Advice and Tips for Actors Helpful thoughts on acting from someone who wasn't the least successful actor of all time.

November 29, 2007

Never and Always be a Hyphenate

Filed under: eitan's writings — Eitan @ 3:01 pm

hyphenWhat the heck is a hyphenate? Here’s an example:

You’re at a party, and you meet this lovely gentleman. You ask politely, “What do you do?” He answers, “I’m an actor-writer-producer-director-manager-model.” You pretend to see a friend at the other end of the room and excuse yourself briskly.

A hyphenate is someone who has a million job titles. And in Los Angeles there are more job titles floating around than citizens.

For today I’d like to discuss why I think you should never be a hyphenate and then I’ll discuss why you should always be a hyphenate. Confused? Good, that’s the way I like it.

Pretend for a second that I’m John Q. Producer and we meet on the street. We strike up a friendly conversation and I politely ask what you do. And like that creepy guy at the party you rattle off a thousand job titles. Maybe I’m interested in working with you, but now I don’t know in which capacity. If you said you were an actor I’d consider you for my next project. If you were a writer I might read your script. If you were a director I might watch your demo and see if it’s up my alley.

The vast majority of people who introduce themselves as “writers-directors-actors” have never written or directed anything professionally. I’m not arguing that you need to be published or have sold a screenplay to call yourself a writer, but is it in your best interest to lead off with that in your introduction?

You say: Eitan, what the heck are you talking about? You write short scenes, a blog and other stuff you haven’t told us about yet, shoot actor headshots, you produce a showcase AND you’re an actor. Why are you telling us not to be any of those things ourselves? Do you not like competition?

Please, you’re not competition for me. I’m way better than you.

When I meet people I say, “Hi, I’m an actor.” Why? Because it’s my primary focus as well as being the one job I can talk about the most. If I started saying, “I’m a writer.” I’d have to explain about this blog and the scenes I wrote which have been done in the showcase I produce. Hardly as impressive as my flash of brilliance on Ghost Whisperer or the Las Vegas commercial.

Once we are talking for a while I happily mention the showcase and my photography. But if I only have a few minutes to make an impression, I’d rather lead off with the actor stuff.

There’s no one way to be successful in this industry. Dozens of successful actors got where they are because they either wrote, produced or directed their own films. Love him or hate him Vin Diesel (or as I like to call him, “Vinny-D”) wrote, directed and starred in the film Strays which got him in front of Spielberg. If it wasn’t for the fact that he didn’t pigeon hole himself he’d still be a tele-marketer with a really awesome voice.

Actors really owe it to themselves to try break into the “biz” from other angles besides acting alone. Try writing something for yourself. Grab a camcorder and shoot your own short film. Team up with some friends, chip in $100 each and make a decent short film. It’s another great way to be proactive instead of sitting home all day waiting for the phone to ring.

November 7, 2007

Support Your Writers

Filed under: eitan's writings,film,TV — Eitan @ 1:46 pm

Currently in Hollywood and New York the WGA (Writers Guild of America) is striking against the producers after the failed negotiation of a new contract. I’m asking every actor who reads this blog to go out and support the writers by joining a picket line.

As an actor why should you support the writers? Simple, what they get is what we’ll get. The SAG TV/Film contract expires this summer and there will be new negotiations between SAG and the producers over a new deal and we need to get paid for internet and other new usage. As far as I’m concerned DVDs are a throwaway issue and I don’t really care if we get a penny more, what we need is a good cut of new media.

DVDs will soon go the way of the VHS tape. They’ll gently be phased out and replaced by downloads. Internet service is getting faster. Soon there will be things like WiMax and other next generation technologies that will allow your average every day Joe Blow to download a high definition movie directly to his PC or TV in less time than it takes him to drive to his local Target. It’s not far away at all. The amount made off this type of technology now is negligible but it’s set to shoot up in the coming years (the years that will be covered by these new contracts). But it’s pretty much a given that DVDs and other hard copy media will disappear in the next few years. It’s already happening. People are buying their TV shows on iTunes instead of waiting for the DVDs to come out.

Everyone got royally screwed on DVD negotiations a few years ago. The only people who expected the DVD market to be huge were the producers and they really got an amazing deal. Writers get a few pennies per DVD (way less than it costs to print the packaging) and actors split a tiny slice as well. Someone thought when DVDs (actually the contract was written when it was all VHS tapes) would be really expensive to manufacture and we wanted to give the producers help on getting the technology going. Well, it went and they refused to give us another penny even when they were turning huge profits on each DVD sale.

There’s no reason to doubt that downloads are the next DVD. They can be delivered to your door, they’ll be easily back-up-able and they cost the producers even less than a DVD. The writers aren’t even asking for a dollar amount per-download. They want a fixed percentage of sales. If the producers don’t ever sell a download, neither will anyone else. Fair, right?

I’ve heard a lot of crap on the WWW about how the writers are talentless and it’s a good thing they’re on strike.  I spent time working at a production company and have read dozens of scripts.  99% of the scripts I read were awful and couldn’t possibly have been made into a movie or a TV show.  Only someone who hasn’t had that experience and seen how bad most writing really is would make such a dumb statement.  The people writing for TV shows and films are incredibly talented.  And however bad you think a show is, it’s on the air because there are thousands, if not millions, of people who watch it every week.

So join your writers out on strike. Grab a sign, chant and make sure the producers know that the entire entertainment community is united on this strike.

I’ll be trying to make it out to either Fox or Sony a few times a week as long as the strike is going on. If you see me, say hi.

October 30, 2007

Cricket Feet Showcase – RSVP now!

Filed under: projects,showcase — Eitan @ 12:50 pm

RSVP Now for the 3rd Cricket Feet Casting Actors Showcase November 6th, 7th and 8th at the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica.

What’s in it for you?  Well, if you happen to be a member of the entertainment industry you’ll get to see 34 very castable actors in professionally directed scenes in a little over an hour.  We’ll ply you with free parking, free food and free booze.  You were most excited by the free parking, weren’t you?  This is LA after all.

Now what do I mean by “industry?”  I mean someone who’s instrumental in getting actors jobs.  That could be a producer, employed writer (yes you can come, even if you’re on strike), casting director, agent or manager.

To RSVP follow THIS LINK.

October 25, 2007

iCarly – Eitan’s Booked Again

Filed under: bookings,TV — Biographer @ 11:12 am

iCarly LogoUch, does Eitan know how much work it is for his biographer to log onto this blog and post about every single booking? There are many other things for a busy biographer to be doing. Did you know that it’s prime fishing season in Nova Scotia? That’d be much more interesting than writing about Eitan’s career.

Oh, the news.

Eitan’s booked an episode of the Nickelodeon show iCarly. He’ll be playing a father (Eitan’s so old, ha!) of a boy who decides it’d be a great idea to dump a bucket of ice water on him while he is sleeping and video tape it for Carly’s show. Maybe if we’re lucky they’ll dump a bucket of Gak on Eitan’s head too. You know, just for fun.

The episode number is #125 and the title is “iHave a Lovesick Teacher.” That’s so all you iCarly fanatics can plan your life around Eitan’s TV schedule.

October 23, 2007

Character Photography

Filed under: projects — Eitan @ 2:30 pm

I’m happy to announce my newest project:  Character Photography.

Los Angeles Headshot

Through Character Photography I shoot headshots for the Los Angeles actor.  You can go to my site and see examples of my work as well as a photography blog on the images and how they work to the actor’s advantage.  The difference between my type of headshots and other photographers is that I focus on “types” instead of “looks.”  This helps the actor market themselves appropriately and makes sure the actor knows that they’re selling with their headshot to the casting community.

The website URL is www.characterphoto.com if you want to set a bookmark or something.  I encourage everyone to sign up for the e-mail list, to be kept aware of specials and other promotions.

Ghost Whisperer – Air Date

Filed under: TV — Biographer @ 2:22 pm

Ghost Whisperer PromotionFunny how TV works. You shoot something and then a few months later they put it on TV. But the best part of this is that they give you a date and time to watch for it. Amazing. What a world we live in. No hunting through channels and Tivoing hours of ESPN trying to catch something elusive, like a commercial.

Eitan’s episode of Ghost Whisperer will be airing November 9th at 8PM on CBS. Truth be told if you turned in at 8:50PM you’d easily catch Eitan’s appearance without watching the whole show. He’s right at the very end with Orlando Jones and Jennifer Love Hewitt. The episode is called “Unhappy Medium” and Eitan is playing a fan of Orlando Jones’ character.
This news is great for everyone. For all you Eitan-Lovers out there this is an easy and fool proof way of seeing Eitan’s “work.” For the other 99.7% of the world this is a great opportunity to avoid watching Eitan. Just make sure your TV isn’t on Ghost Whisperer on Friday night. Simple, right? Go to a movie, read a book, get a massage or simply watch another show. You’ll be able to relax knowing you won’t have to watch Eitan trying to be funny.

October 22, 2007

In Case of Strike, Break Glass

Filed under: eitan's writings,film,TV — Eitan @ 11:19 am

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or somewhere in the Midwest you probably have heard about a possible impending writers strike. Here’s the 10 second version: members of the WGA (Writers Guild of America) are negotiating a new contract and will go on strike unless the producers meet their demands for things like fair DVD payments. The producers have countered by pretending to want drastic cuts and crying about how little money they’re making. So there’s a good chance there’s going to be a strike on all television and film work in Los Angeles very soon.

