Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver: How the “Star Wars” Stars Are Helping to Alter the Face of Hollywood

Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver at Movie Premiere

Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver at the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” World Premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

by Brian O’Neil

“Where are the Pacinos? Where are the Hoffmans and the DeNiros? What about the up and comers like the guys who made the edgy, grimy films of the 70s so great?” So went the lament during an era when filmgoers had experienced a shift to a newer, softer and younger “model” that had burgeoned during the 1980s.

And oh, had the teenagers piled in and piled on: Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio and others had become known as the “the brat pack” and largely became the “newer” breed of film star. There are traditional actors in the mix, to be sure, but Hollywood holds onto “kids” whose training is either flat-out nil, or who learn their craft not on stage, but while the cameras are actually rolling.

The trend continued with an endless stream of children and adolescents: Leonardo DiCaprio, Andrew McCarthy, Meg Ryan, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Tobey Maquire, Reese Witherspoon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dakota Fanning, and Jennifer Lawrence, to give just a small sampling. “Kids” move along the Hollywood conveyor belt and then graduate to roles in feature films. Increasingly, this became the process of development for the new American movie star. And so, with some exceptions, most notably foreign actors from English speaking countries (e.g. England and Australia), it continues.

What happened? Certainly, there is no dearth of the swelling numbers of conservatory actors coming out of the increasingly popular and competitive degree drama programs in America. Yet many of this group seem to be moving into an ever-expanding television market while the more “established”, if less formal younger actors keep advancing to the more rarefied air of film stardom. By the 1990s a seismic shift in the way Hollywood recruited their young had taken hold and the culture of men and women had now given way to the boys and the girls.

Hollywood was aware that many, if not most actors in foreign countries where English was the mother tongue, were eager to come to work in the United States. Here the chances of having an international career were far greater than staying home in the United Kingdom or Australia were likely to provide. And most of these actors were willing to work for moderate wages, at least in the early stages of what would often turn out to be ever-expanding careers.

Still, we are told, repeatedly, that the “training” of the foreigners is key. Well, yes and no. Much of what is in writing in this regard doesn’t hold up under actual research. Over time a surprising number of British actors, often Academy Award/Emmy Award winners/nominees, happily reveal that they have “no training whatsoever.” Perception and presumption go a long way.

As we moved into the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century the quantity of scripted American television product was in a state of seemingly unlimited expansion, doubling and tripling the previous amount of content found on the air some years earlier. “On the air” itself took on a somewhat new meaning as broadcast television had made room for cable and both were now facing competition from the newer streaming services of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. And so, the demand for new “series regulars” expanded along with the quantity of television itself. It is there that we really begin to observe the mass escalation of British, Australian, Scottish and Irish actors who are often cast over Americans. Many Americans are now wondering why there isn’t “enough of them” to fill the demand.

Much of being an employment candidate at high levels of the industry requires being at a considerable career level. Understandably, studio and network executives want/need to feel that whomever they pick has proven themselves. They’ve shown some consistency in quality of work and reputation.

What is unknown to most Americans is just how many of the British and Australians have remarkably impressive credits in their homeland prior to their engagements here in the USA. Many already appear as regulars on a series or two and have either won or been nominated for major acting awards including those given out by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). Again, the internet radically abetted an easy way to “discover” and cherry-pick the cream of the crop from English speaking countries.

Searching for talent “over there” has become far more figurative than literal. Obviously, in times past, this method was a non-option. So to those who said “Why?” one response was: “There’s a lot of high-level casting to do and there are a lot of actors we can consider.” In other words, to those who ask “why” the simple answer seems to be: “Why not?” Hollywood is able to provide American audiences with new faces. However, they are new faces with experience. This helps to create a win-win situation for executives in Hollywood and for the foreign actors.

Dab smack in the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century there emerged in the United States a classically-trained stage actor, a man- not a teenager – who began his training as a young adult. He was getting some early “buzz” for his extraordinary work in drama school. He comes up in discussion as “the young generation’s answer to the days and likes of Al Pacino.”

Oscar Isaac Hernandez, born in Guatemala, came with his parents to the United States as a five-month old infant. Starting in Baltimore, on to Louisiana and ultimately to Miami, where Isaac was raised and educated; Isaac auditioned and was accepted into The Juilliard School’s prestigious Drama Division. There, he performed a wide range of contemporary and classical works. This culminated in his final production in the title role of “Macbeth.”

