What Happens Behind The Scenes At Award Shows Will Shock You


The environment backstage at an award show feels like a SWAT team has infiltrated the Olympic Games with the cast of Toddlers and Tiaras wandering around. If you’re a presenter, it can feel like walking the plank and plunging into an unforgiving ocean. When the assistant director barks that you take your position, step onstage and hit your mark in 5-4-3-2-1—if you hesitate, he will push you out, and it’s sink or swim. Presenting at an award show can be exhilarating or terrifying, depending on your perspective and preparation.

I empower my clients to thrive under this unnatural pressure. In addition to helping actors launch careers and reach Oscar potential, I’ve been coaching a range of industry players to present at all the major televised award shows. Even though these clients have received multiple award nominations and wins, they all express the same sentiment at the prospect of presenting: cold terror.

Trotting out in heels and restrictive designer clothing on a sometimes slippery stage before a live audience while the show broadcasts to over 65 million viewers worldwide is dizzying. Any misstep, gaffe, sniffle, etc. can be turned into a meme or gif and live eternally on the Internet.

Here are some guidelines to load the dice in your favor.

Cover Your Basics
Request your lines beforehand and memorize them. Do not depend exclusively on the teleprompter as they can fail—as we saw with Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie at the Golden Globes in 2014. Memorizing your lines frees you from the human error of the teleprompter operator.

Make sure with utter certainty that you can correctly pronounce all names and titles. Repeat your lines so that your tongue knows the movements it needs to make to smoothly recite each word, so you don’t trip over them. Andrew Garfield (Golden Globes 2011) fumbled the word “inspiringly,” something a few rudimentary rehearsals would have prevented.

Bring Your Personality to the Lines
Pinpoint your hook and let it launch you onstage, allowing your personality to shine through. A hook is a feeling, word, or internal battle cry that is specific to you, and instantly lights you up—it prevents you from looking over-rehearsed and lets your authentic self shine through.

Practice Walking in Your Shoes
You don’t want to be the road-kill of the award show that trips and is gossiped about later. Sure, Jennifer Lawrence has done this at both the 2013 and 2014 Oscars, but she is in a special category of celebrity who actually benefits from such actions, as they add to her authenticity and likeability. Most actors will just look drunk, silly, or clumsy.

Presenting at an Award Show is a Privilege
You must never forget this and behave accordingly, even if you have to recite schlocky or trite words. Never make fun of the dialogue with eye-rolling, or condescending asides, as it makes you look petty.

It’s Open Season, and Everyone is a Target
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a nasty joke, you need to smile, laugh and show how unbothered you are. Ellen took at swing Liza Minnelli sitting in the audience of the 2014 Oscars: "Hello to the best Liza Minnelli impersonator I've ever seen… Good job, sir." Minnelli, by appearing offended, only made herself look fragile.

Being in attendance at an award show means that you are in a tense room with some of the most talented and narcissistic people in entertainment. Be kind to everyone, infusing all your interactions with grace and humor, and you will be able to handle the unexpected with remarkable ease.

This article was originally published on Backstage.

The #1 Reason You Won’t Book The Role + How To Fix It


For years, I’ve helped actors hone the ability to walk on set, enter the audition room or agent meeting with unshakable charismatic confidence and guarantee one of these three winning results:

1. Booking the Role/Getting Signed
You delivered a fantastic performance, took risks, entered emotionally full and you landed the role. Likewise, the agent or manager has offered you a spot on their roster. Three cheers.

2. Getting Called Back/Additional Meetings
You have done your job as an actor and have received a callback, producer’s session, or chemistry read; you are in definite competition for the role. Similarly, in a meeting with potential reps, they’ve asked to see you again or asked for more materials—additional clips, reels or pictures, because you are still under consideration. Nice.

Just because you don’t book or don’t get called back doesn’t mean you haven’t succeeded. There’s a final scenario that’s just as awesome.

