Saturday, October 29, 2011

Create an Action Plan

Create an Action Plan
It can give you a fresh, strategic, proactive approach to building your career.
By Brad Lemack
November 18, 2010

No business stands a chance of long-term success without a strategic action plan. An action plan will keep you focused on achieving the results you seek and help you manage the distractions that will inevitably occur along the way. It will help you gain visibility and assemble the professional partnerships you will need for the long haul. A successful action plan requires commitment to a daily regimen that focuses on completing the tasks required to attain your goals. Here are some of the basic tasks that every action plan should include:

Self-Submission Services

At least three times a day, review and assess all the casting opportunities posted on the professional sites you use. If you determine that you are right for a role, submit yourself for it immediately.

Headshots and Resumes

Do your headshots still look like you? Are they representative of your current image and your brand? If not, get new ones.

Whenever you have a new item to add to any section of your résumé, do it right away. Remember, any change you make to your online résumé needs to be made to your hard-copy résumé as well, so that the résumé you take to auditions always has exactly the same information the casting director saw online.

Classes, Workshops, and Seminars

When you are not acting (or working to earn the funds to support yourself and your career), you must be in a class. Search out opportunities with your smart-actor filter in place as you evaluate various programs and teachers. You should be in a class at least once a week.

Personal Exposure

Seek out opportunities to build your career community. Research local industry-related events, including film festivals and conferences, where you can volunteer some time and take away potentially important information while making potentially important connections.

Create a 'Hit' List

Start with the people who cast the projects you would like to audition for, including casting directors for local theater companies. Add agents and managers who represent actors like you. As you meet new people, add them to your hit list. Also create a personal hit list: When something newsworthy happens for you in the business, let the community you call your own (family, friends, teachers, etc.) also know about it.

Professional Marketing

The best way to continually market your brand is through a dedicated business website. Its domain name should be your name followed by .com. Part of your brand is your name, and name awareness is a crucial component of building a career and a brand.

When you have something to announce, create a marketing mailing (hard copy and/or email) to promote the achievement. But take note: Never announce a casting assignment unless you have cleared the way to do so. Casting information is considered confidential for very specific reasons. Never publicly discuss anything that you have not first asked permission to reveal.

Monitor Your Brand

Through online services such as Google Alerts or Yahoo! Alerts, create a free alert to monitor your own name. Whenever your name is detected on a website, you will receive an email informing you that someone has posted something that may be about you. In a global marketplace, this is a great way to keep on top of news about you and your brand.

Fiscal Matters

Smartly invest in yourself and keep receipts for every business expense you incur. Those expenses can add up to a valuable tax deduction at the end of the year against any business-of-acting income you earned.

Is following an action plan easy? Of course not. But anything worth achieving requires commitment and dedication to both the process and the plan. Feeling satisfaction at small accomplishments all along your journey is essential to being able to tolerate the pockets of turbulence that inevitably occur. It is not just an end result but rather a continuous stream of opportunities that a smartly constructed action plan can deliver, as long as it is rooted in managed expectations along the way.

Brad Lemack established Lemack & Company, his talent management and public relations firm, in 1982, and he represents a wide variety of actors and artists. He is also a professor of performing arts and communication studies at the Emerson College Los Angeles Center. He is the author of "The Business of Acting: Learn the Skills You Need to Build the Career You Want" and the just-published "The New Business of Acting: How to Build a Career in a Changing Landscape." He writes a business-of-acting blog at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Superstitions Actors Observe

Superstitions Actors Observe

Actors tend to be extraordinarily superstitious. Perhaps it is because no one know what creates fame or how it endures. Bit players and stars alike are prone to the same rituals.

Actors can certainly be considered “birds of a different feather.” Here are some eccentricities that actors have been known to show on a regular and even a compulsive basis.

It is considered bad luck to wear yellow onstage during a performance. No one really knows where this one came from, however, it is true that the color yellow appears white when it is illuminated with stage lights with colored filters. This of course presents huge headaches for the costume department.

Whether by tradition of by fear, most actors will seldom refer to Shakespeare’s play MacBeth by it real name. It is usually referred to as “The Scottish Play” because of the unlucky history of flops and mishaps that are believed to be associated with a curse that plague productions of the play.

