Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Acting and Stage Fright

One of the most common questions that gets posed before someone embarks on an acting career is how one can overcome stage fright. The shortest answer is simply to keep getting on stage. Now, that may not sound like much, but as you will see, the power of repetition is not to be missed here.

The first thing you have to understand about stage fright, especially when it comes to acting, is the root source of that fear. Very early on in the Meisner school I went to, the acting teacher presented us an acronym for F.E.A.R. that I've hung on to ever since...

False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

Now, fear is a normal part of our operating mechanism...like a steering wheel, it comes with the car, so to speak. It was further pointed out in my acting school that as babies, we have ONE ingrained fear when we show up in the world. That being the fear of loud noises. Everything else is learned behaviour, as in, we pick it up as we go. Some of those fears are legitimate and serve to protect us from harm. The problem only starts manifesting itself when those fears come from irrational places and that's exactly where stage fright comes into play.

Everyone can see the benefit of being fearful of a wild bear. There is a very rational reason to be scared if there's a big ol' bear rearing up in front of you. That bear represents an immediate threat to your physical well being, and you being scared of it is a good thing! However, let's reflect on what 'danger' you will be facing while acting.

Hmm...

Not much going on, is there? The audience isn't very likely to attack you are they? So, what's it all about? The usual worry is embarrassment...'I'm going to look stupid' or 'people won't like me' or some variation on those themes. Or, worse yet, 'I will be wrong.' Our need for acceptance to the group at large has been ingrained in us since we were children. It gets fostered by just about everyone in our lives, and socially speaking, it usually does more good than harm...but, for your acting, it's absolutely terrible! By the way, it's those same fears that con-men and crooks prey on to part you from your money. Who knows, maybe getting over your fear of embarrassment will help you avoid a con someday!

Anway, the first step to overcoming that societal 'barrier' is acceptance. You've probably already accepted that when you are acting you have stage fright, right? That part's easy...now you have to accept that it's irrational. That part's pretty easy too, because you're just admitting the truth. Now the tough part...keep getting on stage and acting. Because you know that your fear is irrational, you now need to take action to overcome it and you need to do this because it is so ingrained in all of us. This is one of the ways that psychologists help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder to overcome their irrational fears. Fear of germs? They'll make you eat out of a clean garbage bag. Fear of flying, they'll put you on a plane, over and over and over again. It becomes increasingly difficult to be afraid of something you do all the time, I assure you.

The biggest thing here is to direct your focus away from the negative feeling of FEAR and instead, focus it on the positive thing, your ACTING. Your acting class is there for precisely that reason! To give you a safe environment to work on your craft. It takes the exact same amount of energy to say to yourself 'I will sit in my seat and not get on stage because I'm scared' as it does to say 'I will get on that stage and act'. You may have to force yourself in the beginning, but sooner or later, you will come to realize that your acting has gotten better and your stage fright has gone away. And, it will, I promise you.

If you're on the fence about even going to an acting school, then I would recommend Toastmasters International. They have clubs all over the world that are highly supportive and a great way to introduce yourself to 'perfoming' in a public medium. Even if you are in acting school, this is an excellent way to build confidence and overcome stage fright, because you have the luxury of taking your 'acting' out of the picture!

Toastmasters even offer a free .pdf booklet with ten tips to effective public speaking, which you can find here: 10 Tips for Successful Public Speaking. It's funny, their 10 tips are very similar to what one should be doing before they go out to perform in a play or show and you'll find the advice is quite relevant (for the most part.)

Just remember that acting is your passion and your dream! Don't let False Evidence Appearing Real derail you from that dream. You can and WILL overcome your stage fright, and it might be a little uncomfortable while you do. Have faith and persevere, EVERYONE that acts professionally has had to overcome this malady! Keep getting up there and it will happen for you too!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pros and Cons of 'Method Acting'

Howdy folks!

