acting tips

9 Blockbuster Films Breaking Gender Norms

Gender equality in Hollywood (as well as everything else) has been an important issue for 2018, and while the results haven’t been as clear-cut as many would like, there have been some notable changes.

For one, more and more movies are not shying away from having a female lead, finally no longer afraid of the myth that the majority of moviegoing audiences are men who want to see men lead a film.

But just as important as the quantity of female-driven films is the types of films women are starring in. More and more action films, as well as comedy, horror, thriller, and other genre movies, are starring women when typically they would star men. Having broader, more diverse types of films and protagonists is incredibly important for providing audiences, especially girls and young women looking for cinematic role models, and the following films have been shown woman can be just as successful in typically male-driven movies, if not more.

Star Wars

The new Star Wars trilogy has put Daisy Ridley’s Rey front and center, the first prominent female Jedi in the 40+ year old live action franchise. The filmmakers of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have also avoided sexualizing the character in a way many women leads tend to be in Hollywood films, which is fine — after all the series is foremost made for younger audiences.

Rey isn’t the only female Star Wars protagonist to hit theatres since Disney took over the series in 2012. Rogue One, the first one-off “Star Wars Story” to get a theatrical release, stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, an outlaw loner who eventually devotes herself to a larger Rebellion.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a smash success from the start, winning over audiences of all genders and ages when she was given her own starring vehicle in 2017. The Amazonian princess wasn’t a damsel in distress but the hero of her own film, and performed the same mind-bending acts and explosive stunts as any male action hero would be expected to.

Notably, the film was also directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, another unfortunate rarity for blockbuster films that will hopefully be remedied soon. Both Jenkins and Gadot will return for the film’s sequel, Wonder Woman 1994, out next year.

Captain Marvel

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has released twenty films in the last ten years, and not a single one of them have a female superhero as its lead. That will finally change next year, with the 21st installment of the MCU — Captain Marvel. Academy Award Winner Brie Larson has been tapped to play the space-faring superhero, who has been said by Marvel to be the most powerful character in the fictional universe.

Shortly after the release of Captain Marvel, which will take place in the 1990s and co-star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Larson will return as the character in a key role for Avengers 4.

Untitled Terminator Reboot

Another Terminator in the film is in the works, following 2015’s Terminator: Genisys. Like some of the previous films, this new iteration will once again star female action icon Sarah Connor, played for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2 by Linda Hamilton.

Just as exciting is the casting of Mackenzie Davis as co-lead, rumored to possibly be playing the newest iteration of a Terminator robot. Davis has previously starred in Tully, Halt and Catch Fire, and Black Mirror episode San Junipero.

Dora the Explorer

Dora the Explorer, a live-action feature based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series, is currently filming, and will starring Isabela Moner in the title role. Moner previously starred in Instant Family and Transformers: The Last Knight.

The film was very important for younger girls as well as girls of color looking for a positive role model in Hollywood films. Unlike most of the other films on this list, Dora the Explorer will be appropriate viewing for all ages.

Halloween (2018)

The latest sequel/version of the classic Michael Myers slasher film had a very successful theatrical run this October, and was notable for having three generations of women as its leads. Myers faced off against original lead Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as her character Laurie Strode’s daughter and granddaughter.

The film wasn’t just a success for female-driven films but also women of a certain age — another issue Hollywood has struggled mightily with — with this version of the spooky story now the highest-grossing debut for a horror movie with a female lead over 55 in history.

Mulan

Disney has been making live action remakes of their most popular animated films for a few years now, but Mulan will be the first with an action-oriented female lead. Even more importantly, the studio searched far and wide for the perfect casting, and avoided any controversial “white-washing” of the role of Mulan, a Chinese folk hero. The part eventually went to Yifei Liu, a Chinese star surely soon to be an international movie star.

8 Tips for Actors Looking for an Agent

Among many other duties and responsibilities, talent agents have the important function to book and connect their clients to roles and auditions. While being proactive comes with the territory, there’s a wide variety of personalities and strategies in the field. Ideally, you’ll find the agent that best suits your needs and own personality as an actor, but at the end of the day you’ll at the very least want anyone who can get you in the room.

So how do you find an agent? The major talent agencies have their largest offices in Los Angeles and New York, so if you’re aiming for the top, these cities might be the best place for you to start out.

  1. If you are registered on IMDbPro, you will be able to find names of agencies, as well as their client lists. From there, you can figure out which agency best fits you and prioritze your first, second, and third choices, all down the line. You should make a long list – settling for your tenth choice isn’t rare at all.
  2. Many international actors prefer bicoastal agencies or already work alongside an agent from their home country.Even if this doesn’t apply to you, being open to expanding your network can prove advantageous.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask around! If you’re acting, you’ll be working with other actors who might have experience or even some connections with agencies you are interested in. If you’re just starting out and attending acting school you can ask your fellow students. Some may already be signed with agents. Others may already be elbow-deep in their own research and you can compare your notes.
  4. Be prepared! Know exactly how you will present yourself if you do get a meeting with an agent, because there’s a chance they might book one with you immediately after receiving your submission. So don’t reach out to an agency until you know you’re ready to meet with them!
  5. Get your headshots in order — not just the right poses and looks, but also a proper resume of your credits to go along with it. You will want to look professional — most agencies won’t want to bother with people they feel are too inexperienced in the industry or don’t know what they’re doing. If you’re on a tight budget, try finding an eager photography student from photography school and let them practice their craft for a discount or pro bono rate!
  6. Even better than a list of credits would be your demo reel. Make a highlight video of your work so far. Agents will want to know what your presence is on camera. While NYFA teaches acting students the importance and basics of putting together a demo reel, you can also enlist the help of amateur editors or editing school students at low cost — or more professional editors, if you’re willing to spend the money. At the very least, try to use three scenes that best showcase your range and abilities. If you haven’t garnered much screen time yet, talk to filmmaking school students and audition for as many student films and short films as you can!
  7. Follow up! Agents and their offices are often very busy and may not even address every submission they receive. If you haven’t heard back after a couple weeks, follow up and send a quick reminder, asking if they received your submission yet or if they have any other questions or need more information from you. Don’t be afraid to invite agents to a show, screening, or event of yours. They may be impressed with your confidence and who knows — might even show up.
  8. Keep your chin up! It’s perfectly normal for most actors just starting out to be without an agent. Don’t feel dejected if you’ve been ignored or rejected numerous times. Stay active and most importantly, build your career by meeting people and networking as much you can. Keep adding to your resume to build experience, credits, and better footage for your demo reel. Sooner or later, you may just find the agent perfect for you.

4 Essential Poses for Actor Headshots

Every actor needs headshots, and often it’s a good idea to have more than one look or pose. But which poses?

Headshot
When getting your headshots done, it is very important to be aware of your everyday look, your “types” for future auditions, and the goal behind getting these photos taken in the first place. Headshots can be expensive, but they’re worth every penny if you get them done right.

First and foremost, make sure you sleep well the night before your photo shoot, and make sure you arrive early enough to be fully relaxed and ready to shine!

