Unfinished Business-01

Unfinished Business: Losing the Day Player Mentality and THINKING BIG.

The past few weeks, we’ve had a rule in my classes:  Whenever anyone says “Sorry” the response is “EFF YOU”.  (Only we say a bad word instead of ‘EFF” – and it’s said with love and support)

Why?  It’s time for we, the Canadian Actors to unapologetically claim our spot.  There is no room to hold back or think small.  For the moments ahead it’s our time to think BIG. (And hey, while we’re at it why not from now on anyway – couldn’t hurt, right?)

These are unprecedented times.  Canadian actors are experiencing the biggest ‘moment before’ that we have ever had.  The lead of the play is sick, and it’s time for the understudy to prove that they are ready to carry the show onward.

As predicted in our first Ahead of the Curve Webinars in March,  MOW’s  are back first in force in BC, and  now getting up and running in ON.  I suggested that would be the case at that time pointing out that the logistics to set up a short term shoot (vs a TV Season), combined with existing infrastructure and overall willingness to rely on Canadian talent further up the food chain, would make these projects a natural for ‘first out of the gate’.

Now, the next stage we are seeing is that American TV series are starting to cast and bring production back.  Yes, in recent news there have been some bumps on the road which could cause some short-term delay.  That element notwithstanding,  THIS presents the opportunity we have been waiting (and hopefully preparing) for.

The opportunity is to have a much higher chance of booking those recurring roles.  The roles that so often we feel (through perspective adopted in a negative-thinking culture?) ‘go to LA’ or ‘go to New York’.  Not the leads or higher up regulars per se but that recurring guest star that will be in 5 /13 episodes for example.  American productions will need to rely on local talent for these characters.  

Why? 

Money and time.

Required 14 day quarantines are going to make it financially unrealistic to rely on non-local talent for these characters.  Think about that character who has 3-4 days on set for 5 eps, who traditionally in between work flies home to LA or New York.  To hire a non-Canadian for that role, production has to pay an actor for 14 days quarantine with each visit.   So, in the case of 4 days for 5 eps over a season, instead of paying for 20 days of work, hotel, per diem, etc etc, they would be paying for  NINETY DAYS.  That is not going to be a thing.

What does that mean….

Put me on the ice, coach.   Time for me to save the game. (yes I’ve mixed the initial metaphor, but come on, I’m Canadian and an actor how can I not use Theatre AND Hockey?)

So… now that we are pumped for the opportunity, let’s recognize that, although it’s certainly a prerequisite, we are NOT going to save the game on attitude.  It’s going to require delivering with total confidence the highest level of our best work and the crafting of the audience’s investment in future story.

FUTURE STORY

That’s a term I’ve been using a lot this year.  It came up as a cute play on ‘Back Story’ in classes and workshops this past pilot season.  It’s not exclusive to Pilots, though.  Future Story is in play for any character that needs to be around any time he/she emerges.  In pilots, we are so often setting up the potential relationships and plot that will hold an audience for multiple seasons.  Considering what the future chemistry and story exists between your character and all others is an important and often overlooked element of long term character composition.

This concept seems to run contrarily to what most of us have as our foundation of good acting with respect to scene structure. In scene study, we learn about the resolution of the scene.  Rightly (and vitally) so.  After all, this is the fundamental/foundational stuff upon which our entire craft is based.  Story structure is a thing.  Someone achieves their objective, someone fails to achieve their objective and so forth. Scenes take us through an  exploration of a journey to resolution.

That word, “Resolution” is a bit of a misnomer.  If we are not sharp, it will lead us out of a series too soon.

Within a story, and especially within a series, every scene needs to keep the audience invested in ‘what will happen next’.  If our characters are leaving our scenes completely resolved, with nothing further requiring attention, our services are no longer required.  Job done.  Day Player.

If… however, there is ‘unfinished business’ on the table…. well… we’re going to need you back.

Let’s think about the unfinished business for our scenes and characters.  For pretty much every scene, there is a Single Scene, Multiple Scene or Multiple Episode version available to you. 

Below is an illustration  to help you think about this.  First though, a note of caution:

**Don’t apply this stuff to characters that are so obviously serving the ’hit your mark and bark’ utility function.  That’s a short trip to being seen as an indulgent or green actor**

SETUP (same for each version):  Two LEAD DETECTIVES from the big city sit in a small town diner, discussing a lead in a case, George Jones…

SINGLE SCENE VERSION (Actor/Principal)

WAITER refills their coffee, the lead detectives look up from their conversation and ask if the waiter knows George.  “Oh sure, George Jones.   He owns the gas station on third and maple.”  Waiter places the check on the table and exits.

Great.  Everything is resolved.  The detectives have what they need to move forward.

The one scene version serves the utility of introducing or resolving a matter at hand for the regulars/leads.

MULTIPLE SCENE VERSION (Large Principal/Guest Star)

 WAITER refills their coffee, the lead detectives look up from their conversation and ask if the waiter knows George.  “Oh sure, George Jones….”  The waiter takes a beat, looks around the room, “He owns the gas station on third and maple.”  Waiter places the check on the table and exits.

What was the waiter looking at before answering that question?  Does he/she know more?  We might need to talk to them again later to see.  There is unfinished business with respect to the PLOT of this episode at play.  This waiter may be a suspect, a red herring, the actual killer, or just a more key witness.  

The multiple scene version delivers the required information but raises some questions with respect to the matters at hand.  Plot elements to be resolved after this scene is over…

MULTIPLE EPISODE VERSION (Recurring Guest Star/Series Regular)

WAITER refills their coffee, the lead detectives look up from their conversation and ask if the waiter knows George.  “Oh sure, George Jones….”  The waiter takes a beat, looks at DETECTIVE 1.  There’s a hint of electricity between them. Attraction?  Animosity?  Not clear.  WAITER looks around the room, “He owns the gas station on third and maple.”  Waiter places the check on the table and exits, looking back at DETECTIVE 1 before exiting.

Hmm…. What was the deal with the tension between the waiter and detective?  Odd.  Wonder if we’ll see them again?  Seems like they have a strong opinion about old George Jones too….

The multiple episode version delivers the required information but raises some questions with respect to the matters at hand AND leaves questions about the relationships with the series regulars……

Thinking about the unfinished business between you and the other characters and the plot elements leaves future story in play.  In this past week’s webinar my long time client Jessica Sipos (multiple series regulars and recurring roles ), used the expression “Beginning- Middle- Beginning” to describe the same thing.  I love that. It perfectly speaks directly against our tendency to wrap up and resolve ourselves right out of the story.

