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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Working Actors

I hope you guys know by now that I'm not here to destroy or mock or change any of your dreams.  I believe in dreams.  I have them myself.  I'm not jaded and bitter.  I am full of hope and of the sweetness that hope brings.  I am also full of hope that will never go away if I continue to choose hope over despair.

And one of the things that I like to do when despair beckons with its sweet, dismal keening is to talk about success stories.  Also, remember that my definition of success is different than many others'.  I believe that success is about doing what you love and living to do it another day.

But sometimes, that definition of success and the world's happen to coincide.  Such is the case with a friend of mine from my undergraduate acting program.  He was and is a talented performer.  His financial success, like many struggling actors, wasn't all that great.  But he persevered, continued making and keeping friends in the business, and above all, found ways to keep acting.

He is now in NYC, getting ready for the Broadway premiere of the show that he's performing in.  The actor's name is Danny Stiles, the musical is Wonderland, and Danny's going to be a guest on my show this Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time, schedule permitting.

Danny's a great guy, a wonderful actor and singer wrapped around a beautiful soul.  He's also been through his fair share of disappointments and frustrations as he's tried to navigate the business.  That's true of everyone that attempts to have a career in entertainment.

I'm not going to share any more of his story, but please join us this Thursday to hear it from the horse's mouth.  Have questions for Danny?  Call in and ask them.  Want to congratulate him for making it to the Great White Way?  Do that, too.  I'm sure he will appreciate it.

But whether or not you join in, make sure and listen.  We can all use success stories from time to time.  Keeps hope alive, you know?

You can listen to the show by going here or by calling in (424-243-9619) at 8 pm L.A. time.  I look forward to hearing from you!

And remember, if you're enjoying the advice and information you're getting from my Twitter stream and radio show, put it to the test in my online acting classes.  Doesn't matter where in the world you are, if you have internet and a webcam, you can take acting classes.  Sign up at the top of this page.

AND, no matter what else you do, make sure that you keep acting!

Oh, for all you actors out there that love a good book, you HAVE to see what Bestseller for a Day is doing.  Today only, 30 Pieces of Silver, the amazing and controversial thriller by Carolyn McCray (@craftycmc and @writingnodrama) is only $.99!  You get an awesome novel, you can enter to win prizes, plus you're helping indie authors everywhere.  Go here to find out all about Bestseller for a Day.  Go here to purchase 30 Pieces of Silver!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Riddle Me This... the Q & A Session

Nobody wants to look stupid.

Heaven help me, I understand the impulse, as foolish as it is.  We all want to be "in the know", even when we really aren't.  By the way, even the folk who are "in the know" don't know everything.  I certainly don't.  The only difference is that I typically will tell you when I'm giving you an educated guess.

Experience is an amazing teacher.  However, none of us has unlimited experience.  Therefore, it follows logically that there will be gaps in our knowledge.  Those gaps are greater for those that are just starting out.  There is absolutely no shame in it whatsoever.  It's just a good thing to remember as we're trying to navigate our way through as system that's confusing to even old pros without taking the time and energy to be well informed first.

What do we do when we don't know something?  We go about trying to get it.  We go to college, to a parent, to a trusted mentor.  We seek out experts in the field we're interested in to find out what we want to know.

So, for this week, I'm giving you an opportunity to ask anonymously any of those questions that you would be too embarrassed to ask otherwise.  Or, if you want to be brave, go ahead and ask your questions in a more public way--commenting on my blog here, @'ing me on the stream on Twitter, or by actually calling in to my internet radio show this Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time.  But if not, you can email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.  I promise I won't mention your name if you do. :)

Whether you email, comment, @ or call, I will try to answer every question I get during the show this Thursday, time allowing.

And if you like what you hear, maybe it's time to step up your game a little bit.  It doesn't matter where in the world you are, as long as you have internet connection and a webcam, I can train you as an actor.  You can sign up here on my blog, or request more information by email me.

So, here I am, ready and waiting for you questions.  Let's get to it!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shouting Ourselves out from the Rooftops

Time to talk about it once more, people.  Marketing.  Self-promotion.  Glad-handing.  Schmoozing.  The old razzle-dazzle.

Yes, we've discussed this before.  No, I don't have any plans to stop any time soon.

Because it's important.  I don't want anyone to misunderstand me.  I'm not saying it's more important than other things like, say, acting craft.  I'm just saying it's the one area that most actors neglect when they're pursuing an acting career.

Times have changed, people, and they're continuing to change almost as fast as we can keep up.  More and more I'm hearing about actors (especially VO artists) getting work from their interactions on Twitter and FaceBook.  Submissions are almost all online these days.  A working website is nearly as important as having a headshot, resume and reel.

We can blithely continue forward, hoping against hope that we'll be "discovered", but those days are largely past.  I'm not saying it can't happen.  I'm just saying that it's not incredibly likely.  And with as many actors as are out there, you will get lost in the shuffle if you're not putting your rowboat firmly in the shipping lanes.

In other words, shouting yourself from the rooftops.

So, we're going to be discussing it this Thursday at 8 pm PST on my radio show.  As per usual, Kristi Hatsell (@Kristi_Gail) will be there with me, putting in her more-than-two-cent's-worth.  So join in here, or better yet, call us!  The number's (424) 243-9619 or you can Skype from my blogtalkradio homepage while the show's live.  We would love to hear from you.

