Judy Kain teaching her popular workshop, The Business Of Acting.
People who have studied under my system know how much I emphasize PICTURES over DIALOGUE when trying to communicate an interesting story or performance. Outside of cinephile nerds like me, who watch movies literally hundreds of times to study and understand the genius and mastery of filmmaking, most people very rarely recall dialogue from a movie or TV show they loved. It’s almost ALWAYS IMAGES and PICTURES. “Titanic”, “Rocky”, “Billy Eliot”, “Moonlight” all created iconic and legendary images that have transcended time, culture and language. But how? How did those images stick with us more than images from other films? Sometimes it’s just a breathtaking shot like the Manhattan skyline in black and white 70 MM in Woody Allen’s classic, “Manhattan”. But most films and actors don’t have the world’s most famous city as their backdrop. So how did the images in say “Billy Eliot” stand out? Well, images, pictures and moments that stand out tend to be of the asymmetrical nature. By that I mean the objects in the shot are not symmetrically organized. They’re just a little askew. A little organized chaos if you will. As a species, according to many biologists and anthropologists, what made life on this planet successful in the evolutionary process was its addiction to symmetry. That’s why most mammals have two eyes located somewhat symmetrically on most faces, for instance. Symmetry allowed us to survive. Without it the variations in developing species would’ve made individual specie survival practically impossible. In essence, homogeny helps a species survive and thrive. Now, humans and certain other mammals do have specific and unique variations. Redheads for instance possess a unique human trait that visually set them apart from other humans. But most variation is superficial and easily manipulated. So why would asymmetrically organized PICTURES and IMAGES become more memorable and iconic? Again, those same scientists speculate that while symmetry strengthens a species survivability, asymmetry is visually and cerebrally engaging and fascinating. In essence we’re drawn to things that look out of place or slightly off. From an anthropological and thus human reaction standpoint people who present themselves with asymmetrical posture seem more confident, more interesting, mavericks. We all wish we could grow our hair long and write poetry as Europe burns but most of us don’t want that kind of drama in our real lives. So we watch people “Create” a fake “Real” world for us to enjoy and to grab our attention and to let us know “We’re the Hero and we got this…” To do that they use loads of asymmetrical posture and they thus create compelling IMAGES and PICTURES for us to recall and relive as we share our common enjoyment of an IMPORTANT FILM or TV SHOW with our communities. So for you, the actor, the challenge is to always be creating interesting and memorable PICTURES and BLOCKING (Called Korography in my system) to keep your audience engaged and wanting more. Commercial auditions fall under this axiom as well. Trust me in my over 500 callbacks and 100,000 directed auditions the actors who stood out and ultimately got the gig used profuse amounts of asymmetrical posture to create interesting PICTURES and PERFORMANCES to grab the client by the heart or with humor to TAKE the gig that was RIGHTFULLY THEIRS. That’s the attitude they all conveyed with hat posture. Try it out in your next audition. I promise you will make an impression.
Randall "The Wolf" Sims is an Actor & Casting Session Runner. He regularly teaches Wednesday Workouts at Keep It Real Acting Studios, as well as his new class The Fundamentals Of Visual Storytelling. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. When he is not working, Randall enjoys his time volunteering with wolves.
Recently I worked on the casting of a commercial for a big building supply company. We’ve worked with this director a number of times and he invited us to the set.
Now if you’ve never been to the set of a commercial or film shoot, it is chaos. Grips, gaffers, set decorators, prop people, special effects artists, make-up and hair people, producers, clients, ADs and PAs—all quickly moving about doing their jobs. It can be confusing and intimidating for the uninitiated.
Amid all this madness, stood little Abby.
For this spot, we had put together a family, including 9-year old Abby. She is the daughter of an actor friend and has had an impressive career for a girl her age: a dozen or so commercials, as well as a TV series and a film or two. She has been influenced by her father, of course, and took some kids’ acting classes. But mostly, she is very natural.
