First and Last Impressions

Lauren Lethererby Lauren Letherer

Just a bit of advice from someone who worked as a commercial  casting assistant for 13 years, and has been auditioning for over 16 years.

 

So you have a commercial audition. Awesome! You did all the steps necessary for you to be sitting in the lobby, waiting for your turn.

What happens once you get in there?

The session director will tell you what is expected of you: where to slate, what props or blocking will happen during the spot, where your eye line will be, how the shot is framed and what the tone is. If any of these questions aren’t answered, it is completely okay to ask before you begin. Remember the director has been doing this all day, sometimes, they may skip a step. Then they will most likely take your picture on camera then go right into filming the slate and the spot.

Most important step? BREATHE. It is crazy how often we forget to do the simplest things when we get nervous. 2nd – you are responsible for the energy you bring into the room. Don’t suddenly pop into happy actor mode once the camera is on. Go into the room with a good positive vibe. Otherwise it just feels false once the camera is rolling.

I know you want to be friendly, but please don’t shake the session directors hand.

They can see up to a 100 people or more in a day and, frankly, will not want the germs. Next is an absolute must… If there is copy? READ IT ALOUD OFF THE BOARD before the taping begins. It is there for you – just in case you need to pick up a line or two. Know where every line is before you begin. Make sure to memorize the first and last line. Regardless of how many times you’ve drilled it in your car, something bizarre happens when you actually say it out loud the first time in the room. So speak it before the camera starts rolling.

When you finish, there is no need to start a conversation or tell a story or comment on what just happened. You did everything you needed to do.

Go ahead. Leave.

And I challenge you, when they say “Thank you” respond with “You’re welcome.” After all, you are helping them out. They can’t do their job without you.

Own Your Truth

Kimberly Jurgen

by Kimberly Jurgen

Owning your truth means accepting yourself where you are at this moment. And if you believe that what you have to offer is enough, then there is no need to distort or embellish that truth.

In casting and in coaching, I’ve seen actors upgrade a scene done in class to a production credit. If they understand how to play a game, having that knowledge is transformed into a special skill. They’ve seen Disney’s Brave and feel qualified to say they can recreate a Scottish accent. Doing this is unnecessary and, believe it or not, potentially dangerous.

Years ago there was a national commercial looking to cast a female actor with advanced swimming. They offered the role to “Janet” who assured them she had no professional conflicts, no schedule conflicts and was a skilled swimmer. When they got to the location, a seaweed bed in open ocean, Janet was soon literally in over her head. Divers had to rescue her from drowning. Production shut down for the day and the role had to be re-cast. Because she had misrepresented her abilities, Janet was sued by the company for $1,000,000.

For the commercial actor, Special Skills are crucial. Identifying skills appropriately on a resume and online can set an actor apart from the pack and provide significant opportunities. Casting directors and marketing departments depend on accurate skill listings when they are making decisions. Therefore, an actor must be honest when listing abilities and when asked.

Consider including details with your skills. With that language skill, are you beginner, conversational or fluent? Are you a competent ballplayer or did you play college ball? If it has been more than a year or two since you did a skill, should it really be on your resume? With accents and dialects, would you fool a native speaker? If you need to practice before performing a skill on demand, then it does not belong on your resume. Show casting they can trust you by your honest assessment of your skills.

And you’d be surprised how useful those outside-the-box skills, like cartwheels, knitting, or bird calls, can be at getting you a commercial audition.

When playing a role, our job as actors is to truthfully lie. It is very difficult to deceive the camera. Therefore, we become very adept at believing the lie so that a character’s truth can become our truth. However, where we have an obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but our personal truth, is on our resumes.

We do this because it is the mark of a professional. As professionals, we are not desperate, deceiving or disrespectful to those who put their faith in us. We accept ourselves as we are. Because we are each enough.

