When is work fun!
Would be nice if it was...Always!
Acting is, by-and-large, fun! You get to be someone else, at times. You get to perform magic! You can make people laugh, and sometimes cry...but not because it is personal. It's a job.
My wife, who paints away the day in the studio full of sunshine with a river over the parking lot and across the railroad tracks flowing away with her music blaring, comes home and chastizes me for having fun on a call.
I think being in a studio painting away is truly fun, too. I always thought my "other" job of computing away in the collectibles workplace handling art, movie stuff and comic books, was fun, too. Lonely, but fun!
But what makes acting more fun than locked in a closet on the computer, or probably painting away in a sun-shiny studio, is the people you meet. Doing film work, especially, you stand around a lot and talk...about everything and anything. As the day wears on, you find out more and more about people.
You make friends.
You make contacts (yes, it is networking).
And you have fun!
It was a fun few days. Got to be a hillbilly hick. It was fun hanging with Dan and Paul and Wendy and Tristin and Greg and Carol and another half-dozen folks watching Matt Dodge and the Lobsters pretend to play their instruments. It was a hoot the next day to hang around MCTC and see a gaggle of students work together on a class project, with faculty walking in-and-out to see the progress. That was a long day watching Elliott run around and about to different bathrooms.
Earlier in the week I was a doctor. I got to comb my hair to make the future green-screen crop easier and look distinguished, as well as amazed when some contraption would pop up next to me.
I get to be a farmer next week. Waiting to hear about businessman. Will probably have to skip the flash gorilla event. Some animation voice-over. Rehearsals as Ole. Late-night auditions for this MCTC gaggle of student filmmakers, again.
Plus, Art Crawl weekend where my wife displays the stuff she paints in the Studio (and I have a writing wall, too). We are at the Tilsner... www.Tilsner.net has Art Crawl info.
Am I having fun yet? You bet!
A few days ago, mentioned multiple audition Saturday. Well, I missed callbacks on the dynamite play that was casting at Theatre in the Round.
But the Shakespeare that I thought I had blown cast me to be a part of not one, not two, but three productions. You practice the scripts and then present "readings" to the public, which are audio taped. Looks like I'll be able to add parts from Hamlet, Cymbeline, and Much Ado About Nothing to the old acting resume.
You never know what a week will bring.
I'm sitting here doing nothing, then...zowie!
I was supposed to not shave all week to do a hillbilly hick in a Matt Dodge music video Friday morning. But then get cast as a doctor in a training film Thursday...clean the cheeks. Maybe will get a day's worth of stubble to go with my aging charm and good lucks by Friday a.m.
Doing a one liner in a MCTC student film Saturday. Men's room, bathroom stall...get to grunt and groan! Hopefully a sliver of my presence seen through the crack in the stall door. Hummm...what kind of undies do I want showing wrapped around my ankles? Decisions! Plus, an MCAD student film audition.
Hoped it would be quiet Art Crawl week (come visit my wife and I at the Tilsner in Lowertown October 8-10). But looks like I may have a call, party, gathering for the Shakespeare group Art Crawl opening day. I know I'm planning on doing the Smile! flash event at the IDS Center Thursday. Just got a call for a voiceover for Capella (big bucks!!) in-school educational film. Still waiting to hear about the Theron movie shooting in town next week, as well as a couple of other gigs.
Yes, Ole and Lena is supposed to start rehearsals Tuesday! Plus Wednesday! Plus Thursday! I have to grab a note and sing!
Always fun to see what the week will bring. A profession that is hard-to-plan-ahead about where-you-will-be!
Subdue and subtle.
Wild and maniac.
I can be so off-the-wall crazy at times, but usually in private settings. Get me performing for real and the mind starts to think.
I think too much when I do act. I really do. I worry aboiut saying every word just right. I worry about phrasing. I worry about pauses. I worry about inflection.
An actor's craft is a lonely profession. Really is.
The old days, would have a tape recorder. The kind you had to pause and then guess at rewind and start again. You would do your lines, listen to yourself. Analyze.
Finding a partner to run lines with is a luxury.