I watched young Abby as she stood on the set. Crew members moved all around but her whole focus was on the director, who stood a few feet away giving her instructions. Makeup people scurried around her as he finished his direction, making last touches. Then, the first AD called for quiet, the cameras rolled and the director called action. Calmly and deliberately she did what the director had asked of her. After they cut, she was shown back to her holding area where she resumed working with the set teacher.
You see, Abby is just the kind of child that directors and agencies want to work with: focused, calm, talented and professional. And it only makes sense. When you’re spending anywhere from 10 to 25 thousand dollars an hour on a shoot, you can’t afford the extra time it takes to deal with people who are unprepared or intimidated.
Now, there are thousands upon thousands of cute kids out there. And a lot of them want to be actors. But from casting commercials, TV and film for over 25 years, I can tell you for sure that most of the kids I see auditioning DO NOT know what they are doing. It’s also why kids like Abby book so much work.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: the key to working in commercials is not how well you act; it’s how well you audition.
That is why I teach Kids Classes at Keep It Real Acting Studios. I want my young student actors to be fearless and unintimidated by the audition process. I want them to relax and let their creativity and talent flow. And there is really only one way to do that: show them what to expect and how to handle it. Then have them practice it again and again, until it becomes second nature.
Eventually the kids’ personalities start coming through in their auditions and at that point, I know they are ready.
Doug Traer is an accomplished actor and casting session runner. He currently teaches Teens Commercial Class at KIRA. In 2015, his class won Favorite Youth Acting Class in the Backstage Readers' Choice Awards.
Is there a difference as far as preparing for each type of audition? Apparently there are actors out there that feel there is little to no preparation necessary for Commercial Auditions. I often see actors talking, on their phone, and the best to date cleaning out their purse in the lobby while waiting to audition for a commercial.
However at a Theatrical Auditions, actors rarely make eye contact, let alone speak with one another. Presumably, they are working on their script, making substitutions, preparing mentally and physically for the upcoming audition.
I have been auditioning for 38 years in Los Angeles for Television, Film and commercials and I do the same prep for all three. It is my firm belief that acting is acting and preparation is a part of my tool kit. Who , what , where and why are the questions I always ask… and then dig further for more info to personalize as much as I can with the time allotted.
· Who am I talking to? Who is this person to me? How do I feel about them right now? What is our history?
· What is my motive? What is my Objective? What do I want from this person? What is my point of view? What am I feeling right now about the situation?
· Where am I? Have I been here before? What do I see around me? Identify something that I can focus on and create the 4th wall.
· Why am I saying what I am saying? Why is it important? Why am I not saying anything? Why am I present in this situation?
When I ask myself these questions and make decisions I feel equipped to fully commit to the text and the scene as a whole. If asked to do it another way which is almost always the case, I am ready with options, choices, because I have thought about it, and rehearsed it several different ways. I am able to take the direction and employ it with ease.
I would much rather leave an audition knowing I gave it my all and left them with a sense of who I am, than kick myself in the car all the way up the 405, wishing I had prepared.
From my interviews with Casting, their number one complaint about actors is that they are not prepared. They often say, the actor who gets picked or called back is always the one who comes in with a solid choice. It may not always be the choice they had in mind, but they made a choice, backed up with thought and conviction. These are the actors who consistently work because they take the craft seriously.
If you are struggling with how to prepare, how to make these choices at your auditions, check out Mastering the Theatrical audition at KEEP IT REAL ACTING STUDIOS.
Judy Kain is owner of Keep It Real Acting. The next session of her class Advanced Callback is now enrolling.
I have been teaching commercial acting for 20 years and auditioning for 38, and have never figured out a way to teach actors how to work on set. I have found numerous techniques to hone their skills in the audition room. I have created technique on how to stand out and be noticed for good solid work. Even found ways to recreate a callback setting so actors can deal with the nerves when a job is at stake.