 

ENORMITY + AMBIGUITY = FUTURE STORY

We want to create the intersection of enormity and ambiguity.  Create a world of potential outcome (enormity) and have the discipline to allow for that outcome to be uncertain (ambiguity).  Don’t underestimate the discipline needed to allow for the ambiguous part.  The same way that we learn to resist the impulse to play the end of the scene (an emotional outpouring for example), we must resist playing the end of the character arc when we first meet them.  Breaking Bad wouldn’t have been much of a series if Brian Cranston introduced us to ‘Scarface’ instead of ‘Mr. Chips’ in season one.  (I love that Vince Gilligan’s pitch for that series was a character arc… “We’re going to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface.  That’s first show I ever heard of to take that approach.)

Audiences are engaged in what’s happening when they care and cannot predict (investment & uncertainty) what is going to happen.  When we under invest or over reveal, we are abridging what we have to offer.  We are ‘Day Playing’ ourselves. 

Canadian actors…. You ARE NOT  LIMITED TO DAY PLAYER.  You belong in the story. You have something more to offer.  Know that.  Eff the ‘sorries’.   Get busy getting busy.  You have so much unfinished business to attend to.  We want to watch you do it.

Now is the time to deliver.  Lights up in five… let’s step into them and shine our way into bright future story, OK?

 

 

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on re-opening

The industry is coming back to life!  

This past week we had a scheduled guest have to cancel her attendance on the Ahead of the Curve Weekly Webinar because she had to be in production meetings for the film she is directing with the plans to go to camera this week.  Bookings are happening in BC and in Ontario. As expected BC is the furthest ahead of the curve, and Ontario is following along. 

Everyone is excited, to get ‘back to normal’.  We, and ultimately me as the studio head for JBA have been fielding a lot of questions from people excited to get back to the studio for in person coaching/taping and classes. 

We have given this a lot of thought, and we’ve arrived at…. not yet.

But why?  Provinces are opening up, you’re allowed to now! 

Well…. blame it on my Dad, who used to say, “Just because you are allowed to do something doesn’t mean it should be done.”

When we closed JBA for in person training it was because we knew it was the right thing to do, not because someone told us we had to.  It was expensive and scary, but it was right.  We were just one example of many businesses, studios, and people taking this thing seriously and making sacrifice for the health of community.  We wanted to be an example of inspiration for our community so we would all do better as a result.  Guess what?  It worked.   Our community has earned the FIRST REOPENING OF THE FILM INDUSTRY.  BC is first, Ontario is just behind us.  Casting is already happening in both, and BC is on camera.

We have earned ONCE IN HISTORY OPPORTUNITY for the acting community.  Local actors are going to need to be relied upon more than ever before. Producers and networks are already hiring 100% local talent (for the moment).  And when US TV series roll, we are going to see a massive incentive to book those recurring characters/guest stars locally.  Why?  Would you want to pay for 14 days of quarantine for an out of province actor when you could pay a local actor for 5 days of work instead?  Nope.  That’s our opportunity to prepare for.

If you are prepared you have a better chance than you ever will again to prosper.  Once borders open, and we are back to ‘normal’, that opportunity is gone.  By the same token, if an industry shut down comes again (as it did in just two days in March) that opportunity is gone.

With all of that in mind, and with the same attention to detail that we’ve always applied, we can’t find any logical reason to put this opportunity at risk for our industry and community.

Our industry isn’t ‘Back’.  It’s re-emerging, along with our country. People are stepping back out into the world.  This brings added collective risk. 

Now, think about the relationship an acting studio or coach play in the process… 

We are concentrated touch points for everyone who will eventually be on set.  Serving as a single point of contact for a community with very recently relaxed exposure guidelines sounds like creating focused stream of additional risk aimed directly at a set.  If one set closes, assume the industry re-closes. If the industry re-closes,  Canadian actors lose our historic opportunity.

Add to that the fact that this risk is 100% unnecessary, and we are left with a no brainier decision to continue to hold the line and stand on guard for our community.

Why is it unnecessary?  Because Live Online training and support works.  Beautifully.  To those who are willing to try.

I know that many don’t want to consider or admit it, but from the place of the experience so far (our team has hosted over 3,000 auditions and coachings in the past three months)  along with years and years of in person support before that with a track record of total positive, practical support, we promise:

Zoom. Works. Beautifully.

Team JBA’s promise to the community is to continue to support the viability of our industry by providing the best acting support available with the smallest contribution to risk necessary.

We will continue to monitor the effects of provinces’ re-opening, and when we see that there is proof that opening our doors will impose little to no risk to our fragile industry and once in lifetime opportunity, we will re-open our doors.  That may be weeks, it may be months.  We don’t know.  But, we will hold the line until we do.

Please. If you are feeling resistant to trying remote coaching, come audit a class for free.  See what is being accomplished.  You will be surprised, and maybe delighted at what’s possible.

Zoom. Works. Beautifully

Please.  Let’s all do our best to hold on to our this once in a lifetime opportunity for Canadian actors.

In support,

Jeb Beach on behalf of #TeamJBA

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The Stakes Have Changed

Remember Blockbuster?  Yeah, so does Netflix.

When Covid came on the scene, for a moment or two I thought it might all be over.  I thought it was possible that 15 years of work we’ve done to build this thing was being  fly-swatted away.  But now, I’ve come to believe that this time is the impetus for the beginning of a historic shift forward for the better.

From a practical standpoint , the film and tv industry is simply a bunch of driven, creative people solving high stakes problems creatively.  There are constant variables surfacing: locations changing, losing light, missing the shot, re-writing, dealing with regulations, weather, acts of ‘god’.  You name it.  Day in and day out, creative people show up and solve problems to get the show made.  

As those problems get solved, innovation emerges.  Creative people define and refine procedures, invent technology, redefine deals. We get things done.  We grow and get better.  We create. 

What we have happening now is a pretty big variable change – probably the biggest one in history. But… surprise! We’re doing what we do: we’re solving problems.  Here’s the thing, once a problem is solved, we tend to go forward, not back.  Why? When we adapt, we improve.  When we improve, we proceed.

In the past 10 weeks, I’ve hosted 1,500 (yes that’s the number) Zoom auditions.  I’m on the other side of a learning curve that I think many are resisting even starting.  Until I had no choice, I never would have considered this as a choice for making great work happen.  

But great work is happening.  Actors are adapting.  They have their home self-tape setups perfected, they are smooth, and ready to deliver for what the industry is about to need from them. 

Creative people are adapting and advancing.  The industry is going to use these solutions more, not less, as we go. Not because it ‘has to’, but because, all factors considered, in many cases it will be better. What if a casting director, because of time efficiency, could now see 20 actors as a candidate for a role when previously they could only see 10?  What if a hard working actor was able to take 20 minutes out of their day for an audition instead of taking a whole day off work to do it?  What about a single parent who can now make an audition and still pick their child up from school?  

