Sunday, February 19, 2012

See the Oscar-nominated shorts, while you can!

Just to give everyone a heads up, the Oscar-nominated short films (live action and animated) are now being shown in art house theaters around the country.  These are very well done and a must-see for students of filmmaking, so check out the movie listings.  A few of the films are also on YouTube, including this one, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which is touching and delightful and one of my favorites.  I hope it wins!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mark Westbrook's Top 10 Tips for actors

Mark Westbrook recently posted these 10 tips online. I thought they were worth passing on.  Good stuff!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The stuff dreams are made of: an acting career

I heard a fellow actor complain the other day that acting is an awful get-rich-quick scheme. Well, I would certainly agree that it’s marketed that way. An entire industry has sprung up of casting directors, agents, actors, and others (some famous, many not so) who - for a fee that ranges from $100 to $300 - will shake your hand, critique your monologue or mock audition, headshot or reel, and promise to give you the inside scoop on how to make it big as an actor. The implication left dangling is that if you show up you could be "discovered" and cast in their hit film, television show, stage play, etc. Acting, like our Maltese Falcon friend here, is the stuff dreams are made of and on all sides that dream often feeds an ego or meets an emotional need.

An aspiring actor can spend a fortune on seminars and showcases that promise they hold the key to overnight success. Somewhere in one of the many books I've read on the profession (probably Bonnie Gillespie's Self-Management for Actors) I actually came across a casting director who claimed that over the years he had critiqued nearly 3,000 actors in these paid weekend gigs. He also admitted that in all that time he'd actually cast only 2 of them. If that's typical, those are lousy odds.

I suspect that another thing that feeds this idea of overnight success - that it's all about luck (which can't hurt) or knowing someone (which also can't hurt) - is that the industry numbers are so discouraging. A figure often cited is that most dues-paying members of the Screen Actors Guild make less than $10,000 a year (and non-union probably far less.) But what skews those numbers is that there are a lot of people who act in small stage and screen productions simply because it's fun and who really have no intention of leaving their day jobs. And then you have people who really DO expect overnight success, who put more faith into being discovered than being trained, and who then get discouraged after a few years and drop out. Nobody gets into banking "for fun," thinks they can do it without developing skills, or gets discouraged if they're not quickly made chairman of the board.

The sober reality is that like most other professions acting takes on average about 10 years of steadily working at it before you get to a place where you can begin to call yourself a successful actor. And how would I define that? Success is when you can comfortably support yourself with your acting, when the vehicles in which you perform are fully professional (and that will be obvious), and when respected directors begin to call you. After four years of working in front of the camera (behind doesn't count) I'm beginning to hit on two of those three. Six years to go.

Friday, February 3, 2012

I will be appearing on stage in Terence Rattigan's Cause Célèbre

Just FYI, I will be appearing in the role of friend Stella (a very "Coral Browne" role for those of you who remember Coral Browne) in the Terence Rattigan play Cause Célèbre, being produced by The British Players in Washington, DC, next month.  Hugely happy to be in the cast!

Here's the plot: "It's 1935. The headlines scream "murder most foul!" All England is scandalized by the crime of the decade. Cause Célèbre is an emotionally complex real-life drama of love, betrayal, guilt and obsession. Did Alma Rattenbury bludgeon her ailing husband to death? Or, was it her 18-year-old lover, desperately driven by their affair into a jealous rage? Whatever the truth, she is already condemned by an outraged public for the unforgivable crime of loving a boy half her age."

Yes, it's a potboiler and a great show!