I answered this question on a forum I subscribe to and figured I'd post it here because I seem to hear this question a lot. More specifically, I hear 'what is Method Acting.' Well, lemme tell ya' all about it...=)

Method Acting is based loosely on Stanislavsky's method, but utilizes 'Sense Memory' for emotional preparation. Stanislavsky himself experimented with 'sense memory' for the better part of his career and abandoned it for being unreliable.

'Sense Memory' in a nut-shell being the use of personal memories to affect and achieve appropriate emotional preparedness before engaging in a scene. Stanislavsky (as well as Adler and Meisner) eventually realized that personal memories and experiences alter greatly with the passage of time, as in, what mattered to you a great deal when you were four may present very little 'emotional' impact at the age of 45.

As it is based on personal experience, the preponderance of modern adherants tend to subject themselves to all manner of potentially dangerous situations to achieve a truly realistic experience to draw from. This has manifested in such things as experimental drug use (which actually lead to addiction and death in the case of River Phoenix) and placing themselves into actual, immediate physical stresses or harm.

A famous story regarding Dustin Hoffman (a purported 'method' actor) during the filming of 'The Marathon Man' tells of Mr. Hoffman running all around Manhatten during filming to force himself into a true state of exhaustion (which would be true for the character as well.) Sir Laurence Olivier on seeing this behaviour is quoted as saying "Good Lord man, just act."

While I think 'Method Acting' can be a valuable tool, and many excellent actors are staunch supporters. Me personally, I find it too dangerous and limiting to achieve a safe and more importantly, sane acting career. The pros are very realistic performances based on actual, lived experiences. The cons are potential mental and physical harm from engaging in dangerous behaviour and unreliable performances.

Whatever you decide to do as an actor, it is worth mentioning that there are many safer methods in existance to achieve wonderful results. Many of the finest actors of the last 100 years (like Gregory Peck and Rober Duvall, to name a couple) were trained by Sanford Meisner who employs an actor's most wonderful asset to achieve emotional preparation.

That asset being your Imagination! Ain't I a cad?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Enough About Acting - Let's Talk About Something New

Alrighty then...my free acting e-book is getting picked up a ton. All over the friggin' world now...pretty neat that. So, I'm going to stop yakking about it.

Some cool things I've been up to lately are this: Kinostat.com which I'm finding quite enjoyable to play with. Basically, you can create an account with them, then go in and guesstimate North American box office returns for upcoming films. If you're good at it, they might give you a job. Now, me personally, I don't care about the job. I just like seeing how well I can guess the future.

I used to do this same sort of thing with new bands and albums...I was terrible at that too.

Remember the band 'Bush'? When their first single got released, I heard it and thought to myself...'yeah, Nirvanawannabes...they'll probably sell between 250,000 to 500,000 by the time everyone's bored of the record.'

10,000,000 copies later 'everyone' finally got bored. Good thing I'm not a record exec. Here's to hoping I'm better at knowing what people want to watch...ahem.

So, on to that...I've been looking for content to either produce or direct for the better part of a year now. Know what? It's HARD to find! My first clue should have been the fact that the movie industry spends about half a BILLION dollars a year trying to do the exact same thing.

Hmm...

So, seeing as how I don't have quite that much money, I went for Craig's List. Boy, are some people dumb. I'll tell you what...I gave about the most specific instructions you could ever hope for to get samples of people's writing. I literally thought to myself 'there's no way anyone could screw this up.'

Famous last words.

I said 'send me the first 10-15 pages and a logline ONLY.' I said 'don't send me anything you don't have rights to.' I said 'don't send me anything that isn't a fully realized script.' And yet, somehow, even with all of those very specific instructions, what do I get?

Everything I didn't ask for. Sigh.

But, in fairness, the majority sent what I DID ask for...here's to hoping some of it is actually worth a shit. I'll let ya' know. In the meantime, wish me luck...I've got a few hundred submissions to go shovel through now. Maybe I'll get lucky and uncover a little gem that the guys spending half a billion overlooked.

Yeah, right.

Monday, February 5, 2007

What About Casting?

So, the million dollar question in every actors mind is usually "how do I get a part?" Well, let me tell you all about it...

