Thursday, June 14, 2018

Holding Sides in an Audition

Some 1 in the morning thoughts about whether or not to hold your sides during a self-taped audition, or really any audition.

Worth remembering an audition is not a memorization test, and yes, it is good to be off book so the character can flow and develop. Holding sides in some people’s opinions reminds everyone that it is not a final fixed performance, and can be changed. These opinions often hold that with no sides you will be un-re-directable, and you may also be compared to a final polished performance in a finished product. Holding the sides gently instantly reminds the viewer it is an audition, even if you never look down at them.

Whatever you do, have fun: the part is yours during your audition no matter what happens later.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

More Employees Fewer Contractors

A lot of people have been considered contractors instead of employees on sets and stages (and shops and offices too), and now that is changing, maybe. This could impact non-union acting, many crew positions in production and post, live promo work and even rideshare driving. The line between employee and contractor has moved:

In order to make the line clearer, the California Supreme Court just adopted a very expansive definition of employee in a recent case, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court. Under this new test, a worker is considered to be an independent contractor only if all three of the following factors are present:
(A) The worker must be free from the control and direction of the payor in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract and in fact;
(B) The worker must perform work that is outside the usual course of the payor's business; and
(C) The worker must be customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed by the worker for the payor.
Applying this test, the court held that truck drivers were employees of the company they worked for. This new test casts a wide net that will result in many "independent contractors" in the entertainment industry being reclassified as employees. In particular, the second factor listed above could be used to argue that almost everyone in the entertainment industry is an employee.

(from Dynamex: A New Test for Employee Status, emphasis in original; thanks to James McMann for putting me onto the article). The fallout remains to be seen fully, but may be transforming how employment is across the industry. It could mean more workers compensation coverage (good in case someone gets hurt), and the rights of an employee to get paid in full and on time (the law tends to make it harder not to pay an employee than it does to not pay a contractor).

If you're an actor-producer, it has always made sense to use a payroll company to handle paying your cast and crew. Now it may make more sense than ever. I can get into why in another post perhaps.

I am optimistic this could be a good thing, for everyone, even for employers. Employers sometimes forget that treating people well is the easiest way to significantly, immediately and fundamentally improve the work itself, while it also avoids expensive things like fines, back taxes and jail time too. Yes, misclassifying employees as independent contractors can actually land an employer in jail.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

It Is Not a Thing It Is a Process

Your relationship, your job, your career, the roles you book: none of these are static, fixed, set things like a book, a chair or a mountain are (nor are those strictly permanent unchanging things either). They are all processes. Or if you prefer another word for them: a journey, a path, a story. Life is a process. Ongoing.

A romantic relationship may feel like a thing, and it can be tempting to think one can set-it-and-forget-it, that somehow it can reach a state of being exactly what it is now forever without modification. This is not the case. If you don't believe me, try it and you'll see how quickly stagnation will propel something to give.

So to with almost any task you can make something fixed, unchanging, like:

Once these things are made, once they cross the threshold of complete (a threshold likely placed where everyone finds convenient or useful) they aren't the same as they were. Once

it is different and we judge it differently; we use things and see them differently once they've "done," but they all still change. The

If a movie does get distributed, it either succeeds commercially or not in various markets/platforms/ways it is released. A distributed movie likely evolves at some point into whether or not it will get sequels, re-releases or re-masterings and even novelizations, theme park rides and other possibilities. If a movie is not distributed relatively quickly, it maybe molders in a vault (physical or digital) waiting to either be forgotten, or for something outside of it to change, like the cultural currents, a performer's career arc, or something else and then is released and follows that trajectory.

The point is, even though we think in the moment, we live in the now and think of stuff as fixed, and it's very useful to think of them as things, they aren't: everything is changing, always.

(Note: yes, eventually the universe may even change its innate tendency toward change by going through a heat death, heat a proxy for movement/change here. This heat death sounds grim but is really just change itself changing into something else sort of [I'm wildly oversimplifying the current thinking on the cosmology of the universe which is a bit beyond what I want to focus on today]).

What does this mean for us as actors? What does this possibly too abstract and maybe rambling mean for us? Our roles, our work and our whole careers are not things, they are a process, or a bunch of processes; we are on a journey. We are following a path. Our path as actors, our character's journeys are not a things while we are on them. Only looking back will we be able to even sum them up in any way. We make sense and tell ourselves a story of what happened once it has happened, once it is "done." It might be cliché, but all we do as actors is more a path than a place.

Tempting to simply end this post with the glib "life is a journey not a destination," but there are two problems with that. One: it is boring, which is usually not a great choice for an actor. Two: it is passive. We are not simply along for a ride. We are actors. We act. Our very job title is entirely focused on us doing stuff, taking action. Whether or not the universe cooperates and complies with our intentions with our choices, whether or not we get what we want after we do what we do, is not our responsibility.

You could think of it as above our pay grade as humans to decide entirely the outcome of anything. Results are not our problem. Results are more like things. The path leads to the results, the story leads to its end, and the journey, the process is our world. It our focus, and where our roles, careers and lives actually happen.

We don't watch a film for just see the last two seconds and the credits; when we focus on our process, or role in things, then we can make a difference. It is as I have said before: it is not our job to book, it is our job to do what we do. Focus on your process. Focus on what you can do. Or so says my ramblings on a Thursday at a few minutes to midnight.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

No More Auditions in Hotel Rooms or Residences

Years ago, a film invited me to audition and a casting director I shall not name here said, to make everyone more comfortable we're having the auditions at the producer's house, in their living room. When I thanked them for the invitation and said I would not be able to attend because it was in the producer's home, I was yelled at for being somehow foolish and unprofessional. I told myself then I should simply have declined and given no reason, which would likely have avoided the yelling. It is good now to see that none of us were the ones being unprofessional to expect a job interview to happen in a place business is conducted.

