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I'm so glad you agreed to meet in person. There are some things that just can't be said in 140 characters.

You demanded it, so we gave it to you. The creators of the first #LAActorsTweetup (@TheJudalina, @laurendwebb, @TiffanyAPrice, and yours truly) are at it again. Come on down to Busby’s East from 6pm – close on August 9th to meet the most awesomest tweeps around. And this time we ask that you bring someone who’s never been to a tweetup before. So grab that buddy (twuddy…?) and prepare them for the time of their life.

Full details (including info on the raffle!) found here.

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Knowledge, in this industry, is power. So put on some steel toed boots, ’cause the following websites, podcasts, and like are veritable knowledge bombs that be droppin’

The Actor’s Network

Just did a blog post on them. Check it. If you’re in LA you shoulda become a member 3 weeks ago.

Brains of Minverva

I effing love this blog, and Sarah and Claire are total rock stars. They sent me the following: Brains of Minerva – The Guide to the LA Actor Hustle publishes resource-rich career and lifestyle articles for the industrious working actor. Launched in Sept. 2009, the site now hosts over 100 posts on everything from joining SAG to prepping your web series to navigating the steps of auditioning for a series regular. We’re thrilled to be part of the community of actors using the web to share information and perspective, and we’re constantly inspired by our friends at Playbills vs. Paying Bills (and, yes, you guys win the awesome name contest!). At Ben’s suggestion, we’ve put together a list of posts to introduce ourselves.

Come on by, let us know what you think – we’d love to say hello… Claire Winters & Sarah Sido Brains of Minerva

Inside Acting Podcast

Trevor and AJ are two of the nicest, most genuine actors you will ever meet…err, listen to. They host Inside Acting Podcast, the best way to spend your LA commute. I asked them for a summary and some links to their favorite episodes. Here’s what I got: Inside Acting is a free industry audio podcast for actors, by actors. Each episode brings you tips and insights from Los Angeles-area casting directors, agents, producers, writers, actors, filmmakers, personal finance gurus, and more. Get insider information on marketing yourself, creating your own work, and booking the gig — straight from the people who’ve been there, done that, and are doing it again. Check out our website and find the podcast on iTunes. And our Top 5 most popular/favorite episodes so far:

  1. Episode 03 — Brian Vermiere (note from Ben: Brian is one of the most influential people in my view on Los Angeles. He’s brilliant and is one of the founders of PerformerTrack)
  2. Episode 06 — Enci
  3. Episode 07 — Kris Diedrich (note from Ben: Kris is one of the kindest people in all of Los Angeles)
  4. Episode 15 — Neal McDonough, Part 1
  5. Episode 24 — Bonnie Gillespie, Part 2

Actor’s Voice/Self Management for Actors/Bonnie Gillespie

Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie writes (I’m guessing) the most widely read actor blog around. And for good reason. Her blog is absolutely brilliant. If you ever have a free second (and by second I mean week), go poke around her extensive blog archives and prepare to have your mind blown. Bonnie has also written the best book available on the business of acting. Self Management for Actors should be mandatory reading for any actor wanting to take their career seriously.

Hollywood Happy Hour

Continuing the awesomeness that is Bonnie Gillespie, every actor should subscribe to the Hollywood Happy Hour yahoo group. This is an e-group of a couple thousand actors, CDs, and industry professionals from all over the globe asking questions and sharing resources. I’m pretty sure you have to sign up for a yahoo email address, but that’s the only time you’ll have to use it…you can have the email digest sent to whatever email you want.

Marci Liroff “Like” Page

Casting Director Marci Liroff (E.T., Spitfire Grill, Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and many more)  has a tremendously engaging Facebook “Like” Page (or whatever the hell they’re called now). Lots of great resources there, her audition tips videos, and always an engaging conversation. Check it!

Secrets of Screen Acting

The best on-camera training I’ve had. But Ben, it’s a PODCAST, you exclaim! Yeah. That’s right. It’s that friggin’ good. Probably the most informative 5 minutes of your day as an actor. David H. Lawrence hosts and Patrick Tucker does most of the talking. Seriously. Check it out (Podcast inspired by the book Secrets of Screen Acting that Patrick Tucker wrote. Find it on Amazon.)

