I’ve had this conversation with many actors and the opinion is always different: Some people feel like once you know how to act, you just know and you don’t need to be in class. Some people feel like you should always be in class to stay sharp. I fall somewhere in the middle: I will be in class as often as I can afford it.
For me, class has always been a way to stay hot in between gigs. I can’t just be immobile. Life and this craft is a continuum. We never stay still. We are either progressing or falling behind. Progression will always be at the top of my list. If you want to get creative about ways to stay sharp when you’re not in class, here are a few things I do:
1. Take an Intensive. We’re actors and we have bills. Committing to an on-going scene study class can seem daunting once you’ve been gone so long. Ease back into the game with an intensive. These generally last 3-6 days. Get your feet wet. Get inspired. Jump all in when you can spare the time.
2. Read books on acting. Someone wise said that if you read three books on the same subject, it makes you an expert. Well become an expert in your technique of choice. How many books can we find on Meisner? Reading is cheap and mobile.
3. Watch Virtual Channel Network on ActorsAccess.com. Industry professionals give priceless advice. For free. Get educated.
4. Create a project. Booking can be tough but writing a scene and putting it up on its feet can be done in a day. Grab some actors and make the most of the time. You never know what it could lead to. Ever heard of King Bach or Issa Rae?
5. Memorize monologues and record yourself on your phone. Play them back and critique your own work. You probably know by now what works and doesn’t work, but you may not know what you’re giving when you audition. Do a little self-study. It’s harmless.
I should take my own advice with some of these. My default is creating my own material. I guess that’s just the writer in me. I hope this helps you along the way! Stay inspired.
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!
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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