This post isn’t going to be about the nitty gritty of strikes, greed and/or corporate evil. No, this post is about what to do as an actor if there is a strike. (more…)

October 1, 2007

Writing an Actor’s Resume

Filed under: eitan's writings — Eitan @ 5:20 pm

Uch, you’re saying to yourself, I don’t come here for this basic stuff. I come to Eitan’s blog to read about the deep thoughts of a working actor. I want to know the secrets to making it big, not some refresher on stuff I already know. Well, my topic today will go a bit deeper than you think. Oh yes, it will.

I’m not kidding when I say that everything I’m about to discuss will be for naught if you don’t follow the acting resume format for your market. For an example of how Los Angeles actor resumes are formatted, look at mine.

I’m going to teach you the one big secret about resume writing: It’s all about recognizability. The goal of your resume is to show the casting director or agent things that they’ll care about. What do they care about? Projects they can recognize.

I actually have a list, from top to bottom of what I’m talking about. After the chart I’ll discuss how to apply this information. This is a list for a Los Angeles actor. New York actors will have a slightly different list with a few things in the middle switching places.

  1. Major part in a national TV show/major film (aka “series regular” or “star” billing)
  2. Smaller part in a national TV show/major film (aka “recurring guest star” or “supporting” billing)
  3. Major part in well received Indie film.
  4. Guest star work on a national TV show.
  5. Smaller part in well received Indie film.
  6. Recurring co-star on a national TV show or small part in a known film.
  7. Lead in a play on Broadway.
  8. Co-star on a national TV show.
  9. Part in a critically aclaimed short film which has played in dozens of festivals.
  10. Play in a major theater.
  11. Lead in a film no one’s ever heard of or TV show from a small market.
  12. Smaller part in a film/TV show no one’s ever heard of.
  13. Master class with a “name teacher.”Play in a theater no one’s ever heard of.
  14. Play no one’s ever heard of in a theater no one’s heard of.
  15. Original plays, scenes, student and other short films and stuff you did in your basement with your friends.
  16. Anything on the internet.
  17. Class with a teacher no one’s ever heard of.

You can disagree with my order or notice a few omissions.  And there are exceptions to every one of these posts.  Feel free to disagre.  That’s what the comments feature is for.

Notice the last few have the phrase “no one’s ever heard about.”  That’s the key to this whole post.  People want to see stuff on your resume that they already know about.   If you totally rocked Hamlet back in Urbana, Illinois good for you.  Just know that it’s not going to help you get cast in a TV show.
So how do you use this list?  Simple.  When your career starts out you’ll start out with stuff at the bottom of the list.  That’s cool as it’s all you have.  Just know that no one’s really going to care.  They just want to see you have something on your resume so they know you’re not totally green.

As your career moves forward you’ll start getting things higher and higher up on the list.  When that happens, start dropping things that rank low on the list.  Don’t start getting emotionally attached to your credits, it’s just your resume.  You’re not blanking them out of your memory.

It’s better to have two things from near the top of the list than 30 things farther down.  In fact, it’s better to have two things from the middle of the list than 30 things from farther down.

Let me give you an example.  My resume six months ago was filled with stuff from down on the list.  I had a bunch of student films, plays that stretched back to college, other shorts no one had heard about and then a short film that was doing well and a small part on a Lifetime show.  I was really proud of all the work I had done.  Every time I got a job I dropped the font size down a notch on my resume to squeeze it all in.

One day I looked at my resume and realized I could barely pick out the “higher up” credits from the “lower” credits.  I was shooting myself in the foot by doing this.  I was forcing casting people to pour through my resume for useful information instead of only presenting what they really want to see.  So I cut all but one student film (that had at least played in a couple festivals), truncated my list of classes, got rid of every play I did that wasn’t done in a decent theater in LA and cut my special skills down to four.

This did two things.  First it drew attention to my more impressive credits.  And second it made it look as if I had some experience but was still “fresh” and “new” in town.  One problem with having 30 credits no one has ever heard of is that casting people tend to think, “You’ve done all this stuff but I’ve never seen your work and you’ve never booked anything I’ve even heard of, you must not be that good.”  Everyone likes to “discover” new talent even if that talent’s really been slaving away for ten years.  Just talk to any agent and they’ll tell you the story about how they represented some star before they got big.

So the thing to take away from this very long post is to make your resume short, sweet and show only your best credits.  Don’t be afraid to cut stuff off your resume if it’s not going to help your career.  The goal of your resume is to help advance your career, not to show off for people who won’t be impressed anyway.