Acting Answers

Speaking of David H. Lawrence, check out his website www.ActingAnswers.com. Full of wonderful advice from a very astute working actor.

Alex’s Info

One of the most informative email newsletters out there. Go to Alex’s Info site and sign up to receive daily awesomeness. It’s fairly LA based, but there are great resources in there for everyone. The email also contains information on thrival jobs, internship opportunities, and the like.

Cynopsis

Head over to their website and click on “Subscribe” in the top menu to get daily updates of what the heck is going on in this crazy industry. Get the news that the people at the top of this crazy town care about. You can also watch a 5-minute video of the morning’s news every day if you prefer.

The Hollywood Reporter

Rather than droppin’ a couple hundred bones on actually paying for the magazine, I suggest signing up for their daily email newsletters, or subscribing to their rss feeds. This is the kind of info the people with the money care about. The type of info that is great to have as a general understanding of what’s going on in our industry.

Info List

Tons of wonderful industry news on their main site. Lots of networking opportunities and such. Click on the “Register” link in the top right and enter your email to get on the list.

Gold Star

Damn you all of my friends who didn’t tell me about this until 6 months into my Los Angeles experience. If you want to get tickets to anything in Los Angeles, it’s mandatory to check Goldstar first. Pretty much every play, concert, or whatever has extremely (like 50+ %) discounted tickets. Awesomesauce.

Oh, and there are discounted tix for most of the major cities on here, not just Los Angeles.

ActorRated

ActorRated is like Yelp for actors. Basically it’s a place where people can rate and give feedback on the myriad services, products, headshot photographers, membership organizations, and the like. What you’re looking for isn’t there? Put it up! The more information we can give each other as a community, the better.

Performer Track

In short, PerformerTrack is online software that allows you to manage all aspects of your acting career. Auditions, expenses, contacts, etc.

I wrote about PerformerTrack previously, and I would highly recommend you check out co-founder Brian Vermiere’s interview with Inside Acting Podcast.

The Moth Podcast

As actors we’re in the business of telling stories. And The Moth Podcast has some of the best stories around. They are true stories, run about 15 minutes, and are told live without notes. Subscribe on work out those storytelling muscles.

The Actor’s Lounge

I absolutely LOVE The Actor’s Lounge. It is by far the best energy in Los Angeles. So what is it you ask? Great question.

The Actor’s Lounge is essentially an open mic night for actors. Any actor can simply show up and do a monologue (3 min. or less) or a scene (5 min. time limit for 2-person scene, 6-minute limit for 3 or more). There’s a live DJ on stage, phenomenal emcees (led by the truly brilliant In-Q), as well as music, dance, live painting, and film stuff thrown in for good measure. If you have a single creative bone in your body you NEED to check this out.

When: First Wednesday of every month, starting at 8:30pm (performers must show up early to sign up)
Where: Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Cost: $1 (though it might go up to $5 soon)

What are your favorite resources? If they’re not listed here, throw ’em up in the comments section!

If there were ever a shortcut to success, it’s getting really great information and surrounding yourself with incredible people. The Actors’ Network (TAN) does both of those things. If you are in the Los Angeles area, and take your career as an actor seriously, I can’t think of something I’d recommend more in furthering your career than The Actors’ Network. Check out their website, find ’em on facebook, and follow them on twitter.

Full Disclosure: I totally get paid if you join TAN and say my name. And by get paid, I mean I get points. Seriously. Like at an arcade. I think I can redeem them for spider rings or something if I collect enough. In all seriousness, I don’t give a flying patootie about the points (honestly, tell them Superman sent you), I just want to share great resources I’ve come across in my brief time in Los Angeles.

Introduction

Aurora (actress extraordinairre) recently sat down with the founder of The Actors’ Network, Kevin E. West. Check out the interview below for some wisdom and an introduction to Kevin.

What Is It?