There is only so much a person can do, settled into a recliner, leaning back on pillows in the bed, pacing around the living room sprouting your words. And when you learn your lines, you are just doing your lines...with a cursory glance at the other actors part.
The real challenge comes when you have to learn your cues, and then also listen to what the other performer is actually saying. Combine that with putting one-foot-in-front-of-another and picking up a prop or opening a door or drinking some strange substance from a glass...whew!
I;m sitting here now, a week before our first scheduled read thru of the Ole and Lena Christmas Show. I have read the script nearly everyday since receiving it the past month, just getting familiar with the part. Happily, there is a bit of room for improv -- other people STILL have to know what you are doing on stage -- and one can adapt the lines to your own rhythms as well as business on the stage.
There's songs. I will admit that I am not a singer. I can sell a song and have fun with a song, but to sit back and admirer me jumping around the scale-of-notes ain't gonna happen.
Acting is a tough business. You have to learn lines. You have to develop character. You have to keep it interesting.
Night after Night. Job after Job.
A most interesting day.
Started out with Part II of a quickie Acting for the Camera class. Mainly concentrating on audition pointers, but we do work real commercials.
Nailed it pretty good today, as I did last week. But what makes it even more interesting is when the teacher then changes the scenario. Not just a straight-forward memorized spot for the camera...but lets pull out a table (or chair), add a couple of props, maybe do something with your glasses. Discover it can easily throw the lines out of whack!
Acting for the Camera is totally different than the stage. And it takes work. When you do the camera stuff, it is now. No redos. No second thoughts. What you do is what the person who is casting you sees. You need to make an immediate impression.
And the cold reads. Still have work to do on cold reads.
Which brings me to stop one of the afternoon. A film audition. Read for three parts, and the casting director had me read one part three different ways for the spot. Great opportunity to show off direction and range. What was enjoyable was the question and answer session to get a person relaxed and comfortable. I think every old Caucasian in town will be reading for one of the parts, which is only 6 lines.
Somehow, I seemed to have a terrible time with audition #2. I love Shakespeare. Yet my monologue (which you can see filmed here) was totally off. I read from a play I have yet to ever read by the Bard. Think I was quite horrible. But, who knows. It is a highly interesting project by a local group, doing monthly staged readings of the works of Shakespeare. A great way to share the words of ol' William without mounting full productions.
Audition #3 today was back for the stage. Like many an audition, it was running late. Nearly an hour late! But I felt strong, confident. Did my "One Minute" Bad Actor audition and it worked for the two in the audience. Felt like I hit ALL the spots right. It's a strange piece -- kinda farcical, more vaudeville comedy than straight, and it can catch a director unawares if they've been sitting thru extensive serious monologues for a few hours. After my minute, got to read a side, and it was fun.
Long day. Words, words, words!
I never thought much of acting for film or video when I was a thespian in the 70s/80s. I was a theater guy.
Yes, Minnesota was NOT the hotbed of filmmaking. The few indies that sprouted up just didn't seem appealing when one was drawing a weekly paycheck to act on stage.
But occasionally a buddy would mention the need for some "atmosphere" people for a day or two. So, would show up and hobkonb.
In order to get a speaking line in a film, you pretty much needed agency representation. Which means you had to be available. Which means you also had to be unique (I was taller, but still looked like thousands of other dashing and good-looking men in their 20s).
Extra work is quite boring. You stand around a lot. You really can't move. You walk in circles. It might take 3-4-5 hours to shoot a minute or two of film. Very tedious. And you must look, act...be the same every time they turn on the camera.
I would drift over to the church, the stadium, the ice arena, the mall, when the schedule permitted. Again, I decided not to be a "film" actor because I was happy with theater.
I'm in a lot of films. That's the back of my head in Ice Castles. That's me walking across the yard in Deer Hunter, as well as standing waaaaay up by Northrop Auditorium in The Heartbreak Kid. My parents and I didn't make Airport, unless you believe we are the fuziness at the other end of the terminal, although our car got snow dumped on it in the parking lot.
