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  • Writer's pictureRay Watters

Three score and seven years ago, my 8th grade music teacher handed me sheet music to “The Dream of Olwen” (Charles Williams, Composer) and suggested I should perform this on the piano with the school orchestra at the annual school music festival. One look at the music sent pangs of self-doubt through me and I felt this was not only a difficult task, but a near impossible one as well. I had been taking piano lessons since the age of eight and was considered a pretty good musician for someone my age, although I didn’t believe it. Nevertheless, I practiced the piece for weeks alone, and with the orchestra, and successfully performed it at the festival. That should have been a lesson that I am capable of more than I thought.

It wasn't.

I was not raised in the most supportive household and self-doubt was so rampant in my life that it led me to give up the piano at the age of eighteen…self-sabotage at its finest.

Years later, the idea of becoming an actor intrigued me, however, I took no action for the same reason…I simply didn’t feel I was good enough.

My self-esteem received a much needed boost during my time in the military since I accomplished much more than I thought capable and, as a result, years later I decided to leave my comfort zone and audition for a play being produced in our community. I booked a lead role and immediately had to memorize many pages of dialogue. Another impossible task I thought, yet despite my self-doubt, I accomplished it.

I learned that my self-doubt had been standing in the way of success and that I was engaging in self-sabotage. At that point, I made the decision to continue leaving my comfort zone and try to accomplish those things I used to dream about. This led to years doing live radio and hosting a regional television program…two things I once thought would never happen. I was accomplishing things I never thought I could do! Nevertheless, I was hit with another malady…a malady commonly known as the Imposter Syndrome.

During my time in radio and television, I received compliments from others and was even nominated for a press club award two years in a row. I received a proclamation from our city council honoring me for my support in the community. I was honored by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army for my efforts in supporting their missions. These awards take up space on the wall of a room in my house and should be a reminder that I have done well.

Should, but not always.

There were times I felt I would soon be discovered as a phony…a fake...and that all my accomplishments were the result of dumb luck…being in the right place at the right time. In short, I was a poster boy for the Imposter Syndrome.

It has taken time, but I have managed to overcome my self-doubt by accepting that I will never rise above being human and that I am OK just the way I am…warts and all. I can stop trying to be a perfectionist in order to live up to what I feel others expect of me. I have had to separate the facts of my accomplishments from my feelings of self-doubt. Most of all, it has been a relief to learn that most people on occasion have experienced the same self-doubt.

It has taken time…way too much time ‘cause I am at the end of my 8th decade of life. But, damn…I’m having fun!

Accept who you are and have fun!

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  • Writer's pictureRay Watters

More than fifty years have passed since I had the honor of meeting the brilliant pianist and comedian, Victor Borge, when I visited Copenhagen, Denmark. Borge was affectionately known as The Clown Prince of Denmark and anyone who watched this wonderful entertainer perform no doubt can remember some of his act…turning sheet music upside down and playing it backwards; stating that Chopin’s Minute Waltz can be used as an egg timer, and more. One bit in his act was his use of phonetic punctuation. He would take a page from a book and read the words, adding a vocal sound effect for every period, comma, exclamation mark, etc. The result would have the audience roaring with laughter. This brings me to the subject of how an actor uses punctuation when using sides in an audition.

Punctuation is important when we read and write to clearly convey the meaning in written words. When reading out loud and coming to a period, we use a downward inflection in the voice and an upward inflection if there is a question mark, a pause for the comma, and more. However, I have seen actors deliver lines with clear punctuation…maybe not like Victor Borge…but one can clearly tell where the periods, commas, and other marks are. In my opinion, this is not good acting. Punctuation marks in your audition sides are there for a reason, however, they can also be traps that can hinder your performance.

Acting is not about just memorizing and saying the words. If that were the case, everyone could be actors. To quote Sanford Meisner, “Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” When I get the sides for an audition, I look at my character’s breakdown and determine his importance to the scene and story. Then, from the sides and using the POV of the character, ask what I am trying to achieve; what are my obstacles; and what I am doing to overcome these obstacles. I look at the other character’s dialogue in the same way.

When it comes to the question mark, I determine what the writer is trying to convey in the question. Am I angry? Sarcastic? Frustrated? Too many times, an actor will see the question mark and assume the vocal inflection should be up at the end of the dialogue. Depending on your natural way of speaking, it could be that way, or not.