But being on set is its own beast. I am going to give my sage advice on things to do and things to avoid once you have booked the elusive job.
Let’s start with the fitting.
which is usually the first time you will interact with the director and clients if it is a commercial. I strongly suggest you come dressed in an option for the role. IF they ask you to bring some wardrobe choices to the fitting, bring a few. You don’t need to bring your whole closet, just one or two really strong choices and wear one of them to the fitting. Make sure your hair is washed and you wear makeup or come as if you were going to the callback. I have seen people lose the job after being cast because they are so casual or unkempt and that is not how the CLIENT sees the character. You should always present your most castable self anytime you are around those hiring you.
Often what I wear to the fitting is selected for the job. Make sure you wear nude underwear or things that will not detract from the outfits you will be trying on. I suggest pantyhose for women because they may have you change behind the clothes rack or some other makeshift dressing area.
Great! On to the shoot day
First: Get to the set at least a half hour early. Walk around and say hello to people. Introduce yourself. Have a bite to eat and relax into the setting. Find a place to camp or drop your things in your room.
Note that often nowadays there is rarely separate trailers for actors especially on commercials. Budget cuts and the like have impacted this. So find a spot that you can put your stuff down and travel light. Bring a phone, a book and maybe some comfy shoes… that is it.
Second, Get to know the names of the AD or second AD who will be signing you in and monitoring your where about. Let them know where you are… so they can find you. Nothing irritates them more than looking for you when they need you in makeup or on set. The more you can know names of the folks working on the shoot the better and the more comfortable you will be.
Most likely one of the first things you will do is sign your contract. ALWAYS SNAP A PHOTO OF IT and send a copy to your agent even if you think it is fine. You want the agent to deal with discrepancies not you. You are there to act, to create, to be of service. Let the agents negotiate in your behalf.
Be kind, respectful and professional. Have your photo Id, Passport or Social security card handy for them and any other paperwork you need. Know the address of your agency. You can always download contracts on line and practice filling them out so you look like a pro.
SIT AROUND AND WAIT.
Yes they called you at 6:00 am but don’t get around to shooting you till 3:00 in the afternoon. It does happen. This is where your patience and professionalism must come into play. You CANNOT complain. They are paying you for the day and you are to be ready and energetic when they call you to the set.
Do whatever you have to do.. Walk, exercise, nap, eat, read to amuse yourself and stay focused.
SHOOTING—when the 2nd Ad calls you to the set… be ready to go. First they will do a rehearsal with the director and the Director of Photography (DP) to see how they are going to shoot the scene. Give your all in the rehearsal. This is where they can see what will work and what won’t. Don’t hold it back to the shooting as they may not know to cover it. Drop the ego and listen to what all of the moving parts are. They may need to make changes because of lighting, or cast, or angles, nothing to do with you, but it will affect what you do in the scene.
Then they may ask you to step away while they light or set up the scene. Stay close by and make sure they know where you are. Keep your energy up and pleasant and respectful of the others doing there equally important work.
They usually start with a wide shot, covering the whole scene. Still give it your all in every take. Be open and available for notes from the Director. Be open to listening to the Assistant Director as well because the Director will frequently tell the AD what they want from you in the shot.
After they have THE WIDE… Then they will come in closer, for perhaps a two shot or just another angle. Things may adjust. They might pullout the table that you had in the scene because they need to get in closer with the equipment. People are all around sticking things in your face, light meters, makeup people with powder puffs or maybe you are sweating and the makeup person is nowhere to be found. Quietly ask the AD if the makeup person is close by.. You feel shiny.
Be open to the notes and when and if they do several… many takes, it is often other factors, lighting , camera, focus that is causing them to do so many takes to achieve the desired effect. You want to keep it fresh and new as if the first time you said it, but unless they suggest it, keep doing what they asked for. If the director seems to be reaching for something for your performance, try this. Repeat what they director said in a playable action. If the director says, let’s speed it up. You can say so more urgency? Or if the director says take more time, you can say, so languish in the moment? In this way you are collaborating with the director and giving yourself something playable to do.
