Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ACTORS: How to Create Your Own Perfect Project


You remember Ryan Gosling's DIY advice to struggling actors, right? We'll here is the perfect follow up:

Below, you will find some success stories from other actors who took matters into their own hands, created their own show, film, or short, and landed some of their dream gigs. Before moving forward, it's important to note a few major words of advice:

1) The most important part of a journey like this, is to first determine who your perfect character will be, and what kind of project facilitates such a character. Build around this first. You know what your gifts are, and what you always have dreamed of playing, or at least showing the word what you play best, and using this to your advantage. But don't fixate too long on writing a perfect script. First, get the perfect project, and write just a simple outline. An outline is step by step, what happens in order. It can be as short as 10 lines or a full feature's outline of around 25 lines.

2) Do Not allow the "I'm not a writer" excuse to scare you out of writing the piece. Get your outline down, then contact a talented writer or writer/director. Pay them something. You may not have a lot of money (most actors don't). But factor in how much you spend on a cool pair of shoes, or how much you spend on drinks when you go out, and simply replace that money with what you will give the writer(s) for writing your dream piece. Or, get investors (aka family and friends) and pass your hat around (stay away from Kickstarter and Indiegogo too - they are over-saturated and now have the lowest success rate they have ever had). Let them know you are jump-starting your own destiny, and they're helping you help yourself. Whatever it takes, just do it.

3) It takes enough concentration and focus to deliver a great performance and not waste your investment, so don't feel you all of a sudden have to turn into an expert filmmaker and know everything there is to know about lights, camera equipment, and the best lav mics to use and when. This is a major distraction away from what you have been working for the most of your adult life - mastery of your craft. So in this case, try to do the same as above - find the experts to do this for you.

Here now, after the jump, is Jessica Gardner's very empowering article from Backstage about how to finally take your acting-career destiny in your own hands - once and for all.

- Lena

How to Create Your own Feature, Short, Pilot, or Web Series

By Jessica Gardner
May 20, 2011

Falk Hentschel felt frustrated with his acting career. He had been trying to get good representation and auditions, but neither was happening for him. "I was trying everything in my powers," Hentschel says. "It was the usual problem: You need credits or a good reel to get representation, but you need good representation to get auditions or high-profile jobs for your reel."

Close to giving up, Hentschel decided to at least fulfill his childhood dream and play the lead in a film that looked like "a real Hollywood production." With a limited budget and not much screenwriting experience, Hentschel made a 16-minute short-film thriller called "Who Is Bobby Domino?" He used almost all his savings, refusing to be stingy on "anything that had to do with the look and the sound of the film." He met his director and co-writer, Jesse Grce, on Craigslist.

Hentschel gained a lot from the experience, including being a part of the production process from start to finish, forming friendships and partnerships (including with Grce, with whom he would collaborate on more shorts), and gaining a true understanding of what it takes to make a film as an actor and a producer.

Most important, it helped move his career forward. Hentschel made a reel out of the short, plus others that he and Grce made, and that got him great representation. It also helped land him a role in the feature "Knight and Day," playing Bernhard the assassin alongside Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Since then, he has guest starred on numerous television shows, such as "CSI," "The Closer," and "NCIS." He recently landed his first starring role in the feature film "StreetDance 2," which he is filming in the United Kingdom.

Hentschel is one of many actors who have decided to stop waiting for the phone to ring, and to start taking control of their own careers. Whether it's a short, a feature, a television pilot, or a Web series, if you have a camera, you too can "do it yourself." But should you?

Manager Steven Buchsbaum of Ad Astra Management in Los Angeles warns actors to be careful when doing it themselves. "With the advent of digital technology," he says, "a lot of actors want to make their own films. Technology is cheap. Everyone can shoot a film. However, do not send out films [to industry people] that aren't any good. You better have good writing and a good story. You don't want to shoot a film that makes you look poor."

With that in mind, before you embark on a production that might cost you thousands of dollars, you need to weigh why you want to shoot something, how you are going to do it, and what the potential rewards might be.

From Frustration to Inspiration

Like Hentschel, many actors who have done it themselves started because they felt restless and out of control of their career. Nate Golon felt that even though he had done theater and booked independent films and commercials, no one in L.A. knew who he was. "Every time I went to an audition, I looked around at the 20 other blond guys who looked just like me, and I felt like I needed something to set me apart," he says.

