• Ray Watters

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

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. Do understand that in the hierarchy of the set, the Extra is at the very low end and some times not treated very well.

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!

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  • Ray Watters

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

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.

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.

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  • Ray Watters

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

Today I travelled to Orlando and attended an Actor’s Seminar at the SAK Comedy Club. Speaking and answering questions to a large group of actors were Lori Wyman (Lori Wyman Casting), John Peros (John Peros Casting) and John Lux (Executive Director, Film Florida).

Lori Wyman and John Peros were present to give valuable information about the casting process and answer questions, however, the main reason for the event was to promote the organization, Film Florida, and urge actors to join and get involved. To that end, the Executive Director, John Lux, explained the purpose of the organization and gave us an update on legislation now pending that, if passed, will provide incentives to production companies in the form of rebates to attract more filming to our state.

The yearly cost to join Film Florida is $75.00. I heard that amount compared to many things, the most common among many folks is the cost of a few trips to Starbucks, however, if we use that comparison, we are missing the point.

I will speak for myself only, however, I am sure what applies to me applies to most of my fellow actors.

If I were to add the cost of my SAG-AFTRA dues to my monthly fees paid to IMDb Pro, Casting Networks, and to the cost of keeping my website running, I would come up with a significant sum. Let’s add the cost of headshots as well…they are not cheap...and the cost of ongoing training to keep our instrument tuned. Those costs add up to an amount 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 dues and other costs will mean little if we don't have films being made in our state.

It’s a no-brainer, my Florida Actor Friends. I joined a year ago. You should, too!

Check out Film Florida by clicking on the link below https://filmflorida.org

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