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A "MFA" or "MotherF*cking Actor" isn't a degree, it's a business strategy that keeps a badass actor working constantly...
Did you ever think to yourself:
Where I am right now really sucks, but I have no idea how to move from point A to point B?
I've been there and I'm there right now in my personal life struggling with issues that have been kicking my butt since the beginning of time.
I talk beaucoup s**t about self-development only because it's a process I am constantly struggling with myself.
Hence, I love teaching folks stuff I've struggled with ...
and am still struggling with.
An award-winning actress who I personally admire and who is a fierce transformative force of nature on stage recently asked me,
**"How do you handle auditions when you arrive and really great actors are sitting in the waiting room and immediately, your confidence shatters, falls to pieces and you begin comparing yourself to them?"**
I laughed and said...yeah...don't i know it...
I spent 4 weeks trying on super expensive Donna Karan dresses (cuz her dresses are the only thing that looks like wonder woman clothes on me with my new generous curves ...lol)...
My personal pilot season strategy is to find the killer outfit, killer hair and banging audition technique. I mean high end killer outfit....find my size and then try and find it cheaper on consignment, ebay, amazon, etc. So I went and tried on $3000 peices of clothing and found the right audition pilot season outfits.
It took a lot of time like 4 months, well, mostly because I don't have a $3000 budget, more like a $100 budget...ha!. It was sorta amazing going into stores and trying on clothes that are far beyond what I could afford. The quality of a Donna Karan dress ( I mean runway, baby, like the Urban Zen Collection) is extraordinary.
There's something really powerful about trying on something that represents where you want to be, not where you are.
You can't move from where you are right now
unless you can imagine very clearly where you want to be...
So, I spent many sleepless nights looking for my Donna Karan dress It paid off...I found the same $2700 dress I tried on for:
And you know I wore the bejesus out of that dress....booked a job in it too!
Do you want to know why?
Because my family and I paid (and still paying) for a $2million education (that would currently cost closer to $5million) for prep school, college and grad school. All of this was done while living in the hood and working multiple jobs. (We're Caribbean, we each had 15 jobs, fa'real)
I worked in the regions non-stop for 6 years and made less than $400 a week for a very, very long time. I worked on off broadway for $200/week for another 6 years. I paid my dues and learned how to own a stage. I'm done starving. I've earned the right to make a living as an artist doing the kind of work worthy of my journey...I deserve to be making the kind of money that will pay for that education and then some...(I got to buy my Mama a house, dammit)
Please repeat that last sentence outloud:
_I have paid my dues and learned how to own a stage. _
_I'm done starving. _
_I've earned the right to make a living as an artist doing the kind of work worthy of my journey..._
_I deserve to be making the kind of money that will pay for that education and then some...(I got to buy my Mama a house, dammit)_
And keep saying it until you believe it.
Set goals whose success is measured by what you dream of becoming and doing and not what other people think you should get.
I wasn't born talented, I was born with a fierce set of dreams and a kick ass work ethic. My goal was to become one of the greatest actors of my generation. I did not set out to have a goal of
'I want to make a ton of money and be famous.'
**Because being a great actor has absolutely nothing to do with fame or money**.
The entertainment business does not reward brillant tallent as a rule, it rewards popularity and folks imitating what's already been done. But most importantly, the business rewards folks with a serious business strategy.
And that's what I had: a business strategy. I was going to pay my dues, learn to act/write and produce so that when the time was right and I had all my ducks in a row: my actors arsenal, my agent/manager team, my entertainment lawyer, my brand, I would be fully ready to step into my greatness. I'm not quite there yet. But I'm am hustling my ass to get there...and you can bet your bottom dollar on that.
_The most important step is to acknowledge that you are ready to start moving in that direction._
**I was preparing for where I wanted to be: self-employed, self-producing, telling stories I believe in and that truly represent me, running my own business, setting my own hours and traveling the world.**
I did readings and workshops for free for a decade for plays that never saw the light of day or they cast someone else in the role I developed. I love it when folks cast someone in the role you developed and then tell you after the fact, how talented you are and how unhappy they were with who they cast. And how they should have cast you in the first place. (Seriously lame).
But you know what?
