Industry Advice

A Sign of an Acting Scam

One of the biggest acting scams in the industry are those unsavory bandits who try to sell actors on the losing proposition of finding their “niche” or “type.” It’s like attempting to steal your personality and sell you back a second-rate version of yourself. The pursuit of niche/type is the occupation of the Sunday driver actor, as it revolves around trying to find what pre-prescribed stale box(es) you could neatly package yourself into—all for the purpose of pleasing! It’s herd mentality crap, and it’s sold to the stampede of actors who believe there’s one pre-prescribed path to industry success.

The higher art form is to do what's taught at Harvard Business School and distill your "singularity," or "value proposition"—it's your wow factor and the DNA of your branding! It's the unique combination of attitudes and behaviors that make you an original and set you apart from the herd. It's showing the industry what they never saw before and desperately must have because no one else can do it. I help actors discover their unique singularity, and help them use it to launch their careers, on their own terms.

This article was originally posted on Backstage

Why You Must Always Be at Your Olympic Best

The brutally competitive L.A. and NYC film and TV markets represent the Olympic level of the game for actors. It’s a very small industry, in that actors who audition for major film and TV roles end up meeting most of the top casting directors in any given year. If you’re not at your Olympic best—in shape and on your A game like an elite athlete—then you run the very real risk of closing more doors than you open in this industry. This is the equivalent of waking up one morning and deciding you love the tuba more than life itself, and after taking lessons for six months, decide it’s time to get on stage at Walt Disney Concert Hall to audition for the conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic.

In my work with actors, I help them reach their Olympic best every session, so they’re ready to go into the audition room, mark their territory, and either book the role or the room!

5 Red Flags When Selecting an Acting Class

Choosing to engage in a relationship with an acting class/coach is like dating. You’re entering into a potentially long-term relationship that must be mutually beneficial, healthy, and free of mental and emotional abuse. The No. 1 factor when considering joining is the results of the work: launched careers, booked roles, awards, nominations, etc.

The following are basic assessments I encourage all actors to employ when selecting an acting class. 

Red Flag #1: Classes are jam-packed.
In addition to the teacher not knowing your name, you will be lost in a sea of students, forced to work with a scene partner, and may only get up to work once every four weeks...if you’re lucky! I describe my classes as “private coaching in a class setting.” Because our classes are small, our actors get up and work every single week on a new major film, TV, or theater piece until they have an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation, or else they don’t sit down.

Red Flag #2: You’re forced to work with a scene partner.
When actors are required to partner up, it means the teachers can pack the class like sardines. What sucks about this imposed dynamic is the inevitability that your partner doesn’t take it seriously, flakes on rehearsal, or a host of other horror stories so many actors have to tell. Why should you be shit out of luck just because your partner wasn’t prepared?

Red Flag #3: Teachers who hate actors.
Unfortunately, I see many actors who arrive at my studio very damaged. They have been completely flattened by an abusive teacher/studio. At times I feel like I’m scooping them off the ground with a spatula and rehabilitating them.

How to spot abuse: teachers who bully or condescend to the students; teachers who allow students to directly critique others actors (all comments from students should be directed to the teacher only, as actors should never critique their fellow actors, both on-set and off).

This is a no-win situation for you as an actor. The biggest problem with these types of teachers is that there are ulterior motives at stake, which poison the well. Thus, all craft development gets cast aside and the entire class experience revolves around pleasing the teacher. This is a major red flag. Being a part of any acting class where the primary goal is to please the teacher is like signing up for stunted development. Some teachers truly love teaching and can’t help but inspire their students with their own energy and passion. Not every acting coach feels that way and this is an appraisal you need to make before you sign on board. 

Teachers and coaches should be pushing their students forward with respect and helping them succeed along their career path. 

Red Flag #4: No results in sight.
All the truly great directors, producers, writers, and casting directors I’ve worked with believe this: We’re all in the same boat! Never walk into a class situation with your tail tucked between your legs. Don’t be afraid to ask for results. It’s your right and responsibility.

The teacher must be able to handle being put on the spot with grace. Raise your hand and inquire what sort of booking his/her students have acquired of late, or in the last year. Any reputable teacher should be able to handle this question with aplomb and with hard numbers. Acting class is about creating tangible results. Defensive or vague answers should give you a glimpse into this person’s soul. No reputable teacher should feel good about taking hard-earned money from actors unless he/she knew they were getting the best artillery they need to fight forward in their careers. 

Red Flag #5: Your work doesn’t transcend the acting class.
Are you advancing your craft every week?Your teacher should be able to guide you to a breakthrough on a new piece of material every class, before you walk out the door. 

Are you working on stale/dead material that was handed to you? You should be working on something current and fun every class—something you actually need to work on outside of the classroom: an upcoming or currently casting audition, booked role, past audition, etc. 

If the work you do in class is only meant for the bubble of the acting class, and isn’t directly related to your career outside of class, then give yourself permission to politely walk away.

Our students experience an undeniable acting breakthrough and transformation every class.With eight clients landing series lead roles this year as a direct result of our work together, we believe classes and results must go hand in hand. 

