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Acting – The Power and Magic of Listening

Kimberly Jentzen presents a new and dynamic series: The Power and Magic of Listening, Part One. The following is an excerpt from her newly released book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance.

POWER TOOL: LISTENING

LISTENING IS WHERE THE MAGIC LIVES

Listening is opening up and hearing with not only your ears, but with each of your senses. To really hear the rain or take that moment to really taste the ice cream, or allow your eyes to take in the light through the trees in the early morning; these are all forms of listening.

Listening is being aware in the moment, like when a lover listens to your body and follows its message, or when a friend picks up on your indirect cues to leave the party and together you go. Listening is not only about hearing words, but being engaged with the whole communication of another and hearing with sensory intuition.

A skilled actor understands how to listen for more than just the words, sounds and tonality, but also with an emptiness inside that needs to be filled by the other character. When you listen to others, what do you really listen for? And what is your character listening for?

Listening is the first real obligation required to carry out a believable truthfulness in the moment. It creates an honest connection between scene partners. The actor has to surrender the planned response to allow a true response that can only come when really listening. Nothing can replace it.

Early in my acting career, I struggled with listening. I was playing the lead role in a play and I couldn’t find my character. My friend told me to try to get a reaction from the other actor, some physical response, be it a smile, a laugh or even a raised eyebrow—just play the reality of attempting to get an organic, real moment from my partner on stage. This concept completely improved my work. I began to listen for a response instead of just my cues. I realized that predetermining how to say my lines gave a performance that pre-judged the experience of the moment. My lines now had a goal: to generate a response from my fellow partner. This was a major breakthrough, and I also had more fun in the process.

To listen is to put your attention on the other actor and what is being said both verbally and non-verbally. You watch, you hear, you wait; you are captivated in an active process. You can even listen to the silence of someone. Listening is taking in emotional reactions, body language, facial expressions and energy.

We live in the moment, uncertain of what
the next moment will bring.

 

You can’t “act” listening

Never pretend to listen. Sometimes actors will move their head up and down, nodding or shaking their head, acting as if they are listening. How can you know whether you can agree or disagree until the other actor has finished their thought? You have to wait and really hear the actual thing that will generate your response.

The only way to listen is to honestly engage in the activity of listening.

When you really listen, your line deliveries gain nuances and become organic. Once this occurs, everything about the work can fall into place. When you really listen, you concern yourself with receiving the other actor—responding not in the way you previously planned, but with what naturally comes forth. It is genuinely accepting and connecting to what is being given.

Your listening dictates the delivery of your lines.

 

The connection is above the communication

Have you ever engaged in a conversation in such a way that you forget what you were going to say next? The organic response that comes from that conversation is a true connection. What you were going to say isn’t as important as the experience with the person with whom you are conversing.

Sometimes actors make the written words more important than listening to what lives beneath them. The truth of life is that the communication never rises above the connection.

Another life truth is how we listen. We respond differently in every relationship. Wouldn’t you prefer to hear bad news from one person rather than from another? We have special bonds with a select few. All of that is taken into consideration as part of the real communication.

Let’s say you are playing a small role as a messenger. The film takes place during 1944 and you must tell a Midwestern woman her husband was killed by the Germans in France. Your appearance in the film might be minimal, but the connection to the information will have a lasting effect on the life of this woman. And how you take her in, how you study her eyes as you tell her the news is crucial to the delivery of the lines.

**Acting with Impact is available at Samuel French Bookstore, Hollywood and kimberlyjentzen.com

Commercial Audition Callbacks, Part 2

There are dozens of audition technique tips I have given in previous articles and can be found on my partner page on Master TalentTeachers.com that would be really beneficial but right now the most valuable information I can offer to help you to do your best callbacks is offer some insights on Commercial Callback Anxiety.

Commercial auditions can be challenging for actors but callbacks are a cause of anxiety for most. The pressure is on because the decisions-makers are in the room, you know that everything little thing you do is being carefully judged, changes of direction are sometimes made at the last minute giving actors very little time to be secure with the adjustments, the money that you can make if you booked the commercial is often needed, and because it is a callback, the pressure you put on yourself to do well can be problematic.

Every audition especially callbacks are 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, such as:

Did I wear the right outfit? Maybe I should have done something different with my hair. Did I work on the material enough? I hope they don’t notice that my skin is broken out. How many people will I be auditioning for? Who are they? Will they direct me before I read? What will they ask me? What should I ask them? Will they think I am physically right for the role? I wonder if the reader is going to be any good? I haven’t seen this CD for a few months – maybe she doesn’t like my work. How will I do? Will they re-direct my reading? Am I right for the role? What will they think about my audition?