Tell an actor to “break a leg” instead of wishing them good luck before a performance. Since wishing someone luck is considered bad luck, wishing someone bad luck is in reality wishing them good luck. By telling someone to break a leg, while hoping they really don’t, is actually a blessing. Confusing isn’t it?

The expression “Merde” is often said to ward off bad luck. It is thought to bring good luck before a performance, and is often said after a mishap while dressing or before going onstage. Merde is actually an ancient expletive that was certainly not positive, but the logic in this one follows that behind “break a leg.”

It is never acceptable to whistle in the dressing room. Doing so is thought to ensure a bad performance. If it is done accidentally, they only way to counteract it is to run out of the dressing room, turn around three times and say “merde.”

If you are going to see a friend perform in a play, you are obligated by “stage etiquette” to visit them backstage afterward. You are also expected to tell them how much you liked their performance. Incidently, you are also expected to lie to them if you didn’t like their acting.

When an actor is backstage waiting to perform, it is considered bad luck to have someone look at them. There could be some merit to this, considering the fact that having someone stare is a sure way to be distracted from what someone needs to be thinking about.

Although actors are known to sneak a peak through a peephole in the curtain (most theatres have them), it is considered bad luck to be told who is in the audience. It makes actors nervous if they are told that friends, critics, or important people are there to watch their performance.

Rituals can also be comforting. Actor Jack Lemmon always spoke the same line before he went onstage or did a “take” in a film. He would always say “It’s magic time.”

Actors Having The Career of Their Desire

Actors Having The Career of Their Desire
October 16, 2011 at 8:08 am | Posted in acting, actors | Leave a comment
Tags: acting, actors, casting, how to become an actor, auditions, entertainment industry, acting tips

Photo Credit:
“You’re an actor? What might have I seen you in?”

When I was an actor I hated being asked that question by civilians. Because I knew that their short-sighted knowledge of ‘what it means to be an actor’ equaled a walk on the red carpet, encored by an acceptance speech, then followed by a month in rehab. My earlier career as a continually working actor included carpets in cast houses stained red by wine, accepting paltry payouts masquerading as salaries and a month rehabilitating my self-esteem after walking into an audition donning a cow costume. (Long story. Don’t ask. But I got the gig plus much additional employ as a result… but you’ll never get the embarrassing bovine details outta me. Never.)

Any, non-deluded, active participant in the arts whether actor, writer, director, designer or production member hopefully understands that their career is not about fame but the work. And that that employ will not be steady nor long-term.

But civilians who look to the fables of HBO’s Entourage and our industry’s other self-inflicted emasculation believe that for one to brand themselves as ‘actor’ that harpy of Hollywood, Broadway or the West End must be recognizable. In the civilian’s loopy logic an actor can not be an actor unless said actor is attached to notoriety. Odd how the civilian working the counters of McDonald’s or the register of a Walmart retreats from their own association with employment notoriety.

When I was a working actor encountering the “What might have I seen you in?” interrogation I often wanted to reply questioning the civilian, “Oh, so you’re a receptionist? For what Fortune 500 Company exec do you gopher coffee? What desk might I have seen you in?”

Civilians, and too often our families and non-arts friends, will never comprehend that working in entertainment does not necessarily produce a career of glossy exposés on TMZ or ferried limos to premieres and opening nights. Often career-in-the-arts pursuers are driving limos and working letters online to solve next month’s rent due.

Beyond my accepting that civilians have for far too long been brainwashed by those of us who’ve moved into the hot white glare of entertainment; writing, directing and acting in distorted mirror imagery falsely defining the majority of employ in the arts I’ll never get why civilians overlook the obvious– not every actor, writer or director can stand in the tiny celebrated circle of being number one. Just as in the civilian’s own tedious toil of whatever employ is theirs. Not every data entry operator will be heralded as the World’s Fastest Typist in the Guinness World Records.

Not every actor is going to be continually employed at their love’s art. Who would comb crumbs from our tables at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or pour our rum and cokes at Friday’s?

Not every actor is going to be a principal on screen or on Broadway. Odd how civilians (and a number of actors themselves) over look that stages and screens are filled with bodies that speak and engage the audience and those communicating corporeal forms are not always celebrities. There are journeyman actors like James Rebhorn and Phyllis Somerville (see Acting: Make It Your Business). Acclaimed industry actors not known by name in the rural reaches and sub-divisions of suburbia. But each artist has worked hundreds of major (and minor) screen and stage projects as principals. Are journeyman actors any less an actor because they’re not a household name in Des Moines?