More Shakespeare beckoned to Isaac, with him leading in the NY Shakespeare Festival’s production,“The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” There is nothing unusual about a new alum from an A-list conservatory being cast in a New York Shakespeare Festival production. However, landing a lead role so quickly – one week after graduation – is out of the ordinary. But, so was Isaac. He continued to do more classics at other A-list New York theaters. These included Manhattan Theatre Club, along with an appearance on Law & Order, along with one film.

Then something happened. Television pursued Isaac, and in a pretty big way. Not unusual for a high-profile New York actor appearing in lead roles. What was unusual was that Isaac declined. Politely, as is always his way, but nevertheless, he declined. It wasn’t that he had a different or specifically planned “other” strategy, nor was it ego. Instead, such is his talent that Isaac is able to accept what interests him. And decline what doesn’t.

And so, minus television he proceeded to build his career in the more old-fashioned New York style. He maintained his focus by going back and forth between film and theater. None of which is to say that had he opted for a television series his film career would have derailed.

In fact, after the Law & Order episode, Isaac would be absent from the small screen for many years until he was well-established in film and an HBO mini-series called “Show Me a Hero” would prove irresistible to him. For his performance in “Hero” he was honored with a Golden Globe Award. If audiences felt they needed a young Pacino, they had one. And then some.

One major difference between Isaac and Pacino is Pacino took on Shakespeare after he was a movie star. His early efforts with classical material were met with disastrous response. Pacino’s background apparently lacked the training that a classics-oriented conservatory would provide.

Many top degree programs have a one to two percent acceptance rate. They consist of auditions and call-backs with days of being put to the test by the faculty and administration for admission. Those who long for the days of the old New York theater training often forget that some of those schools of yore granted entree simply “by interview.”

And so we move to the second actor of this discussion: Adam Driver. We had a young man, a US Marine Corps veteran, beginning his formal training as an adult. Immediately upon graduation, he earned admission into the highest levels of New York theater. This includes performing lead roles in Broadway productions of such British playwrights as George Bernard Shaw and Terence Rattigan. Driver, like Isaac before him, quickly did his obligatory Law & Order. Then something happened that proved very different from Isaac’s experience. Television beckoned in the form of HBO’s Girls and Driver accepted. And whatever Girls was or wasn’t, this was no ordinary television show.

Many critics felt that Driver, from an acting standpoint at least, was the heft and substance of the show. As Girls was finishing its fourth season, the future of Driver’s character seemed uncertain. Not coincidentally, the demand for Driver’s services in the world of feature film was burgeoning. At this point, many felt the show was losing its edge. Clearly, Girls wanted Driver to stay.

But here’s the thing. Girls was a twenty-eight minute show, running only ten episodes most seasons. The amount of content along with the schedule made it easier for Driver to accept other projects. So both Driver and Isaac had the good fortune of having flexible schedules to pursue what they chose.

What, then, is the upshot here? Contrary to the media, there are actors who are classically trained at top American drama schools. They have started their careers as adults, not as children or teenagers. As mentioned earlier, there is no dearth of such actors. However, seeing a new breed of an older world model of actor thriving in film once again is a joy. And in the “unconventional” leading man movie star category as well. Yet, call Oscar Isaac a “movie star” and he won’t like it. Call Adam Driver a “leading man” and he says, “I’m like a sight gag.” Unconventional indeed.

I am very fortunate that my work allows me to see and mentor actors of great substance. I will continue to tell stories of their professional journey in upcoming “chapters” of this series. Stay tuned.

Brian O’Neil is the best-selling author of Acting As a Business: Strategies for Success: Fifth Edition. He teaches at many of the country’s top drama programs including The Juilliard School and New York University. He coaches privately as well. For more information, please visit http://www.actingasabusiness.com.

