We’re excited to announce the launch of our newly designed website: http://houghtontalent.com
We will continue to post all new blogs on the new website blog page.
|A lot of folks ask us where to begin. We tell them what the veterans already know; begin with study. The Craft is a discipline that evolves over the entire life of an Actor, and the more you know about every angle of it the better an Actor (or more informed Filmmaker) you’ll be.With all of that in mind, here are our picks for the ten best books about Acting, ever.|
|Sanford Meisner has been called “the theater’s best-kept secret,” and Sanford Meisner on Acting by Dennis Longwell gives some insight into what techniques the hugely influential drama teacher used in his 50-plus years of work. One of the founding members of the Actors Studio (with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Harold Clurman), Meisner developed his own special lessons based upon his understandings of the great Russian teacher Stanislavsky. Turning away from the sense-memory exercises common among his colleagues, his training focused instead on a realistic approach to imagination and creativity. Unlike many other educators associated with “the Method,” Meisner had little tolerance for self-absorption or striving after strong emotional effect, instead preaching that clarity of purpose and efficient use of the psyche are the actor’s greatest tools. Longwell’s book follows a class of eight men and eight women through one of Meisner’s 15-month courses at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse, with extensive transcripts taken directly from Meisner’s notes to the students on the basis of their exercises. With an introduction by director Sydney Pollack, one of the many influential artists who studied with Meisner (the book includes accolades from Maureen Stapleton, Arthur Miller, Gregory Peck, and Eli Wallach), this is an excellent introduction that helps to demystify the work of a great theatrical teacher.|
|To Adler acting is a labor of intelligence and will and love, a “profession that is over 2000 years old” and one that requires boundless energy and a sort of selfish (but not narcissistic) ambition first, and then “critical seeing, self-awareness, discipline, and self-control” – for starters. She talks about the importance to an actor of the use of one’s imagination, the disciplined willingness to actually do the research -in order to care deeply and conscientiously about the play. She asserts, “A great disservice was done to American actors when they were persuaded that they had to experience *themselves* on the stage instead of experiencing the play. Your experience is not the same as Hamlet’s – unless you too are a royal prince of Denmark. The truth of the character isn’t found in you but in the circumstances of the royal position… [to play the role] your past indecision on who to take to the prom won’t suffice.”|
|In her introduction to Respect for Acting, actress and teacher Uta Hagen talks about a time when she herself had no respect for the art of acting. “I used to accept opinions such as: ‘You’re just born to be an actor’; ‘Actors don’t really know what they’re doing on stage’; ‘Acting is just instinct–it can’t be taught.'” But this attitude of “you got it or you don’t” is fundamentally one that denigrates the craft, as she points out. Great actors do not perform effortlessly, or merely through learning the appropriate tricks and cheats to manipulate an audience. Great acting is about the difficult fusion of intellect and action–about sincerely and truthfully connecting to the moment, your fellow actors, and the audience–and Hagen’s thoughtful and profound book contains a series of observations and exercises to help an actor do just that. Her prose style is admirably clear and filled with examples from her own lengthy career both as a performer and in the classroom. While her exercises in sense memory and basic objects skirt close to the sort of self-absorption that followers of “the Method” are routinely accused of, they are presented clearly and with a focus on practical results. And in such places as her chapter “Practical Problems,” which includes discussions of stage nerves and how to stay fresh in a long run, her straightforward advice is invaluable.|
|If you like movies, this book is a great read. If you’re interested in acting in movies, it’s an essential read. If you’re interested in moviemaking (behind the camera), it’s still an essential read: buy extra copies to pass around on the set, especially if you’re a struggling filmmaker and you have a cast of friends who’ve never acted before. As a teacher, Caine is as straightforward as he is as an actor. You watch his performances and you’re seeing an actor who understands that less is more. You read this book and you’re listening to an instructor who understands the same thing. Every anecdote he tells about films he’s been in and stars he’s worked with is not just namedropping, it’s ALWAYS relevant to whatever helpful point he’s making about the craft of film acting. And to him it is very much a craft, not an art. The art takes care of itself; it happens mysteriously, but it can only happen if you nail the craft first. No arty-flighty book about acting theory or the Method, this is a working-class, meat-and-potatoes manual that anyone can relate to, much like its author.|
|Michael Chekhov, nephew to the Russian playwright and student of Stanislavski, left Russia and his mentor behind to pursue a career as an actor, director, and teacher in Europe and America. While he was an early advocate of Stanislavski, Chekhov differed from the great teacher in important respects, particularly in his insistence on the use of imagination as opposed to memory in creating a role. (In a famous anecdote, Chekhov once performed a “sense memory” exercise in which he broke down over the tragic death of his aunt. When complimented on the truthfulness of his emotion, he admitted that his “aunt” was entirely imaginary.) One of Chekhov’s innovations of technique is the “psychological gesture,” in which a repeated external action leads to an internal revelation. Due to his insistence on the importance of the physical rather than the simply intellectual, Chekhov’s book is as focused on following its series of exercises as it is in study; acting, he would remind us, is always fundamentally a verb. For actors who feel “hemmed in” by an overinsistence on “feeling” a part or in drawing from their own experiences to feed a role, Chekhov’s focus on the primal and limitless nature of imagination is tremendously liberating.|
