Tuesday 30 March 2010

Standing still is hard work

I am currently taking a Film Performance Intensive at the Actors Studio. It's great fun and presents some new challenges.

We get a new script every week. I have always been good at learning lines but am awful at taking time to sit down and actually do it. The first couple of weeks my line learning was less hit than miss. So, next to learning lines, I am also learning to take time out for myself again - standing still (figuratively speaking) and just concentrating on the words on the page. This me-time is great, especially considering that I shall be working on auditioning monologues very soon.
Another type of standing still poses more of a problem - the literal kind. Nerves make me twitchy. Not  a good thing when you're trying to stay in the frame. I have already gone from shifting from one leg to the other constantly to being quite still in my body. However, my head now wobbles. Staying in the frame but essentially looking like one of those little wobbly-headed plastic toys you put in the back of a car, well, it's not good either.

The great thing about a film performance class though is that you get to watch yourself back immediately and get up and try again after. As the weeks progress I feel my camera confidence grow my body and my performance being much more grounded.

Barbara, our teacher, says when you've got the lines down organically and you have an idea emotionally of what the relationship of the characters in your scene is about, it is much easier to be still. It's true! When the lines just flow out of you and you can put your energy into the emotion and the opinions you want to express, everything seems to slow down and root you to the spot and into the performance.

Fast paced and stressful as our lives seem to be most of these days there is immense value in re-learning to take time out and to stand still, as an actress and as a human being.

I'm gonna got sit down now with a nice hot cuppa and read my new script. Ah, me-time.

Sunday 28 March 2010


It is official, I have an agent!

I had been thinking of getting an agent for a while and since things have become a bit more settled with my son, I felt I should finally give it a shot. So, that's what I did and I was lucky. I can tell you, I have never been more excited to fill out forms!

Now it's all about creating news for my agent, staying proactive, so I stay top of their minds. I am very excited and will keep you posted on how this new development in my actor life is working out for me.

I will celebrate by getting proper new headshots taken. Go me *sigh of relief*!

Saturday 27 March 2010

Acting and motherhood

I'm back from my more or less involuntary blogging break. I've had time to think quite a bit about being a mum and an actress. Since my son was born life has become much more unpredictable than it was before and all this new responsibility does make my head spin sometimes. Motherhood does require me to be extremely organised so I can raise a child, make a living, get training, audition for acting jobs, and make it possible to be available for gigs.

On the other hand, my life is so much more exciting and I am living it with much more passion.

Another great thing about being a mum is that I know now not to take myself too seriously as a person and as an actor. After all, there is someone now who is much more important than anything and anyone else.

So, while the prospect of auditioning is still very exciting and of course still requires the proper preparation and hard work in the moment, it just doesn't seem so scary any more. It's a job interview, and the overwhelming majority of times it is nothing to be taking personally.  Afterwards, whether I do well or not, I get to go home to a happy little boy who loves me, regardless. -  I also get my fair share of washing his nappies, cleaning the chaos in the kitchen, doing the washing and cooking and most of the getting up at night. All of it should help me take my mind off a bad audition and ground me when I feel I did really well.

We'll see how this new attitude will work out for me but for now I just feel really good about being a mum who is also actor, and an actor who is also a mum.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Things to consider 5

One last thing to consider that I want to talk about is to

'Disconnect the vulnerability button.'

People say stupid things. Sometimes they say things that aren't stupid at all but that make you feel like shit nonetheless. If you want to stay sane and healthy in the acting business you need to stop reading anything into everything that is being said, especially by those people who are trying hard to get you jobs, your agent and casting directos.

People tend to make off-hand comments, good or bad, that they don't really mean. So don't loose your head when you hear something negative and don't build something good up until it is confirmed. The last thing you need as an actor are all those meaningless negative things to eat away at you and the disappointment after finding out that a 'Well done!' didn't mean you got the job.

Disconnecting yourself from other people's opinions in this way is probably easier said than done but if you keep reminding yourself about all the meaningless off-hand comments you make yourself, you'll see that it just doesn't pay to get your panties in a wad.

So long and until next time!