Three Surprising Ways Social Media Can Impact Your Career

Lisa Jey Davis

by Lisa Jey Davis

I’m a social media maven. I don’t like to use the word expert, because every platform out there undergoes countless changes to its algorithms, or its rules, and I’m always learning. I’m the person who constantly reads articles about social media and the new tricks of the trade, and I take classes just like those that I teach. But I’ve been at this social media game for quite some time. When I was a publicist, I required my clients to set up accounts on Facebook and Twitter (even before Pinterest or Instagram became a part of our lexicon). In fact, I set up their profiles for them and managed activity, as well as created ads and engaging posts to encourage engagement. I’m now a bestselling and award-winning author, as well as fitness professional, and I’m married to a working actor. I’ve taken what I’ve learned about Social Media, implemented it and built successful businesses out of it.

The fact is, a strong social media presence that is strategic and clear about WHO YOU ARE, and WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT, will pave the way for opportunities. But it can also backfire. Read on for more…

Here are just three of the ways the strategic use of social media can impact your career:

  1. IT CAN GET YOU IN THE ROOM. I’ve seen it happen!
    1. A casting director is looking for a mommy with a comedic flare. She searches the Internet and is taken to the Twitter account of a woman she brings in to audition. Said woman auditions for a national commercial. Whether she books it or not, SCORE one for her Twitter account and her audition opportunities!
    2. A production company is casting a reality show and needs very specific types of people for an upcoming network show. They search Instagram for hashtags and are lead to almost ALL of the people they audition for the upcoming show American Grit.
    3. Casting directors are seeking a humorous, everyday mom with lots of personality to add to their celebrity studded “panel-style” show (similar to The View) for Fox. They do an Internet search and find candidates based on a combination of Blog websites, YouTube videos and Twitter. They contact one woman in particular (hint: ME), and ask her to send in her “reel” for producers!
  2. IT CAN MAKE YOU THE PREFERRED CANDIDATE FOR THE GIG.
    1. So, you’ve auditioned (or interviewed), then gone in one or more times to do it again… and you know you’re being considered. In fact, you know it’s between you and another person. I.SWEAR.TO.GOD., if you’ve come this far, having a strong, solid online presence, with a good fan base can only help push you closer to the win. It’s all about generating buzz! Every business, film, project (whatever) wants to be heard and must get their message out in an increasingly flooded, over-stimulated and crowded market. The people who are hiring realize how much more valuable a person is, if they can help move the needle with potential or existing fans/clients/etc. While, it may not make a huge difference if you’re just starting out in a field – because, hey… in most cases, you’re a beginner and you’ll be seen as one, regardless of your internet footprint (if you don’t believe me, read this), it will only help you in the long run to keep developing your voice, your presence and your fan base.
    2. It’s a known fact that Social Media impacts the success a film, television show… even radio broadcasts. To see some of the stats about this, read here. Businesses, networks, shows and more these days are looking to exponentially grow their reach by adding people to their “team” whose followings will make a difference.
  3. IT CAN GIVE, AND IT CAN TAKE AWAY TOO.
    1. People get sponsorships, free swag (designer clothes, products and more), cash for endorsing something, and can win big prizes for creating engagement… I’ve seen this happen in my own life (can you say “new car”?), and for countless other people as well.
    2. I’ve also seen people lose work, fall to the bottom of the casting list, or get fired from a job/role/gig for taking it upon themselves to “leak” their audition or gig prematurely (see this article). It is infinitely more important to post with intention and strategy (have a plan, and set up guidelines for yourself), than it is to simply make a loud “noise” with a large number of posts.

Though your skill, talent and that hard-to-pinpoint “sweet spot” you have is what will keep you working, your social media presence is vitally important. It represents you, your brand and who/what you stand for. My workshop will cover all the basics of setting up your social media brand, and help you become more thoughtful about everything you “put out there.” Take my course, and after some practice at this social media thing, you just may be surprised at the ways it pays off.

Do You Have To Be Funny To Do Improv?

When you think of improv, do you think of comedians being crazy funny, making the audiences clutch their sides in laughter? Do you picture people coming up with hilarious speeches and one-liners so funny that you’re just amazed they could think of them at all?

Sure, that’s a popular depiction of improv – and with shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? And seeing many Improv trained actors starring in comedy films, it’s no wonder people might think that you have to be funny to do Improv training.

I believe you don’t have to be instinctually funny to study Improv. While it’s true that improvization classes tend to bring out the funny and quirky qualities in people that may already exist, that doesn’t mean it’s only limited to them. In fact, many corporate executives and businesspeople take improv classes to improve communication, learn how to think on their feet, and generally enjoy themselves and their work process.