|So much mystery and veneration surrounds the writings of the great Russian teacher and director Stanislavski that perhaps the greatest surprise awaiting a first-time reader of An Actor Prepares is how conversational, commonsensical, and even at times funny this legendary book is. After many productions with the Moscow Arts Company, Stanislavski sought a way to introduce his new style of acting to the world outside of his rehearsal hall. The resulting book is a “mock diary” of an actor describing a series of exercises and rehearsals in which he participates. He details his own emotional and intellectual reactions to each effort, and how his superficial tricks and mannerisms begin to disappear as he increasingly gives over his conscious ego to a faith in the creative power of his subconscious. Rarely has any writer on the theater achieved the sort of lucid and inspired analysis of the acting process as Stanislavski does here, and his introduction of such now-standard concepts as “the unbroken line,” “the magic if,” and the idea of emotional memory has laid the groundwork for much of the great acting of the 20th century. While much excess and nonsense was to follow in the steps of Stanislavski’s writings, his original texts remain invaluable, and surprisingly accessible, to any actor or student of drama.|
|There is more to the acting business than just the acting. It’s understanding and applying the “business” side of acting that makes it possible for the actor to succeed. Bonnie Gillespie is right on target with her enjoyable nuts and bolts wisdom in “Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business.” She takes the guess work out of the process of managing your career as an actor with clear guidance and a wonderful sense of humor. Precious time and money will be saved when knowing how to market yourself by doing it right the first time. Owning this book is one of the best investments any actor can make.|
|Actors who want to get inside the script and make it come alive now have a step-by-step guide from a Broadway director and renowned acting teacher. Honed by the author’s 35 years of teaching, this advanced book offers different warm-up exercises concentrating on the actor’s sense of smell, sound, sight, and touch; sensory tools for conveying the climate and environment of the text; tips for suggesting a character’s physical conditions; and much more. Individual exercises will help actors to free the voice and body, create a character, find the action and condition of scenes, and explore the subconscious for effective emotional recall. Readers will also find meticulous guidelines for best using rehearsal time and preparing for in-class scene work. The foreword is written by two-time Academy Award nominee Edward Norton. Those who act, direct, or teach will not want to miss the acting lessons that have made T. Schreiber Studio a premier actor training program.|
|What is good acting? How does one create believable characters? In “The Science of Acting“, Sam Kogan applies his theories and teaching to answering these questions. It represents a comprehensive and complete technique applying neuroscience and psychology to the role of acting. At its heart lies a unique and groundbreaking understanding of the subconscious, as well as an unparalleled insight into, and expansion of, Stanislavskis original Russian teaching.The book includes chapters on Awareness, Purposes, Events, Actions, Imagination, Free Body, Tempo-Rhythm, and Laws of Thinking, culminating in the Ten Steps to Creating a Character. In addition to providing practical exercises to develop skill and definitions to clarify difficult terminology, it is a simple and original step-by-step guide to creating a character and to developing an actors ability. In examining life and its recreation on stage, “The Science of Acting” is a study of human behavior and its application to acting which no actor or student of acting should be without.|
|A Dream of Passion by Lee Strasberg is a necessary read for any actor, teacher, director. It’s fascinating to read about his journey. Some of the stereotypes of his method are crushed in this book. Even if you don’t agree with his ideas or techniques it is an extremely interesting read on the evolution of theater in this country.|
I recently had the need to get copy for projects that were currently on the air. It took awhile, but I figured out a way to get footage from a website that is either using Flash movies or some other type of “embedded” file. First, you need to download RealPlayer Downloader and RealPlayer Converter. Open the Downloader after installation. Then, you need to search on Google for a link to your episode (or film) that does not have commercials embedded. So Hulu is out, as well as the network websites. YouTube works great, but I doubt you’ll find network shows on there that aren’t protected in some way. If you search long enough, you can find a website with an unprotected file. When you find the link, you’ll know because in the RealPlayer Downloader window, your video title will pop up, with the option to convert the file to something usable (NOTE: the whole video has to load first before you can convert it). That will automatically open RealPlayer Converter. The whole process can take a little while, especially if you’re downloading a whole episode. Once it’s downloaded to your computer, you can chop it up using your video software of choice.
