Monday, June 8, 2009

How to be a successful actor-Actor research

How to be a successful actor-Actor research

It’s important as an actor to take our job as serious as any profession. We need to know all aspect of the job so that we know what type of working environment we are getting involved in. A lot of times actors get so caught up in our “Craft” that we fail to look at being an actor as an actual job. Yes we love it and it is fun but when it all comes down to it acting pays the bills. We must research and educate ourselves so that we can fully be aware of this industry. The entertainment field is not easy it’s tough. You have to know who to network with and how to do it. With that in mind I did some research just like I would do with any job so that I could get more information on how to be a successful actor.

The career I am researching is an actor and director. It was interesting researching what aspects are needed for a career as an actor. Most people think of acting as not being a legitimate profession. According to the US Department of labor, Acting is not the most stable career to choose. Some key points were that actors tend to endure long periods of unemployment, intense competition for roles, and frequent rejections in auditions. This is very true being an actor. This can make the earnings in this profession very erratic and most actors have to have a second job to support them. After you become a working actor the earning potential is extraordinarily high and is worth the wait. Acting sometimes can be a coin toss if you do not have a plan of action. You cannot expect to just go out in the field a think you will be a star having a plan is key to becoming a successful actor.


Ninety percent of auditioning is rejection. If you cannot handle rejection and you don’t have tough skin then get out of the business because the acting world is harsh. Casting directors have no problem telling you if you can not act. They also have no problem telling you if you need to lose weight or that there are something wrong with your mage. Hearing these comments can really mess with you mentally so you have to prepare yourself for it. The best way to prepare for rejection is to expect it. Know that these things are going to happen so that when they occur you can deal with them correctly. The thing that helps me out when I am being told something critical about my appearance is to critique the casting directors. NOT ALOUD of course  but in my head but in some funny way it always makes me feel better. Just go into your audition and do the best you can and don’t think about getting the part. I feel a lot better even when I don’t get a part when I know I still did my best. Acting is about networking and although you may not get that specific part you never know what may come about in the future. Always be on you’re a game. I will admit it’s tough when you know you did awesome and you do get the part but preparing yourself for rejection eases the blow. Just think about it this way if you prepare for rejection when you get the part you’ll be so ecstatic! This is not to say don’t be confident. I am a firm believer in you can achieve what your mind can conceive but still be mindful that acting is ninety percent rejection and you are on your way to becoming an actor in Los Angeles.

Most actors begin their training at a university or acting conservatory. I attended a two-year acting conservatory. I also minored in Theatre and trained at Playhouse West theatre in North Hollywood. Although anyone can learn the craft it is hard work and not everyone has the talent to take them to the next level.

Knowing the business

The culture of this work environment is networking. If you don’t network you will never be a successful actor in LA. It is all about whom you know and how they can help you in the entertainment industry. Some ideas I have is to arrange informational interviews by attending events. The best way to talk to people is to go to major events that are full with people that you can connect with. You are most likely in a laid back environment which opens the door for you to talk to that person. After they are comfortable you can begin to talk about your career. Another way to get information is to go to seminars and talk to people who are working actors. You can ask them how they got started and what your particular steps should be. Attending plays and industry night in Hollywood are beneficial as well. You can talk to professionals in the field one on one and create connections that can lead to you being invited to more exclusive events. It is all about creating business relationships and networking is how this is done.

The professional organizations that are important in our career field are the Screen Actors Guild, the Associated Actors and Artistes of America and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Becoming a member of one of these unions allows me as an actor to use the resources that are available in other careers. This includes healthcare, medical, dental, and credit unions. Getting into the union is not easy because you cannot just sign up. Most actors have to get a job that has a union contract and then are able to apply for the union. The most common way to get into the union is to get vouchers. This can be done by doing extra work. An actor has to get three vouchers and then is able along with other requirements to apply to be a member of the union (Please see my how to join SAG post for details). These organizations were formed to stop the exploitation of actors when they work. The Screen Actors Guild’s mission statement explains what the union enforces. SAG's Mission Statement, the Guild seeks to: negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits, and working conditions for its performers; collect compensation for exploitation of recorded performances by its members, and provide protection against unauthorized use of those performances; and preserve and expand work opportunities for its members

