When I was in the 4th grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Dyson. No she didn’t make vacuum cleaners. But she did make me crazy. She used to say one phrase over and over. I’d go to her desk with a math problem and she’d inevitability ask, “How do you eat an elephant?” and I’d have to answer, “One bite at a time” before she’d break it down into tiny pieces and walk me though the first step. It was a cadence that we had to say all the time. I used to hate that. Can’t you just help me without making me repeat your stupid sayings?
When starting out I think every artist should have three jobs. Sounds stressful right? Well it is, but it’s a worthwhile process.
Here are the three jobs I’m talking about:
- Your full time job. This is a job you don’t necessarily want, but it pays well. This is a job that you have to force yourself to enjoy. This is the job that bank rolls your dreams.
- Your skill set job. This is where you start your own business. This is something that you’re good at and you enjoy. It’s a job about creating something. Photographs, making crafts, any hobby that you like doing. This is not necessarily your dream job, but it’s a flexible job that pays well and you like doing it.
- Your dream job. You don’t get paid for this. In fact, you often have to pay for it. You have to make it happen. This is a job that you would do for free and you likely already are.
I’ve never been good at remembering things. I tend to let things go easily. Mostly, this is the worst when I’m texting. I have this terrible tendency to be busy, see a text from someone and think to myself. “I’ll respond the second I’m not busy.” Then I forget forever and people end up thinking that I’m a jerk.
Upon noticing that this is a common thread in my life, I decided to do something about it. I started writing things down when I needed to remember them. Not texts of course, I still clearly forgot those, but other tasks and things that I remember are important. This is an example how my list started:
21 Reasons you shouldn’t get a job if you’re an actor
- You love the taste of Ramen.
- You think welfare was made specifically to support actors.
- You use food stamps to buy protein bars.
- You think dental care is way overrated.
- Instead of going to bars, you’ve gotten really good at making your own moonshine.
- You can go to the bank and get all the free suckers you want.
- You only keep friends that wear your exact size in order to get their hand-me-downs.
- You think hot water is a luxury for lawyers and senators.
- Your parents send you gift packages with food that you can stretch out for a month.
- You love going “out to lunch” (AKA getting free samples from Costco).
- You find that living out of your car eliminates the need for roommates.
- You’re a professional at going to buffets and lining your packets with used zip lock bags.
- You’re version of steak is a “good can of tuna.” You know, the one with the white meat?
- You think having a bed is a sign of weakness. The floor makes your back straighter.
- You know your neighbor’s password for everything is “Password.” Free Wifi!
- You don’t need running water because you’ve mastered the art of cleaning your body with a wet wipe in a restroom.
- Due to the hipster movement, your glasses from the 5th grade are now stylish enough to wear again. No need in buying new ones that actually help you see.
- Your idea of a good first date is taking a girl to the Wal-Mart Aquarium (AKA the pet section to look at the fish).
- You call the hole in your ceiling from that falling tree your “sun roof.”
- You’ve named all your pet cock roaches.
- You enjoy checking your own prostate, medicating yourself with home remedies you find online, and finding medical students on Craigslist who need “practice” when your appendix explodes.
As much as I say that I’m an extrovert, I have introverted tendencies. A lot actually. If I had a choice between going out after a long day of work to hang out with friends, or just sitting at home in front of a TV with some snacks, I’ll always chose the snacks. Why? Because I love salty snacks and stories. It’s nice to get carried away in someone else’s problems for once.
The problem with my introversion is that I don’t make connections while sitting on my couch. My TV isn’t going to get me a job contrary to those online college commercials.
If I want to succeed in life, I need other people. Plain and simple. Though, how do you go out if you don’t want to? Should I just force myself?
Nah, just make it simple on yourself. Start small. What do you like doing? What are your hobbies? If you go online, you can find a multitude of groups to join. If you like watching football, why not play football? There are several flag football leagues in LA. If you like reading, why not find a book club?
