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So You Want To Be An Actor? Start Writing!

Acting is still the greatest profession in the world. What’s changed in recent years is the route that aspiring actors now need to follow to have the best shot at breaking into the business. Years ago, anyone wishing to be an actor followed the same, rigid path.

Step one: applying to a conservatory or earning a BFA in theater. After graduation, the hunt was on for an agent or manager to get you into auditions.The catch, of course, was that you couldn’t audition for a part in a Broadway show or movie without your Equity or SAG card, and you couldn’t get your Equity or SAG card unless you were in a Broadway show or a movie.

Step two: putting in the leg work. Every Thursday you bought your Backstage and circled all the auditions that could be right for you. Another must-have was something called the “Ross Reports”, a listing of every agent and manager in NYC and LA. The next couple of days you’d send out headshots and resumes, in the hopes an agent/manager would call you in and want to represent you. These were your chances of getting those high-caliber auditions you were dying for.

Along the way you learned to hate the word too. That’s because you were told almost daily that you were too ethnic, too heavy, too short, too tall, too plain, too similar to someone else or just too something. (Skinny might have been the only word in the English language never preceded by too.) You often left those meetings feeling defeated and deflated until your friends, parents, directors — anyone who believed in you — told you to get back out there and not to stop and not to listen to others’ opinions. You had to believe in yourself.

And then the game changed. Enter Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who decided to start writing their own material. Their efforts were nothing short of revolutionary when they wrote Superbad in high school. Suddenly, people we were not used to seeing on screen and who seemed to check all of the too boxes, were starring in our favorite movies. We were laughing, we were relating, and they were working. Suddenly out-of-work actors had another entry point into the business. No more sitting around waiting for someone to cast you. Instead of waiting for their big breaks, they got busy creating them.

Everyone has a story to tell. If you’re serious about getting into this business, it’s time to start telling yours.

Everyone has a story to tell. If you’re serious about getting into this business, it’s time to start telling yours. Get a writing partner if you are too scared to go it alone and start writing. Tell your stories, cast yourself in the parts. Nobody knows you like you know yourself.

So what’s the new route to stage and screen?

After you’ve written your story, put together the most talented group of kindred spirits you know and “go for it”. Do readings of your piece for family and friends and people in the industry. Get their feedback. Do rewrites. Put up a Crowdrise/Kickstarter page, and evite the world to more readings. Think big – and think ahead. Give your project a name with a legal agreement and ask for investors.

Make sure to make friends with everyone you know. Forge connections and cultivate relationships with people in your theater programs, high school shows, college programs, improv troupes and everywhere else you encounter the smart and talented. Maybe it’s one of your friends who writes something great. Make sure they put you in it.

Don’t wait for the jobs to come to you. Create the work for yourself. Study producing, directing, and take every class you possibly can so that you can create something wonderful that will showcase your talent. And it’s not just actors who are becoming proactive about their careers. Almost all directors and producers are also writing now, creating their own work. The business is now about writing and leveraging power to get a foot in the door and also land the projects that are perfect for you.

Don’t wait. Get started today. Sign up for some screenwriting classes. Take a YouTube class so you get to learn how speak on camera. Just get moving. Now is the time. Now is your time.

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Top 5 Things to Look for When Choosing a Theater Program

Looking to enroll in a theater program? The good news is you have hundreds of options. The bad news? Not all programs are the same — or even respected. Variations abound in terms of intensity, quality, professionalism, methodology and expertise.
So what’s an aspiring actor or supportive parent to do? The reality is that finding a program that’s “just right” requires some serious research. For starters, meet with instructors, sit in on a class, or see a production. Know if you’re looking for a program active in the “industry” or one that’s just for fun.
Sorry, but if you’re serious about performing, you can’t shortcut this process. But you can shortlist the search by only looking at theater programs that adhere to a list of standards and best practices.
Here are the five most important:

1) Multiple and Experienced Instructors.

Look for a community of teachers/directors who are passionate about their expertise. Start by browsing teacher bios on the program’s website. Do the teachers actually work there? Does the owner teach everything — or are multiple teachers on staff? If it’s the former, then what you are taught is professional credits.  going to be very limited. You will only learn the style of an individual teacher. Same everything.
It’s important for a program to be filled with a broad team of experienced teachers who can guide you through different areas of interest. How can you stand out among thousands of aspiring actors if everyone in your program has the same style? Select a program with many different types of teachers with different styles, who will highlight your skills and help you develop new ones.
2) Community.  

“There is nothing like a theater community”

Seek out a program that emphasizes Community. There is nothing like a theater community, which is fostered by the people who run the training program. If it’s done right, the people you meet in your theater community will be in your life forever. This community will cheer you on, hold you accountable, be truly happy for your success and will be there to pick you up when you fall.
This strong community of people are the ones down the road you will write and produce shows with, direct or cast you in something, even spend long nights talking about theater and singing songs with harmonies you learned 20 years ago. How can you find out about the program’s community? Speak to alumni or kids currently in the program. The true test: Make a random visit and go up to anyone and ask them to tell you about the community. Actors are honest.
3) Pre-Professional.

What’s the point of doing anything if you’re not going to give it your all? You want a program that is pre-professional, where the level of discipline prepares aspiring actors for professional auditions, as well as booking a job and how to work in a professional setting. Most programs that require an audition are pre-professional. The program most likely does not tolerate missing rehearsals, requires knowing your lines, harmonies, dance moves, blocking or where you stand in front of the camera, in advance. These programs encourage working outside of rehearsal time. A disciplined program is built for performers who want to enter the business professionally or are prepared to enter college conservatories. 
4) Just For The Fun Of It.

A more relaxed approach in a program is great, too. Not everyone wants to be a professional in the world of performing. There are people who just want a boost of self-confidence, or who love to be on stage, or just like it as a hobby, but don’t want a career in it. All of these reasons are important and valid. Make sure you look for that vibe in the program you pick. A student might just want to learn a dance and not worry about perfect technique, or might not care about meeting an agent. Enjoy being around kids who also love performing as a hobby. There is nothing wrong with doing something just for the enjoyment of it. This is equally important in finding the right program. 
5) Variety.

Acting, as covered in a previous blog, is now a multi-disciplined profession [J1]. You want to train at a theater program with a wide age-range and variety of instruction. That means multiple types of classes in dance, musical theater, acting, film, private coaching, workshops and more. You don’t want to have to run to 12 different programs to study each type of training. Keep it in-house so you can be in a place where teachers are talking about your training and giving input to each other about your progress. Know that your instructors are really investing in you.
Perfecting a variety of skills demonstrates passion and commitment — and, above all, directors and colleges want to see commitment. They like it when students stick with what they love. Loyalty, passion and commitment are qualities valued everywhere, so make sure you pick a program that will nurture your strengths but also give you the opportunity to try new things and improve your weaknesses.

A one-size-fits-all theater program does not exist. You need to find the best fit for you. Just make sure any program you settle on meets the above qualifications. If not, take a pass and move on to the next one.