Check out Mandy Magnan working Live Online in one of my weekly classes:

 

I recorded that on my computer at home on Bowen Island while Dejan Loyola read from his home in Vancouver, and Mandy performed from her home in Toronto.

 

If work this great can happen with everyone working remotely,   then personal and operational efficiencies are going to tip the scale and nudge people into adopting new ways for the BETTER.

I’ve come to accept that what I initially thought might be the death of my life’s work is actually the BIRTH of this work.  Monumental change is afoot.  Many things will never be the same again. We are changing and growing.

Within all change, the opportunity to claim a new stake emerges.

New solutions to ‘entertainment’ are going to be needed.  The door is open for answers. Innovative content that works within the the changing rules will be required: new characters and stories that resonate with a world that has been through some serious shit together will be desired.  Working creatively with new technologies to deal with physical distance limitations, the resilient problem-solving career-artist who learns to survive in this new world will be far ahead of the game.

Individually, and collectively, we the creatives, more so than ever before, have the opportunity to write our own ticket.

Everything is changing. Nothing has changed.



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Incidental Hours

Often times, 20 minutes can be more valuable than 20 years.

Over the years, and especially in recent months, I’ve come to appreciate the value of the “Incidental Hours” on a deeper, more practical, and more immediate level than ever before.  No, I don’t mean Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours required to become an expert; I mean the time we must invest to close the gap between almost prepared and fully prepared.

As a result, my core focus and teaching platform of Television style prediction and adjustment has gone through some quantum growth lately.  A bit of a breakthrough point of view hit me:  Auditions are earned either through accrued years or incidental hours. Far too many actors focus on the years and disregard the hours. They set themselves up to fall short in the audition room and to stifle career growth.

I’ve got some theories about why this oddity exists everywhere I teach…

Let’s start with clarifying what I mean by:

THE YEARS

Usually, as developing actors we focus on ‘the years’.  This is the time it takes to understand the intricacies of the craft such that we may be malleable and available to a myriad of physical, situational, and emotional circumstances.  It’s a never-ending process of discovering, deepening, refining, and reassessing. It’s awareness of the complexity (and ironically the simplicity) of the human condition.  It’s open ownership of our vulnerable selves.  It’s the willingness to be present, and an open invitation to others to participate in our journey as the character. 

In my opinion, these are the 20 years to which Meisner referred in his famous statement.

It is vital to our development that we continually invest the YEARS required to deliver the above. As we do, certain aspects of our work become easier.   We get ‘There’ faster, but   ‘There’ becomes further. ‘There’ becomes fuller.  We become increasingly willing to fully show up into the work.  The ‘distance’ to the work becomes shorter.  We spend more time ‘There’, and the work becomes better.

This (extremely positive and desirable) cycle has become the core focus for many, if not most, actors, and the criteria for their personal valuation of their work.  For those actors, focus on this “Anno-Accruement” has become the sole valuator of their work.  This leads to the justification of skimping on the incidental hours that each audition requires.

THE HOURS

Interestingly, the shows and characters that seem to be the least appealing to the ‘Anno-Accruement’ focussed actor actually take more technical work to deliver flawlessly than the others.  An audition for Handmaid’s Tale, or for Man in the High Castle, provided that you are an actor who has accrued the requisite years, is often going to be much simpler to handle, and thus require fewer hours to prepare than an audition for Suits or a Hallmark MOW, for example.

When the material is ‘hours-intensive’, there’s often no “space in the pace” for hesitation. You need to own that dialogue and have the material at the point where you are able to drive to conclusions without any actor-needed breathing room.  That doesn’t mean there’s no room for the character or scene to breathe, but it does mean that you have much less opportunity to buy time to consider and discover, as you often do in a character-driven piece. This is because the specific material is not ABOUT your character considering and discovering, it’s about the plot-serving conclusion to which you must drive. In order to succeed, you must set yourself up to DRIVE. THE. PLOT (but still be real, natural, and interesting). 

Again, assuming you have the accrued years, these auditions are far more challenging than the scene that’s primarily about the emotionally intense inner life of a character.

Owning scenes and dialogue to that level of smooth fullness is labour intensive. It requires a generous investment in incidental hours. The extra time it takes to fill the gap between almost prepared and beyond prepared.

THE ISSUE

Here’s where my theory comes in.  I think that we in the acting community have created a culture of over-valuing years-intensive work, and under-valuing hours-intensive work.

I think we have decided to assign more artistic, social, personal value to work on an AMC show than we do for a Hallmark, CW, or SyFy show.  I think this bias consciously or subconsciously becomes a roadblock to putting the hours into something that doesn’t meet this ‘Anno-Accruement’ bias.

And then….?  Our auditions don’t get there.

I meet so many exceptional actors who can’t get why they can’t nail so many of their Television auditions. Most of them are missing the point that most (certainly not all) of our work on television is less about character, more about plot, and more about Moving. It. Along.  SOOOOOOOOO many actors.  Almost all actors initially bring a resistance to what’s required to nail these auditions – even when they see it as the goal and focus of the work.  Still, they resist it.

Networks like ABC, CW, USA, Hallmark (and many if not most others) have a go-to fullness and pacing to their work that is UNNATURAL when compared to real life. Shows like The Flash, Arrow, Suits, The Good Witch, X-Files, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Good Doctor. All of these require some version of an up-paced but grounded performance that translates as natural – within its unique stylistic universe.

The number one culprit I witness every single class, every single workshop, EVERY time I teach, is a lack of awareness of the goal, and the resulting short-fall on the part of the actor as to where ‘fully prepared’ really lands.  This doesn’t mean they must be letter perfect off book (although it’s my opinion that this should be the goal); it means they are bringing in a dialog hesitation to the work.  They ‘steal beats’ to find their footing, inflating the ‘space in the pace’ and the scene comes out flat.  It misses its dramatic payoff because they have made us sit with the character instead of driving us to the plot point.

It just doesn’t work.

The audience pulls away.

Here’s a real life example that I’m sure you can relate to: it’s your responsibility to deal with some urgent matter at your job.  You have a co-worker who possesses vital information that you require to address the issue in a timely matter.  You request the information from them so that you can take care of the issue and move on. They start to tell you the details but meander into how they felt about the events as they occurred. 

What happens?  You know what happens…. you are probably politely indulging them (as they indulge themselves), but meanwhile you are screaming ‘GET TO THE POINT!’ inside as with decreasing patience.  

