...or too fat or too skinny or too white or too black or too tall or too short or too anything. Just be you. You are enough.
...or too fat or too skinny or too white or too black or too tall or too short or too anything. Just be you. You are enough.
Today I was writing my list of New Year goals. What I want to do in the next twelve months. I started writing the typical actor list: “book a series regular role on TV”, “take another six weeks of groundlings classes”, “finish the new book website” “save x amount of money”.
I had around eight things on my list when I realized my upcoming year sounded about as interesting as sorting beige buttons into matching shade piles.
Acting is such an amazing and wonderful thing to be passionate about (read: obsessed with), and we are so often laughing off the idea of a nine to five job as boring, uncreative, and soul destroying. The funny thing is though, without a 5pm to ‘knock off’ at, or a Friday to look forward to, my creative friends often neglect to find time to switch off from their career. Ironically, those same people who are so afraid of working an eight hour day, frequently end up working a sortof half assed twelve hour day each day instead… and for six or seven days a week.
How interesting is an actor to watch who has done nothing but acting classes and networking events for the past year or so? What life can we bring to a character if we’ve forgotten how to live our lives?
This also applies to networking… When you meet someone and ask what they’ve been up to lately, would you rather hear how many auditions they’ve just had and of the five scenes they did in some film… or about the amazing whale shark they saw scuba diving last weekend, or a story about their crazy tandem partner on their holiday skydiving in Hawaii?
On your New Years list this year… why not add some fun stuff? Add some big life goals alongside those career goals. Things you’ve always wanted to do – surfing lessons, seeing China, or India, or Iceland, visiting the Grand Canyon, volunteering for a charity, or horseback riding naked on the beach.
It’s a fine line to walk between work and fun but it is so important that you live your life while you chase your dreams, not afterwards.
If money is a problem, take a weekend holiday. Switch off and book a cheap Air BNB in a city close enough to drive to. Then find something awesome to do there! LA is just a few hours drive from Joshua Tree (camping), Palm Springs (day spas), Vegas (hangovers), San Diego (scuba diving), Santa Barbara (skydiving), Big Bear (snowboarding) … even Mexico (margaaaaaritas!) and San Francisco (Alcatraz)! Take 48 hours away from your ‘craft’, reset yourself, and just be YOU.
I get it… sometimes there really is no time to switch off… sometimes there’s just too much work. But, that doesn’t mean you have to hide at home and avoid the world for two months at a time.
Much of our work is a laptop lifestyle. There’s no reason you can’t get out of your comfy Hollywood apartment and drive to a nice hotel lobby or cafe by the beach, order a coffee, and spend the day by the water, working. Next time you have a script or two to read, pack a picnic, hike to a beautiful view, and read it somewhere fun. Maybe you can learn those forty pages of lines for your next film on a beach instead of pacing in your bedroom.
Adding big goals to your list means even if you fall short, you will be more likely to find little adventures along the way. They big ones may seem out of reach now, but what if you just ignore the potential limitations and add them anyway? Why not plan as though you will have the money this year? That you will make the time? You never know what this next year has in store for you, so whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do, big or small, add it to your list, today.
If you don’t, another year might slip by waiting for enough money, or the right time, or your big break… and then another year… and then all of a sudden you’re one of those old actors who forgot to live a real life on the side.
If you do make your list awesome, you might not do everything you plan. You might not make it to Everest this year but maybe you’ll camp in Joshua tree instead... You might not skydive in Hawaii but Santa Barbara has a nice drop… you might not make Iceland before Easter… but then again…
Oh, just think how much fun will it be if you do! ;)
By Kym Jackson
My creative friends are my most passionate. They become passionate about topics of discussion, about their friend’s romantic situations, their partners behavior, other people’s life choices or opposing views in a social media post.
Passion is amazing, and I love that these people are in my life. I only wonder, every now and then, what their lives would be… where they would end up… if that passion were focused toward their dreams instead.
See, these same people who talk to me for hours about their broken love life, or the behavior of some person they know… these same people are the ones who can’t figure out why their career isn’t moving forward… why their dreams aren’t coming true.