Headshot

Poses will vary depending on what you want to play and the career you are targeting. But the following essentials are some go-to poses that may help you get more auditions:

  1. A smiling pose: It is key that you genuinely smile for at least one of your poses. If smiling doesn’t come naturally to you, make yourself as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If it helps you to lean casually against a wall, or stand on your toes, do it! And remember: smile with your entire body!
  2. An everyday pose: Usually when someone tells you to “act casual” you struggle to do anything but. However your casual, everyday pose — the look you might have if someone saw you lost in thought or reading your phone — says a lot about you and your screen presence.
  3. An emotional pose: Explore what you know is your most challenging emotion. Treat your photo session as it’s an audition, or even a scene, and don’t hold back. Feel free to be vulnerable, loud, and truthful. Even if you don’t think this will play well for photo stills, there’s a very good chance a talented photographer will capture a few perfect moments for you. Get intimate with the lens.
  4. A neutral pose: A neutral pose is what it sounds like — a resting, unemotional look. You might think this is the same as your everyday look, but for most people, the two poses can be very different. Unlike your everyday pose, which is you out of your own head and acting naturally, a neutral pose usually means you’ll need to actively contort your muscles and cancel any emotions on your face. Become a blank slate that casting directors can fill with their own ideas for the role. Remember: neutral doesn’t mean natural!

Headshot

There are countless expressions that fall on the spectrum between these poses (and many  that are completely out-of-the-box.) Explore them all, practice in the mirror until your face is numb and you’re sick of looking at your face. The work will pay off and soon acting for your headshot photographer may just turn into acting for a film or stage director!

If you’re interested in taking classes at NYFA’s acting school you can find more information here.

What Life as a Swing, Understudy, or Standby is Like

In theatre, we have what we call: a swing, an understudy and a standby. Three distinct, respected functions. There can a handful of these actors in the same shows for the lead roles, depending on the budget and the roles’ physical demand. Knowing that Broadway shows run eight times a week, it is very important that someone will be able to rock that stage no matter what.

In major Broadway productions, you can usually find performers hired to learn the track (the choreography and lines of a particular role) and ready to jump in at any point during the show if needed.

Backstage 2

A swing wears at least two hats. They can “swing” between two parts in the same show. Lots of ensemble members right now on Broadway are swings to one of the lead roles and perform an ensemble track on a regular basis. Some are ensemble members and can be noted as swing to one of the major lead parts.

An understudy learns the track for when the primary performer is absent. Usually, if the said name is famous, another big name can be called as an understudy for that specific replacement. They are then aware in advance when they will perform.

A standby, literally, is always ready to go on at any time. For example, in the first act, you may applaud one lead but applaud a different performer for the same role in the second act. If a standby isn’t there for such an occasion, the production can ask a swing. A standby has to be backstage at all time, warmed up, made up, and costume-ready so that the show can move on smoothly if the original actor cannot perform their role.

Backstage

It is important to know that after the previews, all shows are “frozen,” which means that the blocking and choreography are locked. Therefore, each performer who learn each track must be very thorough and respect the writer, director and creator’s visions, not deviating from what has been locked.

Each of these jobs are crucial to the theatre industry — just as crucial as the primary leads and no swing, understudy, or standby is less talented whatsoever. Many will go through months of long auditions and are cast on the same criteria as the leads.

The beauty of a company is that initially, everyone knows the track of one another. There are of course official swings, understudies, and standbys though. The quality on stage is delivered to its best no matter who performs.

Playing Yourself vs. Method Acting

Method acting — the art of turning completely into your character while playing a scene — is a tried and true, well, method, for acting in a scene. But it’s not the only way an actor can choose to perform their role. Many actors will stay consciously in their own head for the bulk of a performance, reciting their lines in a careful manner or incorporating their own personality into the character on the page.

None of these philosophies are wrong — they are merely different approaches for a complex, artistic craft.

There is a famous anecdote from the set of Marathon Man, the 70s thriller starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman, a method actor, had told his co-star that he had stayed up for three days straight so that he could inhabit the role his character, who had also been up for three days.

“My dear boy,” Olivier said to Hoffman, “why don’t you just try acting?” The film and theatre giant was making light of the method process — one in which an actor “becomes” their character on an emotional, and often physical, level.

In the end, it comes down to your training and your preferences on how you want to perform a role. But playing yourself can be a productive practice for many actors. Of course, like any great art, it’s easier said than done.

How can you play yourself, then? By always learning everyday who you are, what you like and dislike, and bringing it to your work instinctively. Playing yourself with total control and being able to enter and exit the part quickly may take years to fully master. You should never forget that your craft is work but also fun. The desire to tell a story truly and faithfully is a worthy goal but one that should leave lasting harm on your own well-being. Here are three techniques that can help you play yourself, as opposed to method acting:

Learn Who You Are

Many roles on screen or on stage often represent the everyday person. Their truth on stage is waited by an audience that can relate very specifically to these characters. Many examples of actors we know have gotten stronger over their careers from simply living their personal lives and then bringing that experience to their work.

Paul Newman is a great example. After struggling to play certain parts, he realized that by just being himself he would get more attention. Speaking in his regular voice and bringing his own qualities to each part, his career soared. Along the way, he gained confidence in the craft and a true mastery of using his emotional life in each role he played.

Actor Acting


Control Yourself

We know all too well of tragic endings to some of our favorite stars, many of them occurring very early in their lives and careers. Often, these actors had troubles stemming from many reasons, some of which related to the emotional intensity of their craft.

That is why it is so important for actors to learn control of themselves. Being able to leave the character at work and not bring it home with you is vitally important. Actors can learn practices that help them “drop in then drop out” of their roles. They can condition themselves and learn to look out for triggers, and understand how to deal with them properly in a way that is safe.

Have Fun!

Acting is hard work, but that doesn’t it can’t be enjoyable — fun, even. By learning to appreciate your gifts, you’ll become more relaxed and more comfortable in a role. You’ll be more you. Your instruments (body and voice) should be your best buddies.

A fine understanding of them both will make you more grounded and therefore present.  

Find a routine that works best for you, and step by step you will learn to react instinctively to specific situations. Breathing is an amazing tool one should master as they learn to perform. Even if your character is going through a very intense moment, you don’t have to be.

Method acting is just that — one method to performing a scene in a particular way. There are always methods, and learning as many as you can make you a well-rounded performer. Playing yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. But by learning to detach yourself from the circumstances of the scene and then live your life fully is healthy for the body, mind, and soul. Make Sir Olivier proud!

Learn more about New York Film Academy’s acting for film program, or if you’re ready to take the next step, apply here.

Actor Acting

How To Transition from Screen Acting to Stage Acting

 

To the untrained eye, acting is acting, regardless of where it takes place or who is present; which is to say that one might assume an incredibly successful and talented screen actor would be just as good on stage as they are on film. For those of us whom have either trained in acting or have firsthand industry experience, however – especially those who’ve attempted to make the transition from screen to stage – know this is definitely not the case. There are quite a few notable differences in both arenas, so if you’re thinking of transitioning from screen to stage, you’ll want to consider the following:

Body Language

When it comes to acting on screen, an actor needs to focus a significant amount of energy on the camera than the average person might think. Unlike an audience full of theatre-goers, the camera will focus on the most microscopic and intricate expressions, including something as minute as an eyebrow twitch or a slightly clenched jaw. For this reason, the actor must always be conscious of where the camera is positioned and perform in accordance to how it will look on screen, paying particular attention to their own face and eyes.