This article was originally posted on Backstage

Why the Best CDs Don’t Want You to Please Them

Anyone who’s been part of my readership for even a few months knows that I constantly acknowledge that this business is hard for everyone. Working actors have to compete against formidable competition, while up-and-coming actors have to fight against the masses to get noticed. Staff members of post-production houses work 14-hour days or more. Shows are given the greenlit and halted liked the ebb and flow of the tides. Movies bomb, production companies are laughed at, and careers end based on opening weekend numbers. Casting directors are soldiers in this business, just like everyone else, and their jobs are truly difficult. 

You’re Not Here to Be a Pleaser
I make my living by empowering actors. So do certain casting directors. As much as I have dedicated my life to this work, it frustrates me when I see talented actors engaging in self-sabotaging actions that thwart their progress and derail their careers. These self-destructive behaviors include coming to class unprepared, making safe/derivative choices, or acting like their agents hold the keys to career success.

I can only imagine that casting directors, being the creative and eclectic group of individuals that they are, would have their same amount of frustrations with actors and their own pet peeves about the auditioning process in general. Just as some acting coaches don’t express their frustrations well (barking at actors or demeaning them), neither do casting directors.

But the No. 1 rule of the audition is always stop trying to guess what they are looking for, assume you are who they’re looking for, and bring yourself to the piece with a specific and fun choice. 

Aside from getting in and out of a room gracefully and making fun and specific choices, your focus should never be to “please” the casting director—or the director, or even the producer for that matter. Your job is to demonstrate through your brave choices, courage, ingenuity, and professionalism that you are the fucking solution. 

Casting directors are discerning gatekeepers, and many of them exude an artistry in their jobs that is obscenely overlooked in the industry today. While they can influence the final casting decision, they are not the ones who make it—the producers, writers, and directors are. Forging relationships with these individuals is equally important throughout your career as they are the ones who can actually give you a job.  

Casting Directors with Acting Studios
When it comes to casting directors with acting studios, this is indeed a balancing act of sorts. On the one hand, many casting directors are passionate about acting and want to help actors perform better in the room and share their knowledge. On the other hand, there is undeniably a slippery slope at work, as favoritism for being called in (or even cast) could be given to students of the casting director (which happens), and that poisons the merit-based well of “the best actor gets the job,” and creates an actor mentality that they have to kowtow to this casting director, or essentially pay for class as an indirect way to pay to get auditions or book work. 

The bottom line is: Great casting directors want great performances, not to have their asses kissed.

Forge New Relationships
Instead of trying to ingratiate yourself to industry professionals who are limited in the ways that they can advance your career, why not reach out to directors, writers, and producers and maintain relationships with them? Not only do professionals, like writers, not receive enough recognition, they are also likely to be more open to meeting actors and building relationships with them, as they’re not so besieged by actors trying to get their attention all the time. The same goes for indie directors. Making an effort to meet indie directors whose careers are on an upward trajectory is a wise idea: They want to meet new faces and they won’t have the hang-ups and barriers present that other industry players may have.

In my career coaching program, I help actors launch their careers—on their own terms—by building and maintaining game-changing relationships with major directors, writers, and producers.

Casting directors are an important alliance to have, but they’re not the “jackpot” that many new actors make them out to be. Finding off-the-beaten-track methods for opening industry doors is possibly the best way to get ahead in this business. 

This article was originally posted on Backstage

What I Wish I’d Known Before I Started in the Industry

Success is always self-created. I learned very quickly that waiting for someone else to create my success as the leader of a thriving acting school would be a certain recipe for failure. The only way to ignite a truly awesome career is to do it oneself.

Never put your career success in the hands of another person, particularly agents and managers, and stop waiting for opportunities to fall into your lap—they never will. Any meaningful success will always need to start with you creating your own opportunities first.

I wanted more meaningful experiences as an acting coach, so I created my master class—a melee of successful artists, celebrity clients, and emerging actors and writers. The achievements of this class reinforce themselves and breed more accomplishments, helping me to create a thriving community of elite actors. My success as an acting coach continues to revolve around the idea of created opportunities in that I help students achieve their goals: launched careers, booked roles, awards and nominations, and irrefutable acting breakthroughs in every class.

This article was originally posted on Backstage

What Should an Actor Never Do in an Audition Room?

Don’t guess what they are looking for. Assume you are who they’re looking for, and bring yourself to the piece with a fun and impactful choice. Too many actors examine their sides with a focus upon trying to determine what the lofty-powers-that-be are looking for. That’s honestly the most futile thing you can do. Quite often, what the producers and directors are “looking for” is someone to save their ass. That’s the full extent. Sure they might have a rough idea of the character in their heads, but so what? They’re seldom married to that hazy notion. Have the courage to assert yourself as the solution to their casting problem, and then make a courageous choice that leaves a permanent mark, so that they see you and nobody else in the role. Trust in your own individuality and instead of stifling your uniqueness in the name of trying to be more what you think they want, let your weirdness, imperfectness, depravedness, and freakishness shine! Those are quite often the most memorable. I help actors discover their singularity—the exclusive combination of attitudes and behaviors that make them an original. 

This article was originally posted on Backstage