Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Back Up Singers

Today’s Quote:
“The greatest wisdom is to realize one's lack of it” - Constantin Stanislavski

This week’s dream:
I’m not sure if this is a ‘dream’ per-se, but I was thinking a lot this week about that thing people say about how in the arts you need to be fully committed to what your doing.  Committed in the sense of, “If you are willing to do something other than your art for work, you won’t be as successful as you could be in that art.”  I’m not sure I buy that as an actor.  I think the more diverse my life is, the more I can bring to the art.  Look at Donald Glover!  That guy does so much!  This week, I dreamed about keeping my identity as a renaissance man.

What did I “DO” this week?
I say a show yesterday.  I signed up for some auditions for shows in the late spring and for some summer stock theatre.  I set up a game plan for getting an agent with in the month.  On an ECO note, I got a bus pass!  No commuting to work by car for the month of March!

What a mean trick I pulled last week!  I mentioned my future-not-yet-scheduled skiing trip with Johnny Depp on my facebook post and I got more hits on that blog post in a day than any of the other posts got ever!  Maybe I should always mention celebrities in this!  But, seriously, that trip’s gonna happen—I’ll let you know when we finally schedule it.  After all, Depp and I are both busy men, he is terrible at picking up his phone, and I don’t like texting back and forth.

I’ve been performing in a great kid’s show for about a month now.  I’m a supporting character in the show—most of us are.  Something that I’ve started noticing about my performance and the dangers of kid’s theatre and extended show runs is that I am tempted to cheat my audience out of my best performance. 

This comes in two forms:  First, I am tempted to wait for my cue.  Second, I am tempted to let outside influences affect my show.

What do I mean by waiting for my cue?  I’ll give an example.  In the show’s script, one character is listing all these things he does in his life as a kid.  The pirates listen to this, and at the end of the list the boy mentions that he plays soccer.  The pirates all speak in unison, “Arg…Soccer?”  That’s what’s written.  But, is it all that is happening on stage.

If I’m doing my job right, I should have an opinion about absolutely everything that goes on within the world of the play while I’m on stage.  This doesn’t mean that I have to make vocal ad-libs that are not in the script.  I should at the very least have a thought. 

A supporting actor, if he/she is truly professional, will be focused enough to give themselves wholly to the world of the play and to their character’s opinions about that world.  It shouldn’t matter if the play is a Tony winner or the crappiest script ever.  I believe that doing this one thing could bring an actor un-told success in this business because the audience will look at that character and see the full story—and they will love you for it.  If done right, you won’t have to worry about pulling focus either.  (I think a blank face in an actor on stage pulls my focus as an audience member more than anything)

About the second thing:  I think one of the cruelest disservices I can do to the audience is to bring my outside day onto the stage with me.  We actors love to commiserate back stage.  We LOVE to share the things that make our lives suck the most.  When one actor enters the dressing room and announces that they woke up with some phlegm in their throat, the flock gathers to agree that there must surely be some new illness floating around.

Imagine how good our shows would be if we refused to commiserate:  if we let go of our fetish for sickness and instead we couldn’t shut up about how awesome our world is.  After all, our world IS awesome.  Our job is SO COOL!!!  So, stop whining! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tough Guy Huh!?!

Today’s Quote:
“Work that you loathe will taint your entire being.” – Mari Lyn Henry & Lynne Rogers in How To Be A Working Actor

This week’s dream:
Well, this past week being Valentine’s Week, I found myself thinking mostly about my girlfriend.  We are in a long distance relationship and have been since the beginning.  I’ve been dreaming of the day that I can make it no-longer long distance.  The day where I’m successful enough to allow us to actually be part of each other’s daily lives.  (Awe!)

What did I “DO” this week?
This week, I submitted a video audition for a role in a feature film to be shot this summer.  (Thanks to my brother for reading the other parts, and Matt for donating time and a camera) 

I have a theory about success with an agent that I’ve developed over the past few weeks after talking to several individuals.  The theory is:  Aside from having the right look (which might not matter as much as you think) one’s success with good agency is directly connected with one’s work ethic and how effectively someone uses their talent. 

I was talking with a professional in town who has done several commercial spots over the years in the Denver area.  He works more than most, but less than he could.  Something that stood out to me from what he said is that Denver actors in particular, have this sense that they can go into an audition or even the shoot and wing it.  Some, no doubt, get away with it; but most don’t.  Agents hate this! 

What I deduced from this is that: even if there are twenty guys working with the best agency in town that look exactly like me, maybe three or five of them get regular calls.  Why is this?  Those three to five actors are the ones who show up to work like professionals.  They are easy to work with, prepared, professional, and they deliver…every time.  What are the other guys doing?  (This may be harsh—especially since I’m a friend with some of them)  They are probably not doing the above things and they are probably griping at home or in the dressing room about how little work there is, how hard the Denver market is, and how they hate that they look like twenty other guys at their agency.

I think, in the acting world, there is no such thing as an, ‘easy market’.   Some markets have more work than others.  Some are more saturated with actors.  Some have the more desirable work of film and television, while others have better options in commercial and industrial videos.  Every market is hard as hell though!  So, what do I need to do? 