One night, frustration led to inspiration. He took a talent manager workshop that was accidentally overbooked by 25 people. While waiting for about five hours to meet the manager, he chatted with a guy and a girl about how ridiculous the whole situation was. The girl said she thought it would be funny if someone wrote a show about casting director and agent-manager workshops. "A light bulb went off in my head," says Golon. "That's how I met Kimberly Legg, who I co-wrote Season 1 of our comedy Web series 'Workshop' with, and Phillip Jeanmarie, who [plays] one of the main characters." "Workshop" was picked up by Hulu and premiered in April as the first-ever independently produced half-hour comedy on the website.

Jessica Mills has a similar story. Tired of classes and workshops yielding little result, and also feeling like casting directors weren't seeing her in the types of roles she knew she could play, Mills decided to produce something on her own that would show off her quirky characteristics. Her Web series, "Awkward Embraces," is now in its second season and has more than 100,000 views.

Zach Book had just finished the play "Jesse Boy" at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, portraying an autistic boy who was abused. He enjoyed playing the heavy part, but wished there was a way to show casting directors footage of the type of dark role he could do. Book was packing for a trip home to Baltimore when he heard that his best friend there had bought a Canon EOS 7D camera. Book and his friend decided to spend his entire two-week trip filming the short drama "Frostbite." "Putting that footage on my reel has gotten me in for so many auditions," says Book. "I've even booked a few roles based solely on the footage on my reel."

Other actors are motivated to make their own work out of, well, boredom. During the Broadway stagehand strike, Brie Eley was cold and bored in New York. She felt an itch to create something, so she and a couple of her friends got together and shot comedy sketches. "They were pretty awful," admits Eley. "But I learned about sound, lighting, the importance of coverage, and a little gem called iMovie." Six months later, one of her friends from the sketches asked her to act in and help produce the film "We Are the Hartmans," starring Richard Chamberlain.

Marty Papazian already knew how doing it yourself could yield results. Without representation, he put himself on tape for the film "Jarhead" and walked it in to casting director Debra Zane's office, asking her to please watch it. Zane loved it and sent it to director Sam Mendes, who cast Papazian in the film. "It wasn't luck," says Papazian. "It was preparation meeting opportunity." The experience inspired him to produce his own short film, "In the Wind," which won best picture at the New Orleans Big Easy Film Festival and the Vail Film Festival. He is now producing a feature from a script he wrote called "Least Among Saints," which begins filming this month.

Getting Started

Like manager Buchsbaum says, the most important aspects of a successful project are good writing and a good story. Mills agrees. "Send your script out to people to get notes," she says. "Make sure you do multiple drafts and it's really good." She adds that casting talented actors who fit the parts is equally important. "Make sure your actors are good enough to make it relatable. Otherwise, people aren't going to want to watch. I don't care how many car chases or flashy special effects you have—people want something to identify with. The nuts and bolts are in the writing and the acting. Make sure that's solid first."

Comedic actor Chad Ridgely had to work on perfecting his characters before he could start filming. He decided to put together a compilation of comedy sketches in the vein of "Saturday Night Live" or "MADtv." "People's attention spans are very short when it comes to watching videos online," Ridgely says. "People want quick and very funny." Ridgely advises future do-it-yourselfers who want to do comedy to keep this in mind when writing their scripts. "Make it short and sweet and funny—three minutes or less," he says. "No agent, casting director, or producer has the time or the desire to watch a 14-minute short film of a sweeping epic drama. They want it to be quick, and they want to laugh. That will get you noticed."

In addition to good writing and acting, Hentschel believes that passion for the project is a must-have. "Do something that really speaks to you and makes you happy thinking about it," he advises. "Don't try to guess what the industry wants or what the latest fad is. Do what fulfills you. That joy will attract your success."

Book says the best way to get started is just to dive in and have fun. "All you need to do is take the first couple of steps," he says. "Write an idea, call a friend, and the rest will work itself out gradually. Everyone starts somewhere. I highly encourage people to take a blind stab at it. There is no better way to get experience than actually doing it."

Choosing the Format

One of the first things you will have to decide about your project is what you want to make: a feature, a short, a pilot, or a Web series.

