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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Marketing Ourselves

Yeah, yeah.  I know, I know.  Here I am AGAIN going on and on about...*cue foreboding music* duh duh DUUUUHHHH... self-promotion.

Now before you go all ape crazy on me, stop for a second.  There may possibly be a reason for me harping so much on this subject.  Hmmmm... wonder what it might be?  Oh, I dunno, just... YOUR SUCCESS!!

Now matter how much we want to believe that alls we gotta do is get ourselves a really good agent or manager and then they'll do all the nasty marketing work for us, it just doesn't work that way.  You want a really good agent or manager?  Then you're probably going to have to prove to them that you're doing pretty well on your own.  Maybe it didn't used to be like that, but it kinda is now.

It's a little bit like finding investors these days.  Perhaps in the past you could come up with an idea, pitch the idea to angel investors and have them hand over gobs of cash (I don't think it was ever really that way), but now you have to prove that you're already making money.  Essentially, when you no longer need investors is when you can easily get them.

So, rather than making us discouraged, this new marketplace should make us empowered and invigorated.  We're living in a time where you can do it all yourself.  Writing, filmmaking, voiceover, editing, and yes... ACTING can all be done by those that want to do it.  And we can market it all ourselves.

Now, I could spend a long time writing about this, but rather than flog a dead horse, I'm going to refer you to my amazing radio show, where you can hear myself and my co-host, Carolyn McCray (@writingnodrama), talk about this very subject.  This Thursday is Christmas Eve's eve, so we're not doing it this week, but will resume our show on this very subject on Dec. 30th at 8 PM PST.  Join us here!  You can comment, write a review and set a reminder for next week.  And call in with your questions, whether or not they relate to the subject.  The number's (424) 243-9619.  You can also Skype in during the show by going to the blogtalkradio page and hitting the Skype button.  For those of you who are really shy, just comment here or @ your questions to my on Twitter.  If you ask it, I will do my best to answer it!

As always, I try to take my own advice, sooooo... I'm now promoting my AWESOME online classes!  Sign up at the top of my blog, or email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) for additional information.  Top notch acting training, as well as all the practical advice and guidance that you've come to expect from my stream!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Thread of Connection

I'm going to talk about the thorn in the side of every acting teacher.  We all know what we want from our students.  We try a million different ways to describe it.  We rant and rave trying to get them to achieve it.

And it's simple.

You may have noticed that I didn't say it was easy or without any sort of discomfort, but it is simple. 

Really simple.

Simple enough...and uncomfortable enough...that most teachers don't address it directly.

What I'm talking about is connection.  That wonderful energy that happens between two people when they drop their barriers and reach out to the other person.

And it's the key to truly moving performances.

There's no easy way to teach it, which is why most of us that work with students are loathe to try.  There's no A + B = C kind of formula, the way that there is when we talk about objectives and tactics and internal obstacles.  All of those things help with clarity, but without the connection, they're just so much empty technique.

But don't despair.  The reason it's not easy to teach is because it isn't necessary to teach it.  We all know how to do it.  We were born knowing how to do it.  The real reason it's uncomfortable isn't because we don't know how.  It's because we've spent a lifetime learning how to keep from doing it.

Because connecting exposes us.  It makes us feel weak.  Vulnerable.  An easy target for getting hurt.  Thing is, when we raise our defenses, we're actually more at risk.  That wall is like a target, asking for all the pain we're looking to deflect.  Like the person who's overweight, hiding behind baggy clothes, we're only making it worse.

So, what actually works is being in a safe environment, with someone who cares enough to say, "That didn't feel connected.  Reach out more."  Someone not afraid to call you on your stuff.  Someone that is more interested in you succeeding than in you being "comfortable".

If that's what you're looking for, join me for my next radio show this Thursday at 8 pm, Pacific Standard Time, right here.  You can follow me there, set a reminder for the show, "favorite" me, leave a comment, etc., etc. :)   Also, you can call or Skype in (the number's on the show page, and there's a Skype "button" on the page during the show) with any questions whether or not they're related to the topic.  I know you all are listening, but having your input during the show would be AWESOME! :)

And, as always, if you're interested in getting training from me directly, you should try out my online acting classes or one-on-one instruction.  Go to the top of the blog to fill out the application form, or email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.  Thanks!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Always Acting: Making Our Own Work

We all face it as actors.  We're completely dependent on others in order for us to be able to work.

Or are we?

We're not the director.  We're not the producer.  We're not the casting director.  Our working depends on a whole bunch of variables that are out of our control:  the amount of auditions we're getting (or not getting), whether or not we're "right" for the part, the tastes of the casting director, the needs of the script, the desires of the director and producer, etc., etc., yadda yadda yadda, ad naseum, ad infinitum.

But is that really true?

We've been conditioned to think of the industry in a certain way.  And, yes, working on a paying gig for a SAG film or television project does indeed depend on most of those vectors lining up (although even here I think we have more power than we think).  But what if we decided to think outside of that narrow box that we've been told is "the biz".

Let's start by redefining "work".  Work as I'm talking about it is simply the act of using our craft.  In other words, it's acting.  And we get to decide whether or not we're constantly acting.  We choose how much we are going to put ourselves out there.

We complain that there's not enough work.  You have to be a name already in order to get a guest starring role on TV these days, right?  Okay, but those names are coming from somewhere.  And there isn't an endless supply of them, no matter how it may seem.  "New" actors get "discovered" every season.  Forgive the excessive use of quotation marks, but the actors that come into the limelight have usually been hoofing it for years before they get their "break" (once again, my apologies).

So?  Let's make something happen.  Take classes.  Go to networking events to meet other artists.  Get involved with a group of actors that want to work on stuff together.  Find a bunch of writers and offer to workshop their material.  Find new and hungry filmmakers that need free or cheap talent.  In other words, MAKE IT HAPPEN!  Mutually beneficial things, you know?  I scratch your back; you scratch mine.

