Whether you are an up and coming actor or a seasoned thespian, we have advice, stories and tips that will inspire you.
This is a topic I’ve spoken about, blogged about and have been questioned about many, many times in the past. It is a recurring theme in my life for a reason… it is probably one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself, especially if you want to be an artist.
THE PAINFUL TRUTH:
What Agents Are Really Looking For
If you were with us last blog you will remember that I decided to offer up five unorthodox bits of advice for pilot season. I wanted to break the mold this year and encourage you to do things that the rest of the actors in town weren’t. Hopefully, you’ve snagged a few pilot auditions this year but if you haven’t here’s a bit of out of the box thinking that just might make it happen for you.
Sooner or later I knew that technology would bite me. For the first time ever, I accidentally erased over my latest blog before I was able to post it. Uggh! Welcome to the new year! After several hours of formulating my thoughts I wrote a blog called, "10 Unorthodox Goals to Shoot For In 2013." It was cute and I’m sure there was some good stuff in there but for some reason I didn't love it. Maybe it was God telling me that there was something better that needed to be said. So with that in mind, I've decided to start completely from scratch and answer the burning question that seems to be on a lot of our minds, "What should I do in 2013?"
I regularly coach actors for auditions and when I ask them how it went more often than not I get an answer something like this, “It was good. But, I got nervous and it took me out of it. Then I screwed up my lines… I guess didn’t go very well.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “If I could just stop my nerves I’d be a great actor.” Do your nerves get in the way of your acting and auditioning? Most actors would answer “yes” to that question.
I have nothing negative to say what so ever about taking acting classes… unless the teacher sucks. Every actor needs honest, expert, objective feedback about their work and their ability if they hope to improve their craft. Without it you’ll be like an athlete trying to win the Olympics without a trainer.
If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times, “Your headshot is the most important marketing tool you have.” Is it true? Yeah, it probably is true. Unless you’re a big star or someone well known in the industry chances are your headshot is the thing that will get you through the door and into a casting director’s office more than anything else. But, because actors know how important a headshot is it creates a ton of anxiety when it comes to getting good shots. Good headshots can be expensive, nerve-racking and a huge burden. That said, let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways an actor can ruin their headshots.
Q&A: How Do You Become a Working Actor?
Continuing on from my last blog, here is the second half of the interview and article I did with Lisa & Laura Bunbury, owners of Actor’s Info Booth (www.actorsinfobooth.com). Enjoy!
Q&A: How Do You Become a Working Actor?
Alright, before I launch into this let me be really clear.... acting is exactly like nothing in the world. It is, in my humble opinion, the greatest and yet the most difficult of all the arts. People may differ with me but with more than 20 years in the Entertainment Business under my belt I feel confident saying that very people on this earth can make acting look easy and simple (see my last blog). That said, let’s have a little fun with a few of my favorite comparisons.
I think a lot of actors and entertainers have the wrong idea about creativity. I think most of these people have it in their heads that in order to be creative you have to stick out in the crowd, be the center of attention or do something crazy that no one else has ever done before.
If you were with us last blog you got to read about five easy things you can do to ruin your acting career. My hope is that after reading each you did whatever you could to avoid them at all cost. Let’s keep that ball rolling. Here are five more things you can do if you want to ruin your career.
I want to take a slight detour from my regular agenda and talk about a few things that have been on my mind lately.... things that actors do to sabotage themselves. Ten of them come to mind, so I’m going to talk about five in this blog and another five in the next.
When the business is slow, as it usually is this time of year, I find myself falling into old habits and bad “self talk.” So, this blog might be more for me than anyone else. That said, let’s talk about 5 things that we all do, at one time or another, that are guaranteed to ruin our acting career.
1) Always Be Negative. The circle of people who work regularly in Hollywood hate negativity. Consequently, people who are regularly negative, don’t work very much, if at all. But think about it, who wants to be around someone who’s negative and brings everyone down all the time? No one. It’s as simple as that. Therefore, be positive as much as you can. Be one of the people we all want to work with. Always remember, if you’ve booked any work at all in Hollywood, whether it’s the lead in a film, a one day/one line co-star or a commercial where the camera pans past you for a total of one whole second, then you need to be thankful. You’ve accomplished what millions of people have only dreamed about doing. You worked professionally in Hollywood as an actor. Remind yourself of that often and be thankful. Even if you haven’t booked anything yet, give yourself credit too! You actually came to Hollywood to pursue your dreams. Most everyone you know didn’t have the guts to do the same. But you did. Be thankful! The more thankful and upbeat you are, the more you’ll book. Don’t believe me, try it. Nobody wants to spend 12 hours a day, six days a week with a Debbie downer. Right?
2) Try To Please Everybody. One of the mistakes I’ve made time and time again is that I walk into an audition or meeting and I immediately try to please everyone in the room. I want everyone to love me and I will do whatever I can to make that happen. It’s a mistake! There’s nothing wrong with dishing out a compliment or two but your job as an actor is to act not be the host of the party. Bill Cosby said it best. He said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." As hard as it is to do, I implore you to stop caring so much what other people think. You can’t control them anyway. All you should care about is doing your job. And, what is that? To simply show them who you are and what you look like in that particular role. That’s it. Besides, you have no idea what’s in their heads anyway. I can’t tell you how many times I thought my audition sucked only to find out everyone in the room loved it. Stop trying to please everyone. Just give it up and have fun. And, that means in your agent interviews as well.