I need to be as tough as my market.  If there are twenty guys in my agency who look like me:  I need to be a better actor, a better professional, and a better person to work with than any of them.  (Not in a snooty competitive way—in a mater of fact way)

In the ‘business’ world of the normal people jobs: People move quickly up the ladder by putting in the extra work, being the best player, and talking to the right people.  Why do we actors think our job should be different?  If you’re in a show that has eight performances a week, are you going to be working hard?  You bet!  Is that enough if you want to keep moving up or be more stable financially?  HELLZZZ NO!!! 

Maybe I need to pull a few more eighty-hour workweeks for the next few years.  Then, when I’m drinking hot cocoa with Johnny Depp at a skiing lodge in Austria, then I can finally sit back and whine about the one time a director didn’t hire me because I didn’t quite look right for the part.

I wonder what Johnny Depp’s favorite hot-drink is.  Does he like it spiked, or not?  Something creamy or some kind of tea?  I guess I’ll have to ask him in a few years when we go on a buddy-buddy ski trip.  Does he ski?  If not, I can teach people how to ski…I’ll teach him…(The thought of seeing him ‘yard-sale’ on the side of a hill and laughing my head off as I help him dig snow out of his goggles makes me really hope he doesn’t ski much)  Johnny, I invite you to a skiing trip in Austria…chance of a lifetime for you buddy!  IT’S  AUSTRIA!!!  That’s some James Bond shit right there!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Writer's Block ... AS IF!!!

Today’s Quote:
“Endeavor to penetrate the psychology of persons around you toward whom you feel unsympathetic.”  -Michael Chekhov

Today’s Song:  L’idolo Di Oro by Erik Siegling THAT’S MEEEE!
A little off the format, but I had a dream last night while I was sleeping about some actress.  She was flying from one gig to another.  First, a commercial shoot, then a photo shoot, followed by a rehearsal, and a talk show appearance.  Busy gal right?  The thing is:  She’s ‘working’.  That is the kind of effort needed in this career.  Thanks dream!  Good reminder!

What did I “DO” this week?
I met with an alumnus from my college for coffee and we chatted about what he knows about the acting industry.  He gave me some good reminders and some awesome tips.  I’m working on a video audition for a role in a feature length SAG film to be shot in Colorado this summer.  And I bought enough groceries to fill the pantry and the fridge, just so I stop getting down on myself for not having food in the house…Winning.

House Keeping:
I’m thinking about changing the blog format.  What do you (the reader) think?  Stanislavski wrote his acting books like a sort of 1st person novel narrative.  I hated reading that style, but I thought it might be cool to try.  It could flex my writer’s muscle and pay a little tribute to the acting pioneer.  Also, I’m thinking of including actor’s exercises for readers to try at home.  Comments!  Make them!!!

Ok, I couldn’t help myself.  I’m submitting an audition this week for a western feature length film and I thought it’d be fun to throw down some western pazaz for the song of the week. 

Anyone who keeps a mild eye on my facebook knows that I’m pretty diligent about posting news articles that have something to do with politics in America today.  Sometimes I even get feisty enough to post some political comment.  Well, I guess it was only a matter of time till that bled onto here.

All I want to say about it is this:  We’ve gotta start listening to each other.  If there’s anything we are proving by meticulously arguing our points to each other, it’s that not a single person or ideology has got it totally right or totally wrong. 

As actors, (you know who you are), we have this incredible occupational hazard associated with our job.  If you look back at the Chekhov quote at the top of this post, you’ll see what I’m talking about…  Any actor who is worth their salt should be able to flex their empathy muscle at any given moment.  Acting is not about finding out what is similar between our character and us; acting is about truly understanding what makes the character one unique, whole being. 

And that is how actors will save the world!

But seriously, a good example is one of the button issues of today:  economic philosophy.  There is this great divide about full capitalism versus socialism in American society.  Both sides are really good at finding what’s wrong with the other side and how it could never work.  Socialism takes power from people and puts it in the hands of government, (Dangerous).  Capitalism takes power from people and puts it in the hands of the corporation, (Dangerous Again!). 

What if both ideas work.  Seriously!  What if there could be happy countries that use different methods to attain social equality?  The thing is, there are.  Sweden evens out social equality through taxation and the re-distribution of wealth.  Japan does it through a more capitalist approach.  Both countries have half the social inequality of the United States (whom currently has one of the largest in-equality ratings of the already developed world) Sweden and Japan both have thriving and productive cultures and are moving forward.  So, maybe we should stop fighting about which philosophy is right or wrong.  Our country is too impossibly big to figure that out anyway.

So, this had nothing to do with writer’s block, but I figured the title would get folks to click on the link to this blog.  Oops.  Sorry if you were looking for more art stuff, but hey, we artists could be the ones to get this country moving on to the happy train of mutual understanding! 

Yesterday, a friend asked me if I was reading any good inspirational books of if I was just getting high on God.  Honestly, both.  God is awesome!  The books I've been reading are proof of that.  The books are:  "The Four Agreements" and "Think And Grow Rich" Good reads.  