ACCEPTED! ONE MFA ACTOR’S SUCCESS STRATEGY by Brian O’Neil

Brian O Neil - Acting Success Strategy

My job as a career coach is to teach actors how to think differently about this business and how they approach it. The events and conversation below took place over a period of more than a year.  It began early last spring when an actor contacted me to help him with his auditions for this year’s graduate school MFA programs. He was wise to start early. Here’s what happened.
HIM: I’d like you to coach me on my auditions for grad school.  I know that you teach or have taught at most of the good ones.
ME:  Okay, bring in a few monologues and let’s see what you have.
(Two weeks later after he auditioned for me)
ME:  You’ve probably been told that you’re very good.  Because you are. But a lot of actors are, and that’s not enough. The acceptance rate is 2%.
HIM:  What should I do?
ME:  Get on the websites of all the schools you are auditioning for.  Find out when their New York showcase is.
HIM:  And?
ME:  Normally, I wouldn’t suggest this, but for you I will.
HIM: Suggest what?
ME:  Show up. Tell them that you’ll be auditioning for them next year and that you’d love to see the students at work. If there’s a seat, they’ll give it to you.
HIM: And then?
ME:  Assuming you liked the work, ask someone if the director of the program is present.  He or she will be milling in the crowd. Introduce yourself.
HIM: And?
ME:  Tell him/her how much you enjoyed the students’ work and that you’ll be auditioning next year.  Again, assuming that you liked the work.
HIM: Then what?
ME:  When you write your statement of purpose, mention what you observed having personally experienced the work of the students.
HIM: Then what?
ME:  We’ll work on these pieces and others.
(Months later)
HIM: I auditioned.  Two of the teachers remembered me from going to the showcase.  And another one said I “looked familiar.”  I told him why.
ME:  Good.
HIM: At a call-back, the program director actually had me answer some questions posed by other actors because I’d “seen the students at work.”
ME:  Upshot?
HIM: I got called-back for two, accepted at one and wait listed for the other.  The wait listed one is my first choice.
ME:  What are you going to do?
HIM: Wait and see.
ME:  No, you’re not.
HIM: No?
ME:  We haven’t come this far for you to drop the ball.
HIM: So?
ME:  Write back to the person who wait listed you. Thank him/her. Say you’ve been called back and offered elsewhere, but they remain your first choice.
HIM: Why?
ME:  Because they don’t know that. And it looks good for you to have call-backs and another offer. Shows consistency with your auditioning skills.
(One week later)
HIM: I heard back.  My note got me moved me to the # 1 spot on the wait list!  They said there will probably be an opening, and if there is, it’s MINE.
ME:  Good move.  Stay in touch.
(One week later)
HIM:  I got in!
ME:  The talent was always there. But as I said, it’s there for many. You acted well, but you also acted smart. Congratulations, kid.  Ya done good.
Brian O’Neil is an acting career coach, consultant, and audition coach. A former agent and personal manager, O’Neil is also the best-selling author of “Acting As a Business: Strategies for Success,” which is now in its twenty-ninth printing. In the recent past, his students and clients have won Emmys and a Golden Globe (“The Big Bang Theory”), a Tony Award (“Matilda”), been Emmy-nominated (“Girls”), been cast as series regulars (“Orange is the New Black,” “The Walking Dead,” “Bones”) and have appeared in starring roles in feature films (The Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis”). Although he lives in New York City, Brian teaches at virtually every advanced actor training program in the country, including The Juilliard School. For more information about Brian, please visit http://www.actingasabusiness.com.

Choosing the Right Acting Program for Your Child

Acting Programs for ChildrenThere are plenty of acting programs for children out there, but how can you tell which program would be a good fit for your child? Whether your son or daughter is looking for major roles or just having fun learning to act, there are several key elements that can reveal whether or not a particular acting school or program is a good choice.

Actors Connection strongly focuses on these 3 ideas and encourages you to put them to the test.

Our studio offers both free on-camera opportunities to try as well as Casting Director & Agent intensives and a stellar summer camp!