So whether you were the class clown or always had your nose in a book, you don’t have to be funny to benefit from doing this training.  What’s more, if you want to be the best actor you can be, improv can have real benefits for you:

Improv helps you think fast on your feet. This is a critical quality, especially when auditioning and asked to try out different approaches to the material. Improv can help ensure that you’re not thrown by these requests but can be creative with them which is very impressive to the decision makers.

Often movies have actors improvize dialogue for many of the scenes; in fact, some of the most famous scenes were the direct result of improvisation (think Han Solo talking to a Stormtrooper over the intercom).  Improv helps you tp explore different options within scenes, which can assist you to connect with your character.

Improv work helps actors to be more creative, instinctual and unique especially with changes and last minute rewrites when there is very little time for preparation.

Bottom line, Improv training helps to develop confidence, be a better listener, trust your instincts and be more creative. No matter how you use it, it will benefit your life and any business, Don’t be intimidated by improv – you might just discover that you have an incredible new talent for it and/or it will help you be a better actor.

The Biggest Rookie Audition Mistakes – Revealed!

Ever found yourself wondering what you are doing wrong at auditions or what you can be doing better?

You show up to casting call after casting call and you do your best but you know that you are probably making mistakes but you really don’t know what they are since you are not getting callbacks or books.

If this sounds familiar to you, then it’s time to break free from the cycle so you can finally booking. What mistakes are you making?

From my experience as a casting director – and from conversations I’ve had with other casting directors – here are the biggest rookie audition mistakes you might be making:

You’re not asking enough questions to get clarity what is expected from your audition.  I know it might feel intimidating to ask questions – or you might feel like you’re doing something wrong – but asking questions shows that you want to understand so you can do your best work.  If after listening to an assistant’s instruction and reading the audition scenario sheet and if you don’t understand something or need clarification, don’t be afraid to ask!

You may be talking too fast, too loudly, or too softly.  I get it – auditions can be an intimidating, so it can be easy to make these mistakes. When rehearsing practice talking slowly, or a little faster, louder or not projecting so much (whatever you have determined is your issue). Take a deep breath before you begin your audition and remind yourself just once which of these is your issue then focus on your connection to the material and the person you have chosen to speak to.

Many refuse to look at cue cards when needed.  New actors often believe that they’ll do better if they have everything memorized, but don’t underestimate the power of nerves.  Don’t be afraid to look at the cue cards – no one is going to penalize you for doing that! Know that most experienced actors use them when needed.

You don’t listen to or really hear the direction because you are too busy reminding yourself of what you planned to do or are figuring out how to do what you just heard from casting director. When you do this you are going to miss out on the next piece of direction and/or look like you are not listening. Not listening, is the casting director’s biggest pet peeve. I suggest you stay neutral, just listen, and if you don’t understand or miss something – ask.

Don’t give yourself a negative critique or make a negative comment out loud after you finish your audition.  No matter how you think you did, never say negative self criticism out loud – because the casting directors  or the clients, if they are there for the callback, might think of you as  a problem or a negative person.

Free up your audition from these mistakes, and you should start seeing better results.

Dedicated Actors Should Start their Acting Training with a Meisner Program

Many of the acclaimed theatrical and movie performances by your favorite actors can be attributed to the skills gained from studying the Meisner technique.  So if you are a new actor, you don’t have to wonder why you should consider learning the Meisner acting technique.

The Meisner technique was developed by celebrated actor and teacher Sanford Meisner.  The technique incorporates a series of exercises designed to help actors portray truthful behavior on stage. Actors are encouraged to act in the moment and enjoy instinctive moments with fellow actors, rather than sticking to a fixed intellectual interpretation of a scene.

Benefits of the Meisner Technique

Gives you the confidence to face any project that comes your way, because it teaches you how to quickly get into any character.

Demonstrates the tools of expression you need to make your portrayals believable, by tapping into your own emotions.

Helps to bring out the best in you as an actor, as you learn to recognize the freedom you have to explore real emotions for every role.

Teaches you to listen and practice real communication, so that your acting becomes spontaneous.

