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

March 10, 2010

Baseball Analogy to Acting Professionally

I’ve been accused of using too many sports analogies when talking about acting.  Well, I’m a guy who likes sports.  It’s what we do.  Watching the Winter Olympics I marveled at how many non-Winter Olympics analogies were used by the announcers.  It’s pretty hard to equate bobsledding to baseball, but they managed.

So now that spring is hitting it’s one of my favorite times of the year: spring training.  Once a year I get to pretend the Orioles have a shot at being good and this is it.  Watching some pre-season games I had a thought about the guys I was watching play:  every one of those guys, with only incredibly rare exceptions, dominated every level of play they’ve been in before making it to a professional roster.

This is something I don’t think we appreciate enough.  The guy who is in single-A ball (the lowest rung of still being attached to a professional team) was the star of his high school baseball team.  Then he went to college where again he was a major star.  Upon turning pro he was now in the company of many men all of whom were the best their whole lives on their respective teams.  Despite all that, this guy may not ever make it to Camden Yards to get to play a single inning.  The talent level of every one of the guys who wears a professional jersey is so high that even if you’re “the best” in Iowa it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily good enough to play with them.

Actors face a similar (but slightly different) system.  Many of us start out acting in school.  Think back, were you one of the top actors?  Did you have trouble getting cast?  Did you end up being the tree?  If you didn’t get consistent work even at the lowest levels how do you expect to compete with the actors who’ve been at the top of their class everywhere they went?

This isn’t a perfect analogy as their are casting considerations.  Even in high school I was a character actor so I didn’t get the huge glamorous parts of the romantic leads.  That said I worked pretty consistently through high school and college and only had trouble getting cast in a college where they went out of their way to give first crack to their drama students (which I was not).  I still got parts (good ones too) but it was tougher.

So you played Hamlet, Romeo and every other lead part in high school and college so you decide to come out to LA and be professional.  Well guess what, so did the vast majority of the people you meet in LA who want to be actors.  This is not the middle of Nebraska where there are three people competing for the role of Officer Krupke this is the “Superbowl of Acting” as an actor friend likes to say.  If you can’t compete in the lower levels you stand no chance here.

February 22, 2010

You Don’t Want Feedback on Your Audition

Actors love to get feedback on their auditions.  They want to know why they didn’t get cast so they can “improve in the future.”  Let me tell you why this is one of the dumbest things actors do.

First a short lesson for people who don’t know what I’m talking about.  Actors go in for auditions and then leave.  Most of the time no one calls to say they didn’t get the job and so actors sit at home and wait for the phone to ring.  Now we have cell phones so we can sit at Starbucks and wait for the phone to ring, yippy.  Actors sometimes wonder, “why didn’t I get the job” when days turn into weeks and it’s obvious they’re not getting hired.  So actors seek out ways to get “feedback” on their auditions hoping they can improve in the future.

This probably stems from normal job interviews where candidates call back a week later and hope to get feedback on their interviews.  Typically in job interviews the same types of questions are asked all the time so it’s legitimate that someone could improve their interview for the next time.  Also this is an excuse to call back a recruiter who might say, “you were great but we had to hire someone’s cousin, luckily there’s a better job opening up next week I’d love to talk to you about.”  Really that’s a pipe dream and the real goal is to improve for the next time.

Actors lie to themselves when they say they want feedback.  Problem is, they’re never going to audition for that part again.  Actors aren’t asked, “what is your biggest weakness,” they’re given a part to read.  The part they’re given next week will be completely different.  Notes like, “you should have been angrier when you told him you were leaving” are useless.

Truth is actors want this to be their feedback, “you were amazing but we had to hire someone else’s cousin, we’ll bring you back in next week for this amazing guest star role.”  That’s an ego stroke, nothing else.  Actors just want their egos massaged since they didn’t get the role (shocking).  If they honestly loved you they would have brought you back in next week anyway, even if you didn’t convince your agent to call the casting office.  Yes, it’s another excuse to “stay in their mind” but you also come off as a little needy.

No matter what they say there are only two pieces of feedback you will ever get, “this role no longer exists/it’s now a role for a fire-breathing midget” and “someone else was a better fit.”  Any other way the feedback is sugar-coated is simply someone trying to be creative or nice.  You could have been perfect for the role and someone decide to cut the role out or someone else was simply better for the role (sound familiar?).  Yes, being a cousin of the producer counts as “better for the role.”  Why?  Because to the producer this was more important than giving the best audition.  Sucks, but he’s the producer and you’re not.  It hurts to think you didn’t give the “best audition” or have the right look for a part but that’s the reality of Hollywood.

When you’re asking for feedback you’re really asking for validation of your skills as an actor since you didn’t get the ego petting of getting the role.

Here’s all the feedback I need: did I get the role?  No, then I should probably work harder in the future.  Even if the role was cut or went to a teenage Asian girl (really happened once) I can still improve, everyone always can.

February 1, 2010

Why I Became an Actor

I became an actor to become famous, rich and to be up to my neck in babes.  Duh.

