Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Pressure

Performing under pressure is not easy, it's a big topic and I'm only going to glancingly touch on it here and in this video. Pressure placed on us from the outside is hard enough. Like a someone on your team saying (well intentioned though it may be), Let's book this one... (as if you were aiming to do something else), but pressure you put on yourself is a unique challenge.

Pressuring ourself, riddling your own thinking with expectations and external goals, is not always fun. The pressure, well, the call comes from inside the house so to speak. How to react, how to respond, how to do our work even when we ourselves are pressuring us to accomplish a result not within our control? The answer may be in the question: the outcome is not in our power to define, even if our work may influence it. So our focus is best used on that which we do control, on doing the work.

Let that which is outside of you be outside of you. Let that which is beyond our power to rigidly decide and control take care of itself. Wishing people and things outside ourselves would bend to our wishes may do many things, but the wish alone doesn't actually bend them. Our task, even when the stakes are high and we really really really want the gig/review/role/accolade/date is not transformed by all the distracting things our own desired outcomes manufacture. Say the words, pursue the objectives, try to make the other characters do what yours wants them to do. Simple doesn't mean easy, but focus, patience and the calm of knowing you will (n a fundamental sense) be ok no matter what happens, may help. Don't forget to breathe, and have some fun while you're at it too.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

You Are Not Stuck

Change is coming, you are not stuck whether or not it feels like it. Often progress in an acting career is not obvious, then one day an opportunity comes that never could have come earlier, and everything for the past weeks/months/years is revealed as having lead up to that opportunity. However, between those flashes of clarity, those outside validations, we may struggle to continue to act in faith.

The work itself, and the process of learning lines, preparing roles and auditioning are our tasks. The world may not grant us what we want, or when we want it. And even as it affects our lives, it is kind of none of our business. Nor is Luck. I've written before about luck, but it is worth reiterating again here: Luck is out of your control. What you do isn't. Focus on what you do.

So take breaks, find stillness, and find a way to avoid bitterness. Our lives include our work, and nothing we do can guarantee what will want will come our way. We can work diligently to stack the deck in our favor, to run our race, but in the end: our professional lives may not be totally under our control. And that's ok. Not only was this always true, it would be true in any other line of work too.

Writer and producer David Milch once said, acting in faith is how to not act in fear, and while he was speaking about life in a general sense, it applies to our work too. Fear has been called the opposite of love, and our work may benefit from loving our characters, our colleagues and ourselves.

If you are frustrated, feel frustrated, if you are angry, feel angry, and if you are feeling down and like nothing can improve, then feel it and also remember it's a feeling not a fact.

Keep doing what makes sense to do, take care of yourself, and those you love. Remember to have fun today, not just tomorrow. Let me know if I can help.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stillness

Sometimes "nothing" is the right thing to do as an actor, acting needs silences. Like a piece of music, with rests, our work is not all big apparent and obvious behavior. Life needs stillness too. Can you be still.

Speech matters, lines are important as is what we do. But also lines are not the be all end all of our work as actors; acting is not recitation and behavior alone. Who we are, our "being" is involved.

Sometimes the right move is not to move. I don't mean just freeze, but on camera just thinking a thought, or feeling a feeling, can be captured by the mics and lenses; the impassive machines will see and hear the things in front of them dispassionately, and we can trust that. We don't always have to feed them; we as actors don't have to exert effort to make ourselves be witnessed between action and cut, to make glass and diaphragms do their task.

I coach actors (please let me know if I can help you) and sometimes our task includes finding how to help the actor let all the externals, the extrinsic motivation (I want the part, I want my work to be well received, I want them to like me, etc.) go, and simply focus. Not always easy to do this, and even more challenging depending how your day/week/month is going. Faith that it will be ok can help. Sometimes it is breathing. Sometimes something else. And sometimes there is not a special tactic, or secret move to make. Sometimes existing is the right thing, the only thing, the main thing.

So breathe, relax, and let a moment happen. Not every instant works because we exert our will on it. In life and work, being engaged with right now, and open to the world, is often the best course to follow.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Acting with Uncertainty

Feeling that we know exactly what is perfect to do as an actor may be a first clue we are missing the mark.