When you communicate emotion on stage, however, you use your entire body and voice. Vocal projection and inflection is of utmost importance, so that even the audience members sitting all the way in the back row can not only hear but understand everything you’re saying.

Similarly, using your entire body to translate even the smallest emotion is a critical element of every stage actor’s repertoire. Physical movement needs to practically be exaggerated – even something as simple as standing needs some attention to detail. The actor needs to be conscious of every physical detail to project the most obvious import.

For example, if a character is meek and timid, in a scene that requires dialogue, a stage actor might hunch, twiddle their thumbs, or perhaps turn their toes inward for a slight pigeon-toed stance — common idiosyncrasies observed in those with similar personality traits. And yet they still need to speak loudly enough for the audience to hear them! Seeing as a loud voice may not coincide with those personality traits, this is essentially why body language is so critical in conveying the right message.

In contrast, a screen actor doesn’t need to focus as much on larger gestures (unless required in a particular shot) but instead relay as much of those character quirks in more subtle expressions and verbal delivery. As such, if the screen actor’s power of emotional expression lies more in the face and eyes, the stage actor’s is in the body and voice.

Teamwork Vs Me-work

The emphasis on teamwork and trust among the actor and the director is somewhat multiplied on film, as film is primarily the territory of the director. So unless the actor is also a producer or a huge box-office name with enough pull in the industry to call the shots, the director is generally the one who decides how a scene is played. That’s not to say the actor doesn’t have any control over their own performance, but the director may choose to shoot a single scene several times, directing the actor to perform each take with slight changes, later choosing which take best belies their vision.

Because of this to-and-fro for each scene, screen actors need to be as adaptable and cooperative as they are talented in their own craft. In addition, film actors need the ability to work quickly to put together a scene that will then exist forever, whereas stage actors may rehearse for months to nail a performance that lasts only as long as the show’s running, for a much smaller audience.

 

Add to this the fact that this theatre audience is a live one, so that stage actors can rarely make mistakes. A poor performance on screen can be mitigated by editing, film score, etc. – a luxury stage actors don’t really have. As prominent director of The Actors, Conor McPherson tells The Guardian, “in the theatre, there is nowhere to hide. If your performance is bad or lazy, you stick out like a sore thumb.”

Because of this, McPherson also points out the accountability stage actors have on delivering a good or bad performance and inversely, the flexibility they have in character exploration. Screen actors are required to always deliver their developed character from moment to moment through scenes shot in random order with minimal rehearsal time, while stage actors have a lot more freedom to explore their character as the show plays out through its run.

Preparation

Directing
It may seem obvious, but the importance of rehearsal for a stage actorit cannot be emphasized enough. If you’ve only ever been trained to act on camera, the first thing to do when transitioning into stage acting is to prepare to rehearse.

Unlike acting on screen, where forgetting your lines can be a minor hiccup that’s rectified in seconds with multiple copies of the script at arm’s length, forgetting your lines on stage can be disastrous. Stage actors are required to memorize an enormous amount of dialogue spanning the entirety of the play, which is a feat in itself. But then to have to perform it in front of an audience, night after night with the same amount of emotion and energy throughout can be exhausting.

Not to mention a live audience will inevitably cause unexpected interruptions that can easily disrupt an actor’s flow. So as the trusty old adage goes, the best defense is a solid offense: preparation is key. Being quick on your feet will come in handy (excuse the pun!) when those unexpected interruptions occur, so stage actors will commonly partake in improv classes or similar activities to build tools that can deal with such unpredictabilities. Additionally, investing in a vocal coach is an absolute must for theatre.

 

In the end, it comes down to personal preference for an actor. Some thrive on stage, others on screen – some can bounce between the two without blinking an eye. But you won’t know what’s best for you or what you have a passion unless you try both — and hopefully the advice above will help you navigate between screen and stage. Break a leg!

Interested in attending acting school programs? Check out more information on the New York Film Academy here!

 

Why YouTube is an Actor’s Best Friend

In our fast-paced world, actors have to find new ways of marketing themselves to agents, casting directors, their audience, and everyone in between. It used to be that actors were discovered on stages, on the street, or in cafes — but these days, more and more talented actors are being found on YouTube. Using this platform has a lot of great benefits for aspiring actors, giving them a chance to garner positive attention from influencers while minimizing their expenses. Here are some reasons why you should consider using YouTube to promote yourself:

YouTube

A YouTube Channel Means Exposure

Actors dream of being discovered by a major producer or director, because this means having a chance to leap onto the big screen. You can increase your chances of being discovered by having a YouTube channel because this platform gives you high levels of exposure to the entire world, all at once. Additionally, all sorts of people use YouTube, giving you not just a huge audience, but a diverse one.
Your options are endless as an actor on YouTube. You can create a vlog, comedy sketches, dramatic monologues, or anything else that you find interest. Just remember that the content of your channel has to be of a certain quality, in one way or another, if you really want to get noticed.

YouTube is free!

Many people have a misconception of actors being wealthy divas or rich playboys; however, most actors are living hand-to-mouth in expensive cities such as Los Angeles and New York, working hard to get auditions and callbacks. YouTube is completely free; you do not have to pay this company to upload your videos onto their platform. And whenever a working actor can find something for free, they should take advantage of it!

Creative Freedom

YouTube is the perfect place to exercise your creativity and bring your most ambitious projects to life. And the best thing about it is that you are in charge every step of the way. YouTube gives you total control over the creative process, and you choose to shoot and edit your videos any way you see fit. And if you want someone to create content for you, you can go here and create a custom writing login.

So, if you are seeking to express yourself on a free and open platform, and bring to life your best artistic agents, YouTube is the place for you! Take advantage of the creative freedom the internet offers!

YouTube

Virtual Casting

Another way YouTube can help actors is by serving as a type of casting agency where you can upload your demo reels for all to see. This is very practical, because casting agents search for new talent everywhere, including YouTube. Due to the site’s high traffic, it makes for an excellent tool for you to market yourself to producers and directors.

Interact with Other Actors

Obviously, you won’t be the only actor on YouTube. Like you, thousands of other actors are looking to be noticed and land gigs as a result. YouTube presents you with an opportunity to work with these other actors by making videos and promoting one another’s work, thereby increasing your chances of making it to the big show. Turn your rivals into collaborators!

You Can Monetize Your Channel

If your channel becomes popular with a YouTube audience, it’s possible to generate income from all the views, likes, and shares your video gets. While advertising isn’t a reliable way to make money unless you’re one of the biggest, most viral stars on the net, you can also end up getting influencer deals or start a Patreon and earn support from your most ardent fans.