Next time, if you have another option, do you think you’ll ask them for their help?

In unrelated news, casting directors have literally hundreds and hundreds of more options for every role, and it’s never in our interests to give them a reason to seek help elsewhere.

Back to the coworker: is it wrong for them to have those feels and experiences? Of course not.  Just like it’s not wrong for an actor to have an internal life, back story, and interesting complexity to their character. BUT – is it wrong and unprofessional of them to force you to focus on something that is not issue at hand?  Absolutely.  Are you less likely to go to that person for professional support next time you are in need?  Absolutely.

To the same point, it is wrong for us to make a scene about our character’s feels and backstory when the scene or moment is not about that?  Absolutely.

The more we miss that mark, the more we are working against our professional success in the name of serving Anno-Accruement rather than investing in Incidental Hours.

THE OPPORTUNITY

As an extremely active audition coach and teacher, my sample size is top-tier.  Based on my constant large-scale interaction with the auditioning talent pool, I can report that this Anno over Incidental value system is rampant.

There exists a massive disconnect on the part of the average auditioning Film and TV actor.  Herein lies the opportunity for the initiated actor.  The cool thing is that the extra effort is really not very big at all, but the return is potentially massive.

Our goal, when we audition should never be to book the role.   Our goal should be to build up booking equity by adding value to the experience of having us in the room.  That happens when we deliver the highest concentration of printable takes every audition.  

When an actor has only prepared the Anno-Accruement version of the work only, they are almost NEVER going to be able to take a re-direct and nail an interesting version of the Incidental-Hours version of the scene. They will likely be asked to ‘pick up the pace and throw it away’  They will likely stumble and deliver a falsely-urgent scene that is one-note.  They will likely be seen as an actor who fails to bring interesting choices, who is limited, and who needs more time to develop.  It is likely that one of the 400 other actors who are in line for the next casting opportunity will get their shot next.  It is likely that they have just slowed their career, losing the chance to level it up.

That is SUCH a drag because more often than not, that is actually an EXCELLENT ACTOR.  More than likely, all the actor needed to do was work a few of the lines for an extra 20-30 minutes (put in the hours!) to get to the point where they no longer require the dialogue hesitation and foot-finding beats.   The truth is they actually are ready, but a lack of 20 minutes of refinement sets them back.

It can get worse from there.  The actor often leaves the audition feeling soured, perhaps confused, with a disillusioned understanding of what the industry needs from them.  It can often feel as though everything they have been conditioned to value in the art and craft of acting is specifically not valued by the industry. A sense of impossibility, or at least confusion can set in.  When we find ourselves in a state of ‘I just don’t get this’, it’s easy to stagnate or retreat.  Nobody wants to keep doing something that feels like failure.

As that mindset digs in, a negative attitude toward the industry, an ‘us vs. them’, or an ‘I’m just not good for that type of show’ belief system can grow.

I hope that this scenario sounds overly dramatic to you.  I’m not at all saying ‘if you don’t nail that audition, your career is over’. I AM saying that every single audition presents the opportunity to bolster or hinder the positive and productive course of our careers.  I’m saying some of your greatest and most immediate opportunity exists in the most innocuous of places: It’s in the gap created by the Anno-Accruement focussed actors.

Actors who put in the extra effort on the final hours of prep fill that gap. They open their work to the level of its full potential.  They build a reputation of always bringing interesting options to the room, and cross the chasm between ‘almost ready’ and ‘regularly working’.

If you’ve put in the years, invest the hours and bridge the gap.  Earn the work.  Each and every time.

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The Audience Experience & the New Middle Ground

Over the years of teaching stylistic prediction and adjustment, I’ve learned that many of us bring with us a pushback from really embracing where the work is supposed to live.  We often roll our eyes and/or judge/resist really going for it.  How crazy is that?  How likely are we to do our best work or book a gig when we are JUDGING IT?

I’ve seen it far too often to think it’s an anomaly.  It’s standard.  That judgment, I think, comes from a place of insecurity and the need for validation of our work. I think that happens because in doing our work to grow as capable actors, most of us develop a false valuation system for said work.

Most of us have come up through years or decades of heavy lifting to be as truthful as possible every moment.  That discipline is crucial to our development as actors: forcing ourselves to push past comfort zones; developing range and ownership of instrument; and growing as people and artists. But, when we are operating from a need for validation, the very positive reinforcement that keeps us growing starts to become the focus.   If we leave this perspective unchecked we derail the actual point of our work.

We develop a counterproductive and unhealthy bias that work is either full truth or it’s shit.

That’s a problem.  Turn on the TV.  If you REALLY look at it, there ain’t much ‘truth’ there.  Everything is skewed in some way or another – made lighter, fuller, more outlandish, more deadpan, etc.  It’s not OUR truth, which we have worked so hard to inhabit over years and decades. Rather, it’s the truth of the show and/or network.  It’s stylized.

I’ve learned that the process of arriving to truthful, full work within a stylized universe always presents  the ‘this feels like bullshit’ voice that I believe we carry from our years of growth as actors.  We need to work through the resistance and find ourselves truthful within whatever ‘universe’ that style exists.  No matter what stylings it has or who it’s intended audience is, we must make it real, unique, and interesting.  WHERE IT LIVES is not necessarily where we feel it the most.

We have learned to become master chefs, now it’s time to make a ham sandwich on white bread for the kids and LOVE doing it.  

I expanded on the resistance most of us have on this topic in a post I published a while back. To sum it up, if you are bringing an expectation of artistic validation to your TV auditioning, you need to reframe that expectation pronto or you are not going to be happy in this pursuit at all.

Once that perception is out of the way, it’s so much easier to recognize that the Audience Experience is really all that matters.

We must always remember that the entertainment industry is the Engagement Brokerage Business.  The Networks are in the business of acquiring the attention of an audience and selling that attention to parties who have an interest in profiting through exposure to that audience (aka advertisers). There are terms to each engagement – “stylistic parameters” – which are defined by the business directives of the network.  Business provides the space for the art.

We must answer the questions  ‘Who is the audience this network is looking for and how are they communicating with that audience? What is and isn’t appropriate for that audience?’  This is the Audience Experience that is being created.

 

THE AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE

How is the audience being engaged?  What sort of an experience is being created for them?  At the simplest level, there are only two categories of experience into which all other experiences fall:

Audience Participatory Experience or Audience Observational Experience

In Participatory, the audience is empathizing with the characters, drawn in to feeling the conflict, the cost at a personal and specific level.  In Observational the audience is excused from feeling that stuff, and are more observing what’s happening.

When we look at the work through this lens, everything starts to fall into place.  Style, pacing, irony, depth, humour, danger, intricacy, intimacy, and how far to take it all… it all becomes obvious to us.