To help protect members from potential harassment and exploitation, SAG-AFTRA released today a Guideline that calls for an end to the practice of holding professional meetings in private hotel rooms or residences.

(from SAG-AFTRA 's Code of Conduct, Guideline No. 1).

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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

When Things Are Broken, Act Anyway

The text of what I say in this video, in case you would rather read instead of watch and listen:
Sometimes things don't seem to be working the way that we imagined they would be if things were ideal. See, as an actor, it's very easy to use one's imagination to picture how things could be if only. And so, you can find yourself on a set that doesn't have the ability or the time to get the shot they wanted to get: so they have to make some sort of compromise. Or you can find yourself in your own life working on something and you have to compromise something, or for some other reason something's not working right. But the key is: we have to lives anyway.

See, this isn't something that just applies to acting this is something that can apply to everything you're doing. Like right now, there's the sound of a highway sort of in the background. I'm using this partly to, hopefully, make it not as easy to hear. But the point is: you're never going to actually have the ideal situation but you still have to try to do the best you can, (whether it's acting, or living, or whatever), even though things aren't going precisely the way you would have them if it were 100 percent in your control (which it never is going to be).

So basically... I'm reminded of a friend at a party. I saw this friend hearing another friend (really more of an acquaintance) sharing one of those pieces of Hollywood "conventional wisdom" that's more conventional than actually wise. And my friend, I noticed, immediately almost built a blind spot over what that person was saying. Just completely didn't give it another moment's attention. It was actually kind of inspiring, because they were hearing nonsense, something that was not useful, not constructive to hear, and they pretty much decided not to hear it. And it's made me think that sometimes:

but whatever the case: you still need to do your work as best you can because you want to book the job. And it's not about booking the job in the audition, it's about showing them what you can do. Because if you end up on set who knows what other kind of chaos, ridiculousness, or highway noise there's going to be.

You still need to do the work that is your work to do, even if the world isn't entirely cooperating. You can even have an agent put tremendous pressure on you to book something, maybe because they're having trouble paying their bills, and your job is to go into that audition and show the people in the audition room what you do, not to actually book the work even if that's something your agent is all but insisting you do, and sometimes doing in the most unconstructive, unsupportive terms. (I mention this because many years ago I had an agent who had a habit of not insulating their talent from pressure.)

So yes, in a perfect world people configure things such that between action and cut, or between curtain up and curtain down, an actor can do their best work. But we aren't in a perfect world. So we have to try to make sure we do our best work even if the world's not cooperating. And this applies to life too: you have to try to be the best friend, the best parent, the best child, the best sibling, the best significant other, and so forth, whether or not the world is cooperating.

Because you're never gonna get this moment, this day, this year, back. The time is gonna pass anyway, and as an old mentor once said, your time is the sum total of all of your wealth. So that is my vaguely deep insights on a Monday. And if anyone would like some acting coaching: let me know I'm taking new clients. Thanks for watching.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How To Self-Tape Auditions (According To a CD)

CD Billy DaMota shares his advice on self-taped auditions:

Been watching self-tapes all day...
So I thought I'd add my 2¢
Some pretty simple rules that I can see. Add more if your think they make a difference in the way self-tapes are considered.
  1. iPhone (anyone who spends $700+ for a camera to self-tape is a moron). And you can get an iPhone tripod for as little as five bucks on Amazon [may be closer to $15].
  2. Make sure your face is well-lit.
  3. Make sure they can hear you (avoid noisy environments).
  4. Wear a character-specific outfit. Homeless? Attorney? You get it.
  5. Framing? Depends on what your action is. Always. You can't do "chest up" framing if your action is "a chant in the lotus position" or "Elvis grinding while playing guitar."
  6. Follow the CDs instructions (props, direction, number of takes, how to slate, etc.).
No need to edit. Shoot it, review it, save it and send it. The only other suggestion I'd give is to state at the end of the tape or in the notes with your submission that IF they like what they see but want to redirect you, you can get them a redirected self-tape within hours. The biggest problem I run into is seeing actors who are SO good and SO close, but who need a minor tweak I know the director would like...and I can't do that with a self-tape!
What I see with most self tapes I get is that actors are thinking too much about the production value and not enough about the performance. I will always forgive you for less-than-perfect production value; you will not be forgiven for a mediocre performance.
Have fun, make it your own, and if you don't like what you've it again until you're happy.

There you have it, one casting director's take on self-taped auditons. If you'd like acting coaching for your auditions, let me know; break a leg!

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Keep Working

The Muse tests you and me 24/7. She flies over and peers down on us. What she wants to see is that we are dedicated to the journey, to the process, that we are in it for the long haul and in it for keeps.
What she doesn’t want to see is that we are attached to the real-world outcome of one specific project.
The goddess hates that because it shows that we have misapprehended the nature of her alliance with us and of our apprenticeship in her service.
Keep working

(from Keep Working by Steven Pressfield).

To imagine we don't invoke the Muse in our work as actors is to both miss a crux of our task, and expose us to working habits that may not serve us. Why neglect the role of that which lies outside of us and helps infuse our work with its luster? It makes no sense. Our inspiration does not come through pure force of will. But our discipline in doing our part of our work can. I can write at length on the Source of inspiration, though won't here right now.

Just found out you didn't book the role? Do some work. Just wrapped your latest project. Get working. Feeling down? Work. Maybe it is as simple as picking up some text and starting to read it aloud. Maybe it is as sophisticated as breaking down the story for the script you're writing to give yourself material to play, and moving that script to shareable form. Maybe it is somewhere in between, like learning a new speech and getting it ready to perform as a monologue. Whatever ails you, do the work of acting. We are actors: we act.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017


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


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 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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