YouTube is your gateway to success!
YouTube

If all of this still seems implausible, just think about celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kate Upton, and Alex Tanney. They uploaded their work to YouTube, got exposure, went viral, and now they are industry titans. You’ve got to start somewhere!

Written by Emily Watts

Tips on Finding the Perfect Monologue

by NYFA Instructor Denis McCourt, MFA

So you’re taking an acting class, have a general audition, or just want to hone your craft, and are looking for the perfect monologue. The search is really a three pronged approach:

What type of monologue are you looking for?

As you begin your quest for the words you will spend a large amount of time and energy working on, first, it is best to consider what you are trying to accomplish.

In the world of monologues, you have many broad categories — contemporary-comedy, contemporary-dramatic, classical-comedy, classical-dramatic … and even more broadly, plays versus film/television/online-content (web series).

If you are intending to work on a monologue in an acting class, you should select one from a play. These words have been written to be performed live by an actor on stage. That idea might sound obvious, yet many actors use film and television for their source material. That great dramatic monologue you saw in the latest blockbuster film has music, sound, camera angles, lighting, reaction shots and editing (just to name a few elements) to help make that overall dramatic or funny impact for the audience — plus, you will be perpetually compared to that Oscar-winning performance.  

When you find material written to be performed on the stage, it will fare better in your acting class and/or general audition. So, if you have now bought into the idea of plays, you have narrowed your content down from hundreds of thousands to only a few thousand possibilities.

How do you find your connection or hear your voice in the monologue?

This next step is very important in your quest for the perfect monologue.

Let’s say you want to expand the work you are doing in your acting class. You are very funny, which everyone around you reinforces in your work, so now you want to explore your more dramatic skills. One of the hardest concepts about acting that everyone struggles with is the idea of “connection,” or “your voice.” The best way to define this for you is to look back over your lifetime and ask questions.

In the years that you have been on this earth, what has mattered to you? Where did you grow up? Are you a member of the LGBTQ+ community? What cultural and gender identity speaks to you? Are you involved in any social issues or causes? Do you feel drawn to victims’ rights, or religious beliefs? Are you an animal rights advocate? Were you raised on a farm or in the city? In sharing these questions, and by you answering them, you begin to feel a connection and find your voice.

The next step would be for you to find a playwright that shares your connection and voice. If, as in our example, you have already decided that you want to work on a dramatic monologue, the exclusion of comedic writers has narrowed your search from thousands down to hundreds. And if you know you’d like to focus on a woman’s point of view, you have now narrowed that down even further.

The good news is that you are now looking for writers that share your voice and perspective, and once you find them there will be a body of work for you to tap into for source material.

I would strongly encourage you to become an avid reader of plays. In your quest for the perfect monologue, you can also develop your skills as a cold reader by reading the plays out loud –honing yet another skill you will need as an actor!

Where do I begin to look to find the perfect monologue?

Let’s face it: acting is already hard enough as it is to do the work well, and in your career you will sometimes be asked to work on material that is not that great if not bad. If you are paid to do it and are at that stage of your career, you will do it. But when developing your craft, the suggestion is to ride a thoroughbred.

What do I mean by that? If you find the best material, it will help you develop the skills you are working on developing. So, how do I find the best material that matches my voice? Although many are looking for that “golden monologue book written just for you,” you need to know that such a thing does not exist.

Most published monologue books are not good source material, because they are not attached to any story or character development — they are random words written for the purpose of actors, like you, in search of the perfect monologue. And, like you, there are thousands of actors buying that book and working on that same monologue which every casting professional and acting coach has heard over and over and over again. So, all of your efforts are thrown out the window as soon as they hear the first sentence because their inner monologue is; oh, no, not this one again.

So, if you get anything from this article, don’t buy the monologue book.

If you put a little more effort into the quest, it will pay off for you in spades. So, where should you look to find this thoroughbred? There is another three pronged approach: check out theatre awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and go see live theatre.

  • Theatre Awards:

If a writer has won or been nominated for a Tony Award or an Olivier Award, the material is a thoroughbred. When an actor has been nominated for or won a Tony Award or an Olivier Award the material is a thoroughbred. Here is the link to the Tony Award past winners.

If you go to that site, it lists not only the winners but the nominees as well, since the inception of the awards. All of this is great source material. You then can even target playwrights that write about content you are searching for in your perfect monologue. You can even target famous actors that you have been following that are “your type.”

You will find this a very rich resource of great material. Plus, you have narrowed down your material from thousands to hundreds or less.

  • Pulitzer Prize for Drama:

This award is a very high benchmark for playwrights, and exploring the winners will provide you with an international selection of original voices of today and years past.

The site not only shares the winners, but also provides you with all of the finalists in any given year. You will see that this list will share some great thoroughbred possibilities in your quest, though you will most likely see some duplicates between the Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize sites.

  • Live Theatre:

As you can probably guess, live theatrical plays are the best source material for finding the perfect monologue.

If you go see lots of plays, you will find material you will want to work on. The great thing about plays is that they are done all over the place.

You can spend big money and go see major New York and/or Los Angeles productions. You can go to great regional theatres in Chicago, Minneapolis or Atlanta. Or you can go to the many local professional and/or community theatres in cities and towns around the world. Other great resources are colleges and universities.

By seeing actors working on the craft you are developing, you will learn. Even if it is the worst performance you have ever seen, you will be hearing the words of the monologues spoken out loud in the context of the story and character arc.

If you see many plays, especially stories that appeal to you, your chances of finding that monologue increases. You have now narrowed the search from hundreds of thousands down to a few hundred or less and you have some practical steps to make in your quest to find the perfect monologue.

Ready to learn more about acting and deepen your craft? Check out the New York Film Academy’s Acting School offerings.

 

How to Make the Most of a Part with Minimal Lines

Every aspiring actor dreams of one day playing the lead roles. But whether you went through an excellent acting school or spontaneously gave it a shot, you’ll usually have to start at the bottom to reach the top. This means taking on small roles where, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to say some lines.

1. Remember that small parts are still important!

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Before you even show up to an audition or start practicing your lines, it’s good to keep one thing fresh in your mind: every part matters. And whether you have one line or one thousand, it’s important to do your work and know your part inside and out.

You don’t have look far to find A-list stars who began with bit parts, knocked it out of the park, and slowly worked their way up to build a strong reputation as a professional artist. For example, Robin William and Tom Hanks, two of the best ever to grace our industry, played various minor roles (both of them on “Happy Days”) before making it big.

Even as a day player, delivering excellent craftsmanship and making a good impression on set is always an actor’s first and foremost priority. Remember, any role can lead to future roles.

2. Prepare for the role.

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A big mistake many burgeoning actors make when given a “small” role is thinking it’ll be a piece of cake. Since they’re only reading one or two lines, they don’t take it as seriously as they should and fail to prepare. Whether you’re saying one line or many, a good actor always does the work to make sure their character has originality and depth.

Needless to say, you should definitely arrive to the job able to play your handful of lines without looking at the script.