Since very few people visiting this site will bother to travel back to my very first posts I’ll do a ten second version of the story about what lead me to be a professional actor:

I’d been performing in stage productions from the time I was 7 at my schools/camps and really loved it but never thought it’d be a career choice.  I went to high school in Los Angeles and even then loved drama and acting but didn’t think it would be in my future.  It was just a hobby.  I did what most decently smart people do after high school: I went to UC Santa Barbara and studied electrical engineering.  Halfway through I decided I wasn’t loving electrical engineering and only was enjoying the plays and student films I was participating in.  I (read: my parents) decided I should finish up my engineering degree and go back to LA upon graduation to start my acting career.  A few jobs later, here I am.

That took longer than ten seconds, didn’t it?  Next time skim.

What about acting appealed to me?  Back in my early days it was simply fun.  I got to play pretend, dress up and have people laugh at my jokes.  That never went away but from a professional standpoint that isn’t really enough to drive someone to spend the decade it often takes to make a living acting (if ever).

First there’s the typical answer that “no two days are ever the same” and that’s true (except for days when you’re simply home waiting for the phone to ring).  Even when you’re doing a play every show is different.  If you feel like you’re going through the motions you’re probably no fun to watch anyway.

Second, it’s kind of exciting.  Today I’m sitting at my computer in my boxers and tomorrow I might be auditioning for 24 or How I Met Your Mother.  The day after that I could be on set with major stars working on some incredible project.  Chances are that tomorrow I’ll also be at my computer in my boxers, but some days can be super-exciting.  Every audition gets me excited.  I always love to take a minute and enjoy the possibilities that each audition can bring.

Third, acting is incredibly challenging.  There are two parts to acting that are very hard.  The first is simply getting work.  That’s darn near impossible.  Once you conquer that the actual acting part is hard.  It’s easy to watch a movie and see Tom Hanks having a romantic moment with pre-Botoxed Meg Ryan but it’s a whole other game to have 50 people on set watching your every move; focusing on blocking, your lines and what your co-star is doing; walking and stopping on a small piece of tape on the ground that you can’t look down to find; having a camera record your every twitch for millions of people to inspect while pretending to have that private moment with Meg Ryan who you may secretly not even like very much.  That horribly structured sentence sums it up pretty well.

There’s very little glory in acting.  If you want to be rich go into high finance.  If you want to be famous go murder 50 people.  If you want babes then you should figure out how to do that (I have no idea myself).  Acting is fun but it’s a job and it’s a lot of hard stuff to get to the fun part.  Plus you have to deal with endless questions of, “When are you going to get a real job?”

November 12, 2009

Be Friends With Your Favorite Actor

Filed under: eitan's writings,message to the readers — Tags: , , , , — Eitan @ 12:26 pm

Who doesn’t want to have lunch with Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart?  Maybe you’d like to buy Megan Fox a drink?  Perhaps you’d like to tag along while Johnny Depp buys his sunglasses?

Well, it’s too late.  They’re famous, they’ve got people banging down their doors left and right.  The only way to be friends with these guys was to be their friend years before they got famous.  But today’s your lucky day…

Be my “Fan” on Facebook and I promise you my undying friendship and respect.  Barring that at least you can say “I was his fan before he got huge.”

www.facebook.com/eitantheactor
You’ll also get to learn about all my auditions, jobs and upcoming events.  What’s better than that?

October 22, 2009

What To Do After an Audition

In the past month I’ve had piles of auditions and it made me think of what an actor should do after an audition.  There are a few steps I go through after each audition and I’d like to share with you my post-audition ritual:

Throw Out the Sides:  If you don’t know what audition sides are, they’re selections from a script chosen for an audition.  When I walk out of an audition I throw out my sides.  Well, that’s my second choice.  The first choice is to leave them outside the casting room so another actor can use them.  If I left my copy in my car or at home I throw them out the first chance I get.  If I get a callback I just look them up again.

Archive Any E-Mails About the Project This includes any casting notices, copies of the script or love letters from the casting director.  I get it all out of my inbox.  If I have anything to look up in the future about the project I can search for the e-mails.

Try to Forget Anything Anyone Ever Told Me About the Project: I ignore posted “callback” or “shoot” dates which are often wrong anyway.  I try to forget any compliment or slight the director gave me and I stop myself from analyzing them (What did he mean by “nice job?”).  I try my hardest to not calculate how much I’d get paid on that national commercial.

Take Five Minutes to Analyze the Audition: After forgetting all the nitty gritty and putting business stuff out of my mind I take five minutes to think about what I did in the room and what I could have done better.  This step doesn’t take an hour or a week, five minutes is more than enough.  This is a great activity to do in your car.  It’s famously known that the best audition you ever do is to your rear view mirror on the way home from the actual audition.  I take whatever lessons I can from each audition and then move on to the final step:

Forget The Rest of the Audition:  Forget those lines you flubbed or the flat line reading and go on to something else.  Go hit the driving range, read a book or just watch some TV.  Obsessing over a past audition isn’t going to help you land the role or improve as an actor.

