Friday, November 1, 2013

New Actors: How to be louder on stage and move more naturally


Sometimes I don't speak loud enough. People say to speak through/with the diaphragm - how do I do that and how do I know if I am doing it right?

The motions and body movement occasionally seem stiff or not natural. Is it over exaggeration? Lack of being in character? Not relaxed? How can I fix it?


Good questions... A trick to help you be louder is to tighten your stomach. Try tightening your stomach and see if it helps you speak louder. It's hard to do at first but if you do it enough it will happen more naturally.

Being stiff and not natural has different causes. If your director has strict blocking, you might be thinking too much about that. Something that helps is to figure out why you are moving. If you give yourself a reason to move then it might feel more natural. Are you moving toward another character because you want their attention? Are you moving away because you are scared? Think about the reason for the movement for your character (and not just because the director said to do it). I hope that helps!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Get exposure as actor with Doritos commercial (and add to your portfolio)

A great way to gain exposure as an actor is to create a commercial for a contest like the Doritos Crash the Superbowl Contest.  Check out the fun video my wife and I made with our baby (and future star).

These projects are great to use for your acting portfolio as well.  So get your acting friends together and make a fun commercial together.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How can actors connect emotionally to a character?

QUESTION: Sometimes I just feel off and can't connect to the character and dig in to my emotions, sometimes i just feel really dull. How do you handle those times?

ANSWER: You might be having trouble relating to the character? The character might be very different from yourself. You can either dig in to past memories and try to find a situation that relates or even if it is not very similar, then use a past memory that has the right emotion. Or think of a person you know well that might be a similar character. And try to figure out the emotions based on what you know about the similar person. A third way might be to study a character from a movie that is similar and done well. Analyze how the actor uses emotion and how you might achieve that same level of emotion.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Getting the lead in a school play

A senior in high school asked, "How do I get the lead in the school play?"

If you're a senior, here are some tips for the audition:

A good thing to do is arrive early.  If you can beat some of the judges and drama director, be there to greet them and see if they want anything handed out to other actor or help with a sign in.  Show yourself as a team player and leader by encouraging other actors and being helpful.  Stay the entire time if you can and thank the judges and drama coach at the end.  Help clean up in the end. This shows you are committed to the project and you'll be there from start to finish.

If you are not a senior, some additional thing you can do... 

Be happy with any part you get.  Be a team player and do your best at any part.

Be early to practices and stay late.

Be helpful to other actors with practicing lines, makeup and costumes.

Volunteer to help with anything extra like promoting the play.

Offer to be an understudy for a lead role if you're in a small part.  Memorize the lines to show you are able to do a large part.

Feel free to post your ideas or questions on the topic of "getting the lead" below.

More acting tips at

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Being a TV and Film Extra in LA

by Sandra Miska (from Industry Insider)

"I started out doing audience work a year ago, attending the tapings of various talk and game shows for pay. When sitting on my butt for eight dollars an hour got boring, I took the plunge and signed up with Extras Management, one of several booking services for background workers. (You don’t have to be with a booking service to land background work, but it sure makes it easier. The monthly fee is definitely worth it!)"

"Any rising actors reading this, I highly encourage you to purse background work, as it can lead to union work; not to mention, you get to see seasoned performers like Johnny Depp and Betty White practice their craft."

"1. Don’t expect to make friends with the stars. There’s an unspoken rule that an extra can’t speak to a lead unless he or she is spoken to first. It’s not that the leads are unfriendly to the little people; the fact is they need to focus in order to prepare for scenes and don’t want their concentration broken." In case you’re wondering, the nicest people in showbiz (out of the ones I’ve encountered, at least) are: Justin Timberlake, Charlie Sheen, Jon Hamm, Cory Monteith, Nathan Fillion, Lizzy Caplan, David Zayas, Garret Dillahunt, and AnnaLynne McCord, just to name a few."

2. “Quiet on the set!” Ever notice that when you watch a scene in which the leads are having a conversation in a crowded restaurant or on a busy street, you can always hear them clearly? That’s because the background actors are often silent, pretending to carry out tasks or talk to each other, or pantomiming. Pantomiming can be awkward, especially if you’re paired with a stranger you have to have a fake conversation with – not unlike a real first date. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. It gets easier; I promise."