3. Show up knowing you’re not the star.

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It’s easy to get excited about any role, but remember that although you did all your homework and are completely wrapped up in your character’s backstory, you’re there to collaborate. You will be supporting the work of the entire crew and fellow performers, including the stars. So forget about impressing the director, or worse of all, ditching the script to say your own lines. The last thing you want to do is put your ego first: do a great job, know your work, and support the story. That’s the surest way to make a great impression, after all.

4. Don’t ruin an opportunity.

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A minor role is a good way to sharpen up your skills and improve your own work ethic while showing you’ve got what it takes to create success in the industry. Small parts are a part of building a career, and it’s important to take them seriously. As actress Laura Cayouette, author of “Know Small Parts,” puts it: “One reason small parts are a big deal to me is that I make a living playing them.”

No matter how minor your role is, your work is an opportunity to not only strengthen your own professionalism, but to build relationships. Show gratitude for the opportunity by playing your role well, sure, but also by showing professionalism in how you handle yourself off-camera. This is your opportunity to build a reputation as being an actor everyone wants to work with. Don’t be the one slowing things down or giving the crew headaches.

5. Be present and connect.

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Every actor approaches their work differently. Some will want to connect and chat in between takes, some will want to remain in their process. One of the best ways to connect with other characters in your scene is respecting your fellow actors when the camera isn’t rolling, whether that means carving out space for yourself to do your necessary preparation or whether that means breaking the ice socially.

Either way, it’s important to make an effort to be respectful and acknowledge not just your fellow actors, but everyone you interact with throughout the project’s process — from the casting director to the crew. Listen to instructions and incorporate new ideas or directions when requested. Note that people who get called for another role in the future may have not been the “best” actors — rather, they were more enjoyable to work with and showed they can have good chemistry with others, functioning well in the environment of the set.

6. Give it your all.

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There’s a big difference between trying your best and, as we’ve already covered, overdoing it. Your work is not about your ego, so let those worries fade and focus on your craft. In fact, you’re less likely to get the part in the first place unless you truly commit during a reading and transform into the character. Even if it wasn’t the role you initially wanted, showing passion and enthusiasm both on and off the set can make a lasting impression and generate more gigs down the line.

What are your favorite tactics for developing your work in “small” roles? Let us know in the comments below! And study acting for film at the New York Film Academy.

 

5 Tips for Creating Character Relationships

Ok, so you’ve done the work: memorized your lines backwards and forwards, filled notebooks with your thoughts and backstory, answered the key questions “who am I and what do I want?” and have a good handle on the circumstances of the character before the scene begins, and you’re ready to hit the set with your authentic character.

But wait! Have you thought about the circumstances in the scene itself and the effect other characters and performances might have on your character’s situation? In the fast-paced world of film and television, the first day of shooting may find you in bed with a stranger – so strong choices must also be flexible choices. Here are a few tips from the experts about creating robust yet supple character choices that will lend truth to your performance, even in high-pressure situations.

1. Put Your Objective in Context

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“What do I want?” is one of Stanislavski’s questions to ask when approaching a scene.

Adding another dimension, ask yourself “How does my character want to make the other character feel?” We rarely walk around narrating our inner emotional life. Speech is an action and it most often emerges from what we want from a situation or person.

In thinking about your character’s objective, also think about the character playing opposite and their relationship to that objective: your needs from your lover are probably not the same as from your boss. Character relationship colors what you want and how you go about getting it.

2. Prepare to be Moved

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“Sanford Meisner On Acting” is one of the top recommended books to read if you plan on pursuing acting as a profession. “Never come into a scene empty” is perhaps its mantra, and in order to follow this advice, preparation is necessary. But preparation must be both strong and malleable so that choices can be made or confirmed in the moment. An actor must prepare a specific inner life for her character that then is moved and affected by the inner life of other actors’ performances – performances that may emerge spontaneously and must be reacted to instinctively.   

3. Use Your Imagination

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As Cathy Haase elaborates in her book Acting for Film, there is no such thing as a character without relationships. Some character relationships are “primal,” relating to familial bonds, while others are determined by the social hierarchy of the world he or she inhabits. When imagining a character’s inner life, add the spice of imagining their status with the other characters to understand how your character’s position and power (or lack of it) affects your choice of actions on a given line or phrase.

4. Get Involved

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Once on set, it is vital that you get out of your own head and involve yourself with the people around you. You must see your character and the characters inhabited by other actors as living human beings who have inner lives of their own. In his book “Irreverent Acting,” Eric Morris offers exercises to help you see what is in front of you — to see your fellow actors as if for the first time. This kind of active and curious seeing keeps your responses from being stiff, and your expressions from being glazed over by your own preoccupations.

5. Pay attention

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As this past NYFA Student Resources article suggests, focus and concentration are key to creating convincing characterizations. It is vital that you pay attention to what’s going on around you as well as to what’s going on inside you. Listening to your scene partner will not only keep you out of your sabotaging head, but it will help you deliver a performance that feels spontaneous and truthful.

How do you create living, breathing character relationships? Let us know in the comments below!

Actors: When to Voice an Opinion

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Actors are arguably one of the most important visible elements in the theater or on screen. As a primary collaborator in the art of visual storytelling, the question of when and how to assert an opinion or suggestion is vital to the work of the actor and can make the difference between being seen as an asset or a liability by the production team.  

Depending on who you’re working with, collaboration and can be joyous and inspired or nearly impossible, and it’s always very important to find the most professional and respectful way to voice any opinion. Whether you’re struggling to communicate with a director or you’re in an environment that welcomes input, there’s a right way and a wrong way to assert yourself on set or in rehearsal.

The following are a few simple tips to consider the next time you want to share a thought or two with the production team. Finding the proper etiquette can work wonders in creating a positive working environment and resolving conflict.

Show, Don’t Tell

Most actor input is made via acting choices. Stella Adler famously said, “The talent is in the choice,” so if you have a suggestion about your role, try to incorporate that into your performance as early as the audition process to give the production team a sense of your individual take on the character or role. In addition, ask yourself whether you need permission to go with a choice since, in most cases, the most efficient way to communicate with a director is to show them what you’re thinking. Explanations can often be time consuming and murky. Just do it. If they hate the choice, they’ll let you know.

Make Sure You’re Informed

 

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The first step to being a strong collaborator is investing in the big picture. Actors who not only understand their role but the overall plot, theme, style, and atmosphere of a project are respected and valuable collaborators. Jay Roach, the director for “Dinner With Schmucks,” says of Steve Carrell, “Most actors give you two or three usable takes out of 10, but with Steve eight out of ten are great, each in a different way, each playing off decisions he made in an earlier scene or is going to make later. He has the extremely rare ability to run the entire movie in his head. And it’s probably a better movie than the one I’m going to make.”

 

As an actor, your responsibility is to analyze the script so you completely understand the character and how its creators want to see them performed. Writers and directors are counting on you to be an expert on your character and the function of that character in the overall story. You’ll find your ideas and opinions are received with more weight when you can demonstrate a full understanding of the script, including what the character truly represents in relation to the entire project.

It’s All in the Timing

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Being able to discuss common ground with your fellow creators shows them that you’ve not only formed a strong foundation for the character, but also that you respect everyone’s time and work and have the project’s best interests at heart — but sometimes it’s just not the right time to make a suggestion.

