I do believe the #2 most asked question any actor is asked (after "What have I seen you in?") is "How do I become an actor?" (Or voiceover actor or model or singer or pro clown or whatever type of performer you might be!) When total strangers hear they are talking with an actor of any level they often want to know more. Even if they themselves don't have any aspirations to be a performer, they have a cousin or brother or hairdresser's BFF's postman that is trying to break into the biz.
I am the queen of staying in my comfort zone.
Sure, that probably sounds funny coming from an actor. But it is true. My entire career is one huge UN-comfort zone so why add any pressure? Or, that is my theory anyway. With so many years of show biz under my belt, I am very, very rarely scared of anything acting-related anymore. (Maybe that gives a little hope to those of you just starting out that still have knobby knees walking into the casting room!)
All that lack of fear is out the door these days...
If you have been following this blog, you may remember that I have a hit webseries called The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. There have been a few times it has been mentioned here. But if you are just tuning in to the saga that is Haunted Sunshine, this blog for Showfax might help catch you up: http://more.showfax.com/plus/pov/2011/09/actors_are_liars.html
So, now for the fear part...
Haunted Sunshine has grown rapidly and is must-see YouTube for thousands of fans. We have gotten into a comfortable rhythm with content and the timing of posting and such. Must be time to shake it up then, right? And, oh how we are shaking it up...
One of the keys elements of Sunshine's success has been the interactivity with her growing fan base. She loves to ask the fan's opinions on all kinds of things. And they love to give her advice. So with that in mind, we will be taking it to the next level. We will be giving even more "power" to the viewers. And THAT scares me! Most of our fans are about 13 years old and write everything like it was a text! "OMG!!! i freakn <3 u 2 peaces!" is a recent (and very common) email! The thought of trusting a girl raging with BeiberFever with my baby (literally since the star of the show is my kid) terrifies me. But it also intrigues me... doing something that has never been done before, changing the face of the game, stepping out on a creative ledge...all that excites me.
Because the actual episodes explaining HOW the audience will be aiding in the Sunshine adventure won't release for another few days, I can't go into too many details. But all this fear has to be channeled somewhere...so writing a blog is a good option! Lets just say...exciting things are coming.
And I am being brave.
photo courtesy of Levy Moroshan, official photographer of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
Recently, I had the chance to sit in on auditions for a hysterical commercial casting a young couple. Because the age range was wide and ethnicity and looks were really of little importance, the director was looking almost exclusively at comedic timing. And which actor and actress had the right type of chemistry. Oh, and "looked like a couple". The client was very insistent that the spot not fall into the typical "hot gal with a doofus guy" that is so prevalent in commercials. And I was so thrilled for that!
There was a recent discussion over on Facebook that got me thinking. The original post was about how one particular voiceover audition had been sent to pretty much every voice agent in the known Universe. So the conclusion was how could one person possibly book the job? (Do you see the irony?)
The discussion went on and on about how frustrated people were with the sheer number of people that now do voiceover. And it is true, anyone with an iphone can call themselves a voice actor. Heck, homeless guys and 14 year old kids are getting "discovered" on YouTube and landing huge national gigs. But many of the comments were of the "I have no shot" variety.
Now, I am the first to admit I am optimistic to a fault. I DO think I will book the voice gig that was sent to every voice agent in the known Universe. But I can appreciate the reality that it is hard to be seen (in this case, HEARD) when there are a million and one other talent also up for the job. Acting is a numbers game, sure.
However, this is a case of ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING.
We can all agree that SOMEONE has to book the gig so why shouldn't it be YOU.
I certainly think it should be ME!
This piece is called "Never Say You Suck" because it is really a companion piece to the post I did recently entitled "Never Say You're Sorry". One of these days I will have to write a blog about what you CAN say...
The last few auditions I have been involved with (both as an actor and as a producer) have had one thing in common: a lot of negative self-talk from the actors.Very LOUD negative self-talk.
An actor gets done with their audition and immediately announces to the room at large: "I can do better". Out loud. They say it OUT LOUD!
An actor walks through the waiting room and announces to all us nervous actors waiting for our turn: "You guys better do better than I just did!"
An actor runs into a friend in the parking lot at casting and says: "I suck".
The #1 lesson learned: show biz people are cool.
And, right after that: There is nothing like getting ready to conquer Hollywood to bring out people's helpful side!
Every person living in LA (or NYC or other major show biz hub) has probably gotten that email from a friend, acquaintance or total stranger at one time or another. The "Hey, I am coming to your fair city to__________ (insert any acting activity). Can you hook me up with ______________ (insert anything from "your agent" to "a place to stay")? And, depending on who is asking and how connected and/or generous you are, you answer either yeah or nay. But you will always be asked!