Mills and her friends originally intended to shoot a full-length feature, but they later realized they didn't have funds for the type of film they wanted to do. "I got to thinking: If we could build some sort of online fan base through a Web series, maybe we could get attention for ourselves and then come back to the feature and make that," Mills says. She started brainstorming and came up with the idea for "Awkward Embraces." Now that the series has been successful and she has gained knowledge about the Web, she's thinking about taking the feature idea and turning it into a Web series as well.

Golon and his partners decided to do a Web series because they believed it was the most inexpensive way to get their work "out there." "If you do a short film," says Golon, "you have to enter it in festivals, which costs money, and those festivals may or may not decide to accept your film. Then if your film gets accepted, and you want to go to that festival, that takes money. A Web series is great in that once it's online, you can just send anyone the link."

Eley and her partners chose to do a full-length feature. "The feature format allowed us to give the crew and actors something really strong to add their résumés or put on a reel," she says.

Hentschel says that if he could go back, instead of making a short he would have shot his project as a trailer based on one of his feature film scripts. "I'd then use that to get attention and raise money for the script to be made."

Gathering Money and Crew

Often, doing your own project means using your own money. All the actors interviewed in this article spent at least some of their own savings to produce their projects.

Eley had no idea what putting together a feature would cost when she and her partners started. "I probably have invested at least $1,000 of my own money and countless hours of work," she says. "But I think that's immeasurable when you're talking about your career and what you're willing to spend to make your dreams come true."

Sometimes, if the story is good or the project is inspiring, it can help you raise funds. Eley believes her feature came together thanks to a lot of passionate people who invested in and believed in her story. Her team raised $14,000 in one month through fundraising website IndieGogo, a live fundraiser with bands, a "Tweet-a-thon," and asking their churches and families to donate. "We had an outpouring of generosity," she says. "We had shooting locations and rehearsal spaces donated. I even had a gentleman agree to let us use his truck after I saw it on Eighth Avenue and explained the project to him."

In many cases, your cast and crew will be working for little to no money. It's important to find other people who are as eager and excited to work as you are. "Try to find people who want to build up their résumé or get an IMDb credit," advises Mills. "Find people who want to do it for the love of doing it, and you can get it done."

Hentschel agrees. "Work with people that you feel good around and that excite and inspire you," he says.

Getting It Out There

Ridgely sent DVDs of his completed comedy sketch pilot "all over the place." Papazian and Eley got their films into festivals. But most of the actors interviewed stuck to putting their projects online at such sites as Vimeo, Blip, and YouTube.

To get their Web series seen by as many people as possible, both Golon and Mills bought websites and posted their series on YouTube. Mills also posted hers on Blip. "Blip, as far as revenue share, is a bit better, because [on] YouTube you have to qualify for partnership, which is very difficult," Mills explains. "With Blip, everything you upload has ads and you get revenue share into your PayPal account. The player is also a little higher-quality than the YouTube player. I embed Blip on our homepage but I also keep our YouTube channel going because YouTube has such a community in and of itself, like the subscribers and the people that comment and talk, and the likes and the dislikes and all of that stuff. I didn't want to not take part in that huge community. Plus, YouTube is better to see on a phone, so I feel like it's best to do both."

Papazian believes that now is a great time for actors to get their projects out because more studios and executives are looking to the actors, the storytellers, to see what they are creating. "There is a new artist emerging, a hybrid of sorts, because now as filmmakers we have the technology to create media of the highest quality and the distribution platforms are opening up," he says. "The paths are ours to create."

The Rewards

To create your own project costs money, takes time, and can be a lot of work, but all of the actors interviewed say they are glad they did it.

"I love the fact that if somebody's not familiar with me, I can say, 'Go to this website. This is what I do,' and be proud of it," says Mills. "I no longer feel like that really talented actress no one cares about. I've done something and it's mine and I'm really proud of it. I can walk around Hollywood, network, and hold my head high."

"It leaves you accountable to yourself and others," says Eley, who has since scored an agent and a manager.

"My original goal was to make a name for myself as an actor, and 'Workshop' has definitely helped do that," says Golon. "Since Season 1, I got a great talent manager, booked some commercials, TV, indie features, and theater. At the same time, it's made me realize the strengths I have as a producer and writer."