3. Booking the Room
This is when you’ve walked into the audition room or meeting with captivating self-assurance, delivered a fantastic performance, but you’re just not the right fit to proceed further—for reasons beyond your control. Maybe they wanted someone “weird like Zooey Deschanel” and you’re more “weird like Ellen Page.” Maybe they wanted “nerdy like Thomas Middleditch” and you’re more “nerdy like Matthew Gray Gubler.” When you book the room, your performance is so damn good, you stay in the heads of casting or the producers long after you’re gone. This can result in your reps getting great feedback, or later on they decide to bring you back for another role. Likewise, in meetings with reps, they might already have clients who already have your look or vibe. In this case, these reps are being responsible by not over-crowding their client lists. But agency rosters change with the ebb and flow of the tides, so definitely follow up in six months, as there might be an opening.

However, if you’re not consistently reaping one of these three scenarios every single time you audition or take a meeting, you may be sabotaging yourself by projecting some form of desperation, perhaps subliminally. Desperation is life’s cyanide. It will poison and downright undermine everything you want to achieve—from getting the job to getting a date. Desperation is toxic and so repellant to people because it means you’re acting from places of weakness—lack of confidence in yourself, your abilities, and the future. In Hollywood, many can sniff out even the faintest whiff of desperation and no one wants to get near it.

Here are three simple time-tested ways to instantly burn through the fog of desperation every time you walk into a room.

Get over yourself
Desperation actually does come from a place of ego, and an unhealthy scrutiny of oneself. Getting over yourself means taking the “I” out of the scenario. It starts by owning the attitude, "It ain't about me; it's about how I can better serve this project/opportunity/company." Releasing yourself from the notion that you are the main event can be liberating, as it forces you to focus on the great film, episode, or play that all involved parties are trying to create. This also frees you from any notion of personal rejection.

Don't get attached to the outcome
Not being consumed by the desired outcome of any scenario eliminates self-consciousness. You will rarely be disappointed if you stop getting attached to an idea of "how it should go" according to you. When you let go of your expectations about how a specific scenario is going to play out, you instantly free yourself from its outcome. This liberating freedom lays the groundwork for you to radiate infectious charismatic confidence that will consistently trigger an enthusiastic "WOW!" from production and casting.

Getting "wrapped up" in the potential success or failure of any endeavor is when desperation will often shut you down, and out of contention, within seconds.

Get lit up!
I help actors figure out what is uniquely fun and exciting to THEM about what they're preparing for—what lights their inner fire. My clients learn how to energize real and heightened emotional attitudes within their bodies which translates to an infectious confidence and commitment—regardless of whether they are staring down a casting director or new agent. The result is passion and confidence so compelling that they book more roles and launch their careers faster. Best of all, I show them how to activate and deploy this awesome ability within seconds, whenever they need it.

With the stakes as high as they are in show business, it’s only natural to feel desperate at times. The key is to be proactive in strategically annihilating it from impacting your auditions and meetings, even on the most subliminal level.

This article was originally published on Backstage

4 Ways To Crush The Busiest Pilot Season Ever


The sexual harassment scandals of late have done more than just knock venerated men from their perches of privilege and create a long overdue watershed moment for gender equality. With each established player that faces their public reckoning, a spot opens up for a new face and a new program.

These tsunamis of scandals are about forging equality in every sense of the word, and not just in the representation of women on sets and in production, but also, equality and diversity in the types of stories told.

People are demanding change and networks are scrambling to create new
programming. This demand for change is in addition to the fact that the content wars were already in full swing, with so many companies trying to imitate the success of Netflix and Hulu by creating their own shows and original material.

With many of the industry’s major production companies throwing billions of dollars into creating new content and, in some cases, tripling their rosters from last year, it’s creating a perfect storm to be the busiest pilot year in history.

This buzzing environment sets the strategic actor up to win.

Below are four actionable things you can do today to launch your career and have the best pilot season ever.

1. Have a solid game plan
Get your game on now. Now is the time to get a solid strategy in place to stake what’s yours this year, and to compete for every role you’re right for. You must reject the “herd mentality” and not do what every other actor is doing: waiting for auditions by praying someone else (agent or manager) gets them one. Aside from obvious laziness, this is a losing strategy.

Most actors are stuck in a rinse-repeat, catch-22 cycle of—wait for audition, get audition, and hope you get cast. Alternatively, you need to build and maintain game-changing relationships with working producers, writers, and directors, so you know when they’re gearing up for production on a project before a casting director receives a single role to cast.

