A word (or two) on voice over reels.

AC: Voice over actors definitely need a reel. But if he or she doesn’t have a reel, what’s a good place for him to start creating the reel?

Paul Liberti: I would like to clarify: it is 2010, actors need a DEMO. Reels are something we had in the 70s and 80s when they actually were ‘reel to reel’ tapes. That term ‘reel’ is going away more and more. If you want to seem current in the business, an actor does a ‘demo’—not a reel. I also have people ask me, “Can I send you my demo tape?” They mean CD but they just gave away how long it’s been since they marketed themselves as a voice actor!

It is AMAZING how many actors produce their first demo, send it to me and when I ask “How many other demos have you heard before you made this one?” The actor has usually heard few—or NONE!

The first step is to go to a web site like www.voicebank.net and hear great working demos. You can find any actor on either coasts that has an agent on the site. Listen to what is good, hear what is bad, hear what works and learn what is current.

To only hear demos that your coach has produced is shortening your sights. Listen to demos from the best voice actors out there. Pull up star voice actor names like Ruby Dee, Tony Roberts, Richard Dreyfuss, Demi Moore and hear what they are using as a demo as well. Those are the people you will be compared to. Not because you sound like them but because star voice actors are in touch with THEMSELVES and sound like no one else.

The same is true for you: tap into the truth of who you really are! That is what I explore in my New York voice over classes!! LISTEN! Learn all you can and be READY to do a demo when the time is right. Don’t just do a demo to get one done. That demo may stay around a long time, even after you grow and improve!  Know who your competition is!!

Paul is currently co-leading “Professional Voice Over Tune Up” on Mondays at 6:30 pm. Click here to learn about the next class he will be teaching.

Learn more about voice-over work by taking one of our voice-over classes in New York. Check out the tabs at the top of this page.

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Box Office Friday with Lisa Gold

OK folks, this isn’t the biggest weekend for movies, but hey, The Mechanic is finally here!  I’ve been hearing about this movie and it’s stars for the past few months but wasn’t really EAGERLY awaiting it’s release. Why not? I’ll explain.

Its got amazing star power (Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland, Tony Goldwyn), a neat plot line (an elite assassin with a strict code and unique talent for cleanly eliminating targets with detachment gets personal when his close friend is murdered) and has had some wonderful marketing and now is opening with wide distribution. So how come I’m not going to see it?

It’s not my cup of tea…not a fit for me.

It’s so interesting as actors who simply want to “be up there on that screen, stage, little screen” that we don’t consider what the “end user” wants or needs. We are VERY concerned with our talent and what we want for our career but very few actors take into consideration what this biz is ultimately about — providing entertainment, art, enjoyment for SOMEONE ELSE.

This weekend I invite you to be the audience…forget for a moment about what you want as an actor performing in NYC, but check into what you want as the consumer of entertainment.  Be an observer of other actors great work…if you’re in SAG, don’t forget to vote as the deadline is today.  And the Oscar nominations are out…are you aware of who is up for the Golden Statue?  This is part of your job as an actor…being aware of others and where everyone fits (including the audience) in show BUSINESS.

To your success!

Lisa Gold

What are some good questions to ask a head shot photographer?

If you want to perform in NYC, you need great headshots.

Photographer Shirin Tinati has been shooting for over ten years. Agents from both coasts recommend Shirin to their clients. Her philosophy on photography is about capturing the individual and letting the picture tell their story. Her unique shooting style allows for a creative and  collaborative photo session by dedicating as much time needed to get the job done (one client per day).

If you weren’t able to make Tuesday night’s free Photographers Forum at Reproductions, here is some video of Shirin offering her advice to actors about what to ask photographers:

Click here to view past and upcoming events at Photographers Forum.

Insider’s Secret Tip for Actors #2

by Tony Nation

When you do a student film, it’s going to be usually for NO PAY. You’re doing it for the experience, credit and a copy of the film. But sometime’s getting your footage so you have something to show New York casting directors can be a pain in the #$%. So, my advice to you-get it in writing. Draw up a contract that you and the student director sign saying that for your time and effort, that you will receive a copy of the film by a stated date. When you have a business contract, it provides leverage. Believe me, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

What makes a great headshot?

by Joe Henson, photographer

Acting in New York City requires having a great headshot, but what exactly makes a headshot great?

A great headshot is the perfect balance of quality, individuality, and effectiveness.

