It snuck up on you again. Last year you said,
"F*CK THIS, I'm getting a new agent. One that actually works for me."
8 months ago, you said,
"Oh, no. How did all my girlfriends go in for that series regular and I didn't? WTF! I'm getting on that casting directors "go-to" list now. Let me get on that."
3 months ago you said,
"I just saw what's her name on TV in the role I auditioned for and she was terrible. How the F*CK did she get my job? That shit cannot happen again. Let me get on that."
And now here we are less than 2 months away from pilot season and you have done exactly... JACK SHIT.
All of the above problems still exist:
You still don't go out enough.
You still go out and don't book.
You still see folks less talented than you booking gigs while you collect unemployment, wait tables and do another play reading of a mediocre play for free and then don't get cast in it when it opens off broadway or in the regions.
Never mind, you workshopped that bitch till the cows came home. They gave the role you originated to some TV actress who is doing god knows what on that stage 8 times a week for a big fat check and every network casting director in town seeing her do ok work in the role you created.
So she keeps working and getting paid. While you just keep working.
I know, I know.
Get outta my business, April.
Fa' real. You are seriously pissing me off.
Well, good. You should be pissed off.
How many years have you been working for free?
Not only working, but putting your heart and soul into readings, pilot auditions, feature film auditions, spending hours working on lines, hiring coaches to coach you, spending money you don't have so you can go in and do the kind of work that leaves blood on the floor long after you've left the room...
She drops the mic...
Only to see a non-acting, rapper or singer playing the role you invested so much time and energy in doing a terrible job, but getting paid and getting press and more jobs as a result of it.
How many times?
Now if you want to keep on doing that and hope someone will come to your rescue, stick with that plan and lemme know how that shit's working out.
But if you've finally had enough of that trifling bullshit and are ready to start working and killing it on primetime, then keep reading.
If you're good with the current state of affairs: struggling to pay bills, complaining, sick and tired of being sick and tired. Then stop reading now. This email ain't fa' you.
MFA's are not just actors with degrees, but rather Motherfucking Actors with a Business plan, as well as, Craft
Anybody that knows me knows I hate complaining like a hoe hates a STD.
It is a pain in the ass (literally for the hoe) that gets you nowhere, keeps you out of work and lands you in a shrink's office with the kind of depression that feels like you got stuck at the bottom of a hole (trust me on this one). LOL...fa'real though....
Complaint without action = defeat and 'loserdom'
(yes, I just made that word up because I know some muhfughaz that fit the bill to the 'T')
Complaint as a fuel for decisive action is genius.
That is the world where MFA's or "Mother Fucking Actors" are born.
The difference between a regular actor who got training and is auditioning with the hopes of being discovered and a MFA is: t a MFA is already brilliant at auditioning, but has the extra ammo of knowing how the game is played and how to present the right set of tools that create opportunities for Casting Directors, Agents, Managers and Directors to start running in their direction instead of chasing them down like a hoe looking for change.
This hoe analogy has a lot more fuel than I give it credit for...hmmm....
At any rate, I teach the craft of becoming a MFA = a Motherfucking Actor in control of the game. Because without understanding the game, you're playing the game without an helmet.
And all playing the game means is having a tried and true business strategy in place so that the business is set up to come to you.
Playing the game is your helmet.
Playing and understanding the game is critical to your success.
Trying to do the business of entertainment with only your talent and no business plan is like trying to be a foot ball player without a helmet.
It's like trying to be a hoe without condoms.
The raw material of her beauty brings in the high paying clients. But she'll die long before she can enjoy the wealth. She's operating without out a plan if she ain't got no condoms. That's like a football player playing without a helmet. Can he win the game and get paid millions of dollars? Perhaps, but if he gets brain damage before that happens, he'll never be able to stay in the game and win.
Do you honestly think the hardworking writers of pilots depend solely on their talent to get their TV series picked up?
Are you crae, crae?
Of course not. They look at all the work that's come before them. They look at the writing that has survived the test of time, the shows that have a winning combination of talent, as well as a strategy for creating a large, loyal fanbase.
Shona Rhimes is a Force of Nature Because she is an Artist with a Business Strategy
For example, Shonda Rhimes wrote for other TV shows for a decade before she created her own. She didn't just run up to some Hollywood Executives screaming,
Hey, see how talented I am, give me a shot.
Grow up, children...
No, she spent years building relationships with executives by getting in those writers' rooms and learning how to write for TV. She learned pace, structure and timing. She learned what formats sold and which TV show formats endured the test of time and won awards. She learned the winning formula to get a network to greenlight a pilot.
Now she's a black woman and could have easily wrote a cute little show and cast it with all very talented black actors that look like her. And it would have been very good, beautiful to look at, entertaining and would have lasted exactly 3 episodes. Just like all of the other TV shows with that formula that came before her. All of them were cancelled before they got to mid-season.
Now Shonda could have cried racism, made a stink and whinned about the lack of roles and jobs for people of color in Hollywood. And how Hollywood "should do something for people of color."
Hello! The ONLY thing Hollywood has a mandate to do is create entertainment that makes money. Period. End of of story.
Get over "should" cause again: asking a business to do something for you because it's morally right is like a hoe asking for a $5 raise. You just giving up all your power.