The point is, you don’t have to be going to creepy industry parties at 2am where someone is doing drugs in the corner to make connections. Most of the connections that you’ll need to find a job are going to randomly show up, like at your son’s soccer matches. When I worked for Alexander Payne he told me that he found a girl for a role he was looking for because he heard some woman complaining about a neighbor. How random is that?
Life doesn’t need to be as hard or as complicated as you’ve made it in your mind. You can make connections easily by doing what you love. You can’t make connections by never leaving the house.
That and you’ll be super lonely. Trust me. Lonely people eat a lot of cheese puffs.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mskathryn/4869311983/”>mskathryn</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
“Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile goals.” – Dan Miller
I’m a talker. Ask my wife. When we get in public places she is always telling me to talk quieter or that I’m embarrassing her. She gets embarrassed easily because she’s shy and hates to draw attention to herself. That is just how our personalities work. She is the introvert and I’m the extrovert. She’s the planner and I’m the dreamer.
One of the many, many giant flaws with my personality is that I don’t follow through on my plans. I tend to have a thousand ideas and executive none of them. At least that’s how I used to operate. After a while I got tired of living that way and getting nowhere. So, I decided to make a set of goals. I started with a ten-year goal, then a five-year goal. After I did that I noticed that it was easier to make decisions about what I was currently doing with my life. I could dissect my five-year goal and make steps on what I should do to get to that goal. However, what surprised me the most was how much movement my life started to make after that because I started to learn more about what I love to do as compared to what I thought I’d love to do because I was actually doing something.
A teacher once told me that I should set my goals just slightly higher that what I think I can actually do. I think that’s awful. What if I think I’m a loser? What if I don’t think I can do anything? If everyone thought that then no one would have even gotten to the moon. I think you should dream and dream big. I think you should make ten-year then five-year goals, with your dream at the end then take practical steps to get there. Do some research. Find out how others got to your dream and try those things out.
No one can stop you from you making your dreams come true but you.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/”>Alex E. Proimos</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein
“I don’t have time.” “Really?” I asked my brother, “You can’t carve out even a few minutes?” “Oh, I don’t know.” He responded. “I might.”
This is my challenge to you and slightly a back handed public challenge to my brother. Start creating content. Not tomorrow, or the day after, right now. There will always be excuses to why you won’t start. Notice that I didn’t say “can’t,” because you can and you should.
What’s the difference between someone successful and you? They didn’t need to get paid to do what they love. They did it for fun and they did it a lot.
Life is complicated. Most of us have either busy jobs or jobs that we dislike that drain us. It’s not often that you work 40 to 70 hours a week then decide that you want to make something. However, as an artist, you can’t grow if you don’t take the time to create something. Is your dream important to you? How bad do you want it? Do you keep telling yourself that you’re going to quit your job and then you’ll have time to do what you love?
You’re full of it and you know it. Stop making excuses. Whatever kind of artist you are needs to be cultivated. If you don’t practice you’ll never get good at what you love and you’ll never get to do what you love full time. That’s a promise.
You don’t have to start big. Decide that you’re going to wake up 30 minutes earlier in the morning and do what you love for just 15 minutes. Drink a cup off coffee then paint, write, practice monologues, etc.
Starting small will make doing what you love a habit and will give your life purpose. You’ll be surprised at how 15 minutes will turn into 2 hours and how inspiration and passion will fill your life. You’ll start to be you again.
There is never enough time. You’ll never find it no matter what job you have. Find your passion and pursue it or you’ll live in the land of “what ifs” forever.
In college, a professor once told me, “Saying yes to everything means that you’re saying no to something else because you don’t have the time to do it.”
A while back, I quit a job because it made no money. I worked as a barista to bring in some extra income. I didn’t want to take the job, but honestly I felt the pressure to survive and my photography business hadn’t taken off yet. So, I took it. It paid too little and I had to quit. It was a dumb move to take the job in the first place, but I needed something and I had high hopes that I’d get a raise.
