your mental focus and remind yourself of your choices. Don’t ASK if you can have a moment to adjust (they could say, “No, let’s go we’re late”)…just take it! The asking gives your power away. YOU take control of the room, it’s YOUR audition time, it’s YOUR 3 minutes.

If you walk into the audition room and no one is making eye contact with you, just make sure you are trying to make eye contact with them. In that moment when they do finally glance up, they want to see an actor who is focused and ready to go. But, the biggest thing that can rattle an actor after walking into the audition room is that age-old habit the Casting Director says automatically… “Do you have any questions?”

My best advice to the asking of this question is: “No, I’m good, thanks!” See, you’ve already made your choices, right? And if you think you SHOULD ask a question and the answer you get back completely contradicts your choices, you will spend the entire audition trying to make the adjustment on the spot. Honestly, Casting Directors would rather see what unique choices you have made and how prepared you are…and THEN give you direction. They would rather see an audition where the choices might be “wrong” in their opinion, than watch an audition where the actor is struggling to adjust.

So, skip the asking of questions unless you really have no idea what the relationship is in the scene or have no idea what is going on in the scene. Those are probably OK questions!

Stop Apologizing to Get What You Want

by: Christina Shipp

I am always shocked how much I hear people apologize these days. Frequently, for things they have no need to be sorry over. Frequently, just for being who they are. And I stand by and think to myself, why on earth are these people giving their power away?

Here’s the deal, business lovers: no one is going to give you power unless you claim it for yourself. So why not embrace the Tiger within you? This is what Peter Arnell means in his book “Shift” when he talks about Embracing the Tiger within. He uses Chris Rock’s bold stand-up to illustrate his point. A while ago there was a lot of media buzz over a trained circus tiger that “went crazy” and bit his trainer causing severe arterial damage. Chris Rock made a valid point in his routine, saying: “That tiger didn’t go crazy! That tiger went Tiger!” The idea is this: that tiger only did what was in his nature to do: to dominate and to be king of his domain.

So how can YOU go Tiger? How can you fully embrace the nature and essence inside of YOU? How can you honor who you are and your strengths? Unapologetically so, with confidence and power?

Bottom line – figure out who you are, uniquely, at your core and name it. Name it, define it and own it. Be consistently and authentically YOU. Be your own Tiger. Because you’ll never have to be sorry about that.

Preparing for an Audition – What to Bring

By: Kimberly Jentzen

Recently, an actor shared that she is always lending out her highlighter when she is at auditions. I’m thinking that it’s time for a blog to prepare all actors for the actual physical necessities for your auditions. What else do actors forget to bring?

What to bring to your audition:

  1. A highlighter: in case you have more or new dialogue. This makes cold reading material so much easier.
  2. Your photo and resume: already stapled or adhered together back-to-back. An unstapled photo and resume is a pet peeve to most casting directors. It’s unprofessional and often happens, so it’s become an annoyance. It’s important to respect your meetings with them by having your photos and resumes already attached.
  3. Your sides: if you were able to get them on-line, which is usually the case.
  4. Pen or pencil: just in case to take notes.
  5. Mints: for obvious reasons. You don’t ever want to feel self-conscious about anything, especially your breath.
  6. Bottled Water: it’s best to be self-sufficient and not need anyone to bring you anything.
  7. Your cell phone turned off! There is nothing worse than “Apple Bottom Jeans, Boots with the Fur” blasting out during your reading.
  8. Your coaches cell phone number: just in case you would like a last minute suggestion for the reading or to get feedback on your choices.
  9. You clothing should lean towards the role you are auditioning for. So, if you are auditioning for a lawyer, wear a dress shirt instead of the T-shirt with the holes.
  10. Most importantly, bring a positive attitude!

What to bring in your car:

  1. A great navigation system/or map.
  2. Plan extra time for parking and bring parking money.
  3. Dictionary: one that not only has definitions but notates the punctuation of words. Or you might be able to look up words and pronunciations on your smart phone. It’s great to have one. You can always mosey on out to your car to check out words in the dictionary you don’t know so you can commit to that dialogue!
  4. Different shoes: boots, heels, sandals, flats, thongs and tennis shoes all deliver different walks, stances and strides. Dependent on the script, you will want to choose your footwear accordingly. It’s so important for women to always have a pair of heels in their car (just in case) and for those tall women, flats.
  5. For women: hair accessories. A brush or comb and makeup is helpful to have in your car just in case the role calls for a different look and/or to freshen up.
  6. For men: a comb or brush. You may need hair-gel and base cover makeup to hide any imperfections or breakouts to feel less self-conscious about them.
  7. Your acting tools: that means if there’s a good reference book that you like to have to inspire you or help in your preparation, have it in the car. My actors like to bring a deck of Life Emotion Cards.

What not to bring to the Audition room:

  1. Don’t bring a tote bag: or huge bag of stuff and lug it around…unless it’s part of the character.
  2. Don’t bring animals: or other living things, unless they are required for the audition.
  3. Don’t bring gifts: Leave those to a more appropriate time, other than an audition.
  4. Don’t bring a bad attitude: always be ready to take direction and enjoy the process of auditioning.

Finally, always plan to be a half hour early. That way, with traffic and parking, you’re pretty safe to say that you will be there early enough to catch your breath and center yourself, so you don’t feel rushed. If you are always early, you will always be on time, which is essential for production. Being on time is one of the few things you can control as you apply your commitment to getting that gig.

Happy auditioning!!!!

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.