Many of these thoughts flash quickly through almost every actor’s mind and especially those who are new. These are the same types of concerns that people usually have interviewing for any job. At callbacks, because the stakes are raised, the concerns get more intense for most. Actors who are unfazed at the initial audition often have callback anxiety. Now, the thoughts are

They must like me; now the pressure is really on. It’s only betweena few others and me; I have to be great. Will my agent (or manager) dump me if I don’t book this job? What did I do that made them call me back? I really need the money. My competition must be good. I hope I don’t “blow it” now. And so on.

This “brain-noise” is normal. How you deal with your questions, concerns and expectations will determine how much power those thoughts have. You must learn how to alleviate, use or quiet them, or they will take their toll on your work. I know great actors who can’t get out of their heads at interviews (and refuse to do anything about it), and their work suffers. I also know less talented ones who shine because they have very little “noise” and are excited to be auditioning.
What you think influences how you feel, and how you feel impacts your audition. With time and experience, actors usually figure out how to alleviate the self-imposed stress. In the meantime, work on your audition anxieties whether it is with self-help books, hypnosis, audition classes, coaching, therapy, talking with friends or teachers and/or developing a sense of humor about your disempowering thoughts – the sooner the better.

SUGGESTION: What you think produces feelings. The feelings are real but the thoughts you created are not real. So be careful what you are saying to yourself.

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/

Commercial Audition Callbacks, Part 1

DEAL WITH CALLBACK ANXIETY and BOOK TV COMMERCIALS

There are dozens of audition technique tips I have given in previous articles and can be found on my partner page on Master TalentTeachers.com that would be really beneficial but right now the most valuable information I can offer to help you to do your best callbacks is offer some insights on Commercial Callback Anxiety.

Commercial auditions can be challenging for actors but callbacks are a cause of anxiety for most. The pressure is on because the decisions-makers are in the room, you know that everything little thing you do is being carefully judged, changes of direction are sometimes made at the last minute giving actors very little time to be secure with the adjustments, the money that you can make if you booked the commercial is often needed, and because it is a callback, the pressure you put on yourself to do well can be problematic.

Every audition especially callbacks are 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, such as

Did I wear the right outfit? Maybe I should have done something different with my hair. Did I work on the material enough? I hope they don’t notice that my skin is broken out. How many people will I be auditioning for? Who are they? Will they direct me before I read? What will they ask me? What should I ask them? Will they think I am physically right for the role? I wonder if the reader is going to be any good? I haven’t seen this CD for a few months – maybe she doesn’t like my work. How will I do? Will they re-direct my reading? Am I right for the role? What will they think about my audition?

Many of these thoughts flash quickly through almost every actor’s mind and especially those who are new. These are the same types of concerns that people usually have interviewing for any job. At callbacks, because the stakes are raised, the concerns get more intense for most. Actors who are unfazed at the initial audition often have callback anxiety. Now, the thoughts are

They must like me; now the pressure is really on. It’s only betweena few others and me; I have to be great. Will my agent (or manager) dump me if I don’t book this job? What did I do that made them call me back? I really need the money. My competition must be good. I hope I don’t “blow it” now. And so on.

This “brain-noise” is normal. How you deal with your questions, concerns and expectations will determine how much power those thoughts have. You must learn how to alleviate, use or quiet them, or they will take their toll on your work. I know great actors who can’t get out of their heads at interviews (and refuse to do anything about it), and their work suffers. I also know less talented ones who shine because they have very little “noise” and are excited to be auditioning.

What you think influences how you feel, and how you feel impacts your audition. With time and experience, actors usually figure out how to alleviate the self-imposed stress. In the meantime, work on your audition anxieties whether it is with self-help books, hypnosis, audition classes, coaching, therapy, talking with friends or teachers and/or developing a sense of humor about your disempowering thoughts – the sooner the better.

SUGGESTION: What you think produces feelings. The feelings are real but the thoughts you created are not real. So be careful what you are saying to yourself.

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/

Gerry Katzman Comedy

GETTING THE JOB – a Magic Tool for Success

By: Gerry Katzman

If someone gives you a job, and you want them to hire you again, there is a under-utilized tool that will increase the probability by 50%.

This same tool, can turn someone who hates you into a fan.  Let me share two examples:

Example #1: One of my students was recently booked for a week of work as a comedian at Harrah’s Casino. One week later, the head of entertainment called him to book him for three more weeks of work at a higher salary.

He used the tool.

Example #2: An actress in my class had a falling out with a well-known film director over a disagreement that happened on set. He said he never wanted to work with her again. Last week, we all celebrated his birthday together- and she’ll be acting in his next feature.

She used the tool.