Anyway, I quit right as my photography business was starting to take on some steam. Things were going great at first… Then work slowed down. So, I started trying to get creative to bring in some extra business. At a random chance meeting, a local business owner was telling me about his struggle to maintain a presence in social media as well as getting high quality photos of his clients. My ears immediately perked up. After asking a few questions I offered up some help. I told him that I was a bit of a social bug and a photographer and he was thrilled to set up a meeting with me.
I was excited. “Look at me,” I thought, “I’m so clever. I can make lemonade out of lemons. I’m a real Guerrilla marketer.”
When we finally met, I went over what we had talked about, but then suddenly I was asked if I had experience with web design. I told him that I had some but I wasn’t able to create anything. He insisted that I do some minor tweaks to his site. I didn’t want to, but I’m a giant push over with the inability to say no. So, I agreed. That turned into major tweaks, redesigning whole pages of the website, filling out spread sheets, making a video, working on creating logos and signs, and basically being completely in charge of the financial stability of his store.
What had started as a small offer to help out, turned into me running the show. Not only that, but I felt so much pressure to make everything perfect and have immediate results. We had agreed that I would be paid hourly and when I spent hours and hours getting everything running and presented him with an invoice, he was upset because he didn’t see a lot of results and he didn’t want to pay for something that wasn’t making him any business.
This was a disaster. Not only had I wasted my time, was not getting paid, but I was also doing a ton of work that I wasn’t qualified to do nor did I want to! I didn’t even take one picture which was my entire goal in the first place! I hadn’t set up any guidelines and when I was asked in the beginning if I could do something that I wasn’t good at, I didn’t say no.
The worst part of all of this? It was all my fault. I had to pay a stupid tax. If I had been clear from the beginning about what I was willing to do and what I could do well this would have never happened. And why did I do this? Because I needed to survive. The problem was, I needed money and when you need money you tend to take jobs that you would never take.
If I could go back, I would have just been honest. I would have been tough. I would have said no in the beginning and saved myself tons of stress.
Say no. It means saying yes to what you actually want to do.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ucumari/5980792927/”>ucumari</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
When you decide that you want to become an actor, you always imagine that you’re the next big thing. You imagine that you’re Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, or Gerard Butler. You see yourself as the leading man. The Hero. The guy who rides in on a white horse and saves the damsel in distress while making a funny joke that shows how cool you are under pressure while an explosion goes off behind you that you don’t notice.
You never imagine yourself as Gomer Pile or Ernest P. Worrell. You never see youself as the goofy screw up, or the gay best friend, or the annoying older sister and you certainly didn’t become an actor to portray such demeaning roles.
On Monday, I posted How to be an Extra. Right after I did so, I got a message asking me how to become a principal actor. They wanted to know how to get a leading role. The problem with that question? There are a million answers. There’s no one way to break into the industry today. Granted, there are things to do that will increase your chances of being successful.
The first I’d say, is to be a character actor.
I used to work in casting. When we started casting the film, the director didn’t even want one leading man. The project had dozens of actors in it and every character in the film was either old, ugly, stupid, or evil. Everyone was a character actor.
That’s the thing with LA and NY especially. There are thousands of extremely attractive men and women that have more talent in their pinky than you have in your whole family and those people aren’t even getting booked!
In an interview at the Sunscreen Film Festival, Alexa Vega from Spy Kids said that she hated pilot season. She said that every audition that she went to had hundreds of girls that looked just like her, but were even more attractive. This confounded me. This was a very pretty girl with tons of experience and all the connections in the world. How could she not get a role?
What would I do? Find someone honest around you. Get someone who won’t lie to you and tell them that you won’t be angry, but they need to answer this question honestly:
“What roles can I play?”
They’ll answer one of two ways.
- You’re a leading man
- You’re a great garbage truck driver
OK, so there may be more roles than garbage truck driver, but you get the idea. Are you a dad? Are you a nerd? Are you the school bully?
