Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Fear and Suffering
Are a part of life, not life entirely, even if it occasionally feels like they are. Painful things happen, and so do great things. Sometimes what you fear is what you should avoid, sometimes your fear is exactly coming from the direction you need to go to change your life for the better. Learning the difference is the hard part. Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.
Ken Berry's Advice for Actors
Friday, October 19, 2012
Where to Live in Los Angeles as an Actor Moving to LA
Many friends moving to LA have asked for some advice on where to look for a place, where to live in LA as an actor. Specific ideas on places to live when you are planning to move to Los Angeles will vary based on your situation. I wrote my first draft of this for a friend moving to LA and it may be useful for other people making the move to "Hollywood" or anyone already in LA who has friends or family preparing to make the move. For this post I'll use "LA" and "Los Angeles" to refer to both LA City and LA County (the county contains the City of LA as well as many other cities and municipalities too). Here is my very general overview of where an actor can live in LA:
Depends a lot on personal preference. Unlike many other American cities, Los Angeles doesn't have one focal point for business and population. There is a downtown, but people can live their whole lives here and never go downtown.
Auditions can happen all over. In Hollywood, the Westside, the Valley, on any of the studio lots and various offices throughout many different parts of the city, county and neighboring counties. Most are likely near (in no particular order) Santa Monica, Studio City, Hollywood, Burbank, West Hollywood, Universal City, Beverly Hills, North Hollywood and others.
Unlike Chicago, with the bulk of theaters in either 60657 or on Randolph, and the bulk of auditions in the Near West (like at O'Connor Casting) or Near North (like at Paskal Rudnicke Casting and Simon Casting) and also unlike New York, with the bulk of theatres in Midtown/Theatre District, and castings mainly in that middle of Manhattan, LA has no one single "center" that will be where an actor goes to a lot.
Beverly Hills is nice but pricey, as is much of the west side. The westside of LA has a more prestigious reputation than other parts of LA and tends to be more status conscious. Some people believe living in the San Fernando valley is living in a low status way. Hollywood has a fancy name but you may pay a small premium for a place that has, and needs, bars on the windows and razor wire on the top of its fences. Though there are some great places in Hollywood too. North Hollywood may cost less than Sherman Oaks, Studio City or Burbank, but is also less secure.
How comfortable you are driving a lot, and being near castings or near a studio lot may appeal to you and has to be factored in. You can always ask the closest police station how safe one area is compared to another, and I've found they know down to the block. Do not call 911 for this, stop by in person and ask the desk sergeant or other officer/s on duty. The feel and vibe you seek may be something you'll have to visit to know if you'll like it. Best option is to visit, drive a round and get a feel for each area. Happy house/apartment hunting.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Coalition of the Eager
The Coalition of the Eager may live nearby or far away. They may live a life much like yours or very different. The one common element of the Coalition of the Eager is they like your work, and they want there to be more of it. They want to experience more of it.
Maybe your online video gives them a much needed escape from a stressful or disappointing day. Or makes their commute less boring. Maybe they have their first date with the love of their life at your movie. Or your work makes them not hate the movie they were dragged to see. Perhaps they are brought joy, understanding, diversion, poignance, passion and pathos from your work. Maybe they feel more connected and less lonely. Maybe it just made them laugh.
Maybe they have suffered great loss, the world seems to be falling apart around them, everything they have known is changing and your work on TV gives stability, constancy that gives them hope, a light at the end of a dark the tunnel. Maybe they just look forward to your show during a boring workday. Maybe your work makes the information they wanted easier to get, easier to understand.
Maybe the logic of the stories of our work is counterpoint to a random world where in real life bad things can happen to good people without reason. Our work is a worthy, noble undertaking. Anyone who says otherwise is not in your Coalition of the Eager.
There are 3 groups of people who are in your audience, in fact in the world:
- People who dislike what you do professionally, and possibly what you are, and do, in all of your life. The Coalition of the Haters.
