1. Did you know, careers are made by smart, discerning, actor-loving casting directors? There are casting directors who will redirect you in an audition to get your performance closer to what the director is looking for. Do you know that casting directors also work on a commission system? If they cast you in a play that runs a long time, they continue to get "residual checks" on the show? So it's in their best interest to cultivate, talented, supple actors who can take adjustments, adapt to the director's vision of the work or what the particular genre requires (i.e half hour, rom-com or procedural). Relationships with casting directors are everything. Join April for the How to Pilot Season Intensive and she'll teach you how to cultivate and sustain those relationships. Email email@example.com for details.
2. Tips for Pilot Season: 2. Research who you are auditioning for. This includes the Writers, Executive Producers, Casting and Network. Why? You do this research to get a sense of the writer/creator's style, pace, sense of humor. Shonda Rhimes and Michael Chriton both wrote hospital dramas, yet the pace, lighting, tone of the each are completely different and particular to the creator of each. So you have to learn their style to nail the gig.
3. Memorization seems to be one of the largest issues for new actors. How do you know where you fall in the spectrum? Well, if you're on camera trying to remember lines, we know you're a green actor. The character picks up your insecurity and magnifies it and huge pauses on camera = death to a performance. Actors often get script changes on set the morning of the shoot or even during the shoot. That's how fast lines need to be in your head. They need to be memorized by rote and you should be able to nail down 3-5 pages of text in an 30 mins. If you can't, you'd better hire a line reader or a coach. And if I hear one more actor going on about what they can't afford, I'll will turn into fairy dust.
4. Your competition, folks with MFA's have spent a minimum of $200,000 on their training, so they are miles ahead of you. You need to duplicate that amount of time in private coaching and classes. The advantage of private coaching is that you can tailor your own training regimen and meet with a coach 1:1 which is optimal and triples your learning curve. Besides, if you spend $300 in coaching to get one on camera gig, the gig will pay you anywhere from $1200-7000 depending on how much on camera time you have. So invest in yourself and strengthen your greatest resource: you. How well prepared you are is the only thing completely within your control and oddly enough, it's the most important.5. Hire a coach before every on camera audition, call back and screen test. There is almost zero rehearsal time in the world of film & tv, so your workout is your rehearsal. If your coach is a working professional, they can also provide valuable info about the lay out of the office, the folks you're auditioning for as well as how to approach the material. And even if you don't get this job, guess what? If you did solid work in the audition room, the director, casting director will remember you because they will have watched your tape. And the coaching will continue to hone your on camera skills.6. Make no mistake. Every reading or workshop of a play or screenplay is an audition. It is a chance to show folks your stuff. So if there's a song in the script, learn it ahead of time or ask for a recording of it. If a dialect or another language is required, learn it. Call a friend who's either speaks the language or knows someone who does and get a recording. I don't care if the script says, "Don't worry about it." Walking into a reading or audition fully prepared means you're serious about getting this job. This is the actor's job. I am amazed at how many actors don't bother. When given a chance to act, then act full out, no holds barred giving the total self....If you make yourself unforgettable in a one day reading, you have created an impression on the director, writer and producer or Artistic Director; not to mention all the other industry folks who will be in attendance. 7. Actor Tip: There's the job and then there's the audition. The job is on a set with real people and lots of cameras and you really get to be in the world of the film or TV show. In the audition room, it's an 8x10 tiny little room, with a casting director mumbling lines and giving you nothing. How do you create the reality of an entire world in a tiny little room, seated in a chair with a camera up your nose. It's a skill and it's not hard and it's not a trick, it's easy once u learn how to work the camera instead of the camera working you and your nerves... Come learn the secret!
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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