I’m happy to announce I have enrolled in the Automobile University!!!
I actually enrolled while I was still on the bus and I believe that’s part of the reason I was able to get off with no car payments. For those who are not familiar, the Automobile University is actively listening to educational content during your commute. I love Drake’s new album just as much as the next person, but I’m not learning anything by repeating his lyrics and taking on his emotional baggage.
What I do during my commutes now is listen to different podcasts with hosts who offer advice and guidance on topics such as growing wealth, finding work you love, self-promotion, and garnering side hustles. All of these things are excellent skills for the modern day actor. In fact, it was these podcasts that helped me determine today’s topic: WHAT CAN WE DO WHILE WE WAIT???
Well, the first thing we can do is NOT WAIT.
I have an amazing team of agents at Atlanta Models & Talent, Inc., but I know that I won’t be auditioning or filming every day at this stage in my career. Here are a list of things I do between filming and auditioning.
1. I blog. Not only does it help document my journey, but it allows me to help other people along the way.
2. I create content. I have written plays, short films, and webseries. Everything I write does not end up on the screen but it keeps me fresh and hot for those opportunities that are around the corner. When I do produce projects, it gives me the chance to get some visibility online and at film festivals. These are both steps in the right direction.
3. I seek work. I’m grateful for my agents but they are not responsible for my career. If I am not successful, it’s not their fault. I seek work and submit myself to projects outside of what they send me to and nothing is too small. I have done background work, audience work, Craigslist work, and student films.
4. I volunteer. If you know folks who are in production and you like their work, ask if you can help out! They may not cast you immediately but if something comes up, they won’t have to go looking for you if you’re already on their set.
5. I read books on acting. Someone smart said reading three books on a particular topic makes you an expert. How many books have you read regarding your career?
Build it and they will come.
God bless the child who has his own.
If you create a job, you’ll never have to look for one.
When I think about Tyler Perry and Jay-Z, it’s mind-blowing that they started their companies as a result of not being recognized by major companies who could have propelled their careers. Sometimes we’ve got to have the same tenacity about our own careers. That’s part of the reason I joined Fearless Rock Projects. We committed ourselves to doing just that: creating Fearless Projects that rock! Below is the trailer for a short film I wrote after being inspired by Prince’s I Would Die 4U. There is an undeniable religious undertone in the lyrics and it made me think of the goodness of God. In the film, I play a girl who breaks all Ten Commandments and eventually finds Jesus, who forgives all of her sins through his grace.
The Trailer is below. I’m working on getting the film online, but Prince is a stickler for keeping his music OFF Youtube and Vimeo! Enjoy it while you can!
Learn more about FRP at www.FearlessRockProjects.org and CREATE YOUR OWN WORK!
Let me set the tone for this one.
It’s Labor Day 2013. Partly cloudy in Atlanta, GA around 12:44 Pacific Time. I left my computer clock set to Los Angeles so I can keep my head space in the busy city. Weirdly, it helps.
After an excess of eight times, It’s safe to say I’m listening to Drake’s’ Hold On, we’re going home’ on repeat. I’m a good girl and I know it.
Sometimes it’s just nice to have my anxiety relieved though. I am constantly reassured that I have chosen the correct professions for my life. Now I’m just waiting for the success to catch up to my work ethic and sacrifices. It made me think back to my chat with one of my favorite actresses, Jenifer Lewis, on behalf of www.PlentyPennies.com (a subsidiary company of Tiffany Classics, LLC). I asked her what advice she’d give to her 25 year old self. Her response:
I would walk over to her and I would hold her so tight and I wouldn’t let her go. I’d whisper in her ear, hold her still and tell her, ”I’m going to take care of you. Everything is gonna be alright.”
This is around the time she was promoting her new webseries, Jenifer and Shangela. It’s a hoot if you haven’t seen it. Click here to catch up on episodes.
She even had some advice for new comers:
Find your passion. When all else fails, the dream will sustain you. The elevator to success is broken. You must take the stairs: step by step. I took the steps. even if the fans’ comments weren’t what they are, I still know who I am.
I realize that I have been afforded some great opportunities over the years to actually meet and talk with some amazing actresses who have given me nuggets to help me along with my journey. And now, I’ll share some of them with you.
Think of your age in Hollywood as the number of years you’ve been pursuing your career. Tiffany you’ve only been here for 2 years. As a two year old, you can walk but you’re still stumbling and falling from time to time,” – Joy Bryant, Circa 2009.
“One of my favorite verses is Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” If you give up, you get off your mark and you make it easier for the next person to come and get your spot. Don’t quit. Don’t get off your mark,” Tasha Smith, Circa 2008.