By signing up for Meisner technique classes you will certainly experience growth as an actor.

Now that you know why, you should consider learning the Meisner technique.  At the award-winning Carolyne Barry Creative Ent., in Los Angeles, CA, Meisner technique classes are available from the beginner to the advanced levels, and we remain true to Meisner’s original material. Give us a call today at (323) 654-2212, or email carolyne@carolynebarry.com.

And check out her articles and videos on backstage.com, master talent teachers and her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/CarolyneBarry)

The Importance of Solo Acting Dialogue

Solo dialogue can seriously test the mettle of any actor. Doing monologue is not a skill that is easily mastered, but it can make a difference to an actor’s success. The importance of solo dialogue in acting becomes clear when actors have to do a solo audition.  How can actors master solo dialogue? They can start by taking professional acting workshops, to learn the nuts and bolts of the technique.

Professional acting classes cover a range of techniques that can improve your acting skills. However, workshops that include scene study and improv expose you to techniques that can improve your solo dialogue skills. In this regard, two of the most beneficial techniques are the ‘who’ and ‘pre-life.’

  • The ‘who’ in acting, is the specific character in the copy that you have chosen to relate to. Selecting someone to connect to in a piece is a helpful way to get the dialogue flowing. Therefore, when you look into the camera you will ‘know’ who you are speaking to and address them directly.
  • The ‘pre-life’ also helps you to connect with the dialogue, as it is allows you to better prepare for your first line. ‘Pre-life’ is the feeling or action that you believe would have motivated the scripted dialogue and should relate to the ‘who’ you are connecting with. Taking the time to formulate the ‘pre-life’ makes the dialogue more believable.

Finding a connection is important because it will determine the tone and energy of your delivery. The ‘who’ and ‘pre-life’ both help you deliver a truthful performance in the little time you have.

If you’d like more information about the importance of solo dialogue in acting, sign up for professional acting classes at Carolyne Barry Creative Ent. in Los Angeles. And check out her articles and videos on backstage.com, master talent teachers and her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/CarolyneBarry)

Call Carolyne today at (323) 654-2212, or email us at carolyne@carolynebarry.com.

Do You Know The Difference Between Actors and Performers?

It’s a popular depiction that an actor is a type of performer; after all, many would agree that “performing” is the main verb used to describe what actors do. However, there are subtle differences between what it means to be an actor and a performer – and if you study acting, then you’ll want to distance yourself as being referred to as a performer.

I’m not trying to downplay what performers do, or how hard they have to work at their crafts. But it is important to note that there are distinct differences between what the two do. It might sound like a matter of semantics, but these differences can make a great deal of difference in determining what direction you want your career to take.

So what are the main differences between actors and performers? Take a look:

Awareness of Audience: If you’ve ever been to see a stand-up comedian or a singer, then you know that these entertainers are highly committed and invested in their audience reactions. They feed off of a great audience energy, and will often incorporate them into their acts. An actor, however, isn’t aware of the audience; instead, he or she is more focused on the materials, scene, or monologue that he or she is doing.

Now, I’m not saying that actors have no awareness; but it’s not crucial to the outcomes of their performance. A comedian needs to impress an audience – an actor only needs to connect with the scene.

Education: I know a lot of people disagree with me about this, but I believe education plays a key role in separating actors from performers. Performers go to specialized schools, institutions, and other specialized venues, while actors may take their classes at universities and colleges. I’m not the biggest fan of this difference, as I think many academic establishments aren’t fully equipped to help train actors to experience and convey the range of emotions that’s necessary for becoming a success.

Clarity: When you say that you’re an actor, people immediately know what you do; but the same doesn’t always work when you say you’re a performer, as it could encompass many definitions. That’s why it’s important to say you’re an actor, not a performer. It may seem minor, but it can help you define your career, purpose, and goals in more ways than one.

How Mistakes Can Make You a Better Actor

As an actor, one of the most embarrassing and depressing feelings can involve walking out of an audition knowing you’ve made lots of mistakes. Whether you talked too fast while reading the script or you just forgot your lines, mistakes are often regarded as an actor’s worst nightmare.

Well, we’re here to say something that might shock you. Mistakes aren’t just a normal part of the auditioning process; they can actually make you a better actor. And help you book the job.