- People who enjoy your work when they see it, but don't seek it out. The Coalition of the Willing.
- People who adore your work, and quite possibly you; your fans. The Coalition of the Eager.
The sales world refers to making strangers into friends, and friends into customers. This is makes it tempting to think of everyone as being able to move toward being a promoter of you and your work, toward being in the Coalition of the Eager. Keep in mind 2 things:
- Not every person will ever be a big fan of your work or you. Some people cannot be won over no matter what you do. That's ok.
- Worrying about haters is not useful. Don't feed the trolls, meaning don't engage and give fuel to haters, online or off.
People can, and will, move from one group to another, preferably toward the Coalition of the Eager.
The use of social networks follows the 90–9–1 principle:
- 1% of people create content and deeply engage
- 9% occasionally create or modify content
- 90% view the content without contributing or visibly interacting
Your Coalition of the Eager are a corollary to that 1%. Many of your Coalition of the Eager will watch but you will never know beyond the ratings, research, box office, sales or crowd past the footlights. Not all fans send fan mail.
Your fans, your Coalition of the Eager, are very nice to have. Not just practically because they buy tickets to projects you are in, and support you and your work. The Coalition of the Eager are the people for whom you do your work. Be nice to them. They are your core audience, and the most likely to be moved, entertained, amused, touched and engaged with your performances. They are present, they are eager.
It can be a growing core audience that can help build, sustain and transition a career in great ways. Your team (agents, managers, publicists, and such) should be in the Coalition of the Eager. If they aren't, look into it. Your family ideally is. If they are not, it is worth building yourself a blind-spot to insulate yourself from them in this regard. Your significant other likely is in your Coalition of the Eager. And if they aren't, look into it.
The Coalition of the Eager has connected and wants to connect with our work again. Let them. They are the people we do this for. And if we work on recorded mediums and are lucky, we may be able to do this for people after we are gone. We may do this for people who are not yet born.It is worth understanding who your Coalition of the Eager is, what resonates with them and how they communicate. If your core fans, your Coalition of the Eager, don't have accounts on a certain social network, then announcing your appearances on that network may not work. If they all speak one language, and you announce your work in another, they may not understand or show up.
Even if all of your promotion and communication with the audience is done by other people, like your publicist or a show's producer, your audience is still your audience, and if you neglect them, they may return the favor. This is not suggesting that you make every business or artistic decision based on thinking what does the Coalition of the Eager want. But the logistics of entertainment, having the audience encounter the work, happens better if you notice where they are and how they discover your work. If your audience learned about you from your work on a specific TV network in a specific geographic area, mentioning that to the producers or publicists may be good. Especially if you notice the network hasn't been told about your current project.
No one cares about you or your career as much as you do. Make it easy for everyone else who does care to support you. They are already eager to, and performing without an audience isn't performing, it's rehearsal.
Monday, October 15, 2012
As I have touched on before, figuring out a dead end is in fact a dead end can be done in one of 2 ways:
- using foresight, learned from study, insight, or the lessons of hindsight, recognize a dead end at a distance, and do not go towards it.
- run into it, often painfully, and a full speed. Also known as the braille method; you smack into the dead end.
The first is decidedly better than the second. It may not be possible to see all dead ends and blind alleys in advance of finding oneself at or in one. However, it is worth considering, before starting anything, whether or not it is heading to a dead end, or even off a cliff. I am speaking metaphorically.
A dead end may be somewhat obvious like:
- a rep that loses or misplaces contract documents,
- a theatre that bounces paychecks to actors,
- an addiction to drugs or alcohol (though that is more a cliff),
or may be more subtle, like hearing someone mention that a certain type of marketing material is now all the rage and unless they get that type of material immediately they won't book certain jobs, when in fact there is no work being cast requiring that material.
I encountered a dubious thing like this recently, and it turned out this "information" was a fool's errand. So I decided to write this post. Many exposed to this "information" did not question it, and as a result may spend a non-trivial amount of time and money on something of no value to anyone ever.