Screw writer's block!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Professional Advice: Go see a play!

Today’s Quote:
“I love my job.  I love my job. I love my job!”—Benjy S. 

Today’s Song:  Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons

Dreams:  Last week, I won some swag in a raffle at the SAG viewing party downtown.  One of the prize items was a notebook with the Screen Actors Guild emblem on the cover.  I decided that I wont use it until I am a SAG member.  I have it placed right in front of my keyboard at my desk and I see it every day and dream of the day I can start taking acting notes in it.

What did I ‘DO’ this week?
I auditioned for one of my favorite directors in town (brown nosing to get the part? … Maybe.  But seriously, he’s awesome)  I auditioned at the local film school to be an actor in this semester’s movies at that school.  (I need to get some camera classes, I totally theatre acted for that audition and IT WAS AWKWARD)  I started today: injecting happy into my veins VIA hockey and dog walks.  Finally, I took eggs out of one basket and moved them more firmly to the acting basket.

DAMNIT!  I missed the Sunday deadline again!  So, I’m going to do some extra posts on Thursday and Sunday.

Tonight, I saw a production of Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet.  Regardless of what you might think about his writing style or his philosophies about the craft, there is some incredible genius there.  Seeing tonight’s play does what most plays do to me.  They throw fuel on the fire inside me that wants to do this work.  The play doesn’t have to be exceptional to do this, but when the play is exceptional (like tonight) then I feel like the flame got rocket fuel sprayed all over it.

So, tonight I reaffirmed the importance of seeing shows.  If you’re an actor/director/writer/etc… and seeing work does the same thing for you as it does for me:  Seeing plays and movies, and reading scripts and books can be one of the most important things you could do for your career. 

Seeing a play is like getting a motivational pep-talk, a cerebral enlightenment session, some good entertainment, and a how to (or how to not) seminar all at once.  AND it’s tax deductable…(Only if this is your profession…I love my job!).  Knowing that and all it can do for you mentally, why wouldn’t you go see a play?

This is going to be a good spring.  OoooH  it’s going to be a good spring!

I love my job.  I love my job.  I LOVE MY JOB!!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Keeping the Pace (A Runner's Analogy)

Today’s Quote:
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep." - Scott Adams

Today’s Song:  Right Here, Right Now by Fatboy Slim

Dreams:  I’m really gunning for getting my first union card.  I recently got a notebook that has the ‘Screen Actor’s Guild’ logo on it, and I decided that I won’t write in it until I am a SAG member.

What did I ‘DO’ this week?
I attended a SAG Awards mixer party in downtown Denver.  It was a stellar way to meet people and find potential film projects to be a part of this spring.  I won the SAG notebook in a raffle…I never win raffles!  I also made a little goal tracking poster for myself, so I have a daily reminder of my goals and how close I am to them.

Okay, I know, I know:  I’m late in posting for last week.  So, you know what that means!  Two posts for this week!   I WAS spending valuable blog time, making that poster.  But, hey, no excuses!

In fact, since dropping the ball on my usual Sunday deadline, it’s been really hard to make myself write the dang blog.  So, I thought I’d write a blog about keeping the pace you set, even when you find yourself wishing you had set a slower pace.  After all, first it’s the blog, then it’s me not looking up auditions, and then I become a waiter at Old Chicago…forever.

Several years ago, when I was a senior in high school, I was a member of my high school’s Cross Country team.  I spent the entire season trying to get to the varsity level (the top seven runners), but I never could quite make it.  Every practice, I could keep up with the others during interval workouts.  Nearly every practice, I would fall back for at least one interval, but I always came back.  I was in varsity condition, no doubt!

I remember one practice, we were running one thousand meter intervals through this hilly area and I was hurting.  Hyperventilating, I barely finished the distance, I fell over, and I struggled to breath while my face turned purple.  People were worried, and I ate it up.  I fed on their pity and concern.  I was struggling and everyone saw it…except for one person.  My coach looked at me straight in the eyes and said something to the effect of, “Get up Erik, you got twenty seconds before you need to run again.”

I was pissed!  “Couldn’t he see I was practically dying?!”  Well, I was so mad; I got up and ran the fastest I had run all day.  When I finished that next interval, I was barely winded.  All coach said, “Ok, now do it again.”  Dang.

Looking back, I realize now that this experience encapsulates why I never ran in a varsity race and why I never even broke a five-minute mile, even though I was easily capable of such a feat.  I cared too much about people seeing my struggle.  I had more respect for suffering than for success.  If I had stopped worrying about how well others thought I ran, if I just focused on running, pure and simple, I would have been in a lot more races as one of the top seven.

So, now I have a different thing I’m training in.  If I get caught up in the, “Poor me, I’m a struggling artist” mentality, I will constantly struggle and I will never achieve my best.  Some may even look at me and say, “Poor him, he’s trying so hard.  If only he could catch his break.”  But, the ones who really know the craft, the business, the sport of acting; Those folks will see right through me.  Hopefully, they’re as good as my Cross Country Coach.  Hopefully, they’ll say, “Get up Erik, you got twenty seconds before you need to run again.”