Their conversations run a mile a minute about so many topics of discontent and so many things that pull their mental energy. I wonder how on Earth the Universe will ever weed through all that noise to find the one little piece of them that is screaming to be heard. Yelling with its tiny voice “but I want to be an actor” “but I’m an amazing storyteller” “but I’m meant to change the world”
Immense passion is one of the best traits a life can be blessed with. To embrace and be driven by your heart and how deeply you care is a beautiful way to be.
To focus that passion in one direction?
Now, that… that could change the world.
-Kym Jackson (Author - The Hollywood Survival Guide)
Day 9 of our 10 day countdown…Wouldn’t it be great if the Academy Awards finally included a category for casting directors? The best actors are only able to perform at their best with a stellar cast to work alongside, the best picture would rarely be the best if the whole cast wasn’t amazing, and they say a large portion of a directors job is selecting the right cast. So… for the ten days leading up to the Oscars, lets tip our hats and give kudos to every casting director whose project was nominated for an Oscar for acting, directing, or best picture… today let’s check out who it was last year… in 2014…
Day 8 of our 10 day countdown…Wouldn’t it be great if the Academy Awards finally included a category for casting directors? The best actors are only able to perform at their best with a stellar cast to work alongside, the best picture would rarely be the best if the whole cast wasn’t amazing, and they say a large portion of a directors job is selecting the right cast. So… for the ten days leading up to the Oscars, lets tip our hats and give kudos to every casting director whose project was nominated for an Oscar for acting, directing, or best picture… today let’s check out who it was in 2013…
Day 4 of our 10 day countdown…Wouldn’t it be great if the Academy Awards finally included a category for casting directors? The best actors are only able to perform at their best with a stellar cast to work alongside, the best picture would rarely be the best if the whole cast wasn’t amazing, and they say a large portion of a directors job is selecting the right cast. So… for the ten days leading up to the Oscars, lets tip our hats and give kudos to every casting director whose project was nominated for an Oscar for acting, directing, or best picture… today let’s check out who it was in 2009…
Day 1 of our 10 day countdown…
Wouldn’t it be great if the Academy Awards finally included a category for casting directors? The best actors are only able to perform at their best with a stellar cast to work alongside, the best picture would rarely be the best if the whole cast wasn’t amazing, and they say a large portion of a directors job is selecting the right cast.
So… for the ten days leading up to the Oscars, lets tip our hats and give kudos to every casting director whose project was nominated for an Oscar for acting, directing, or best picture. Starting… in 2006.
Commercial pay cycles run for 13 weeks. Payments are sent directly to the actor or representation, NOT to SAGAFTRA. If the commercial is not a ‘buy out’, residuals for commercials are paid for each airing.
Payments for each airing are on a sliding scale, ie: the ‘cost per airing’ is much higher for airings #1 - #10 than for airings #50 - 60. This continues until the cycle maximum (3000 airings). IF the production company wishes to continue using the commercial after the 13 weeks, the payment scale resets and they must pay for each airing from the top of the payment structure. This is known as a ‘roll over’ as the commercial ‘rolls over’ into the next payment cycle, and a nice shiny new check arrives in the mail.
Payment for all intended airings within a cycle is due 15 days after the date the commercial first airs. This first air date is considered the beginning of the first 13 week cycle. The next payment is due 15 days after the beginning of the 2nd cycle, and so on for every cycle.
Network TV residuals are based on a 7 day payment period, running from Monday to Sunday. Whatever airs within those 7 days is due 15 days after the first Sunday following the initial airing of the commercial. The next payment is due 7 days after the following Sunday for all usage within that week, and so on. Although payments are being made every week, the payment rate sheet still resets (rolls over) after each 13 week cycle.
When a writer comes up with an amazing idea for a TV show and wants to pitch it to a network, a ‘Show Bible’ is created, which includes the following materials:
• Overview of the show
• Target demographic
• Style of show
• Intended network
• Intended timeslot
• Intended number of episodes per season
• Intended budget per episode
• Series lead character breakdown
• Series regular character breakdown
• Intended cast or character prototypes using existing celebrities
• Full ‘treatment’ for each of the episodes in the first season
• Pilot script for the show
• Marketing plan
• Financial figures from comparative shows in the genre or style
• Full scripts for additional episodes are occasionally added
These items are combined with a few additions that may be specific to the project. The writer’s agent, manager, or producer (or anyone who knows the right people) sets up a ‘pitch session’ with executives from each of the TV networks for which the show may be appropriate. The writer and/or producer attend each meeting, show bible in hand, and pitch their concept.
Each major network only has enough time slots for a certain number of new shows each season, but will finance several times that number of pilots. For example, a network might finance fifteen TV pilots for a given season. Those fifteen pilots are cast, filmed, edited and viewed by network executives and test audiences. Of the fifteen, the network may only select three or four shows to ‘pick up’.
A TV show being picked up means the network agrees to finance additional episodes of the show (usually in blocks of 12 for network TV and 13 for cable), and allocates a time slot for it to be aired. The creator(s) of the concept and the writer(s) who wrote the pilot episode almost always become executive producers or consulting producers of the series. Modifications are made to the show according to the results of test audience screenings and network input. Storylines are changed (if necessary), and some characters may be removed, added, or re-cast.
Unfortunately, pilots that don’t get picked up are rarely ‘saved’ for another season. This is partly because the cast and crew move on to their next projects. With a different cast and crew, the existing pilot episode would no longer be an accurate ‘sample’ of what the show could be like. Sometimes, however, a show will sell a TV series to another network after not picking the show up themselves.
When a TV show airs, the ‘ratings’ (number of viewers) it gets on American TV determine whether it stays on the air. The ratings are called ‘Nielsen Ratings’ (named after Arthur Nielsen). Shows can be taken off the air after as few as one episode, or after many seasons, depending on how the show is rating at the time.
The pilots that are ‘picked up’ are announced in May each year. A week later, the ‘upfronts’ (meetings where many TV commercial timeslots are pre-sold) take place. ABC and NBC each shoot an average of 20–25 pilots and pick up around ten. CBS, FOX, and CW each shoot between ten and twenty, and usually pick up around five.
If you can’t get to LA yet, there are many things you can be doing right now to prepare:
• SAVE AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE. Think of every fifty dollars you don’t spend as one more day you can survive in LA.
• STUDY YOUR CRAFT. Take the best acting classes you can find as often as you’re able.
• Learn a PERFECT standard American accent.
• GET ON STAGE. I can tell whether an actor has a substantial theatre background within moments of watching them perform. It will add tangible depth and layers to your work. Do community theatre, school plays, whatever you can get your hands on.
• Learn how to do as many accents as you can. This skill will aid you for the rest of your career.
• Girls should learn how to do hair and makeup to suit different roles.
• Fix your teeth. Make sure they’re straight and white, unless your type is ‘creepy homeless guy’. This is more important than you’d think for lead roles in LA.
• Fix your skin. Eat less sugar, drink more water, eat well, exercise, cleanse, tone, and moisturize your face twice a day … and if that doesn’t work, see a specialist. Clear skin is a must for American TV and film.
• EXERCISE! You need high energy and great stamina to stay alert on a film or TV set for twelve hours a day. If you want to play lead roles, get your body looking healthy and toned for your body type. Do not simply try to ‘get skinny’.
• Find two great two-person scenes from films. One comedic and one dramatic. Memorize and prepare. These will be your showcase scenes.
• Find two great monologues: one comedic and one dramatic. Memorize and prepare. You will use these in the rare instances a director asks you to audition with a “monologue of your choice”.
• Film yourself performing scenes as often as possible.
• Go to AS MANY AUDITIONS AS YOU CAN. Think of every audition as a free class on audition techniques.
• Do LOTS of short films and indie features to gain on-set experience.
• Read scripts of great films online at Scriptapolooza.com or InkTip.com to become familiar with what a good script looks like.
• Watch every single one of the ‘top 250 movies’ listed on IMDBpro and observe who cast and directed them.
• Select a top director and watch a selection of their films. Become familiar with the top directors in the industry.
• Watch every movie that has ever won best picture, actor or actress at the academy awards.
• Watch American hit TV shows and learn the CD and actor’s names.
• Join every casting website in your area.
• Improve your cold reading skills by reading dialogue into a mirror for fifteen minutes a day.
• Get some friends together and shoot a web series for FunnyOrDie.com or YouTube.com.
• Get your resume, headshot and demo up to a professional standard.
• Practice memorization. Memorize one page of a character’s dialogue from a two-person scene every day. Aim to be off-book in ten minutes.
• Go to every film festival close enough for you to get to.
• Try writing a film or scene. Writing helps you understand more about what goes into creating characters and stories.
• ‘Follow the top filmmakers and actors on Twitter and Facebook. Watch how they market themselves and interact with their fan base.
• Write a business plan for your acting career. Write one for the next 1 year, 2 years and 5 years.
An actor’s website is rarely used in the professional casting process. Your profile pages on IMDB.com and BreakdownExpress.com (via ActorsAccess.com) give a filmmaker or CD all the tools needed to consider auditioning you for a role.
While a personalized acting website may not make or break your career, it is a great tool to show industry professionals all of your marketing materials in one place. It enables you to guide people towards otherwise hard to find press, like theatre reviews and red carpet photos.
If you do have a website, ensure that it is professional, current, functional, and well maintained. There are many companies online that build websites for actors. Others (like Wix.com) allow you to build a site by easily dropping elements and information into pre-designed pages.
An actor’s website should be utilized as an online ‘press kit’ (see ‘press and publicity’ section), referring the user to reviews, articles, film trailers, and other press. The site must be easy to navigate and all pages must completely download in less than ten seconds. It is unlikely that a CD will wait twenty seconds for your headshot to display, so if needed, reduce the photo file size. Don’t give her a reason to move to the next actor on the list.
A quality actor website will have the following tabs:
Display your name and main theatrical headshot. Perhaps write a bio on yourself and a few career highlights with a small paragraph or two about your recent gigs and upcoming releases. Embed trailers for any current upcoming releases. Include links to your IMDb, Twitter and Facebook.
Under the resume tab, list the following links at the top of the page then display your full resume on the page below them.
• IMDb profile
• Breakdown profile
• Download .pdf
Your downloadable resume should be in an un-editable .pdf format.
Your demo can be displayed via a link to a professional site (like ActorsAccess.com or NowCasting.com), or by embedding a high quality video into your site. If you are using YouTube.com or Vimeo.com for hosting, embed the file into the webpage rather than re-directing users to a public site. Ensure the resolution is high, the file size is small (for fast buffering), and that the picture isn’t too big or small (640 × 480 is standard).
Include links to any positive or neutral press written by an independent media source (i.e. NOT a production or management company website). These sources include newspapers, magazines, online publications, critic’s reviews, and red carpet sites. Scan and upload hardcopy press in .pdf format.
As your press kit grows, separate this section into more specific categories, such as ‘articles’, ‘reviews’ and ‘interviews’.
Display contact information for your representation and include their logo for branding. If you have more than one agent, specify the field in which they represent you. Provide your direct email for those rare last minute bookings that may occur the night before or morning of a shoot.
Your website is not an appropriate forum for the twenty different headshots you took in one session, or for headshots that have become outdated. If you are a model, having a modeling tab is great, but make sure that none of your shots are too revealing. Other than your main theatrical and red carpet images, include alternative looks and character shots
If you have several shots, use thumbnail photos that show a full size version of the shot when rolled over or clicked on. A great example of this is the photo section of your ActorsAccess.com profile. Make sure the larger versions of the photos are easily downloadable and printable (72dpi is a fine minimum resolution), with a print size between 4” × 6” and 8” × 10”.
Red Carpet Photos
One option is to put direct links to your personal search results page on WireImage.com or GettyImages.com. To do this, search your name then copy the url in the browser window above your search results.
Another option is to show a selection of red carpet photos on your website in the same thumbnail format used for headshot photos. Don’t worry about the watermarks: they help legitimize the image and prevent you from breaching any copyrights.
Production stills are taken on set during a shoot. Great production stills show crew and camera equipment in the background, the director instructing you, or the other actors dressed in wardrobe on set. Photos of you in character, acting, are also great (these look like someone has pressed pause on a movie).
Production stills taken with a cheap camera or bad lighting give the impression that the production was cheap. Your production stills should look as good as stills from bigger budget films, implying that you are a professional, working actor. If you don’t have great stills, don’t resort to using bad ones. Having no production stills is better than having bad ones.
Development of a screenplay can either involve a writer developing a story ‘on spec’ (for free), or being hired to develop a story for a production company or studio.
When writing on spec the writer moves through each stage of development without a producer attached, hoping that a producer will later ‘option’ (lease) the already written screenplay and produce the film.
Before a script is written, most professional projects go through the following stages:
A concept is simply an idea for a project … preferably an idea that can
easily be summarized into a logline.
A logline consists of one or two sentences that summarize a film. An example of a logline would be: “A bumbling scientist must rescue his family and the world when an army of aliens tries to wipe out the human race.”
A synopsis is a general outline of the main plot points in a film in under
a page (around 300-450 words) in prose (like the blurb on the back of a
A treatment is like writing your script out as a novella or short story. A treatment can be anything from two to thirty pages. Sometimes longer. It should cover the entire story from start to finish and include every scene in the film.
An outline lists every scene of a film in order. It establishes each location and summarizes what happens in each scene. Outlines can be several paragraphs per scene (complete with characters, what happens in the scene, and even some dialogue), or as simple as one sentence per scene (e.g. “EXT: STREET - scene where Chris, Lee, and Gemma save the cat”).
There are no rules governing how long or short an outline needs to be as long as it includes all of the intended scenes in the film, creating a modifiable skeleton for the screenplay.
Once the treatment is done, a script or ‘screenplay’ is written. Optimally,
a producer hires a writer and pays them to write a screenplay based on a
Note: A project can be at the concept, outline, and even at the
treatment stages with a producer before a writer is hired.
An acceptable length for a feature film script in Hollywood is between
90 and 120 correctly formatted pages. Any script shorter than 80 pages or longer than 125 pages is unlikely to be read. A screenplay in LA should be laid out in the format that is used in the screenwriting program Final Draft™.
What Is Networking?
Networking, also known as ‘schmoosing’, or in Hollywood: ‘setting foot
outside your apartment’, is often misconstrued as a dirty word. There are
many slimy, dishonest people who will make friends with anyone they
think can help them in their quest to be whoever they are trying to be.
These people are usually easy to see through and avoid.
Networking doesn’t mean meeting people who are in a position of
power and sucking up to them. There are thousands of friendly, interesting, likeminded people who just happen to also be very well positioned in this industry. Networking does mean meeting and working with these people and establishing organic personal and business relationships with them over time. It is as simple as being good to your friends and co-workers, and staying in touch.
Avoid successful egomaniacs, regardless of what you think they can
do for you. They’re no fun to be around, and realistically people like this
are not likely to get you a job or help you out because they are too busy
thinking about themselves.
Networking continues at every level of your career. Most celebrities still
procure a large portion of their work through relationships they have built
over the years with filmmakers, CDs, and other actors.
There’s an old adage in Hollywood: “People don’t do favors for acquaintances, they do favors for friends”, which essentially means people are not likely to help some person they met for three minutes and swapped cards with at a party. However, if someone spends some time with, connects with, and respects you they might be willing to make a referral. Once you’ve gone for beers with someone a few times, they might be motivated to pull a favor for you.
This doesn’t mean the only way you should gain contacts is by making
friends with every cool person you meet and ignoring those you might not get along with. If someone is in a position to give you a job make sure they know who you are, what you do, and that they have your information.
Get contact information from them … and follow up on it. You know when someone isn’t the type of person you’d hang out with
socially and so do they, so don’t be fake about it, just keep it as a clear business relationship.
When I started attending festivals, I thought I had to meet ‘everyone at
the party’ … but that’s not necessarily true. It’s about finding a few people of value and passing the time at that event getting to know them. It’s about finding real long-term friends and future co-workers who are passionate about directing, producing, or any other aspect of the film and TV industry in the same way that you are passionate about acting.
Extract from: The Hollywood Survival Guide - For Actors
As with any other un-moderated industry, the staffing structure varies a great deal between casting offices. Following is a breakdown of the various job titles in the field of casting.
CDs (Casting Directors) as Film producers / Executive Producers
It is much easier for a producer to find investors to finance a film if name talent is attached to the project. Sometimes a CD will work on an un-financed project ‘on spec’ (for free) or for a small fee, to attach celebrities. Due to the fact that the majority of projects in development will never be green-lit, the CD may be given a ‘producer’ or an ‘executive producer’ credit. This credit is to compensate for the risk the CD is taking by spending time on a project that may never go into production.
Powerful CDs in Hollywood are often able to negotiate producer credits even when they are being paid their full rate. This is simply because the filmmakers are lucky to be working with CDs of this caliber and to have access to the celebrity connections they bring to the film. A producer credit is also often given because the CD actually did produce the film.
President or VP of Talent or Casting
Each studio and network has an in-house casting department. That is, a team of casting executives who hire, oversee, and work with outsourced casting offices to cast the various projects being produced by the network. Although the hired office is the one officially casting the show, the casting executives will still suggest actors for roles, watch the audition tapes, and approve the cast that has been selected. If there is a particularly large guest cast or for some reason the outsourced office can’t run a casting session, the in-house executive CD may run auditions.
Owner / CD
Most CDs own the casting company for which they work. This is made clear by the fact that most casting offices are named after the head CDs. In larger offices, there are some CDs who are not the owners of the company. An example of this is one of the largest casting offices in LA. The three owners (after whom the company is named) are working CDs and owners of the company, plus they have several other casting directors and associates working for them as employees.
Casting Director (CD)
A CD is in charge of sourcing and auditioning actors for a project. Most CDs are members of the CSA. CDs decide or collaborate with the pro- ducers and director on which actors are called back, and are often part of the decision making process regarding who gets the part (though ultimately the director and producer decide).
CDs remember and re-use talented actors they meet and like. They have both the authority and motivation to find new actors because most CDs truly enjoy finding undiscovered talent.
CDs working in TV or working regularly in film will usually have a casting associate working directly under them. The associate aids the CD with organizing and running the sessions, delegating work to the assistants, and dealing with paperwork when actors are booked. Casting associates are generally more accessible than CDs, so getting to know them can be the easiest way to get an audition for some of the impenetrable big offices. Associates are usually only a few years away from becoming CDs, so develop a relationship with them early before they get that big promotion.
Associates are often assigned the task of finding much of the talent for supporting roles in projects, which is one reason many of them attend showcases or workshops. Just because they are paid to be at a workshop (they usually are) doesn’t mean they aren’t actively looking for talent. On many TV shows, the associate is responsible for selecting almost all of the actors for the co-star audition sessions. Associates frequently do the initial selection from the submissions received online. Out of a thousand submissions an associate might choose a hundred actors from which a CD then selects the final thirty who are invited to audition.
Casting offices in LA often don’t have a specific ‘receptionist’. The person you meet at the front desk is often a casting assistant, though it can sometimes be the associate or even the CD. A casting assistant is usually a paid employee. Assistants help the CD with sessions, answer phones, and work with the interns sorting through the piles of mail received on a daily basis. They don’t usually make selections, but if an assistant finds an amazing actor, you can bet she’ll pass that actor’s info to her bosses.
Interns are usually university students, people wanting to get into casting, or actors who are looking to learn more about the casting process and hoping to network with the CDs.
An internship is an unpaid position with little power beyond possibly having the ear of the people in the office and VERY occasionally suggesting an actor for an audition. Interns sort through mail, make copies and coffee, and anything else the paid office employees are too busy to take care of.
Interns may not have much influence, but they are people who care about their goals enough to give their time freely for their career, which means they deserve your respect just as much as any other staff member in a casting office.
Extract From: The Hollywood Survival Guide - For Actors
The producer hires the director on most film projects. A director makes
many decisions throughout the production process, but as an employee of the producer, these decisions can almost always be overruled.
How much authority a director wields on a project is subject to many variables: past experience, celebrity status, involvement in writing the script, contribution of investors to the project, the social status and relationship dynamic between the producer and the director, and lastly how much the producer chooses to micromanage each aspect of the film.
When it comes to casting, a collaborative discussion usually occurs
between the CD, the director, and the producer regarding which actor fits
best for each role and how various actors would fit with others in the project.
For independent films, the director usually makes the final decision
on which actors are cast. Most producers will give the director freedom
in this area but can at any point dispute or simply overrule the director’s
Often, casting decisions can be a case of bargaining between a producer
and director, for example if the director and producer have strong opinions on two different actors for each of two roles, they may say “I’ll let you have actor x for role a if we hire actor y for role b”.
Occasionally, investors will interject on casting decisions and if their financial contribution is substantial enough, the producer and director might do what they say. If celebrity attachments are required, sales agents, distributors, and investors may need to approve bankable name cast attachments.
Extract From: The Hollywood Survival Guide - For Actors