 

OBSERVATIONAL Experience Characteristics

  • Action with moments of Stillness
  • Plot-driven
  • Faster paced
  • Faster paced means: less complex character & story – no time to get deep with the audience about it!
  • Emotional depth tends to be lightened up. It’s often still there, but the audience is excused from fully experiencing it.  Think “small talk at a funeral”.
  • What happened and who did it more than why it was done.
  • Heightened urgency, use of humour to lighten the mood.
  • “Character” as a vehicle for PLOT
  • A dumbing down and moving on, and often over-simplification of details.
  • “What”-based casting.  Casting highly image-dependent.  If you don’t look like a bank teller/cop/waitress etc it’s harder to cast you there.

 

It all adds up to a ‘sit back and enjoy the ride, don’t think, observe’ type experience.  Harsh stuff may be happening, but the manner in which it’s presented excuses the audience from having to feel it or take it too seriously.  It never gets too heavy.  Think about it some time you’re watching an action adventure movie or most comedy for that matter.  Slow things down, and take it truthfully and seriously.  It usually becomes way too much to handle.

 

PARTICIPATORY Experience Characteristics

  • Stillness with moments of Action
  • Character and story driven
  • Slower pace – room to breathe and consider
  • More complex character and story – if the pace is slowed down there needs to be some fullness and complexity to fill the gap.
  • Why things are done is a bigger part of the equation
  • Natural, under-pushed, full performances
  • Plot is usually a vehicle for character growth.
  • Extreme attention to detail on all levels.
  • “Who” based casting.  The essence/quality of your personality drives the casting more than just your image.

 

For a great comparison of the difference between Participatory and Observational, open up Netflix and watch the first 4 minutes of AMC’s The Walking Dead, then watch the first 2-3 minutes of SyFy’s Z-Nation.  Very similar subject matter, comparable log-lines for the shows, but entirely different audience experience.

Watch The Walking Dead First.  Classic Participatory:  Not even a word spoken till about the 3:45 mark.  So many question marks about who this person is, what is he dealing with, what is this world that he’s in – STILLNESS.  Then an event that we built to for four minutes then ACTION.  Followed by… stillness.

Welcome to an exploration of who this person is and how is he going to deal with the new world order.

Now watch the first two minutes of Z-Nation.  ACTION from the get-go: we are hit hard with exposition in the first 10 seconds we know everything we need to know about the world.  We are hit with gruesome images but denied time to process any of them, then more exposition followed by some soldiers being chased by zombies. Then a moment of reason – STILLNESS – hold your fire!  Whew, quick breath before we cut to the urgent ACTION of a soldier at a control panel urgently barking out orders as his superior officer then pops in gives more urgent instruction and leaves.

This experience is about “sit back and let us take you on a thrill ride”.  No time to think about who these people are, so there’s no time to really be in their shoes or feel what they are feeling.

I look at all the entertainment on a scale from Observational to Participatory.  We’ve seen an increasing polarization of the extremes of each in recent years, and there’s now an interesting effect in front of us: there’s a middle ground that looks for both.

It seems like HBO, AMC, A&E and much of the Netflix/Amazon/Hulu (‘new’ media) content has been driving to Participatory.  Gritty, real, heavy, complex content.  The big networks haven’t followed.  Why not?  I don’t believe they can.  ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX have huge, established bases that they risk alienating by going ‘too far’ with anything, so they can’t.  That’s what left the door open for others to take advantage.

As the demand has grown for this type of content, audiences have filtered off.  Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, etc.  They now have huge audiences that come to them for the “Grit”, the same way the Big Four have audiences that come to them for the “Polish”.  The Participatory Providers can’t really do the Polish, and the Big Four can’t really do the Grit.  You take yours and I take mine, everybody happy?

Yep… for a while.  Until….

The new MIDDLE Ground

In the past couple years, there’s a new area really filling out.  The same way that the Big Four networks left ‘Grit’ on the table for HBO and AMC, there is profitable space for a new audience experience and it’s coming up fast.

It’s the middle ground – the combo of the Grit and the Polish.   I read a review of Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce (BRAVO Network) during the first season that summed it up perfectly.  The author called the show Visually Flawless while all the characters were deeply flawed.

Lifetime’s Unreal is another example.  It’s got the polish and the glitz, but we are watching the characters go through some heavy stuff truthfully, and invested in real-feeling character arcs.

They have an advantage because they can serve a smaller audience who wants the polish AND the grit.

More and more, you’re seeing this combo-entertainment – SyFy, CW, Lifetime, Bravo, and many more are competitively creating content that presents flawed characters in a visually flawless environment.  The What AND the Who.  BUT… overall, this experience still errs to moving things along.  We’ll sit in something heavy in a full, truthful fashion, but then something will happen to move us along from it quickly.  The final episode of Season One of SyFy’s The Magicians illustrates it very well.  Find it and watch it.  You’ll see what I mean.

As you go through any show you are audition for, try to think along those terms.  Pay attention to what network each show is on, and if you’re unfamiliar with any given one, challenge yourself to predict how it is likely to be played out.  It’ll probably be hit and miss initially, but if you keep it up, it will become a second nature adjustment.

For me, that is the goal.  To know where the playground is before you even read the sides.  This way you will spend more of your time exploring, discovering, and making the work your own in the insanely tight window of preparation for your audition.

You will be a collaborator, and by definition you will be working more and at higher levels.

Bookings will take care of themselves.

As always, thanks for reading.  Here’s to a bountiful harvest for all!

#TeamJBA

WILD

The Gift of Failure

‘Failure’ is a label.

To that label, most of us have assigned a fear-based perception that teaches us ‘don’t do that again!’

Contrary to the messages that bombard us everywhere we go every second of our lives, we are in charge of our own perception.  That fear-based understanding isn’t real.  It’s just a decision on how to perceive something that happened.  Although the fear-based perception disagrees,  ‘Failure’ is most certainly not a final, non-negotiable, ugly, dark and unpleasant thing to be avoided. I propose that we reframe our perception and see ‘failure’ as the accomplishment and gift that it is.

Remember it doesn’t exist.  It’s really just struggle and growth in action.  It’s an incredibly positive thing. There’s no ‘giving up’, there’s only moving forward in an altered direction influenced by whatever just happened.  Everything we do… EVERYTHING… adds to and enhances the richness and value of the journey.  As story-tellers, the richness and value of the journey is kind of the point.  We should be running toward that which enhances the story we can tell.