The best way I can describe TAN is that it’s like a “graduate school for the working actor.” Kevin teaches seminars (topicals) a couple times a week on all of the topics a working actor needs to know. There are recitations (power groups) that meet once a month to keep everyone accountable, network, and share resources. And top-notch industry guests like show runners (Jonathan Prince), agents (Tracy Curtis), acting coaches, and casting directors come are there almost every day imparting their wisdom and giving you a chance to create relationships.

Just like grad school you get what you put into it, so sign up for as many topicals as you can, go listen to the guests, and meet as many people as you can. Everything is included in your cost (see below) and there are no requirements…attend when you can, don’t when you have to help Aunt Greta with her chili cook-off.

Like most universities, the school is only as good as the students, and the members of TAN are top-notch.

Topicals

The topicals are primarily led by Kevin, and cover everything from demo reels, to your resume, contracts, casting director workshops, phone technique, and the like (full list here). It’s kind of like class for an hour and a half. If you have gained any insight from my previous blog posts, then you’ll absolutely take something of value from these topicals. A great deal of my outlook and the information I have comes as a direct result of these sessions. These are a glorious way to learn from Kevin’s 20+ years of mistakes (and successes!) in LA so that you don’t have to repeat them. It makes me feel like I’m skipping classes of life…

Industry Guests

These are akin to your guest lectures at grad school. Take a look at TAN’s calendar to see who has come into The Actor’s Network recently, and who’s slated to come in soon. Agents, managers, casting directors (Joseph MiddletonMarci LiroffDanielle Eskinazi, and Bonnie Gillespie are just a few examples of the casting people who’ve I’ve seen speak), producers, writers, you name it. These industry guests volunteer (they don’t receive any money) an hour of their time to come in and answer actors’ questions. Just watch your feet when you attend these things, ’cause people be droppin’ knowledge.

Power Groups

There are 9 (optional) power groups…kind of like college recitations. These are group of about 30 actors from TAN who get together once a month to discuss goals and progress, share resources, and ask questions. Each group is led by an experienced facilitator. These are a great way to meet other productive actors, and begin to really find a sense of community, one of the hardest things to do in this city, particularly when you first arrive.

Blog

The Actor’s Network also recently launched a kick-ass blog written by 16 of LA’s finest in myriad categories. Think of it as your homework. 🙂

Reputation/Whactor Factor

TAN has a stellar reputation around town. Being a member provides you with some serious legitimacy, and proves to most that you’re not a ‘whactor’ (compliments to bad boy Kristoffer Kelly for the term). Throw their logo on your resume if you want, and know that TAN is a 99% whactor-free zone.

Cost

$50/month. Seriously. I can honestly say that you get more from TAN for your money than any other single thing in Los Angeles (unless maybe you steal stuff…but the guilt and fear of getting caught probably make TAN worth it anyway).

There is also a one-time $55 charge when you join for the membership binder etc. Oh, and there’s a discount if you join for a full year, and once you are a member for 3 years your cost goes down to $200/year. They do ask that you pay in 4-month increments, though you can split your initial payment of $265, paying $165 up front, then your next $100 a month later.

Try going to grad school for those kinds of dollars and cents (I know, I know those are all even dollar amounts, no cents. Cut me some slack, I’m just some dude with a blog. Sheesh).

How Do I Join?

If you are in LA, the first step is to check out a (free) orientation. More details here. From there you fork over some moolah and get crankin’.

For those of you not in Los Angeles, you can still join as an online member, and get access to a number of benefits outlined here.

If I Were King…

…I’d make every actor sign up for TAN, get in a power group, and attend every topical and guest speaker for 6 months. After that you could go on your merry way if you felt like it wasn’t for you, but the information is priceless, and those 6 months would (hopefully) put everyone in the proper mindset to pursue this profession.

Moreover, it’s can be daunting to feel like you’re making progress in your career as an actor. TAN not only gives you specific information and help in moving forward, but it also provides a grounding for your actor life in Los Angeles. Surrounding yourself in this community will be a tremendous benefit as you navigate this nutty industry.

So, finish up that chili and get your butt down to Santa Monica and Fairfax. I promise you won’t regret it.

P.S.