3. "Don’t be disappointed when that scene that you worked on for several hours finally airs and you’re only a blur, or worse, not there at all. A single scene will often be shot from several angles, with background coverage needed all around. Remember this when that big restaurant scene, the one you told you friends and family back in Michigan all about, finally airs and they decided to use close-ups of the main actors."

4. "Wardrobe, wardrobe, wardrobe. The evening before you go to set, you have to call a number to listen to a recording giving you details about the next day’s shoot, including what to wear. In addition to being “camera ready,” (that is, you have to be dressed and have you hair and make-up done, as if you might be on camera as soon as you arrive, even if your call time is six a.m.), you’ll be asked to bring one or two other wardrobe options. After you check in, you’ll have to visit the kindly wardrobe lady (or gentleman). He or she has final say on what your wear, so don’t get offended if your seemingly perfect first choice outfit gets vetoed. A lead could be wearing something similar, and you simply cannot overshadow him or her with your fabulousness."

5. "While things can move quickly on set, often you have to wait around. Bring a book. If you’re one who likes to play on your smart phone, bring your charger. You can also use this downtime to chat, which brings us to…"

6. "Make new buddies! Even though it’s unlikely you’ll become BFFs with Jennifer Love Hewitt or strike up a bromance with Michael C. Hall, you still have the opportunity to form valuable connections on set. Any of the background actors or P.A.’s you meet could be a principle actor or producer tomorrow (including yourself!), and relationships are vital in this industry. I’ve met plenty of people who’ve offered me everything from advice to a ride home, and I’ve in turn helped out others by lending an ear and connecting them with my own contacts. It’s a tough town, and we all have to look out for each other!"

More free acting tips at

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tips for making homemade headshots (for new actors)

Not everyone can afford professional headshots and it is okay to take them at home. Here are some tips to making home headshots look professional:

Here are some good tips for taking headshots at home:

Getting ready: Do not put on too much makeup - look nice but not overdone

Pick a shirt that's not distracting (you want the focus on your face, not what you're wearing)

Do not wear a hat or glasses (unless you can't see without them and would need to act with them)

Picking a location:

Pick a solid background (a lighter color is good) - do not have any pictures or mirrors or shelves or windows in the background - If you use a sheet, make sure it is not wrinkled and make sure it is smooth - keep the background as far away as possible so you don't cast a shadow on it

Sunlight is the best lighting so have a window in front of you or to the side (never behind) or shoot outside (but avoid a busy background)

Taking the picture:

Have someone else take the picture. Pictures you take of yourself with a cell phone rarely come out good. You need to focus on your pose and not taking the picture.

Have the picture include your head with the top of your head almost touching the top of the frame and the bottom at your shoulders.

Take a LOT of pictures and try different expressions and poses. Take at least 10.

Review the pictures before ending the session.

Printing the picture:

Have your name nicely printed (with a computer) on the bottom

Print them in color

My homemade headshot

Getting an agent

Try to get as many paid acting jobs as possible. The paid work is what will get an agent's attention.

Call around to see which local agent takes new actors (and see which is the most helpful on the phone). Then make an appointment with a local acting agency that takes new talent and see if someone will talk with you about what you need to do to get prepared for them.

Word of warning: no not do an agent that requires a fee. Good agents only get paid when you get work. The exception is buying headshots, etc.

Here is a list of SAG approved agents. The best agents will be on this list:

To Live or Die in LA (tips for new actors: getting experience and finding an agent)

Actor Q & A with Risa Bramon Garcia, BGB Studios, from Industry Insider

"It’s a tough time for actors coming to L.A. to try and make a name for themselves in film and television. There’s just not a lot of work. 5% of actors in this town are making a really decent living. And maybe 10% or 20% are making some kind of living. And that’s it. And everybody else is not."

Here are some suggestion for new actors starting out:

- Start out getting experience in another city. LA is expensive and there won't be a support system.

"One of the reasons I think working in theater in a place like New York is so great is that people get to know you and you don’t really need an agent to audition for theater, to get seen. So maybe you do a play at a smaller theater and people see you. Eventually, an agency will agree to represent you and then that agency might have a partner agency in L.A. so you may even have representation when your get here. That was my path."

(Note from blog: New Mexico agents can be this way too... have a connection to an LA agency, so many agents around the country may have these kinds of connections).


Not having an agent shouldn't hold you back from getting started. It's up to you to make things happen.

"First of all, having an agent doesn’t always mean all that much... Your agent is not there to get you a job. They can make introductions, they can submit you, negotiate your deals, and they can tell you what’s happening out there. But you need to be creative, and proactive; you need to create your own work."


