Well it’s February. For those of you who made your New Year’s resolutions, it’s a good time to see how you’re doing with them.
As the year comes to a close and I complete my last blog for 2015, I find myself reflecting on the year: the classes, workshops, productions, and other projects that all came to life at the Actors Workout Studio.
I’ve had an interesting summer. A month ago I got a call from a director colleague on a Sunday morning who had to replace an actor in a play that would be opening the following Friday night. That would be in 5 days.
Well it’s December, the end of the year and a time to wind down 2014. A time to celebrate, and for many actors - take a break, visit family, and replenish. I think it’s a good opportunity to “marinate”, contemplate, vision, or simply step back and take inventory. We say at The Actors Workout Studio that we are in the business of “transforming actor’s lives, one at a time”. We believe in the “whole artist”, not only the skills, craft, and business of the actor, but “who each actor is”.
I received a deeply touching, well thought out email last week and thought it would make for a lively blog topic. So, with her permission, here are the emails and my responses. Though I have her blessings to show this, I’ll change her name to Susan to protect the innocent and keep her anonymous.
The Initial Email: Is My Skin Going to Be a Problem?
My name is Susan. Thank you for writing your blog! I came across it at random and really dig it.
My question for you is rather odd:
I am constantly working on my acting; I'm 23 now but have been acting since I was about 4 or 5, until about 17 then stopped. Now, I've taken it back up again and always try to find something to do whether it be plays, films, whatever. However, I've hit an odd stump.
So my question is, sometime when I was about 12 or 13 I went to South America and got chewed up by Mosquitos. Huge scary South American dangle legged card carrying members of terror Mosquitos. And they chewed me up everywhere. Legs, arms, back, everywhere, save headshot height and up. So now it's 10 years later and although they're getting better, I have all these spots all over me.
I have terribly pale skin so they really stand out. So I'm wondering if that's gonna be a problem for film acting. As a professional you surely know how good makeup works or if anyone would even be willing to deal with all that.
I usually wear cardigans and stockings so no one seems to have noticed yet. But I figure I can't do that forever.
Should I just stick to theater and not even bother with film? Or just do the follow your dreams thing?
Brutal truths always welcome :) Pretty lies not so much
My Response: It’s All About Confidence In Yourself
Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I get a kick out of writing it.
First of all, let me say how sorry I am to hear about the damage the mosquitos did to you. I'm sure that must be difficult at times. It is difficult for me to answer your question without knowing you but let me say this; acting is much more about confidence than anything else. So for me, it all comes down to is how you let it affect you.
Makeup can do wonders. I see actresses all the time who have tattoos, scars and blemishes covered over with makeup. Obviously it takes time to cover them up effectively, and that can be a hassle, but it is definitely doable. I don't know how pronounced your spots are but I am sure they can be covered over. That being the case, it becomes all about your attitude. I would ask you, how confident are you about yourself and your work? I don't want to say that it will not be an issue at all, because I could never anticipate what every director will think, however if you let it bother you then it will definitely be a problem. If you are confident and comfortable with yourself, despite your spots, you will be fine acting as a profession.
Trust me on this, nothing sells an actor more than confidence. If you walk into an audition self-conscious, you will almost never book it (even the greatest actresses sometimes struggle with this). If you walk in confident, and not worrying or judging yourself, then they will be drawn to you. I know it's not the same thing, but I have a broken back from a bad accident and so I walk funny and can't bend over properly. I've noticed if I am self-conscious about it I never book the audition. When I go in, just have fun and don't care what they think, it always goes well.
My friend, Nick Vujicic, is the greatest example I can think of regarding this issue. If you've not heard of him he is a motivational speaker and an actor who was born with no legs and no arms. If anyone has a reason to feel insecure, it is he. And yet, he is one of the most confident, happy people I have ever known in my life. He rarely lets his severe handicap get in the way of his humanity, warmth and confidence. As a result we love watching him when he speaks. We did a film together called "Butterfly Circus" and he is awesome in it (and the star). Check it out and watch his confidence. Watch how little he lets his situation in life affect him as an actor and as a human. Here is the link:
Hope that helps. Again, it is impossible for me to make this decision for you but if it affects your confidence then it will certainly be an issue. If it doesn’t, and you are comfortable being yourself despite your situation, you will be fine as a film actor. It all comes down to how well you can sell yourself.
