Comedy | Topher Harless
:::: MENU ::::
Posts tagged with: Comedy

Should you be the Leading Man?

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.

medium_5323819392

He just wants to be taken seriously as an actor.

 
 
 

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.

  1. You’re a leading man
  2. 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.

medium_4029336310

This woman knows how to get booked.

 

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>

Eliminating the “Yes Man”

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.

medium_2340605507

I believe it’s spelled “Awful House.”

 

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.

medium_558538200

Even he thinks your baby is ugly.

 

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>

How to be an Extra

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.

*Note*

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.

*End Note*

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.

Be prepared.

http://www.backgroundtalent.net

http://www.virgotalent.com


Pages:123456