Take a look at the SAG's Mission Statement, the Guild seeks to: negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements that establish equitable levels of compensation, benefits, and working conditions for its performers; collect compensation for exploitation of recorded performances by its members, and provide protection against unauthorized use of those performances; and preserve and expand work opportunities for its members to choose a career you love. Being an actor can be unstable but if you have a clear plan you can do very well in this field. Hopefully this information was helpful and you will use it to shape your career path and learn how to become a successful actor in LA.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sanford Meisner-The Reality of Doing

The Reality of Doing

The foundation of acting is the reality of doing. So you may be asking yourself what exactly does that mean? The reality of doing means to actually do something not "pretend" you’re doing it. For example if you are suppose to be listening really listen not pretend to listen. If you are supposed to drink out of a cup don't pretend to drink out of the cup really drink out of the cup! If you are suppose to count how many lights are in the room then REALLY COUNT how many lights are in the room! It's just that simple! Well it sounds easier than you think. As actors we spend years being taught "How to act" and "How to become an actor" that we develop these pre-developed actions that are supposed to be what a good actor does. How many times have you seen a play and the actor who's more concerned about performing and entertaining the audience is using over exaggerated hand gestures and pre-rehearsed delivery of lines. They think that they are so good that the audience can't tell but they can! This is because there is one simple fact that separates the good actors from the bad and that is TRUTH! So say it to yourself every day. The foundation of acting is the reality of doing!!! When I learned that while studying the Meisner Technique it changed my life because it is so simple! I remember performing in the play A Raisin in the Sun and I had a scene where I was suppose to drink out of a coffee cup and every day I did the same thing I pretended to drink out of the cup. On the last dress rehearsal one of the prop masters set the table and put water in the cup without me knowing. When I finally got to me scene and it came to the part where I was drinking out of the cup I was so surprised that there was water in the cup that I forgot my lines! The reality of doing was so foreign to me that it caught me off guard. I had been so programmed to "pretend" to drink that I had no clue how to really drink out of the cup even though that is what I do every day in my everyday life. Sanford Meisner said that we are suppose to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances and this is done by setting up the foundation of acting which is the reality of doing.

Word Repetition Game

Those of you familiar with Meisner know very well the word repetition game. It is the bases of learning the Meisner technique, it was created to get actors out of their heads so they won't think but do. Sandy Meisner wanted to create the simplest task so that actors would not have to think and could focus on doing. With word repetition you are to repeat accurately everything your partner says. On my first day of school I was told to sit down across from my partner, they would make an observation of me, say it, and I was to repeat EXACTLY what they say word for word. My partner looked at me and said "You have a pretty smile" and I repeated "You have a pretty smile" we did this for about one minute and I got kudos because I simply knew how to listen! That's it knowing how to listen was getting me one step closer to becoming a better actor. The next day I got up again and this time we did the same thing but now instead of saying it word for word I was to say it from my point of view. "You have on a green shirt" and I said "I have on a green shirt" We did this several times going back and forth making an observations with each other. The next day I got up to play the word repetition game again, feeling pretty confident that I did good that past two days I was ready to get to work. My Partner was told to make an observation of me and he said "You have big hair" and without me thinking I said “I have big hair?" The class broke out in laughter because I was clearly not happy about that comment! The teacher stopped us and asked me how I felt about that comment and I said it made me a little angry and that I thought it was an asshole thing to say and he told me "well tell him that"! That's when I was told the third most important thing I learned from the repetition game Listening, Point of view, and THE PINCH! That feeling I felt about the comment was the pinch the point in the repetition game that I could now say how I felt about the comment. "You have big hair" "I have big hair?" "You have big hair" "That's an asshole thing to say"...!!! Waiting for the pinch is confusing because it happens at different times for people. The most important thing I learned is no matter how long you do repetition waits for the pinch! Most people don't wait and make a change themselves and by doing that they are not reacting truthfully. I would do repetition sometimes for minutes until the change naturally happened. You know the feeling and by not waiting for the pinch you are doing yourself an in service because you are not acting truthfully. I don't care if you have to do repetition for hours WAIT for the pinch, let the change come naturally! Now of course it doesn't take that long but you get my point. The actors who did the best in the class knew this was a key rule in mastering the Meisner Technique.

The word repetition game is the foundation of the Meisner technique. It is so simple because you don't have to think you just have to listen and do. The actors who did not listen to their partners were the ones who made the change themselves in order to make something happen. If they just simply listened to their partner the change will naturally come. Sanford Meisner said don't create change wait for a pinch it's about your instinct. At Playhouse West the most beneficial thing I leaned was to NOT BE POLITE! Being polite will get you now where with the Meisner Technique because it is expressing how you really feel. I can't began to tell you some of the thing I said or had to me but those time on stage where the times that I learned the most. Those experiences showed me a world I never knew existed and I became the actor I always dreamed of being.