This town rests on a foundation of relationships, with friends and acquaintances exchanging work-related favors. Thus, to build a career, you need to create and foster those types of associations. At our studio, we help actors build and maintain these game-changing relationships, and start to develop a network of friendships with great writers, producers, and directors right now. Thus enabling one to emerge from the limiting cocoon of just knowing other actors—most actors in this town just have a
collection of other actors that they know.

2. Stop looking for representation
The notion that an agent or manager is going to open doors for you is one of the most damaging myths for the up-and- coming actor. Actively seeking representation is often a black hole of emptiness for actors, as 99% of agents and managers will do nothing for you when signed. It can create a very damaging cycle, where actors spend months anxiously trying to secure new reps and then when they finally get this new agent or
manager, they are profoundly disappointed when they don’t receive more auditions (or sometimes any auditions). Proactive managers and agents know that it takes making hundreds of phone calls for their clients with the knowledge that one in twenty of those calls will get the audition, and maybe one in a hundred of those auditions will result in a booking. Most agents or managers who have hung their shingle out are not willing to do
this kind of work. In this case, it’s up to you to get yourself in the door.

Twelve of our career clients landed Series Lead roles in major network and cable TV shows this year alone—through our work together, they learned how to build career- launching relationships with major producers, directors, and writers on the phone, in under sixty seconds.

The ability to use the phone efficiently separates the doers from the dreamers.

3. Know how to sell yourself

One of the reasons most agents and managers are ineffective for their clients is that they have no idea how to sell them should they pick up the phone to speak with casting or production. Ineffective reps only submit actors through breakdowns because they are too afraid, or unmotivated, to use the phone.

Great agents and managers pitch their clients to production and casting over the phone using all the right branding buzz words to secure that audition. Remember, it’s your responsibility to arm your reps with these singular branding selling points.

Knowing how to sell yourself when you get on the phone means your branding is clear and concise—it has nothing to do with the horrific racket of companies and individuals trying to sell you on finding your “niche” or your “type.”

4. Stop listening to other actors
There is no one-size- fits-all approach to success. Stop watering yourself down with everyone else’s opinions. Much of the ‘advice’ that travels from actor to actor can, unfortunately, bear the taint of other actor’s fears, uncertainties, and doubts. For the most part, it markedly lacks courage, and therefore will do more to hurt you than advance you. Shake off those narrow mindsets that shackle your game plan and start honing your strategy to get more bookings, more auditions, more meetings and a more
empowered perspective on your chosen path.

The realization that you’re the one that needs to be swinging the machete in this industry can be a hard pill to swallow, but if you want to have your best booking year ever, then you must be willing to do it.

This article was originally posted on Backstage

Creating A Badass Reel Just Got A Whole Lot Easier

reel - film.jpg

A telltale sign of an actor who rarely makes it in this industry is an unhealthy obsession and preoccupation with their reel. 

One of the biggest excuses I hear from actors procrastinating their careers, is that they don’t have a reel, or their reel needs updating, editing, etc. 

Excuses are a career ender. I have seen far too many actors allow excuses to stop them dead in their tracks. This is the number one reason why many actors end up giving up on their dream.

Not having a demo reel is an incredibly lame excuse to delay your career, because it signifies an unhealthy obsession with something that fundamentally doesn’t matter.

This obsession conveys a fear of hard work, under the guise of a fear of failure. 

And understandably so, as one of the things that can be so overwhelming when thinking about a reel is the sheer amount of time, effort, energy and planning it can take to create or add to a reel.

The Old Reel

Although not having a reel won’t ruin your career, sending out a terrible one might.

If you really want to create an A-level reel, it must be exceptional. Every top tier industry expert agrees that it’s vital to have footage of you at your best, doing the best acting that you can possibly do.

These basic guidelines have traditionally made for a great reel: No longer than 1.5 minutes, incorporating your best footage at the beginning.

And understandably so, as one of the things that can be so overwhelming when thinking about a reel is the sheer amount of time, effort, energy and planning it can take to create or add to a reel.  

The problem with the typical segmented actor reel it that it offers up too much information.

The Future Of The Reel

Your reel should be an opportunity to not only show you at your Olympic best, but also to feature work that directly relates to the style of the projects you're in competition for, while delivering production relevant material.