Instead, most of us are so focussed on getting things right that we are missing out on all the really great stuff that makes the experience of our work full, real, personal, joyous, painful, surprising, engaging. When we operate under the mindset of ‘avoiding failure’, we are conditioning ourselves into safe, predictable, (aka ‘boring’) performances.

I think there’s a simple, gentle reminder we must grab onto:

 If you fell it’s because you were doing the job, challenging yourself, and putting it on the line.  

That’s GOOD.

Imagine you’re at the circus, watching the tightrope walker.  As the acrobat inches across the high-wire, suddenly… there’s a stumble.  The knees buckle, they sway back and forth, somewhat abruptly.  It’s a tense moment or three.  We’re on the edge of their seats not knowing what’s going to happen next, but acutely aware that things are about to go dramatically hard in one direction or another.  The audience holds it’s breath. The collective attention of the room is focussed in unison.  Present and invested, we wait.

And then… they regain their balance.

The rope now has a bit of a bounce to it and they slowly make their way across to the other side. The energy of the slip up is there the whole rest of the way.  It’s part of the experience.

Whew.  That was awesome.  What a show!

A second acrobat starts out across the chasm.  This one encounters a similar bump in the road, and they fight to stay up.  Overcompensating up and down to regain balance.  They struggle through it and just when they are about to catch up… boom!  They slip and fall.  Don’t worry there’s a safety net below to catch them.  They climb back up and go again.  The energy of the fall is there, but they are better focussed and prepared to work through any bumps in the road.  They work their way across, through a few tense moments and make it to the other side.

Both these acrobats are creating captivating experiences for their audiences.  They are fighting through the possibility of falling, and dealing with whatever comes up.  Both have effectively created the same result:  They made it from one side of the wire to the other.  But both have had a unique and interesting journey with the possibility of a fall that holds our attention more and more as they fight not to fall.  The falling may or may not happen, but the very real potential for ‘failure’ defines the value of their experience as the character and in turn,  our experience as the audience.

Engaging stuff.

Now…. a third acrobat gets up and starts across the wire.  They encounter a bump in the road and jump into the safety net immediately.  They climb back up, start again, hit the same bump, jump down.  They climb up again, hit a different bump a further ways across, they jump.  They climb up again, focus and make it all the way across.   Perfectly.

Then they get up and do it again.  Perfectly. Predictably.

That last acrobat, by jumping into the safety net is denying the chance to build real stakes into their work.  They are denying the experience of struggling through the unexpected and allowing that struggle to create new and interesting momentum, energy, intention in their work.  They are practicing removal of the possibility of failure from their work.  In so doing, they will lose the audience because they have created a predictable and uninvested experience for themselves and in turn,  for the audience.

I encounter this exact same scenario working with actors in the audition space every week: things are getting interesting, the unexpected is happening, they have perhaps a momentary lapse of dialog (which almost always means they are resisting stepping through the threshold to presence and the sense of danger this evokes) and they STOP.  And start again.  They jump into the safety net, refusing to embrace, nurture and develop the unexpected into their work.

I always try to jump in and get that actor to breathe and take that moment in.  I get them to stay in the scene, in the moment, and settle in.  It’s challenging to do initially, because it’s a safety mechanism kicking in, and our safety mechanisms tend to be pretty good at keeping us safe.

I remind actors:  that safety mechanism is kicking in at that moment because you’ve done a damn fine job of getting yourself up on the high wire, and are being affected by ‘gravity’. Now… fight the gravity.  Accept what’s happening (the unexpected) as part of what you must deal with as the character in the moment. Refuse to jump into the safety net – it’s ok if you fall, but never jump.  Don’t do gravity’s work for it.  Gravity doesn’t need your help – it was just fine before you got here and it’ll be just fine long after you’re gone.

We’re tuning in to watch a person FIGHT gravity.  We want to be inspired by the struggle.

When we reframe our perception of these moments from failure to progress, we grow.  Our work becomes nuanced, truthful, and full.  We are gifting our characters with the opportunity to fail and thus creating value for their achievements, and we are captivating an audience.

We are practicing growing.  One moment at a time.  And… lo and behold… we grow.

What a gift.

Whiteboard-01

Predict, Prepare, Prosper – The Opportunity in Obsolescence

Before I ever took the plunge and admitted to myself and the world that I’m an actor, I was a business person.  I  graduated from business school, and wore a suit and tie to work for almost ten years.   In that time, the most valuable lesson I took away as this:  ‘Make yourself obsolete before your competition does’.  The lesson was that in business, constant innovation is necessary, so much so that we must out-innovate ourselves or we will become irrelevant as someone else does.

When we are willing to see the opportunity on the horizon that replaces how we or others are doing things today, our path becomes clear.  Most often we are alone on it;  if it’s truly a unique opportunity, nobody will be able to understand its value as we do. If we let go of the fearful desire for someone to affirm us, we are left with a decision to pursue and once we make that decision, it all starts to happen.  This is absolute truth.

It took me a long while to become comfortable with that truth and to listen to what in my guts I knew was correct.  It is always “scary”, but over time, I’ve gained the benefit of experience.  I’ve stepped through “scary” many times now and I’ve reframed my relationship with it. Now it means that forward motion is eminent.   It’s where life really happens.  It’s always what leads to the next adventure and growth.  I find myself in an exhilarating pattern of prediction and preparation, and more in sync with my life and the industry,  innovating, letting go of the obsolete and creating opportunity.

I’m addicted. I’m always looking for what’s the opportunity of the next moment, and deciphering where to go next.

Predicting and Preparing.

This all really began to gain momentum for me about four years ago, right around the time of #SaveBCFilm. The passionate conversation of that moment was focussed on the influence of provincial tax credits on production levels. I started to look at what other factors existed, apart from tax credits, that influence production.  As much as possible I look at the big picture to the small from many angles.

It became clear to me that we were at the beginning of a historical shift;  we were going to see a big rise in production in the coming years because the players of the day were going to meet some serious competition.  The down time of that moment was temporary (no surprise there – everything is, after all), and things were going to shift in a very major way.  I began to plan for  what we are experiencing today – what I decided to call the Content Demand Explosion. So called “New Media” was coming to battle for the audience, production and distribution was going to get less expensive at an accelerated pace.  These factors predicted explosive growth in production, and we would see ongoing growth in content demand until the battle was done.

The length of the battle would hinge on how quickly ‘Old Media’ would adapt and/or how quickly ‘New Media’ would win.

As I look around the entertainment industry today, it strikes me (hard) that actors, writers, directors, casting directors, and all other content creators and providers are benefiting on a historic level as the result of an industry that failed to make itself obsolete and thus left the door open for others to innovate.  That’s what’s happening now.  The old models are obsolete, but still in operation even while the new models are rising, so we have an over demand for content.