Practice Practice Practice!!!

My rule of thumb is practice three times a day if you can. Always practice at least once especially in the beginning of your training. Make repetition second nature to you; get it so ingrained in you that you don't think you just do. I practiced three times daily it was hard but if you want to be the best you have to work like the best. Actors have to train just like any other profession. You think Kobe doesn't train and sits at home and when it's game time he just turns on the magic? No! He practices everyday! And that is why he's is the best and in order to be the best you must work hard. Break a leg!

Meisner Quotes

Meisner Quotes:

Acting is doing & meaningful acting is doing under emotional and truthful circumstances
Have a way of doing BE SPECIFIC!

Keep working all the time do all type of plays whether they are right for you or not because eventually time and you will catch up with each other.
Acting is an emotional profession!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How to Get your SAG Card

History of SAG (The Screen Actors Guild)

Screen Actors Guild is the nation's largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists' rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. The guild was formed to eliminate the exploitation of actors. During the 1930’s actors were forced to sign long contracts, they were not given breaks and forced to work extremely long hours. Not only did they have to work under these poor conditions it was like their life was signed away to their studios. Under these contract studio basically could tell how to eat, sleep, and breathe. They not only dictated their professional lives but their personal lives as well. The scariest part of it is that most contacts did not have an end date so actors were forced to live under these rules for years. The Screen Actors Guild was formed by six actors Berton Churchill, Charles Miller, Grant Mitchell, Ralph Morgan, Alden Gay, and Kenneth Thomson. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents nearly 200,000 working actors in film, television, industrials, commercials, video games, music videos and other new media. The Guild exists to enhance actors' working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists' rights. Headquartered in Los Angeles, SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Acting in Your Interest Brochure

• This brochure details many aspects of SAG membership, including:
• How the Guild protects your paycheck
• Pension and Health Benefits, including qualifying criteria
• How to get involved with your Guild
• Support programs
• Financial assistance programs
• Supporting other unions
• Affirmative action and diversity
• Democratic participation in SAG
• Young Performer information
• How to reach SAG
• Member benefit programs

Membership in the Guild says that you are an experienced professional who requires certain minimum standards for wages and working conditions (work hours, turnaround, safety, etc.). Guild members agree to work only for producers who have signed a SAG contract. While actors can, of course, negotiate terms above the minimum, by requiring SAG contracts for every SAG member on every job, we can ensure that all actors are fairly compensated for their work. Without Rule One, many actors would be subject to exploitation.
This brochure is for perspective actors who want to become members of the screen actor’s guild. It is also intended to provide information to anyone interested in what the Screen Actors Guild is for the document is very organized explains clearly why being part of the union is important to an actor. This brochure reassures the actor that they are that being a part of the union will help them have a better career. It is encouraging because getting a SAG card is very difficult.

How to get your SAG Card

The double edged sword--You can’t act if you don’t have a SAG card and you can’t get a SAG card unless you act!
Frustrating? Yes I know! Many agents will not employ an actor if they do not have a SAG card and most major casting notices require SAG talent for their projects. This is because they can get fined if they accept non union talent. Also the Screen Actors Guild processes all of the necessary paperwork for an actor to work so it’s easier to hire a union actor then a non union actor. There are several ways you can get your SAG card.

Taft Hartley:

It was created so that non union actors can automatically join the actor’s guild. This is good news! So if a casting director wants to use you in a union project and you are non union they can Taft Hartley you. This means you are automatically qualified to join the union without going through the long process. This does not happen too often but is gold to an actor.

Join thru a sister Union:

If you belong to a sister union and worked a principle role you are eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild. Sister unions include:

• A.F.T.R.A. (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists)

• AGVA (American Guild of Variety Artists)

• AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists)

Just because you belong to a sister union does not mean you are automatically a SAG member. You still have to apply and pay membership fees in order to join.