If, however, your voice is hoarse (because you didn't listen to last week's show, shame on you) or you're shy, or you have anti-social issues, @ me on the stream or leave a question as a comment here.  I'll answer your questions during the program.

Enjoying what we're doing here and on the show?  Then please help us to continue it by DONATING!  All this stuff is coming to you for free, but it takes time, energy and moolah to make happen, so donate here.  Even just a buck or two helps!

And, if you're looking to take your talent and your career up to the next echelon, join my online acting classes.  They're flexible, affordable and you can learn without leaving your house (or changing out of your pj's).  I would love to see you in class!  Sign up at the top of the page.  Let's get to it... there's acting to be done!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All the Way from Glasgow...Guest Blogger @actingcoachmark!

For those of you who don't know Mark Westbrook (@actingcoachmark on Twitter), I wanted to give you a chance to check him out.  He and I come from slightly different disciplines (although I have nothing but respect for his approach) and remarkably similar ways of viewing the craft of acting.  Please take a second after reading this entry to go and see his blog, where my guest entry is currently posted.
First off, let me say, it’s an honour to feature on Ben’s blog, we acting coaches are not known for flocking together, in fact, the collective term for our profession is probably a ‘discordance’, if anything. So I really was delighted to have found another acting coach online, with a very similar philosophy of acting, if the actual practical application differs. 
With each new student, I always start from the same point.  Where are you at now? And where do you want to be? A simple coaching question.  It could be asked in anyway field, but it cuts through what I call the ‘wantingitNESS’ and starts to make the actor figure out practicably (so it’s capable of being done) what steps should be taken to become an actor.  I hear lots of people say they ‘want’ to be actors, want to be writers, want to be directors, but unless they actually take the steps to achieving this, you are only left with a burning want, and zero achievement.  The want is not enough.  You’ve got to take action.  
But what action should you take?  There are of course, two sides to this.  The business side of the actor, and the technique side.  If you’ve read Ben’s blog before, or caught his Twitter feed, or listened to his Radio Show, you’ll know that he handles both sides and his advice is always very valuable.  
At my own studio in Glasgow, Scotland, we don’t really focus on the business side, we do help students that have those questions, but our primary aim is to help people to learn to become truthful actors. 
Well, what the heck does that mean?
I mean that when someone watches you act, that you do nothing to disturb their appreciation of it.  The audience will put up with a lot, but they sense bullshit and pretending from miles away, but give them truth, show them the truth, and you’ll notice an amazing phenomena, people start to lean forwards in their seats, the room goes quiet, and everyone is drawn to this actor, who may be doing very little, but they are doing so with truth and have become entirely captivating.
The starting point for our actors at ACS is the truth, we do this by combining the acting philosophies of many great people into a very simple little package. I said simple, but I didn’t say easy.  It takes about two years of classes to ground the basics.  After that, it’s a matter of growing experience in relations to different acting challenges.  When I tell students this, (long before I mention Sanford Meisner’s quote about it taking 20 years!) some people look quite disappointed.  They want the quick fix.  Well it isn’t going to happen.
The starting point for you as an actor, is the understand that you are joining a craft of acting that takes time, requires an apprenticeship, needs a commitment that is long, steady and ongoing, and is often the cold truthful answer behind the hot burning ‘wantitNESS’ that’s driving you.
Mark Westbrook
Acting Coach Scotland
Mark's blog can be found here.  Go and check it out!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baby Talk

Time to make idiots of ourselves, guys!

Whenever I start teaching someone how to use his or her voice properly, the first thing I discuss with them is what babies do.  Sounds crazy, but go with me for a second, guys.  You've been around infants before, right?  And you've noticed, I'm sure, their crying.  Ever notice how it can go on for hours and hours?  And that they never go hoarse?

Sound useful at all?

You know as well as I how fragile our voices can be.  And I don't know many films that are going to halt production for us to get our voices back after we've blown them out.

So, yep.  That's our job as actors.  Getting our voices back to the natural state they were in when we were born.  And the way we do that?

By making some of the stupidest sounds known to man.

The main thing to know is that the less tension we have in our bodies, the better our breathing (and therefore speaking) will be.  Getting rid of that tension is a bit of a challenge, but there's ways to do it.  Relaxation exercises, Alexander technique training, yoga, meditation, among many other things, can all help.  Once we've started getting the tension out of our voices, the next step is to make an absolute fool out of ourselves.

There are several techniques that I use to access the "baby" voice, but the one I've found a lot of success with is to imitate a baby's cry.  Finding that place for us as adults is a challenge, not because it's hard to do, but because there's a real sense of embarrassment or shame in making those sounds.  Try it right now and you'll see what I mean.

But once we let go of our pride and find that place, we can see that it's an incredibly intense sound that can be made with little to no effort on our parts.

So, come join me this Thursday at 8 pm PST for my radio show, where alongside Kristi Hatsell (@Kristi_Gail on Twitter) I will talk about how to get the most out of that little box in the middle of our throats.  Join in here, or be brave and give us a call at (424) 243-9619 or by Skyping in from my blogtalkradio homepage during the live show.  Like what you've been getting in these blogs, the podcasts and the show (all for free)?  Help us continue what we're doing by donating here.

And, as always, if you're picking up what I'm laying down, let's do it on a regular basis!  Join my online acting classes by signing up at the top of the page here.  Let's get crackin'!