It is worth noting: our work as actors is always meant to have an infusion of doubt, or uncertainty. Those aren't the right words for it, but total control and design is not quite what we're ever meant to do; facing uncertainty with courage has even been called our main task, and with good technique brought to bear we do have more options. That good technique can mean greater mastery of our instrument, but it shoudn't be a substitute for the immediacy of the moment. Work well, have fun; good luck.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Video Game Strike Over Tentatively

Our [SAG-AFTRA's] negotiating committee has reached an agreement to end the strike against 11 video game companies that has been ongoing since October 21, 2016. Accordingly, you are free to resume working for the companies that were struck on all titles effective immediately.
The terms of the tentative agreement...resolved two points of contention we had with the employers: transparency and secondary compensation...it instituted a new bonus structure that provides an additional payment to performers beyond their session fee...[it] expanded information [that will] will empower performers and their representatives to bargain knowledgeably for compensation and to understand the nature of the performance that will be required, both of which have been a challenge for our members in an environment characterized by code names and secrecy.
The National Board will vote on the contract at its October meeting. The new terms take effect upon ratification... members are free to provide covered services pursuant to the expired terms of the prior Interactive Media Agreement with the struck companies effective immediately.

(emphasis added, from We Have Reached a Tentative Agreement to End the Video Game Strike).

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fearful Legal Departments Run Amuck

‪Studios: we're gonna pull our stuff off your service; we don't want you to have too much power.‬

‪Streaming service: ok... I guess we'll make our own stuff.‬

‪Studios: 'cause you're making your own stuff, we're worried you have too much power; we're gonna pull more of our stuff off your service.‬

‪Everyone: 😳‬

‪You really can create your own competition and then lead them to destroy you, if you try.‬

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Diverse Casts Increase Box Office

...the average opening weekend for a film that attracts a diverse audience, often the result of having a diverse cast, is nearly three times on average a film with non-diverse audiences.
...the study notes that at every budget level, a film with a cast that is at least 30% non-white - CAA's definition of a "truly diverse" film - outperforms a release that is not truly diverse in opening weekend box office

(from New CAA study says diverse casting increases box office potential across all budgets). Not surprising, but good to have data to help make the case to investors.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June Gloom Means Good Filming

"June Gloom," is a good chance to take advantage of the natural diffusion and longer daylight that nature provides right now, and film things with your smartphone.
Have good shoots, and share with me what you end up getting shot. Maybe put it on your reel and share it on #DemoReelDay too.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Auditioning Is the Job

Auditioning is the job, being hired the vacation. - #me 🎭 #actors #acting #coaching #actorslife #audition #actingcoach #quotes #inspiration #motivation

A post shared by David August (@davidaugust) on

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Demo Reel Captions on YouTube and Facebook

You should add captions your demo reel on YouTube and put your demo reel on Facebook in a good way. Uploading your demo reel video well is your last mile, your last step, of getting your work where it needs to be. If your demo reel (or showreel if you're from the British Commonwealth) is uploaded well, then it can to lead to good things for your career.

Today I'll focus on YouTube's captions and uploading to Facebook. I can delve into other areas, like demo reel titles and descriptions another time. I can also cover other places, like casting sites, another time if you'd like.

Sidenote: in 5 months you'll want to know how to post your reel on Twitter so you can be a part of the #DemoReelDay event I created and host. #DemoReelDay is a great free chance for actors' work to get seen. Last month's #DemoReelDay, during pilot season, had great success: agents, casting directors, producers, and multi-hyphenates watched our reels, engaged. New friendships, collaborations and fresh connections were forged on the first #DemoReelDay March 29, 2017:

#DemoReelDay hosted by David August in March 2017 had 703 posts, 203 users, 1,157,234 in reach, and 3,646,035 impressions

The next #DemoReelDay is September 13th, during episodic season. On #DemoReelDay, uploading your reel directly to Twitter will make it easier for industry to watch it, and for your reel to be a part of other features like moments. End sidenote.

Today, I'll touch on YouTube captions and uploading your demo reel to your Facebook page.

YouTube takes a little while after uploading a video to make automatic captions, their computers' best guesses. Here's how we make captions work for us:

  1. Correct and replace the automatically generated captions. I used their built-in tool for this.
  2. Watch your demo reel, with the captions on, to make sure they are right. We are helping search algorithms and people who can't hear the video understand it with captions inside the video.
  3. Download and save the .sbv file of your YouTube captions. This file will be useful for uploading elsewhere, like Facebook, and you don't want to lose all your work making them right.

Now to upload it to your Facebook page (not your personal profile, but your fan page). I posted mine in a post like this:

Facebook post of my demo reel on my Facebook page

And here is how we make it work for us:

  1. Upload the same video file you uploaded to YouTube.
  2. Fill out the fields on the basic tab, and add a custom thumbnail. I used the same thumbnail image file I used on YouTube.
    the edit window for a video on a Facebook Page
  3. In the Captions tab, you'll need to upload your captions from step 3 above as a .srt file. Use a website that can covert your .sbv captions file into a .srt captions file. Facebook may complain about your .srt file unless it is named [filename].en_US.srt (I'm assuming your reel is in American English, if it isn't and you want guidance for yours, let me know).
  4. Don't need to do anything with the Advanced or Crossposting tabs.
  5. Watch your demo reel, with the captions on, to make sure everything is right. We are helping people and machines understand your video, and captions will display when people are scrolling through their Facebook feeds, making it immediately more intelligible.

