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] (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 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

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Antitrust: Entertainment and Telecom Merging

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about our industry mirroring past trends and moving toward antitrust issues. ‬Over 70 years ago, courts decided that movie studios could not own movie theatres, because:

The ownership of everything from the beginning of the production all the way through the final sale to the end consumer (vertical integration) means lots of money and control. Never letting any competition in, or dictating terms to them, can be good for your [the owner's] short term bottom line

(from What's Old Is New Again: Antitrust). And that's bad for everyone, even eventually the owners of the company/companies controlling everything. Innovation and competition tend to improve the options consumers have and improve the health and profits of an industry.

Today, Variety reports, Time Warner shareholders have overwhelmingly voted to approve the media conglomerate's upcoming sale to AT&T. The governmental authorities, both in the US and EU, have not yet given their final approval. However, the deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

We may be working for the phone company soon, at least whenever we're on a TV or film set owned by Warner and its subsidiary companies. The audience may soon get the delightful experience and value-for-their-money they already get from their cell phone or cable company.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Criminal Charges Against 5 Casting Workshops Brought by LA City Attorney

The Los Angeles City Attorney's office has filed criminal misdemeanor charges against the operators of five casting workshops for allegedly charging actors for auditions in violation of the state's Talent Scam Prevention Act of 2009. If convicted, each of the 28 defendants – including 18 local casting directors - could face up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
SAG-AFTRA said it supports the prosecutions and will continue to work with the city. Preying on the hopes and dreams of artists is one of the oldest scams in Hollywood, said Duncan Crabtree Ireland, the union's chief operating officer and general counsel. We thank City Attorney Mike Feuer for enforcing the law and taking action to hold people accountable when they violate the law and take advantage of vulnerable people's dreams. We will continue to work with the City Attorney's Office to help protect our members and future members

(from L.A. City Attorney Busts Five Casting Workshops For Charging For Auditions).

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Direct Deposit Residual Payments

Delivery of residual payments via direct deposit will finally become a reality in 2017. The program will begin with select payment partners and our eventual goal is to offer electronic processing of all residuals. This new service will not only add much-needed efficiency to the financial lives of performers who depend on these payments, but will also be another major step in SAG-AFTRA's eco-friendly green initiative

(emphasis added, from Game-Changing News). This seems like a very good thing.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Bryan Cranston's Advice On Auditioning

You're not going there to get a job, you're going there to present what you do. -Bryan Cranston interviewed at the Oscars

We come, we act, we leave. That is the base template of our work. Casting often factors in and depends on things completely beyond your control and outside your knowledge.

Stay in your lane and run your race; auditions are our chance to do our work, and show it to others. Let them worry about who books.

And I realize how impossible that seems. Our bills getting paid, and our career's growth seems to be wrapped up in who books. I get that it feels like it, but the reality is our success is more tied to how much we turn our focus away from such extrinsic motivation when we do our work, between action and cut and curtain up and curtain down.

Booking is not about us. We do not control that outcome (unless we're the executive producer as well). So when we audition it may as well not exist to us. Do your work, and then go to the beach or something (says the guy who wishes he were at the beach today).

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Friday, January 27, 2017

3D TV Is Not a Thing Anymore

There are no more major TV-makers that make 3D TVs anymore

(from 3d TV is dead). Seems our work will not be soon be seen in 3D at home, unless VR gets in-home traction. Movies may still be coming out in 3D for a while, whether they are shot natively that way or converted in post. The 3D up-charge has a real impact on box office returns, and some stories are well suited or work better in three dimensions. There are some people who like having the spectacle of 3D, and some who don't.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Be Happy Now

Do everything you can to be a happy person, NOW. If you think you can grouse today and then be happy someday in the future, I'm here to tell you, happiness just does not work that way. Putting off happiness until 'someday' ... lasts forever. If you can't be happy where you are, it's a cinch you can't be happy where you ain't.

-Bob Fraser

So please do something today, before you go to sleep, that will make you smile.


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James Cagney on Directors

Direction, I've always held, is implicit in the writing. One doesn't go to the post with a bad script if he can help it. If the script is right, the direction is all there, implicit in the writing. Consequently, whenever I hear much ranting and roaring about this, that, or the other great director, I will admit there are some directors who are imaginative, who can get the most out of their material. Hawks, Wellman, Walsh, Keighley, Curtiz, Del Ruth, Ford and others were all expert and did their job to the fullest. But many directors are just pedestrian workmen, mechanics. Ostensibly they choose camera angels and on occasion they do, but I've often seen cameramen take over when needed. The director would indicate where he wanted it, and quietly the cameraman would indicate to his assistant a spot one good foot off the director's mark. Then the cameraman would turn to me, wink, and walk away.