If you’re the leading man, then fine. GO TO THE GYM. You need to get an edge on every other handsome devil in town.
However, if you’re a character, then you just have to fit that role better. If you can figure out what kind of character actor you are, you immediately have a jump on so many people. You’ll know what makes you different. You’ll know what characters you can play and you’ll know how to talk, dress, and act like those characters.
A friend of mine with long black hair told me, the other day, that he was going to cut all his hair off and then try to get an agent. I almost slapped him in the face. Why cut off the thing that that differentiates you from everyone else? Instead of going against 3,000 other actors with short spiked hair, he’ll be competing with 300 other actors with long black hair. Personally, I like those odds much better.
Find your look. Make yourself different. If you’re a funny fat guy, then don’t lose weight! You can always change your look once you’ve established yourself. This is just a way to jump start your career…
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncaranti/5323819392/”>Niccolò Caranti</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanwoodswalker/4029336310/”>Urban Woodswalker</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
When I was in college, I thought I was a real writer. I had taken a screen writing class and I was deeply inspired. I had all sorts of glorified images in my head of what it was like to be a screen writer. I thought they all smoked cigarettes while drinking coffee huddled over a computer in a crappy diner all night long and for some reason I loved this. I have always and will always hate cigarettes, but everything else seemed great. I would fantasize about writing an oscar winning screen play. I would imagine myself as a mad artist, all disheveled and dirty, scribbling ideas on a wall that would change the world. Because of this I would spend several nights in a Waffle House writing. This was nothing like I imagined. Waffle houses are gross. Everyone smoked around me and it was completely unnecessary to write all night because I had plenty of free time during the day. I was just a kid trying to be cool.
During this time, I got an offer for a show runner of a popular sitcom to critique a short film I’d written. I gladly jumped at the chance. I went to a film festival where he taught a class on screen writing and at the end he critiqued my script and two others. During his critique he complimented one thing about my story. He said that it was clear what my character’s goal was right from the beginning. After that he literally had about 400 negative critiques for about 10 pages of writing. *Insert weeping and gnashing of teeth here*
For the next year, I was terrified to write anything. Whenever you create something, it becomes your baby. Your creation is an extension of yourself. If someone insults your baby, they’re insulting you. Have you ever insulted someone’s baby? It doesn’t go well.
Later on, I started writing again, but I never wanted anyone’s help. For a while it was fine. Then suddenly I realized that everything I wrote was super crappy. Mostly because everything sounds good in your head. When you say it out loud, however, you realize that you just wrote a story about two cows running a fortune 500 company.
That’s when I realized that I needed help. I needed someone who I could trust to read what I wrote. That led me to meeting three types of people:
- The Pessimist
Whenever, you meet a person who says, “Not a pessimist, I’m just a sceptic,” that person is wrong. He/She a pessimist. He/She is lying to you because no one wants to admit that they’re just mean. This person thinks everything is dumb. Every one is doing everything wrong in their mind. They critique and commentate on everything that everyone is doing, but they don’t actually do any kind of creating themselves. This person can not help you. They never say anything positive and they’ll make you want to stop doing anything because you’ll start to believe that they’re right.
- The “Yes Man”
This is the worst kind of friend you can have. This is the friend that is either trying to impress you or has no self esteem. Why are they the worst? Because they’ll let you think that everything you do is GOLD. They’ll get you excited about the worst things you create and that is neither constructive or helpful. They don’t make you better, they make your mistakes more obvious. Instead of you producing something awful that you think is good and showing it to a few friends, you produce something awful and you show it to the world because your friend has let you to believe that it’s incredible.
