How to Be an Actor... Anxiety Free?
Not too long ago, I directed an interesting scene for an actor's demo reel (www.actorscreenershoot.com).
The actor (let's call her Samantha) was wanting to do a fight scene to show off her martial arts skills.
I had done a branding session with her where we discovered that a large part of her brand was someone who cares and supports others.
So we wrote out a simple script – the idea being that her and a friend would be preparing for a martial arts tournament.
The friend would get knocked down during a sparring match and start feeling really down on herself, like she'd never succeed. Samantha would then try to console the friend and encourage her to get back up and keep trying.
As the date for the shoot approached, I started to worry that the weather was not going to be good for an outdoor shoot, and we didn't have an indoor location big enough for what we were wanting to do.
Suddenly, I had a crazy idea.
What if I could find a cool martial arts dojo to shoot the scene in?
Normally, I'd stress out about this a ton – especially since we only had three days before the shoot was scheduled to take place.
This would be my thought process:
I'd then have anxiety the entire time leading up to the shoot.
Do you ever feel like that?
Does your mind suddenly start to spin out of control – especially if you have an important, potentially life-changing audition or meeting coming up?
Negative thoughts like those used to rule my life, especially when unexpected problems came up.
But not this time.
I took a moment, thought about the situation, and then reached out to a location scout I knew.
"Hey, how much would it cost to find a dojo to shoot a scene in?"
She emailed back saying she'd look into it.
A few hours later, I received a $250 bill from her, and she said she'd confirmed a dojo for the scene.
No!!! What the hell? I didn't want to confirm a place, I ONLY wanted to find out how much it would cost! That's WAY over budget!!!
But before I sent an angry email, I calmed myself down.
I then thought, Eh, what the heck. Let's just do this and make it the best shoot ever! And then I'll know of a dojo to use for future shoots!
I paid the $250 and we shot the scene.
so how was I able to control my anxiety and stress so well? Why did my anger evaporate so quickly?
Well, the answer is what I want to talk to you about today – something called The Tripod of Stability.
I learned about this from a mentor of mine named Ramit Sethi, a genius personal finance expert.
The Tripod of Stability refers to having stability in the three most important areas of your life – your finances, your emotions, and your health.
It's almost impossible to become successful in life without first being stable in those three areas (unless you're extremely lucky, which is very rare).
The reason I was so quickly able to get over that $250 surprise charge was because for the past year, I've been working hard to ensure my Tripod of Stability is strong.
I've been reading books on emotional control and psychology, I've been learning about personal finance and saving money when I can, and I've started going to the gym (I'm also trying to eat healthier - but not successful there yet!).
Just think about it – if I was not emotionally stable, I might freak out about that kind of thing. And if I was very sick, I'd have no energy or strength to handle it. And if I had no money saved up, I could be in trouble!
Once you've built a strong Tripod of Stability, you can go after your acting dreams as much as you want without feeling nearly the same level of anxiety and stress most actors deal with each day.
And guess what happens when your Tripod of Stability is strong?
You audition better. You make better first impressions. And your book more jobs than you ever have.
So now I want to ask you:
Which area of your Tripod of Stability do you feel needs the most work? Your finances? Your health? Or your emotions?
For me, I know I need to work on my health. If I don't change certain habits soon, I might have some serious problems that could impact my work a lot (and seriously hurt the other areas of my Tripod of Stability)
What about you? Please write a comment, I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
Brand Yourself to Get Consistent Work
If you’re thinking about getting headshots done, I thought it might be helpful to send you some information on the importance of a headshot within the context of personal branding as an actor.
Did you know?
But what if you took this information and instead of letting it discourage you, used it to your advantage?
Well let’s take a moment to discuss your brand, since it’s one of the key factors that contributes to failed acting careers.
First, check out this audio clip - Brand Yourself & Find Your Type. It’s included in our Get Cast online marketing course for actors (believe it or not I used to teach these classes live at NYU, Actor’s Green Room, and Actor’s Connection - but it took so much time that I had to eventually turn it into an online course).
Be sure to take a look at this branding tool we use for headshot shoots. Combined with the audio segment above, it should help you uncover your brand which will virtually guarantee you start getting more consistent work if you begin trying out for those types of auditions.
But here is the thing you MUST know:
The more you want to play EVERY character, the more you’ll find yourself playing NO characters. Even if you’re just starting out!