That's me, at Central Lutheran Church, for Foolin' Around with others from my congregational home. I'm moving around in the light booth at First Avenue in Purple Rain. My shoulder made a shot, my butt another. Recently I spent all morning at a commercial shoot and all I have to show is my hand filling a cup with pop. No matter how hard you try to be around the camera (but never looking at it) there is no control. Editing destroys many a career. At least stand-ins get paid big bucks.
So, as I applaud from the viewing audience in A Prairie Home Companion, or look over my shoulder at a guy disturbing my drink at a bar in Lambent Fuse, know that I now look at the chance to sit and not say a line as a blessing, at times.
I now happily do extra work. A lot of film, commercial, music video work is non-speaking atmosphere. Filling in the scenery. You meet so many interesting folks. What makes being an "extra" really unique is the great number of people that don't want to act, don't want to speak...just want to be a part of the filmmaking experience.
In California, I'm told, you can make a pretty darn good living as an extra if you have the wardrobe and can blend into the background.
In Minnesota, you can do a lot of extra work because people want free actors.
During those high school thespian days, and even into the college course work, one dreams of being an "actor." Like there is some twisted world where you can be anything and everything and dazzle and amaze folks and do it in a truly natural and professional manner.
As I have aged, I have taken more of an approach that I am not acting, that I am being myself, period.
That said, it can be fun to dress up, change the voice, find a totally fake accent. Yes, I guess, acting can be over-the-top, but, ultimately, I'm playing myself as someone else might play me. Hummm...does that make sense?
As I switch from the theatrical stage to doing more close-in work before a camera, I'm finding that you have to not project as much, or move as much...but be more subtle, actually--more natural. I have to be me! That's what I'm selling. If someone wants you, why hire me to play you when they can have you, or them, or it!
It's work not trying to be something you aren't. Real work.
And I do ask myself, why would I want to spend so much time trying to sell myself as something that I really am not, when whomever I am auditioning for has exactly 30 seconds to one minute to decide if they like me and can use me for the job of the moment. Anything else would just be a lasting impression that might cut-short a future audition process.
It makes you realize that anyone can act -- it's the attitude and availability that ultimately gets you the job!
I'm a wordsmith. A professional writer in my other life. I can bang out a criticism with my eyes closed. I can scribble dialogue that is fresh, entertaining, yet emotional. My plotting might be questionable, but sometimes I can cover with an over-abundance of descriptors.
Yet I'm afraid of the word on a page that has to be spoken live, in color, for an audience.
Memorizing. I'm about to enter the realm of rehearsal for a play, playing a substantial role, and it's not only memorizing your own lines, but figuring out cues that you get and receive from the other actors, utilizing props at the correct moment, making the right gesture. Not forgetting..,anything.
As you age, one of the last things to go is the mind, but since everything else on me has basically started to go south...I do worry about stringing words together without a script in my hand.
But that is what rehearsals are all about. You get to say the lines repeatedly, with others, moving about the stage. You get the rhythm. You get the essence and sense of the part over time.
You say things out loud.
People catch me talking to myself more and more.
But if it was truly easy, more people would do it.
I love it!
Yes, sometimes you could go to far. But maybe, a little enhancement in the outfit department might cause a director to look at you as right for the role.
I have discovered that sometimes it might be wise to dress for the part.
Especially in the world of film auditions.
When you sign for an agency, or comtemplate doing Extra movie work, you do need some basic wardrobe pieces...black shoes and pants, a sport coat, a business suit, white pressed shirts, conservative neckties, a polo shirt or two in muted colors, an overcoat.
Maybe you want to go that extra step and invest in a lab coat, button-up or a vest sweater (if you are on old guy, like me), assorted hats, various era glasses, a conservative and a wild Hawaiian shirt, some zubas.
Made a callback for a dad cop. The other guy shows up in the real deal gear. Did it help? Did it hinder? Hey, he fit the part beautifully. But, maybe, maybe not...but it motivated me to visit a uniform store and now I own a white, a blue, a swat, a highjway patrol shirt, all my size -- and they were on speical at $5 a shot. Plus, did I mention -- they fit me! A cop hat. A holster. Some badges. Then the next part that cast me as a cop--I'm undercover wearing a T-shirt and a bad Hawaiian. Go figure.
