• Ray Watters

Many times, friends and acquaintances have asked how to get into the acting business.Some think all they need do is have headshots, put themselves out to be discovered, and voila…they’re on screen! Well, for some people, that can work!


Film and television rely on people to be in the background. Look at any film or TV show and you will see people walking on the streets, in restaurants, or perhaps working in an office. These people are essential to the film since having no background activity would look unnatural. The people you see are known as Extras, or Background Artists. While they are essential to the production, being an Extra requires no training and anyone can sign up to a service that casts Extras. Examples include Central Casting in Los Angeles, Legacy Casting in Dallas, Third Coast Casting in Austin, or Extras Casting in Atlanta, just to name a few. If you want to get into the business of acting, being an extra is a great way to start. You not only make money, but you get to experience what happens on a film or TV set. Many people enjoy being an extra, love hanging around celebrities and have done well financially and choose to continue in this pursuit, especially if they have managed some union work as an extra and have joined SAG/AFTRA, the performers union.


However, if you really want to pursue the craft of acting, there is work to be done.First, if you are working as an extra and have reached the point of being eligible to join SAG/AFTRA, I would highly recommend against it.Gaining experience is very important.There are many student and non-union films that look for aspiring actors.Working in these projects can build your resumé and give you valuable experience.If you were a member of a performer’s union, you would not be able to work any non-union project, So…if you want to join the union, wait until you gain experience.


I cannot emphasize enough the value of training.If you have no formal college training in theater, look for acting classes in your locale.There are many great acting coaches in several cities, but I would strongly suggest doing some research first.Look for recommendations online.


When you get to the point of having training and experience and feel it is time to look for a talent agent…be very very careful.There is a plethora of dishonest folks out there who will promise you fame and fortune and be very happy to part you with your money.Rule of thumb…if they want money…run away! There are “talent agencies” who will tell you that you have tremendous potential and want you to take their classes and use their photographers for headshots.They will happily take thousands of dollars from you and give you nothing but promises.


Reputable talent agencies do not charge for representing actors.They make their money by taking a percentage of your earnings.Typically, talent agents will take ten percent of your earnings in union jobs and twenty percent for non-union jobs. It is not easy to get representation since talent agencies choose their clients carefully.They want to be sure the actor is serious in the profession and continues to improve their craft through training.They don't make money unless you book and you don't book unless you're serious about your craft.Talent agencies have websites that explain how to submit. Be sure you have current, professional headshots and that your resumé is up-to-date before submitting.


You can, if you choose, skip getting an agent and self-submit. There is Actors Access and Casting Networks (you should have both, even with an agent), however most large roles go straight to agents. If you're serious about acting as a career, you should seek representation. That's a separate blog.


There is nothing I would rather do as a vocation other than acting. Being on a film set is a total joy for me. But it is hard work that many times require long hours on set with a lot of time spent waiting and running your lines for the next scene. As an example, one episode of a TV series normally takes about eight days to complete and the hours each day can be very long.

And I love every minute of it!

  • Ray Watters

Updated: 5 days ago

Full disclosure: Acting is an art…or a craft (whether it’s one or the other is still debated), not a science. There are many approaches to reach the same objective…good acting. What I write in this blog is based on my experience and my opinion. I have found there are as many opinions as there are actors and what works for one may not work for another.


I have been trained by several acting teachers/coaches and have read several books on the craft. What I have discovered is that there are not only several methods, but disagreements on how one should learn the craft (or art as Stella Adler would describe it). Some teachers such as Lee Strasberg place emphasis on the internal while Sanford Meisner would emphasize the external. Strasberg taught sense memory and Stella Adler felt sense memory was dangerous to one’s psyche.


So, what has worked for me? Well, that is what this is about.


I am a follower of Sanford Meisner. Meisner taught being real in imaginary circumstances and placed emphasis on the other actor through his repetition exercises. I find it best to memorize my lines without emotion so I can react according to the other person. I recommend his book, Sanford Meisner On Acting, and recommend taking Meisner classes.


Another technique is not one for the actor, but for the Director that nevertheless benefits the actor. This is The Travis Technique Master Class. Rather than asking me to define my character, or how my character should behave, the Director would talk directly to the character and question the character. This is the Interrogation Process. There is also a peer to peer interrogation as well. In short, the emphasis is on the character rather than the actor. I am still learning this technique and hope to use it in future projects.


There are several books that I have found very helpful, even though I don’t agree with a few authors on some issues. An example is Ivana Chubbuck’s, The Power of the Actor. While I find the first three “tools” (Overall Objective, Scene Objective, and Obstacles) to be helpful, she lost me at the fourth tool, Substitution. Substitution involves sense memory, which I agree with Adler can be dangerous.

This brings me to one aspect of method acting with which I do not subscribe. I personally question why an actor finds it necessary to “stay in character” off camera as well as on for the duration of filming. Frankly, I found more amateurs doing this than professionals. I have worked with seasoned actors on more than one TV series and on film where there is tension among the characters, however none among the actors in between scenes because they save the acting for the camera. Again remember, this is my opinion and this is what works for me.


Other books I recommend include Psychology for Actors written by Kevin Page (he shot J.R. in “Dallas”) and The Art of Acting by Stella Adler. Auditioning for television and film is very different from acting and I highly recommend The Organic Actor, by Lori S. Wyman, C.S.A.


Let me repeat…the foregoing are my opinions based on my experience and what works for me.


Find what works for you.

  • Ray Watters

I’ve heard all too often from fellow actors (and have experienced myself) that there are people in your life you have considered friends…until you became successful in your craft. These people changed from “friend” to the latest word du jour…“hater”…almost overnight. It happens. These people are what former HBO Casting Director, Amy Jo Berman (see link below) refers to as “Dream Stealers” or “Energy Vampires.” If this has happened to you, read on.


Many of us have worked hard through the years to train in our craft. We have worked free just to build our resume. We have spent considerable time and money in training. We understand rejection after having driven many miles to many auditions, only to hear nothing, except for that rare call back. In the beginning, our experience on a film set is one of the passing pedestrian on the street, or the diner in a restaurant. After some time, however, things start happening and we see some success.

When success is reached, it’s only natural to want to share it with others. The problem is, how do you share your success…your big break…without appearing like a narcissist…a boaster…a braggadocios character? When someone shares that they just received their college degree, we know what it took to get that degree. We know a person has worked to get that job promotion. However, when we finally get that big break, people have no clue what it took to get there, and some assume it was just dumb luck. There is a way to share your success without sounding like a braggart.


When you get that big break and want to share it with others, mention what it took to get there. You can tell them that after years of training, lots of little parts, and many auditions, you finally got that great role. When we talk about the hard work it took to get success, most people will cheer your success and support you…most, but not all.


Unfortunately, there will still be the dream stealers…the energy vampires who are jealous of your success. There will be people who will try to put you down and make you feel “less than.” These are people who feel bad about themselves and the only way they can build themselves up is to put you down. You also may experience those who were once friends and have stopped communicating with you. You may want to consider it's time to just walk away from these people. For me, walking away from the haters was the best thing I could do.


For the people who are truly happy for your success, treat them like gold! I have many of those people in my life!


We know what it took to get where we are.


Check out the link below.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBQbw69w-I4

©2017  Ray Watters

 

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