Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm about to get some sleep, but I feel guilty for not writing recently...

The main reason for that is good for me - I was working quite a bit at Universal. I got 35 hours last week and over 40 the week before that... As a result my throat is absolutely killing me! I've been nursing it with Throat Coat, my favorite tea. Although I haven't worked since Saturday, I still kind of sound like a phone sex operator!

Sunday I went to a free Stanislavski workshop at a playhouse in the Glendale/Los Feliz/ Silver Lake area, which is in The Valley, 20 to 40 minutes east of where I live depending of course on traffic. Silver Lake is an incredibly trendy, "hipster" type neighborhood. I've never been there and I don't really know what that means, but they literally use it as a type on breakdowns (aka electronic casting calls), "looking for Silver Lake, hipster types."

Anyway, I went to this acting school/theatre company which has a very nice, new, small black block theatre. It was so unbelievalbe refreshing to dive into the art of acting again and be reminded that my University training was not completely worthless! Most of the principles I was taught and continue to use are based in Stanislavski's theory. Of course, that's because Stanislavski was the first person to develop a system by which actors can hone their art form. Almost every acting style is based in his teaching, but many of today's truly great actors work fully in his "Method."

The casting director workshops that I've been going to since April are great - they've given me a lot of exposure, practice in cold reads and the audition process, as well as insight into the business side of Hollywood and its harsh realities. It can all be rather daunting, but this workshop revitilzed the reason I love what I do and want to become better and better at it! It can be so discouraging in this town when casting directors tell you, "find what type you are and play it over and over," and "you don't have to be good, you just need to be likable." I totally understand how both those things are true, but it's not very inspired. Even Stanislavski's theory admits that every character will be a part of who you are, but that is a very different notion than simply playing a stereotyped, talentless charicature of yourself!

A great example that was given at the workshop was the late Heath Ledger; his characters were vastly different in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, because he was an ACTOR, not merely a TYPE. Other famous Method actors include Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Laurence Fishburne, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Johnny Depp, Stella Adler, Jennifer Connelly, Matt Damon, Christopher Walken, Naomi Watts...

There are many different acting theories. I like to think of them like religions; they're all pretty much founded in the same things, just with different ways of getting to the same desired result. I think it's good to be aware of all of them, but find what suites you best and study it to your fullest. For me, Stanislavski makes sense, because, again, he's pretty much the root of all the others and what I've already been loosely applying.

They told us upfront that the workshop was an audition! They also invited us to a monthly invite-only showcase of their company members tomorrow night. Yesterday I got a call from them saying they liked what I did at the workshop and hoped I'd consider joining the class. Did they call all twelve of us who attended the workshop Sunday afternoon? Probably.

I'm planning on going to the showcase to help make my final decision. The cost of their classes are reasonable and competitive, I just need to check around and see if I like the theory-based classes that are closer to my apartment.

If nothing else, the workshop lit a fire inside of me again about why I'm here! I know I have a lot of potential, but I'm still worlds away from being a really good actor. I could probably get by, playing small roles as the girl next door and hot chick, but that's not what I want. It's certianly not a great enough emotional and career pay-off considering I uprooted my life and that of the man who loves me.

Whether it's with this class, another, or on my own, I know I need to be doing much more than just casting director workshops. It doesn't matter what casting director sees me if I don't have the acting chops to deliver once they put me in front of producers and ultimately on a set!


Bonnie said...

Just something to note...

Heath Ledger played his primary TYPE for well over a decade in Australia and then the US *before* any producer would take a gamble on him being able to play roles OUTSIDE his primary type.

Absolutely, it's lovely that ALL of the actors you've listed (several of whom do NOT say that they are Method Actors, FWIW) have such range and are given the opportunity to express that range, role after role. BUT, each and every one of them started out taking advantage of his or her primary TYPE and taught the industry that there was very LOW RISK in casting them, because they were so very talented and capable in roles within their type category.

Only AFTER they became bankable did they get opportunities to truly show all the colors of their range as actors.

It's not that Hollywood WANTS to force actors to be boring or sell only one type. It's that there are SO MANY people pursuing acting in Los Angeles that the best shot you've got to EVER get cast is to be VERY GOOD at the ONE THING folks will want to see you doing (i.e., working within your primary type) and then be consistently good enough at THAT that you convince them to take risks and let you have access to the roles outside of your type range.