Surprised by this? Don’t be: handling a mistake during an audition reveals just how fast you are on your feet. Casting directors may be impressed by flawless auditions – but they’re going to remember an actor who was able to quickly recover from a mistake by incorporating it their audition.

After all, casting directors know that there are going to be challenges and obstacles on the set of any television show or film. That’s why they’re looking for actors and actresses who can quickly get over a mistake without blowing the entire audition.

So how can you use mistakes to make yourself a better actor? Use the following techniques:

  • When you recognize you’re making a mistake, don’t allow it to undermine your entire audition. For example, if you’re talking too fast, just slow your speech down. If you forgot a line, move on without apologizing or deprecating yourself. If you get stuck on a mistake for too long or draw too much attention to it, you’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons.
  • If your memory has lapsed on your lines, don’t stammer or stutter. Instead, improvise, let your instincts take over until you can back on script. If you’re not confident in your improv skills, take a few improv classes. The ability to think fast as an actor can help you book more jobs.
  • If you mispronounce a word, don’t correct yourself as you correcting yourself. Instead, stay in character. This is an impressive way to show casting directors that you’re able to commit to a character without getting hung up on mistakes.

Improv, humor, and the ability to move on from a mistake are great ways to show CDs that you’re a talented actor who will also be easy to work with. Don’t try to avoid mistakes at all costs, as this might make your audition feel stilted or cookie-cutter. Embrace the mistakes IF they come – after all, they turn you into a better actor and auditioner!

One Simple Way to Get More Commercial Auditions

You have dreams of becoming an actor and doing  TV commercials. You want to become instantly recognizable as Flo – or at least being featured in national commercial campaigns.  You’ve got dreams, and you’re determined to achieve them.

So you take a commercial workshop and study Improvization, take great headshot, create an impressive resume and cover letter then send your package to all the commercial talent agents.  If and when you sign up with a commercial agent. You eagerly wait for all  your commercial auditions – but maybe you only get a few,.

If this sounds familiar, it might sound like auditioning for commercial could come down to luck. But there’s actually one simple way that you should be able could get more commercial auditions if you are right for the spot.

It’s so simple, in fact, you could make that small change as soon as you finish reading this article.

It goes without saying that your resume provides agents and casting directors the opportunity to get to know more about you.  That means you need to capture their attention within the first couple of seconds, or else they’ll just shuffle your resume into the “Rejected” pile.

You don’t have to add perfume to your resume, or create it using an unusual typography.  Instead, focus on your skills section, and ensure you stand out as a multi-faceted, talented, and unique individual.

Because so many commercials require skills and activities, your  special skills  are definitely an asset. Your skills section should be filled with the hobbies, skills, and traits that make you who you are as a person.  Your hobbies could run the gamut from horseback riding and playing computer games to speaking multiple languages and creating stories for your favorite fanfiction site.  No matter what makes you unique, it’s important to broadcast these skills and hobbies so casting directors can bring you in for those commercials that require your skill.

When listing your skills and hobbies, be sure to indicate your proficiency level.  For example, if you’re fluent in French, make sure you include that information.  If you’ve ever won first place or have been a state champion in an event, put that information down, too.

Here is  a generic example:

SKILLS (or SPECIAL SKILLS)

Roller blading (state champion), Singing (mezzo soprano, two octave range), French (fluent),

Spanish and Italian accents, Volleyball (B rated), Swing Dancing (competitive), experienced Dog breeder, excellent Cook, intermediate Guitarist, expert on Miniature Doll houses, Choral Director, Collector of McKnight Lithographs, trained in Firearms, Juggling, basic Martial Arts, Crew rowing, JEOPARDY contestant, Balloon sculpting, Valid Drivers License and Passport

One important note: when listing out your skills, make sure to list those you are the strongest first.  If you’re an excellent singer, put that information first, and be sure to list your range. Your first few skills are going to capture the most attention, so make sure they’re the strongest representation of who you are as a person.

Just make this small change to your skills section – and depending on the jobs, you should be getting more commercial auditions for jobs you have a better chance at booking.

For more detailed information on putting together your resume, check out Carolyne Barry’s book HIT THE GROUND RUNNING here.