Casting director Katie Taylor joined us for our February 2017 seminar, where she shared a lot of great information with us. Let’s see some of the things she had to say.
1. If You’re Getting Avails, You’re Doing It Right
Success can be hard to measure when you’re an actor, especially if you don’t seem to be booking anything. Getting avail after avail without getting that coveted booking can be frustrating as an actor, but just remember that if you are getting an avails, you are succeeding! It may not seem like it after getting released from your 3rd avail in a row, but if you are getting to that point, it means you are doing something right. So just keep doing what you’re doing, and those bookings will not be far behind.
Get Out is one of the eeriest, funniest, and most socially relevant horror film to come out in decades. The film, which is the directorial debut from Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame), tackles racism—specifically racism from rich, liberal-leaning white people—in a fresh and powerful way. Daniel Kaluuya is excellent as Chris, a black man going home to his white girlfriend’s house to meet her parents for the first time. The rest of the cast is pitch-perfect, with Allison Williams as Chris’ girlfriend Rose, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as her parents, and Lil Rel Howery providing much of the comic relief throughout the film as Chris’ friend Rod. If you enjoy horror films that make you think, then Get Out is for you.
The film begins as a young black man (played by Lakeith Stanfield from TV’s Atlanta) walks through an affluent neighborhood while talking on his cell phone. After he hangs up, a creepy car slowly drives by, playing a foreboding 1930’s tune “Run Rabbit Run.” Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the song chosen for the scene is an appropriate one. After this opening, we meet Chris (played by the previously mentioned Kaluuya, who is probably best known for playing Bing in a terrific Season 1 episode of Black Mirror), a talented photographer living a comfortable existence in a nice loft apartment in the city. Soon, his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, best known for her work on HBO’s Girls) shows up, and they pack for a weekend getaway to Rose’s parents’ house. Chris is getting progressively more worried about their trip, however, especially when Rose reveals that she has not let her parents know that Chris is black. She reassures him by letting him know that her father “would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could have.”
I find it funny to say that I’ve considered writing about the subject of actor gifts to industry professionals and have decided against it several times. Why? Because it’s controversial, I guess. There are two camps: believers in gift giving to industry pros, and those who are firmly against. The “against gift folks” believe we, industry pros, need you and your talent. When you are booked on a job, your being fantastic on set is your gift to us. We should, perhaps, send a thank you gift to you. t’s one way to look at it, and I respect the viewpoint, but not always the way in which it’s delivered (see kindness blog last month). If you are a no gift giving advocate, you are off the CASN reading hook for the month; I don’t want to attempt to change your mind. If you are interested or a believer in giving gifts, and want to do it well, this column is for you . . .
Commercial actors should never give industry gifts in a less than effective way.
QUESTION: How can you tell if your kid really wants to act or is just going through a phase?
ACTOR: That’s a question I hear from parents all the time, so I spoke with my dear friend, acting coach, speaker, and acclaimed actor, Mike Kimmel, to get some insight into child actors and their childhood dreams. Mike is the author of two scene books geared toward younger actors, Scenes for Teens and Acting Scenes for Kids and Tweens.
Karen Ann Pavlick: Congrats on releasing your second scene book. What made you want to write the first book, Scenes for Teens?
MIKE KIMMEL: I decided to write a scene book for teens when I couldn’t find anything out there I liked. The scenes were either too short, so I would have to add on, or they were filled with bad language. Parents are able to work with their child without covering words up or explaining things they don’t want to explain at this time. I think that has contributed to its success.
For every part you audition for, you have to make choices to give personality to the character. It is a known fact that you can’t be “neutral” and give a good audition.
There are all kinds of conundrums associated with what choice to make. “Am I being too big, too small, too this or too that?” Bottom line is you have to make an intelligent choice in the venue you are working on, based on all your education and training. In commercials, there are many hints you can find in the copy regarding each character. In my Acting in Commercials workshops, I particularly teach how to apply backstories to your discoveries. Some information comes from the copy itself revealing the attitude of the character and relationships, some of which are obvious and some are not.
The big trap is the spokesperson copy.
We’ve each gotta do what we’ve gotta do to get the bills paid. If we’re really lucky, we’re getting paid to do the thing we want to do the most, i.e., “acting for dollars,” as my friend O-Lan dubs it.