Ridgely was contacted by Fox Digital, which loved his comedy sketches. After a few meetings with him, the company decided to produce some of his sketches. They packaged everything together and called it "The Chad Ridgeley Show." "The Fox deal helped me tremendously," says Ridgely. "I got an agent and a manager, which in turn got me a lot more auditions. But the best thing to come from this experience was the validation. Knowing that the stuff I thought was funny really is funny, and that people see it and laugh, is just a great feeling."

"The most important thing is to be confident and believe in yourself," says Ridgely. "Chasing your dreams and aspirations takes more than moving to this city and waiting for it to fall in your lap. You have to make it happen."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Casting Director G. Charles Wright's Audition Advice

Explore Talent interview with casting director G. Charles Wright. Audition tips from a professional casting director. G. Charles Wright gives advice to how to approach an audition and win the part by doing your job by building and knowing the character you are trying out for. Explore Talent helps actors and models find auditions for television, film, theater, dance and modeling opportunities and jobs. Search auditions today and jump start your acting modeling career with exploretalent.com.

- Lena

Monday, February 13, 2012

Over 51,000 Viewers!

We have hit over 51,000 views! We want to thank our faithful readers as well as our new ones. We hope to continue to bring you helpful information in the future! Congrats to Tom, Monica, Brian, Princeton, and everyone else who has contributed to it this past year!

- Lena

Friday, February 10, 2012

Actors: Understanding the Director

Sean Pratt wrote an article for The Daily Actor about what actors need to do to "read" a director during an audition - or, if they need to do anything at all. Here it is, after the jump:

Actors are constantly worrying about what is going on in the mind of the director at the audition…they shouldn’t.

There are certain aspects of the audition process that actors control and certain aspects that they can’t control. Unfortunately, most actors skip over the areas that they have any power over and spend all their time fretting over the things they are powerless to manage. A favorite example of this tendency is the obsession with, “What does the Director want?!” To further illustrate this problem, here is a short show business anecdote.

The Story of Shane and the New York City Audition

Once there was young redheaded actor in NYC named…Shane, who was to audition for the role of Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was for a big regional theatre and he was very excited about the possibility of working there. Now Shane had been to a number of big auditions and this one was no different; they were calling in a large number of actors for each role. Still, having been in the city for about a year, he thought he had seen it all…then he opened the door to the casting office.

A Short Aside

To digress for just a minute…let’s talk about going to an audition in New York City. We all know that New York, along with Los Angeles, is the place to be if you want to move your career into overdrive. And we all know that there are thousands of actors in these cities, each looking for that one big break. Now, remember when you were little and your mommy told you how special you were? How there was no one else in the world just like you? Well, when Shane walked into that room full of 40 other redheaded guys who looked just like him, all reading for the role of Demetrius…he realized that his mom had been lying to him! Anyway, on with the story…

The Nervous Newbie Who Wouldn’t Shut Up

After Shane got over the shock of seeing 40 other doppelgangers, he found a place to sit and introduce himself to the guys seated around him; each of them remarking on how strange it was to see a room full of redheads all reading for the same part. Then Shane noticed this one young actor, we’ll call him Gus, who was seated right next to the door to the audition room. As each actor exited the room, having finished their audition, Gus would pop up, and pepper them with questions.

“What did the Director ask you to do? Is he very talkative? Did he want you to be serious? Did he have you do the scene a couple of different ways? Tell me, what is he looking for? What the hell does the Director want?!”

“Well somebody just came to town straight from college,” Shane said to the guys around him. They all laughed because they’d been there, too. Finally, an actor named Mark, from Shane’s ad-hoc group, went in. When he came out, Gus popped up to yet again shower him with questions. But before he had a chance to get one word out Mark turned to him and said, loudly, “Dude, the director wants me! That’s what he wants.” Needless to say, the room erupted into gales of laughter.

The Moral of the Story

The fact is no actor can know what the director is “looking for” at the audition; truth is, most directors don’t know what they’re looking for either! In this story, it was obvious that the director wanted Demetrius to be a tall young redhead but that was really all anyone could know going into the audition.

Ultimately, what the director wants is…the most talented actor whose essence is right for the role, fits into their overall concept of the show and with the other actors that they end up hiring. Your job, your challenge, is to deliver such a strong audition that you define for the director how that role should be played and who should play it…You! By the way, Shane didn’t get the part, but he did learn a valuable lesson.