If you’re strategizing with your team to pitch yourself for a series regular role in an exciting new cable single camera comedy pilot, why on earth would you want to also include the dramatic footage from that network procedural you worked on last season?

Sometime early this year, a thrilling groundswell shift started taking place in the industry. A large percentage of the high-level agents and managers I collaborate with on a regular basis, started to request a new kind of reel from their clients—one that no longer follows the traditional style of segmented clips of past booked work, but one that instead delivers production relevant material.

Why This Is Awesome For Actors

Actors no longer need to obsess about not having booked enough major roles to create an awesome reel that will have impact with production teams, and get them the job.

Nor do actors have to employ the services of the multitude of shady companies that create ‘original’ reel footage for them—these awkward reels often do more to shut you out of contention for a role.

Whenever my clients tell me that they want to work with a reel company to create footage, my advice is always the same: “You’re better than that.”

Companies that help you to create scenes that mimic major film & TV work, will often end up costing you more jobs than you book.

‘Reels’ like these stand out like a sore thumb as they don’t look professional, and scream “homemade.”

These companies typically sell actors on the promise that they’re going to create original material for them and produce it into something that looks like they booked some top tier film and television.

In reality, the footage always ends up reeking of amateur hour, and always elicits a puzzled look on the faces of production teams as they try to figure out what project it’s from—it distracts them from actually watching your work.

The New Reel

My clients are creating a new style of reel and getting thrilling results in the form of booked roles and launched careers.

While many actors are shutting themselves out of contention by submitting reels containing footage that is so far removed (in style) from the project they are competing for, we are creating “modular reels” for our clients, by shooting 5-12 currently casting major film and TV auditions, and editing them into brief and impactful clips. We get our client’s absolute best booked-role-potential performance on tape, and send 2-5 scenes to production and casting that is directly related (in style and tone) to the project being cast.

This is exactly what the top reps in the industry are advising their clients to do right now, and we’re thrilled to be helping these actors launch their careers faster, and go straight to producers with these new modular reels that we’re producing in-house.

This is, in effect, the great equalizer as actors of any level can now create a reel with less effort, that looks and feels exactly like what celebrity actors are creating.

I can’t stress enough that as the industry evolves, it is imperative for actors to adapt to these changes in order to stay ahead of their competition.

Next time you submit your reel for a project, ask yourself if it includes production relevant material, and if it truly features you at your absolute best. Because doing so will amplify your ability to supercharge your audition rate, book more roles, and launch your career.

This article was originally posted on Backstage


Are You In An Abusive Relationship With the Camera?

There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark—it’s an unhealthy obsession with watching yourself on camera in acting classes. It’s almost a fetish. We live in a camera and selfie-obsessed society.

The way “on camera” classes are typically executed is an exercise in narcissism, and can do more to shut an actor down than elevate a performance. It’s a convenient way to pull focus and take time away from doing the best acting you can do. It is also often the trait of a lazy teacher.

There are countless Oscar and Emmy winning actors who purposefully never watch their performances, auditions, or dailies: Jared Leto, Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Moore, Angelina Jolie, Javier Bardem, Meryl Streep, and far too many more to count.

“The fact that I like to make characters doesn’t mean that I like to watch my characters being made, my performance. I can’t even watch that fucking nose, that fucking voice, those ridiculous eyes. I can’t handle that. But when I’m doing it, I don’t see my nose or hear my voice; it’s like there’s something stronger, bigger than that. And I need to express it.” —Javier Bardem

“I won’t watch [my movies] because if I did I would spiral into a state of self-hate.” —Reese Witherspoon

Great actors don’t need to watch themselves to know they’ve done great work. They can feel it.

It’s unhealthy to watch yourself every class. Some actors should never watch themselves, as it may make them overly conscious and sabotage their best work. I’ve personally seen it inhibit more actors than help.

Copiously watching yourself can lead to second guessing your choices, and can lead to a lack of confidence—something that is unquestionably fundamental to launching a successful acting career. This compulsive need to be constantly ‘checking in’ is an actor’s unhealthy obsession with the constant need for approval and feedback. Existing in this perpetual cycle of “How am I doing?” does more to breed insecurity than confidence. It's also unhealthy. Think of what a huge turn off this would be in a relationship—a partner who’s constantly checking in for feedback. Enter into any professional situation (on set or audition) as a collaborator—be the solution to their problem. Make a choice and move on.

