Actor training in Los Angeles over the last fifteen years has been pixelated more and more into a dozen subcategories of “skills,” inclusive of improv, audition technique, comedy technique, camera technique, commercial camera technique, camera audition slate-your-name improv sit-com technique, how-to-shoot-your-demo-reel classes, how-to-market-yourself-on-social-media seminars, on and on and on. The price tag for some of these items can be $500 or more, and I would submit to you that the most certain result of any of these “educational opportunities” is that whoever is delivering it gets their $500 or more, per student. And then once you’ve spent your $500, say, on some workshop, they’ll come to you with the next level. And the next after that. And then there’s a weekend intensive by so-and-so, and you don’t want to miss the weekend intensive with so-and-so, because so-and-so is so brilliant.
Jesus I suck why the hell do I continue to pursue this when I could go get a masters or apprentice for a producer or something or go back home where people are real and there’s actually weather okay shut up already you need to be positive you need to channel your confidence this is what your therapist has been talking to you about this endless tidal pull towards insecurity where did that come from my parents or an early piece of shit love affair there’s no need for it I need to grow the fuck up and stop dramatizing my pain except I’m an actor aren’t I isn’t that the point to dramatize my inner pain for the world to recognize as their own pain this makes my pain infinitely more noble and in fact it’s my duty and my responsibility to feel my pain and parade it for others like a freaking pain peacock but holy shit I’m nervous and I’m not sure my pain is what is needed at this moment because fuck it’s stupid fucking comedy and I hate reading for shit like this it’s not what I work on in class why am I taking Continue reading
Fuck the Star Meter. Stop looking at it. Never think about it again. Fuck how many followers you have on some social media platform. Stop looking. Never think about it again. Figure out what you love to do. Take some steps to ensure you’re good at it. Proceed.
Here’s a podcast I did last month for the gang at LA Reels as part of their Great Hollywood Adventure series, wherein we cover my history at BHP, the opening sequence from “Ordinary People,” Acting / Attitude / Administration, and all that jazz…
In case you haven’t heard, The Biz is full of gossip. People sleep with each other. Then they break up. They do stupid shit at parties. They get married. They get divorced. They are “difficult.” People talk about people. It’s a shocker. In another stunning development, because of the many intense, small and ever-changing ecosystems in this business (read: film sets, play rehearsals, and acting classes), you could find yourself in a holy-smokes relationship in no-time-flat, invested fully in any number of ways, discover within eight weeks that this investment was perhaps ill-advised, and yet somehow you keep doing it again and again and again. New people, intense feelings. New people, intense feelings! Quite a ride. It’s part of The Deal, part of why a lot of people love the business – they thrive off a bit of emotional chaos and the highs and lows of it all. Artists can be manic high-low people, fueled by emotional responses, and it all fits together a certain way.
Here’s an interview I did for Destination Hollywood Radio, in which I discuss my history at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, the BHP Approach, specifics on career administration, actors v. writing, actors v. agents, and why Brits and Aussies deserve the work they’re getting. They did a partial transcription, and below that is the link to the full podcast.
Acting Training for Professional Storytellers
For almost 4 decades the Beverly Hills Playhouse has helped actors hone their craft of professional storytelling. Recently, DHR’s Patty Lotz sat down with Beverly Hills Playhouse Owner/CEO Allen Barton to talk about the “new normal” for actors in this Internet age and BHP’s unique approach to acting training that addresses Acting, Attitude and Career Administration. Here is an excerpt from the podcast interview:
DHR: Here you are the Owner/CEO of the Beverly Hills Playhouse. You stepped into some huge shoes.