In the end, you may not find the best quality file online, but it’s a great solution for getting your clips together NOW, instead of having to wait for the DVDs to become available.
Incidentally, there is software out there that claims to remove the “protection” from files that you’ve purchased (off of iTunes, for example), but it runs around $30. This method described here is FREE.
We received this “status of the business” that an agent in LA sent out to his actors. It gives an overview of how business is there and is VERY informative about the current situation regarding TV/Film/Commercials and the economy. We see the trickle down effect in the SouthEast. With the incentives, though, there has been an increase in film activity so that’s promising even though the bigger roles may be taken by name talent. If you’re considering moving to LA, this is compelling information on why you might rethink that.
I wanted to take a moment and give you a number of important updates….
Before I begin, however, I wish to tell you all that I am so very proud of you all for your dogged determination during these most difficult times. Hollywood is being challenged on multiple fronts – labor uncertainty, paradigm shifting and the ‘great recession’.
I know a lot of your are getting antsy to get out more, and frankly many of you are in a tight financial pinch; as such, I wanted to describe to you all the current climate in LA and the factors influencing the current environment.
1 SAG STALEMATE: Since the SAG contract expired on June 30, 2008, there have been few to no STUDIO feature films (this does not include companies such as Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company who are not in AMPTP and as such have completion agreements). Some analysts say there are up to 200 feature films on hold. Around September, we started to see a mass movement of film actors to TV projects. Many of my “name” actors have done one-day guest stars (this is very typical right now), and we are seeing a number of Guest Star level actors doing CO-STAR roles. Remember from November of 2007 to March of 2008, due to the Writer’s Strike, again there were no feature films shot. So for the film actor, there has only been 4 months of work in the last 17 months. THE BOTTOM LINE: Due to the lack of studio feature film production, BOTH film and TV actors are now competing for a limited number of jobs in the episodic and pilot environments.
2. PILOT SEASON: During the Writer’s Strike of 2007-2008, Studios adapted and used the void to eliminate pilot season as we know it. Gone are the days of hundreds of pilots. In fact, this year, there are only 67 pilots to have registered for production – of which only about 35 have been green lit for production.
And this year, due again to a sagging economy, studios and networks believe that by committing named stars to their projects, they will receive more money from this year’s up-fronts from ad agencies. They are banking on star power to leverage better buys at the all important UPFRONTS. So, stars and pop-stars like Richard Dreyfuss, Chevy Chase, Brittany Snow, Elle McPherson, Rebecca Romijn, Ashley Simpson, Scott Caan, Skeet Ulrich, and proven TV talents like Kelsey Grammar, Eric McCormick, John McGinley, Joel McHale, Jenna Elfman, Donald Faison, Maura Tierney, Peter Krauss, Craig T. Nelson, Dax Shepherd, etc…. You do the math, 37 pilots… top stars being sought… BOTTOM LINE: the conflagration of the economy and a lack of roles being cast, means that this pilot season may be even more competitive than the concurrent regular TV market right now. So those of you who have gotten auditions for series regulars… feel great about that!
3. TV: While TV has been steady, again due to the conflagration of film and named actors doing Guest Starring roles, we have seen a horrible trickle down. Many Guest Stars are now doing Co-stars and Co-stars/Developmental Actors (those with less than 5 primetime credits) frankly are not getting seen much. One CD recently told me that she had over 25 women who would be considered ‘working actors’ going for a co-star role. BOTTOM LINE: Again, due to the abundance of name and working actors, many less-developed actors are not even being seen right now.