Being an actor in a smaller market like Portland, Oregon means we all tend to know each other, the agents and casting directors. So when I meet a new actor I am always pleased (and a little surprised!).
This happened earlier this week while at an audition for a non-broadcast training type of project. I was a few minutes early and was just getting ready to go in when a stranger frantically pulled in next to me.
I realized long ago that the most effective way to remind people I am a working actor - "Hey, hey look at me! I act!" - was to consistently have new content to show. And since I can't control when the casting director calls me in, I decided creating my own "constant content" was the best option. I have had a few versions of constant content over the years... a podcast all about acting, videos I produced on my own and posted on my YouTube, this Unscripted blog and more. I even did a series of Facebook "notes" called "One to Watch" where I shouted from the rooftops all about how awesome certain cast and crew were. But the constant content that really proved effective (and fun and super easy to create) was a vlog for actors I called The Lazy Actor (you will need to watch the intro video to know why I called it that!).
The Lazy Actor is a series of videos (over 30 now) that cover all manner of topics related to acting- everything from the basics like audition etiquette and books you must read to how to run your show biz career in 5 minute increments. There are some "live" from set, an interview with a show biz animal trainer and even advice from the red-headed step-child of film : the sound department! There are many more videos in the series and even more ideas I have for future episodes. That is one of the great thing about acting- a whole wide range of topics!
I am of the opinion one should NEVER apologize for their acting.
So often I hear actors apologize for their work. They are at the audition and before the casting director can even hit the "stop" button on the camera, the actor is stuttering about how they lost their place or how they *just* got the script or blah, blah, blah. No excuse is needed (or wanted). Or I am in a voiceover gig and my fellow talent will stop right in the middle of a perfectly good take to say "Sorry, I flubbed that line." Just pick it up, we all know you flubbed the line. We can hear you. Often the apology comes right at the same moment the director or client is trying to say "Great job!". Don't interrupt the praise! Or, the critique. Let the person that hired you make the call of awesome or not. Your job is to just do the work. Not judge the work.
Now, that isn't to say that you can't ask for another take if you feel you can do better or just "didn't feel that one". But ask for it politely without apology.
Sure, say you are sorry if you step on the dog's tail while in the waiting room. Or, heaven forbid, pass gas right as you are trying to slate. (And, in that case, just say "Excuse me!) But never say you are sorry for your acting. Just smile and say thank you.
Oh, the things we learn from each other! A recent hilarious blog from Dominique Toney titled The Funniest/Ruddest Audition not only cracked me up but reminded me of my own "interesting" audition experience early on in my career...
The audition was basically a "go-see" for a training video and had a very straightforward breakdown: "Women 25-35, typical soccer mom, all ethnicity". There were no lines and my agent specifically said "newbies" were welcome. Score!
I arrived and saw a lovely rainbow of actresses already in the waiting room. Asian, African American, Hispanic, Caucasian and everything in between. And every hair color was represented: blondes, brunettes, even a gal with pink streaks in her hair.
The client came out to the waiting room and called in about 30 of us. Two assistants lined us all up along the far wall. Then the client stepped forward and said "We need all minorities to step to this wall." The gorgeous Asian standing next to me sharply sucked in her breath. But she reluctantly stepped to where he was pointing. Now there were about 20 of us on the original wall. The client whispered to his assistant and once again stepped forward to deliver the next request:
"Can we have all the redheads step over here with the minorities please?"
There were 3 of us redheads in the room. The statuesque auburn haired beauty at the end of the line was obviously way braver than me because she immediately laughed and said (loudly) "What?! Redheads are a minority now?"
The client didn't even blink.
"Redheads ARE a Minority."
Needless to say, the client booked a blonde haired, blue eyed, 20 year old 5'9 model. My husband looked more like a "soccer mom" than that gal did.
This story is about an actress named *Meredith. Now, Meredith is a good friend of mine and is totally cool about us talking about her in this way. So don't worry about Meredith. And this story has a happy ending.
Meredith has been acting professionally now for about 15 years. And she has found a moderate amount of success. Or at least she feels successful which is really the defining part, isn't it?
This is an actress that has come a long ways, baby.
And attitude is the driving force.
Portland is so hot right now.
We have not one, not two, but THREE television shows that call Portland home.
We have the hilarious sketch-comedy isn't-it-just-too-accurate Portlandia, the fan-favorite dark and gritty Grimm and the Robin Hood-ish con caper Leverage. All different, all hiring scads of local cast and crew.