  1. A Variety of Programs Under One Roof. Does the school you are considering offer a full spectrum of class options for your child to participate in? More options means an opportunity to explore many different aspects of acting within the familiarity of a single school and team of staffers. Familiarity and comfort are important when it comes to helping children learn to act. Find a school that feels good to you and your child, and which offers an ongoing selection of classes for them to experience.
  2. The Acting Business—For Kids. All too many parents make the mistake of thinking that the business aspects of professional acting don’t apply to children. Quite simply, they do. Casting directors expect child actors to be professional. This includes not goofing off in the waiting room when your child is awaiting their turn. A reputable acting school for children will include training for children who wish to step into the world of acting.
  3. Support, not Pressure. We’ve all seen those reality TV shows where seemingly obsessed parents drag their children around. An acting program you can trust will provide training that help not just children but their caretakers, too, to understand the nuances of professional acting. Children need support to achieve their personal best and to have fun while doing so! Make sure your child’s acting program provides compassionate guidance.

With these tips in mind, you will be able to screen for the best acting program for kids. Take a look at the variety of programs for children and teens that we offer. Be sure to explore our seminars as well to learn more about the business of acting. Your child will benefit from your due diligence. And you will help him or her start their acting career off on a healthy, happy and positive note.

5 Ways to Not Get Accepted by a Top MFA Program by Brian O’Neil

Brian O NeilIt’s January and most of the graduate acting (MFA) programs will be holding auditions for a few thousand hopefuls who wish to enter. Having been a guest teacher at virtually every top program, and having sometimes been present during the decision-making, here are a few things I have found that are best avoided.

1. Write a trite “statement of purpose.” The deadline for most applications has passed, but for those who have been given an extended stay, here is what not to say: “I didn’t choose acting. It chose me.” Not only have they read it a thousand times, they won’t believe it. On the other hand, saying “I want to be rich and famous” is equally unwise (although everyone would certainly believe it). Give them a sincere piece of “yourself” knowing  that many of these essays merely get glanced at and sometimes only at the time of call-backs.

2. Wear sneakers. Sneakers are not a wise choice for either sex, especially when it comes time to perform your classical piece. Bouncing around the floor in spongy multi-colored footwear tends to put a dent in the gravitas warranted by such roles as Hamlet, Henry IV, Queen Margaret etc. Not only are solid, comfortable shoes more grounding, you’ll look better.

3. Do Rosalind from “As You Like It”. I’m only half-serious here. If you’ve done killer auditions with Rosalind, fine. Not only is there a finite amount of Shakespeare available, it’s you who’s auditioning, not the piece. Yet I can’t help remembering a lunch break with a program head a few years ago and hearing him moan, “Oh, if I hear another Rosalind!!” There is a vast wealth of classical pieces that don’t get looked at often and should. Consider looking at such brilliant writers as: William Congreve, George Lillo, Aaron Hill, and John Webster.

4. Do a classical piece written in prose instead of verse. For most auditors, the main point in asking for a classical piece is to see how the actor handles heightened language which is potentially better expressed in verse rather than prose. Verse intimidates many young actors who have little experience in this area until they realize how many times a day we speak in verse without ever realizing it.

It has been composed to give a natural rhythm to certain words, and Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter was modeled after the pulse of the human heartbeat. Some politicians deliver in verse-style, JFK perhaps being the most notable. Listen to his famous “Let them come to Berlin” speech and you will hear a man speaking in verse. How to tell verse from prose? Open a collection of Shakespeare and take a look. If each line begins with a capital letter, it’s verse. If it’s narrative-style, it’s prose. Choose verse to show your skill with language.

5. Be the mayor. See all those big squeeze bottles of antiseptic gel on the auditors’ tables? Those are hints that late January is the height of flu season. Most people don’t really want to shake a thousand hands in a forty-eight hour period. Shake hands only if offered by the other side.

Above All, Do Your Best

The good news is that you can break all of the above (except perhaps for #5) and if they want you, they want you. However, the acceptance rate at top programs is one to two percent, so just do your very best.

Brian O’Neil is an acting career coach, consultant, and audition coach. A former agent and personal manager, O’Neil is also the best-selling author of “Acting As a Business: Strategies for Success”. Although he lives in New York City, Brian teaches at virtually every advanced actor training program in the country. His credits include The Juilliard School. For more information about Brian, please visit http://www.actingasabusiness.com.

The Best Way to Prepare for Your Portrait or Headshot Session by Daisy Rey, Top NY Photographer

Daisy ReyModels and actors need to have professional headshots to help them find work. The headshot is often their resume. Many people also enjoy having professional portraits of individuals or families that can be hung proudly in the home. There are many things that go into the best headshots and portraits. An experienced photographer that has the right equipment is important of course. The location and the lighting of the shot is also very important. If these things are not in place, a picture can end up looking very bad or amateur. It is important to take the time to find the best New York photographer to take your headshots and portraits.