Have to revisit the store. Get a postal employee shirt. Maybe a chefs coat and waiter smock. Would it be wise to get a Wall-Mart vest? A Target red shirt? Best Buy blue? Have a photo taken in any of them for the site? How about a religious cleric collar? Military garb? Constuction worker helmet. Day-gloo vest? Specialized speedo!
Keep an eye out for props and clothes that you might be able to use as you go our for parts. Sometimes, you should try to dress something like the character, or bring a prop. It can't hurt!
Sunday Night. Had one of those quickie, sell yourself-in-a-minute and no more, auditions.
Used to be that you'd have 3-4 minutes to do a monolgue with a couple minutes of banter.
No fault of the producing company, but by the time I got there for the last half-hour of antics and verse, they were running 20-minutes behind (someone must've been long).
I have a new "quickie" piece. Hard to describe, but its a combination of vaudeville talk, classic pitch, and lots of hand-waving and postering. Actually, when I walked in and the director said, "What are you doing for us tonight!" I could only shrug my shoulders, raise a finger and say..."Just Watch." Then I held up my "Joel Thingvall, The World's Greatest Actor" sign and made themlaugh, made them cry...because I wsa either that good, or that bad.
I'm working on monologues. I have a couple up on this site. My old stand-by Shakespeare piece. Another recent addition that I thought would work well for film auditions, "New York Actor." I'm still working on a piece about old guy thoughts and romance, which will be up before the year is done. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I still have my "J.B." rewriting that I've done since high school which used to see me bounce around the stage, shout to the skies, cry in my sorrow, and be sacrcastic as...well, hell.
I'm still looking for a couple of comedic pieces. Actually, inspired by the great Carl Ballantine, hope to add a 5-minute magician sketch to my portfolio (thanks, Carl, for all your inspiration).
A monologue puts the actor in total control. You are supposed to show range, emotion, how you move, how you "play" an audience. Too often, though, actors bite off more than they can chew, so to speak. The monologue has to really show YOU as a performer...yes, you are playing a part, but the essence of your own character needs to show...shine.
It's scary. Out on stage. Nothing but yourself...your body...your voice. No one to work off of, no props, stark lighting. Usually silence from the few in the shadows of the seats.
As I was wandering the halls outstage, people were stretching, contorting their mouths...faces...silently running lines thru their heads...you'd see a body twitch as they pretended to make a motion, but not complete it amongst us other auditioners. I remember the days when I was young, was worried that something wouldn't work...right.
As you age in the audition process, the tougher aspect is to remian fresh, to still have that sense of wonder when you wander on stage. You still need to be alive, have feeling, yet also have fun. You are, afterall, an actor playing a part.
What could be more fun!?
Everywhere you audition, it says "Bring Headshot and Resume."
The resume starts the first time you stand up in front of someone and do a pratfall, or that first recital in grade school or Sunday school. But the photo is a must, especially in Commercial, Film and Theatrical circles.
Yet to do something as simple as "background extra" in a major motion picture, all the casting folks really want to see is what you really look like. Get an idea of height, weight, coloring. You don't need that glamour shot that a professional setting will often overdo. But make sure you are seen and don't blend into the background. And better to give them more than just a face frontal shot.
Getting back into this Acting Thing, I needed a Headshot. Something that was attractive, got your attention, yet I wanted it to really show me as I am...now. I found it, by chance, when a photographer in a neighboring studio was trying out a new camera. It was a fast, click-bang session, and about a week later, a couple of shots were slid under the door.
They replaced the "informal" pictures that I was thinking about using.
Yes, there is a special something when you do get a professional photographer to take your picture. They light, they reflect, they shoot photos...an ungodly amount of photos...to get just the right moment, the right expression.
So much can be done with a computer these days, but nothing repalces a first-class photographer. Just make sure they capture the real you, warts and all.
This BLOG will be my personal exploration into the World of Performance Art. Follow me as I return to an Adventure started in the sixties to be An Actor!