- The Confident
I’m fortunate. I have a wife that I love. Not only is she beautiful, but she’s smart, professional, talented, creative, and funny. Not to mention, she a COPY WRITER. She’s incredible at everything she does. When she reads something, she’s great at finding ways to improve it and make it look more professional. The best and worst thing about my wife is that she’s honest. She critiques everything I create. When it’s good, she sings my praises to the moon. She tells her friends and family and helps make whatever I’m doing even better. However, if it’s not good, she’ll be the first to tell me.
Her – “This sketch isn’t funny.”
Me – “What? It’s hilarious. Don’t you get the joke? It’s about sea captains and-”
Her – “Oh, I get the joke. The joke is kind of racist against pirates and I don’t think you know what ‘booty’ means.”
I need that in my life and so do you. You need someone who can tell the difference between something amazing and something that’s just garbage. You need someone who will tell you honestly what could help it become better and what you should remove because it just doesn’t work. If this person is only telling you that your material isn’t good, and not helping you add things to make it better, than you’re working with a pessimist, but… If you find that one person that will be honest with you and bring creativity to the table as well…
You’re in business to create something that you’ll be proud of.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/dollar_bin/2340605507/”>Dollar Bin</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/ldgermain/558538200/”>ld_germain</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
Two weeks ago, l was on a photo shoot in Beverly Hills. I was shooting modeling shots of about 14 people for a talent agency. As I was taking pictures, one of the actors and l started talking. I asked him what he did for a living besides acting. He told me that he didn’t do anything else. He was a full time professional actor and that he was constantly getting booked.
After several follow-up questions, I discovered that all his bookings weren’t acting roles, they were extra work jobs.
Let me make something painfully clear. Do not deceive yourself. Doing extra work does not make you a professional actor. Doing extra work makes you a professional extra.
Extra work is great. lt’s a great way to get started working immediately when you‘re looking for a job you want. If you‘re looking for auditions, extra work is a nice way to keep an open schedule. However, being an extra does not equal being an actor. Walking in circles behind a real actor does not make you an actor. Some people would say that when you get paid to do something that makes you a professional. That may be true in some cases, but not with extra work. You cannot consider walking for 12 hours a day acting. I don’t care how good your pantomiming is. You’re an extra. It’s not shameful. Move on.
On the other side of the coin, extra work is a great place to get started and l think everyone who moves to LA should jump into that immediately. It’s the best way to get paid fast. I wish I had known about it when I first moved here. That way I could have avoided that awful valet job.
How to get extra work:
- Get a commercial extra booking agency
The two I suggest? Background Talent and Virgo Talent (Links Below)
Both have a small up front fee ($30 to $60) and charge you per booking that you get. You’ll get paid $100-$200 per job. Usually the pays around $135 for 10 hours. Thats pretty average.
- Get a calling service
If you decide that you want full-time extra work you need to sign up with a calling service. A calling service is a service where you go online or call their office and you tell them what days you want to work. So, for instance, you’re available Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Then they choose the days that you’re available and book you on them. They place you on any TV show that fits your description.
The first one I worked with was a calling service called Cut Above. That calling service usually booked me on and the TV shows, Greek and Glee because I look like I’m 12.
The calling services charge you varying rates depending on which service you go with. The prices are anywhere between $60 a month to $90 a month. So, if you signed up for a year it would be much cheaper, per month, if you signed up month-to-month.
Other services I’ve used have been Joeys List and Booked Talent. Both were good calling services. I enjoyed Joey’s List the best. They didn’t charge a lot, they got me a lot of work, and all of the work I did was on smaller sets. Which was nice. The worst days of extra work are the days the you show up and there are 1000 people on set.
Calling services pay you $64 for 8 hours for non-union jobs, which is terrible, but again, this is a temporary job. If you decide to spend $3,000 and become union you would get paid more.
If you can, be available as many week-days, in a row, as possible. That’ll get you more work because they have shoots that last more than one day.
Also, depending on how unique your look is, you may not get booked as often as you’d like. Girls get booked more than guys. If you have a more unique look, you’ll get booked more. Try and figure out what your look is and dress more like that look when you get your picture taken at your calling service.