A lesson in humility

It seems I have been talking a lot about the good advice I've been given lately regarding acting as a business, professionalism etc. Here's the story of someone who, it seems, has never been given this advice or maybe just didn't listen.
A while ago I flatted with a young woman, I shall call her Angela, who after training and working  overseas had come to Wellington to find her place in the local film and theatre scene. Her goal was and I believe still is to work full time and paid in her profession.

For a while I worked closely with her on some of her projects. So, I got to hear her side of the story of why things almost always seemed to go wrong or at the very least did not result in new opportunities. Somehow on every single project there seemed to be someone who didn't like Angela and so it seemed she was bullied a lot. Did Angela only have a streak of bad luck with the projects she chose and the people she worked with?

After a while Angela happened to work on the same projects as my partner and some of my other friends and I started to see a different picture. Stories reached me about never being on time, not pulling her weight, and generally being disruptive to the creative process. Then people I had just met started talking about this person who was not doing the job she was told to do, who knew everything about everything and therefore constantly got in other people's way by trying to apply her expertise when it was not welcome. That person turned out to be Angela. The amount of times I hear people talk about how bad their experiences working with her were, and for many different reasons!

The point I want to make is the following: The theatre and film industry, in general and certainly in Wellington, is not only a small one but also one that is close-knit. People talk. They talk a lot. If they start talking about you and do not have much good to say, well quite frankly, that's BAD. It definitely won't help you to be a full time, paid anything in the industry.

I reiterate, get known by your talent not your personality or your shoddy work ethic. That doesn't seem to be so hard either. Here is how: Don't do what Angela did! Instead be on time, listen to what you're told and to what's going on around you, do your job and mind your own business. Help when you are asked to help but keep your 'expertise' to yourself when you're not asked to display it. No one likes a show off but the industry does recognise true talent, hard work and humility.

So, my goal for this year is to get known by my talent, work hard on my craft and stay humble in the process. - Earlier today my 9 month old puked on my head. That's a lesson in humility.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Things to consider 4

When you have learned to focus on yourself and on your audition instead of external circumstances, there are other things to consider. One valuable lesson is to:

Get known by your talent NOT your personality 
As I have mentioned yesterday and as should be ingrained in every actor, be prepared, be on time, be courteous and do your best for every audition you go to. When you enter a casting room leave your baggage at the door. No one cares about how your day was or how hard it was for you to find time to learn your lines etc. Casting directors and their clients are busy people and simply don't have the time to be you personal shoulder to cry on. Harsh? Imagine looking at dozens of auditionees a day, being under time and budget constraints and trying really hard to get a job for those you invited to audition. What do you want to see? A well-prepared auditionee who is courteous and on time or a windswept ball of nervousness who is late and didn't learn the script? A humble professional or a loud and obnoxious diva?

It is also important to learn to deal with directions or lack their of during an audition. You're finished after one take? Great! Go home, have a cup of tea. This may or may not mean anything or it may beyour first take was exactly what the casting director wanted to see from you. Good on you! You may be asked to repeat your scene or to tweak your performance. Go with it! Many casting agents are trained actors and have extensive experience in getting your best performance out of you. Take it as an opportunity to learn and grow and again, just do your job and give your best.

As heard from the horses mouth: Casting directors appreciate a stand-out audition much more than a stand-out personality. It's the former they may remember to invite when it comes to casting their next project and the latter will be discarded as difficult to work with.

Until tomorrow. Happy thinking!

Monday 8 March 2010

Things to consider 3

Now, after finding who you are as an actor and separating yourself from the competition, what could possibly go wrong for you? Lots, I'm guessing if you enter the world of auditions with the wrong attitude. So, here's a tip, I think, is worth taking on:

Don't think of the competition, concentrate on your audition.

There may be overwhelming numbers of actors going for the same part. You may think 'What am I doing here, I look nothing like the character brief?!'  If you keep thinking about the odds of getting a part, do it every time you go to an audition, you're only setting yourself up to fail. With so much energy put into something that you have no control of, how are you going to be able to concentrate on your audition?

I have been told to think of an audition this way:

Number one, you have already beaten hundreds of other actor who didn't even get this far.

Number two, who cares if you don't look like the brief! Obviously there is something about you that intrigued the casting director/client.

