This past Saturday I acted as a mentor for the Going Pro Career Fair. I have done it the past 4 or so years, and I always enjoy meeting new and upcoming artists. This year, of course, was all done online, but one thing stayed the same: the level of sophistication of questions each year grows. I contribute this to the increasing amount of information and resources that are available to aspiring actors. This information, hopefully, is giving people a more realistic idea of the career path as an actor and is guiding some of the expectations. I used to get questions like, "How do I get famous?" Now, I'm being asked enlightened questions about mindset, day-to-day scheduling, managing interpersonal relationships, etc.
I've outlined below the top three questions I was asked this year, along with a response. (Click on Read More!)
Let me know what questions you have; always happy to answer!
Do you think I should get my MFA?
I think whether or not you get an MFA is completely based upon your goals. I applied for my MFA when I was a senior in undergrad because I realized that there was a gap in my training. I wanted to be better. I knew I was really good at sounding natural, but I didn't know how to fully transform myself into a different character. My desire was to be in a training program where all I had to focus on was my craft and my technique. I was curious about techniques, excited to engage with like-minded peers, and enthusiastic about what a life might look like that was only filled with theater and art. However, this isn't the path for everyone. It is important to keep in mind that most casting directors for TV and film don't really care about where you went to grad school or even if you went to grad school or even if you studied theater in college. Obviously, it depends upon the project, but more than anything they are looking for the character to enter the room, not a degree. So, if you're thinking that an MFA is going to help open doors for you, you might want to rethink that assumption. Grad school was one of the best decisions I ever made for myself and for my career. I learned not just about myself as an actor, but about myself as a person, which, ultimately just made me a better actor. You were only ever using yourself, so the more you know about yourself, the better actor you’ll be. If you are looking into going to grad school, I recommend going to a program that is affiliated with a repertory theatre company; this will give you the opportunity to work alongside some of the greatest living performers. And more than anything, remember to stay curious. Curiosity breeds curiosity, and inspiration breeds inspiration. You do not have to go to grad school in order to remain curious and inspired, but it is certainly a path that was right for me.
How do I get started?
Ah, yes, this is a big question. If there was a simple answer, then this question wouldn't be asked nearly as much. There are as many ways to get into this career as there are people It’s important to remember that--everyone is going to give you different advice, but that's because they're only ever telling you what worked for them. I had a teacher who used to say that this is an impossible career and there are a million ways to do it. That is probably the best explanation I have heard about breaking into this industry.
Some basics, though, will help. First of all, when I moved back to LA after grad school the one thing I did that really helped me was that I embedded myself into every acting community I could find. Musical theatre, stand-up, dance, improv, theater, classical theater, you name it, I did it. My goal was to be able to meet as many people as possible, and I'm proud to say that I met a ton of creatives and made some really amazing friends. They say it's all about who you know, and this is very true. Your first few years are going to feel pretty lackluster, but you never know what seeds you're planting. Plus, I think it is very important to have a community--surround yourself with creative, artistic, supportive, loving people.
The second thing I would recommend is to get very specific on your type and brand. I might do a longer post on this, especially because it is a question I get asked often, but do yourself a favor and just do a quick google search an actor type and actor brand. There are many many branding coaches out there who give excellent advice on how to market and type yourself as an actor. Once you do that, you'll be in a much better position to strategically map out your career. Who are the casting directors you need to know? Who are the agents and managers who rep people like you? What currently casting TV shows could you get cast on today with your type/brand/skillset/etc? Can you get the sides from those TV shows to practice your audition technique?
Obviously, having representation in LA is very helpful for your career. However, starting off you can do your own submissions for short films, student films, theater productions, etc. The higher tiered jobs will require representation. Something I see a lot of actors do too quickly, in my opinion, is try to get reps without having their materials together. I think it's better for you to wait a few months, get your reel in order, make sure that your marketing materials are consistent with you type and brand, build up some credits and some networking connections, and then try to get representation. If you fish with bad bait, you're going to get bad reps. Wait a few months, get better bait, and get better reps. It will only serve you in the long run.
How do I find my artistic voice?
I love this question so much. It's something that I could write on and on and on about. Having your own artistic voice as an actor is something that is incredibly important, and yet I find that it is lacking in most training programs. We spend a lot of time talking about how to turn into other people, but we forget that we are always the medium in which we are using to create. A lot of this, yes, has to do with your type and brand. And yes, our job as actors is to take someone else's ideas and make them a reality. But we can't forget that we are the missing ingredient to every character. Your Hamlet is going to be different from my Hamlet, because we are different people. What makes your Hamlet different, though? What do you have to say that is different from everyone else? Something I often ask my students is this: We have enough actors in Los Angeles and in New York, so what are you going to add that is different than everybody else? What do you have to say?
Having a clear artistic voice will only make people want to hire you more, because what they are hiring you for is very clear and specific. Another way to think about this is to think about artists in other mediums. Picasso is very different from Monet, who is different from Cezanne. Beyoncé is different from Carrie Underwood, who is different from Billie Eilish. What makes them different? Just because we as actors are taking on other people’s characteristics and behaviors doesn't mean that we're leaving ourselves out of the equation. So, I'll ask you again. What do you have to say?
Let me know if you are interested in me posting some exercises in helping you find this creative voice. In the meantime, watch is amazing Ted Talk!
Tools and Resources
You are probably wondering this blog is about. Well, it's about anything that everything that I find inspiring, helpful, and curiosity building.
Curiosity is my favorite state of being, and I've become a treasure hunter and a trash hoarder, collecting all sorts of articles, artwork, and accessories that fuel my inspiration and creativity.
This will also be a place for me to document my life as an actor and coach in Los Angeles. If performing is your passion, I hope that this blog becomes a place for you to learn from my mistakes, grow from my accomplishments, laugh at my witless choices, and share in this crazy, unpredictable, beautiful, life in the arts.