For instance, I wasn’t getting booked a lot until I realized that I can fit the 18 to play younger role. Once I realized that, I wore a hoody and shaved my face for my picture. Then I got booked all the time.
Things to bring:
- A book
- A fountain pen (This is important. If you have a roller ball pen, it won’t write on the receipt like paper they have you fill out on set.)
What not to bring:
- Anything you don’t want stolen
- A fold out chair (Not because this won’t be useful, but because this means that you’re an extra for life.)
The only things you need to know are:
- When you get there, find the PA in charge of extras and sign in. (I did not do this my first day. That made everything much harder.)
- When you leave, sign out and KEEP A COPY of your paperwork.
That’s it! You’ll then be an extra.
Now. At this point in your career you’ll start working on TV. When this happens people that you knew back south or wherever you’re from will begin to see you in the
background of their favorite TV shows. They will then proceed to take screenshots of you on that show and draw giant red circles around you and post these pictures on your Facebook wall.
To them this is the greatest complement of all time. You are on their favorite show. To them you’re a superstar. To you they just posted an embarrassing picture online. This will happen a lot.
Get a job she says.
It is 2013, and jobs don’t work the way they used to. You can’t fill out a resume and get a 9-to-5 job immediately. Most of the time, you have to know someone to get a job that you’d actually like, unless you want to work at Dairy Queen. I’m pretty sure that’s a job you could get with a cold call.
Not only that, a but jobs don’t work the same way they did back in the day. Instead of getting a college education and that being sufficient enough to get a good paying full-time job, you have to have experience to get hired these days. Today, it’s about your skill sets and what you can do that gets you a job.
In the past, people were able to get a college education, get a job right out of college, then work said job for 30 years. Not a lot of people had a college education back then and having one meant instant success. A college degree no longer means that. Now you have to have the skill set. You have to have experience. You have to be able to provide a service. No one wants someone straight out of college. They want someone who can do the job well immediately.
How do you get that experience if you can’t get the job? It is the Catch-22. You have to have experience to get the job, but you have to have a job to get the experience. What does one do? How do you get a job if you live in Los Angeles, New York, or Seattle, and don’t know anyone? How do you survive in a connection based job society if you don’t have connections?
I think the best thing anyone can do is reading (learning anything you can) and taking action. If I could go back in the college and change the way I did things, the number one thing I would change is I would have applied for internships. I would have started working in the film industry every single summer. That way, when I got out of college I would have had three full summers of experience already under my belt. Doing internships is a great way of making the connections you need. I can’t tell you the number of people I know who have gotten a job because of an internship connection they’ve made. The fact is, the more you work, the more you learn and the more connections you make. That’s what’ll get you a job.
Artists have a hard time with this. An artist thinks, “If I had a full-time job, it would keep me from pursuing my dreams.” But that’s simply untrue! I’ve recently reading this book called Quitter by Jon Acuff. The book is about keeping your day job while trying to close the gap between your day job and your dream job. His thesis is that you should keep your day job long enough to protect your dream job. Which is wonderful except you keep wondering how that works for artists. How would that work for an actor that has to go to auditions?
Since I’ve been in Los Angeles I had several jobs. Only a few have been industry related. I’ve been trying so hard to get a job that I love doing, but at the same time, taking jobs that I can get, just to survive.
Best jobs so far?
Casting Associate for Paramount
Photographer – Present
Tech Booth Operator at the Upright Citizens Brigade – Present
Valet for the Beverly Hills Hotel
If you’re moving to LA or NY, get working as fast as possible. The bills pile up fast. I’d suggest extra work. It’s not great. It’s mind numbing work. You spend your entire day being told what to do by people who think that all extras are stupid. And worst part is there’re right! Most of the extras are trying to hide in the craft services. They spend their entire day just trying to hide from doing work and they’re only job is WALKING.
Look, it’s an easy way to get work. It’ll get you going until you can find something you like.