Often the producer or clients will have a way they want to try and it doesn’t mean what you were doing is wrong; they just want to have options to look at in order to pick the right one for the spot/film.
I AM READY FOR MY CLOSEUP.
this is where most actors fall apart. Something about the camera being up close and personal gets them all shook up. Remember who you are talking to and what you want and try to anchor yourself with something or someone.
You might be looking at a blue piece of tape, when before in the wide shot you had an actual person or something real to look at. Now you have to have the same reaction with a piece of tape. Use your memory or emotional recall to capture the picture in your mind’s eye and make it as believable as you can.
Judy Kain is an actress who has appeared in over 400 commercials. She teaches Advanced Callback, A-Z Commercial Class, The Business Of Acting, and Wednesday Workouts.
I was lucky enough to have recently attended the Premiere of The New Series DROPPING THE SOAP at the Writers Guild. I love going to Private Screenings or openings of shows because the energy and excitement from everyone involved is heightened with expectations and hope for the success of the project. And I always run into old faces make new connections with fellow actors and leave with a sense of inspiration and encouragement.
Dropping the Soap did not disappoint on any level. First of all the Red Carpet was off the chart! Star studded for sure with Jane Lynch (Producer and star of Dropping the Soap) Missy Pyle, who plays the French maid in the Failing Soap Opera COLLIDED LIVE; Patrick Fabian, who is hilarious as Lance Dupree; Dot Marie Jones, ( Glee); Carolyn Hennessey (General Hospital, True Blood, Cougar Town, John Michael Higgins (Wilfred, Tween Fest ); in addition to the amazing cast Paul Witten, Kate Mines and Suzanne Friedline. The cameras were flashing and the interviews flying during the extremely tasteful reception.
We all made our way into the packed theater to find a seat. The cast got up on the stage and thanked the sponsors and all the attendees for supporting the project. Jane Lynch was the spokesperson for the group and started off the screening with panache and humor.
From the moment the series started the theater was laughing. The story follows the cast of a fledgling soap opera as they each try to figure out how they will survive and stay on the show. A new tough-as-nails executive producer is hired to bring new life to the daytime drama, played by the Lynch, tensions run high and hilarity ensues.
There are 10 six minute episodes and each one is as rich, irreverent and bold as the next. Paul Witten’s performance is far and away some of the funniest stuff I have seen on TV. He is supported by a vastly talented group of stars, each one creating surmounting foils for Julian Draker to try to overcome. The final episode Julian is faced with a difficult choice and tells the world his secret. I won’t give away the big finish, but will say Witten’s final monologue is worth the wait.
After the premiere, we all filed into the lobby to congratulate the cast and crew for their amazing work, rubbed elbows with the celebs and had one last slice of cheesecake. It was an honor to be there to share in the success.
Judy Kain is an actress known for The Odd Couple, Hand Of God, and Married With Children. She opened Keep It Real Acting Studios in 2012. In 2016, she was voted "Favorite Audition Teacher" and "Favorite On-Camera Teacher" In the Backstage Reader's Choice Awards. Judy teaches The Business of Acting Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.
Understanding how to use all your “Sides of Self” when preparing for an audition, role or performance.
By: Randall Sims
About 20 years ago I began studying an acting system developed by Judson Vaughn. An outstanding and successful actor for many years in Los Angeles and Atlanta, Judson had begun tinkering with a new process for teaching actors not only how to act better but also how to create original content via a process known as “Fodder with Compounding Obstacles”. There’s not enough time to go in to that wonderful creation here but future articles and classes at KIRA will delve deeply and powerfully in to that process of creativity and imagination.