The basic path goes something like this. Someone needs an actor, so they hire a casting director to find one. The casting director puts out a notice on 'Breakdown Services' (a company that specializes in providing 'legitimate' talent agents listings of what roles are being cast currently) that will list the physical attributes requested, a brief description of the role and whether or not 'sides' (a small portion of a script containing the audition material) are available and where.

Those talent agents then scour through their rosters and try to match suitable talent to the job description and submit that talent to the casting director by sending them a headshot and resume. In days past, the headshot would arrive by messenger service. Today, more often than not, the headshots, resumes and sides are all digitally delivered through services such as showfax.com, gobetween.com (and sister company screenplayonline.com) and actorsaccess.com. Newer services such as LA Casting and Now Casting are also providing those digital delivery systems as well.

It is very important to understand that casting directors receive thousands of submissions per part that they are casting for! Your headshot will literally receive a glance that will last about 1.5 seconds, if that. To give you an idea of the sheer volume and how hard it is to stand out, I recently cast a project where a friend told me in advance that they were submitting and I overlooked them five times before I even saw that they were there! Even if you think you are perfect for a part, don't be discouraged if you don't get picked...your face is literally swimming in a sea of humanity. Anyway, the casting director will strive to narrow those thousands down to a manageable number to audition (usually about a tenth of the submissions) and they will call them in to 'read'.

Now, recognize that the term 'read' is very misleading. If you are given sides in advance, you are expected to memorize the lines and deliver a full, emotionally realized performance. This is called a prepared reading and most actors out there fail to realize the importance of this. The casting director is looking for a few things during the audition, the most important being your PROFESSIONALISM. Their reputation is at stake and they will only choose actors that they can confidently get behind. Showing up to a 'prepared' reading unprepared will put you in the 'no' pile faster than you can say 'doh'. The next most important thing is how well you ACT, followed by how you LOOK. Most actors get that all backwards and wonder why they have trouble booking work.

If you were fortunate enough to have your headshot picked, the audition is the time to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt your ability to do the job. Knowing your lines is the bare minimum effort you have to take! After you have them down, spend the time to interpret the material and understand what you are acting. When you come in, don't hold back! Bring the material to life and show off your chops. Remember that everyone in the room wants you to be good! A vibrant, professional, expressive performance really stands out, even if you're not right for that particular part. Don't worry about getting the job, focus on showing that you are a competent professional and you will become one of the actors that the casting director will actively think of when a new part comes up. This is affectionately referred to as the 'A' pile and that's where you want to be, because once you land there, the work can't help but follow.

D.L. White is a film and television professional with nearly 14 years of experience in the industry. He recently completed his second book "Acting in the Real World: The Film Professional's Guidebook to the Job of Acting", which is available as a free download at www.actingreality.com

Thursday, February 1, 2007

FREE eBook Launches New Acting Website

Hi All!

I'm very happy to report that my new website is now live! Actorsconcentration.com and ActingReality.com have merged and as an added bonus I'm giving away my best-selling book away for FREE!

You heard that right, it's absolutely free! Please feel free to stop by and give it a read, I'm really excited to get this wonderful information out to those of you who need it most.

That's right, you actors out there. This book will change your professional life, I guarantee it. If not, I'll give you all your free back.

Enjoy!!! www.actingreality.com

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

'Heartless' Hollywood Author to Raise Funds, Awareness for Heart Association

Gruff Hollywood insider announces fund raising drive for the American Heart Association.

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) January 24, 2007 -- D.L. White has been called many things in his life, but earning the 'heartless' title struck a nerve. So he decided to do something to 'clean up' his image.During an argument with his girlfriend, the longtime editor, director and recent author of "Acting in the Real World: The Film Professional's Guidebook to the Job of Acting" (www.actorsconcentration.com) found himself on the receiving end of the disparaging 'heartless' comment. "I had just made what I thought to be an off-hand remark about a movie," he recalled, "and she just blew up."

