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

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?”

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.

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