Another common trap is the exclamation point. Many feel this indicates you should speak louder. Not true. This could indicate surprise, frustration, anger, but does not mean you should automatically raise your voice. This is the same for the “All CAPS” trap. Again, it does not mean you should always speak loudly. It’s important to note the character’s intent. Is he trying to make a point by emphasizing a word or sentence in a clear manner, but not raising the volume?

There is another trap that is not punctuation, but a word…BEAT. Without knowing why, some actors will pause their dialogue for one or two seconds and continue. If you’re not emoting the meaning of the beat, then you have given no reason for the beat to be there. It does not have to be a long pause at all, but show that the character may have lost his train of thought and cannot think of the right word, or perhaps is experiencing an emotion. The same goes for the ellipsis (…). In short, when you see the word “beat”, or an ellipsis, determine why it’s there. There are many more traps in audition sides (stage direction, emotional, physical) that an actor should question why they are there.

In my opinion, actors who fall into these traps and just read the words without making informed choices are destined to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride (OK…I know that was sexist. Just deal with it).

And now for the caveat. What I have written is my opinion based on my training and my experience. You may have another method that works for you.

Do what works for you.

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I am going to start this blog by stating some very sad facts that, as actors, should concern us very much. I will follow this with what I feel we can do to help remedy this situation.

I wonder how many of you are aware that Florida is the only state in the Southeast, and one of 16 states throughout the U.S. without a program to compete for film and television projects. As of last year, Florida has lost out on approximately 100 major film and television projects that would have equated to over $1.5 billion spent statewide, and 125,000 cast and crew jobs (I do not have the numbers for this year). This also includes losses to ancillary businesses such as hotels, equipment rentals and many more. However, since this is addressed only to my fellow actors, I will concentrate on how it affects us.

Recently, I booked a co-star role in the Disney series, “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” through my Honolulu agency. I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful cast and crew, had a wonderful time, and was really happy to have been paid above scale. Now the downside. In order to take on the role, I had to accept to be a local hire. Being a local hire simply meant that I would not be paid for transportation, hotels, and not receive per diem. I traveled 4600 miles to Honolulu and paid for my hotel (actors stay at the same hotel at a reduced rate) and meals. Even though I was paid above scale, I returned home pretty much coming out even on money. In short…I didn’t make much $$ at all! While it was a valuable addition to my resumé, it came with a cost.

Before I continue, it would be appropriate to mention a little about me. I have been in the "business" for 64 years (Musician, Radio Broadcaster, TV Show Host, TV/Film Actor, Stage Actor/Director). I often humorously state my claim to fame was that I performed at the Hollywood Bowl four years before The Beatles. I am an old actor…a very old actor…80 years old to be exact. There is less competition for my type since there are fewer of us. Of course, there are also fewer parts for actors my age. So far, I haven’t been asked to audition for the role of a superhero or some handsome hunk (Drat the luck!).

To continue, film incentives in each state will differ, but the reasons for having them are the same…to promote their state, their businesses, and their workers. The latter is important to us because some states require that you be a resident of that state in order for production to get the incentive. Therefore, there are many roles for which we will not be able to book. For those states we can work, booking a role can be made even more difficult. All things being equal, the local actor normally will have priority.

When living in Texas, I was a member of the Texas Media Production Alliance (TXMPA). At that time, we had lost our incentives (much like what happened here about six years ago) and work just dried up. We worked hard to promote local filming and, despite many hurdles, did get the incentive program passed, but it required the work of the members. I remember attending Lobby Day in Austin, where members showed up to promote filming to our elected representatives. A huge number of our members were fellow actors who understood the need to promote more filming in Texas.

Subsequent to my move to Florida four years ago, I joined Film Florida, a statewide organization similar to TXMPA. During the past few years, Film Florida has been actively involved in promoting film incentives to our legislators, and while we still do not have an incentive program, we have received more bipartisan support each year. In short, it’s not a case of “if” we get a program, but “when”. The ”when” part of getting the program depends on those who support filming in our state, which should include our state’s local actors.

The yearly membership cost to be a member of Film Florida is $75.00 for individuals. If I were to add the cost of ongoing training, headshots, SAG-AFTRA dues, IMDb Pro, Casting Networks, equipment needed to self-tape, and other costs I may have left out, I would come up with a significant amount of money that makes the yearly cost of membership in Film Florida seem like pocket change. Yet, without the help of Film Florida, all the money spent on those items will mean little if we don’t have films made in our state.

It's a no-brainer, my fellow Florida actors! Let’s support each other by joining Film Florida. Let’s get back the big films like “Dolphin Tale” and the like! Let's be those local actors production companies prefer! Please check out their website:

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