If you’re like me and SOOO over school, don’t fret. Replace the word “school” in this post with the word “home.”

P.P.S.

Ok, smart ass, I know there’s no such thing as a “grad home” but you get my point…TAN is a great place to be.

Yesterday I was talking to a potential employee for one of my businesses, and she mentioned that her boyfriend was an actor. She said that he had come out to Los Angeles for 6 months to act, before “failing” and going home. Failing. That was the perception. I couldn’t help but think that he hadn’t even been her long enough to buy a box spring and take the cover off his couch. Hell, I’ve been stuck on the 405 for longer than he’d been out here. Alright, that’s a slight (very slight…) exaggeration, but you get my point. I’ve written before (here, here, here, here, and here) on being in this for the long haul, and how it almost always takes at least a decade to build the careers we imagine for ourselves. This phone conversation, though, got me thinking about expectations, where they come from, and what people think they can, or should, achieve when coming to this city.

I’ve been in Los Angeles for a little over a year now, and started actively pursuing acting almost exactly a year ago (I had my first audition in Los Angeles last July).  And here’s the deal: I haven’t been on TV. I don’t have a theatrical agent or a manager, though I did have a commercial agent for a few months (we have since parted ways, but that’s another blog post). I haven’t had an audition on a studio lot nor have I even auditioned for a major union commercial. There was no “pilot season” for me, and as of right now I’m not “coming to a theatre near you.” I’ve had meetings with 3 agents who decided not to take me on. That’s right. I’ve been here a year, don’t have any representation, no recognizable credits on my resume, and no auditions for major projects.

But guess what. I’m kicking ass. Honestly, my career couldn’t be going better. I stopped clicking and submitting via submission services in favor of relationship-based job getting, and now instead of auditioning I get offers. And when I do audition, I’m doing it for people who already know my work and call me in directly. I have a reel that I’m proud of, and footage coming in the next few weeks that will make it 10x better. A film I was in just got accepted to the LA Shorts Fest.  The companies I started allow me to have a flexible schedule and pursue my acting career as I see fit. People read my blog and ask for my advice. I have actual friendships with casting directors, writers, producers, and directors. I’m friggin’ happy.

And, more than anything, I am constantly surrounded by amazing people. If there’s anything I’ve learned about success, it’s that it comes as a direct result of the quality and calibur of the people around you and the company you keep. I’m ingrained in brilliant communities that support and inspire me. The people around me have the right attitude, are always eager to help, and believe in me. They introduce me to people, refer me to others, and actively help me in my pursuits. Although it is not as obviously tangible as an agency logo or “NBC” on my resume, the strength of my community is how I define my success…and I have it in abundance.

So, are you in SAG? Who’s your agent?

Why is it that actors ask these two questions the first time they meet a fellow actor? It’s hard enough feeling like you constantly need to justify your career to “outsiders,” so why do we do this to ourselves? How is it that somehow having an agent legitimizes you as an actor? I know someone who has been with (a reputable) theatrical agent for 4 years…and had 4 auditions from them. I know actors with the TOP agencies who never work. And I know actors without agents who work all the time. Finding out someone’s union status or representation just doesn’t really tell you all that much.

For me, I have stopped asking actors I just met these questions, in favor of asking if they have been working on any cool and exciting projects lately? That leaves the door open for them to talk about pretty much anything, and hopefully relieves a little pressure that actors so constantly encounter.

Final Thoughts

I challenge you to start measuring your success based on your relationships. How many professional industry contacts do you have in your database? (You do keep track of that right?) What is the level of the people you have these relationships with? How strong are those relationships? If you randomly decided to shoot a short film next weekend, how many people could you get to show up as a favor to you ’cause they think you’re awesome or believe in you?

It’s much easier to your friends and family back home that you’re going to be on Criminal Minds next week than it is to say that you just had an amazing coffee date with some producer over at NBC who wants to meet again next month, but I would wager that the latter is a greater career success than the former.

What about you? What were your expectations when you came to LA (or wherever)…?