It's actually NOT a limiting thing, when you think about it. It's a SHORTCUT to getting on the radar of those who can hire you, again and again.

If we don't know what to expect when we see you audition, we won't call you in as much. If, on the other hand, you provide a really GREAT take on your primary TYPE every single time, we're going to cast you again and again (and THEN you can begin to stretch your range).


Just another take on it.

Bonnie Gillespie
Cricket Feet Casting

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my blog! (How did you come across it?) I know casting directors are extremely busy, so I really appreciate your insight.

As I wrote in my post, I do understand the necessity of typing and importance of likeability, but as an actor, sometimes it starts to feel like talent has nothing to do with it! I’ve never heard anyone put it as you did, that typing is actually a shortcut! That makes a great amount of sense and is a much more positive way to think about it. Thank you!

I still don’t want to become one of those people in Hollywood who has no ambition or talent beyond their obvious type; hopefully when casting and producers learn I am reliable, I will be ready with the acting chops to carry greater opportunities!

Thanks again, hopefully we’ll meet someday in person!


Bonnie said...

Ooh, let's see... came across your blog via an incredibly narcissistic Google Alert, I'm afraid. See, a couple of years ago, I earned an honorable mention in Back Stage West for Best Casting Director (woo!) and set up a Google Alert after that for the phrase "casting director" along with the word "best" showing up in the same place, to see where else that listing would get mentioned. :)

So, that's how the Google Alert started a couple of years ago.

I never changed it because, actually, I like to keep up with pretty much any mention of casting directors "out there" to see what my peers are up to. But there are far too many of those types of posts and articles or even press releases of what's casting where and when for me to have a Google Alert *just* for "casting director." So I decided I liked the limitation of the word "best" in the Google Alert, as it keeps the volume of my alerts down a bit AND sends me to sites where (hopefully) someone has said something about a "best" CD or at least has used the word "best" in the post... and maybe that's a positive person and I'm not wasting my time with a quick visit to a blog where someone is grousing for the 300th time about a bad workshop or an annoying assistant at a session or whatever. ;) I don't need to read that mess. Venting is a good thing, but I don't need to see all of it that's out there, y'know? ;)


What a long explanation!

The short answer is: Google Alert. ;)

As to how I had time to visit AND comment, well, I took the month of August off from casting to update my book, "Self-Management for Actors," which goes to the printer (for its 3rd edition) on Tuesday. Yay! So, I looked forward to "sanity breaks" during the editing process and visiting the sites that come up in the Google Alerts is a little more seductive than it would be when I'm most busy.

Also, I write a weekly column at Showfax.com (in fact, this issue is Monday's topic--So, thank you for the inspiration!) and therefore find it to be VERY important that I keep up with what actors are talking about and thinking about various issues they face. Rather than being a "typical" casting director in that respect, I HAVE to care an awful lot about what's important to actors (and what's on your minds, what you're talking about, what roadblocks you might be facing along your journey) because it's all potential material for my column.

Knowing what's relevant to actors helps me write for that audience better. ;) If I were *just* casting, I probably wouldn't do as much tracking (or interacting) with actors online.


Hope that makes sense. :) Your blog is interesting and I hope your journey as an LA-based actor continues to inspire and challenge and excite you. If you want to meet, I'm speaking at SAG (for an iActor.com event) on October 1st and will host the Cricket Feet Showcase on November 5th and 6th. Both events are free but require RSVP. After that, I'll be touring with the new book, so there will be a LOT of speaking engagements and book signings. :) Ah, travel!

Of course, check Actors Access for my breakdowns. Two meetings next week with producers on a total of three films to cast in the next 18 months, plus working up a bid for casting on another film for 2009. :) So, hopefully there will be some VERY good stuff coming through the breakdowns from me soon! All under $5M budgets, but all SAG feature films, so that's good! :) Festival-bound indies, as usual for me.

I'll post updates at http://twitter.com/bonniegillespie and the Cricket Feet website, if you're interested in tracking any of that.

Take good care!

Anonymous said...

Ah ha! I IMDBed you after your first comment and couldn't figure out why you looked so familiar- it's because I see you 10 times a day on the Actors Access homepage!

Like your comment here, your article was great.

I do understand what you mean about the unproductive nature of random rants... I should hope most blogging actors are smart enough not to name the casting director they're complaining about!

Good luck with the book tour and upcoming projects. I will definitely look up the events you mentioned and look you up, so you can put a face with the blog! :)