4. ECONOMIC IMPACT I – THE EROSION OF QUOTES/RATES: There are really three major impacts to actors during this economic crunch. First, we are seeing the erosion of quotes. Due to the availability of so many talented actors, CD’s and Producers are in the driver’s seat in negotiations. When they say, “well we got someone else who will do it for less”, they ain’t kidding. I have spoken to a number of my peers who have confirmed this erosion of pay for their actors. In short, right now, quotes are eroding and for many, the minimum has become the maximum pay.
5. ECONOMIC IMPACT II – THE CONCLUSION OF SAG STALEMATE: Many are hoping that with the end of this stalemate, Hollywood will get back to normal. I have to say, that I am not one who necessarily believes this. First off, due to the economic conditions, most studios have lost their millions of dollars from hedge funds; and European, Asian and Middle Eastern money has dried up. Even Stephen Spielberg has had to beg, borrow and steal to get his company financed …. And it wasn’t anywhere near what he originally asked for. I believe that, even after the SAG stalemate is over, there is probably not enough money for 50 Studio Feature Films to be done right out of the gate. BOTTOM LINE: While this will help us move towards normalcy, it will not be the cash cow some people think it will be. One side note, is that I expect that more formulaic projects will be down out the gate as Studios will be less likely to take significant risks since most of these projects will be financed by both the studio and their investors. In short, you will see more Iron Mans, Animation, and SAWs… they are money in the bank when you factor in ratios, etc.
6. ECONOMIC IMPACT III – OVERALL STATEMENT OF ENVIRONMENT: It is important that everyone follow the economic conditions closely. I know it is easy to be skeptical over the studios, networks, cablers, production houses, show runners, etc, losing money, but it is a cold-hard fact right now. These entities are truly in a difficult spot. If you have read much lately, there have been dramatic cut backs at every studio and network, from firings to asking show runners to cut between 2-7% of their budgets (not to mention the 25+% cutback shows like the Sarah Silverman were asked to swallow recently). Furthermore, these networks and studios are largely owned by conglomerates who have lost in the billions over the last 6 months. When I attended NATPE in January, all the talk was how to get ‘thinner.’ Everything is getting tight. Budgets, Marketing, Staffing, etc., and this will undoubtedly impact the actor. Also, the foreign sales market (where much of the TV and Film money is made, is being hit hard by the erosion of the US Dollar. So these entities are not able to recoup the costs they were in better days by the one-time explosion of the foreign markets. BOTTOM LINE: The economic conditions are forcing the industry to be as ‘thin’ as possible.
7. COMMERCIALS – INDUSTRY AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS: One analyst said last year, that 2008 was the worst commercial market since maybe 1974. I would not argue with this. Think about it: three of the top products/services for ad agencies are banks, cars and other financial services – all of which were struck down in 2008/early 2009 by this recession. This was confirmed when news struck that even the Super Bowl did not sell out advertising this year. The good news is that the advertising industry tends to be one of the first ones to be negatively impacted by a recession, but one of the first to grow as the recession moves to an end as advertisers of products want to start accumulating market share before the turn of the economy. Another impact relates to the overall conditions of the TV/FILM/PILOT situation. Many strong actors have made enough money on TV/FILM, etc so that they have not had to do commercials in years. Due to the last few years and the lack of work, many top actors are now back in the commercial market; thus again, causing a logjam in casting. BOTTOMLINE: The economic slowdown has caused a dramatic decrease in ad sales and the lack of work has caused more actors to re-enter the commercial market.
THE GOOD NEWS!!