This topic is what I'm going to be talking about with Carolyn McCray (@writingnodrama) this Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard on my radio show.  Join us here (give me a follow & set a reminder while you're at it), and call in with your questions (or Skype--there's a feature on the show page while the show's live--"Skype Click to Talk").  The number's (424) 243-9619.  Or if you're too shy (come on, guys, you're ACTORS!), you can comment here, or shout out your questions on my Twitter stream by DMing or @ing me.

And, as always, if you're looking for good acting, diction, dialect or voice lessons, paired with the practical advice you see on my stream, sign up for classes or private instruction.  You can fill out the form at the top of the page, or email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Conflicted about Conflict

Conflict is necessary in art.  Doesn't mean we have to love it.

Most of us avoid conflict like the plague.  Even when we do engage in conflict, it's only by ramping ourselves up to a fervid passion in order to do it.

But here's the thing:  conflict is what makes the audience watch.  It's why football is typically more engaging than

It's our job as actors to find, clarify and intensify the conflict in a scene.  If we shy away from it (our usual instinct), it makes the scene...well...boring, quite frankly.

Here's the other thing:  conflict sparks our creativity.  Imagine a scene where my objective (what I want from the other character) is that I want you to help me run lines and you want me to lend you $20.  Does it create an immediate and vivid picture in your mind?  Now imagine a scene where my objective is to convince you it's okay for me to date your ex and yours is to convince me that it is NOT okay for me to date your ex.  That image is FAR more crystallized, isn't it?

This is one of those points that many acting instructors gloss right over.  I've been lucky to have teachers that didn't.  It's such a vital part of the process that I'm making it the subject of my radio show this Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time (11 pm for those of you in NYC...sorry!), so join in with me here.  Also, I want you to call in with your questions and comments (even if they aren't about conflict) so here's the number: (424) 243-9619.  See you then!

If you're liking what you find here in my blogs, in my podcasts and in my radio show, try my online acting classes.  There's a sign-up form at the top of my blog--I'd love to see you in class!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Radio Show!!

That's right!  Acting without the Drama now has a radio show.  I had my first trial run this last Thursday with Writing without the Drama's Carolyn McCray, and it was a blast!  You can listen to it here.

The idea is to move from the podcasts to this new format.  What I love about this show is how interactive it is.  You can call in live and ask specific questions about whatever the topic is for the week (or any other questions that pop into your pretty heads...and I mean "pretty" in the sense that you're all gorgeous, not the patting-you-on-the-top-of-your-head-condescendingly way).

So, join me on this fun new venture!  Go here to follow me, set a reminder for yourself for the next episode, "fav" me, listen to last week's episode, comment, stare puzzlingly at my bizarre know, whatever floats your boat.  Just as long as you join me for my next show about conflict at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time on December 2nd (there's no show this Thursday due to Thanksgiving...apologies to anyone not from the states!).

Oh, and please remember to call in!  I know how many of you were listening last week and was stunned that no one called.  Come on!  We're ACTORS, fercryinoutloud!  We should love to hear the sound of our own voices.  :) 

So, I look forward to hearing from all of you...not November 25th, but December 2nd.  If you have subjects you'd like for me to focus on in future shows, leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter.  This is gonna be awesome!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trying Stuff on for Size

When you're talking about something like an acting career, there really isn't a straightforward way forward.  It's not like becoming a doctor or an IT guy, where you go to school, do some interning and if you have the talent and education, you'll progress.  You can be stunningly talented, have the best education on the planet, and still not get cast.

Luckily, we're talking about a creative career, so we're all creative people.  Creative people look at the world in a different way.  When presented with a winding or abnormal path, we can come up with all sorts of awesome ways to progress, right?  Right??

Therein lies the problem.  Most of us are busy trying to convince ourselves that we're not crazy or stupid for even attempting an acting career in the first place.  The last thing in the world we want to do is experiment.  What if we screw up our one chance, just because we were trying something different that didn't go over so well?  That would be a TRAGEDY!

I'm not even going to say that this scenario is completely impossible.  We absolutely could mess up a golden opportunity by trying something new.  Sure.  But the whole "one chance" thing?  That's only true if we give up.

It's kinda difficult to get blackballed for life from the entertainment industry.  I can only think of a few good examples, and most aren't dead yet, so there's still time for them to come back.  And even then, in order to be ostracized like that, you have to be well-known first.  Most of us just don't fall into that category.  Basically what I'm saying is, we can break a few eggs in the process of cooking an omelet.

So when we feel "stuck" in our careers, not knowing how to move forward, maybe we should try something new.  If we keep in mind that we always want to be kind, doing things differently than they've been done before probably won't kill anyone.  Before Stanislavski came around, actors creating "real life" on stage or in front of the camera wasn't on the agenda.  Now, it's hard to find any narrative performance that isn't influenced, at least indirectly, by that giant.

Go ahead.  Take risks.  Think creatively.  Break a few eggs.  And just remember that if things go wrong, we can pick ourselves up and brush ourselves off.  We running a marathon, not a sprint, so there's time to make up for the glitches.

Sometimes it's hard to go through this creative process on our own.  So, once more, I'm putting myself and my classes out there for you.  Want to learn acting?  Want to be mentored through the self-promotional stuff?  Looking for someone to push you to excel?  Take my online acting classes!  You won't be sorry... :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Speak the Speech, I Pray You

One of the greatest tools that we have as actors is our mouth.  The way we shape our vowels and consonants says a lot more about us than we may be aware of.  And yet, most of us have little to no idea what actually happens inside our mouth while we're speaking.

Class.  This is a charged word.  In certain parts of the world, class is a fairly rigid divide.  In others, it's much more fluid, although maybe not so much as we would like to believe.

I've taught a lot of international actors.  I remember one in particular who came from the UK.  One of the comments he made at one point was how shocked he was when he watched "Supernanny" for the first time.  "I can't believe you let that woman on television." (He may have said "the telly", or that could just be me projecting British-isms backwards)  He was commenting on Jo, who speaks with a very low-class London accent.

My students from the US were appalled.  That was so classist!  Why should Jo be kept off of television because of the way she talks??

I agreed.  Then I asked them how they'd feel watching the same show with a woman from the backwoods, telling them all about "Hows theys gonna raise their key-uhdz."  The silence was deafening.