I know too many actors putting their hard earned money and their irreplaceable time into things that do nothing. Nothing but waste time and money. Sometimes at the expense of their relationships and other more worthy opportunities. No one can be perfect, but it is still worth trying to spend money and time well.
In entertainment, nobody knows anything, and it is worth honing the skill of examining any information that comes your way for its usefulness and accuracy. A skill worth getting better at doing, and I'm working on it. There is a lot of bad information out there. Caveat actor.I will close by repeating Bob Fraser's words:
Do not waste your time. It's all you've got, your entire wealth.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Kissing the Ring
Respect is easy to spell, easy to say and not so easy to live, show and pay. There may be a set of behaviors, a way of acting that includes an objective minimum of respect every human deserves. Things like listening to people and hearing what they say may fall into this type of everyone would call respect, and things like pulling out a gun and shooting someone in the face may fall into the not objectively super respectful category. Then there are personal concepts of respect.
Each person you come in contact with may have things they expect and consider respectful that only they have; unique to them. Like the mob boss, king or queen who expects everyone coming into their office or throne room to kiss the ring they wear. As a show of respect.
Many will feel respected if their ego is stroked, their accomplishments (real or imagined) revered and paying homage to them may help them be open to helping you, or at least not standing in your way. So if you, or I, want something such a person has, or want to do something in a place (literal or metaphoric) that is theirs, then paying homage to them and their wonderfullness may be necessary to have them allow whatever it is you want to get done to happen. To not have them work against you requires paying them respect as they define it. Right or wrong, they can block or get out of the way depending on what their personal sense of being treated with respect is and whether or not you meet that standard, the standard that may be unique to them alone.
Some people feel respect is you giving them what they want when they want it. No matter whether they deserve it or it is good for them to have it. They want what they want. And the moment you don't give it to them, they may accuse you of treating them without respect, they may experience it as disrespectful. Hard to accept, but there is no way for everyone to feel treated with respect by you or me at all times. We can and probably should treat everyone with respect all the time, but remember they may not agree that you are treating them with respect.
Like beauty, respect can be in the eye of the beholder. A behavior which one person may see a deeply respectful, another may see as the opposite. Some will feel disrespected simply because you don't agree with them. It may be easy to mistake agreement and compliance for respect, and to misconstrue disagreement for disrespect, and this can lead people, including us, to feeling disrespected.
That leaves us a challenge that can feel unsatisfying: to treat people with respect while knowing they may not feel respected anyway, and may speak or act against our goals because of it. Not all of your goals, plans, or even existence may be supported by everyone you encounter and it might be because they don't feel respected by you. Having others feel respected by us is not always something that is in our power to achieve. It still remains worth respecting others. In all cases. Makes the world a better place, and likely makes it easier to pursue your goals as well. Even if everyone will not support you, still good to respect them.
It is worth trying to understand what a specific person may experience as respect, whether or not we agree, or in fact whether or not it actually is respect. If we want people to work with us toward our goals, something all entertainment requires in some way, paying attention to and validating someone's sense of what they experience as being respected is a good idea. Even if we find kissing their ring, literally or metaphorically, unpleasant, the cost benefit may still mean it is very much worth doing.
Knowing what needs doing, having the insight to realize what you need to do to treat others as they want to be treated is not always easy. Nor is it always easy to treat yourself with respect, day to day and long term. But it will always make sense to treat yourself with respect. You are the one person you will always work with and can never ignore. People have tried, and it doesn't work.
Honing one's ability to see what yourself and others experience as respect can only pay dividends. Even if you decide not to do something you deem unreasonable, unconscionable, or otherwise unpleasant to make someone feel respected, good to know that. And maybe find a way to soften the blow, or brace for the fallout. After all, no one honestly says at an award acceptance speech "I did it alone." Which brings me to next post's topic: the Coalition of the Eager.