Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What does "16 Bars" mean for musicals?

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A question from an actor:

I don't know whom to ask -- I would love to be able to audition for singing parts but not that adept at singing (wish I were because I really enjoy expressing feelings through song...)

There is a song, [song redacted], I have been wanting to learn, a simple yet very loaded tune. I can do that tune, I think, without having to take 27 hours of training. Because it's simple. And I love it!

Most auditions want you to bring 16 bars of music. I have no idea what that means. The only bars I know is one to have a drink at, or to raise. So, uh, could you maybe help me out?

TAE responds...

Howdy! This would probably be easier to explain in person with actual sheet music in front of us, but here's a crash course (which will probably make no sense whatsoever.)

• "Bars" (which are also called "measures") are units of time in music. Songs will have beats, like, "1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4" or waltzes have "1-2-3, 1-2-3." Each SET of numbers (1-2-3-4 or 1-2-3) is called a measure. Measures are separates by a line, or a "bar," which is why "measures" are also referred to as "bars."

• If a song seems like it is set up in 4 beat sequences (1-2-3-4) we would say that it has 4 beats per measure. So, "16 bars" (16 measures) would have 64 beats (16 bars x 4 beats per measure.) For audition purposes, you can listen to a song and find the best 64 beats to sing, which will automatically equal 16 bars. Your best 16 bar "cut"of a song is usually at the end of the song, or one verse and one chorus.

• If a song has 3 beats per measure (1-2-3, like a waltz) you would look for 48 beats to complete 16 measures/bars. Again, the best 16 bars can usually be found at the end of the song, or one verse and one chorus.

Have I lost you yet? If not, here's more...

• 3 beats per measure is called "3/4 time"

• 4 beats per measure is called "4/4 time"

The song you mentioned is in 4/4 time. You can count "1-2-3-4" evenly as the song is played. So, you want to sing along and find the best 64 beats/16 bars that you can. This is a very personal choice, and usually involves finding the part of the story you enjoy telling most, as well as finding the part of the song that shows off your voice the most.

I LOVE this song for you, by the way. There are tons of roles for men who aren't singers but who can carry a tune. This would be a very beneficial skill to develop. I have a friend who auditions for musicals with "Happy Birthday" - And he gets work all the time (of course, he is a character actor and the work he seeks is very specific.) So, this is worth exploring.

LIVE IN NYC? If you are looking to learn more about music and singing, I know of two wonderful voice teachers that you can see to get on track. They work with beginners through advanced singers- Joan Barber and Carolann Sanita.


Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

How to keep from "sucking up" (Submitted Question)

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This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I posted an answer that I wanted to repost here:

“So I've met quite a few actors who are desperate and constantly trying to get their headshots and resumes into the hands of important people. Example - the waiter who tries to sell himself as soon as he sees anyone in the biz. Anyway, I've always found these ploys desperate and annoying, and I know that if I were in a position of power, I would purposely NOT hire people who behave that way.

So recently, I've found myself around multiple studio heads and execs on a fairly regular basis, but I haven't tried selling myself to them because it just seems desperate. Is it the norm for people who are actors to constantly be selling themselves??? It seems to me that with my recent exposure to people in power, I would rather just be myself and be a normal person and I would much rather that they walk away with an overall favorable general impression of me rather than me desperately pawning myself trying to make a fake "connection."

What's the best way to go about things? I'm sure there are lots of people who succeed without throwing themselves at the feet of anyone powerful right?”

TAE responds:

First off- I want to thank you for your post, and for your conscientiousness. I think you're right- actors who appear desperate usually will not win favor with those in the position to advance their careers.

However, there is a very fine line between selling yourself desperately, and promoting your work to someone who is in the position to hire. And I think the first step to being on the "positive" side of the line is to start by being conscientious. The second step is to listen and wait for the right opportunity.

First off- you want to make sure that you are building a relationship with the other person, in a way that has nothing to do with your being an actor and needing their help. This starts by having real conversations about things both in and out of the industry. Then, once you feel as though you have developed a rapport, wait for the right opportunity to let them know that you are an actor and that you would love to be able to keep in touch with them. Or, in your case (since you seem to see them on a regular basis) ask them if you might be able to add them to your mailing list for when you are doing projects, and ask for their support.

Here is an example of how this has worked for me:

I was working on the set of a soap opera doing a recurring Under 5 role, and I was sitting next to one of the crew members. He obviously knew I was an actor, but instead of talking about acting we got into a long conversation about dogs and living in New York. Then he says something like, "blah blah, my good friend, Sean Penn, blah, blah" and I realize that this guy has a bigger position in the industry than I had imagined. I mean, here we were, just shooting the breeze about living and working in New York, and he's friends with a major industry pro!