I started to write a post on theatre in Los Angeles, but realized that I wanted to spend more time on it than I had. So for now let me say this: there is an immense amount of theatre in Los Angeles, and in general it gets a bad wrap. Shows like Spike Heels, however, are doing everything they can to combat that perception.

Spike Heels is playing this weekend and next (June 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27) at Theatre 68 in Hollywood, and I would highly recommend that you go check it out. The play itself was written by Theresa Rebeck in 1990, and 2 years later opened in New York starring Kevin Bacon as Edward. Directed by Robert Marra, Spike Heels points a keen eye on sex, relationships, and gender dynamics in life and in the workplace, with an emphasis on the myriad difficulties women face in particular.

For starters, the technical aspects of the play are wonderful (mad props to the technical team, including Danny Cistone as set designer and Matt Richter designing the lighting). Music is used perfectly to set the mood both prior to and during the play, and the fully realized set very much brings the audience into the world of the characters. My only complaint on that front is that the actors were staged behind the furniture a bit much for my taste, detracting a tad from their performances.

More than anything, though, wonderful acting by the ensemble cast provides a through line to the show. The energy of the play is sustained throughout, despite a smaller audience the night I went (fellow actors will appreciate the particular challenge in doing so). Lydia joins the cast in act two, but Alexis Boozer delivers a wholly crafted performance despite her short amount of stage time. As her fiancée Andrew, James McAndrew provides the most conflicted of the characters, endeavoring to be the moral compass of his friends, ultimately realizing the life isn’t quite as cut and dry as he’d like it to be. Unfortunately for him, life cannot always be reasoned with. Carolina Groppa (also the producer of the play) as the impulsive Georgie drives the energy–both sexual and not :)–though the play, delivering a delightfully charming performance. If we learn anything from the show it’s that, as Georgie says, “sex was never this complicated in high school.” Lastly, Daniel Kash as the smooth-talking lawyer Edward is, pardon my French, freaking hysterical. Go see the show if for no other reason than to see Kash’s smarmy brilliance.

As with any show, Spike Heels was not perfect, but the commitment and energy of the show more than make up for its flaws. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend or next, get your keester over to Theatre 68.

To purchase tickets and get more information please visit this Plays 411 link.

Alrighty. As we continue to grow and expand this blog, we discussed updating our logo (the image you see at the top of this blog). However, we disagreed on which image we liked the most. 372 games of rochambeau, 14 mud wrestling fights, and an Egyptian battle to the death later, we were bruised, battered, and still hadn’t come to a decision.

So, we decided to came to you. Our readers. Please fill out the poll at the bottom of this post for which image you would like to see on the top of this blog. You can click on the images to see a larger version of them, and please leave additional feedback or suggestions in the comments section.

Thanks in advance,

JVB, Em, and Ben

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If you haven’t seen this video on how Ian McKellen is (was, *sad panda*) such a brilliant actor, then you’re seriously missing out:

I love this video because it reminds me that sometimes I make acting more complicated than it needs to be. I mean, there are 6-year-old kids who act brilliantly, so it can’t be that hard, right?

Now I’m most assuredly not saying that anyone can just pick up a script and be a brilliant actor. I dare you to try heading to your local supermarket armed with any script and get that lady next to the pomegranates to do a little scene with that dude stealing the cashews…not that simple. On the other hand those same people, sans script, are acting all the time. They’re interacting with the people around them, having conversations, living life.

I find it particularly important to remember this, especially when I’m acting on camera. On a film set you never bring your own props, they tell you where to stand and where to look, and at the end of the day all you need to do is talk to people. That’s what I tell myself if I ever get worked up. When all is said and done, it’s just talking to people. All of it. The business, the craft, the networking…it’s simply talking to people. I can do that. In fact, sometimes I can be pretty good at that. And I would wager that every now and again, you’re pretty darn good at it too… 🙂

If you’re like me before I moved to Los Angeles a year ago, then you have absolutely no idea what casting director workshops are. In short, they are places where you pay anywhere from $30 – $50 (or more) to meet a casting director, and perform a scene they give you there or a scene you have already prepared (depending on the workshop location). Basically, you are paying to audition for the casting director, although that language–paid audition–is central to the recent crackdown on these CD workshops. There are a large number of workshop locations around the city with various formats, but in most all cases a casting director, associate, or assistant comes in to the workshop for a couple hours and watched anywhere from 15 – 30 actors perform. It should be noted that while the CD does indeed receive money, oftentimes the majority of the money goes to the workshop place itself. The community has been split for a while on the merits/legality of these workshops, and the recent controversy has sprouted some spirited discussion and opposition to the new law.

Rather than go into great detail on workshops, workshop locations, and the like, I would like to offer you an email response I sent to a recent discussion that started on Hollywood Happy Hour (side note: if you are not on this email list then you are truly missing out). For more information on workshops themselves, please check out this post from Brains Of Minerva, or this incredibly informative post by Bonnie Gillespie on the issue (note: her post was written after I first published my thoughts below, and includes excerpts from it).

So, here it is. Some of my thoughts on CD workshops…


I think the topic of Casting Director workshops is extremely important to our community, and wanted to add my two cents.

Let me start by saying that I have attended dozens of workshops and have, in general, been quite pleased with the result. I have met a number of people in casting I would not have otherwise met at this juncture, and have formed a number of strong relationships that will certainly carry into the future. All this to say that I have no bitterness whatsoever towards workshops, though I have had some growing concerns…

It seems the core of this issue is the idea of paying for a job interview. To me, that it’s illegal is almost beside the point, because so is speeding and tearing that tag off my mattress, and I don’t find the legality of either activity particularly compelling reasons to avoid them. The issue here, though, is that if anyone in a field is allowed to PAY for a job interview, the playing field suddenly becomes very lopsided, and unfairly so. Should Rich Kid Sally have a better shot at that coveted office job with flexible hours, high pay, and an understanding that you’re going to need to leave for auditions over Poor Kid Joe merely because she could pay for a job interview? At that point, we are no longer looking at merit (or even connections, social intelligence, whatever) as a reason for hire. Suddenly the well-to-do are able to (ostensibly) move to the front of the line simply because of money. Restricting this practice does not come from a motivation of restricting choice, but rather to protect large portions of the population as well as attempting to have as level a playing field as possible. It’s the same reason why politicians are allowed to buy advertising, but not actual votes. 🙂

Now, some have argued that workshops are not paid auditions, to which I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Yes, there are actual classes and other one-offs that are more educational, but I have not been to a *single* workshop in which the VAST majority of attendees were there primarily because the CD could potentially give them a job. If the workshops were run by writers instead of casting directors, I have no doubt that workshop attendance would dramatically decrease (which is ironic, because writers probably have more power to hire actors than CDs do, but that’s a whole other Oprah). Even the top-rated, most legitimate workshop places I have attended speak tongue-in-cheek about the “educational” value of the workshops. Everyone knows that in the end workshops are (primarily) a way of attempting to procure future employment. Yes there are exceptions, yes workshops can be good audition practice, and yes some CDs are more edifying than others, but I find it hard to believe that if CDs were suddenly stripped of their hiring power that ANY actor would attend these workshops.

When looking at the actual laws being put in place, I think it’s important to look at who they affect as well. To be honest, I’m not really worried about the actors who are on top of their game, doing their research and everything else in their power to forward their career (read: the actors who most benefit from workshops anyway). It’s the countless masses of others who are unaware and are more apt to need protection. I moved to L.A. about a year ago, and started doing workshops because it seemed to be “the thing to do.” I never thought twice about it until this controversy arose. That concerns me. If we as a community proffer that paying for job interviews is the standard, then it will indeed become so. I recently encountered an actress who had just started acting about 6 months ago. She was deep in research over all the workshop places because that’s what everyone else was doing. I guess I’m less concerned about a law keeping her from attending a workshop, and more troubled with the fact that workshops were her default method of moving forward. She was surrounded by a community of intelligent actors; why was no one saying that perhaps she should get a little more training or do some more research on what workshops actually were before diving in head first? This is the actor who needs protection–be it provided by the law or from her peers.