The way we speak gives a lot of information to the careful listener.  It tells them where we were raised, our educational background and even our social status and standing.  Even to the casual listener, much of this information is gathered on a subconscious level.

This is important to us as actors.  When we portray a character, the way they speak is as much a part of their character as the way they move and dress.  There's a reason we accept Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but have a harder time with him in Waterworld or Robin Hood.

There's also a reason why George W. Bush was mocked for being stupid (he isn't, whatever else you want to say about him politically) and Clinton was not.  Clinton's dialect sounds much more refined and polished than Bush's.  Bush's was almost deliberately hick-ish (that's kind of a Texan thing...we take pride in sounding "just like folks").

Despite his enormous wealth, classy is typically not a word used to describe Donald Trump.  His speech isn't elevated.  We can "hear" the difference between a polished Manhattanite and a cab-driver.  Between a polished Southern gentleman and a redneck (and I use that term with affection, seeing as how it describes a good number of my close relatives).

Learning and truly understanding diction, intonation and inflection, as well as dialects, is a very important part of becoming a truly versatile actor (Meryl Streep or Kevin Cline, anyone?).  It's also something that is completely within our control.  That's right folks!  In addition to amazing acting coaching, I teach diction, accent reduction and!  My next online workshop coming up this week will be on speaking Standard American speech more clearly (accent reduction) and will be limited to only 5 students.  If you would like to be one of those students (again at a discounted price), follow my blog, comment below and make SURE to leave your email or Twitter handle.  Also, if you are interested in ongoing instruction in accent reduction or dialects, email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Twitterizing Our Acting Careers


Most of you visiting this blog are more than likely coming from Twitter.  Twitter is a great social medial site.  I didn't think so when someone first told me about it?  "140 characters?  Really?  That sounds kinda dumb."
Hmmm...maybe I should learn to wait before I open my mouth.

Now, you may be on Twitter for a variety of reasons.  You may be here to interact socially.  You might be looking to network professionally.  You may be a 'bot, seeking to inundate my DM box with endless spam.  

If you are in the last category, let me just tell you right now that when you misspell "opportunities" or "growth" or "money", your credibility is somewhere right around the level of Pirelli's Miracle Elixir.  You musical theatre types understand that reference (or if you don't, SHAME on you!); the rest of you need to spend more time with Sondheim.  Yes, that's right.  I just outed myself as a thespian.  And yes, my wife does know.

So, putting the spam 'bots to the side (or into that special junk box with all the "little blue pill" emails), Twitter is great to make friends and network with professionals.  Who knows, you may even find a real free iPad deal out there.  Miracles happen.

One other way to use Twitter is to self-promote.  Yes, I know we talked about this last week.  It bears repeating.  Self-promotion is part of a successful long-term acting career.  Twitter is an amazing marketing tool.  Ergo, Twitter is an amazing tool as part of a successful long-term acting career.  How'd you like THAT syllogism, Mrs. Wilson?  Boo-yah! 

In order to use Twitter to its fullest, we need to understand Twitter to its fullest.  And truthfully, most of us actors hover right around the social media "expert" level.  If you haven't been on Twitter long, you have no idea how bad that actually is.  We could be a lot more sophisticated in our Twitter use than we are.

Twitter is a bit of a numbers game.  However, it's not just the number of followers you have.  There is a way of looking at other Twitter users that can tell you an enormous amount of information in a very short period of time.  And while it may not hold exactly true every single time, it's pretty stinkin' accurate.

Do you know what your following/follower rate tells about you?  What about your listed/follower rate?  Your follower/tweet rate?  These statistics, or "metrics", give a sophisticated Twitter user lots of info about the kind of user you are, and the kind of (or lack of) interaction you will offer.

And that information is invaluable if you are trying to market yourself.  The scope of what I can tell you about Twitter is somewhat limited in this blog, but it's important enough that the next online workshop that I'm offering will be on this topic.  Again, if you would like a discount, follow my blog and leave a comment (which needs to have either your email or your Twitter handle, so I can get in touch with you).  Until then, happy Tweeting!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dressing Up, Baby! Simply Wicked's 13 Days of Halloween

How to follow up the Women of Esoterica's (yesterday's stop on the 13 Days of Halloween) blog post?  How to finish off the tour?  How to hang with all of these paranormal experts when I'm blogging on freakin' Halloween???  I can't take the PRESSURE!!!

*Pant, pant*

I'm okay.

Seriously, though...this is a little bit like trying to take it to the hoop and realizing you're up against Michael Jordan.  So, rather than try to "hang" or "compete" or "not make a fool of myself", I'm just gonna be me, and hopefully we'll all have some fun together.

So, for my little contribution to the Halloween fun, I'm gonna talk about something that actors know all too well.  When you put on a costume, everything changes.  Your walk, your talk, your thoughts, your actions.  Throw a mask into the mix, and holy-Swiss-cheese-morals, Batman!  Costumes and masks can lower (or completely obliterate) inhibitions far faster than any mere libation ever thought of doing.

There's a reason that something gels for an actor when they get into costume (or wardrobe, as they say on a film set).  I can't recall which famous actor said they never really knew their character until they wore the shoes for the first time.

The whole tradition of dressing up for Halloween started with the Celtic Festival of Samhain ("sow-an"), which was a year's end festival filled with bonfires rituals of the harvest.  The veil between our world and the world of spirits was thought to be super thin on this night, so people would dress as spirits to "blend in".  As happened with so much else, Samhain was co-opted by the Catholic church and turned into All Hallows Even, the night before All Saints Day.  Leave it to the Catholics to not only try to take the fun out of things, but then make you get up and go to church the next morning.

There's nothing like dressing like a mischievous spirit to make us want to act like one, right?  When in Rome, do as the Romans.  Is it any wonder that trick-or-treating became a part of this wonderful holiday?  Give me sweets, or me and my puckish friends will have a little fun at your expense.

So, as you go out tonight, remember to be grateful for the harvest, try to blend in with the spirits around you, invite the good ones in, ward the bad ones off.  And gorge yourself silly on all the candy!