A great headshot works on two levels:

  • First esthetically – it looks good to the eye, even upside down. It grabs the attention of the viewer and pulls him/her in. Agents receive thousands of headshots a month. Your headshot has to stand out from the group and grab that agent by the lapels and say, “Look at me!”
  • Secondly, it has to place the actor within a context that makes it easy for the industry professional to mentally cast you. They should be able to envision you in specific types of roles. This actor would make a great romantic lead, that one would make a great villain. The headshot should be specific enough to define elements of your “type” but not so specific that it limits you to only one note. No one headshot can represent all of the possible roles that a talented actor could play, but an effective headshot can represent qualities that give a perspective for casting that actor.

Audiences take in cues from the presence of an actor, i.e. looks, physical attributes, voice, style, and they make judgments on who that character is.  The cardinal rule of a great headshot is that it represent the “truest presence” of the actor.  Photography is a visual language that opens a wide gamut of interpretation of a subject.  The best headshot photographers stick to the truth as “ground zero” for the basis of what they do.

Joe Henson will be a panelist at Monday night’s Photographers Forum at Reproductions. Click here to learn more about the event.

If you’re interested in exploring our full list of New York acting seminars, click on the Seminars tab at the top of this page.

Box Office Friday: Step by Step to Your Goals

In Lisa Gold’s nine step system (for actors, entrepreneurs and others), the process of taking any goal from an inspired idea to a tangible result is explained. This video contains the first 3 steps to this three part series. Check back next week for Part II.

What is your biggest “don’t” in the audition room?

As an actor, do you ever wonder what not to do when you go into an audition room? Here is casting director Merri Sugarman’s answer:

Looking for acting classes in NYC? Merri will be leading a musical theatre audition master class on Thursday, January 21, at Actors Connection. Click here to learn more about the class.

Insider’s Secret Tips for Actors #1

by Tony Nation

It’s a fact!  I know that everyone in any profession is always looking for some secret tip or inside information to help them get that small edge on the competition.

Well, as the President of Actors Connection and also a consultant to actors now for over 10 years, I’ve gathered what I would call inside information because of my relation to pretty much 80% to 90% of the industry. I’ve participated in many, many events with them throughout my years of working at Actors Connection and have kept notes on what I think is some of the best advice as well as information and industry secrets.

So, now I’m going to be sharing with you that information once a week. Don’t miss out on the inside secrets, advice, input, tips and whatever else I can give you to help propel you forward in your acting career. It’s up to you to use it or not.

Insider’s Secret Tip #1

Are you an actor who is looking to build your Film credits? If TV and film are what you want to do, you need to be building your resume and film/TV reel in order to have agents seriously look at you. But how do you do that if you don’t already have much experience in these areas? Or if you’re a musical theatre actor wanting to either transition out of that career or simply wanting to explore other markets?

Some of the best ways to do just this, gain experience, credits and reel is to participate in student film programs.

One of the best film programs around, Columbia University Graduate Film School, now has a film casting site where you can register and upload your picture and resume to meet and work with some of the most promising film makers of tomorrow. Many of these student films go to film festivals and you just never know when one of the directors you have worked with hits it big and wants you in their next indie or feature film because they liked your work—it does happen. Here is the link to get started to upload your picture and resume:

https://web1.art.columbia.edu/cfide/casting

The Digital Film Academy in the Film Center Building is another excellent program to build your film resume and experience as they are constantly in need of actors for all of their student films:

http://www.digitalfilmacademy.com/actors-corner

What are some ways that actors can put their money to better use?

Brian O'Neil

By Brian O’Neil

I see actors spending an awful lot of money going to the movies and purchasing plays. Let’s not forget an old-fashioned institute known as the library where almost all of the above is available for free. Also, if an actor is a SAG member, he or she should know that the SAG Film Society has an offer that for a reasonable annual fee, and actor can get a card and see films for free at a designated theater on W. 57th. Street. And, here’s one more, especially in our current economy.

Whenever you have a submission that you want to get special attention for a specific project, place your photo/resume and cover letter in one of the overnight “express” envelopes that the companies give away for free, fill out the attendant paper work and simply drop it off at its intended destination (even leave it at the door). Won’t cost you a dime, and it will get immediate attention!

Brian O’Neil is teaching the six-week course I HATE MONOLOGUES, which began on January 15 at Actors Connection.

Missed Brian’s class? Check out our schedule of events for more info on upcoming monologue acting classes in New York.