September 18, 2007

Nerves – A Tale of Two Auditions

Filed under: bookings,eitan's writings,film,TV — Eitan @ 12:21 am

It was the best of auditions, it was the worst of auditions. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I actually hate overdone titles like “To act or not to act” but this one just rang true to the post. So enjoy.

I want to discuss two auditions I had in the last couple weeks and how different they were. I think a lot can be learned from these two about nerves as an actor, what they can do to you and a few potential pitfalls to watch out for when you do get a “big” audition.

The first audition was for a film. I’m not going to mention the name of the film as I didn’t get it and I don’t like to talk too much about stuff I didn’t get but it was a pretty large film with an A-List cast. The scene I was reading for was with a pretty well known actor and a major A-lister. It was two straight pages of talking with one of the actors. Amazing, right? I got the call from my manager on a Thursday and the audition was the next Tuesday. I had five days to prepare and five days to freak out.

This wasn’t a “career maker” audition like a pilot or a major role in a film but it would have looked really great on my resume and demo reel. So there I was with a few pages of sides and a bunch of days to work on them. I went online did plenty of research to find out who each character was going to be played by, looked up the director, looked up the writers, read the IMDb board on the film and, of course, read over my lines dozens of times and made some good strong choices of what I wanted to do. I show up at the audition and have to wait an hour to go in and read. Finally I go in and give a pretty good read. Not the best of my life, but I was really pleased with what I did.

I’m so happy I did well because that audition easily could have gone the other way. I could have started to think about how the director works ALL the time and could make my career on his next film, how I’d format my resume with the new credit or how I could easily screw up in front of one of the top casting directors in Los Angeles and never get brought in by her again. Those kind of things can consume an actor and do nothing to help with the actual audition. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of all of those things but I focused my energy on the work. That’s what stopped me from freaking out. When I started to think of how amazing this job would be and how much money I’d make on residuals when the thing runs on TBS every two hours I picked up the script and worked on it again.

And in that waiting room I could have started to worry about what the other actors were going to do. I could have looked at them and judged their wardrobes and demeanors to figure out who my real competition was. But instead I stretched out on the sofa, relaxed and read my lines a few more time. This took my mind off of the hour wait and onto the work.

When you have days to analyze and think about your audition the best thing to do is to focus as much as possible on the work. What good are five days if you only spend an hour on the sides and twenty hours fantasizing about what could happen? Switch those two around (maybe not 20 hours on the scene, that’s insane) and you’ll calm yourself down to no end.  Because you’ll know what you have to do when you walk in that room.

The second audition I want to discuss is my audition for Ghost Whisperer. I get the call Tuesday at 2PM for an audition at 4:30PM in Burbank. That means I have to finish what I was doing, do a little shopping for dinner, get in my car and go. That was it. I barely had time to print out the sides. I read them over quickly on my way out the door.

I drive to the studio, park my car, get lost and eventually find the casting office after asking directions at a production office as well as the casting office for Heroes. I get in there and there’s one guy in front of me. He’s in the room for two minutes and suddenly I’m in there auditioning.

There was no room for nerves. In fact, the excitement of the whole thing didn’t sink in until the morning I shot. I woke up and said, “Hey, I get to shoot a scene with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Orlando Jones today… neat!”

The best way to keep nerves from messing you up is to keep busy and keep focusing on the work. If you feel like you’ve worked the scene to death, go out and watch a movie. Have a cup of coffee with an old friend. Do something other than ponder over and over what would happen if you got this part or messed up. Enjoy the opportunity, get excited about the fact that you get to have this audition and make sure you’re ready to step in there and give a good performance.

September 15, 2007

Ghost Whisperer – Booked!

Filed under: bookings,TV — Biographer @ 11:28 pm

Ghost WhispererHey hey, look who’s working. It’s Eitan proving yet again that if he can get work as an actor in Hollywood, anyone can.

This time Eitan will be appearing on the CBS show “Ghost Whisperer” playing an annoying fan (shocking) of a celebrity psychic in episode 307 “Unhappy Medium.” Eitan will be shooting at Universal Studios on Monday. If you happen to be on the tour, keep a look out for Eitan. And what’s this with Eitan and psychics? Weird, right?

The biographer has long guessed Eitan would end up at Universal Studios but it was assumed he would be on the lot as a tour guide or responsible for spraying down Jaws, not as an actor. The biographer hates being wrong but loves it when Eitan works.

And since you’re wondering, yes Eitan will be shooting his scene with Jennifer Love Hewitt. And no, Eitan will not work up the courage to introduce himself.

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