This was all prompted by my audition about an hour ago.  It was flatter and less inspired than I thought it should have been.  By the time I got home I had pretty much forgotten all about it.  When I thought back about the audition I said, “I was flat, didn’t do enough with it.  Next time I’ll reach a little more with it and let them dial me back.”  Those were my only thoughts.  I wasn’t thinking about shoot dates or anything, simply that one thought.   It took me years to get to that point but it’s probably my most useful skill as an actor (besides acting).

Obsessing over audition and waiting for the phone to ring can make the whole acting experience miserable.

July 20, 2009

The Levin Agency Has a New Client

Guess who’s now represented by Sid Levin of the Levin Agency….

C’mon guess.

Here are a few hints:

  1. He’s goofy looking.
  2. He doesn’t like touching squishy things.
  3. He’s a hack.

Do you give up?  It’s Eitan!  Yup, Eitan has signed for representation in TV/film as well as for commercials (it’s called “across the board” in the “biz”).  With luck this will result in a stream of bookings and lots of work for this poor freelancing biographer.

May 6, 2009

The Most Famous Actor (on the Internet)

Believe it or not, I’m a pretty famous actor. That is if you count people who visit my website. As of today (5/6/09) I’ve had over 50,000 hits on eitantheactor.com .

Now, I’ve been on some pretty popular TV shows. Most memorably I’ve been on Ghost Whisperer and iCarly, two shows with huge followings online. I’ve also written two very popular articles that come up a lot in Google searches on how to write an actor bio and taking a good Polaroid.

Those four posts draw a huge amount of traffic to my website, which is awesome. So what do you do if you were an actor on Battlestar Galactica? It doesn’t matter if your scene was with Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) or Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer), your’e going to be able to draw huge amounts of fans to your website. What if you were on an episode of Lost? You could have had two lines with Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox) in the airport bathroom or you simply handed Kate Austin (Evangeline Lilly) her latte, you’re still going to be able to pull in huge numbers of people to your website because both of those shows have massive online followings.

So how do you do it? Well, you need to write about it. This doesn’t mean you need to share juicy on-set gossip about which two actors were secretly dating or write about who has a nasty drug habit. Write about your experiences on set. Be positive. This is less of a “draw traffic to your website” advice than a “be nice” piece of advice. If you want tens of thousands of people to read your post, don’t make it mean. It won’t help you in the end.

After that you need to link to the post. Go onto BSG or Lost websites and write a short snippet about being on the show. When I was on iCarly I went on a few blogs/forums and posted a quick thing. I know from watching my site statistics that many people clicked those links. I’ve seen other blogs pick up these actor posts and repost them. That’s the best way to build up your page rank and drive traffic to other pages on your website.

Also offer to be helpful. I try to write articles (like this one) that not only promote myself but may help actors at large. People love a good “how-to” article. Trying to give back is a great way to build your popularity online. For example, Jenna Fischer (from The Office) wrote a really good article on how she made her way from a no-name actress to being a series regular on one of the top ranked shows on TV. She gave lots of advice and naturally it was passed around like a revolutionary document online by actors. She posted the article several years ago on her Myspace page and just a month ago I saw another actor trot it out. I wish I could find a link to the original, but I can’t. If you Google enough it’ll probably turn up.

It’s also important to update your site more than once in a blue moon. Google doesn’t like sites that never update and neither to visitors. I don’t update my site as much as I used to but I still try to log in once in a while and post something. Active writers draw active readers.

What does all this traffic do besides boost my ego? That’s a topic for a whole other post.

January 2, 2009

Booking More in 2009

from the neighbor's
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ali San

Happy New Year to All!

Here’s a very simple exercise.  Examine your 2008.  Look at the records of your auditions, meetings and all the tactics you’ve used. Write them down, you’ll be surprised at how many there are.

I talked about making good resolutions over a year ago and all that info still stands.

This year I want you (as I am doing) to look at all the opportunities, accomplishments and actions you had and took in 2008.  You can make the list as extensive as you like.  Here is an example of some of mine:

  • Got WAY more callbacks than ever before.
  • Got MUCH better at “feeling out” which jobs I would be back for and which I wouldn’t.
  • Helped produce three pretty amazing showcases and helped transition the show from a tiny 66 seat theater in 2007 to a 260 seat theater.
  • Started writing my first screenplay.
  • Made contact/friends with many new “industry folks” online.
  • Started a Twitter Account to keep my fans (I assume that’s you) up to date and build a bigger fan base.
  • And on a personal note ran two half-marathons and a full-marathon having not run more than a mile straight since high school while raising over $2400 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Now, instead of making brand-new resolutions or “goals” as they really should be called I simply want to focus on improving some of these things.  How?  Well, as you can tell from the title of this post I really want to book more jobs in 2009, I want to finish my screenplay, meet even more industry folks online and in person and finally run even more.

These look more like typical resolutions.  They’re not actionable, most aren’t quantifyable and they’re pretty vague.  This is where I go back to how to write resolutions.  I then focus my goals on improving things I’m already really proud of.  Build success upon success.

August 5, 2008

Catch Eitan on iCarly? If Not…

Filed under: bookings,TV — Tags: , , , , , , , — Biographer @ 7:14 pm

Here’s the video.  If you blink you might miss him.  So watch this video while blinking heavily.  In fact, just close your eyes and plug your ears while it plays.

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