The subjects involved in the portrait photography will also play an important role in the success or failure of the work. There are several things that can be done for a person to prepare themselves to give them the best portrait or headshot that is possible.

Hair and Makeup – Take the time to make yourself look the best. Get your hair done and bring a brush to make sure it is perfect when needed. Pluck your eyebrows and remove any unwanted hair before the shot. Have makeup done by a professional. It is also a good idea to take care of the entire body to put yourself in the best frame of mind. A manicure and pedicure will help you feel more glamorous and that feeling will show up in the headshot and portrait.

Clothing – Clothing is important even in a headshot. Do not wear clothes with logos or branding on them. Choose solid color outfits so as they won’t distract from the person in the shot. Soft colors, pastels, white, black, blue or grey are great choices. Don’t bring only one outfit to the shoot. Bring several outfits to find the one that works best for the camera. Layered clothing is another way to change the look of what is being worn. It is important to make sure all the clothes are cleaned and ironed. A lint brush is a very valuable tool to fix any problems on the spot.

Practice – Photoshop is able to remove any skin blemishes and other imperfections that an individual has. Lighting can hide many problems as can the position of the person. What cannot be fixed is the attitude of the person. If a person is nervous or uncomfortable, it will show up in the pictures. Before the shoot, practice posing and take some time to make yourself comfortable in front of the camera. Listen to some relaxing music before the shoot to calm the nerves.

All of this will help get the best possible headshot or portrait.

Daisy Rey is a French photographer based in New York City.  You can find out more about her via her website at: http://daisyrey.com/

How to Keep a “Story” Monologue From Seeming Like a “Flashback” by Brian O’Neil

Brian O NeilActors are told, wisely so for the most part, to avoid monologues that tell a story.  You most likely know the kind.  They usually start with “When I was seventeen” or “It happened after I left home” or “I still remember the time” etc.  They are usually delivered with a kind of sameness that sucks the life right out of the room in which its being performed.  For the most part, that is. They can sometimes work, if the actors knows how to infuse the necessary drive to carry them through the piece. The reason pieces of the “story” nature don’t usually work is because the reason the character is telling the story is not contained within the writing itself.

Another missing component is that we often have no idea to whom the character is speaking. Mother? Sister? Boyfriend?  Girlfriend?  Most of the time it’s not there, whereas monologues that have immediate and active conflict usually have this component within them and therefore are usually more compelling monologue choices.  The character is telling the other character how he or she wants the other character to change. A clear “fight” is usually present.

However, when a actor performs a story piece that works well, it’s usually because the actor has endowed the need to tell the story with a sense of urgency.  That is, if a character is telling another character a “story”: in a play, and that play is well-written, there is a reason why that character is telling the other character that story at that moment with the express purpose of affecting the relationship.  So when an actor knows what is driving him through the story, the emotional intention becomes as important, if not more important than the story itself.  We, the audience may have no idea why the character is telling the story, but if the actor knows why, he can hit a home run with a story monologue.  Yet, it requires an extra step to create this kind of immediacy.

The “flashback” reference in this article’s title refers to this “extra step”.  I can liken it to the following. Let’s say you ran into a friend whom you hadn’t seen in ten years.  She tells you that she got married ten years ago.  Then she tells you that her husband is now terminally ill.  You would react with strong and immediate sympathy, right?  Now let’s look at a different scenario.  You run into the same friend whom you have not seen in ten years.  She tells you that shortly after she last saw you she got married, but sadly her husband became terminally ill in the first year of the marriage and has been gone for nine years.  Your reaction would not be the same as if her were dying now.  Years have passed. Time has most likely had some healing effect upon her.  Her telling you the story of nine years ago wouldn’t have the same tone either, that is unless she wanted the story to affect her relationship with you right…now!   It’s this emotional immediacy that an actor must create to make anyone who’s listening to a story really, really care about the character, and by extension, the actor who is telling it.