That should put your demo reel on Facebook in a pretty good way. Hope this helps and let me know if you've any questions in the comments, on Twitter, or something like that. Good luck!

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie Business is Healthy

The global box office receipts...in 2016 reached $38.6 billion, an increase of one percent from the previous year. In the United States and Canada, the box office rose two percent [beating inflation] to hit $11.4 billion.
In 2016, more young people and diverse populations went to the movies. Audiences between the ages of 18 and 24 attended an average of 6.5 movies over the course of the year - more than any other age group. Per capita attendance also increased among African American and Asian/Other audiences

(from Global Box Office Remains Strong in 2016, Reaching $38.6 Billion and the MPAA's 2016 Theatrical Market Statistics PDF). Thanks to Aaron Kaiser for mentioning the MPAA's report to me.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Study Your Lines and Be Able to Fast

Peter O'Toole is right about studying lines, and further:

Only when you can say your lines without thinking, almost in your sleep, can you then move past that "mechanical" stage and really ACT. That's what happens when the lines pop naturally into your head as you think and pursue your needs and desire onstage [or on screen], while focusing completely on who you're sharing that stage [or screen] with.
This is what young student actors who think that they can learn their lines at the last minute, and still act well and truly, don't understand until after they've had some years of experience. They think if they know the lines too far in advance they'll become "stale," they'll "peak too early." If you're a true artist, you can't "peak too early" because you know that you can never "peak." You're climbing that mountain from your first read-through of the play on through your final performance - your last "rehearsal" that you share with onlookers.
It's what separates the pros from the amateurs.

(by David Montee, and thanks to my friend Emily Randa for bringing these to my attention).

We know our lines must become natural, usually to the point of not feeling written. A messenger in Shakespeare reading a message is one example where they do not need to feel unwritten, but otherwise our words are meant to feel spontaneous. Hard to imagine doing that without knowing them inside and out, without being a bit more than off book. Thus study, not merely learning.

Our work is not a memorization test; we do more than just recite. Yet, sometimes we are handed lines moments before they must be delivered. There is a story that on the set of Gone with the Wind: sometimes script pages were being rushed from a trailer to set as the shots were being set up. We can't always bask in a lot of time to prepare. Is something lost when we are rushed, possibly. Is being rushed always avoidable, probably not.

To find faster methods of study is one of our tasks. Our working methods must be able to scale in time, as the needs of each project dictate, or even as each moment we are playing demands. At the risk of being to self promoting, I can help you to hone and increase your ways of doing this, and there are many memory techniques (for acting coaching, let me know how I can help). Perhaps we rehearse a fight sequence to be in an open space, and the production loses or changes locations: now it's in a hallway. All the better that you and your scene partners know the fight cold and can adapt moves and spacing. Maybe it's opening night and the playwright re-wrote the entire last third of the play. While it is stronger now, a speed through backstage is all the cast has now before curtain. Either of these scenarios is not ideal, but they have happened and, as other time compression has, they will happen again.

We must face uncertainty with courage in our work, and one of our few defenses against how disorienting and stressful this can be is preparation. Absorbing our lines can be key. I'll finish with an adaptation of what I think started as something the US Marines say, it came to me from a 2nd 2nd assistant director friend and used "planning" instead of "preparation":

The 6 P's of Production:
Proper preparation prevents piss poor product.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

US-China Investment and Production Unclear

‪2 things in today's news cycle suggest the love affair between Chinese and US film industries could be cooling. Many outlets are trumpeting ‬these 2 points (links to an example article of each)

  1. Chinese stars are passing on Hollywood films because they can get good paydays at home
  2. Chinese investment in Hollywood is slowing

Both hitting the news cycle at the same time makes it temping to think it coincidence or actually reflects the industries' cooperation slowing. The reality is less clear and that is the key.

A few key deals falling through is enough to make things unclear. In truth, both those who watch such trends and people involved in the deals themselves are seeing uncertainty. Uncertainty can be corrosive to things, all by itself. While a real Chinese recession is not happening today, fear of any cooling of enthusiasm is real. Not knowing "what's there" can start hampering things all by itself.

Perhaps money and stars may not flow between the countries like they were, perhaps they will keep going or even grow. But worries they may not be as they had been changes things. Investors are often skittish in general, and it is partly their fear being made manifest in this news/social media cycle.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscars Road Closures for the Academy Awards in Hollywood Today

The roads closed in Hollywood today for the Oscars:
map of roads closed around the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, CA
(from PDF from Oscars.org).

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