Saturday, August 17, 2013

Acting Tips: Learning from actor audition tapes

I'm one of those actors who never sees much benefit from audition classes....probably because I've never understood the phrase "make bold choices."  Like what the heck is that?

But watching top-level actors auditioning for roles they got (or maybe didn't get) is gold free for the mining.  I've figured out more about auditioning from that than anything else.

YouTube has a lot of audition tapes and other tapes can be found at various sites online. Below is Steve Carell auditioning for The Office, and here's a link to more.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Acting Tips: Your acting career doesn't hang on a headshot

I don't often just repost an email, but David Patrick Green of, has a particularly wise piece of advice this week that I'd like to share. For actors, dealing with career anxiety comes with the territory (Here is a very funny spin on that at Buzzfeed).  We are frequently told to keep ready headshots, business cards, a change of clothes, etc. and to be prepared to jump on a set at a moment's notice.

When we don't, this is typical: One anxious actor wrote to Green that he'd "made a mistake last night. A personal manager of one of the biggest A-listers asked if I had a headshot and resume on me so he could have it for possible future opportunities. I did not have one on me!!! I usually do, but I did not last night. Mistake, yes. Career ending mistake, no, but possible missed opportunity."

Here's how Green responded: "I actually think the fact you didn't have your headshot on you is a good thing. First, anything is good if you know how to make it good, but in this particular case it illustrates a couple of things. First, it illustrates how actors generally have a desperate because you didn't have a particular item at a particular time that it's going to make any real difference in your life and that there aren't a million opportunities always presenting themselves over and over if we simply put ourselves out there. You are putting yourself out there so that is the main thing.

"But we actors need to get ourselves out of the mindset that if you don't have a headshot with you it means something. I think the opposite is true. If you think you need a headshot with you all the time, it means you are terrified that you are not enough on your own. A headshot is a representation of you for people who either don't know you or who do know you and now know you for a particular part. Some guy at a party is neither of these. He has met you so he doesn't need a pic to know what you look like. He took interest in you so he has something in mind for you.

"Does that end because you aren't a walking office with pen and paper and headshots and demo reels on you? Not at all. It's almost comical to think it would make any difference at all in your life. He liked you, not your picture, so all you do is follow up with him. To think he will do anything with your headshot anyway after one meeting is fairly optimistic. Most of these people throw around favors like they throw around cocktail napkins. It's only in the follow up that you will see if he is serious.

"What people are interested in (or not) is you. Everything is about relationships, not pictures, so focus on getting to know him and him getting to know you. That is what will stick. Take him to lunch, help him move, play tennis, babysit his kids, whatever, but forget the headshots. That is a weak surrogate for developing a relationship, but it's a great out for people like that to end a conversation and feel good about themselves at the same time. Oh, you should give me your headshot...I will pass it around...whatever...see you later...If he says pop into the office next week, now you're talking.

"You don't need anything at a party except yourself. If someone takes an interest in you, it's just the beginning, not the end. If you don't have a pic, it's actually better because it forces you to have meeting number two to drop it off and you can see on Monday if they are serious or just a serious flake, which most are.

"You want to really see what you're made of? Don't even have headshots at all. Force yourself to live and die on your relationships and your name. Your agent can submit pictures, but they're pretty worthless with people who don't know you unless you have great credits, and then it's your credits, not your pictures that are getting you called in.

"Go headshotless for a month and see what happens. You will be amazed at the stares you get if you said 'I don't have headshots. I only work with people I know...'"

"Hacking is about doing things the right way and the right way is rarely the way everyone else does things. All those silly rules of thumb, like always carry a change of clothes and always have your headshots, are for people who think opportunities appear and disappear based on clothing and pictures, and that's simply not true. Anyone who won't hire you because of those things isn't worth working with anyway, because they don't know what to focus on, which is your work and your work ethic, not your picture and the fact that you have a lab coat in the trunk.

"You got me fired up because I know you are smart and you will see the light here. Stand on your own two feet. You aren't your headshot. You are either great or you are not great, but what you have on your person does not change that. Someone is interested in you. Great, let's talk. If they ask for your picture, they don't want to talk and by giving it to them, you are basically handing them all your power by saying, 'OK here it is. I hope you can help me,' when in fact your mentality should be, 'Let's meet and I can tell you how I can help you!"

You know, that is very smart advice.

Friday, August 2, 2013

#CapSouth wraps Season 1

Taped the Season 1 finale of CapSouth, the web series about the antics of Congressional staff, i.e. those who really run Washington. Since yours truly plays their nemesis, Congresswoman Gracie Todd Englewright, and we taped in a popular DC pub, it required me to essentially be "in-character" through the four hours it took to shoot my scenes. Whew!  Pretty tiring.

The series has a fine cast though and it was a lot of fun. As I tweeted earlier today, I'm an introvert and a non-drinker (well, a rare drinker) and the scene involved me giving a nearly 5 minute speech to a big crowd in the pub announcing my intention to run for re-election - oh, and it had to be funny. I was feeling a little pressure.

Here I am with the principal cast.
(L to R) R. Michael Oliver, Kathryn Browning, Andrew Heaton, and Naomi Brockwell