Brian O’Neil is the best-selling author of Acting As a Business:  Strategies for Success:  Fifth Edition.  A former agent and personal manager, he is currently faculty at The Juilliard School and NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.  He is a career coach/consultant and you can learn more about Brian at http://www.actingasabusiness.com

Inside the Industry: How to Get an Agent with Michael Imbimbo – Talent Agent and Founder of 9MUSE Talent Agency

How to Get an Agent?  This elusive question comes up a lot when I give seminars. When I was a performer, I always viewed agents with this mysterious they-will-solve-all-my-problems view and thought it would be near impossible to track one down. The real question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you’re ready for an agent.

There is a lot that you can do before you need an agent -the daunting and endless open calls, performing at small local theaters such as the Gallery Players or the Secret Theater right here in NYC, networking with industry professionals, etc. The more you get yourself out there and refine your talent, the more opportunity will come knocking on your door. And it’s important to be ready when you hear a knock.

A great story that I love telling people is how I met a client in a reading at Gallery Players. He was phenomenal and I knew he could be on Broadway. We met, decided to work together, and 4 weeks later he was accepting his first Broadway contract. The most important thing to know is that he had already laid down the groundwork to make this happen. Sure, an agent can help and we excel at connecting the dots, but if you don’t already have the seeds planted, nothing is going to grow.

So how can you start planting the seeds to your career?

While there might not be one straight path, there’s certainly many routes to go. You could, for example, start working with a composer and offer to record some demos of their work, take a dance class, find the names of current Broadway directors (or their assistants!) and a small regional production that they might be directing, sing at and record a cabaret performance, etc.

You might not be headlining on Broadway today; however, imagine if you work with a director in Boise and then again in Detroit, you do solid work and are reliable night after night and build a rapport with that director. Now imagine that said director lands a Broadway show. Guess what? You will most likely get that coveted Broadway audition and get to show your stuff in front of the industries finest! If you do a good job, suddenly the casting director who never called you in before is calling you in for project after project.

These scenarios rapidly propagate and soon you might even need a manager to handle all the requests…but that’s a topic for another post.

Good luck out there!

Previously at IMG Artists, Michael Imbimbio runs one of NYC’s newest and most sought-after boutique talent agencies. 

9MUSE clients have appeared on and off Broadway in Doctor Zhivago, Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Heathers the Musical, Bedbugs!!!, Clinton the Musical, and The 39 Steps; in national tours of I Love Lucy Live, Annie, and Anything Goes; and in regional houses across the country including the world premiere of Bright Star at The Old Globe. His clients have also appeared in various TV and Film projects including Hostages, Difficult People, The Black Box, The Following, Lifetime and pilots for Comedy Central, ABC and CBS. 9MUSE recently celebrated the launch of its literary division. www.9muse.org

One Big Surprise About TV Call-Backs and Reading for Producers by Brian O’Neil

Brian O NeilHere’s something  few actors– and their representatives–know about episodic television.

I was talking recently to a writer/producer friend of mine who has held that position for years on a major hit New York television show.  Here is what he said:  “Let’s say there is an audition for our casting director for an episode guest star and twenty actors read for the casting director. If five are called back to read for me and the third one nails it, the role is gone.  It’s cast.  Actors number four and five don’t have a chance, no matter how much they “nail it.”

We almost never go backwards in this area. Why?  Partly because the show runner and I have often left the room.  I have an episode to finish writing and/or the show-runner has to check a location. We’re shooting a weekly show and everything has to be done yesterday.  There’s no need to sit there and watch what everyone else can do when someone gave us what we need. To draw a sports analogy, it’s the same reason why a baseball team who’s winning doesn’t play the bottom of the ninth.  The game is won.”

Now, before actors say “That’s not fair…etc. etc”  Let me point out a few things. Whoever got it “before you” is going through the same thing elsewhere.  You go in, you do your best, and then it’s out of your hands. Everyone goes through it; it’s the way the system works. And it IS highly beneficial for the actor who got a “call back” because they get to read again for the casting director.  And will probably be called back in for something else.  It’s all good. Really good. Trust it.

Another reason I am writing this is because I think actors should be discerning when asking their agents for “feedback” on a call-back. Why?  Because I’ve never encountered a situation where a casting director said “He was great, but by the time he entered the room the decision was made.”  Has it been said?  Maybe, but not to me or any of the agents or managers I polled.  So you’ll get some other “reason” that may not be of much help. Just keep getting called back and “nailing” it and one of these jobs WILL have your name on it!!