As an artist you shouldn’t live to be the career that others project or desire upon you.

How do you define your career? Happiness? Sense of accomplishment? Earning money to meet basic needs? Or is career success defined as being recognized by many? If that latter definition is the prevailing opinion within your cranium, a premise held by many civilians, I would then counter argue to that limited measurement that our spinning ball of dirt and sea is over-run with failure. And I’d bet several truckloads of Tastykakes that a majority of the world’s populous would take umbrage at such an assessment. Do you consider yourself a failure because your stint in a play in New York or Naples, Florida wasn’t recognized by the populous of Hoboken or Houston? Is a doctor in Nappanee, Indiana any less a success to his/her patients because Chicago medical professionals never heard of the farmland doc?

Do not let others dictate definition of your career. Too many actors are guilty of limiting upon themselves the scope and definition of their success. And some actors not only wound themselves with doubt because they believe success as an actor is a walk on the red carpet but they foist the same delusions upon their peers as well.

I, as a director, casting director and author, encounter the civilian query… but mostly by actors in the form of, “What have you done lately?” My answer is almost always, “I’m keeping busy.”

A single credit in any one of my career pursuits does not globally define my success. I define my career as, “I’m doing what I want, must, and just as importantly engaging in work that keeps me from the grave.” If that answer for my career doesn’t meet the expectations of others… I’m not living for their desires I’m living for myself and those I love.

There is only person’s career expectations to which you’re bound: You.

Side Note: And finally; the final TV/Film/Thtr. Access to Agents of 2011 disappears soon. For this last go ’round I’ve invited two bi-coastal agencies and a third well-respected New York agency. Details on the four week career enhancing seminar are @ What do you want for your career?

My Best,

Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He writes a column for Back Stage and is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

50 Great Acting Quotes to Inspire You

Got these from We must find inspiration wherever we can!

1. Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
~ Sanford Meisner

2. An actor is a fool for God.
~ Gerardine Clark

3. Without wonder and insight, acting is just a business. With it, it becomes creation.
~ Bette Davis

4. The best acting is instinctive. It's not intellectual, it's not mechanical, it's instinctive.
~ Craig MacDonald

5. That's what makes acting so attractive. You get to break all your own rules.
Gerardine Clark

6. Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should all be bigger than life.
~ Bette Davis

7. Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
~ Rosalind Russell

8. Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.
~ Meryl Streep

9. Good acting -- real acting is impossible to spot. Do you ever catch talents like Robert Duvall or Kathy Bates acting? No. I defy you to show me where.
~ William Esper

10. Stop explaining yourself. Shut up and act!
~ Craig MacDonald

Practical Acting Quotes
Acting quotes to remember when you're working.

11. Find in yourself those human things which are universal.
~ Sanford Meisner

12. The more personal, the more universal.
~ Gary Ballinger

13. An actor has to burn inside with an outer ease.
~ Michael Chekhov

14. Use what you know. Don't worry about what you don't know.
~ Michael Shurtleff

15. The actor has to develop his body. The actor has to work on his voice. But the most important thing the actor has to work on is his mind.
~ Stella Adler

16. An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words.
~ Sanford Meisner

17. Conflict is what creates drama. The more conflict actors find, the more interesting the performance.
~ Michael Shurtleff

18. If you really do want to be an actor who can satisfy himself and his audience, you need to be vulnerable.
~ Jack Lemmon

19. Creating relationship is the heart of acting. It is basic. It is essential.
~ Michael Shurtleff

20. Listening is not merely hearing. Listening is reacting. Listening is being affected by what you hear. Listening is active.
~ Michael Shurtleff

21. Whatever you decide is your motivation in the scene, the opposite of that is also true and should be in it.
~ Michael Shurtleff

22. Humor [in a scene] is not jokes. It is that attitude toward being alive without which you would long ago have jumped off the 59th Street Bridge.
~ Michael Shurtleff

23. Every scene you will ever act begins in the middle, and it is up to you, the actor, to provide what comes before.
~ Michael Shurtleff