Sean Pratt, (AEA / SAG / AFTRA), has been a working actor for over 20 years. Sean was a member of the resident acting company at The Pearl Theatre, an Off-Broadway classical repertory theatre and has also performed at numerous regional theatres around the country. Major films include – Gods and Generals, Tuck Everlasting and Iron Jawed Angels. Television work includes – The host of HGTV’s, Old Homes Restored, and supporting roles on Homicide, The District and America’s Most Wanted. Audiobooks – He’s narrated for 15 years and has recorded nearly 550 books in just about every genre. He also teaches classes on and writes articles about the business of the Biz.

- Lena

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Acting: Why Practice Doesn't Make Perfect

Following up on yesterday's post, here is another good one from Sean Pratt. Check it out, after the jump:

Honing Your Raw Acting Talent – Why Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

It’s not the talent you’re born with that counts, but the way you develop it that makes all the difference in whether you become an expert or not.

Nature or Nurture

I know for some actors, myself included, that previous statement is tantamount to heresy, but hear me out. Recent studies by researchers in the fields of sociology, economics and psychology have demonstrated an interesting and counterintuitive connection between practice and perfection. The general consensus is that though raw talent can be a factor in whether a person decides to pursue a certain career…a life in the Biz, for instance…it is not the most important factor when it comes to being an exceptional performer.

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, states in his recent paper, The Making of an Expert:

“To people who have never reached a national or international level of competition, it may appear that excellence is simply the result of practicing daily for years or even decades. However, living in a cave does not make you a geologist. Not all practice makes perfect. You need a particular kind of practice—deliberate practice—to develop expertise. When most people practice, they focus on the things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all. Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become.”

5, 6, 7, 8 ….AGAIN!

Now I come from the school of thought that says you’re either born an actor or you’re not, and no amount of acting class will change that. So when I read his study, as well as others concerning this very topic, I was skeptical to say the least. But upon further reflection, I realized that they and I were both right. We’re in agreement that if you have a raw talent for something, such as basketball, mathematics, music, etc., and enjoy doing it, that that can influence whether or not you take it up as a vocation. After all, you don’t willing choose something you hate to do for a living.

Read the full piece HERE.

- Lena

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Actors: Brandy Gold on How Long It Takes to Make Real $

Brandy Gold is a top theatrical agent at TalentWorks, which was started in 1982 by her father Harry Gold. Over the years, TalentWorks has become known for representing some of the finest talent in the business, including Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe winners. This is her sample Actor Biz Guru interview. To view the complete video and dozens of others, go to actorbizguru.com  

- Lena

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reel of the Month: Nicholas Herms

This month's "Reel of the Month" belongs to Nicholas Herms, the talented, NY-based editor/after effects specialist. Nicholas did the after effects for Naama Kates' debut music video "Before You Lose It" (directed by Princeton Holt).

Check out his reel!

2011 Reel from Nicholas Herms on Vimeo.

You can hire Nick's services by contacting him at Nicholas.Herms@gmail.com .

- Lena

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Naama Kates Film to Premiere at SXSW

The new year just began and it is already a fantastic one for our very own Naama Kates. First, her debut album "The Unexamined Life" is being released on Leap Day (February 29th), and the music video (directed by our own Princeton Holt) for her first single "Before You Lose It" is receiving great responses.

On top of this, it was just announced that her latest film Eden will be premiering at SXSW Film Festival this spring. Here are some details about the project, that also stars Hangover 2's Jamie Chung.

Naama also has a film she leads and co-produced called The 10 Commandments of Chloe that is completed and will be released soon. Stay tuned for news on its world premiere.

You can already listen to some songs from her new record HERE, and download her album on the 29th HERE.

Here is the music video for "Before You Lose It."

- Lena

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Dysfunctional Friends" in NY & LA February 3rd

The official theatrical trailer for the feature film "DYSFUNCTIONAL FRIENDS" OPENING in theaters FEB 3RD, 2012 . Limited release .. Opening in AMC theaters in Los Angeles and New York then expanding out.

A comedy/ drama that’s billed as a modern day version of ‘The Big Chill,’ the film is about 10 friends who went to college together but have not spoken to each other in seven years. The reunite when their larger then life friend Dennis (Keith Robinson) unexpectedly dies from a freak skydiving accident.


written and directed by COREY GRANT

featuring songs by KEITH ROBINSON


- Lena