I remind myself every time I put on that $3000 dress, walk into ABC, NBC or FOX how much money, time, energy and love I've put into this career. That I'm not there doing a role that people aren't sure they want me for, paying me peanuts, but rather I'm doing work that I chose and that chose me and shows me what I'm worth by paying me handsomely for my talents.
Work that is worthy of me.
And I cannot emphasize this enough.
**Actors constantly take barely-paid bullshit, poorly written, stereotypical work just for the sake of working and it drives me bananas.
Unless this role is going to get you a New York Times review and opens doors to other work, then you're not doing yourself any favors. Unless the work is paying you primetime money, it's not worth it. In fact, you are blocking the path to your greatness. So stop doing that right now, dammit!**
I mean it...
Write down where you want to be every day...and then get rid of all the fear-driven stuff you're doing that's eating up your time, soul, money and energy.
If you stop working on bullshit work for free, then people will get the hint and only call you when they got something for real to offer you. But if you don't create that space, it will never happen.
You create the space for your greatness to be born, by accepting nothing less than what you deserve. Because what you allow will continue.
Every time my manager calls that casting office after and gotten amazing feedback on my work;
Every time those producers see my tape and say, "One day, we're going to have a role big enough for her."
Every time I leave that office having left blood on the floor,
I know I did that for me.
My goal was to become one of the greatest actors of my generation. That's what I'm working on.
Every single audition I go in for gets me closer to that goal.
Every small part that gets my tape in front of directors, producers and showrunners is a win. Because you cannot get the job if people don't get to see your work. And getting on camera auditions gets your work in front of 1000's of casting directors, producers, writers, showrunners and directors. Because when they're casting a pilot, all those folks review the audition tapes because casting for a pilot is a team decision. So, make no mistake, auditioning is working as an actor. On camera auditions in particular because so many big decisions are made based on those tapes.
Every time I walk into those auditions and producer callbacks, they know my name and ask about my play or whatever I'm working on, I know I'm doing the work that is getting me closer to my goal.
And working on small, no money roles is not getting me closer to anything I'm interested in having. That's why when I put on my $3000 Donna Karan dress, I know I'm preparing for where I want to be, not where I am.
I'm wearing a piece of art made by a great artist. It's silk jersey, draped within an inch of my life, cut on the bias like a vintage dress hugging curves I didn't know I had. It makes me feel powerful, accomplished...because a great artist made the dress. And Donna is just that...watch the gorgeous lines of her dresses and how they mirror the shape of great works of art and follow the line of luscious feminine curves. Each of her dresses is a testament to the beauty of womanhood.
I'm dressing and auditioning for where I want to be, not where I am. Not where the industry says I should be. Not for the silly maids, nurses, silent sidekicks, crackheads and whatnot. I have done those roles. It's time for something worthy of me. I walk in the door with a package that says,
I'm bigger than that. Bring it.
And if I don't make room for that. It will never happen.
Self-Love/Self-Esteem are not affirmations. They are concrete
actions you take in your own behalf to change the course of your life.
If I don't have a rock solid business strategy that includes every aspect of my actors arsenal looking like a million dollar brand, then how the hell do I expect my agent/manager team to fight to get me in the door?
If I don't do everything within my power to be great. It won't happen.
Because the industry is not asking that of me. I am asking that of myself.
When I act in my own behalf by setting my goals, defining what success is for me, I am taking my power. That's self-love, esteem building in action.
Every time you do something that gets you closer to your dreams, you are growing fiercer and falling in love with yourself.
Everytime you set a boundary and accept only what you feel is worthy of you, you are walking in your truth, in your power, in honor of your god-given gifts.
And that's how you walk into an audition, see the fierce competition and not get scared.
Your success is what you deem as successful. Your choices are the choices that are special and unique to your artistic soul. They are your song.
And each unicorn has a different, beautiful, glorious song the earth has been waiting to hear.
What's your emotional type and why does it matter?
I recently went in for a role that I wasn't perfect for physically, but it was dead-on in terms of my emotional type. Which by the way, if you know your emotional type, it will double the amount of auditions you go on. I haven't been in for a role or booked a role that was exactly my type in at least 2 years. But I go out every week, regularly and things are ramping up because pilot season has started. Because I've brainstormed my emotional types with my agent/manager team, they are able to fight for more auditions. I was so tired last week, I was seeing stars.