24. The first step to a better audition is to give up character and use yourself.
~ Michael Shurtleff

25. Competition [in a scene] is healthy. Competition is life. Yet most actors refuse to acknowledge this. They don't want to compete. They want to get along. And they are therefore not first-rate actors.
~ Michael Shurtleff

26. Honesty isn't enough for me. That becomes very boring. If you can convince people what you're doing is real and it's also bigger than life -- that's exciting.
~ Gene Hackman

27. Take nothing for granted. Make an emotional discovery as often as you can find one in every scene. Ask yourself: What is new?
~ Michael Shurtleff

28. There's only one reason why a character drinks: to seek confrontation. To fight for what they want in ways normally denied them.
~ Michael Shurtleff

29. My job is usually to express emotion as freely as possible.
~ Meryl Streep

30. I'm curious about other people. That's the essence of my acting. I'm interested in what it would be like to be you.
~ Meryl Streep

31. I think the most liberating thing I did early on was to free myself from any concern with my looks as they pertained to my work.
~ Meryl Streep

32. I believe in imagination. I did Kramer vs. Kramer before I had children. But the mother I would be was already inside me.
~ Meryl Streep

33. All an actor has is their blind faith that they are who they say they are today, in any scene.
~ Meryl Streep

34. The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part.
~ Miguel de Cervantes

35. Actors think more with their hearts than with their heads.
~ William Esper

Funny Acting Quotes
Acting quotes to make you laugh.

36. Show me a great actor and I'll show you a lousy husband. Show me a great actress, and you've seen the devil.
~ W. C. Fields

37. Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
~ George Burns

38. The theater has never been any good since the actors became gentlemen.
~ W.H. Auden

39. Actors die so loud.
~ Henry Miller

40. I love acting. It is so much more real than life.
~ Oscar Wilde

41. If I wasn't an actor, I'd be a secret agent.
~ Thornton Wilder

Even More Acting Quotes
42. The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.
~ Stella Adler

43. I'm a skilled professional actor. Whether or not I've any talent is beside the point.
~ Michael Caine

44. Acting in theatre or television or screen is only for the irrecoverably diseased, those so smitten with the need that there is no choice.
~ Michael Shurtleff

45. Why, except as a means of livelihood, a man should desire to act on the stage when he has the whole world to act in, is not clear to me.
~ George Bernard Shaw

46. There's nothing more boring than unintelligent actors, because all they have to talk about is themselves and acting. There have to be other things.
~ Tim Robbins

47. Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.
~ Stella Adler

48. I think your self emerges more clearly over time.
~ Meryl Streep

49. I need to go where people are serious about acting.
~ Meryl Streep

50. The work will stand, no matter what.
~ Meryl Streep

This spoke to me

I read this on A.C.T.'s blog and had to copy it cause it rang true to me. Enjoy!

Notes on the Craft: An Excerpt from Marco Barricelli’s 2011 A.C.T. M.F.A. Program Commencement Address
Posted by Marco Barricelli, Artistic Director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz and former A.C.T. Core Company member

I am not saying I am or ever was a great actor, but this is what I now know after 30 years of doing this:

Acting, great acting, allows feelings of vulnerability to inform everything you will do onstage. I hereby require you, as actors, to not cover up or deny those feelings when you work—they are grist for the mill of your craft. And, certainly in terms of the craft of acting, this makes perfect sense because if you try to act starting from a place of “cover” and “denial” of what you really are in that moment, you will be starting from someplace false and then pretending to be something else—which is also, ultimately, not real. If you start from someplace real, what is then produced will have its foundation in honesty and truth. As actors, tell the truth. You can only be you, so be truthful about yourself. Stanislavsky said: “The person you are is a thousand times more interesting than the best actor you could ever hope to be.”