Plan on having a backup job. Temporary jobs are good, especially night jobs so you're free for auditions during the day.

Here are some possible night jobs that could work:

Work at night job at a hotel
Night shift at a store
Babysitting or nanny
Personal assistant

Also temp jobs as well as substitute teaching can be good ones so you're not stuck with a regularly scheduled job.

Monday, July 22, 2013

New Actor under 18? Move to LA? Convince your parents? (

Are you a new actor under age 18 who wants to make it big? Should you move to LA?

The answer is do it later. Wait for college. Going to a college like USC or UCLA is a safer way to make the leap. These universities will help you get training and experience as well as make connections to jobs. Plus it gives you a safe place to live while you develop your LA network (and having a network is very important to be successful). A network consist of people you know in Hollywood that can help you get jobs. Without a network, it is very difficult to get an acting job.

But a lot of young actors don't want to wait. What can you do before college? Here are some ideas:

1. School plays are great experience. Casting directors like actors with theatre/stage experience.

2. Community theatre plays are another way to train yourself and work with adult actors who can teach you a lot and maybe even help make connections.

3. Make your own short films. Even if you make bad short films, you still learn a lot of acting and then watching yourself. Have fun with it and don't worry about being good. But watch the finished film and think about how you can do better.

4. Start a YouTube channel. You can even make a little money by monetizing the video. And if you're lucky, you'll have a viral hit and make your mark early.

Trouble with Convincing Parents

If you're having trouble convincing your parents, doing the above 4 steps will show them you are passionate about being an actor and they will be more likely to support you if you show your love what you're doing.

More acting tips at

Simple Acting Improv Tips (3 important things to do to be good at improv)

The key to improv is to:

1) do the first thing that comes to mind related to the situation/scene/topic

2) don't try to be funny

3) always say yes (agree with what the other actors do and build on it)

More improv at

Friday, July 12, 2013

Facial expressions and emotions when acting

Question: "How to work on facial expression for acting? i cant convey my emotions when i act. do you have any tips and examples for each emotions like sad, frightened, nervous, etc. is squinting a bad thing. how do i move my eyebrows downward"

Answer: Rather than trying to create the emotions on your face, work on feeling the emotions. Pick something that makes you feel a certain way (scared) and try to really feel that way.

Here is a great monologue with a variety of emotions:

Try to think of times in your own life where you have felt like the character and then remember these emotions while doing the monologue. Record yourself and forget about the camera while you do it. Focus on the emotions and really feeling them.

More acting tips:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TV Audition Tips from a Real Audition

I've never been the best at auditioning. I tend to be one of those actors that gets more parts from reputation (seeing my past work) than successful auditions. But one thing I've learned from auditions is to try and have fun with it.

As an acting, there are going to be a lot of auditions, a lot of unsuccessful ones, but why have it be a stressful or bad experience. Have fun with each one and give a reason to have the casting director call you back again for other parts. Even though I don't always get the part, casting directors do seem to like me and do ask for me by name. Maybe it is because I make an audition fun for everyone.

For the latest audition I did yesterday (for a television series), we were supposed to come in Western costume. I recently moved and didn't bring all my costumes with me so I had to quickly hit the second hand stores for a costume. I managed to put together a western-ish costume. Sadly I couldn't find a cowboy hat, except for a dorky straw one. I got it and decided to have fun with it. When I did my "slate", introduction of myself, I did a joke about someone stealing my good cowboy hat and getting stuck with the bad one. Then I ditched the hat and did fine without it, looking Western enough I believe in a long sleeved dark shirt and black vest and jean and cowboy boots (although the boots weren't on camera, it still helps to get in to character to wear the right thing). The casting director was really happy with the few lines I did for a small part, she had me read for a bigger part. That was a very good sign.

Getting a new part is a challenge at the last minute. I'd worked all day on a couple of lines (saying them at everyone slight opportunity in regular conversation - thankfully my wife didn't get too annoyed). Suddenly I had four new lines to do. They offered me a few minutes to prepare so I took it. I went out in the hall and went over my new lines. Then I jumped in and did it. Amazingly I got the lines right on the first try.

A few things I learned this audition (always try to learn something new from each audition):

1. Be prepared for changes. Practicing memorizing something quick is a good skill.

2. If you get more than one chance at lines, try to make them better with each try by doing something a little different. The casting director was very happy with my final try.