Okay, so that is where we are today. You know me, I try to always call it straight as I see it. So, I am not going to sugar-coat this either. I anticipate that 2009 will be a tough year overall for actors (and agencies). First off, the economy will not likely get straightened out until at least the 3rd to 4th quarter of this year and so all the factors above will remain in place through most, if not all, of 2009. Secondly, until the labor situation gets straightened out, we will not be seeing dramatic amount of film production, and this seems to be dragging along as well (as we enter the 8th month of the stalemate – it was announced today that SAG is thinking now about taking AMPTP to court for anti-trust violations). But again, even if it was finalized, there is not enough investor money to see the film production level normalize and increase for most, if not all, of 2009. Also, since movies cost around $40 for two (tickets, popcorn, etc) – this is not a recession proof field anymore. During our last significant recession, there were few choices for guilty pleasures to get away from the stress of our times – so many people flocked to the theatres. NOT SO THESE DAYS, one can go to the web, TV, cable (not around in 1974, 1982, 1988 much), Video Games, Netflix, RedBox (movie for a $1). So studios are probably not in any big rush to make films – as people cannot afford this once cheap diversion – better to divert for a few bucks to all the many other sources of guilty pleasures. OKAY, so that didn’t sound like good news…
The good news is that there are some paradigm shifts occurring that make 2010 -2012 look like it might be one of the most prolific times in Hollywood history. Due to technological developments, there are more platforms being developed than ever. The internet is driving millions of new viewers each year. Zillion is going to transform the way we view advertising. For those who don’t know, it has recently been unveiled by the maker of Real Player and the ‘mouse.’ It is a system that makes you watch ads before downloading movies (they already have 14,000 Titles ready for download), TV, other forms of entertainment to your TV Screen. However, the consumer can choose the products they want to see (let’s say you go retail clothing and watch a Macy’s ad and love the jacket; you can immediately click on the ad/jacket and go directly to their website where you can buy it). Also, you earn points by watching the commercials that you can use towards purchases. Furthermore, SONY and others are now selling TVs that wirelessly connect to your computer, so you can download TV/FILMS at anytime from your computer (websites like Hula, Netflix, etc) directly to your TV. In short, technology is making more platforms which will require more content than ever. Also, Cablers are all embracing doing scripted shows, some have up to 5 shows this year… again, more content is needed and thus MORE ACTORS!
BOTTOM LINE: More platforms = more content = more actors! So as long as SAG/AFTRA can protect your rates and jurisdictional issues, there will be more good compensated work than ever in Hollywood by 2010-2012.
I’d like to think as an industry we’re pretty current and as an agency, Houghton has tried to embrace technology. The exception is, for us, with reviewing and selecting headshots.
We strongly prefer contact sheets over choosing online. Yes, it’s what we’re used to so we’re a bit stuck in our ways… but it’s also tedious to review material on multiple discs, online, etc and easily choose top picks. We don’t want it to cost you a lot, or eat a lot of your time finding the right resource, and because industry photographers are moving away from contact sheets, it may seem as though we’re asking you to jump through hoops but the honest truth is the contact sheets are just faster and more efficient.
So when you shoot, please ask your photographer to provide contacts, and if they don’t, please try to get contacts for your agent from Wolf or Wal Mart or Office Depot. ***if anyone knows who does this at a reasonable rate, and with relative ease without requiring lots of effort or explanation on the part of the actor who just needs the contacts, please send me the info and I will update the post.
Update from Tracy Page w/ Babycake Studios: Just a quick note to say that yes, I will provide clients with contact sheets. They are included in my base price and are a “on request item” but I’m happy to do them. They cost me $2 per sheet and I will do for up to 36 shots.
THERE’S RECENTLY BEEN A PROBLEM WITH GETTING PAPERWORK DONE ON JOBS, MAKING BOOKKEEPING AND BILLPAY HARDER. WE ALL WANT THINGS TO RUN SMOOTHLY, ESPECIALLY WHEN PAYMENT IS INVOLVED. IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE PAYMENT ON A JOB AS SOON AS POSSIBLE YOU NEED TO REMEMBER THE BASICS:
EVERY NON-UNION JOB MUST BE VOUCHERED, NO EXCEPTIONS. VOUCHERS ARE TO BE IN THIS OFFICE WITHIN 24 HOURS OF YOUR COMPLETION OF THE JOB.
COPIES ARE TO BE IN THIS OFFICE WITHIN 24 HOURS OF YOUR COMPLETION OF THE JOB.
FOLLOWING THESE SIMPLY STEPS WILL HELP OUT IN A LARGE WAY AND MAKE PAYMENT ON JOBS MUCH EASIER (AND LESS OF A HEADACHE!)
When a casting director or client issues a “first refusal”, it means the final casting decision hasn’t been made; the casting director or client is requesting that the performer contact him/her before accepting a booking for another job on the same day(s), giving the original producer the first opportunity to book the person. “First refusal” is not a booking and the performer has no contractual obligation to get back to the casting director or turn down the second job nor does the producer owe a cancellation fee if the performer is not used. It is, however, a professional courtesy that clients and casting directors expect so our position is if you are on first refusal and then are presented a second opportunity, you let us know so we can see if the “First refusal” client wants to commit to or release you from the booking.
“Hold” means the producer has engaged the talent and a cancellation fee is due if the producer cancels the engagement.
Because these terms are not always used properly, if you have a question as to whether you are definitely booked, ask us. If we’re not sure, we will ask our contact on the project.