(from Cagney by Cagney).

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Director's Contract Improved

Members of the Directors Guild of America [DGA] have approved a three-year successor deal on the master contract with a major gain in streaming residuals

(from Directors Guild of America Members Ratify New Contract).

The DGA statement says they gained on SVOD (like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu) residuals, tripling some of them. They also gained on wages, though only rising slightly more than inflation in some cases, and got higher pension contributions.

This is a good thing for actors too: often the guilds end up making comparable gains; producers engage in pattern bargaining. A gain for directors, writers or actors is often possible for the other two guilds to make. Since streaming continues to grow and be a more common way for our work to be seen, there is cause for hope. The SAG-AFTRA negotiations have not yet been publicly announced for our master contract with the AMPTP, which expires June 30, 2017.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dessert First

You don't have a minute. You don't even really have a few seconds. Whatever work you're doing likely only has a moment of the-person-watching-it's attention before they stop paying attention, stop watching, stop listening. Maybe they change the channel, maybe they click their mouse on something else, or maybe they start thinking what will they tell their assistant to order them for lunch, or look at their notes from a different actor's audition earlier in the day. (And while it has been said that actors have won roles with their walk from the wings to center stage [I believe I read that somewhere in Joanna Merlin and Harold Prince's book Auditioning], confidence and the projection of it is probably best in another post. I am talking here about our performances themselves.)

Sure if the audience is in a theatre, watching a play or a movie, then they've probably signed up, committed, to seeing the whole thing, but even then:

Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing

(Sir Ralph Richardson quoted in New York Herald Tribune, May 19, 1946).

What are we to do then as actors? Well if you have any say over a script or an edit, when you can put the good stuff, the one part you'd want someone to see if they only saw one part, at the beginning. And don't save the part you love, the deeper part, the clearer work or whatever it is that excites you for some amorphous time near the climax of the story. You don't always have to make the climax happen, that's more the writer's task.

Instead, perhaps start knowing that is coming. I'm not saving over act. I'm also not delving into a discussion of if the actor's job includes foreshadowing the story throughout act 1 in all cases (which may make for a good post just on that at some point). I am saying don't save the good stuff for a later that may never come. If the audience leaves, or stops watching, your good work may as well have been rehearsal.

Don't assume you get 5 minutes for the YouTube sketch to get to its punchline/good part; an estimated 500 hours of new video is uploaded every minute to YouTube and will show up right next to your work. Don't guess people will watch past the first 4 minutes of the 20 episode Netflix series you're working on; win over the viewer fast or the viewer will choose something else like either what Netflix is spending $6 billion (with a 'b') this year to make themselves or spending additional money to license from other places and putting a mouse click away from your work.

Narratively you cannot, a likely should not, try to put the climax at the top if it doesn't fit. Yet even in Chekhov's Three Sisters, a play partly about stagnation, he opens with the line it's a year ago that Father died, May fifth, on your birthday, Irina. We know and can have feelings about much of what is going on: the speaker is one of the sisters, another one of her sisters is Irina and its her birthday which is a complicated anniversary since its shared with their dad's death. It took more words to type than Olga uses and it likely still engages an audience interested in experiencing a family drama, just as it has for over 115 years on stage and on screen. This script lets an audience immediately get family drama, the treat they want if they are interested in a family story. The performer speaking that line ideally will be speaking already as Olga, not waiting to warm up into it even if the audience already agreed to sit through the whole show; the performer serves dessert first.

Rob Long articulated this idea of Dessert First over 5 years ago and his words still ring true:

The audience won't wait. They're hungry now...when you're trying to get people to do something, or to pay attention to something, or to just sit still for a moment, don't serve them appetizers first. Serve them dessert; dessert first, fun stuff first, sweet stuff up front. Start passing out the treats the moment it starts. Ask yourself, if you're a writer [or an actor], "at the top of the show, the top of the scene, is the audience getting dessert first?" Because if they're not, someone, serving it up a thumb push away

(from Martini Shot: Dessert First on KCRW, November 9, 2011).

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