Think about it this way: the more you get casting directors to think, “This actor is perfect for this part,” the more parts you’ll start to get. But if you're too generalized, you won't be perfect for ANY parts, and so very few people will hire you.
Hone in on one particular character type and once you're able to dominate that specific role and you’re working consistently, you can start to widen your range and target your marketing onto a second brand if you want to.
Think about some mega-famous actors like Hugh Jackman or Ryan Reynolds. They both started by playing very specific roles, and then slowly expanded to other brands. Jackman started out in action films, and now plays a wide variety of roles in both film and theater. Reynolds started his career in rom-coms, and now is a major action star.
What is your brand? What characters do you want to play? What does that character look like? Take this knowledge into your headshot session!
Knowing this, what images come to mind? Think about the following marketing tools you have (or should have soon):
Take five minutes and write down all the actions you can think of to make each of the marketing tools above effectively tell your brand story. And if you don’t already have one of the marketing items above created, your action item is clear - create it!
How to Know if Your Self-Tape is Good Enough
Back in my early twenties, I remember getting OBSESSED with working out.
My number one goal was to get abs.
I started Googling. And Googling. And then Googling some more.
I learned about low carb diets. Keto diets. IIFYM. Paleo. Vegan...
I came across sites like Six Pack Shortcuts, Athlean X, and others.
I tried out ALL the plans.
I did all kinds of fancy rep schemes, intermittent fasting, and more.
And after all that hard work and months of my time, can you guess what my results were?
I still looked almost exactly the same as when I started (except maybe my hair was thinner from all the stress).
It wasn't until years later when I finally grasped a simple concept that I was able to completely change my physique and I actually got a six-pack.
Want to know the single factor that made the biggest difference for me?
Watch the short video below where I explain it:
The reason I always failed to get in shape was because I kept looking for shortcuts, or shiny objects.
I often get questions about what would make the biggest difference in your acting career right now.
some common answers include updating headshots and reel, finding an agent or manager, or taking audition technique classes.
But these are all Shiny Objects, and although they're important, there is a logical progression and order in which they should be done.
Just like with my fitness journey, jumping from one thing to the next with no long-term plan is what keeps most driven people stuck.
If you're reading this, it means that you, like me, are driven and hardworking. You're goal oriented.
But being the most focused and driven person around also means your susceptible to trying to do everything and anything you can to reach your goals.
It can't hurt, right?
Well, thinking "it can't hurt" means you've got Shiny Object Syndrome, and it's your #1 enemy.
Shiny Object Syndrome is defined as the desire to jump from one thing to the next, believing that, "If I only had that, life would be good."
But once you get that thing and nothing changes, you realize you need something else. This cycle continues forever as we keep seeing the next shiny object to pursue.
If you think you might have Shiny Object Syndrome, the best way to start changing is to understand the difference between Tactics and Strategy:
Think of a tactic as an ingredient, and a strategy as a recipe to make a great meal. You don’t want to bake a cake by randomly putting a pile of chocolate, flour, and egg onto a baking sheet and sliding it into the oven, right?
I had Shiny Object Syndrome big time during that crazy workout phase of my life. Rather than slowing down and spending time up front to develop a clear strategy, I simply dove in and tried to do as many different tactics as I could, hoping for the best. I never stuck with one plan for more than a few weeks at a time.
And months later, my physique hardly changed at all.
If industry "experts" tell you things like, “You need to update your reel,” or "You need better training," and you just follow their advice without first asking whether you’re ready for it and if it’s the actual best move, it means you’re focused on Tactics.
Are you an Actor? Or a Re-Actor?
Most people won’t talk about Strategy because it’s not fun or exciting. Strategy is about thinking, and thinking can be boring. It feels like you’re not actually accomplishing anything!
It’s way more interesting to learn On-Camera Scene Study or The Top 5 Ways to Land an Agent.
The most important thing I've discovered over the last ten years of working with actors. It's simple, clear strategy I follow over and over again with the actors I coach to help them significantly increase the number of roles they're booking.
But for now, please write a comment with your answer to this extremely important Strategic question:
What is it that you MOST want in your acting career? What would be your dream role?
That's the most important question to ask because it will form the basis for everything you'll do.
November 02nd, 2020How to Come Up with a Scene Idea for Your BrandHow to Come Up with a Scene Idea for Your BrandHow to Come Up with a Scene Idea for Your Brand
How to Come Up with a Scene Idea for Your Brand
Some time ago I sent out a survey to all the actors on my mailing list asking them about their experience with their demo reel.