In Series Study in particular, I’ve been pointing out the three main factors that have been creating this opportunity:

1. The rise of ‘New Media’

2. Low Canadian Dollar

3. World class infrastructure to support demand

The macro key is the first one – driving global demand for content.  The other two are localized factors that make our neighbourhood a good place to be right now. Together, they create a ‘perfect storm’ for Canadian Film & TV People (Especially Vancouver and Toronto).

But… as ‘New Media’ rises, ‘Old Media’ will fall.  Business models must shift, and it will take some time for them to catch up.  Until they do, we will be beneficiaries of inflated demand for our services.

The fact that the demand of the moment is inflated should laser focus us in on the fact that this explosion is TEMPORARY – just like all explosions.  Even while the Content Demand Explosion is happening all around us, the Content Demand Recession  is also already underway.  It’s just a little hard to see because there’s so much going on right now, but the signs are there.

Major networks are ‘trimming’ their big series – cutting the episode orders from 13 to 10 rather than cancelling. Perhaps a sign that they don’t know or are aren’t able to come up with a better answer?  Isn’t that basically keeping something on the air because it’s better than ‘nothing’?  And if that’s the case, doesn’t it follow that ‘nothing’ is the only other alternative?   Yikes. That’s not the sign of a thriving business model!

In response to his estimation that “the blurring of boundaries between television, radio, and the Internet will lessen the demand for traditional broadcasts” Lord Tony Haul,  Director-General of the BBC will be taking the BBC through a major overhaul.  Speculation is that it may be dropping it’s channel-based television and radio divisions. A sign of a pre-existing player endeavouring to make itself obsolete…0r perhaps acknowledging that it already is.

To my mind, what we are experiencing is the outright redistribution of power to create and distribute, and entertain. It’s a tipping point,  the democratization of that power – it is in the process of being redistributed down to the individual – or rather, the initiated individual. Once upon a time you needed massive dollars and infrastructure to wield this power.  Today you need a smart phone.

As power to create and distribute is itself redistributed from the super power networks and studios to the individuals, those individuals who prepare for the new responsibility will empower their creative careers.  Those who do not are going to fall by the wayside.

This is huge.  It’s historic. Plain and simple: it’s opportunity. Whether that opportunity is gained or lost is up to each of us.

The opportunity of THIS moment is to take advantage of the over-demand of content to book more work in order to direct the resulting exposure back to your own platform. If you don’t have your own platform, it’s time to make the creation of your platform the most important thing in your career.  Let the Content Demand Explosion be the fuel that lifted your platform up, not the trampoline that throws you in the air for a moment until gravity catches up.

What is your platform?

It’s your media-relationship to your audience.  It’s your website, your web series, your Instagram following, your blog, Twitter, Periscope, Snap Chat, Vines, your independent shorts, your podcast.  But all of those are just the platform.

What is the content for the platform?

Well… that’s up to you.  Remember when you started on this journey as an artist and somewhere you found something deeply personal that you wanted to share with the world?  A change you want to bring about?  An idea you wanted to get to someone?  Remember?  That thing?

To me… this is the point of it all.  Ask and answer FOR YOURSELF – ‘What do you want to say to whom?’. Then go say it.

You have that passion, and right now, if you prepare and take advantage of the change that’s upon us, you have the opportunity to own the ride.   You no longer have to wait for someone with a ton of money to give you the chance. Under their terms to say their version of your passion.

Those who do are going to be the heavy hitters who are still standing, thriving, and prospering when conditions change.  Those who do not will be lining up to ask for work from someone else.

Predict. Prepare. Prosper.

 

 

 

 

EmpathyExercise-01

The Casting Director Empathy Exercise

We’re professionals, right?  What does a professional do?  He/She helps make the project/task/goal at hand work most efficiently. They put themselves second and the needs of those around them first.  They satisfy the needs of others.

OK, so in order to do that, we should really understand the needs of those around us, right?

Over my many many sessions in casting workshops and Q&A’s with casting over the years, I’ve formed an idea of what it must be like to do their job.  I’m sure it’s challenging and rewarding to say the least.

But, I’ve been thinking about what the actual specific need is so both as an actor and as a teacher I can focus on helping them meet it.

So… in class this past week I posed the question:  “What does a Casting Director hope to achieve when he/she puts a session together? What’s the goal for that session?”

“To cast the role.”  Nope.

“To weed out bad performances.”  Nope.

Casting’s goal with that session is to have some great options for the client.  If the client’s got a tough choice, everyone is doing their job.

The Casting DIRECTOR will DIRECT us as they feel appropriate to meet the client’s needs. Our job is to collaborate with casting to help them do their job.  Give them options for the (OUR) client.  Work with them and their direction as needed.

The better prepared we are to do this, the further we go with our collaboration.

If we are overrun with nerves, not grounded, or way off the mark in terms of style, we actually impose on the casting director that they do my job.  We make them our acting coach.  Now they have to spend precious session time coaching us to where we need to be.  If we don’t get there, their session is less than it could have been.  Their relationship with their client is less than it could have been, and it’s hard for them to think of us as a go-to person to bring in.

If we DO get there, ‘there’ didn’t happen as efficiently as it could have, and that session was not all it could have been.  Again, hard to think of us as a go-to person to bring in.

Want to be a go-to person that gets brought in?  Put your personal/career needs behind you and show up more prepared than you ever have. If you’re a ‘wild-card’ spot (someone casting doesn’t know all that well yet), you have a shot to move into ‘regular’ spot by working smoothly and professionally.  By letting casting do their job, and your acting coach do his or hers.

That’s the goal, isn’t it?  To be specifically known and called in whenever we should be a good option.  That happens when you help things work.  If it’s not happening, you’re not helping things work as well as you could be.

Before you look to cast blame in any of the usual places, ask yourself, how many printable takes did you deliver in your last audition?  If it was only one, how many takes/redirects did you do to get there?  What can you do to make your FIRST take that printable take, and then use extra time (if casting wants) to play/explore and collaborate?

If you’re seeing this as depressing you need to reframe your perception.  The sooner the better.  All we’ve done is point out what needs to be achieved.  It is achievable.  Earn it.  “You have found her, now go and get her.”

In order to get in the room most often, we need to earn a reputation with casting that they always come away with interesting options for their client as a result of bringing us in. If you’re not getting in regularly, then every audition you have is really an audition for the regulars list.  And that competition is huge.

OK…Now… here’s the exercise:

Imagine you’re a Casting Director, and you have a session to put together.  What do you need for your client?  Options.  What happens if you fail at your objective?  Best case:  that client will be unpleased.  Worst case:  your professional reputation and ability to do your job will be seriously damaged.  Significant stakes, right?