The bigger question for me, is how we want to be viewed as an acting community. Why is it that we demand for our right to pay for what used to be free? I’m certainly not advocating nostalgia over the “good ol’ days” of general meetings and play attendance (I’m too young to do so anyway :p), but when was the last time someone even asked for a general meeting? We claim to be a community of creatives, and yet when it comes to the business pursuit of our careers we often become myopic, doing the same things as everyone else. We live in a time where there are more ways than ever to get on the radar of anyone with the ability to hire us. From social media to self-submitting to self-producing to web series to networking events to more television shows on air than ever before to good ol’ fashioned phone calls–there are so many myriad ways to get ourselves and our work in front of people on the other side of the desk I worry when there is an uproar over not being able to pay for the privilege. In a day and age where an email or even a tweet can deliver a reel of our best work to anyone instantaneously, I am reticent to think that actors cannot get their work seen by CDs in any other way than a workshop. What if actors simply started dropping off hard copies of their demo reels to casting offices. How much more effective and efficient might that be than paying $40+ and 2+ hours to see a CD for 5 minutes? I would wager that if actors called casting officers saying that they couldn’t afford/were opposed to CD workshops, and asked to send/drop off a demo reel that they would have a 90% success rate in getting it viewed. Don’t have a demo reel? Well get together the 20 actors who were going to go to the workshop, pool the $40 a piece, and take that $800 to hire a full crew (DPs, writers, editors, the whole nine…) for a day to film reel material for everyone. Or take the next $800 from everyone’s next workshop and produce a showcase, or a web series, or a play, or whatever…all ways to get your work seen. Or hell, if it really is about the educational experience, then take all that money and hire one of these CDs to come direct scenes for 2 hours, or see a play, or critique demo reels, or be filming something and have the CD show up to direct/critique. What better way to get Casting Directors to know your work than to invite them onto a set to see how people work…?

I understand why actors do CD workshops. I certainly know why I’ve done them. It’s one of the very few guaranteed ways to get your work in front of a legitimate casting person. More than anything, workshops make me FEEL like I’m part of the greater, more legitimate acting industry in the city. And if I’m honest with myself, workshops are easy. It’s far easier for me to plunk down 40 bones and know that I’m at least starting an industry relationship than it is to pick up the phone and cold call a producer.

I would hope that we wouldn’t need a law to protect us from ourselves. And again, I honestly don’t care that much about the law itself, but I also don’t buy that actors will do workshops no matter what. The same was said about no one wearing seatbelts, or hockey players not wearing helmets. Interestingly, in both those cases the community-at-large desired the law, but broke it individually. When polled, professional hockey players said they wanted everyone to wear helmets, but without a guarantee that everyone would, there was an individual disadvantage to do so. It wasn’t until it was mandated that ALL hockey players wear helmets that they did so…and happily.

If I’ve learned nothing else in my year in Los Angeles, it’s that the community of actors truly is brilliant. People are smart, supportive, and caring. Whether we decide to do workshops or not, I just hope that we can take a hard and honest at look at why we do them, and if they are indeed the best thing for our community AS A WHOLE. We’re all in this together…

Thanks for reading one actor’s opinion. =)


As always, we invite you to add your comments and discussion below.

So, I write about a time a lot on this blog. I’ve written about my thinking about time, that it takes 10 years to make it, what I was doing 10 years ago, how to look back and set goals for the future, more thoughts on how long it takes to make it, how I’m going to be a doctor, and my thoughts on patience and marshmallows. Continually, though, the topic of time comes up again and again in my conversations with other actors.

Most commonly, discussions of time revolve around how long it takes to ‘make it’ as an actor. If you go check out any actor whose work Grandma Ethel in Kansas would know, my guess is that 99% of the time there is about 8 – 10 years between their first IMDb credit and the first one that is highly recognizable. You can also assume that said actor was probably acting in some capacity for at least a year or two before their first IMDb credit.