I got back a ton of responses, but you know what one of the biggest challenges was?
"I have footage, but I don't think any of the scenes work for my brand."
And this makes a lot of sense given that the number one reason actors decide to shoot footage with us is because the last time they shot, whoever they worked with tried to push them into doing a scene that didn't work for the jobs they were looking for.
What happens if you love comedy or want to do an action scene and the reel production company pushes you to do a procedural scene?
And how do you know what kind of scene will work best for you anyway?
Well, today I'd like to present you with a very simple process you can use to instantly come up with a great scene idea that works for your brand and goals:
How to Come Up with a Scene Idea
Watch my branding video to figure out your Type, Pride Words, and Dark Word. Here's the video:
(BTW I apologize that I look like a crazy person in the screenshot.)
Think about what your goals are for your acting career. What kind of productions would you like to be cast in? Come up with about 3-4 shows you'd LOVE to be in.
Once you figure out those shows, use Google Image Search to see what kinds of pictures show up. Type in "SHOWNAME" and then the word "scene." Like "Law and Order scene" (don't include the quotes).
This will give you an idea of scenes in the show and will help you come up with scene ideas you can do (along with a general aesthetic for how your scene should look).
Example: If you wanted to be in Supernatural (which sadly has come to an end – I loved that show), you should type "Supernatural scene" and do a Google Image Search. You'll see images with Dean and Sam leaning up against a car talking, or driving in a car at night, or questioning someone in a house or office.
As you look through the images that show up, write down 3-4 ideas of scene ideas you'd consider doing. Don't worry about what the scene will be about yet – just think about how it should look and in what setting it could be.
Now it's time to take your Pride Words, Type, and Dark Word and work them into the scene. Let's say your Pride Words are "Strong, Compassionate, and Intelligent." And let's say your Type is "cop" and your Dark Word is "belligerent."
Looking at your general scene ideas, let's pretend you want to do a scene where you're leaning up against a car with another actor. Perhaps the actor can play your brother or best friend.
Now think of how you can work everything into the scene:
Maybe you're playing an off-duty cop leaning up against a police car, talking to his brother about being unable to save someone, feeling guilty about what happened (the person died). And maybe your brother is trying to convince you it's not your fault, and then you get a bit angry in the scene.
That will capture your brand perfectly: A cop who is strong, compassionate, and intelligent. But one who can get belligerent (angry) at times.
So as a recap, Step 1 is to figure out your brand, Step 2 is to figure out what kind of scenes would work for you based on your goals, and Step 3 is to work your brand words into the scene to help you come up with a story arc and logline for the scene.
Obviously you'll have to then write and shoot it, but if I explained how to do all that in this blog, it would probably be WAY too long!
It's extremely important to shoot scenes that capture your brand because the saying that "any footage is better than no footage" is not true.
You need footage that shows casting directors who YOU are and what makes you unique.
If you decide to work with us for a Screener Shoot, we will guide you through this process step by step, and then we'll custom write a script, find actors, shoot, and edit it.
Here's your homework:
Using the process above, come up with one scene idea and leave it in the comments below. I'd love to hear both your Brand and the scene idea you come up with!
The Classic Catch 22 of an Actor's Career
I was recently doing a consultation with an actor and we were discussing a few key factors that could be holding her career back, including her headshot, training, and experience.
The conversation quickly turned to her reel and resume.
"I have my training listed on my resume, but how do I make my resume more full? I'm worried casting directors won't take me seriously because my resume is so short and I don't have a reel yet."
Have you ever wondered that?
It's like a photographer who needs a portfolio of work to be able to get any clients. Clients won't want to hire you if they don't know what your work looks like... so how do you build a portfolio?
Shoot for free.
But when it comes to actors, you can go act in student films for free, but what if the director never sends you your footage? Or what if you finally get the footage and it's terrible quality?
Well, that's the classic Actor's Catch 22: How do you get called in for good roles without a reel? And how do you get a good reel if you can't even get called in for good roles?
Well, there are definitely a few solutions, but I want to get your take first:
Pretend you have ZERO footage for your reel:
What are at least 2 things you could do to increase your chances of getting called in for a paid acting job without a reel?
Leave a comment below!
Oh – and if you want some ideas, you'll want to watch this video. Don't watch the video before leaving your comment, That's cheating!
A Unique Way to Find Your Brand