So what is this Magic tool? It’s something so simple, yet so under-utilized that when you use it, it will make an unforgettable impact.

Here it is:

My student, who worked at Harrah’s comedy club – as soon as he got home from the gig – sent a sincere note of thanks and a thoughtful gift.

The actress who had a falling out with the director, sent a sincere note of apology and appreciation and a thoughtful gift.

Here’s the deal:

People feel so under-acknowledged in their work today, that when you take time out of your schedule to tell them that they made a difference in your life and your career, they will never forget it.  By showing them that they made a difference and expressing your gratitude, they become personally invested in your success.

From this day forward, resolve that anytime anyone does ANYTHING for you and your career – get on your computer, or get out your stationary, and send them a thank you note.

And if you don’t have stationery and you’re bad at mail, Sites like www.sendoutcards.com  and apps like www.thankyoupro.com  will make it so you’ll never have to buy an envelope or affix a stamp again. 

Give people tangible reminder of your appreciation and watch the cycle of gratitude and success come back to you.

For more information sign up for my newsletter at www.StandupComedyClass.com

Carolyne Barry Commercials

Book TV Commercials

You Are the Character

By: Carolyne Barry

Actors are trained to play characters. From when you first began to train, the focus was on developing and being true to the character. With theater, film and television work, the actor’s responsibility is to bring them to life. I believe it is different for commercials. Commercials are very short and the roles portrayed are targeted at a specific segment of the population. There is no time to establish a character in the majority of commercials. In a few seconds, it has to be clear whom the actors represent and their roles. Those watching must see a semblance of themselves in order to identify and be motivated to buy the product. This is why physical types and essences are almost as important as talent in commercial casting.

If you don’t play characters, how do you prepare? I strongly suggest approaching the parts as ROLES YOU play. You play numerous roles in your life? i.e: Employee, boss, friend, spouse or significant other, child, parent, neighbor, student or teacher, working person or professional, etc.

Many of these parts featured in commercials, are roles you are or have played in your life. (Those for which you are physically right but haven’t experienced should also be doable with a little work.) Approach your auditions using your feelings and reactions. Focus on how YOU would behave or react in the given situation not a character you create. It is easier, faster and you’ll have better results when starting with the premise that “You are the Character playing a role”.

Diane Christiansen Kids & Teens

Actors Must Always Be True to Your Impulses

By Diane Christiansen

When we were kids, we acted on our impulses all the time. We wanted what we wanted and we wanted it NOW! Anyone or anything that got in the way had better be ready for a temper tantrum. But the grown-ups didn’t like that at all. They told us we had to behave ourselves, to sit down, don’t touch, be quiet, just wait, and a litany of other clipped commands. And so we were socialized (or brainwashed) to control our impulses. We were made to think that maturity under the guise of ‘being a big girl or boy’ was the prize. But what the adults didn’t tell us was that impulse control also came at a cost. Controlling our impulses meant becoming further removed from our emotions, our intuition, our gut, and the core part of our humanity that connects us to every other human in the world. So far removed, that as adults we must re-learn to listen to our intuition, to go with our gut, and to follow our instincts. This re-education is necessary because our basic inclination to act on impulse has been suppressed by early childhood socialization. Suppressed, but not extinguished. That’s the good news. Fortunately, the diligent actor can re-connect with her or his impulses, thereby tapping into the human condition. The actor’s courage to act on impulse is our gain because through that action we are reminded of what it means to feel, rather than stifle heart-wrenching sadness, crippling fear, boundless joy, and the full gamut of human emotion. It’s ironic that being authentic to our own wants, urges, desires–our impulses is considered a courageous undertaking, at least for us adults. We grown-ups are supposed to be objective, rational, and responsible. We have to manage impressions and gauge the needs of others after all. Showing emotion? Acting on impulse? Why, that’s taboo! Unless of course, you’re an actor.

As actors, we have license to throw caution to the wind, to wear our hearts on our sleeves, to act on impulse, and basically, to go there. There is where the other adults cannot or will not go, at least not on purpose. And who can blame them? It’s scary to be true to our impulses because doing so requires us to be vulnerable to others’ judgment. But we actors know the secret. We know that when we are truly vulnerable to our impulses is when we connect most strongly to those that might otherwise seek to judge us. Instead, we disarm them with our vulnerability and with our courage to expose ourselves to their judgment, because we know that in seeing our true wants, urges, desires–our impulses on display, they will relate to a similar truth in themselves. Though we are 7 billion unique personalities in a vast multicultural world, our impulses connect us all so that we are never isolated from one another. The actor is the lens through which our infinite connections may be brought clearly into focus. So actors, be impulsive!

Broadening Your Casting Range with Original Scene Production

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.