Magic, God and Perfection

VVG 1886

“I was devastated, and wrote the passage to remind myself and anyone else struggling through a similar hardship that an artist’s relationship to their art is a uniquely precious experience, and while it comes with many sacrifices, it is ultimately worth pursuing.”

– David Ackert

Who is this and what are they talking about? Once upon a time, an actor, David Ackert wrote an inspired paragraph that has become a bit of a mantra in the acting/creative community. It goes like this:

"Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they'll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every role, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life - the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that line, that laugh, that gesture, or that interpretation that will stir the audience's soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life's nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another's heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes."
VVG 1887

Very uplifting. And here’s the kicker – David Ackert retired from the entertainment industry in 2009 when:

“I discovered that I could create, perform, and produce original content in the business world. Once I learned how to broaden my definition of success, I gained access to opportunities that were much more attainable than Hollywood stardom. Now I channel my creativity on my own terms.”

What is my definition of success? Is it broad enough? Am I being creative on my own terms? Am I being creative? Am I dedicating myself to a limited/limiting idea of success? What can I change? What will bring me closer to “that crystal moment”?

VVG 1889

Thanks to:

Marci Liroff’s article in Backstage about Ackert’s quote and Terry D. on Twitter where I first saw the quote mentioned.

7 Audition Tips from Amy Hubbard

Amy Hubbard has carved out a seriously impressive career in casting – you’ve more than likely watched a film or series she’s worked on.  I’ve been writing to her since 2008, so I was excited to attend her recent casting workshop through ActorsCollab.  It was great to perform a scene from one of her current projects and get direct feedback from the renowned casting director as well as some of her top audition tips.  Here’s my takeaway:

  1. Embrace the self-tape.  It’s here to stay and Amy loves them.
  2. Be 1000% off book.  Amy wants to see the character in the moment, not an actor looking at the page or struggling to remember lines.   You’ll also be freed up to listen better – Amy reiterates the age old adage: “90% of acting is listening”.
  3. Underplay.  Amy often has to reassure actors that doing less is more – be brave, think ‘documentary’.  There’s a temptation to ‘show’ what we can do.  Don’t.  There doesn’t have to be a gear change or emotional climax.  Even if the entire scene plays at one pitch it can be enough.
  4. Ask questions if needed.  A good one is, “Where should this performance be pitched?” (in terms of energy and mood).  Or if you get multiple takes, “Was that last one too big?”
  5. Ignore the writer’s stage directions.  Always.  They are not performance notes.  Writers use them to clarify their ideas to readers – particularly those who can green-light their script.  You the actor must listen to the urge that motivates your own unique actions.
  6. Keep it snappy.  The people watching your tape have tonnes to do and a limited amount of time.  Give the scene it’s due, but avoid gratuitous pauses or time-taking.  Amy quotes Peter Jackson in this regard: “No scene can’t be improved with a bit of pace”
  7. Confidence is key.  You will land the role based primarily on confidence, then your talent and only then whether you’re actually right for the part.   Amy wants her clients to know, “You can hit the ground running with this one!”  Be confident in yourself and your ideas.  The room is yours.  Don’t apologize.  If you fluff something,  just let ’em know you’re starting again and blow them away.
Good luck!