But there are inevitable stretches where life can start to feel like one of two very dangerous things.
The first is a fairly common phenomenon for most of us at some point in our acting careers, especially the beginning point: that head-down, nose-to-the-grindstone, bring-home-the-bacon (or appropriate vegan substitute) time. You know—the months (or years) when it feels like we’re scrambling to make rent, pay the utilities, and keep ourselves in current headshots. During these times, it’s extremely helpful to have what friends in the recovery world call a “B” job: some non-taxing, reasonably well-paying job that covers our monthly expenses and leaves some time and resources left over to pursue The Vision, a.k.a. the for-now dream of becoming a professional actor.
Are you aware of how invested you are in getting people to like you? It’s astonishing, the lengths that some will go in order to be liked and accepted by others. In fact, some people carefully monitor their behavior to avoid negative judgment altogether. This is especially true for those unfortunate enough to have grown up in a household where family members continually pointed out what they were doing wrong. An unhealthy environment can lead to deep feelings of inadequacy. It can also make people lean towards becoming perfectionists and people pleasers.
If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to stop putting all your energy in trying to please others and redirect it towards pleasing yourself. The truth is that it’s impossible to be liked and accepted by everyone. Not everyone is going to fall in love with you, no matter how hard you try; just accept that fact. Humans are by nature judgmental; that’s just the way the mind works. You don’t have to trap yourself in a self-made prison of people pleasing. Instead, learn ways to free yourself. Here are four ways to let go of fear.
Jane Kaczmarek and Alfred Molina in ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’ at the Geffen Playhouse
When was this written? Who wrote this? Okay, I admit, I didn’t ask the second question because the sole reason I went to see Long Day’s Journey Into Night was because it was written by Eugene O’Neill, thought to be the greatest American playwright (or certainly one of them) of all time, and this, his greatest play. And it’s on stage, people. Remember reading it in theatre school? Yeah, I don’t either. So this rare opportunity is yours—not only if you reside in the City of Angels, but if you live anywhere in the country; BroadwayHD will be streaming it live on March 11th at 7pm PST/10pm EST, with the broadcast then available on-demand through March 21st—if you have a subscription, of course. And this will the streaming site’s first broadcast from the Geffen Playhouse! But let’s go back to the first question. I did actually wonder to myself when this humdinger of a play was written, for two reasons: it’s really long and it’s really current. Current? Read on . . .
Where did I put my keys? Has anyone seen my script? Crap, what’s that girls name? She was in my improv class last year. I wish I had someone with me to introduce to ask her name.
Having a slight lapse in memory is one thing, but forgetting lines that your job relies on is another. The quicker a performer can commit their scene to memory, the better. Keeping our brains quick and sharp is a beneficial tool for acting, and life in general.
There are foods that feed our brains, and others that have the killer combo of taking a parting gift of brain cells and leaving the unwanted gift of fat cells. So what the heck are these foods? Let’s start with the ones that don’t belong on set: refined sugars, white bleached flours, fried foods, artificial sugars, artificial colors, hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, and heavily processed meats. Research shows that saturated fat impairs concentration and increases the risk of dementia. Additionally, a high stress environment, negative emotions, and lack of sleep eats away at our memory too. Take a deep breath with me right now and hit the hay early tonight. And not with your scene partner!
I Am Not Your Negro
I Am Not Your Negro is one of the most important films of the decade thus far. Based on author and social critic James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House, and directed by filmmaker Raoul Peck, the documentary discusses what it means to be black in America, from slavery to the Civil Rights Era to present day. Samuel L. Jackson gives an impassioned narration, bringing life to Baldwin’s words in only the way Samuel L. Jackson could. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, this powerful film is a must-see.
Baldwin’s book Remember This House, which he was still working on when he died, makes up much of the film. The book is written from the perspective of three black Civil Rights leaders, all of whom were close friends of James Baldwin, and all of whom were murdered in the 1960s. These men are Medgar Evers, who was killed in June of 1963; Malcolm X, who was killed in February of 1965; and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was killed in April of 1968. Throughout the film, Baldwin’s words are used to help us reach a better understanding of who these men were, beyond the characterizations that modern society has come to know. For example, we know that Malcolm X and Dr. King had competing philosophies throughout their lives, but when each of them died, they both saw and understood the world rather similarly.