One more thought, have you ever considered writing and acting in a one-woman play or show about this issue? If not, I would highly recommend it. One of my favorite quotes ever (and I use it in my classes all the time) is, "The thing you hate about yourself is probably the thing that will make you the most money." The brilliant TV director David Nutter said it and I completely agree with him. When I finally learned to love the things that I hated about myself, and brought them to my work, my career took off. Now, when I tap into those things, my acting is as good as it gets. I would encourage you to turn your story into a positive and do a one woman show about it. I guarantee you it is a story that people would love to hear.
Keep up the great work, Susan!
Her Response to My Email: Her Perspective Is In Place
Thanks for all your advice, I've definitely considered the one act play idea. It reminds me of that girl that went on you tube with the horrible acne and puts on makeup etc. if you haven't seen it, here's a link. Abc news and many others have given her attention because it, thus proving your theory correctly.
I'm not sure how I feel about America's obsession with this idea of "flawed" characters making it through. There's also the model with exempt on her legs etc. I haven't really put enough time into the theory yet, but I assure you I’ll take the time to do some processing on the subject.
I am so sorry to hear about your accident. Back issues, I believe are the worst to live with. Especially as an actor. I'm glad you don't let it get to you and I'm proud of you for working through it! :D
Right now I'm on my way to Sephora to pick up some hardcore coverup makeup! I have a commercial on Saturday- probably got the part due to confidence! I will definitely continue to pursue film and like you said, just let my confidence do the work for me. After all, the spots don't really bother me. It's mostly out of politeness that I'm self conscious about them. I don't want to make people feel uncomfortable thinking I'm diseased or drugged. Hahah
Thank you again for writing to me!
I appreciate everything you do for all of us!
My Response: We’ve Been Given Exactly What We Need
It sounds like you have the right attitude and a great perspective. That makes me happy to hear.
I do want to point out one thing though, I never think of people as being "flawed characters making it through." I am one of those who believes that God has given everyone what they have been given for divine reasons. Literally! It is what makes each of us unique and differentiates our path from everyone else on the earth. No one human attribute is better than another and no one human challenge is any worse than another. We've been given exactly what we need. So, I would say we all have "divine differences" but are never flawed. It sounds merely like a subtle rewording, but the difference is huge. We all have something special that makes us unique and fascinating to the core. The real gift is that we, as artists, get to use our uniqueness to draw people to stories that can touch the heart and change the world.
Congrats on the commercial and break a leg! And, keep up the great attitude!
I see what you mean by the flawed thing! The way I saw it before was not that these characters were flawed truly, but more of a typecast or archetype of "flawed" through the media pop culture perspective. Naturally, I don't think flaws exist because there's no such thing as perfection, since we're all made up of living particles, living particles that have a biological lifespan etc and therefore are not static, and if it is not static it can't be perceived at perfect because perfection must be static. (Whew! Mini rant!)
Flaws seen on famous types make them more appealing to audiences because they can relate. Or at least this was my theory prior to your email. :)
I really like what you wrote, it definitely changed my perspective! I'm a huge fan of the fates. You're absolutely right, I agree completely- everything happens for a reason!
My Final Thoughts,
One of the greatest gifts an actor can give to an audience (the world) is to tell them that they are magnificent, just as they are. Don’t fall for that advertising world malarkey that beauty is all about how perfect Photoshop can make you look. It’s a load of crap! Beauty is refusing to let anything get in your way of loving each other. Beauty is embracing everything that makes us different from one another. And, absolute beauty is confidently saying I love who I am and I love who you are! That kind of confidence will win you the world and secure you place as a top notch actor, despite what life throws your way.
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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 “The Newsroom,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Luck,” "House M.D.," “Justified,” "The Closer," “The Mentalist,” "Dexter" and “Criminal Minds.” Mark can currently be seen on “The Newsroom.” Mark is internationally known for his commercial advertising 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
Many times, performers create and perform from painful places in their past. They may self-medicate to deal with the anxiety with drugs and/or alcohol.