“If it doesn't feel right in your gut, don’t do it. You’ll regret it every time,” – Nia Long, Circa 2007.
“What’s going to make me more interesting than the next chick that’s coming in the room? Average is never ok. Make it difficult for them to say no. Use everything. Give everything. EVERY TIME,” –Tisha Campbell-Martin, Circa 2009.
To read my entire interview with Jenifer Lewis, click here.
Have a little vision
2007 was a groundbreaking year for me for several reasons: I graduated from college, moved to Los Angeles, and I was introduced to The Secret. All of those things worked together. My sorority sisters and I were all in transition and one of my best friends, Jemier, introduced us to The Secret. We all set aside time to watch it together. It was quite overwhelming at first but the principles have stood with me.
I am a devout Christian and many of the principles line up with what The Secret teaches. One is particular is being visionary. Despite your profession, you have to know where you’re going even before you arrive. I think this is particularly true with artists. The odds are against us as performers. There is always the “WHAT IF” in the back of your mind. You have to have faith in you before anyone else can. Here are a few scriptures that support this idea:
· The entire Chapter of Hebrews 11
· Mark 11: 23 “Truly[a] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.
· Galations 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
· The entire Chapter of Matthew 6
· 1 Corinthans 2: 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
It is my best advice for you to make a vision board and put it in a place that you will see it every day when you wake up. It serves as a compass for the rest of your day. I also wrote myself a daily affirmation, with the advice of fellow actress friend, Lisa B. It helps keep my goals and dreams in perspective.
Even if your dreams are wild, you have to make yourself believe them. Seeing is believing. Speak it to yourself every day and it has to come to pass.
So you’re a struggling actor. You’re a broke artist. You ditched a week of groceries to buy your headshots and you don’t even think about going to acting class.
There’s still hope.
I’m not sure if you heard about this little thing called, YouTube University, but class is in session 24 hours a day, the classes are not crowded, and the tuition is free. Get into this.
If you’re strapped for cash and in between classes, don’t let yourself get rusty. You never know when that next audition is around the corner. Here are a list of some of the BEST videos an actor can watch, all for the bargain price of FREE ninety-nine.
There is never an excuse to not be getting better. Save this blog and refer to it often. You’re welcome.
The Meisner Technique
Inside the Actors Studio
Tom Hanks: First Visit, Second Visit
Actor’s Access Virtual Channel Network
I’m A “Business” Man
Ok, the rent is paid. It’s time for some housekeeping.
My stylist friend, Chris Mannor (I swear I’m going to introduce y’all to him one of these days), once told me to present yourself how you want to be remembered.
This goes for the way you look on a daily basis, your Facebook profile, and for the purposes of acting, YOU as a product. Believe it or not, when you’re promoting yourself as an actor, the product you’re selling is YOU.
You need some materials, tangible marketing materials to leave with people once you leave their presence.
When CVS has a sale they send you a cute little sales paper, right? How’d you find out about that movie you saw last night? When was the last time you wanted somebody’s phone number but didn’t have time to put it in your phone? How often do you to go to a company website to grade how good their services MIGHT be?
If your answers are yes, a billboard, last night, all the time, and every day... It’s time for you to set up shop.
So… down to the housekeeping…
We already know we need headshots, those are basic. Expensive but basic. For social settings and creating legitimacy very quickly in fast-paced environments where actors thrive like L.A. and N.Y., your best bet would be to get a business card. And don’t be shy, go ahead and slap your picture on it. Add all your contact information. So when that casting director you met at Starbucks is looking for a pen in her next meeting, your pretty little face runs through her fingers. That’s the beauty of a business card with your headshot. Your face is on it, it has all your information, and they’re so cheap EVERYBODY CAN HAVE ONE!
Here’s the business card I had made. It has everything anybody ever wanted to know about Tiffany Black on it. My card doesn’t look like anybody else’s so it’s lending itself to building my brand. Every piece of material I put my name on suggests SOMETHING about Tiffany Black. Every email has my website, www.TiffanySBlack.com, in the signature. Every headshot/resume I leave at an audition. Every event I go to I’m passing out business cards. A night at the club in L.A. is never just about dancing to the music. There is opportunity at the bar and at the grocery store. Anytime is the PERFECT time to promote you!
And if you want to take it a step further, which I always do, send out postcards to your team (your agents, casting director relationships you’ve built, etc.) Make sure they know when you’ve booked a spot on Hawthorne! Let them know you’ve reached SAG status! Emails are quick and great, but they can often get lost in the shuffle if they look like spam. No one can deny this when it hits their desk…
FYI: postcards are a whopping .34 to mail!! Headshots/resumes are a dollar a pop!