Turns out, he is Danny Aiello III (the son of the great Danny Aiello) who is the lead stunt coordinator on this soap -- and he coordinates stunts for most studio films that come through New York. I knew I had an opportunity to make a lasting connection, but I really had no idea how knowing him could benefit my career (being female and NOT an action type.) But he was such a nice guy and I wanted to find a way to keep in touch, so I said exactly that- "I am not sure how we'll be able to network in the future, but we seem to have really hit it off. I would love to be added to your mailing list so I can support your work, and add you to my mailing list to invite you out to see some of the theater I do." He was thrilled- he wrote his info down immediately. Then he told me he was glad to have my info because he was also a director (for both film and theater) and he was always looking for smart actors. Now, the trick is to make sure I maintain the relationship so that when future opportunities arise, he knows who I am. Maintaining the relationship takes the same techniques- conscientiousness, listening, and the willingness to ask for what you want.

The lesson I've learned is that you can never pre-judge someone. You never know who will value knowing that you are an actor, and you certainly won't get anywhere if you never mention it at all. But, as you said in your post, it is very important that your request does not smack of desperation, and I think this can be achieved by being personable, being reasonable, and believing that in making the connection, you are benefiting THEIR career/life as well as your own.

Wow- that was a long response... sorry about that! I hope this is useful to you. Best of luck in making these lasting connections!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What kind of career do YOU want?

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I try to take advantage of as many networking opportunities as possible- going to plays and screenings, meeting fellow actors and industry folks at parties, taking classes / seminars / master classes with folks whose work I respect, and so on. Not only do I do this for my coaching business, but also for my career as a professional actor, and networking is vital for the survival of both.

One of the questions I am asked most often is, “What kind of career do you want to have?” This kind of question can be networking suicide for actors, because actors have long been trained to want to do EVERYTHING. When someone asks an actor to be specific about what they want, they either stammer and/or freeze, or proceed to outline a long, tedious list of projects and genres across ALL performing arts mediums. Actors have a golden opportunity to make a real connection when someone asks this question, which can start the wheels of their career in motion. But neither of the above responses really get to the heart of who you are and what you have to offer as a performer.

To take advantage of this type of question, you need to think out your answer in advance. I have developed a short questionnaire that can help you determine what kind of career you want to have. The best kind of answer is simple and specific, and will give the listener a strong vision of exactly what you’re looking for. (After all, isn’t networking all about getting to know the needs of others and communicating your needs in return?)

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1) What breakdowns are perfect for you?

Go through your audition resources and start to note which breakdowns fit you perfectly. What are the adjectives that stand out (perky, sarcastic, lonely, desperate, dangerous)? What type of work do these characters do (nurse, father, attorney, PR executive)? What is your perfect social class (poor, blue collar, white collar, rich) and what ethnic, racial and national backgrounds resonate with you? There are other factors to consider as well- this is just the starting point. Narrow the list down to 1 or 2 perfect breakdowns (blend characteristics from a few of them together, if you have to.)

2) What genre is perfect for you?

Are you best suited for wacky physical comedy, or do you salivate over brooding, period dramas? Do you love Shakespeare or documentary re-enactments? You can certainly include other genres in your search for projects, but choosing your preferred genre will help you to focus your energy and attention to that which inspires you the most.

3) If you had your dream career, which medium would you spend the most time in?

I think that most of us would say that we would do anything that would allow us to make a good living (short of, say, porn). But what medium really gets you energized? Do you prefer the intimacy of on-camera work, or do you thrive on the energy of a live audience? Or would you prefer to combine the two in a studio audience setting? Getting specific about what you would prefer doesn’t pigeon-hole you into one medium, it simply creates a context for your career that is focused and manageable.

4) Which successful actor has your career path?

This is a very important question, and one that you will be asked most often. This doesn’t mean, “Whose work do you love the most?” This means, when you look at their body of work, which actor looks, sounds, and acts the way you would if you had the same roles. Which actor has the kind of career you could imagine leading? For example, if you are femme fatale type of actor who is exotic looking and has a bit of vulnerable danger to you, you might consider the type of career that Angelina Jolie has. If you are all of those things but are more refined than dangerous, Catherine Zeta Jones may be your best choice. Once you have chosen the actor(s) you feel represent the career path that is most like you, do some research. Find out how they got where they are, and get to know their body of work. Passionately seek out projects that look for that type of actor. And when asked, “what actor are you most like” you’ll be armed with a specific response that is educated and palpable!

Hopefully these tips will get you started down a path that will help you to confidently express your interests in the industry to those who are in a position to help!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Blog Network on Facebook


I have added this blog to the Blog Network on Facebook. Become a fan, and you can read posts without leaving your profile!

Resumes: Listing Partial Education


This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I posted an answer that I wanted to repost here:

“I was attending a musical theatre program at a large university, and ended up booking a national tour and taking time off to pursue the tour opportunity. I used to have on my resume 'BFA in progress' listed next to my university credits. Now, I am taking a year off from school to pursue some other opportunities that have since arisen.