3. Try to stay in character for most of the audition. I forgot to do this at one point and probably ruined one of the takes. Thankfully I got another.

4. Remember that the casting director isn't the final word. They are recording you for a reason. Someone is going to decide if they want you or not based on your camera performance so make your on camera time count.

5. It never hurts to say thank you. I'm going to send some thank you emailed to the casting directors now.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Should actors eat before performing?

Question: Is it a bad idea to eat before a show? If your doing a play is it a bad idea to eat a meal before it? Or should you wait till after?

Answer: Eat really healthy before you perform. You don't want to act on an empty stomach and you'll actually be more nervous if you don't eat. Try filling foods that are healthy (veggies, fruit, nuts) and avoid fast food, fried foods and gassy foods.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Can you train to act at home?

Question: Train as an actress at home? I don't have enough money for an acting coach and I don't have any clubs I can join for acting. But I love and want to be an actress. Can I study characters and try to say their lines with the same emotion?

Answer: The best way to learn is by doing. Look for school plays and community theatres to audition for. Or if that's not available you could do short movies with your friends.

Here are some short scripts you can use to make short movies: Then you'll have the short movie to watch and get ideas on how to improve your acting.

You can practice on your own as well with monologues:

After you practice and memorize the monologue, you can act it for friends or family or video yourself doing it and watch it on your own for ideas to improve. If a part is boring or hard to watch, then think of ways to make that part more interesting. Do the monologue over until you feel like you'd be proud to show someone else. When you do show your video monologue to someone else (or even a small group of family and friends), watch how they react rather than watching the video with them. Are there parts that they have good reactions to? Make a note of the good parts and then think of ways to improve the other parts.

Here are some more acting tips as well in the Free Acting School:

Friday, June 28, 2013

First Grad of Acting School! (and resume advice)

We have officially had the first graduate of the Acting School!

I will have to start working on an Acting 2 class now :)

Acting Resume Advice
In addition to a good learning experience, completing the Acting School is something you can put on your acting resume. When you're starting out, it's good to have as much on your Acting resume as possible. Include all your school plays (casting directors like theatre experience) and all the acting schools and workshops you do. You also want to include a list of talents on your resume such as singing. But also include skills such as photography and horseback riding to the list if you have them. Sometimes casting directors need actors who how to ride a horse. Never say you have a skill you don't though. If you've never been on a horse but say you have riding experience, you'll be in for a pretty big shock your first day on set and could create a lot of problems which would prevent you from getting more jobs in the future.

Thank you to everyone who is participating in the Free Acting School. Here is what your certificate will look like when you complete the class.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Acting Tips: Finding the Right Emotion

Question: I am playing an old sick man in a play, my director says am not bringing out emotions. How do i achieve this?

Answer: It can be a challenge to play a part very different from yourself. If you're neither old nor been very sick, it's tough to connect to the character.

First, look at each line and think about what your character might be thinking. And what emotion they are feeling? Then try to actually feel that emotion inside you nd say the line. By feeling the emotion, your line should change.

Do you have any older relatives you could visit with? Or a local senior citizen home you could go to? Spending time with an older person and watching them can help. See how they move differently, sound different and act different. And if you know them well, have them read the lines for you to see how they would say them.

Art from

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to perform a monologue (acting tips)

Someone asked for tips on performing monologues:

The main mistake I see actors make when performing monologues is that they pick only one emotion and use it throughout the whole monologue.

One example is with the monologue called Demons:

When I had actors try this, several selected one sad or angry emotion and used it throughout which made it a boring performance. The best performances were the ones who selected different types of emotions for different parts of the script. Even though the whole monologue is sad, there are elements of anger, fear, hurting, desperation, madness and even love. The actors that found different emotions to use in different parts were the most interesting and enjoyable to listen to.

See monologues:

Art from

Monday, June 24, 2013

Learn about Acting through Improv Theatre Games

A great way to learn about acting is through improv (theatre games):

What is acting? What types of acting do people do? Movies, television, theatre. What is theatre like? How is it different from television and movies?

Do you want to be actors today? Actors have to practice and they play games to practice being good actors.

K-6 Honey Walk: All students stand and walk in place. The instructor calls out different things they must pretend to walk through. Snow, deeper snow, ice, water, mud, jello, honey...

Actors have to be good at pretending.