Now do this:

  1. Find a list of 10 character breakdowns.
  2. Randomly find a Facebook profile or profiles that have 2,000 (you read that right) people you don’t know on them.  The key here as that you DON’T KNOW THESE PEOPLE.  You just have their profile pix to choose from.  Why 2,000?  10 roles – say 100 agents on average pitching two clients per role.  That adds up fast.
  3. Choose 20 people from the 2,000 to bring in and know that your professional reputation and your career growth is tied to your choice.
  4. Get it done in 60 minutes.

 

OK.  Those are the wildcard spots.  The new (to you) actors that get brought in.

Now, go to your own Facebook profile and pick say four people for each role.  How much easier is that?  You  know this person, you know what they’re like, and which people you would/wouldn’t introduce them to.  You know how reliable/professional/capable they are.

Casting needs to constantly be ‘adding to their friends list’.  Bringing interesting and legitimate options to the client is the name of the game. They need new faces.  They need old faces who have changed or developed. If you’re a ‘wild card’ auditioner, every time you go in you have a shot at moving into the ‘familiar and dependable’ list.

How?

By bringing options on the day and time you were invited to do so.

“What if I don’t bring options?”  There’s not a lot of time to hold a spot open for you to make that shift, because there’s SO. MANY. OTHER. ACTORS.  lining up for their shot. In blunt fairness – you’ve shown to not be ready.  How would you justify sticking with the same 20 knowing that 1,980 other actors knocking at the door? It’s only professional that Casting makes way to see if someone else is ready.

It’s not personal.  It’s practical and professional.

Focus on the opportunity.  On the Booking Equity.  If you are lucky enough to be one of the wild card peeps, your job is to deliver a printable take in take one, take direction and deliver another printable take.  As often as asked.  Now it’s easier to take the risk of relying on you. You are more likely to be top of mind. You are helping casting to solve their problems EVEN IF YOU DON’T BOOK THE ROLE.  You help the CD have interesting options for their client.

It’s so simple and obvious:  promote the success of those around you and they will want to be around you.  Hinder the success of those around you and it’s hard to have you back.

I often hear actors say something like: “I think I need a new agent.  Six months ago I was getting in the room tons and now it’s all dried up. I usually get a few redirects and we get there.  Every audition”  Hmmmm……

To those actors, I ask you (perhaps brutally) honestly: Is it possible that you are underestimating what success in the audition room really is?  Are you operating with a diminished sense of ‘how high the bar is’?  Is it possible that you need to work on something and that someone else is more consistent than you?

How many takes did you do in your last audition? How many of those were ‘printable’.  If that ratio is less than 100% there’s opportunity to grow.

Do it.

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The Printable Take

On the heels of a crazy busy month,  I was catching up on some actor notes from my most recent Toronto visit, working with Casting Director Sharon Forrest.

On the whole actors did some outstanding work. Impressive first takes.  Then it was time for notes from Sharon.  Previously, on our coaching day, I had prepared them to be ready for some interesting, possibly off the page redirects.  I’ve worked with Sharon quite a few times, and I know she likes to play this way, often citing the fact that a director will throw stuff your way just to see how you do.

So…. in our coaching day, I had worked to ensure everyone came in with RANGE.  NOT married to a choice, ready to adjust.  I think that’s key always for all our auditions.  Auditions are about engagement and engagement is the child of investment and unpredictability.  Our auditions only have a shot at creating those conditions when we bring in range, not a predetermined read.

As a result actors did great first reads, and were, on the whole, directable.

NOW… here’s where it got interesting:

often times the redirect was absurd (intentionally so)  “I’m not saying it’s good direction, it’s just direction”.  And even when they were absurd, actors successfully let go of previous ideas and delivered.  But wait.  half way though, that big moment that plays as a confession now makes no sense.  How do I play it now… umm…. (drops out, fumbles through, finishes take).  “woah, that made no sense.  hmmm…. i think it needs to go like this…..”  (does another take, nails it).

And THAT.  Right there is the missed opportunity to deliver the PRINTABLE TAKE.

That actor got to the printable take, but needed an ‘exploration take’ to get there.

That actor is not as hireable as the actor who delivered the printable take right away. Why?  It is likely to take longer to get the result.

That’s not luck, it’s an easily masterable skill, and I think it’s a golden opportunity for an actor to raise their professional image in the audition room.

We are being hired to deliver PRINTABLE TAKES.  The easier it is to do this, the more we will get hired.

When a director gives us a redirect, intentionally or otherwise, we are in a role play of what it will be like to work together on set.  We are testing each other out.  If I waste a take, it’s harder to hire me.

BUT…

If I take a little time to clarify, grab the sides, flip through and see where interesting change ups may occur as a result – explore on the fly BEFORE THE CAMERAS ROLL, then I am much more likely to deliver a printable take.

Not only do you have permission to take that extra little bit of time, you have the professional responsibility to do so.

In the wrap up, Sharon made note of the fact that not many actors can do that – take a wild redirect and deliver.  it’s not that they don’t possess the innate ability to do it, it’s that they simply haven’t been in the practice of doing it.

I asked her:  when you see an actor do that, does it raise their stock and make you want to work with them?  Absolutely.  She said.

Ok, so…. how about we practice that skill?

The first step is not being married to a ‘choice’.  So bringing RANGE to your audition.  The next step is taking the time to process and adjust BEFORE THE CAMERAS ROLL.

BOOM.  you’ve now delivered two very different printable takes with no wasted time.

“What a pro.  Think about how much I can get from this actor if I hire them.”

Yeah…. that’s a good thing.

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Nominated for a Leo

Working with Jeb Beach is among the wisest moves I’ve made as an actress. For 8 years, I have constantly looked to Jeb to help guide and mould me into the actor I so desperately wanted to be. He speaks in a way that empowers me to take risks, futher my understanding of story and always be emotionally exactly where I need to be. Acting is all about telling the truth in that specific moment with the truth that is being given to you. To say Jeb is astutely honest would be an understatement. A pioneer of truth and specifics in every scene, I often look to him for a deeper understanding creating dynamic and emotionally raw performances. I was recently nominated for a Leo for my lead performance in the feature film Black Fly and can without a doubt say I could not have gotten to such dark places without the tools he had taught me. His methods allowed me to be free to listen and receive in every scene, moment to moment. How does one sum up in words what someone like Jeb has done for me? It’s truly impossible as he is an anomaly, and anyone who has the opportunity to work with him should run not walk.

Christie Burke | Leo-Nominated Actor (Black Fly), Strange Empire, Falling Skies, Twilight