And as long as you’re getting called back, most representatives will keep sending you out.  Most. Why? Because you are making both you AND them looking good by auditioning well (hence, the call-back)   So, know that you very well may have “nailed it”, but so did someone else.  Don’t beat yourself up over it or second guess it.

Just hang in there!

Brian O’Neil  is the best-selling author of Acting As a Business:  Strategies for Success:  Fifth Edition.  A former agent and personal manager he is currently faculty at The Juilliard School and NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.  He is a career coach/consultant and you can learn more about Brian at http://www.actingasabusiness.com

8 Tips for Powerful Professional Relationships By Dallas Travers

Dallas TraversWe’ve all heard the old line in this business, “It’s all about who you know.” I believe that it’s less about who you know and more about how well you know them. One key to success is powerful relationships. So, here are eight simple tips to help you strengthen your professional relationships.

1. ADD VALUE

Be willing to help others. Listen well. Go see your friends’ shows. Show up on time and stay through the end. Send thank you cards. Remember birthdays. Offer help and support. Tell others about a great book you’re reading or a fantastic restaurant you enjoyed. Participate because you want to, not because you have to. Share your ideas, resources and time. The Tao of Show Business involves a natural flow, so if you are unwilling to give things away, you actually block the natural flow of things. How can you expect people to help you when you don’t first help others? Don’t be the person who only contacts others when you need a favor. Stay in consistent communication so asking for help is no big deal, and receiving it is easy. Add value and increase the value of your day-to-day life.

2. BE AUTHENTIC

Stop worrying about what casting directors or agents are looking for. They’re looking for you, so just be yourself. Be authentically you, so that you will easily find your people. Be you and make everyone’s job a little easier. My client, Justine, got fired from her fourth agent in about four years. Not because she couldn’t act or even because her résumé was weak. Justine left the wrong impression with her agents every time she met with a new one. You see, Justine is really quirky and kinda clumsy. She’s adorably neurotic and very marketable.

Yet Justine figured the best way to take an agent meeting was to arrive all buttoned up and proper. That’s what she did and agents got the message, so these same people continued to send her out on auditions for uptight professional types; the opposite of who Justine really is. It’s no wonder she couldn’t keep an agent. Justine wasn’t her authentic self and therefore wasn’t making the right match. As soon as she allowed herself to be her true self, she found the right agent who found the right auditions and Justine started booking like crazy. Be authentically you. Nobody else does you like you do!

3. EMBRACE THE POWER OF TEAMWORK

Share your passion and talent with the people in your life and encourage them to do the same. John Paul Getty once said that he would rather have 1% of the effort of 100 men than 100% of his own effort. You do not have to take this journey on your own. You can enlist the support, feedback and resources of others to make things happen more efficiently and effectively. Force yourself to ask for help and be the first to offer it. Be willing to ask questions and open to receiving honest, constructive feedback. Connect people together. What better way to strengthen your team than to connect your people together! Think about the people you know and identify who they should know and why. Make introductions to support the Collaborators in your life and tie your separate circles together while you’re at it.

4. EXPECT NOTHING

As cool as it would be to control everyone around you, that’s just not the way it works. You can only control your own actions, so let go of any expectations you may have about who should do what and how things should all go. Don’t keep score. Be responsible for your own needs and wants. Focus on you and do the things that inspire you or make you feel good. Take action because you want to, not because you have to. Release your need to be in charge and be open to any possibility. Surprise yourself.

5. LISTEN MORE AND TALK LESS

The best conversationalists are those people who listen more than they speak. Pay attention to what’s going on. Observe others and learn from their successes as well as their mistakes. Make others feel appreciated because you listen to what they have to say. Even if you’ve heard it all before, always bring new ears and eyes to every situation in order to learn. That’s how you get better.

6. FOLLOW UP AND FOLLOW THROUGH

Stay in touch. Don’t leave things unfinished and be mindful enough not to over-commit. Do what you say you will and communicate openly. Be honest. Don’t be flakey. Show up when you say you will. Answer your phone and return phone calls quickly. Actively participate in your career and keep your word.

