Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Acting for a Living

Many, many people dream of being an actor.  They watch their favorite television shows and movies and see Hanks looking and acting so naturally.  Well, I can do that!  All I have to do is just be me!

Acting, when done right, looks incredibly easy.  But acting is an extremely difficult job, so it fools countless many into pursuing a professional path way outside the individuals natural giftings.  I can't tell you how many times I've had someone come up to me telling me they could really help me out-- they'd come in and save me and be an actor.  You know, now I have the missing puzzle piece!  Thank you!

One individual, who had never taken an acting class in his life, didn't understand why I had hired this seasoned LA actor (who's face you'd recognize).  He could do that!  I just smile and nod and mumble something like, you know how it goes... or thanks, maybe next time.

Now, for the person who determines they're going to make a living getting acting gigs, it's going to be a very tough road.  First, location does matter for this.  If you live in a small rural area, not close to any metropolitan locations, chances are, there's just not enough work.  Even for those that live in Dallas-Fort Worth, there's very few of the actors that are represented here, that actually do this full time.  Most have a day job that's flexible, allowing them to take off to go to auditions or be on the set.

Which brings me to another arena of acting-- the commercials and corporate world.  Landing a national commercial spot can make someone's year sometimes.  It can pay for a child's college education.  And Dallas is a good place to be.  Or New York, LA or Chicago.  After that, good luck.  Also, many actors make a living doing the corporate/industrial gigs.  These don't pay bunches like commercials, but they'll pay more than the low budget indie movie being shot by your buddy.  For this, you need to learn how to be a "spokesperson" (thinks news anchor for corporations).

This is a designation for someone who talks directly to camera, training or selling a company's product or service.  Recently I hired a couple of different local actors to work on a corporate film.  One was somebody I had used a lot back when I did corporate/commercials fulltime.  This guy's a real pro.  And he works a lot.  He showed up, had to basically read cold to prompter, but had very few gaffs or cuts.  He could just keep rolling.

Another one-- not so good.  He had problems saying the client's name.  He would throw in extra "a's" and "the's" and then later exclude them when needed.  We spent about three times as much time on him than the other guy.  I won't be calling this guy back for any spokes work.

If you want to make a living acting, look into commercials and spokesperson work.  Get training in these areas.  The first guy is known around town for having perfected the ear prompter (which we didn't use on this particular shoot).  I think that alone gets him some work.  Take a lesson from him-- get specialized training that gives you a little more edge when a client is looking over headshots and resumes.

Other training includes what a lot of news anchors do-- pronunciation practice, tongue twisters... all that stuff.  Practice, practice, practice.   If you have a regional dialect, there are exercises to eliminate those.  The second "spokes" we had in, had a problem with a few words-- you could tell he was from Texas.  This won't work for a national video.  I had to stop him and redo them.

There's more ways to earn a living acting than just being in movies or television.  So if you want to try this, get training and get experience!

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