If the production is running behind on time, tempers are high, another actor just made a suggestion, or the shooting or rehearsal sequence is complicated, your idea may not be welcome no matter how solid your analysis has been. Before contributing, pause and make sure your input will be constructive and useful. A good rule of thumb is: does it need to be said, do I need to say it, and do I need to say it right now. Knowing when to stay silent or waiting for a better opportunity or idea is as important as making the right suggestion.

Pay Attention to the Approach

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There’s nothing worse than developing the reputation of being difficult on set or in a rehearsal room, so it’s extremely important to take the temperature of your collaborators and working environment and your place inside of that. Leads or stars are often also producers on a project and their position allows for a higher level of input than a day player or extra.

Before voicing your opinion, think carefully — especially if you know your idea may overstep your authority with a fellow actor, crew member, etc. Sharing a good idea can sometimes prove very beneficial to the entire production, but don’t earn a reputation as an actor who slows production or “thinks out loud” to the detriment of those around them.

And always, always make sure to play the positive. There’s a big difference between saying, “I have an idea I’d like to try with this line,” and, “This line is terrible and needs to be changed.” To maintain a healthy relationship with your fellow actors and crew, be sure to express your opinion in a way that’s sensitive to their point of view.

Weight the Risk vs Benefit

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With all this in mind, you don’t want to run the risk of always withholding your ideas out of fear of reprisal. If you’ve got a solid, well-timed idea that will work in the production’s favor, the risk you take may be well worth it in the end.  Many productions value and encourage brave actors and actresses who are willing to speak up and share ideas and input. And sometimes, when the actor ditches the script and goes with their gut feeling like Harrison Ford did when his Han Solo responded to Princess Leia’s “I love you” with “I know,” the moment becomes iconic and enters film history.

Have you had a positive experience in voicing an opinion on set or on stage? Let us know in the comments below!

4 Seth Rogen Quotes Aspiring Artists Should Live By

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Seth Rogen might be your spirit animal if you’re an aspiring actor who enjoys making people laugh. Before the numerous awards and nominations, he was only a teenager performing stand-up comedy at small clubs and bar mitzvahs. Then he was starring successful films like “Knocked Up” and “Superbad.” Maybe — just maybe — aspiring artists could learn a thing or two by taking a page out of his playbook.

During an evening screening of “Sausage Party” hosted by NYFA Los Angeles, Rogen offered several nuggets of wisdom that all future filmmakers, actors, writers, and producers should heed. Whether you’re worried about finding a job after graduation or have trouble dealing with rejection, find solace in knowing that Seth Rogen faced the same and still followed his dreams.

Check out some of the exclusive insights Rogen offered to our audience of NYFA students.

1. On artistic collaboration and building a career: “Link up with someone who has a job you can’t do.”

Like in most other industries, finding success in show business is almost impossible when you go at it alone. There are few things more important than networking to start building relationships and getting your name out there. If it wasn’t for his early collaborations with Judd Apatow, perhaps Seth Rogen wouldn’t have found the same success he has today.

Of course, the best people to stick with are those who have different talents than you. If you’re a strong actor but have no directing or scriptwriting skills, partner up with someone who does. There are plenty of aspiring filmmakers out there who love working the camera but freeze up in front of it. That’s where you come in to star in their pilot — that will hopefully be greenlight by a big film studio.

2. On confidence and surviving rejection in the biz: “Just never stop. F-’em. That’s the idea, I guess.”

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Never give up. It’s the theme we love seeing in our favorite shows, movies, and even video games. Of course, not everyone comes out of the starting gate with confidence oozing from every pore. And those who do are often crushed when they face cold, hard rejection for the first time.

Imagine if Seth Rogen had given up when “Freaks and Geeks” — which served as his professional acting debut — was cancelled after one season due to terrible ratings. He was then rejected by NBC when Apatow chose him as the lead for his next show “Undeclared.” Despite all this, he kept going and was determined to make it … and make it, he did.

3. On being inspired to do your own thing: “Oh wow, movies could be so much more than I thought they could be. It was one of the most shocking things I ever – I could not believe what I was seeing.”

During his talk with us, Seth Rogen spoke about some of the films that moved him while growing up. Aside from his love for Pixar movies, which is one of the reasons he made “Sausage Party,” he also enjoyed raunchy comedy films. Among his favorites include “South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut” and “There’s Something About Mary.”

Don’t be afraid to find inspiration from other great works, but be mindful that you tell your own stories. Strive to be unique. There’s nothing more satisfying than giving viewers something fresh and enjoying their response. Do your own thing and take risks, even if you end up needing a bodyguard for your work like Seth Rogen. 

4. If he had to give advice to his 13-year-old self: “I wouldn’t say anything just in case I (screwed) it up man. As a fan of time-travel movies,  I know that that would change things. So I would hide and just try not to sit on anything or step on anything that would adversely affect the future version of me. That’s what I would do. And I would kill baby Hitler.”

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As expected, Seth Rogen had us laughing all evening during his stay with us at NYFA Los Angeles. And even in his hilarious time-travel-phobia, there is wisdom; you can’t change the past, and maybe it’s better that way. Don’t waste time with regret or what might have been. All successful actors and filmmakers learn from their mistakes and failures in order to come back better than before. Despite plenty of challenges — including needing 10 years to find someone that would finance “Sausage Party” — Seth Rogen wouldn’t change a thing.

And neither would we.

6 Lessons On-Screen Mothers Have Taught us About Acting

6 Lessons On-Screen Mothers Have Taught us About Acting

Angelina Jolie, Susan Sarandon, Mo’Nique, Essie Davis, Jodie Foster, and Meryl Streep — all mothers — teach us all a little something about acting.

Mothers: we salute you.

You’ve cooked us countless meals. You’ve put up with our laundry-strewn bedroom floors. You’ve been a shoulder to cry on when we got snubbed by that crush we were infatuated with in high school. But, ultimately, you’ve helped nurture and encourage the next generation of filmmaking talent and for that you deserve unending praise.

And so, in tribute to mothers everywhere, today we’re paying homage to six cinematic mothers who have taught us all a little something about acting over the years.

Presenting…

1. Angelina Jolie – The Changeling

What We Learned: Motherhood isn’t a character trait

With stunning cinematography and a tight script reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby, The Changeling sees Jolie’s character distraught to find her nine year-old son missing. But on being reunited, things go from bad to worse; when she adamantly declares that the boy isn’t actually her son, authorities conspire to brand her psychotic.

From start to finish, the audience is locked into an emotional rollercoaster and herein lies the key to Angelina’s impressive performance: motherhood isn’t just a line on her character spec sheet. Even though it’s central to her story arc, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of her character – under the umbrella of motherhood, she runs the gamut of emotion. At times she’s broken and in despair; at others she’s fierce and strong. Depending on the situation the plot finds her in, she’s nurturing, sexy, divisive, hopeful, frustrated, joyful and desperate…

… in short, she acts as a real person would in real situations. The fact that she has a child is purely circumstantial.

