Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Actors: do you want to join SAG -- or not?

My friend and fine actor Tommy Kendrick is compiling information from actors around the US (confidentially) about their feelings regarding joining SAG (Screen Actors Guild). While he won't divulge your name, he will publish your thoughts.

That should probably also include AFTRA because in some places the unions share the same office.

Many actors who are SAG-eligible (they are qualified to join the union) choose not to follow through and sign up for union membership.

You can go to Tommy's website to leave an anonymous comment on his blog, or send him an email at: txactor@gmail.com.

In some US cities, there is so little SAG work that actors put off joining the union as long as possible so they can do all sorts of non-union work that is available. Lower budgeted filmmakers can work with SAG actors by signing a funding disclosure, stating the budget of the film, proving the producers cannot afford to pay union wages at the shoot, but that if the film makes enough money later, union wages will be paid at that time.

Whatever your feelings about joining the actors' union, whatever your feelings about SAG, Tommy would like to hear from you. Again, your identity will be protected, but please let him know the city in which you work.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Alec Baldwin interview online!

movieScope magazine has posted my interview with AB on its website.

If you subscribe to the magazine, you know all my interviews involve only the craft of acting, and primarily for the camera.

If you're an actor, you'll get some great tips. AB's notions of techniques and suggestions to enhance your performances are completely in line with what I teach and coach, so of course I think he's tops!

If you'd like to read it, click here.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Supporting your acting career

Something like 3% of Screen Actors' Guild members actually make a comfortable annual living wage acting for the camera.

One of my actors once asked me how one makes a living as a working actor, and I gave her an unforgivably incomplete answer. I thought she meant how does one make a living *strictly* acting. I simply reviewed several outlets for finding more auditions, getting jobs, etc.

Afterward, I realized she meant, "How do I *survive* while I'm auditioning and getting paying gigs here and there .. mostly there?"


That's another story.

The first thing I suggest you do is create an actor's business plan.

After all, you are at once the manufacturer and the "product" that creates income - and I've found that people who approach their work with a business-like attitude seem to go farther faster than those who don't.

There are actually a couple books out on the subject and many samples of business plan.

I devised an actor's business plan template for my actors based on several business plans I found online, then adapted them for artists.

A business plan demands that you create a mission statement for your work and life, and requires that you plan every aspect of the career you want to have and how you want to achieve it - including a plan of action and a financial breakdown encompassing what your living costs are and creating the funds to pay them.

In some cases it can be a part time job (wait persons can make a lot of money at nicer restaurants while working flexible schedules, which is why it's such a popular job for actors), a full time job with the flexibility to allow for auditions and work, or pursue an entrepreneurial side.

Lots of well-known actors own their own businesses - from trailers for shoots to website building to all sorts of independant contracting, construction work, and much more.

Normal costs include headshots, transportation, acting classes and equipment (notebooks, books, whatever) or an acting coach, other studies like singing, improv, dancing or body work. Everything else is negotiable (your own website in addition to a service like gym membership, psychology classes, getting demo reels edited - or even shot and edited), listing your photo on actors' internet services, having your own website (in addition to listing with a number of social online services), as well as other marketing tools.

None of it's cheap.

Many of today's stars had fairly restricted social lives in their early days as they worked and studied. Brad Pitt drove limousines and took classes for some six years before he started to land roles that pushed him up the film acting food chain. This after he already had attended the University of Missouri, studying at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Harrison Ford was a carpenter, supporting a family, when he started his acting career. At one point, after only getting cast in bit parts and lower paying roles, he decided that he would take an acting job *only* if it paid more than his carpentry gig. He initially turned down the role of Hans Solo in Star Wars until they agreed to at least pay him a little more than his carpentry gig.

The most notable working actor story these days involves Heroes star Masi Oka, who for several years has worked for - and continues to work for - George Lucas' motion picture visual special effects and lighting company in San Francisco, even though he has a pretty sexy "day job" on the popular TV hit!

In short, there is no easy, simple or set answer.

You have to figure out what works for you financially, educationally and artistically.

The people who seem to do the best that I coach have a steady (not necessarily huge) income - enough to cover their coaching and professional expenses like headshots so they don't have to worry about finances. They don't live above their means, and in some cases even have a partner or parents or angel who can afford to stake them to their coaching sessions.

Interestingly, I've coached graduates from professional acting schools (including The Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA) and university drama programs (including the Tisch School of Drama at New York University), so it's important that you match up the education you need with your career expectation.

If you're uncertain about what sort of career you want?

Again, I suggest you start with creating a business plan.

You might try one on your own before seeking the counsel of a couple books out describing the artists' business plan to see which sort of plan meets your needs instead of the other way around. By that I mean don't do something the way a book shows you just because it's in a book. Decide what you want to do and how you want to do and look for ways to make that happen. If your research shows you have to be open to other choices? So be it, but at least you won't feel that you didn't try to give it a shot doing it your way.

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Friday, April 27, 2007


One of the first thing my actors learn from me is that anger is a secondary emotion.

Underlying all anger is either hurt, fear or a combination of both primary emotions.

Unless the actor shows the impetus - thus the layers - of his or her character's anger (hurt, fear or both) the performance is pretty one-dimensional, unconvincing and forgettable.

Showing all the complexities of the character's emotions makes the performance "unexplainably" memorable!

So, next time you get pissed off?

As yourself what hurts ... what you're afraid of ... or what hurts and scares you.

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Monday, March 05, 2007


What are your priorities?

Basically, we create priorities based on what we believe we have to do, what we believe we "should" do and what we actually want to do.

Pursuing our passion deserves our attention - do you make yours a priority?

To become great actors, writers, directors, stand-up comics, etc., growing artists need to make doing homework, finding time to audition and work a priority.

Note I say, a priority, not the main or only priority.

Everyone has a myriad of matters that need to be made a priority throughout the day - relationships, families, pets, children, home care, health matters, physical activities, and so on.

For me it's a matter of lining up tasks and activities on a daily basis - then reprioritizing them constantly throughout my day because there are so many variables and changes that can occur over which I have no power.

No two days are *ever* the same.

Someone needs an emergency coaching session, an unexpected meeting (via phone or in person) needs to take place immediately and lasts far longer than I thought it would, someone becomes ill, a friend needs a ride to the doctor, etc.

I've so many tasks that need to be prioritized daily, it's become second nature over the years.

When I prioritize I understand that some things on my list need and receive longer periods of time to complete - and others may just receive a few minutes (or even seconds).

When I prioritize I realize it's important to do certain things just about every day - even if it's just a few minutes.

That's the key - attending to things for just a couple minutes a day makes all the difference.

I recommend to writers I coach that they start with as little as ONE MINUTE a day. Do you realize how much you can write after months of just committing yourself to 1 minute a day?

Before you know it, one minute doesn't seem like enough so you bump it up to three or five - reprioritizing the other time or tasks in your day to accommodate those "lost" two to four minutes.

When he was just getting started, novelist John Grisham wrote in the mornings before going to work as a prosecutor for as many minutes as his schedule allowed - standing up with his laptop (or typewriter - I forget which) sitting on the top of his dresser drawers in his bedroom.

Often when I speak about making something a priority, I'm misunderstood to be saying that it should be catapulted to the top - as the #1 priority, when all I really mean is that it needs to find some time in a day's schedule - even if it's for a minute or two.

One thing about prioritizing - for me, it's like living in disciplined chaos. I feel like I have a little more control in this otherwise uncontrollable thing called life!

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