Allow me to rage, give voice to thoughts hushed and guarded, unexpressed, trapped, traversing the crania of teachers of serious acting, for fear of grave offense against what THEY say, for fear of pissing off a longtime student who has wandered or wants to wander from serious acting training, and by serious acting I mean training geared towards creating a serious actor, which is to say not someone without a sense of humor, no, no, not that, definitely not that, god have mercy, forbid it, but rather one whose sense of humor is not necessarily the issue per se, that is to say, the thoughts of those of us trying to train a skilled actor who simply can have a real shot at a career in film, television and theatre, an actor who is skilled in both comedy and drama, and can honestly investigate a writer’s premise in any style and any form and do so richly and believably and consistently for as many performances as you’d like, in as many or as few takes as is your preference, on as little notice as you’d wish. Got it? So here goes: Fuck improv training.
[I posted this entry in 2010, but the topic keeps smacking me in the face, so I thought it was worth revisiting with an edit, update and repost.]
It doesn’t quite work, because “Cynema” and “Cinema” are homonyms. Visually – okay. To the ear, it needs to be “Cynical Cinema.”
cynical, adj., 1. concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards, 2. distrustful of human sincerity or integrity
cynema, n., filmmaking motivated by cynical inclinations as to what will move the creators’ careers forward, at the expense of coherence, humanity or passion; cynema is often characterized by slavish devotion to a style, it rarely demonstrates any devotion to a focused story, it is marked by poor craftsmanship, improvisation in lieu of writing, a desperate desire to be funny (often by imitating others’ humor), emphasis on the ‘mockumentary’ form, hitting visual punchlines, etc.
We’ve all had enough of it, right? How many invitations have we received to look at vimeo, youtube, whatever, to see the latest work by an acquaintance, and you want to throw heavy objects at your fragile computer? If I never see another stupid fucking unfunny mockumentary again in this lifetime or any lifetime to follow, it will be too soon. Stop it! If you aren’t going to be funnier than Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman (or that delicious Extras skit between Gervais and McKellen about acting), don’t do it! And trust me, you probably aren’t funnier than those films. Those are professionally funny people, and in this business if you haven’t been paid to be funny, there’s an awfully good chance that if you tried, you simply aren’t funny enough to be paid for it.
I’ve emphasized in plenty of entries here how important I think it is that actors follow-up on all professional interactions. Auditions, callbacks, meetings, on-set work… Fact is, once an actor knows how to act, the business they’re really in is the name-collecting and follow-up business. In A Universal Career Jumpstart, I put down three lists I think every actor should draw up and add to on an ongoing basis. Setting to the side any and all internal work the actor might do to keep themselves moderately sane, and all the forward-gazing goals, mantras, and conceptualizing, if an actor can do these two things – act well and follow-up – those two skills alone, pursued with discipline over time, will beget more acting work.
So. What to say to these people? Not for me to dictate, as clearly it’s too context-dependent. BUT, I can say this: Communicate on a peer-to-peer basis. By this I mean that too much of the correspondence I have occasionally been able to review comes from a lowly, I’m-just-aspring, you-are-a-god-and-I’m-out-of-work, look-how-clever-I’m-being-to-get-your-attention place. That stuff reeks of insecurity and low esteem. Don’t do it.
About four years ago, I had an idea. I made some sketches of it at the time, had some basic conversations with web development people – but my daughter was born right in there, I was in the middle of directing a few projects, and thought to myself that someone else would no doubt create what I had in mind any second.
Fast-forward to early 2010, and no one had fulfilled my idea. So I got to work. The idea was a website that solved a problem I had personally: How the hell do I keep track of everyone’s gigs? I know for me, or anyone who has any number of friends in the arts, we have the experience of losing track of whom is performing when, whose TV show guest appearance is when, whose music gig is when, whose play is closing what weekend, etc. I’d often thought to myself, “I wish I could just know automatically when So-and-So is performing.” The Facebook Events module is not much help here, and not everyone enjoys using Facebook, which is a noisy web environment. All the various means of gig promotion, multiplied by having dozens of actor/musician/hyphenate friends – this equals a lot of static across social media / email / text / phone / snailmail channels and only the loudest or most insistent finally wins my attention. It was as if I could find out every stupid detail of my performer friends’ existences except that which was most important: When were they doing the thing to which they dedicated their lives, when were they performing – the very activity that drew us together in the first place? Continue reading