As part of this wonderful blog tour (now sadly over), I'm giving away two one-hour online coaching sessions for either acting or dialect training.  So, if you're an actor and wanting some lessons, or you've always wanted to act but have never had the chance, follow my blog and comment below.  You MUST leave either your Twitter handle, or your email address so that I can get a hold of you to let you know you won. :)  I'll announce on the evening of Nov. 2, so that everyone has a chance to recover from the overdose of sugar.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Marketing Our Butts Off

There are so many reasons we retract our claws when someone says "marketing".

It feels selfish.  It feels desperate.  It feels...crass.

And guess what?  It is.

At least it is when we force ourselves to do it.  We all have been given insecurities, usually by well-meaning and slightly misguided loved ones.  Those insecurities can be pretty strong, and sometimes hard to spot.  We're pushing past that whole army of negative voices in our heads when we try to say something positive about ourselves.  Naturally when the pro-marketing, pro-us voice finally emerges, it usually comes with all of that forced energy trailing behind.

We've all seen it.  Most actors at a meet-and-greet fluctuate somewhere between groveling, self-deprecating behavior and preening like the proverbial peacock.  Neither one is particularly endearing.

So what can we do?  Are we just doomed to under- or overcompensate?

I don't think so.

Part of the process is acknowledging the negative stuff that roils around in our heads.  Just identifying those voices as being not real takes a lot of the energy out of them.  What feels like an epic battle turns into something just ever-so-slightly silly.

The next part is really understanding that our self-worth is innate and unassailable.  We are beautiful individuals.  There is no one in the world exactly like each of us.  No one can take that away from us, no matter what they say or do.

And when our self-worth isn't on the line, all of the sudden, self-promotion becomes...if not natural, at least not painful.  We can even progress to the point that we *gasp* enjoy it.

One other thing begins to occur.  Our creativity comes to the forefront.  Our personalities emerge.  We come up with awesome ideas to promote ourselves that no one else could pull off because they aren't us!

Identifying our personal Negative Nancy's, embracing our self-worth and allowing our true personalities to come out and play.  Pretty awesome!

Now, once we're there, we usually have a pretty steep learning curve ahead of us when it comes to effectively marketing ourselves.  For that reason, the next of my online workshops will focus on how to market ourselves as actors!  Keep your eyes on the stream, and as before, if you would like a discount on the workshop, leave your Twitter handle or email in a comment below. :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Simply Wicked's 13 Days of Halloween Blog Tour

So, I've been asked to be a part of Simply Wicked's 13 Days of Halloween Blog Tour.  Awesome.

Apparently I'm wicked enough to be a part (who knew??) and interesting enough to have garnered the coveted October 31st date.  Yikes!  No pressure.  :)  That, or they figured that everyone would be too busy on Halloween to read blogs, so might as well slot the actor in there.  That's so thespian-ist!

Seriously, though, I want to thank Jo Lynne Valerie (@JoLynneValerie) and Amy Williamson (@AmyFWilliamson) for including me in this awesome blog tour.

So, here's the skinny, with all the bloggers and the days that they'll be blogging.  You will notice that most of them have some sort of give-away (including yours truly), so check them out, follow the blogs and COMMENT!!  I apologize for getting this up a few days late:

Day 1     Oct. 19              
Amy Williamson   *Hostess with the Mostest*  ParaScream Radio, Stage Actress, TV Personality, League of Extraordinary Women of Paranormal and Horror
Give-away: YES

Day 2     Oct. 20              
Jo Lynne Valerie  *Hostess with the Mostest*  Paranormal Author, ParaGoddess, TV/Radio
Give-away: YES

Day 3     Oct. 21              
Larissa Sarah  *Featured Blogger*
Give-away:  YES

Day 4     Oct. 22
Monica Koetz  *Featured Blogger*
Day 5     Oct. 23
Conjure Oils  *Featured Metaphysical Expert*
Give-away: YES

Day 6     Oct. 24             
Scott Noir  *Published Author of Erotica, Studly Man,  "Smoldering Prose"       

Day 7     Oct. 25             
Fan Spotlight Day 
Featuring: Psyche Soul Goddess *ParaGoddess In Training*
Featuring: Lily Oak  *Publisher of Hope Open, owner of HedgeWitchery Books*

Day 8     Oct. 26             
Kayleigh Jamison  *Published Author, Spiritual Woman, Bookish Diva*
Give-away: YES

Day 9     Oct. 27             
Intense Whisper  *Featured Blogger*
Give-away: YES

Day 10     Oct. 28             
Donna Carrick  *Published Author of Fiction, Active Participant of #WriteChat on Twitter, Huge Hearted Gal*

Day 11     Oct. 29             
Dyan Garris  *Featured Blogger Visionary Mystic & Author of the Award Winning Finalist Money and Manifesting *

Day 12     Oct. 30             
Women of Esoterica  *Featured Paranormal Expert*

Day 13     Oct. 31             
Ben Hopkin  
*Featured Actor, Acting Coach Helping Other Actors Create Magic in Their Performances*
Give-away: YES

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balancing Act(ing)

Talent.  Training.

You will hear actors (and artists in general) argue passionately about these two words.  Talent is innate.  Talent can be taught.  Talent should be kept pure.  Training is essential.  Training is limiting.  Training is for those that aren't born with talent.

Here's my take on it.  Are there individuals who are born with extraordinary gifts?  Sure.  Do they amaze and astound us?  Indubitably.  Are they exempt from the need to train?  Weeellllll.....

My belief is that talent and technique (or training) should be balanced.  Talent without training has a tendency to be erratic or unstable.  It's exciting, but it's really chaotic.  It may be stunning for one performance and miserable the next.

That said, training without talent gives us precision without life.  We get performances that are impressive in their detail and almost overwhelming with their accuracy, but leave us feeling...cold.  Not exactly what we're looking for, right?

Maybe we should stop for a second for me to tell you what I think talent is.  Talent is that spark that lives inside us.  It's our voice.  It's what makes us individual and unique.  It's a combination of everything that's beautiful and also flawed and broken in our souls.