And why do you think you ended up liking that stupid song you hated the first time you heard it on the radio? FREQUENCY. You liked it because you heard it so much.
And because having an online presence is just as important as matching a face to a name, I went ahead a set up a website for myself. Doesn’t every other company have a website? Well guess what… you need one too. It needs to have your reel on it, all of your upcoming projects, your resume, and everything else you didn’t get a chance to say when you met that agent while waiting in line at Ikea. Make it easy on for them! And if you can’t afford a website right now, which you probably can, your Facebook page is a good way to start, but clean it up. Make sure you have mentioned in your “info” that you’re an actor and hide those drunken party pictures from college.
Set up shop. You’re a business nooooow! Change that Karaoke style voicemail message to something entertaining, yet professional. You only need one chance to mess up a first impression. Present yourself how you want to be remembered. Remember, as an actor, you are always in a position of needing to be CHOSEN. Don’t give them any reason to choose anyone else!
In closing, (I love that this blog has turned into an essay) I’m sure you’re wondering who helped me set up shop. My business cards and postcards were done by Lifted Soul Graphics. Inquire at www.liftedsoul.com. They have a special going right now: 500 business cards for $50 (that includes the custom design AND printing). PLUS if you tell them you were referred by Tiffany Black’s blog, you get an extra $5 off. That’s right! I got your back! So get on up and punch the clock! Its business hours! It’s ALWAYS business hours!
PS: All of these materials can be written off on your taxes as expenses at the end of the year ;)
I’m going to make a bold statement and I think every actor/performer will agree with it..
There is no greater feeling than having someone you love in the audience watching your work.
It’s something about the care you get from people who already know you and love you. Believe it or not, it makes us actors perform better. Now this is an easier feat for film and television actors because they can simply call home to Greensboro, North Carolina and tell their grandmothers to turn the TV at 8pm. However, live performances are just a little different. Family and friends can’t just pick up and fly out whenever I have a performance, especially with my living in Los Angeles and their living on the East Coast.
Moreover, before we actors even get to the point of being on TV, a performance or a show, we have to book the job. Some of the best advice a casting director has ever given me was, “Be the person your friends love when you’re in the room.” In the Room meaning in the audition room. The person my friends and family knows is fun, wild, highly animated and a little crazy. To those who don’t know me well, it may seem as though I am, “always on.” While I resent that because it suggests that I am never just being myself and I’m always performing, I have to admit, I’d rather always be on than struggle to turn it on. J
Somehow, when I first started auditioning, I noticed that all that UMPH used to drain out of me once I got in front of casting directors and producers. Becoming so focused on booking the job, I was in the room nervous, shaking and stuttering and carrying on. Then I noticed why I might be coming off as cold, or stiff, or worse, incapable of conveying my talent in the room... I was leaving all my goods outside in the waiting room!
So I decided, if I was going to Eeeever Ever boooook book aaaaanything anything, I was going to HAVE to get it together. Now, back in Florida, I would straight up ask my friends to come with me. Yes! I have taken friends with me to auditions! Isn’t that messy?! And they would come too! Aaaaaand I’d book the job. But something tells me they won’t be taking a 4 and ½ hour flight several times a week to come strut around Hollywood with me while I audition. When I’m with my people, I’m FEARLESS! I’m invincible. I’m never nervous or shy because I know they want to watch me. So I had to figure out a way to take them with me.
I put them in my back pocket.
My friends and family know I’m capable of entertaining the masses and I think nobody knows my talents like the people I’ve been entertaining for years. When somebody already believes in you, you don’t have to go out of your way to impress them. You have freedom to just do what you came to do. This is now my approach to auditioning. I name everybody in the room my friend. They all know my name. They all know my talent. And they all WANT me to book the job, because when I book it, they get to go home!!! And lately I even go a step further I putting my friends in my back pocket. And I stopped leaving them in the waiting room. I bring them right into the audition room with me. I’m immediately comfortable because I’m surrounded by friends and love, and I don’t have to perform because when I show up, they’re already laughing.
They don’t know it but they go everywhere with me now. On every audition, to every job I book, and they’ve met many amazing people. And every chance I get, I do my best to return the favor. I was able to see two of my good friends perform just last week.
Next time you’re going somewhere and you need that extra support from a special someone who has always held your hand, take them with you (in sprit). Eventually, I bet you’ll realize that they probably never left you anyway. J
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