Read more: The importance of subtext

2. Susan Sarandon – Stepmom

What we learned: It’s okay to play to type

While keeping Jolie’s lesson in mind for how to play a multi-dimensional mom character, there’s also no shame in playing that character often if it’s something you are terrific at.

Susan Sarandon is proof of this, and despite having played a mother figure in numerous movies, no two of her performances are alike as she ekes out and embellishes the role in different ways as the script demands.

Stepmom is a classic example – just make sure you have a handkerchief at the ready.

Read more: How to find your type as an actor

3. Mo’Nique – Precious

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What we learned: It’s not all sunshine and roses

 When you think of on-screen moms, usually the first image that springs to mind is one of a domestic housewife living in marital bliss.

But of course, art imitates life, warts and all. That means some performances call for a frighteningly abusive relationship between parent and child, and nobody captured the darkness with more authenticity than Mo’Nique and her on-screen daughter Gabourey Sibide in Precious.

Some characters are more monstrous than others, and parents are no exception. As actors, it’s important to give it our all in order to bring that character to life no matter whether it calls for domestic happiness or terrifying dysfunction.

4. Essie Davis – The Babadook

What We Learned: A duty of care

So terrifying and demented was Essie Davis’ performance as a slowly-unraveling mother (and the entire movie in general) that many viewers were left wondering how the crew didn’t mentally scar 6 year-old actor Noah Wiseman for real.

Director Jennifer Kent, however, took great pains to make sure that Wiseman’s welfare was at the forefront of production. The child’s mother was on set at all times in what was described as a ”very protective, loving environment” and Wiseman himself wasn’t present during more traumatic scenes with an adult extra taking his place: “During the reverse shots where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie [Davis] yell at an adult stand-in on his knees. I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film – that wouldn’t be fair.”

Ultimately, no matter whether we’re directing a film, in acting school or performing opposite a very young actor, we all have a duty of care to understand that great cinema doesn’t need to come at the expense of a child’s well-being.

Read more: 5 performances by child actors we can all learn from

5. Jodie Foster – Panic Room

What We Learned: Not all on-screen bonds are purely fictional

David Fincher’s 2002 thriller worked on many levels, but it was arguably the close bond between the mother and daughter characters which propelled the drama and kept the film emotionally grounded.

And the reason it worked so well is that the bond was real – Jodie was deeply nurturing of her 10 year-old costar Kristen Stewart, who in turn looked up to the acting veteran (Foster was also responsible for having the script changed to make her on-screen daughter a tougher character.)

To this day the pair remain close, with Foster calling Stewart “my other daughter” and Stewart having honored Foster while receiving her Walk of Fame star.

And on a similar (if a lot darker) vein…

6. Meryl Streep – Mamma Mia!

What We Learned: We draw from the strong women around us

The ultimate Mother’s Day movie, and one which sees Meryl Streep performing at her finest (though really, when is she not?).

While her filmography is as varied as it is extensive, Streep is no stranger to performing as an on-screen mother and her career is loosely typified as being one that exudes feminine strength, of which Mamma Mia! is a good example.

And perhaps a lot of her acting prowess is rooted in her close bond with her real-life maternal figures – Streep drew extensively from both her mom and grandmother’s experiences to as a career mother and war survivor respectively for her celebrated roles in Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.

And the inspiration may even run deeper than that. Of her highly encouraging mother, Streep says: “She was a mentor because she said to me, ‘Meryl, you’re capable… If you’re lazy, you’re not going to get it done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.’”

Amen to that.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those that continue to inspire us, as well as those who are sadly no longer with us.

The Acting Advice They DON’T Tell You…

When Dustin Hoffman was on set for Marathon Man, one scene in particular called for his character to appear as if he suffered from extreme exhaustion. To simulate this, Hoffman stayed up for three days straight… to which costar Laurence Olivier responded, “My dear boy, have you tried acting?”

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It may or may not be rooted in fact, but it’s an excellent anecdote nonetheless.

Of course, it was okay for Olivier to dispense such pithy advice – he was one of the greatest actors of our time – but it’s not always as easy for the rest of us (or, perhaps, Dustin Hoffman).

With the spirit of the late, great Laurence Olivier in mind, here’s the best acting advice you very rarely hear.

Know What the Hell is Going On

An actor’s job is to follow cues and give a strong performance as required by both the script and the director. That’s your base duty; you’re not going to gain any extra points or commendation for fulfilling this.

Want to become the apple in the eye of every director, cinematographer and camera guy you work with?

Know your technical stuff. All of it.

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It’s one thing to hit all your marks every time and never fluff a line, but it’s another to be conscious (and conscientious) of everyone on set, the technical limitations they’re working with, and what they’re trying to achieve.

Know what lenses that guy is working with, and what that means for you in the frame. Know the lingo the director is yelling to the sound technician so he or she doesn’t have to take time out to relay it to you in simpler language. Be ready and able to converse with the writers, editors and producers at their level; be on the same page as everyone, rather than the lemon standing in the corner waiting for someone to shout ‘action’.

Getting this comfortable on set is a big undertaking and will almost certainly require a spell at film and acting school, but it’ll pay dividends. They’ll love you for it.

Take Music Lessons

What’s that? You don’t want to do musicals on Broadway?

It doesn’t matter.

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Even if you have no intentions whatsoever of singing a single note, you should check in with a tutor. We’re not saying that you have to spend weeks studying the craft – even just a few rudimentary lessons will do – but being able to apply a knowledge of cadence and tonality can add an extra level to your ability to read lines.

Picking up a brand new creative skill in performance arts can also do wonders for your confidence, so consider finding a singing tutor or even taking some piano lessons and getting some musical theory under your belt.

Controversy Sells

Sad but true: the most talked about and ‘sellable’ people in the entertainment industry (both in music and film) are the ones who know how to cause speculation and/or outrage.

If you want to raise your profile and aren’t precious about your reputation, go full tilt on every performance you give.

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Even if you don’t want to play it dangerous with your role (possibly if you sense the director won’t have any of it), that doesn’t mean you can’t be controversial elsewhere. Eccentric interviewees make for viral-worthy material, and outlandish sound bites make it easier for journalists and bloggers to write headlines about you.

Remember, however, that it’s a volatile game to play. There’s a big difference between fame and infamy.

Pretend to Be Confident

The majority, if not all, actors are human beings too. As such, performance anxiety or feelings of not being good enough are common.

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The secret to overcoming such moments and gaining a confidence boost? Simply pretend to be confident – psychologically speaking there’s absolutely no difference between assumed confidence and genuine confidence, and an actor has all the skills they need to pretend.

Lastly, Enjoy the Ride

Most acting advice revolves around how to better your craft and, by extension, your career. Quite often, we forget to count our blessings.

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Your acting career may not be quite where you want it, but nobody’s ever is. Conversely, there are an extraordinary amount of people who’d kill to be at your level and doing the things you do.

All the world’s a stage. Never forget this, and enjoy the ride.

Survival Jobs For Actors

Author: Lance Carter, Actor & Owner of DailyActor.com

Uber

Let’s face it, at some point in our career most of us are going to need some type of survival job. Acting isn’t the most stable of careers, everyone knows that, and having a job during those down times is crucial.