I have been going out for pilot season like a white girl...yep, I said it.
All because I am no longer allowing my physical type to guide the kind of roles I go after. I go in for stuff for men, old people, big women, whatever. Because I've packaged my soul and that's what I'm selling. My soul knows this role, so cast me according to what my heart knows. Because your heart guides your acting choices and each heart is different. Each heart is driven by different motivations. Each heart responds to pain, pleasure, dissappointment, pain, joy differently.
For example, think of your favorite scene in a film. I love Lorretta Divine and Gregory Hines final scene in Waiting to Exhale. She's a woman who works like a slave without benefits to raise her son and get him out of the hood and into college. She doesn't believe she deserves love and happiness just because it's her god-given right. She simply thinks it's her role to raise her son and when she successfully gets him off to college, she is scared and alone. Well, she thinks she is. But really, the audience has been watching Gregory Hines character fall in love with her from the moment he saw her. But she's so wrapped up in feeling like a work horse who will never be loved, she cannot see love standing right in her face. The scene where she's complaining about being alone and useless now that her son is gone. She talks for 5 minutes without taking a breath. During this entire monologue, Gregory has said "I love you, you have me" at least 15 times.
But she couldn't hear it. Finally he grabs her, kisses her and says,
"I LOVE YOU."
She then bursts into tears grabs and kisses his face off. It is one of the most beautiful love scenes I've ever seen. You want to know why? Because I broke into tears in the middle of that scene. Big doleful, wailing, snotty tears because my heart knows what it feels like to feel that you will never be loved. That your only reason for being here is to be a workshorse and care for your loved ones. I understand that sense of invisibility. Because that's one of my emotional chords and I can play any character who is struggling with the same chord. And that's thousands of characters, and it has nothing to do with what I look like. I could play a man, woman, child wrestling with feeling invisible, who fears never feeling real, unconditional love. Who constantly has to prove her worth by serving others. I totally get that chord and that means there's a whole bunch of roles that have nothing to do with the color of my skin or the size of my butt that I can play and play with depth and sensitivity. I can play tough chicks hiding a world of vulnerability and fear of never being loved. I can play the warrior for women and children who have been abused by men and need protection.
Those are just two of my emotional types and because I'm going out for roles based on that, I'm going out twice as much. In other words, auditioning like a white girl with a big agent/manager team. (you laugh, but the struggle is real)...howlin....
How to stop comparing yourself to the competition
Anyway, I digress. I was recently in an audition room and walked in and all the competition I know was in the room. I adjusted my cleavage in my Donna Karan dress, sprayed my custom wig, crossed my designer heels and worked on my lines. Folks were going in the room and because the character was larger than life, they were making huge over-the-top choices. They were structuring their acting choices around what they thought the writer/director/producer wanted. Well, that's a really smart way to go after a job. And lots of people do it. And it can work. But you might end up playing the same shallow, one-note roles over and over again.
So, I sat there and asked myself why was I called in for this role. The way it was written, they should have gone with a really big plus size girl, to make the comedy sing. It would have been the big girl, chasing the little man. So, perhaps I'm all wrong for this. But then, I thought, no, I wasn't called in because of my body, I was called in for what I know how to do.
Put someone on the spot, shamelessly look a man over for spare parts and make him do my bidding whether he likes it or not. To use my sensuality in a ferocious way that brokers no argument. Yeah, I played a 5'3" Medea where I destroyed a 6'4" Jason. It wasn't the body, but rather the size of my spirit that got me that part and this audition. This CD saw me. That's why they called me in for this role.
So, I'm saying all this shit in my head, so that I remember that I got this audition because they want something that only I have.
So instead of making the obvious choice, I made the choice that fit me. Because really, people are hiring me. Not the character. So, I went in the room and played it much smaller, subtle and smokey. It was a risky choice, but since it was true to me, the audition sang. They were surprised by my choice, but they laughed their asses off and gave my manager amazing feedback.