7. TURN YOUR COMPLAINTS INTO REQUESTS

Stop moaning and make change. If your scene partner isn’t pulling her weight, don’t complain about it. Look for creative solutions and constructive ways to create new results, encourage new behaviors, or completely change your relationship. Crying won’t get you anywhere, so be a part of the solution rather than the problem. If you cannot turn your complaint into a request, you have nothing to complain about.

8. BE COOL

The only power to be had exists in the present moment. Don’t worry about what happened last week, about what you forgot to do, or where you dropped the ball. Stop worrying about the future, wondering about whether or not you’ll get that callback or if your agent is really working hard on your behalf. You cannot change the past and you can’t predict the future, so just be cool and stay present.

Respected as one of the entertainment industry’s leading experts, Dallas Travers teaches actors the career and life skills often left out of traditional training programs. Her groundbreaking book, The Tao of Show Business, has won over five awards including first prizes at The Hollywood Book Festival and the London Festival along with the National Indie Excellence Award. She has helped thousands of actors to increase their auditions, produce their own projects, secure representation and book roles in film and television.

If you’re ready to jump-start your acting career, get your FREE Thriving Artist Starter Kit now at www.dallastravers.com.

Why Choosing Monologues from Plays is Usually Best by Brian O’Neil

Brian O Neil1.)  They were written to be performed live.  Unlike monologues from film and television, plays are written for one reason, and one reason only.  To be performed by a living, breathing human being in the presence of other living and breathing human beings.  They are about language.   The dialogue of a play moves the action forward.  Each line in a monologue dashes onto the next, either for immediate results or to serve as a tactic that will have a payoff later in the play.

2.)  Quantity.  It’s not my intention to stress quantity over quality, but monologues from plays have more words to work with than monologues from film and television.  On-camera, particularly where film is concerned, the visual aspect of the script cannot be overestimated.  Pick up a screenplay and glance through it.  Now pick up a play and glance through that.  The play will have several thousand words more than the screenplay.  If the play is well-written, you’ll have more to work with.

3).  The actor’s medium.  The stage is the actor’s medium, film is the director’s medium.  Every on-camera performance you see has been edited and set in a way that cannot happen in the theater.  The actor is on his own up there with no one to save him -but himself- if he messes up.  Performing a stage monologue puts you, by it’s nature, right into the actor’s medium.  Whoever is watching you is breathing the same oxygen you are and it’s a real test.  On-set, the word “cut” is used a thousand times for many reasons.  There is no one to say “cut” when you’ve live.  Scary?  Yes,  Exciting?  You betcha.

4). Industry judgement.  When you perform a monologue from a play, an industry person tends to find you more sophisticated as an actor than if you perform a piece from film or TV.  Film and TV is a common denominator in our culture and accessible by all.  Choosing material from a play tends to make an industry person think you’re savvy and aware by virtue of the fact that you made that choice.

5).  Lack of comparison to the original artist.  Very few plays are identified by the performance of one actor, and many different actors will play all theater roles over time.  Doing a monologue from film or TV can lend a comparison to the original artist (the film was made and then it was done, over  and frozen).  Bear in mind also that the film actor performed the monologue in optimum circumstances, i.e. lighting, setting, cinematography, and editing.  As opposed to, say,  standing in front of an agent’s desk!

6). No rules!  Despite all the above there can be exceptions.  Sometimes a piece from a little known film can be effective.  Also, always bear in mind that your selection for a monologue needs to match the needs and sensibilities of whomever you are auditioning for.  So if a film and TV casting director should happen to ask for a monologue, the heightened language of a playwright such as Tom Stoppard would not be ideal.  It’s too poetic.  So you’ll want to find a monologue where the dialogue sounds more accessible, more vernacular, more like conversation than would a classical piece.  It needs to feel like a good fit for you and the language of it needs to fit you well and show whoever is watching and listening how you can be of value to them.

Brian O’Neil is the best-selling author of Acting as a Business:  Strategies for Success, Fifth Edition.  A former agent and manager, he is now a career and audition coach.  He teaches at virtually every top acting training program in the country, including Juilliard and NYU.  For more information, visit http://www.actingasabusiness.com