Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ad: Actors Can Make Casting Decisions Too

Sponsored Post:
By VP Boyle, Chair of Musical Theater & Film Conservatory, New York Film Academy

In my book, Audition Freedom: The Irreverent Wellness Guide for Theatre People - written for actors who want to know better ways to audition and live the life as an actor - I talk about the financial equation of acting and theater in general. In a short chapter titled "The Time & Money Gun is Always Loaded," I inform actors that all members of productions live with budget limitations and finite choices. Producers have financial concerns as much as the actors, and that applies as much in film as in live theater.

But, I also include a chapter ("Who Thought To Put Pineapple on Pizza?") that is about ignoring money. Certainly, money makes the world go around as much as it enables all of us to be in the creative field of our choice. No money would translate into falling back on those bookkeeping skills your parents insisted that you develop. But a key question for all working actors to address is what kind of work do they not need?

This may sound heretical to many in the craft. Work is our lifeblood. Work is something that may at times be in thin supply. So why not take every job that comes our way? Whether you never studied acting or you went to one of the best film schools in LA, these are common thoughts and emotions.

As the chapter title suggests, everyone has their tastes. I like pepperoni pizza, but other people like pineapple-ham pizza. So be it. The part that one actor craves another may reject. We need to discerning about the work we do.

What most actors find disconcerting about this is it fights an ingrained attitude that casting directors have all the choices and make all the decisions when assembling a cast. In fact, they are in control of who is selected from an audition. But the actor can choose too. You can select which parts you audition for and which ones not. Your reasons are entirely up to you: is it about the role, the money, the other cast members or the producer? It can be one, several or all of these things. This is about more than rejecting the kinds of work that may not please you. It's about zeroing in on the work that you know how to do well.

How you come upon your own criteria or standards is entirely up to you, and by its very nature the decision is personal. You need to get information, ask questions and research online as much as you can about a production and the people associated with it. For the most part, it comes from the gut, from feelings - but not everyone is naturally in touch with those. Some people are barreling through life at lightening speed without paying attention to their instincts. Instead, I suggest when mulling an opportunity to audition for a role to quiet your brain and listen to your body. Do you feel calm, centered or at peace with the prospect? You really want to know how you feel about what you're doing.

Of course, you need to discuss this with your agent. He or she needs to know what kind of money you are willing to work for and what kinds of roles you really want. If you have a working relationship that is intelligent, responsible and respectful, you and your agent will more likely find the jobs you want.

Sure, the "money gun" is always loaded and you're not always sure how things will work out. But with a focused approach - one that is selective wherever possible - you develop the audition freedom of trying out for the right parts at the right times for you. No pineapple pizza required!

# # #

VP Boyle serves as the creator and chair of the New York Film Academy's new cutting-edge Musical Theatre & Film Conservatory Program. The two-year program merges conservatory musical theatre training with Broadway professionals and an intensive acting for film curriculum that culminates with an original movie musical. One of the most sought after Broadway audition and life coaches for professionals in New York City, VP created The Musical Theatre Forum, a professional casting workshop with every major Broadway casting agency in NYC. His book, AUDITION FREEDOM: The Irreverent Wellness Guide for Theatre People is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Drama Book Shop NYC.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Unlucky Does Not Mean Ungood

Most people with a big idea, great talent and/or something to say don't get lucky at first. Or second. Or even third. It's so easy to conclude that if you're not lucky, you're not good. So persistence becomes an essential element of good, because without persistence, you never get a chance to get lucky.

-Seth Godin

I blogged about the nature of persistence earlier this year, before that and before that too. It counts. Patience isn't always easy to find, but it is a virtue worth nurturing in yourself.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Confronting Your Weaknesses

Confronting your own weaknesses: hard. Figuring out how to compensate for them or improve them: hard. Having faith it is worth it: hard.

Do it anyway.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Push On

Some problems cannot be thought through, they are meant to be gone through. So put one foot in front of the other. Just act. Trust that many steps later they will be solved.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Netflix, Hulu and YouTube Making More Original Shows

For the streaming companies, the move into original content is as much to do with economics. Currently, major studios are hiking licensing fees or shunning many exclusive contracts.
It's a classic television network move, [David] Cryan [, director of digital media at IHS Screen Digest] told TheWrap. It's what dragged MTV from music videos to 'Jersey Shore' and HBO from having exclusive windows on movies to making 'Game of Thrones.' It is a tried and tested technique that is driven by a need to establish identity and to have control over their destiny by not being reliant on others for content.
At the start of every season, Netflix releases all of a show's episodes simultaneously. The move is a nod to the binge habits of its members, Netflix says, who prefer to see an entire season in a few sittings as opposed to tuning in for the latest episode at a particular time every week

(from The Wrap).