But, it’s also about having something flexible where we can take off at a moments notice. That’s key.

Here in LA, one of the new survival job trends is driving for ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft. It makes sense because you can make your own schedule. Often, our agent lets us know the night before an audition and getting any kind of shift covered is a true hassle. With Uber, you don’t need to do any of that… you just don’t clock in. I’ve got a handful of friends doing this and they love it. And they’re making some good money as well.

I’ve been acting professionally for years and I’ve had a side job for most of them. I was lucky enough to work in my Dad’s company early on, which I absolutely recommend if you’re an actor! I could take off any time I wanted for auditions and when I booked a role. It was fantastic. Unfortunately, when I moved out to LA to try my hand at a bigger market, that option was no longer available. I’d been a waiter before and hated it, so with my knowledge of computers, I started to do freelance IT work. After a couple of months, I was doing really well and could set my own hours for auditions and classes. Eventually, I created Daily Actor, a website for actors and that’s helped even more.

One cool thing I’m able to do with the website is interview working actors. I love asking them how they got to where they are today and one of my favorite questions to ask is about the jobs they’ve had while on their road to stardom.

Here are a few of my favorites:

John Krasinski (The Office): John was a waiter when he was starting out. “I think I was a lot like any other actor in New York, I had credits because, you know I’d work, you know lunches during the week, and then on a Wednesday would go be lucky enough to be in a movie like Kinsey and go shoot for a day and come back. So, it was one of those things where I definitely was lucky enough to have a few jobs and few commercials.” He went on to say that even though he was booking jobs, it wasn’t “anything that would allow me to claim that I was a working actor and didn’t need another job.”

Allison Tolman (FX’s Fargo): Right before Allison got her breakthrough part on Fargo, she “got a job at a photography studio, a pinups photography studio in Chicago, as their post-production manager,” she told me. “I was in charge of all of the photos going out and being approved and being mailed to the right places, etc.”

Brian Geraghty (Boardwalk Empire, Flight): “I catered in New York as a caterer at all the museums and that was tough. I mean, it was fun, once I switched over to bartending and have a little more control. I’ve obviously waited tables. I taught surfing in Santa Monica. I was a personal trainer at New York Sports Club. I worked at a video store, kind of a specialty video store, when we still had VHS cassettes. Kinda switching over right when I got out of theatre school in 1998. I washed windows, I did a lot of different stuff.”

Jenn Lyon (Saint George, Justified): “I have worked in ice cream shops, grocery stores, I’ve been a baker. I made pizza in Central Park for a company called Pizza Moto on a giant wood fired oven,” she said. Even after booking a handful of guest star roles and lots of theatre work, she finally started making her living as a full time actor last year. “I’ve just always had a day job always.”

Survival jobs… a necessary evil but we – the collective acting “we” – we’ve all had them.

13 Tips On Surviving In The Acting Industry

Author: Lynda Goodfriend, Chair, Acting Department, New York Film Academy Los Angeles

New York Film Academy Acting School Los Angeles

There are literally thousands of actors in Hollywood trying to “make it.” According to union statistics, approximately 80% of all actors in SAG-AFTRA are out of work at any given time.

So what do you do while you are waiting to become part of that 20%?

1. Get a job
You need to survive physically and mentally. You must be able to buy food, pay for rent, car and gas expenses, and have the “business of life” taken care of in order to have the freedom to pursue a creative career. No casting director wants to hire a desperate actor. If you come into your audition with the hope that this job will pay for your overdue rent so you won’t get evicted- well, they will see that fear and desperation, and you are not somebody they want to hire.

2. Find out what makes you different
What do you do that is unique? What makes you special? One director I know said he likes actors with a lot of skills, so that he knows what he can have them do in a scene: play drums, basketball, twirl baton, do impressions, do handstands, etc. Not that you don’t also have to act, but this opens up the potential for casting you in a role–especially for commercials.

3. Get an Agent
You really do need one. Sometimes a manager can get you initial casting interviews, but it is best to have an agent. (Managers cannot legally negotiate a job.) If you don’t have any or many professional credits, you will probably start with a smaller agency.

Sign with one who is reputable (check with SAG) and needs somebody in your category. I always feel it is better to sign with an agent and try them out for 4-6 months, and if you feel they are not helping your career move forward, then try somebody else. It is usually easier to get the second agent, since somebody has already taken a chance on you.

4. Don’t wait for your agent to get you a job
An agent I know said, “We get 10% of your salary, and you get 90%. So you should do 90% of the work.” Do everything you can to get work through friends, online casting sites, plays, and/or student films. The more you are working for you, the more your agent is willing to work for you.

5. Have a great headshot and a great demo reel- update them often
These are your number one tools. The headshot gives a casting director their first impression of you- the look, the way you do your hair, even the quality of the photo you have chosen to represent you. In my opinion, if you are going to spend money on your career, spend it on a great headshot. You usually do get what you pay for. The other important tool- your demo reel should be up to date, and have your best work in the first 30 seconds.

If you are not getting a lot of responses, change your headshot. A new look might be just the thing to get the interest of a particular casting director.

6. Keep skills sharp and develop new skills
Go to class. Just like athletes who need to train and keep in shape for competition, actors need to workout and keep their acting muscles in shape.
You also need to keep developing skills that make you more castable: dancing, singing, martial arts, playing a musical instrument or a sport. The more you know, the more you can work.

7. Work for Free
Don’t’ miss an opportunity to work. Many unpaid jobs are rewarded with future jobs and relationships that help you get future work. Work breeds work. And it’s a great ‘free’ acting class.

8. Stay healthy
You can’t be ready to work if you are unhealthy- that goes for emotional as well as physical health. Work out, do yoga, meditate, stay in good shape. Acting takes physical and mental tolls on you and you need to have stamina for the long haul, mentally and physically. Do activities that help relieve the stress of pursuing an acting career.

9. See work that inspires you
See as much of other actors’ work as you can. Watch films: contemporary and classical. See plays. Know the work of other actors- see how high the bar is.

10. Be prepared
Be prepared to perform at any time. Have a couple of great monologues in your back pocket- comedy and drama. (See Denis McCourt’s article, “Oh No! Not Another Article About Audition Monologues”). Always carry pictures and resumes (stapled together) in your car. Have a business card printed with your headshot and contact info in your wallet.

11. Don’t be late
Ever. Never. To a job or an audition. People don’t like it when you waste their time. The expression in the Industry is “15 minutes early is on time.”

12. Don’t complain
Don’t complain, nobody is listening. If you want a job that provides security, do something else. Only be in this business because you can’t live NOT being in it.

13. Don’t quit
Self-explanatory. Don’t quit. Never, ever. There is an old saying “Out of every 3 actors, one will make it. Not because of Talent or Looks, but because the other two give up.” This is very true, but multiply that by thousands. One in every thousand perhaps has the persistence and dedication to keep at it. Just hang in there- the next job is just around the corner. In the meantime, go to class, go take a hike, go learn to play violin. It’s all in the name of Acting.