3) Apologize All the Time. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Your best audition is always in the car on the way home?” I’ve heard it so many times that I want to throw up. And, it’s not even true. Great acting is always about chemistry and your read to yourself in the car has no chemistry whatsoever. So, no matter how brilliant your line readings in your car may seem your read in a room with someone else will always be more interesting. Don’t listen to your inner voice when it tries to tell you otherwise. It’s impossible to see what the audience sees and that is especially true when it comes to seeing chemistry between you and someone else. Stop second-guessing yourself. What you do in a room is almost always better than you thought it was. So, if that’s the case then there’s no reason to apologize. Right? Years ago a brilliant commercial “star” told me his secret to booking is that he never apologizes in an audition. Even if he blows his lines he simply says, “Let’s take that again.” He acts as if he already has the part and he’s behaving as if he is already on the set. Actors make mistakes from time to time, so it’s no problem if you do too. It’s all just part of what we do and therefore needs no apology. That piece of advice in itself has won me more bookings than anything else I can think of. We’re not expected to be perfect. We’re merely expected to show them who we are, flaws and all!
4) Use the Time In the Waiting Room to Socialize, Learn Your Lines or Panic. One of the biggest mistakes I think most actors make is that they don’t utilize the time before an audition or meeting properly. Too many times actors use the waiting room to socialize with friends and even the total strangers. Or, they’ll try to cram their lines down their throats. Or, they will focus entirely on stopping their nervousness. In my opinion, those are all mistakes (unless any of those things specifically helps you to be creative). The waiting room is where you get into the mindset to do your job, to act and be creative. As John Cleese so magnificently points out in his famous speech about creativity (http://youtu.be/VShmtsLhkQg), it is basically a state of being. That’s what the waiting room should be for, to allow you the time to get to the place of being creative. If you don’t know your lines by the time you get to the waiting room chances are you’re in trouble. Do your homework, learn your lines beforehand and be ready to audition so you can use the waiting room to do your routine to be creative. Now that the Olympics have started, Michael Phelps is on my mind. One of the things I love about Michael is that he uses the few minutes before each race to focus himself entirely on his purpose and goal. Michael listens to music before every race. It helps him forget about everything else except what is important. He wears headphones so nothing will distract him. It’s his regular routine. Do you have a routine? Athletes do that sort of thing all the time and yet it’s rare that I see actors do the same. Don’t get distracted in the waiting room. Focus in on your task at hand. Get into the state of mind to be creative. If you’ve never heard John Cleese’s speech above, please take 30 minutes to listen to it. You’ll be glad you did.
5) When Things Are Slow and You’re Not Auditioning, Take Advantage of the Time Off and Relax. Unless you’re a star or an actor who works all the time, one of the worst things you can do is do nothing when things are slow. Great actors know how to utilize the downtime. Right about now you should be doing a play, web series, short or independent film. Or, you should be in class getting a lot better than your competition (who is at home playing Angry Birds). This is your bets chance to excel. I’ve used this quote before but it seems appropriate to say it again; Samuel Jackson says, “The actor’s job is finding work. The fringe benefit of our job is that we get to act.” Take advantage of any free time you can get to hone your skills and get your “brand” out there. Do your own stuff. Get your name out there as an actor who “works.”
Check in next time for five more things you can easily do to ruin your career.
Mark Atteberry is an award winning actor, teacher and photographer. As an actor his work includes features like Miranda July’s "The Future” and Ang Lee’s "The Hulk.” His recent TV work includes “Luck,” "House M.D.," “Justified,” "The Closer," “The Mentalist,” "Dexter," “Criminal Minds,” and "24." Mark is internationally known for his advertising, documentary and headshot photography. His clients include NBC, CBS, A&E, Bravo, CAA, ICM, WME, and Big Lots. Mark regularly teaches and lectures on the topics of "Branding, Marketing and Type" and "How to Succeed in the Entertainment Industry." He has authored or co-authored several books on the business of acting including the best selling, "Working Actor's Guide to LA." For more of Mark’s acting credits go to: www.imdb.com/name/nm0040992. For Mark’s headshot photography go to: www.idyllicphotography.com. And, for Mark’s classes go to: www.beaworkingactor.com
It’s been said many times in many ways that acting is probably the most difficult profession on the face of the earth. A couple of years ago I was at an art opening talking to Aaron Eckhart when a man approached and said to him, “You’re so lucky. Acting is the easiest career in the world.” Aaron literally went off on him for 20 minutes, telling the man why he was wrong. He said things like, “You go from laughter to sobbing on cue in front of a crew of 100 people. You convince a studio head that your are entertaining, mesmerizing and worth a fee of 25 million dollars. You do job interviews every day for six six years before you finally get a job, only to realize you’re loosing it again in a couple of months.” Aaron let him have it, and rightfully so. The guy clearly had no idea what he was saying. Why? Because, actors like Aaron make it look so effortless and easy. Samuel L. Jackson says, “The actor’s job is finding work. The fringe benefit of our job is that we get to act.” Finding and keeping work as an actor is a never ending task. And, without fun there would be no reason or incentive to pursue it.