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Sunday, June 27, 2010

All Right, Now...PUSH!!!

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve heard me talk about conflict.  You’ve seen me wax poetic about objectives.  You’ve listened to my diatribes on internal obstacles.

What now?

Okay, the conflict is what engages the audience.  It’s what makes them want to watch.


The objective is what allows us to step into the character’s shoes even though we may seem to have nothing in common with them at first blush.


The internal obstacle helps us keep it real.  Being able to doubt ourselves is one of the only defining traits that I can think of that make us truly human.


Is that enough?  The audience is paying attention.  We’re grounded in the scene.  We’re believable.  We’re good, right?

Er.  Not quite.

It may be believable for me to pick my nose, but I’m pretty sure no one would pay $12 to go see it.  It’s not enough to be real.  We need to be interesting.

Which is where tactics or actions come in.  A tactic or action is something that we do to the other character in order to get what we want (our objective).  And a tactic can always be expressed in the form of a verb.

Now, this can’t be just any verb.  It needs to be an active verb.  An active verb that you can do to someone.  Preferably one that gives us a strong mental image.

I can punch you with my words.  I can tickle you with my lines.  I can humiliate you with my dialogue.

I can’t think, sing or swim you.  Make sense?

With each new thought (or “beat”), our character will switch tactics (or verbs) to try something new to get what they want.

We may start by pleading, then switch to seducing, then segue into piercing.  Each verb will give a different quality to the line of dialogue we’re delivering.  The tactics heighten the conflict, make our choices active and specific, and most importantly. . . make us interesting!!

So go ahead.  Push.  I dare you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Endless Distractions

We all face them. They come in many shapes and sizes. They seem so very, very compelling in the moment.

And they do absolutely nothing for us.

Let's stop for a moment. Do we know what our acting career goals are? If we don't, that's probably the first priority. If we don't have a direction that we're actively headed, getting diverted from that path really doesn't matter too much, does it? :)

Now, once we have defined what it is that we want, let's look at the things that seem to take time away from that goal.

Sleep. Okay, unless you're spending more than 9 hours in bed, I think you're fine on this one. A bigger problem here is usually the opposite. Pushing so hard, burning the candle at both ends (and possibly from the middle as well), that we end up collapsing. Just in case it's not clear, when we go face-down we're probably not going to be pursuing our goals all that well.

Work. Another one that's kinda important. We need to pay the bills. Not doing so is cause for some pretty interesting (read: painful) experiences--no heat, no electricity, no food, no place in which to lie our pretty little heads. Again, this is not too conducive to pursuing our career objectives. The one challenge here is not to sacrifice what we want long term for what we want right now. I know an awful lot of unhappy real estate agents who just want to act.

Food. Ah, food. My friend, my solace, my downfall. Are we eating to live, or living to eat? Do we eat unhealthily? Do we eat to make the emptiness go away? Or are we eating out so often that we have to work overtime in order to pay for our habit (see above). It's important that we stay healthy, and eating properly is a huge part of that.

Exercise. This is a no-brainer. Just do it. It will actually increase the amount of your productive time by giving you more available energy. Plus, you'll look better, feel better and have greater confidence.

Now, for all the rest, take an honest look and assess. Is this taking me closer to or further away from my goals? If it's the former, keep it up. The latter? Cut that sucker out, if at all possible. A partial list of possible distractions? I'm not even going to go there. We know.

But here's the biggest distraction that I see in a lot of actors (and one that will make you absolutely crazy): worrying about things that have we have no control over. Why didn't I get that last callback? They loved my callback; why didn't I get the part? Am I too old to have a successful career now? What if the casting director doesn't like me?

Stop it! It's not helping you.

Sometimes, in order to stop thinking about the things we have no control over, we'll go in the opposite direction. We obsess over completely trivial things simply because we do have control over them. Should I part my hair on the right or the left? Blue shirt or red one? Blond or brunette? Dress professionally or dress up like the character? Paper or plastic???

Can these things have an effect? Sure. But it's rare for us to know what that effect will be ahead of time. So stop stressing about it. Think about being prepared. Think about developing your craft. Think about connecting.

All the other stuff is just that...stuff.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Self-promotion: the Boogey Man under the Bed

Even just thinking about marketing ourselves is enough to give most of us the screaming heebie-jeebies. If we’re unlucky enough to dream about it, we wake up in a cold sweat.

Why is that?

I think part of it is that we don’t fully believe that we’re worth promoting. Even when we have a strong belief in our own talent, on an essential level most of us fear that we’re unlovable.

And if that’s true, self-promotion does nothing more than expose us to pain and potential ridicule. No wonder we avoid it like the plague.

But let’s stop for a moment. We all have things inside of us that we’re pretty sure would disqualify us from being loved, if only they were known. All of us.

And when we hear someone else that’s brave enough to bare their soul and share their pain, what’s our response? I can’t speak for everyone, but my response is that I can’t help but love them for it.

And in those moments that I don’t? Well, that’s usually because what they’re admitting to is something I share in common with them but am unwilling to face in myself. In other words, it’s my problem, not theirs.

The only thing that’s holding us back is a groundless fear. The fear of being unlovable.

The boogey man.

Because each of us are not just lovable, we’re infinitely lovable. And what’s more? We’re filled with infinite potential.

What’s the practical side of all this? Well, once we really connect and realize that our fears are, frankly, ridiculous, we realize one other key fact.

We are all dorks.

In the best way possible, of course. What I mean is that we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. We’re all here just trying to do our best. There is no epic battle.

Once we realize that, the rest is fairly simple.

We get the best promotional tools we can (headshots, well-edited resume, reel, biz cards). We become active in the acting community. We make friends. We work our butts off.

And we open up our mouths. (When’s the last time we unashamedly introduced ourselves as actors?) Because, at the end of the day, marketing is just about sharing.

And we learned how to do that in preschool.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me


Even the word looks nasty, doesn’t it?

Rejection is the great leveler. Every actor, even the super-famous ones, face rejection from time to time. The part goes to someone younger, someone better looking, someone holding more golden statuettes.

It does feel more devastating to actors who are struggling to pay rent. We NEED that gig! And then it goes to someone else. It could be just an anonymous, faceless “actor” that nabs that precious part, but sometimes it’s worse.

Sometimes it’s someone we know. Sometimes it’s someone whose acting we don’t particularly like.

And it’s not just getting cast. It’s getting representation. It’s bad reviews. It’s online smack talk from disgruntled ex-fans.

No matter where we are in our acting careers, rejection is simply a part of the landscape.

Faced with this ghastly specter, actors typically do one of two things. They numb the pain with drink, drugs, sex, gambling or any other addictive and corrosive vice they can think of. Or they break, imploding inward while spiraling downward--quite the Newtonian feat, by the way.

There is another way.

This one requires that we do some uncomfortable things, but take a second and look at the alternatives. Probably worth it, right?

The first thing is to go outside our comfort zone and find a tribe. Make friends, both in and out of the industry, who will support you through thick and thin. Lean on them in times of hurt and emotional crisis. Then be there for them when they have theirs.

Then, find ways to be of service. The most successful actors (and by successful, I mean the happiest) make time to render kindness to others in whatever way they can. When you serve those that may have it worse than you, not getting cast or getting a bad blurb just doesn’t seem as…well…earth-shattering.

Finally (and this is probably the most challenging), stay connected. When we connect with others and STAY connected, we can feel our self-worth. When we disconnect and isolate ourselves, we become the piece of trash at the center of the universe. Not a pretty image, right?

‘Cause at the end of the day, it’s all about doing what we love. Rejection doesn’t even factor into that, does it?