Stay humble: Always search for what to respect in those you work with. When I audition actors, I check on their resume for theaters that have had the actor back for more than one production. This usually means the actor is respectful of others when he/she is working. In the spirit of that, I would argue that we actors are “interpreters,” most of the time, not “creators.” Interpreters. We interpret the words of the playwright, the notes of a director, the reaction of an audience, etc. I say this to urge you to retain some humility, remembering where an actor’s place is in the grand scheme of creating a production. Yes, it is ultimately an exalted place because it is the most direct connection for the audience to the material, but it is still, to my mind, an interpretative role. Remember, yours is only one cog in the complicated wheel that makes a production—an “interpretive” cog. However, as Oscar Wilde said: “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

Keep training: How we “practice” our discipline is, truth be told, very different from the practicing of other art forms. Actors, unlike writers, painters, dancers, singers, and musicians, cannot and do not lock themselves away in a room alone and “act” . . . as these other artists can when they write, or do scales, or barre work at a mirror, or paint. We “practice” in everyday life. We are collaborators. We are “armchair” psychologists. We observe and analyze ourselves and other people in everyday activity, in extreme emotion and in repose. We work at play . . . we do “plays,” after all; our task is to have fun, to free ourselves, to let our instincts have full reign . . . never to judge. Never, ever to judge—neither ourselves nor the characters nor the people we’re working with. Does that sound easy? It’s not. It takes a very special and controlled kind of concentration. And a disciplined concentration is difficult to master. The discipline to free oneself physically and intellectually, and to “live” in the moment spontaneously, is an enormous challenge. As you all know.

Career. What can I possibly tell you about a career? How to be successful? No. As I say, success means different things to different people at different times. No one can tell you how to be successful. Your measure of success will ebb and flow, that you can be sure of—there’ll be times when everything will seem to be going great and other times when everything seems to be disastrous. Be nice to everyone because you never know who will eventually end up in a position to hire you. But more precisely, it’s as important to be a good citizen as it is to be a good actor.

As I said, your definition of success or a career will change as you grow in this business. Speaking for myself, by the time I started to understand why I tortured myself every time I worked on a role, it was too late. That torture had diminished my appetite for acting exclusively as a career and I began longing for something more consistent and permanent which would keep me entrenched in the theater but not require the endless banging away at the same show eight times a week, over and over again, for the rest—of—my—life. And so now I find myself here, 30 years on, having acted some great roles, succeeding in some—failing in others—some shows I would consider outstanding productions—others were turds. Now, as AD, my challenges are different and, thankfully, more rewarding to me. I have to say that with all the curtain calls and (deserved or not) standing ovations and big laughs and muffled sobbing I’ve experienced when acting, there is NOTHING more rewarding than what has now become my favorite part of doing theater: standing in the back of a full house, watching an audience watch a play I’ve produced, and realizing that they’re having this very singular experience because I’ve brought this story and these particular artists to them—and they will remember this experience for the rest of their lives. I still, for example, consider my greatest legacy at A.C.T. to be, not the roles I’ve done, but the creation of the exchange I developed with Prima del Teatro, San Miniato, in Italy. I am certain that each student who goes there will remember that experience for the rest of his or her creative life. There is now, at this point in my career, no greater joy than things like that. And this reward has a quiet sweetness that feels better to me than the big Broadway shows, the jobs on the big and small screens, and (almost) better than making a ton of money (but not really)!

The best advice I think I can give you regarding building a career is to just show up. Whatever the occasion, just show up. But what you show up with now, thanks to this training program, is a vocabulary, a recognition of your own integrity, a burgeoning understanding of your own aesthetic, and a basic skill set which will be informed and honed by the hard knocks and great joys of real life. Life, real life, will take over, like it or not. And Melissa and the wonderful faculty at A.C.T. have given you a technique and craft that will allow those great highs and lows of life to inform your work, thereby making your acting more human and, by extension, more relevant. Allowing you to tell the truth.


• You can’t please everyone.
• Don’t expect praise and especially don’t believe anything anyone tells you in your dressing room right after a performance.
• How you start a play is more important than how you finish, because it is then that an audience makes up its mind about you.
• Don’t try to impress people.
• Never explain, simply reveal.
• You can’t worry and think. So do your homework and show up enormously prepared—that way you don’t have to “worry” about not having done it while you’re trying to work.
• The first duty of an actor is to be heard.
• Vowels travel easily, consonants don’t. Vowels carry the heart, consonants the intellect.
• Do your homework; as I said, show up exceptionally well prepared; then, as you start your scene, let it all go and simply open the door and see what happens.
• Always show up every day in a good mood.

“Do not try to push your way through to the front ranks of your profession; do not run after distinctions and rewards; but do your utmost to find an entry into the world of beauty.”
—Konstantin Stanislavisky