Some people are born with an ability to immediately access that without walls or defenses.  Others have to learn to drop those barriers, and that can take time.  In other words, I don't believe that talent can be taught, but I do believe that accessing our talent can be.

Training is a way to focus and crystallize our talent.  Not only can training help us access our talent more readily (if it's good training), it can refine our expression of it.  On the other hand, training or technique can be a mask that we hide behind so that our souls don't feel so exposed.

One is not a substitute for the other.  They are the Yin and Yang of the Tao of acting.  The talent is the feminine...mysterious, dark, unknowable (ooooh...deep, right?).  Training is the masculine...ordered, precise, active.

A good teacher is one that uses the training process to better access the soul of a performer and magnify that energy through the focusing lens of technique.  In other, more simple words, they get you to stop hiding and to be specific and active.

If you're looking for that kind of instruction, do yourself a favor and sign up for my online acting classes.  If you have a computer, a webcam and internet connection, it doesn't matter where in the world you are, you can take classes with an amazing!  Look at the top of my blog page for rates and the sign up.  If you want to take class at a time that's not listed, contact me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll see what we can work out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I'm Too Old for This $#!+

No, this blog entry is not about Mel Gibson, so relax!

This is more about the character that Danny Glover played in all 25 (it was 25, wasn't it?) of those Lethal Weapon movies.  Roger Murtaugh.  So old.  So tired.  So close to retirement.

And each time, he gets dragged into all sorts of shenanigans by his slightly crazy (boy, if only we had known HOW crazy) partner.  There he is, running around, risking life and limb and saying repeatedly, "I'm too old for this $#!+"

And yet, each time, he does it.

These were the thoughts that went through my brain as I shot my latest commercial.  It was for a new product...a really kick-butt flashlight, and they had us running up hills, over vales and through rivers.  Yes, you read that right...THROUGH rivers.  And it was cold.  Like 35 degrees Farenheit cold.  And that's not an exaggeration like my earlier estimation of the number of Lethal Weapon films that have been made.

Basically, we spent two nights running wind sprints while soaking wet until about 3 or 4 in the morning.  In boots.  And short sleeves.  And snow.

Okay, there was no snow, but you get my point.  It was more than enough for me to think to myself, Seriously, I AM too old for this $#!+!

But here's the thing about both Murtaugh and me.  We do it anyway.  I can only speculate on what Murtaugh's reasons are, but I assume they're similar to mine.  We do it because we love it.

I've had easier shoots.  I've had warmer shoots.  I've had shoots with more comfortable shoes.  But I haven't had shoots that were more fun.

So, maybe I'm not too old.  Maybe I never will be.

I'll tell you one thing, though.  I'm going to make sure that I stay in better shape, because that next morning was NOT FUN!!

So, to benefit from the knowledge that I've gained through my own training and experience, take a second to go to the top of this blog and sign up for my online acting classes.  They are just $125 per month, and they are awesome!  I look forward to working with you!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Preparing to Get an Agent (or How to Tap Dance without Tap Shoes)

This isn't the first time I've talked about this subject (you can find that posting here).  It more than likely won't be the last.  There seem to be very few topics that we actors like to talk about more than AGENTS (except for maybe ourselves).  We love them.  We hate them.  We want one.  We want a different one.  We have oh-so-many stories to tell about them (mostly bad).

In short, we can't stop talking about them.  Help...I'm talking and I can't shut up.

So, we're going to go over some salient points.

1)  Don't move to Los Angeles or New York to try to land your first agent.  Period.  End of statement.  If you already live there, don't despair, just know you'll have to work harder.

2)  Before you begin to set up meetings with agents, make sure you're prepared to do so.  Not sure what it means to be prepared?  Don't worry.  I'll be giving a workshop that will include a checklist.

3)  Don't just sign with the first agent who says "yes".

4)  Don't expect your life to drastically change the moment you've signed.

5)  Don't stop looking for work yourself once you've got an agent, because no one will ever represent you better than you will yourself!

6)  It's always better if you can get an agent to set up a meeting with you rather than the reverse.

7)  Always be working.

8)  Treat any prospective agent with respect, honesty and LIKE A REAL PERSON! (because...well...they are)

9)  Once you've signed with an agent, keep those lines of communication wide open.

10)  And probably one of the most important--don't assume that this advice doesn't apply to you.  Is it possible that your experience will be different from mine?  Absolutely.  Is it likely that it will be different from mine and everyone else's that I've had the pleasure to work with and teach?  Unlikely.

Okay, so some of those points may have been eye-opening, even disheartening.  But that's why you're here, right?  To hear from someone who's been there how not to have to go through all the same crap?  Because, trust me, I've been through some serious poopy poop.

You may not have perfectly understood everything I just listed there.  For those that have been through it, most of what's here will make perfect sense, but it may sound like gobbledegook if you've never been there.  That's okay.  Working in the industry is a process for all of us.

The industry is not set up like others, where you go to school, intern, get offered a job and start working.  That doesn't mean that there isn't a fairly standard pattern that can be followed to help you get where you want to go. 

There are no guarantees here.  Guess what?  Last time I checked, there are no guarantees anywhere in the job market.  Real estate agent was a pretty hot job a few years ago. (Yikes!)

So, rather than flog a dead horse here, I'm again going to be offering an online workshop talking about getting an agent.  As always, I'll try to keep it cheap, and as always, I'll give you a discount if you leave a comment here with your twitter handle or email address.  I look forward to hearing from you all!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Deer in the Headlights (a.k.a. the Auditioning Process)


As much as we'd like to ignore it sometimes, auditioning is what a successful acting career hinges around, at least at first.  Learning how to go in and present ourselves to oftentimes complete strangers, bare our souls and have them judge how well we did it.

And right there, in a nutshell, is the problem.  At least on some subconscious level, that's how most of us view the auditioning process.  And while there may be a tiny shred of truth in there, it's so hidden with raging levels of fear and self-loathing that it's almost unrecognizable as what it really is.