Can you tell that this is a pet peeve of mine?
If you're not talking to me about what you're doing to solve a problem, then shut the fuck up cause you're just whining...and that is beyond failure. I know what the damn problems are, I don't need a summit, a talk show, an amen corner to get people to agree with me that there's a problem. I need somebody powerful to fix it. And that's always going to be me trying to figure out how to get to or BE that powerful agent for change.
No, what Shonda did was look critically at the state of television. She looked around and saw people everywhere complaining instead of doing something . Why, being a watchdog for racism is the African-American way. Turn on the TV, radio, go to the barbershop and we're sitting around complaining about racism like it's a full-time job and we're getting paid overtime. But guess, what? We ain't. We're still working for free. All that complaining ain't changed shit and that's what Shonda figured out while we were all whining.
Shonda did the math and figured out what I already know.
Oops, complaining ain't getting nobody nowhere.
So she looked at the business sans her personal investment and decided to deal with it in terms of business only and all business is won by creating a strategy.
When you don't take something as silly as racism or sexism personally, you free up a lot of brain power to figure out a whole lot shit that you can do to beat the screwed up game of "isms."
But you can't think critically and strategically about business as long as you're taking it personally.
So grow up, get fierce and get a plan.
Because the business only cares about money. It's your personal business to care about right, wrong and goodness. Let that drive your business agenda.
I want you to try an exercise. For one whole week, I want you to act like your race, gender, sexual orientation, class don't matter. That there is no discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti semitism, any kind of "ism" at work in the world.
Now how would you act if that were the case?
What choices would you make?
What steps would you take.
I can hear you now. Some of you are whining and others are shooting me the bird and saying:
"Stop fucking around, April! They do exist. They are very real."
Right, but I'm asking you to be a fucking actor,
use damn imagination and stop cockblocking your dreams.
Now. Imagine they don't exist. And if you can't imagine that, then that is exactly what's stopping you from solving problems and stepping into your greatness.
You're allowing ignorant narrow mindsets to determine and define what you're capable of.
You're spending more time fighting off what you think the world thinks of you than you are defining who you are for you.
You're giving someone else's opinion more weight than your own.
You're not defining your own destiny. You're spending your life trying to change what other people think....chile please.
Don't Be a Hoe Begging for Change
That's like a hoe crying cause a John said,
"You ain't nothing but a hoe."
She don't know him from Adam's housecoat, so why should what his opinion matter? Especially after, he just cleaned out his bank account to pay her $5000K for the last 6 hours.
Puh-lez...her thinking was,
"I might be a hoe, but I'm a hoe that just took your mortgage payment"
**That hoe is putting her kid through college while he's just trying to make her feel bad cause he a hoe too, only he's paying to be.**
See how that not taking shit personally allows you to flip the script and take back your power?
I may be a ghetto intellectual, but you know good and goddamn well I'm making plenty o' sense.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch.
The Shonda Rhimes Prescription
Shonda looked at the television formula. Successful shows have:
1. Complicated engaging characters kicking-ass & taking names
2. Steamy romances that involve lots of seduction,
3. Sexy powerful women being wooed by boy-band-pretty white boys
4. And a couple of pretty, but not too pretty midwestern white people with botox as romantic leads.
BAM. That's the formula.
She took that formula and spun it on its head. She gave network, midwestern viewers and advertisers, an average pretty blonde in the lead with an average brunette white boy named McDreamy and then surrounded them with actors of color who had the most complicated story lines, serious acting chops and high stakes relationships.
The result was Grey's Anatomy. That show set the stage for Shona to cast a black woman as a lead in a primetime series that would change the face of television: Scandal. She showed America how to make money from female-lead TV dramas with truly color-blind casting that looks like the real America, for the first time in the history of American television. Then she created some franchises, got some emma's, golden globes and put some chocolate firepower in the leads of her spin offs.
Black actors ain't getting awards cause it's time. Black actors are getting awards because finally, a Black artist created a brilliant business strategy.
My work here is done....she thought....
She learned that the art of writing fast, deep monologues that cost the characters a great deal, lots of lost-love found, high romance with a tight underbelly of intimacy as its base, lightning fast emotional twists and turns in the plot were key elements.
And then she cast people of color who could act their asses off and gave them the material to show off what they could do.
The results areHollywood gold: money in the motherfucking bank.
No one cares what color she is as long as Pillsbury and CocaCola keep buying billions of dollars of advertising. And that is exactly what is happening.
Here's what Shonda did that's different from what most actors do:
1. She didn't whine.
2. She didn't take the fact that there were no shows with leads that looked like her personally, she got to work figuring out how to beat Hollywood at it's own game.
3. She was already talented, but she came up with a business strategy so that talent could be recognized.
4. Her business strategy got viewers, money, Emmy's & Golden Globes for the network. All of that translates into money. No one gives a fuck about racism, sexism or whatever "ism" in Hollywood. As long as the money is rolling in, networks are down for anything. Trust.
So what's your business plan this pilot season?
**Because the only thing separating you from the series regulars on your favorite TV shows is that MFA business strategy.**
Need some Motherfucking Actor Inspiration?
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Class is limited to 25 people, so sign up now!
Let's . Do. THIS.
Love, Light & Power,
April & TheDreamUnLocked Team
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""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson