Splitting the Class!

As current students will have gathered, I have decided to split the class from the normal 6:30 – 9pm class to two 2 hour classes: 6pm – 8pm and 8pm – 10pm. This gives students smaller class sizes and makes better use of their time as they don’t have to sit through 3 hours of class to be able to work. I’m pretty pleased at how the smaller class sizes are working out as well.

Generally, people who are just starting out are coming to the early class and students who are doing more advanced work are coming to the later class.

If you’re interested in checking out the class, feel free to sign up for a free audit!

Memorizing Your Lines

I’ve been recently struggling with memorizing lines. I have seen actors who can sit down in the makeup chair with the sides, go over their text, and get it perfect when they get on set. I want to be able to do that. Right now, my memorizing techniques are quite labored: I write out the text longhand and learn it line by line in a monotone, moving backwards and forwards through the handwritten lines. Its a very thorough system, but it’s not great if the lines change when you go for your line-up rehearsal (the rehearsal with actors on a film set before the camera and lighting gets set up… unfortunately, sometimes the only rehearsal you get on a film).

Memorization happens fastest when there is more information than just the words that can be stored. The more things you connect to the words, the more pathways your mind has of getting to them faster. This is often why actors have an easier time memorizing lines once they are in blocking rehearsals. The words have been associated with a particular piece of stage business or a location in the physical space.

But in an audition situation, or when you’re walking on a film set for your day in front of the camera, I tend to miss words or replace words with my own variations. Not a great habit. So I’m on a quest for how to memorize lines quickly and word perfect that doesn’t require me to go through a stage rehearsal process. This is what I’ve found:

  1. Chunking. This is a process whereby you break down a line into distinct sets of words, or chunks. Memorizing chunks of words, instead of individual words, lets you memorize much more in the same amount of time.
  2. Physicalization. This is creating a physical movement, or the intention of a movement to go with every word in your text. If your text is “murder” and you pair that with stabbing someone with a knife, it will be much harder for you to say “terrorism” (this happened to me recently in an audition in the line “The man is wanted in the US for _________”). Physicalization also has the added benefit of bringing your acting into your body, instead of just being in your head.
  3. Singing. Create a tune to go with your lines. This allows you to associate musical notes with certain words and could help you remember which particular word is coming next. Be careful with this one, though as you don’t want to lock yourself in to a particular way of saying the word.
  4. Handwriting. This is the technique that I usually use: write out your lines by hand. Pay attention to the writing of it, say the words to yourself as you’re writing. Again, this creates a parallel pathway to the particular words and doesn’t require you to lock yourself into a particular way of saying them. I generally write out the words without punctuation so when I read it I don’t get learn where the lines are supposed to start and stop.
  5. Mental Mapping. This is a technique whereby you create a room in your mind. The more vivid and detailed the room is (include as many senses as possible: colors, smells, textures, tastes, etc), the more attachments it will have to the things you put in it. Create a dresser or something where you’re going to store your lines. Then you place your lines in order within your room. Going through the places where you store your lines, you will be able to visualize what the lines are. I haven’t tried this technique and am not sure how applicable it is to line learning, but it feels like a good technique and I’m excited to try it.
  6. Strange Connections. Similar to the Mental Map, strange connections makes use of your imagination to create strong connections between the words. Take the words of the text and come up with strange and improbable animals or things in weird clothes doing the things or creating a visual picture of the words. The stranger the better: we remember out of the ordinary things more easily than mundane things.

Further reading:

Auditions: Prepare More!

It’s easy, especially in a market like Prague, to get complacent about auditions. There isn’t a ton of local competition, a lot of the competition there is is based on look rather than experience and talent. Sometimes it is enough to just show up and go through the motions.

But if you do more work going into your auditions, you will have a much better chance of booking the job you’re going for AND building a great reputation as a prepared, professional actor with the casting director, producers and directors you read for.

Here are some things that you should have going into an audition:

  • Know the text. This is a huge mistake that people make going into an audition. You want to know the text as well as you possibly can. Knowing the words you have to say gives you an incredible amount of flexibility and security in how the audition will go.
  • Know the stakes. Stakes are what is important in the scene. Even if you only have one line, what are the stakes? What are the consequences of getting or not getting what you want in the scene. Authors don’t write scenes about everyday nothing situations. Scenes are there to put the characters in them through something. So don’t assume that the answer why you say something or do something in the scene is “just because”. Know why you are there! If your part in the scene is very simple, maybe the stakes won’t need to be played (generally they shouldn’t be anyway), but doing the work to know what is important in the scene is always time well spent.
  • Know the given circumstances. These will inform the stakes. Generally the given circumstances are Who, Where, What, When types of questions: Who is in the scene and what are their relationships? Where and When (both time of day, time period AND when in the script/story ie. how far into the story) does the scene take place? What is the physical behavior in the scene (what are the characters physically doing)? What happened just prior to this scene in the story (often this is not the previous scene in the script, but something inferred by the dialogue)? Answering as many of these types of questions will not only allow you to know more what the stakes are, but to know what the tone of the scene might be.
  • Rehearse! Find a friend and go through the scene beforehand. Try to remain flexible in how you do the scene as the casting director may give you a note that is different than how you rehearse. But the knowledge that you have gone through the scene several times before you get in the casting room, will be very valuable!
  • Let go! Once you’ve done all this work, let go of all of it. Don’t focus on any of the work when you are in the audition. Just go through the scene and listen to any instructions the casting director might give you. Trust that you have done the work and that the most meaningful parts of it have stayed with you. Try to listen and respond truthfully to the person who is reading opposite you.

Doing all of this work doesn’t guarantee you will get any role. But it will make casting directors sit up and take notice of you. Especially in a market where most people are not doing that much work on their auditions. Remember: In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. Or something to that effect.

Accent Classes Have Started!

For those of you that were interested in working on reducing your foreign accent when speaking English, we have started teaching accent reduction (based on American English) classes. The classes meet once a week, either on Monday morning at 10am or Wednesday afternoon at 16:00. They last 1 hour and the course is 12 weeks long. The cost is 2.000 Kc. Join in! Classes run until the beginning of July, 2015.

Casting resources for Prague

There are a number of casting resources and agencies which get actors work in Prague and the Czech Republic. Below is just a partial list of some of the ones I use the most frequently.

Casting agencies:
Myrnyx Tyrnyx (at Ujezd tram stop)
Vivid Casting (around the corner from our studio)
Stop Casting (Karlinske namesti)
JAM Casting (Narodni Trida)
Simon Says Casting (near Vyton/Vysehrad at the river)
Nancy Bishop Casting (Kolowrat Palac)
Any of these agencies are personal friends of mine and telling them that you study with me will mean something.
For Czech films you should register/contact:
or check out the whole list at http://castingoveagentury.cz (there is contact info for everyone there)
register/contact the Prague Film School and FAMU International to be included in student films.

Play the Long Game

Casting agencies

Recently I’ve been listening to the SpotlightUK series of podcasts. They feature short interviews with casting directors, agents and other industry professionals about the business, mostly centered around the London scene. While most of the information is really excellent for those just getting out of drama school, there are some real reinforcements there in terms of keeping your head on straight in a world that doesn’t seem to have any sense to it.

I’ve mostly been taking away the sense of what a marathon it is. Going in for an audition, it is about getting that specific job, sure. But more than that, it is about building a relationship with the casting director. By showing up prepared, with strong choices, strong opinions, being on time, courteous to EVERYONE in the office no matter who they are or how they treat you, you send a clear message to the casting office. The message is: “I am not an asshole. I will not embarrass you. I will not be a pain in the ass to work with. You can call me for role after role after role.” By doing that, you are playing the long game. Whether you get any particular role or not, who can say. There are so many factors as to why a certain actor gets a certain role (many if not not most of which are out of their control) that it’s almost pointless to stress over not getting a role. The important aspect of the long game is that the casting director will want to call you back and keep searching for the role that is right for you. They will be your ally in this war instead of your enemy. And believe me, you don’t need more reasons to fail, especially when the casting office is so influential in being able to get the job in the first place!

Play the long game. Build the relationship. As they say in the podcast over and over: You are not just auditioning for this particular job. You’re auditioning for your whole career with this casting office. Don’t mess it up!

Very Interesting Listening

I listen to podcasts quite a bit. And one of the more interesting interviews I’ve heard recently was comedian Jay Mohr interviewing his manager Barry Katz. Katz has some pretty amazing things to say about what it’s like to make it in the business and has some great advice for people who are starting out. A really great listen!

Go here: http://www.jaymohr.com/mohr-stories.php and scroll down to #138 (I couldn’t find the link directly to the episode).

New Classes for the Fall 2012!

We are reinvigorating the Acting Studio! If you are a returning student, you can participate in the 4 day intensive scene workshops that are scheduled every month. If you are looking more for career tips, then check out our new acting modules. These modules are augmenting the regular classes from the Playhouse and focus on areas of the business of acting that are so important to actually getting the work!