Because that's not really the auditioning process at all.  Auditioning, from the casting director's, producer's or director's standpoint is much closer to the following:  you have a project, you need good actors that fit your vision, you'd like to be able to enjoy the process as much as possible.

There's only one small part of the process that involves someone judging us as actors.  The rest is about vision, the right fit, and good attitude.

Want to know how much of the audition is usually about your acting?  About the first 30 seconds or so.  That's it.  Everything else is used to evaluate the rest of the puzzle.  Does the actor take direction well?  Will he or she fit in with the rest of the cast (looks-wise and style-wise)?  Is this an actor that's going to pull massive diva/divo fits?  Can I stand this person for the next 3 months (feature) to 3 years or more (tv series)?

And guess what?  The more we go in with fear, the less likely the answers to any of those questions will be positive.  When we're afraid, we radiate that fear in some really unappealing ways.  Not only does the fear affect our ability to open up and connect in terms of our acting, it makes us stiff.  When we're stiff, we don't take direction well, we feel isolated (not good as far as figuring out the fit with the rest of the cast), we're much more likely to be needy (diva/divo) and our energy will be uncomfortable to be around (unpleasant 3 months to 3 years).  Ick.

So, really, the auditioning process is almost less about our talent and acting skill and more about our ability to let go of fear.

I've had some great experiences lately during auditions that I think could be really helpful, so I've decided to hold an online workshop on auditioning technique.  I'll make sure that it's inexpensive, seeing how the economy's still in the crapper (despite the geniuses that say the recession ended in '09).  If you're interested, comment here (leave your twitter handle or an email) or just watch the stream closely.  In fact, if you do leave a comment, I'll give you an additional 50% off for the workshop!

In the meantime, keep breathing, and remember that no one can take away from us our sense of self-worth, even if they try.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Plan B

Both of my sons are playing tackle football for the first time this season.  It's been fun to watch them suit up in their pads and start to figure out the whole "hit hard" thing.  One of their main goals now is to get a "pancake" block, where you lay your opponent out flat.

Football.  Good times.

My oldest son spends most of his time on the offensive line, trying to make sure that the defensive line doesn't make it's way back to the quarterback.  One of the strategies his coach has taught him is called a "Plan B".  When he's facing an opponent that's consistently beating him on the line, he basically table-tops him by going down on all fours and having the other guy trip over him.

At first I was thinking, Hey, that's kind of a cheap shot.  But then I spent some time analyzing it, and really his main job is to keep that QB safe.  The Plan B isn't against the rules, and from what I've seen it can be pretty effective (at least at this level of play).

I think we do something similar sometimes with our acting careers.  It's this kind of do-or-die mentality that says we're going to make it as actors or starve trying.  Off we go to LA or NY with little or no thought of how we're going to make ends meet while finding our way through the industry.

In other words, we go in without a Plan B.

I'm not talking about finding a way to give up on acting if it gets too hard.  Not at all.  I'm talking about having a way to keep ourselves alive and kicking while we're spending time developing our acting talent and careers.  I'm talking about accepting the fact that Hollywood may not fall down at your feet and worship you... at first. :)

Having a steady income stream allows us to go into auditions without the added desperation of "I need this JOB!!!"  Trust me, that vibe does nothing positive for us on either a professional or social level.  Nobody likes a needy actor.

Our Plan B should be something fairly flexible--IT work, website design, bartending, deejaying, massage therapy, real estate, house appraisals, notary public, etc.  This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list, just to give you an idea of things that could work.  Develop a marketable skill that will allow you to work but still audition and take classes.

It's time to break the stereotype of the starving actor.  Having a solid Plan B can do that for us.

And one other thing that having a Plan B can do--allow us to pay for the training that's so important for our development as actors.  If you're looking for an economical and convenient solution to your training needs, contact me about my online acting classes.  You can leave a comment, contact me via Twitter (@actingnodrama), or email me: actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Richard E.'s Notes on Acting

This week's blog entry is mostly just for fun.  It's one of my most treasured memories from my graduate acting program.

I was fortunate to learn from Richard Easton while I was attending the Old Globe Theatre.  Mr. Easton is an amazing actor and an amazing man.  For those of you who don't know who he is, he won a Tony for Best Actor in 2001 for his role in Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love.  This was right after he finished mentoring my classmates and I through our program.

He has a way of looking at acting that is completely different than anything I had ever experienced before (it took me about six weeks before I understood what the heck he was talking about).  He has worked with Dame Judy Dench and Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.  His personality is bigger than any space I ever saw him in.

In short, he is awesome!

One day he came into class with a sheaf of papers (highly unusual in and of itself) and announced in his sonorous voice (replete with British polish), "I was on my second bottle of wine last night, when I decided to write down some notes on acting."  He then proceeded to share some real gems with us.  I'll share two of the most memorable.

1.  "You must never whistle in the theatre.  Not because it's bad luck.  Because it's ANNOYING!"

2.  "Always go backstage after a performance.  It establishes you as a member of the club."

Here's the thing:  besides the fact that the whole episode had me in stitches, there's actually some real stuff in there.

1.  When we're working with others, we need to stop and think.  Is what we're saying or doing potentially hurtful, disrespectful, or just downright irritating?  Then maybe we'd better make a different choice.

2.  Then the other--make opportunities to interact with other industry professionals ON THEIR LEVEL.  Find ways to be working so that we can interact with working actors, with the level of respect that comes with being a working actor.  I'm not even talking about income right now, folks.  I'm talking about constantly acting.  In something.  Anything.  It makes a difference.  Seriously.

So, that's it for this week, except for the little nudge I'm going to give you right now.  If you want to be taken seriously by professionals, you need to be trained like a professional.  Guess what?  I can help you there.  I teach online classes--acting, on-camera, auditioning, dialects, diction, voice...yeah, that's right.  I'm tooting my own horn.  You know why?  'Cause I'm good.

But don't take my word for it.  Test me out.  Shoot me an email (actingwithoutthedrama {at} gmail {dot} com) and I'll alert you anytime I'm doing one of my free intro classes.  Or, you can go off of the statements you've already seen from other actors on my stream and sign up.  I've got some great back-to-school specials happening right now, so ask me about them. :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Checking Out

At some point in our artistic process, no matter how connected we normally are, we normally want to be or we normally seek to be, we will check out.  We, the people we like to think of ourselves as, take a temporary leave of absence.