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Feeds You or Feeds You Artistically

The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills

This is Hugh MacLeod's sex and cash theory. Some things are things that are the reason you are an actor, some are what you do to "keep the lights on." Tempting to accept this breakdown of acting you do for the money, and acting you do for joy. This one for them and one for me view is seductive. This is the idea behind some actors doing a tent-pole big blockbuster and then doing a smaller art-house film. Or the fabled moment when the studio head said to an actor:

"If you want to do movie A, then I'm gonna need you to do movie B for us. No movie B for us, no movie A for you."

This dichotomy can go further. An actor may be seen doing mainstream commercial films, and then does something that is almost transparently awards fodder. Makes sense sometimes: too much looking like a sell-out and the actor's legitimacy as an artist erodes in the audience's minds and hearts. An actor can only appear so commercial before looking less like an artist. They risk drifting from "actor I go to see act" to "actor I go to see try to sell me something" or even more on to "actor who is product spokesperson who only tells me things because they are paid to." Just because I can on a Sunday afternoon, let's go even further on this binary.

Motivation is something both we and every character have and have in common. We and our characters want things. Much of acting training focuses on your character's wants. Sometimes it is expanded or refined as what your character wants the other characters to do, or give, and sometimes what your character wants to have happen, where they want to be, literally or metaphorically (ex: Chekhov's Three Sisters want to go to Moscow, Hamlet wants to set things right but not hastily do anything himself).

As people outside of work we also have motivations, objectives, goals. If we don't get what we want (like happiness, fulfillment, food) our characters not only won't get what they want, but never exist. We are the foundation our roles are built on. Starve us, starve or outright kill our characters. Even in moments of great peace and contentment, where no hedonistic or even loftier want crosses our minds and hearts, eventually we will need to eat again, to sleep. It is not permanently possible to be without want, to be without hunger.

So to act, or even live, we need to eat. Both literally and figuratively. If we are hungry for food, our work will suffer. If we are hungry long enough, for food or other essentials, we cease to exist. If we are exceedingly hungry for less edible things, like contentment, material comfort, stability, human connection, we will not do our best work, but even more vital, our lives, the only ones we get to live, will suffer. They may even end early from stress or depression. Or simply be half lived.

If we work a non-acting day job it is not merely to pay the rent/mortgage and cell phone bill. We do it so we are not in panic, worry and anxiety throughout our days and nights. We do it because rightly or wrongly money is the universal scorecard often used to gauge success and value. We do it because we may only feel comfortable in a home of a certain quality or location. Marketing and ads are often built on this: part of who we tell ourselves we are is based on what we have materially and what we have in the bank.

Our characters do this too. Willy Lowman in "Death of a Salesman" is all but entirely defined by his struggle between who his income has said he is and who he may be in every non-financial sense. Every role we play is someone who has their own view of what money they have now, could have, and want to have. And in life we each have our own beliefs. One actor may feel on the financial edge if their net worth is less than $100,000, another only worries if they don't know where money for next month's bills is coming from. Some people are uncomfortable if they have less than $20,000 in the bank, some only get antsy once they have more than $20,000 dollars debt. For both, the transactional need to have money to buy food is not all that concerns them. Satisfied or not, we hunger, as all humans do, for more than food.

A role may compensate you in a few different ways, but the key in an emotional sense may be how it feeds your material life and how it feeds your immaterial life, how it feeds you and how it feeds you artistically. No shame in taking a role for the money, and there is nothing wrong in taking a role for the joy. Landlords, banks and grocers do not take joy as payment. That concrete reality, that artistic satisfaction alone may not feed you, may be a good thing. Needing to fund your life may keep you more balanced, healthier, and from purely having your head in the clouds. Sustaining oneself physically as well as spiritually, emotionally, artistically, is healthier than being lopsided either way. But even if it weren't, even if it would be better if the concrete world had no sway with us, if it would be nicer feeling if finances and business realities and such didn't affect us, that does not seem to be the way the universe is configured.

Just as focusing too much on the finances of our work would not be good, focusing too much on the artistic to the exclusion of the practical is not good. Balance what feeds you and what feeds you artistically. Let hunger to do great work and to live a great life both get attention. And reading my own words, I'm off to lunch. Feed yourself well.

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