Some people get discouraged by this–oh my God, I’m never going to make it, what do I do?!?!–but as I’ve written before, I think this is great news. It means that the vast majority of the time, people are making it because they work hard, are easy to get along with, and stick with it. I recently read a commencement address that Lisa Kudrow gave in which she talks about how she got fired from sets, had pilots not get picked up, and that it was 8 years until she got the role on Friends. Jenna Fischer has a similarly brilliant post on taking the long view and persevering. It took her 8 years in LA before she landed her role as Pam on The Office. The other thing to remember here is that while all of these actors were working their way up, it’s not like they weren’t acting or doing cool things. They were acting in plays, short films, student films, and doing small roles on TV as they progressed. I have to think that at least most of the time, they were enjoying the journey.

It also strikes me that if you don’t enjoy the journey you’re going to go crazy, because is there really a point where you would be totally satisfied with your career? If you’re making 30 grand a year on commercials, wouldn’t you be that much happier if you were pulling in 40? Once you get that coveted first network co-star, won’t you be itching for more, then disappointed that you don’t have a guest star credit? Then there’s the disappointment of all the pilots you’re in that don’t get picked up (George Clooney had about 7 before ER)…and won’t that single, lonely Oscar look better on your mantle if it had a golden friend next to it? The cycle is never-ending, so it becomes imperative to enjoy each step along the way, or you’ll never make it the 6, 8, or 20 years it might take to get closer to your ultimate goals.

So What the Hell is my Point?

Point 1: Celebrate

If you’re like me and the relative beginning of your career, then be gentle with yourself. Celebrate the seemingly small successes. You didn’t book “just a webseries,” you “booked a friggin’ webseries!!!!” There’s so much competition in this city, even getting called in for an audition means you beat out hundreds if not thousands of other actors.

Point 2: Note Your Progress

I’ve seen a lot of actors get discouraged because after a couple years they feel like they haven’t gone anywhere, but almost always they’ve made tremendous progress. Think back to when you first started pursuing acting. Did you have anything on your resume? Had you ever had an agent? Were a part of a union? Had been on a professional set? Read for a legit casting office? Or even been in something you were proud to show your friends? All the steps along the way can get lost, but remember that they’re all important. You’re honing your craft, meeting people, and (hopefully) having a blast. You really have come a long way.

Point 3: Take the Long View on Relationships

This point is probably worth its own blog post, but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about and want to get out there. When you take the long view of your career, you lose all desperation with relationships. You don’t need that Casting Director you just met to cast you in something next week, because you have faith that you’ll cross paths with them again and again in the years to come. Moreover, the next time you meet them you will probably be further along in your career, and that CD/Producer/whomever might be able to help you significantly more than they before. Next week they might be able to read you for a co-star, but in 3 years they might have a series regular on a pilot that they could then call you in on. Start forming relationships just to form them, not because you need something right now. It might take decades for you to “cash in” on a relationship, but how much better will that be if you’ve spent a decade merely forming friendships and positive business relationships?

As a quick tangent, I should also say that it is much more personally and professionally rewarding to approach relationships with the goal of helping the other person, rather than hoping that your new acquaintance can help you. It builds up your brand as a quality person, and in the end makes people want to help you even more. Just think, if you were able to refer 3 of your incredible actor friends to a Casting Director and helped to solve their problem, how much that CD would love you and desire to help you out (not to mention if just feels good). Whether it’s karma or basic human psychology, when you are a good person and help others, they want to help you.

Enough rambling…it’s been a couple weeks since my last post and I’ve had a lot on my mind. Hope it’s been of any value. As always, we love reading your comments. =)

How many hats are YOU wearing?

First of all, thanks to all of you who showed up to the first #LAActorsTweetup. It was a resounding success which means…time for a second one!

If for some reason you didn’t see the post on the lovely Judalina’s Blog, then here are the details…

Monday May 17th

6pm

Busby’s East
5364 Wilshire Blvd. 90036
Free parking behind bar/restaurant

(Happy hour goes til 7pm – all beers are $4, wells are $5 and all the appetizers are 1/2 off)

Them: How many hats are YOU wearing?
Actor? Director? Producer? Vagabond?

Come wearing a crazy hat. Seriously.

RSVP over at Judalina’s Blog

See you there, wearing a crazy hat!

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