Other ways to get your SAG card

You can get your SAG Card by working as an extra. If you take this route the goal is to get three vouchers. Sound easy? Well hate to break it to you but that is not the case. There are hundreds of extras who work onset on a production and say that production has one voucher who’s going to get it. It’s like putting a mouse in front of 100 cats they will fight toe and nail for it. Now don’t get me wrong if actors get vouchers everyday and some are lucky enough to get them faster than others but it takes work. But we all know that working hard to get what you want is part of the business and it’s all about networking. Get seen; show those directors your talent and getting your SAG voucher will come easier than you think. Signing up for extra work is easy you can do this on by signing up for casting companies such as my personal favorite LA CASTING.

Being an actor is tough and everyone is not cut out for this business. My rule is this if you can see yourself doing another job that makes you even a little more happy than acting don’t become an actor! You have to love what you do so much that you can’t see yourself doing anything but act. If this is you you’re ready for the business. So remember you cannot be a working actor without a SAG card but the union was created so that when you do you’re not exploited. Good luck on getting your SAG card but remember to BREAK A LEG in your auditions!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sandy Meisner-Best Kept Secret

Meisner Acting Technique

There is a lot of information out there about the Meisner Technique. In LA you will find hundreds of people claiming they are trained in Meisner, schools that teach it and places that charge you thousands of dollars to learn it. The fact is this there are only a few schools that teach the Mesiner Technique correctly. What you will find is that some teachers do not fully grasp the concept and it results in them poorly training thier students. Learning Meisner is a process. People are sometimes too interested in the fast approach to things. They get addicted to "Get rich quick" or "Lose weight fast" schemes and this is no different for actors. The bottom line is this Meisner is about breaking down all your bad habits you learned in your life, stripping them away so that you can finally get truthful in your acting. What people fail to realize is that everyone is different so this process will affect people differently. Schools that don't consider this and choose to train thier students all at once expecting them to grow and learn at the same rate, results in over half of the students not fully knowing what they are doing and not learning the technique correctly. The point of the Meisner technique is to act TRUTHFULLY under imaginary circumstances. Note the word thruthfully. for example If one student is understanding the technique and the second is not but the teacher is forcing them to move on to the next step this result in student #2 not acting truthfully. Of course because most actors are ego drivin and will refuse to admit they don't fully "get it" Student #2 will never fully learn the Meisner Technique correctly. Now imagine that student is now grown up and becomes and teacher of Meisner! You then get 100 more people learning it incorrectly...GET MY DRIFT! This is the majority of schools in LA who claim they know how to teach the Meisner technique. In my opinion Playhouse West is the best school in LA that's teaches the Miesner Technique. Robert Carnegie who worked with Sandy for 15 years at Playhouse still teaches there. It is the only school that has knowledge if the last teachings of Sanford Meisner. I LOVED my time there and would not bethe actor I am today without training there. No one is the master of Meisner except himself but if you want to learn it how he intended actors too you have to be willing to comit to the process. Commitment is the first step and hard work is the next.

Sanford Meisner Technique

Playhouse West

The Playhouse consist of teachers who wokred with Sandy. They were his students and are now passing down his teachings to others. Playhouse West is the best because unlike every other school in LA that charges you thousands of dollars per year to learn what they think is "acting" Playhouse charges around $185 per month. They are considerate to the fact that we are struggling actors and goes to show you that they are not in it for the money they are commited to traning people to be the best actor they can be. My time there changed my life and encourage you to go sit in on a class and see what it is all about. I promise you in the first five minutes you will be ready to join the school. I'm not on here to get you to go to Playhouse I writing because I don't want people to make the same mistake I did. I spent $20,000 on a school that I leaned absolutely NOTHING from! Supposidly one of the top schools in LA (American Musical Dramatic Academy) Now I wll go into details later about this joke but the point is don't waste your time. I wish I would have discovered Playhouse West sooner but I'm glad I finally did. Be prepared to lose all those bad habits you spent years learning when you thought you were a good actor. Trust me you have no clue what doors are about to open from you if you attend this school. You will discover the wonderful world of Sanford Meisner's technique the way he wanted us to learn it. The feeling is priceless and I can't say it enough of how much it changed my life.

Just got done watching Sanford Meisner - Theater's Best Kept Secret (Part 1 - 7)

It was so good I got lost in Sandy Meisners teachings. It made me miss Playhouse West and only confirmed that I need to move back to LA to get back in school. Playhouse was the one place I actually learned. I wish I could have met Sandy and been his student. I have been to so many acting classes and schools and the only one out of all the places I went, thousands of dollars I spent, and time I wasted the only one that I can say helped make me a better actor is Playhouse West in LA. I am so blessed I found that school it changed my life and I can't wait to go back.