K-6 Pass the Ball: All students in a circle. Ask the students to pass a mimed ball to others quickly. Then when it gets back to the instructor, the instructor changes the ball in some way: it becomes heavier, until it weighs a ton, or extremely light, extremely big (and light or heavy) or extremely small (and light or heavy). The ball can take on other characteristics (or adjectives) such as hot, cold, etc. Students need to show the ball's characteristics in the way it gets passed. Instructor let students suggest other ways the ball changes to extend the activity. The instructor can also give the ball sounds that need to be passed as well and the students must imitate the sounds.

Have to be aware of other actors. Good actors can work with other actors and learn to react to what they are doing.

K-6 Group Stop: Everyone quietly mills about the room. When the instructor yells stop, then everyone must stop. After doing this a couple of times, the instructor will freeze in position unexpectedly and not say stop. As soon as one notices that the instructor has frozen in position they freeze as well. So the effect of one person freezing causes everyone to freeze. Once everyone is still the group starts milling around again. The goal is to see how quickly the group can freeze in position. Once the students get the hang of it, then the instructor will have everyone close their eyes. The instructor will tap a student on the shoulder and that student becomes the secret leader. Everyone opens their eyes and then starts moving around the room. The secret leader freezes and everyone must freeze. The other student then guess who the secret leader was. If they can’t tell, then everyone starts again and tries to figure it out. Then the instructor selects a new secret student and continues. Try to see which student can be the secret student the longest.

Discuss how actors need to practice different emotions. Ask the students if they’ve even been stuck somewhere. Discuss the emotions they felt when they were stuck. The students may say things like scared, happy, sad. Once the instructor gets a variety of answers/emotions, then the next game begins.

K-6 Shrinking Box: Actors pantomine that they are in a very large box. At first they might think it is fun and get excited. The students show that emotion. Then they might get mad and show that emotion. Then they might get sad and cry. Then the box gets smaller. They find the sides of the box and then show the same three emotions again. The box shrinks a couple more times until they are on the floor. Then they must figure out a way to escape. The students call out ideas and then the instructor picks an idea and they escape with that idea.

Actors must learn to copy different characters. Do ever copy something you see in a tv show or movie? Like Homer Simpson “Doh!”

Copy cats: The instructor leads the students. The students must copy everything the instructor does.

Mirror Exercise: Pair up students. One student is the mirror and must copy everything the other student does.

3 Noses: A fun and silly game. Let everyone walk leisurely around the room. When you shout '3 Noses' the players must form little groups, each group consisting of 3 touching noses. Use your imagination - say 4 feet, 3 hands, 2 ears, 9 fingers, 5 hips, 4 elbows, 3 heads, 7 left big toes, 4 little fingers. Repeat till everyone is giggling.

Actors must be able to do different types of acting. What is a fairy tale?

Fairy Tale in a Minute: The students pick a fairy tale (or get one from the instructor) and then act out the story in one minute. For older students: Then they must act out the same story in 30 seconds. THEN they must act it out in 10 seconds.

Melodrama: We have an old fashioned melodrama for you, but with a twist. The twists will be based on suggestions from other students. We have three characters: a damsel in distress, a hero, and a villain. Students: you will Boo at Villain, Cheer for Hero, Ahhh for Damsel. Students will suggest... Damsel: something strange to raise on a farm, Villain: a weird form of torture, Hero: an odd weapon someone might use to stop a villain.

A way for actors to practice speaking clearly is Tongue Twisters.

Hidden Hot Spot: Instructor divides room up in four areas. Students move around and then the instructor says stop and they must freeze. Then they reveal what four areas are (sing, dance, exercise, sleep). These can be written on cards. Then students move around the room and the four areas change (either mix up four areas or add new ones).

Happy Place: Sit and think about your happy place. Where is a place you really like to go? Open your eyes and tell us some of your happy places. Now close your eyes again and imagine doing something fun in your happy place. With your eyes closed show us what you’re doing without making any sound. Instructor can pick students who are doing good pantomime and bring them up front. Have students guess what they’re doing. Ends up in charades.

Another game: Here Comes Jack and Jill - Students get up in groups of four. Two of the team members describe what the other two (Jack and Jill) are like and then the two others enter and act the way they were described. After everyone gets a turn and if everyone is having fun, then the teams can go again and switch roles.

New idea: Follow the leader to get into line – silly walk – yell out “that’s not a very silly walk when you have an idea for a fun one.