Furthermore and perhaps most importantly, most on camera classes have nothing to do with the reality of handling the actual experience of walking into an audition room and making the brave choices to book a role. There should never be a one-size-fits-all approach to audition technique.

As there are over 20 different ways of auditioning, each one requires a separate skillset and approach.

Those “look at me on camera” every week classes typically make zero differentiation between the many styles/ways of auditioning: pre-read, cold read, callback, producers session, chemistry read, taped audition, Skype, etc.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the material you work on in class should be directly related, in style and approach, to what and how you're going to work on in the real world.

What an “audition technique” class that delivers results looks like:

  1. You coach on new currently casting major film/TV sides every week.

  2. You experience an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation every class. Or you don’t leave.

  3. You discover that singular winning choice to go into the audition room and book the role.

  4. The focus is on doing the best damn acting you can do, not the result of watching yourself on-camera during playback.  

If you can get over how you look, watching yourself can be a valuable tool for improvement. But only when you need it. For example, when an actor thinks they’re being too big when working on certain sitcom styles that demand bigger performances. They’re often surprised when they see the performance wasn’t nearly big as they thought. The opposite also applies. When you watch yourself, watch yourself with a producer/director hat on.

The best on camera classes are focused on “on-camera technique,” but don’t actually record the actors every week. Reps and other industry people often tell actors to enroll in an "on camera" audition class without realizing this crucial differentiation.

The reality is, classes that put you on tape every week can stunt your acting growth as the primary focus is on how you look, rather than what great acting should feel like.

If you’re looking for an experience that's going to actually help you launch your career and boost your booking rate, then you might need to rethink what “on camera” means to you.

This article was originally posted on Backstage

Why Your Scene Partner May Be Hurting Your Chance Of Success

It wasn’t until I had the great fortune of studying with the legendary Jeff Corey, that I was introduced to the concept of a one-on-one coaching session in a small class setting, in which every single student experienced an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation every single class.

Jeff had a legendary acting career of over 235 major film and TV credits (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Bonnie and Clyde,” “True Grit,” “Star Trek,” just to name a few.

Jeff taught a small class (under 10) every Tuesday in a small studio above his garage, at his home in Malibu. His students over the year have included: James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Leonard Nimoy, Rob Reiner, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Robin Williams, Steven Spielberg, Sean Penn, Dick Van Dyke, John F. Kennedy, Kirk Douglas, Peter Fonda, and far too many more to mention.

Rather than being forced to partner up with a scene partner, actors were given the option to present work—either on their own, or with a reader—and coach one-on-one with Jeff every class.

In fact, it was Jeff Corey that showed me it was possible for every actor to actually have an undeniable acting breakthrough every class. This is now a guiding principle in my work with actors.

When actors are forced to work with a scene partner, it has a tendency to dilute the quality and impact of an individual’s work.

The reason most studios employ the scene partner scheme, is so that they can pack classes full to the brim—hence doubling their revenue. It’s a tired business model that doesn’t support and respect the potential for an actor’s personal growth.

Many acting studios create a dynamic where students don’t work every week—you’ll either get up and present work once a month or every few weeks at best (further driving studio revenue). And when students do work, they’re required (forced) to work with a scene partner. This sets up a potentially losing dynamic for the actor because you’re gambling on the chance that your scene partner will uphold his/her end of the bargain—that they’ll give a shit about actually doing the work.

I’m sure many of you have experienced what it feels like when your scene partner doesn’t uphold their end of the bargain, or they flake and don’t show up, and you are then shit out of luck. The teacher inevitably spends her time working with the weaker link, and you lose your working session. It’s a waste of your hard earned money and precious time.

When you get to work one-on-one with your coach every single class until you have an unmistakable breakthrough, your growth is exponential. This ensures that you get hard results in the real world: booked roles and launched careers.

Ultimately, your acting class should be a reflection of the Oscar & Emmy caliber career you want.

This article was originally posted on Backstage