So, instead of whining about the slim chances of success, take each audition as an acting opportunity. Be prepared, be on time, be courteous and do your best, always.

Until tomorrow. Happy thinking!

Sunday 7 March 2010

Things to consider 2

Equally important to knowing what kind of actor you are is to not get lost in the crowd. So: Separate yourself!

Separating yourself from the hundreds and thousands of other actors out there is daunting but luckily there are several things you can do to accomplish this.


A pretty face in your headshot is nice but nice won't get you anywhere. If there is nothing behind your eyes, nothing especially interesting you won't stand out and with hundreds of other actors in the pile you won't get noticed. Your head shot is often the first thing a casting director will see. Find a photographer you trust, can build a good relationship with and work it baby!

Work and training

Also, even if a gig is unpaid or you have to save up hard to pay for a great class, keep building your resume and stay proactive. Learn new skills and techniques, stay in training and enjoy every acting opportunity that comes your way. After all, acting is what you love to do and with a great CV you may be able to stand out of the crowd and start getting auditions for paid jobs.

Sounds like a good plan to me. What do you think?

Until tomorrow. Happy thinking!

Saturday 6 March 2010

Things to consider

I've been doing a lot of reading, watching and listening over the past few weeks. There are many things that seem to be important to be aware of. As with acting as a business, some of the things I've learned are common sense, others I am glad someone told me. In order to give yourself the best possible shot at becoming a full time (paid) actor, there are many things to consider. Over the next few days I'm going to talk about some of these things here.

Today: Know what kind of actor you are.
Knowing what kind of actor you are is important. It will give you the knowledge necessary for you to market yourself right. So, ask yourself, are you a lead actor or a character actor? I am guessing we all want to get those fantastic lead roles in all the famous plays and great films. But if we're honest with ourselves, we might not fit the mold for being a lead actor. On the other hand we may be just right for the quirky, the mysterious, the downright scary or completely off their rocker character roles. Know your niche, play to your own strengths and own who you are as an actor.

Once you have an idea of where your strength lie, maybe build your CV by concentrating on getting jobs, paid or unpaid, that fit the bill. That does not however mean you should strive for being type-cast (unless that's what you want, of course)!

Any more suggestions on how to go about finding your inner actor and how to build a CV around her/him? Please shoot!

Until tomorrow. Happy thinking!

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The business of acting

Now, I am new to the game of acting and apart from a $50 expenses payment from a one-day film shoot where I worked as an extra, I have never made a cent off acting in my life. Acting is an art of course but if you don't want to starve it is probably a good idea to understand the business of it.

I have yet to read Brad Lemack's book The Business of Acting but I've had a snoop around his blog and it is all very interesting. Even though Lemack is based in L.A. and writes primarily for Hollywood actors, his advice can be applied elsewhere. A lot of Lemack's advice is based on common sense, which after studying law for a while, I have come to appreciate immensely. Other things I would not have known or wasted one thought on by myself.

One of the latest entries is a review of the economics of acting in times of economic downturn. In a nut shell, here is some of the advice Lemack gives on how to survive and thrive in times like these:

- keep building your resume whether a job pays or not
- new actors learn to manage your expectations of your early years in the business; more established actors reassess and re-evaluate your priorities (I guess this one is to learn not to despair.)
- learn to understand casting agents' needs, i.e. if you are currently represented learn to become a great client - build a relationship with your agent, stay in training, don't just rely on getting a call but seek opportunities; in other words, BE PROACVITVE
- get an understanding and appreciation of the work involved to get even ONE audition for you
- be an actor who is willing to accept their responsibilities beyond just acting in the pursuit of a career

Lemack concludes, 'Finally, remember, at any age, at any stage, it’s about the journey. Be planned, be prepared, be smart, be financed to support your journey to the best of your ability – and then have faith in your talent, your ability and your potential – and do the work. Finances are always an issue. Do what you can do and be patient and determined in your search for supplemental income work. You may not get paid to do the kind of job you really want right now, but it's a means to an important end.'

I'll be sure to take this to heart!

[Also, check out Lemack's interview series with Sharif Ali of Aimee Entertainment on the business of acting from a talent agent's perspective. They give great advice for both new and working actors.]