Checking out can manifest itself in a lot of ways.  Some are much more obvious, like alcohol or drug abuse, compulsive gambling, sexually addictive behavior, overeating, rage-aholism.  Then there's the ones that are much more subtle.  Isolating ourselves, procrastinating, putting up our walls and defenses, getting snippy for little or no reason, enabling someone else's destructive behavior.

This list, unfortunately, is not all-inclusive.  There are SO many ways we can check out.

All of them have one thing in common.  They are self-sabotaging.  They move us backwards rather than forwards.

There are a lot of "reasons" why we decide to do this (and it is always a choice, even when it seems like it's not), but ultimately we find that what we thought were really good excuses are just so much hogwash.

Here's the other thing:  we pretty much always end up regretting what we've done while we were checked out... once we come back to our senses.  In the moment it seems like the thing to do (sometimes the ONLY thing to do), but at some point, we always wake up.  And remember.  And cringe.

What can we do about this?  One thing is to continually check in with ourselves and with someone we trust to call us on our crap.  Don't have anyone like this?  Find someone now.

Oh, and once you've found them, don't let them go.  Because you'll want to.  While we're checked out, we don't want anyone to identify that it's not really us.  It's uncomfortable.  We fight it.

But if we'll just listen and open up in that moment, we can break the cycle of unconsciousness.

The markers of when we're checked out vary quite a bit (remember the list?), but there are a couple of things that I find they usually have in common.  Our focus goes inward instead of outward.  We're looking at all of our misfortunes, instead of reaching out to others to help with theirs.

The only apparent exception to this is co-dependency, but even that is really inwardly focused.  If we're obsessed with helping or fixing someone else, that's really about us.  Otherwise, it's just us reaching out a hand.  If they take it, great.  If they don't, we're sad, but we don't try to control their behavior.

The other thing that I've noticed is that I get really defensive.  I find it so much easier to focus on the problems of everyone else around me (especially those that are pointing out that I'm not acting like myself) rather than take a look at what I'm doing.

When we make the choice to do the uncomfortable thing and really look at ourselves honestly, some amazing things happen.  We become more gentle, more loving, more understanding.  As artists, our work gains resonance and power.  We move audiences instead of just impressing them.

And I don't know about you, but that's why I got into this whole acting thing to begin with.

You know one thing that can really help in this process?  A good, kind and passionate acting teacher.  Which I happen to be.  So, if you're looking for classes or private instruction, shoot me an email at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.  Afraid that you're too far away?  Don't despair!  I teach classes online.  C'mon, that had to have made you curious.  Email me and I'll explain how it all works. :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010


My assumption is that everyone that visits this blog on a regular basis loves acting or creating on some level.  I would also guess that many if not all of you have a dream to live by your art.

It's a great dream.  It's a great goal.

It may never happen.

Now, before you get your nose all out of joint, I'm not saying that to discourage you.  At all.  Promise. :)

It is my firm belief that if you love to act, you should act.  I also believe that acting is a viable career choice.  Some have insisted that this belief of mine qualifies me for a padded cell, or at the very least, a long and detailed interview with a licensed professional.

What I am saying is that sometimes, we base the success of our lives on whether or not we're succeeding at acting as a career.  I'm also saying that this maybe isn't the way we want to exist.

We can choose to live joyfully.  Now joy, for me, is different than happiness.  Happy is transitory, fleeting, insubstantial.  I think it's difficult (if not impossible) to be happy in moments of pain.

Joy, however, is something we can have with us always.  Joy doesn't depend on external circumstances.  We can be smack dab in the middle of seeming tragedies (like the loss of an agent, a "failed" audition, the giving of a primo role to an acting rival...or something much more significant) and still have a sense of joy.

Joy is a sense of perspective.  Joy isn't limited by the normal human constraints we normally operate under.  Joy is being connected to others, as we feel ourselves grow and expand outward into a universe filled with infinite possibilities.

Now, before I get too mystical on you (I know... too late, right?), let's take it down to a personal level.  When we are faced with difficult moments, do we contract inward or connect outward?  That's pretty much what joy is.  It's going out instead of in.  In is selfish and victim-y.  Out is loving, soft and gentle.

It's not always comfortable.  Sometimes it seems like it may even be the death of us.  I can tell you, though, that it always feels better in the long run.

Kind of like joy, actually...always taking the long view of things. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's My Motivation?


We've all heard that word.  Some of us have even had it pointed at us from time to time.

Here's the weird thing, though.  I've been teaching acting for over ten years and I have yet to meet a lazy student.

Don't get me wrong.  I've had students that didn't do their homework.  Ones that wouldn't work in class. Ones that were downright disruptive with their lack of participation.

Not a single one was lazy.

There's something you should know about me (if you don't already):  I love acting.  I don't just love acting, I love teaching acting.  So when I see a student behaving this way, my natural curiosity is piqued.

Another thing to know about me:  my curiosity is quite strong.

So, rather than rant and rave at these supposed miscreants, I did something crazy.  I talked with them.

And without exception, every single one of them confessed to me that their dearest desire was to become a successful actor.  They were also aware that their current behavior was not helping them towards that goal.

So what gives? 

This is normally where the word "lazy" gets thrown around.  Well, obviously these students are just lazy.  They aren't willing to put in the work necessary to become successful.

But, thing is, that's just not true.  Because when I would start working with these students one on one, they would put in some serious hours trying to improve.

After many conversations with these special students (and I'm not using the word "special" in that sarcastic hey-there's-something-wrong-with-that-person kind of way), I realized that what was keeping them from engaging was fear.

They were afraid to fail.  See, if they're not really trying, it somehow doesn't feel so much like true failure.  Of course, there's an uncomfortable truth in there.  If you don't really try, it's kind of hard to find success, especially in an industry like entertainment.