The ensuing dustup led to an angry sweetheart behind a locked door and the abashed author trying to make amends. "I felt really bad about what I said," he remarked, "working in this industry, I sometimes forget how disaffected I can be." With Valentine's Day just around the corner, a novel approach to mollify his disgruntled paramour occurred to him. "I was trying to convince her I wasn't a troll, but she wasn't having it." he said "So, I asked her 'what do you want me to do? Give to the Heart Association or something?' and I heard her giggle."

While the row was settled for the moment, the idea still stuck with Mr. White. "I thought, why shouldn't I?" he said, "Heart disease runs in my family and while I might not like to dwell on it, it's still scary stuff." The research and advances the American Heart Association have made weren't lost on him either. "If my great grandfather had known what they know now, he probably would have lived another 20 years." He went on to say, "who knows what great things could be right around the corner. I want to do something to help."

To accomplish his task, through the end of February, D.L. White is going to donate 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of his new book "Acting in the Real World: The Film Professional's Guidebook to the Job of Acting" to the American Heart Association. "It may not be selling like 'Harry Potter'," he quipped, "but every little bit helps."D.L. White will be appearing at various acting schools throughout the Los Angeles area to promote his new book, which is available online at: www.actorsconcentration.com Press inquiries and requests for copies of the book may be directed by email.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Boxing and Acting?

Dunno...I saw this and thought it was kind of interesting. Let me know what you guys think...

D-

Success Tips From Boxing:

Ray Winstone, the London East End barrow boy, who became an actor famous for acting hard men, did some boxing when he was younger. He learned a key lesson from boxing which helped him in the acting world and which could help any of us in any situation.

"You would go into your corner and look at the man in the corner opposite you and you would say 'I can beat him' or look at another man and say 'I can't beat him.'"
Boxing taught you to learn to beat the man you thought you couldn't beat. Ray had about 88 fights and lost only 8 of them.

When faced with the challenge of acting the role of Henry VIII, Ray, at first, thought he could not act the part but then drew on his boxing experience and achieved what had seemed impossible to him.

I was not too convinced by his acting in this part but a lot of people were. He certainly portrayed the thuggish side of King Henry convincingly!

Another lesson from boxing is the way champion boxers keep punching even when their opponent seems completely untroubled by their best punches.

On Friday March 4th 2005, I watched Clinton Woods fight Rico Hoye for the IBF light heavy weight championship of the world. The fight took place at the Magna Centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Clinton landed one great punch after another but Rico Hoye seemed totally undisturbed by the powerful punches. He also landed a few good ones of his own.

Clinton kept patient and did not rush in to try to finish the fight too quickly. He knew that impatience could lead to disaster. If you charge in regardless you are likely to leave yourself open to a killer punch.

Round after round passed and the fight seemed totally even. Then suddenly, half way through the fight, the effect of Woods' punches manifested itself.

Hoye started moving slowly and staggering round the ring although he still kept up a brave attempt to defend himself. The referee stopped the fight and Clinton Woods, after four attempts, was now a world champion.

Clinton was 32 years old at the time of this fight and knew that it might be his last shot at the title. He was not the bookies' favorite but ignored his critics and trained harder than he ever had for a fight.

Boxing teaches that, if you keep on working hard and keep on fighting even if it seems you are getting nowhere, you can beat the man you thought you would never beat.
If you do the same thing in ordinary life you will achieve 'impossible' goals that have eluded you for years. You will know the same ecstasy that Woods felt after long years of struggle to become champion of the world.

About the author
John Watson is an award winning teacher and martial arts instructor. He has recently written two books about achieving your goals and dreams. They can both be found on his website http://www.motivationtoday.com along with a daily motivational message.
The title of the first book is "36 Laws To Ignite Your Inner Power And Realize Your Dreams Now! - Acronyms, Stories, And Pictures...Easy To Remember And Use Everyday To Grab Your Life And Soar With The Eagles"
The book can be found at this URL http://www.motivationtoday.com/36_laws.php
The book uses acronyms, stories and pictures to help readers remember 36 laws that can gradually transform your life if you apply them.
You are welcome to publish the article above in your ezine or on your website so long as you do not alter it and keep in the words about the author and the 36 Laws.
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