Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Anyone Can Act(?)

The subject of this post is a much-contended point amongst thespians. I favor the school of "yes, everybody can give it a go." But mostly because those who lean the other way tend to be a bit extreme. I'll here hit the middle ground with, "anyone can act, but not everyone can act well."

As 2010 Runner-Up Best Acting Coach in New York, Jason Bennett, said on that "The Everything Film Show" thing I keep telling people to check out, everybody needs to find their own process. Most people will never have the chops to be the next Denzel or DeNiro, but many people can find additional possibilities within themselves with a strong dose of humility, bravery, and effort.

To be an actor, one has to be willing to embarrass themselves - a lot. Because at the end of the day, the resulting visual is largely out of your control. You have a Director of Photographer (often with multiple cameras coming at you from different angles) catching you in motion, a Director who's framing the overall scene, and about 800 other things going on in terms of working with others on set. Once all that's done, your image is in the hands of an Editor, who can completely make or break a project - and might just opt to leave you on the cutting room floor. Hopefully, if those in the seats that steer know what they're doing, all turns out well. If not, it's your face on screen either way. It's good to be ready to deal with that.

The raw truth is, anyone can try their hand at acting. There are open calls posted in newspapers all the time, and you sometimes even read of leads getting discovered at diners and such through no effort of their own. (For all of the starry-eyed folks, please understand that the chances of getting struck by lightning are statistically far greater.) But there are calls everyday seeking regular people to fill in scenes.

You can always try out or submit an email application when you find opportunities. See a posting? Tell a friend where you're going and check it out. Notice something interesting in the casting sections of Craigslist? Same as above. Mandy is another great, free site that you can use. There are also paid-usage sites available, some of which I patronize, but I'm saving that for another post because, in my honest opinion, you shouldn't really even be considering them until you are already getting work.

Whatever you decide to do, always be skeptical and exercise caution. My first audition, following a brief and relatively unsuccessful stint in modeling, ended up being with an absolute sweetheart with whom I am still in touch with today. My Mom literally accompanied me to the audition (the only time she ever did so), given my age at the time. That all worked out really well, but you really can't be too safe.

This is becoming a long post, but I would also be a jerk not to mention - if you think getting on set as an extra will be your trip to bigger things, please reconsider. There are tons of hard-working actors who have years of experience doing paid, credited, speaking gigs, who also do extra work fairly regularly to keep bills paid (hellooooo, Central Casting!). Some of these same full-time acting folks will resent those without full-time professional aspirations coming on set simply because you are competing for the same work that is keeping their rent paid. It's good to always be mindful and respectful of that fact, and perhaps a point to consider, if you're still sitting on the fence, that perhaps you should look away. The field is very competitive, and when there is real money involved, it becomes much more so quickly. If you're really not sure about whether you really want to do this, I would humbly recommend shooting for unpaid work just for the experience to give those working full-time as actors additional opportunities to keep doing what they love and keep the roof over their heads. Many people who are borderline curious will find out that they simply do not like being on set.

So, back to the point I got started with - literally anybody can be an extra on set if you want to try your hand at acting. In fact, I imagine it's even easier than ever to do so given the number of items that are today posted on the Internet. Every time I'm on set I seem to meet at least one full-time business professional, student or retiree who had always had an interest and just wanted to check things out. If that somebody on the next set happens to be you, be safe and have fun! It is definitely a unique experience.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'll Never Work with Him/Her Again!

I'm going to share a story here that might stretch some of my code as it will include a little bad-mouthing, but there will be no names involved and enough time has passed that these individuals probably won't recognize themself in the work. That being said, you never want to be the person about whom people say, "I will never work with him/her again!!"

I knew I was in trouble on this one shoot when absolutely everybody on set was nice, except the person who cast me. When I went to the make-up artist, his words were, "Girl, you look too much like an Irish princess. You are not getting on camera..." I was completely confused, as that was almost what I was cast for - random Irish clan-type - and they did the costuming. I hoped he was exaggerating.

Later in the day, when we're already behind schedule, it turns out the director and lead had disappeared from set. For about an hour. I'm still not sure what happened or why, but I do know that there was a mini-coups in that period during which about four key crew people mentioned desire to walk off set. After getting through that period, them and more started uttering the "I'll never work with him/her again's".

After an unnecessarily long shoot day, that was further elongated by nobody knowing if we were wrapped or not, I was finally dismissed and made my way home. Not only have I been unable to get in touch with those in charge since this, but even photos that were taken of me in wardrobe have been denied (whereas much of the rest of the cast appears on the actual film site and other social networking platforms). I guess it stinks I fit the type for which they cast me? I'm still scratching my head on this one...

I made a lot of awesome connections at this shoot, so I'm not complaining, but I will now pay more attention when people say, "I will never work with him/her again!" as I now know the feeling.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Be Your Own Best Friend

It was not-so-subtly brought to my attention recently that I have been putting a lot more effort into supporting others' projects that I have my own lately. This at first felt like an insult, but when I thought about it, I realized: they were right.

I've been investing hour upon hour promoting friends' projects, driving to consult here, assisting on that shoot there - and all the while, my own projects were laying largely dormant. This fact was brought home especially hard by an audition request received via my blog - this same blog which I now see hasn't been updated since February. How many stories have been missed? A lot, I know, but how many will I be able to remember and recount now? All of this has been a big wake-up call that I need to invest a little more into my own projects and ambitions to keep this happy momentum moving forward....

Long story short, you should be hearing from me more regularly now. I've been beyond busy - which is a good thing - but I'm also realizing that I need to make more time for me. In a world that is full of a lot more "takers" than "givers," I'm trying to refocus my energies on those who are able to truly appreciate others and give back, while also earnestly working on advancing my own career. Thanks for sticking along for the ride!