I feel that having 'BFA in progress' still on my resume will give some casting directors the impression that I wouldn't accept a role if it would interfere with the school year. Especially if it is for lower amounts of pay. Do you have any opinions on whether or not I should keep 'BFA in progress'? or should I take it off? Or maybe something like "BFA on hold" or something along those lines?"

TAE responds:

Hello! This is a great question, and there are lots of ways to handle this. You can either keep "BFA (in progess)" or you can specify how long you have been there- for example:

Pepperdine University (2 years- BFA candidate)

The latter might help address your concern that CDs might think you are unavailable. You could, instead, add the words "on hiatus," like:

Pepperdine University (on hiatus- BFA candidate)

Hope this helps- congratulations on being a part of a great program, and also for getting out there and getting amazing experience. Way to go!

Accentuate the Positive

Sometimes it’s important to share the good news of others to motivate and inspire your readers- so that is just what I am going to do!

One of my students, Jen, writes:

ERIN ERIN ERIN! Tonight went SO well! My monologue wasn't needed--he wanted film sides--so I chose a scene from "Garden State." I felt that, even though I'm NOT like Natalie Portman, I still have my 3 key ACE words that fell strongly in line with her character. The reading went so well, and felt really great, and I felt very prepared in the Q&A with Peter! He was SO friendly and seemed interested, intrigued and entertained. Thank you SO much for the prep work! I was nervous for my first seminar, but was SO pleased with The Network, and your recommendation on their behalf as well as our work together made tonight a success! Go Team Jen!

The event she spoke of was a networking seminar at The Network, which consisted of a Q&A with the guest (casting director with a big company in New York) and then performing material for evaluation. These types of seminars are controversial, at best, but when used correctly can really make a difference to actors who are looking to expand their circle of relationships. I work with my students to help manage their expectations- we discuss the best ways to take advantage of events of this kind, and make sure that we stretch their dollar the farthest. Actors are pulled in all kinds of different directions financially, so we strive to make every penny count.

Do you have any questions about networking seminars/meet & greets? Leave a comment or email me and I will respond in an upcoming post!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Market Your Acting Career (Tip #2): Shameless Self-Promotion

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Have you ever heard an actor start a sentence with, "Just a little shameless self-promotion..." and then go on to talk about a success they have had in the industry?

What IS that? Why is it that something that makes such good business sense is considered shameless? Is it shameless because we are all in competition and, therefore, shouldn't brag?

Those who know me know that I take a different approach when looking at the industry. If we are all unique in our skill set, our talents, our life experience and the special essence that makes us... well, "us" - then there isn't really competition between us, because we all operate on our own playing field. (How's that for a run-on sentence?) In addition, I know that most people love to help others. So if we are not in competition, and we like to help others, what could be shameless about self-promotion?

Here is the magic answer: You can promote yourself to the ends of the earth, without shame, as long as you are ALSO meeting the needs of someone else.

Did you catch that?

If you have ever worked in sales (or even retail) you will be familiar with the acronym WIIFM (What's In It For Me.) People don't like being sold to, but they love to buy. So, you show them What's In It For Them, and they'll trust you as the promoter and buy. Similarly, when you are promoting (aka selling) yourself, you need to show others how supporting you can benefit them. There are several ways to do this:

1) Appeal to their sense of fun: If you are in a show that will entertain them, tell them so! (PS: Even drama that make you cry or angry are considered entertainment.)

2) Appeal to their sense of altruism: If proceeds from your fundraiser go to benefit a theater company or charity, ask away! People like to know that their time and money are going to a good cause. Just make sure you help them see exactly how their dollars (or time) will be spent.

3) Appeal to their sense of cooperation: Let them know that you want to support them too, and will happily help them achieve their goals as they are helping you achieve yours.

When you think of what you have to offer to the other person, rather than what you need to take from them, you remove all sense of "shame" from self-promotion. So, be proud of your promotion, and GIVE others the opportunity to support you.

Go get 'em!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Great post about Business Finances


Hey, folks. The blog post linked below is well worth a solid 5-10 minutes of quiet contemplation. If you own a business (and if you are an actor, you do) you NEED to treat your finances as such. So, do yourself a favor and take a read:

5 Actions for Financial Consistency- by Abundance Bound

And, for TAE students, grab AB's Artist Prosperity Home Study System for $20 off. Contact me to get the discount code.

THE FINE PRINT

This content is offered under a Creative Commons by-NC-ND License.That means you're free to share it, republish it, refer to it, include it in your wedding vows, whatever... - PROVIDED you

a) you don't change anything.
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c) credit me (with my blog's name, and a link back to my site.)
d) it's not required, but it would be awesome if you'd email me to let me know you're using it, and then I can help promote your post!

If you are copying an article in its entirely, you MUST include the following acknowledgment at the top of the post: "This blog was pulled, in its entirety, from Bite-Size Business for Actors, a blog published by The Actors' Enterprise. To learn more, visit http://www.BiteSizeBusiness.org."

To view the license, click here. To learn more about Creative Commons, click here.


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