That's how you walk into a room, see the competition and not falter. Because they are there to do what they do best and you're there to offer up your unique goods. You got the audition because you have something in your emotional arsenal that knows this character. Something unique to you that only you will bring to this character and many times, you'll make them re-think, re-envision the role because of you.
You walk in with YOU. That's how you deal with that fear. You walk in beyond prepared: memorized (your lines and the other actors by rote), looking like the TV version of what this character would wear (and that ain't no sloppy gap clothes). Even television ugly is still fricking gorgeous. You walk in with everything in your arsenal: standards for excellence, rehearsed, website/press kit ready, physical presentation is TV primetime ready. Everything that is within your power to do, is done and done extremely well.
Then you make choices that have to do with what you know you do well emotionally. The emotional types that resonate with you. Because those you can do at the drop of hat, with your eyes closed. And then you lead what that. You lead with who you are and you bring all of that to bear in the audition.
The problem is if you don't know your emotional types. And everyone has about 4 major emotional chords, then you will always make choices that have to do with what you think the director wants. And people smell that lack of uncertainty and it's not sexy. It feels needy and the last thing people want on a set is someone who needs their hands held to do the work fast, clearly and on cue.
I'm amazed that folks haven't thought of this. It affects everything about your brand. It affects your choice of material for your reel, how the reel will be edited (will it have a documentary feel or primetime crime drama feel), that's totally an artistic choice that has to do with your temperament. Brent Katz is my editor and he did amazing work with my Good Bread Alley Kickstarter video. He figured out that what I was selling was less the play and much more the idea that folks should support my kickstarter because they were supporting an archivist, a documentarian or historian of a time people and a culture. So the video is in the vein of a Ken Burns video. It's brillant, that small peice of branding helped my team raise $100K in 30 days.
My reel was never wow even though I have some nice credits. So he and I sat down and talked about my brand. What do I sell emotionally and how could we do internal cuts and edits to create a small movie that underscores my major emotional chords and my skills set as an actor. You can always check out my reel at AprilYvetteThompson.com. But the long and short of it is, he took clips from things that were never produced and edited a reel into a movie about an actor who transforms into characters with absolute opinions of right and wrong, characters desperately in search of meaning, characters whose sense of self is strong even in the face of a world trying to tell them they're invisible, characters who are fiercely intellectual even though they are often uneducated, characters who are bright and strong, but feel unworthy of great love. He created a film out of some scenes that didn't communicate that on their own. But as a film maker, it's his gift to make emotional meaning of the pieces so that the viewer is moved when they watch it.
Your emotional chords determine what your brand is and your brand is your unique set of gifts as an actor. Branding affects what acting choices you make, physical presentation, headshot, marketing materials, resume, reel, IMDB, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, audition material and choice of representation. And when all of that screams one essential message, you do amazing work in the room with confidence and you audition twice as much.
Because all of that work is the underbelly of what you walk into the audition room with. It also is what gets you representation, the audition, the opportunity to meet casting directors and the ability to get them on your team because they feel like they know you, your spirit.
That's the secret really. I've talked a lot because much of this you could do on your own. But, since I've tried, failed, lost and learned so much about this process, I am really good at teaching it.
So, if you're truly ready to change the fabric of your life this coming January pilot season, I'm here to provide a soft landing and guide your through the process.
You can click [HERE](http://TheDreamUnLocked.com) to learn more about the pilot season class that is on sale for the next 2 days only!
Love, Light & Power,
April & TheDreamUnLocked Team
P.S. This is the only time this class will be offered at this price point with the new bonuses: free private coaching, a copy of the "Get UnStuck: Move Your Career into Film/TV and the handbook.
On sale for the next UNTIL MIDNITE TONITE only, so act fast.
Click HERE to see what folks are saying about studying with April
How to be a MotherF*cking Actor this Pilot Season
4 Week Class Overview
Week One: What's your Emotional & Physical Type and how do you package it to double your auditions
Week Two: How to Target & Create Relationships with Casting Directors, Agents & Managers
Week Three: How to Prepare or Big Auditions in 24 Hours
Week Four: How to create a full-proof marketing strategy to get you seen for major auditions.
- FREE copy of the 90 min webinar "Get UnStuck: Move into Film/TV & The Handbook
- FREE 30 min coaching session with April