But this blog post isn't about how awesome it is to be an actor in Portland right now (and trust me, it IS awesome)...it is about how much I love being on TV. Specifically, on the TNT Original Series Leverage.
And I don't mean that time your ex wrote you were a wanker on Facebook.
A stranger will take the time to go all the way to some site (fan board, Twitter, your own Facebook page) and write out all about how much you suck. Often complete with fragments and misspellings. And likely no punctuation.
Not that I am the Grammar Police... (*Note my own grammatical errors, lack of punctuation and multiple fragmented sentences)
Although my acting career began while still in high school, I am only now in the last few years becoming familiar with the idea of Trolls.
In my simple mind I would have said "No one has time for THAT!".
Silly me. Millions of people have time for it.
But this isn't a blog about the terror that is Trolls. Not really.
Everything about acting is highs and lows.
From your first audition (even if it is to play tree #3 in the 3rd grade rendition of Narnia) to the day you accept your first Oscar, every moment is ripe with emotion. On stage and off. This profession is the ultimate in roller coaster riding. Ironically, I hate roller coasters...
But until you have attempted to successfully crowd fund using a program like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you have not REALLY experienced that I-think-I-may-throw-up intensity that makes every other Oscar speech-moment pale. I can now say I have done it once. And I will never do it again. Too much drama. Said the actor...
You know how when you really, really HATE a show you watch it obsessively? And you analyze every moment? And you go into fan forums and debate and talk about all the nuances and developments? And after that you go back and watch it again? So you have more topics to debate and rant about? All because you HATE that show so, so much?!
You don't do that?
Yeah, me neither.
Because that makes no sense! I don't even do that with television I love. And I love TV, remember? But who has time for that? And why put a ton of energy towards something you despise? That is just against everything I learned in The Secret...
And up until about 8 months ago I would have said NO ONE does that.
But people do. Lots and lots of people.
I jokingly tweeted recently:
"If every wanna-be actor would job-shadow a working (not famous) actor for a week. There would be a whole lot less wanna-be actors."
Think about it...if every person who has ever uttered the phrase "Mama, I want to be an actor!" actually could see what the life of a working actor is- the hurry-up-and-wait, the rejection, the odd hours, the insecurities and unpredictably, the ridiculous amounts of computer work, the sheer agony of it all. Not to mention the amount of raman we eat...
When we were little kids playing dress up and slaying imaginary dragons, we thought THAT was what acting was. In reality, we often wear our own darn clothes (carefully calling it "wardrobe") and the only dragons we slay are the ones in our heads when we feel like we totally suck.
The biggest shock to me (other than the fact that I don't book EVERY job I audition for) is the fact that most of my career is spent behind a computer, not a camera. Seriously. Did any of you realize how much time you would spend updating resumes, editing photos, making contacts, sending invoices, writing blog posts, etc? And in today's acting world- the time suck that is social media? I had no clue.
Many of the actors I have met operate under a scarcity mentality. "There is not enough work for ALL these actors!"
There are the overwhelming feelings of : "This is the LAST audition I will ever have!" or "I am finished in this business before I turn 25". Actors often feel very competitive. Both with other actors and with themselves.
Acting is, admittedly, a feast or famine business. We are on top of the world! We suck. We go on vacation and book three gigs! We don't audition for 6 weeks. We pay all our bills! We eat Top Ramen for weeks.
So, when I say I turn down a paid gig or pass on an audition, it is often met with shocked stares of disbelief.
I am the first to admit, I don't say No very often. And I especially didn't say No very often when I was just starting out. But, sometimes...No is the right answer.
I met a young man last week who, upon hearing I am an actress, said this:
"I want to be an actor! How do I do I get that job?"
"Well, you go down to the ACTORS FOR HIRE store front and turn in an application..." I answered smoothly.
"Excellent! Do they have a Portland branch?"
If only he had been joking, his delivery was spot-on. Unfortunately, he was sincere. He wanted to know where he could go sign up to be an actor.
Oh, don't we all wish it were that easy?
I have a strongly held belief that every actor should, at some point, produce their own projects. The education you get from "doing it all"- the casting, the writing, the hiring of crew, the promoting, the fundraising, on and on, is invaluable. I should know...
Since December of last year I have been producer (and co-star) on a webseries that has yet to make me a dime.
And I wouldn't change a thing.
I mean, don't get me wrong: I would LOVE to make money on this project. And I know it is very close to making a profit. But with the exception of this one tiny details, I have loved every single moment.
Haunted Sunshine Girl is basically Paranormal Activity meets Gilmore Girls. I laid out all the details of how the series came to be in a recent blog post for Showfax. The point of this blog isn't what the show is or isn't...just that I love doing my own projects! And you might too...