Now that's what was happening on the surface, but then I noticed that maybe it wasn't the whole story.  Because as these actors began to engage and really work hard, I saw something else happening.  They were finding other ways to self-sabotage.  They were now trying, but were obviously still afraid of something.  They were succeeding in the craft, but finding personal (and more subtle) ways to make sure that professional success eluded them.

I think the truth is that we're all afraid of success.  With success comes acclaim and public visibility.  We're now on a much bigger stage.  A stage which, on some level, we're pretty sure will be the venue for our ultimate humiliation and defeat when we're exposed as the hacks and frauds we truly are.

This, of course, isn't true, but the negative voices in our heads are pretty sure that it is.  And they work below the surface to make sure that their version of reality is what happens.

So what can we do about it?  Well, the only thing that I've found that works is to acknowledge those fears when they crop up.  And how do we know when we're scared (because sometimes it isn't obvious)? It's usually when our focus narrows and turns inward. 

The choices that we make when we're scared are usually pretty destructive.  When we're connected and looking out, those choices tend to lead us on to some pretty spectacular things.

Seems like pretty good motivation to me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Move, Baby, Move!

Here we come to one of those topics that most of us would like to avoid.  Getting in touch with our bodies.


I remember in both my undergraduate and graduate acting programs, I HATED my movement classes.  Seriously.  Hated.

Which right there should tell you something.  Hatred is a very strong emotion.  It says something about the person who's feeling it.  Principally, that they care.  A lot.

And I absolutely did.  I cared.  I cared enough to moan and complain and grumble and whine any time an instructor asked me to get my body involved in my acting.  "Just let me ACT!!" was my constant (and I'm sure grating) response whenever the topic would arise.

Because (and I'm sure you've all figured this out already, because you' know...not thick) I wasn't particularly comfortable in my own skin.  I was always one of those actors that was great with technique.  I could think my way around and through (and under and over) any part on the planet. 

What I couldn't do was just inhabit it.

Because, you see, inhabiting a role means embracing it fully.  Embracing something fully means mind, soul guessed it...BODY!


Then came grad school and my sadistic German yogi.  Part of our program was an incredibly intensive style of yoga.  If you know anything about yoga, you know about Ashtanga (or flow or power) yoga.  Gerhard somehow managed to make really hard yoga even harder.

I showed up for my first class thinking that I was in for some gentle stretching.  A little downward dog, some cat and cow, maybe the plow pose if we got a little nuts.  Instead, I found myself an hour later with a pool of sweat in front of me, feeling like I was going to die.  And Gerhard, bless his little heart, said, "Dat vas de eesiest day of yoga ve vill haf."

He was right.  It got nothing but harder.  But I loved it.  My body strengthened and got more flexible.  I started wanting to eat better.  I slept more soundly.  I found myself pushing myself further than I ever thought I could.

And something else happened.  My acting deepened.  I could get in touch with my emotions more readily.  My presence and charisma skyrocketed.  And I discovered that I could manipulate my body's energies in ways that seemed almost...magic.

Before this experience, I called any training that wasn't strictly cerebral "Kumbaya" theatre.  I thought it was overly touchy-feely and distracted actors from the "real thing".

No more.

So, if you're like I was, you can fight this.  That's a choice.  I can tell you from experience it's not a great one.

Or you could try embracing your body.  Training it.  Strengthening it.  Exploring what all it can do.

Don't limit yourself!  Martial arts, Alexander technique, Laban's efforts, yoga, horseback riding, fencing, stage combat, stunt work, and on and on and on.  The possibilities are pretty much limitless.

Get inside your body and stay there for a while.  It's uncomfortable at first, but I'm telling you, it's absolutely the best place to live. :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Personal Standards

This is a topic that isn't addressed all that often within acting circles.  It makes a lot of us uncomfortable.  We find ourselves feeling either judged, with a finger pointed at us, or on the jury, pointing our fingers at someone else.  We compare ourselves to others, checking to see what our favorite actors do when they find themselves in a similar circumstance.  Or, if that doesn't fit with the we're looking for, we go down the list until we find someone (anyone) that agrees with us.

What I'm talking about is deciding what we will and won't do as actors.

One thing I won't be doing in this blog is talking that much about my own standards.  Not because I don't want to talk about them.  I'd love to.  But because, for the purposes of this post, they're irrelevant.

We're talking about personal standards.  Not professional standards (that's a different discussion for another time).  Not industry standards.  Not Standard American. 

We're talking about individual guidelines we determine for ourselves that shape the kind of people we want to be.

Most creative people, actors especially, tend to rebel any time someone talks about limits or boundaries.  And they're right, in a sense.  We don't want to limit the infinite possibilities and potential we all possess, but what exactly does that really mean?  Iambic pentameter could be seen as a limit or a boundary to a writer, but I wouldn't say it limited Shakespeare. 

Talking about establishing and maintaining personal standards flies right in the face of what many say about the craft.  The argument is that we're just acting; therefore, anything we do as we portray a part is fair game.  No exceptions.

And that may work for some people.  There's nothing inherently wrong in that reasoning.  It just doesn't work for me.  And I figure, if it doesn't work for me, it may not work for some of you out there.  The fact that the subject comes up all the time makes me think that must be true.

One boundary that seems to come up all the time is the subject of nudity and/or sex scenes.  But there are others.  Many, many others.  Whether or not to smoke for a part.  Whether or not to eat meat.  Whether or not to act in a film or play whose message goes against our personal beliefs.  Whether or not to swear.  Whether or not to wear the color purple, which CLEARLY doesn't work with our skin.

Okay, that last one may be just a touch silly.  But then again, maybe not.  What seems ridiculous or ludicrous to someone else may be something that you hold near and dear.  Even sacred.

My point here is, each of us get to make our own choices about what kind of people...and actors...we want to be.  Period.  No one else can tell us what to do or believe.  What I decide to do or not to do may not make any sense to you.  That's okay.  It doesn't have to.

Will we miss out on jobs if we decide not to do certain things?  Sure.  It's possible.  Will we really be missing out, though?

The universe is bountiful and wants to give us all that we're willing to receive.  One job here or there doesn't really compare with that, does it? :)