That process yielded a fundamental building block system for actors known as “The Concepts”. These 30 or so items were all related to the creation process enabling the actor to use all the gifts and resources available to him or her to develop a truly original and inventive approach to auditioning and performing. One of those concepts is known as “Side of Self”.
For years actors have been taught that in order to inhabit the character you’re performing one must dig deep in to one’s own emotional past and dredge up some experience that will aid in manifesting an honest and true performance befitting the description of the character and the story he or she is part of. Known as “the Method” this system still serves as the main creative force behind many successful actors and their unforgettable performances. It does work just not very reliably.
And besides, most of you are not auditioning for the main role in most projects.
Using old emotions to generate fresh and original performances is not a very successful or efficient way to approach the creation process. Old experiences are good for many purposes in life but for acting the best and most interesting results come from what’s happening now to the actor. To that end, I encourage actors to find a side of self or a slightly different shade of YOU, if you will, as the foundation for creating an honest and believable performance for the audience.
If you watch the successful actors in the business, it always seems like they are kind of the same person in every performance even though the characters, circumstances and settings are drastically different and varied. Why does this work for audiences? Well, it works because none of us think Anthony Hopkins really eats people. Nor do we want to think he has experiences in his past enabling him to somehow relate to Hannibal Lecter. What makes the performance an all timer, like many of his performances, is simply the fact that he is still very much his own true self inhabiting an absolutely terrible place and time and doing terrible things.
What makes the actor stand out in an audition setting and on set is his or her ability to make an unreal and fabricated world come to life not only for the audience but for the actor as well. Simply put the only effective way to do that is to always be yourself in whatever scenario you are given. So when preparing for that audition or performance always make sure your foundation is squarely and securely set on YOU and not some forced or made up version of you. The freedom and confidence you will possess knowing that you are enough and every emotion and experience necessary to make the performance work is already inside of you will allow you to explore and find so many varied version of you to make the experience truly memorable and rewarding for you the artist as well as the person.
If you want to learn more about “Sides of Self”, “Fodder with Compounding Obstacles” and the Fundamentals of Visual Storytelling join me for my new class starting soon at KIRA. More details to follow.
About the Author: Randall Sims is an Actor, Acting Teacher and Casting Session Runner in Los Angeles, California. He frequently teaches Wednesday Workouts at Keep It Real Acting Studios.
I’ve been teaching commercial classes to actors of all ages for, well, ages. And I’ve noticed that students consistently ask me many of the same questions.
For instance, I’m asked a few times a year: what can I do to better understand the process of commercial booking?
My answer is always the same:
Put yourself in the shoes of the client.
What does that mean? Think of a commercial client like you would any other employer. For example, if Mr. Smith owns a factory that makes nuts and bolts and he gets a huge aerospace contract, then he has a problem—because the shifts and employees he has can’t meet the production timetable.The solution? Add more shifts and more employees to meet demand.
Likewise, if the Ad Agency has written a commercial featuring a speaking role for it’s
client Coca-Cola and they have given the green light to the project, now the agency’s problem is it must find a performer to fill that role. They hire a casting director who
consults with them on specs and schedules auditions with the actors they think might best match those specs.
Here’s where you come in. You’ve accepted the audition and are studying the script, trying to figure out how to play the character. You put on your actor hat and wrestle with the line “Coca Cola refreshes me like nothing else,”.
Hmmm. How to read that line. The possibilities are endless.
Should I be a shy shrinking violet and barely whisper it to my possible paramour? Should I slink like a Victoria’s Secret model and tempt him/her with my sweet, delicious soft drink? Should I be a hipster, too cool for school, who throws the line away almost contemptuously?
What will help you the most here is a general knowledge of commercial styles today, and a review of some spots they are airing now. To whom is Coca Cola being marketed? Is the pace of their commercials fast or slow? Where do the commercials take place? What is the general tone of the commercials?
Read the script again and make specific choices. Know where you are, to whom you’re speaking, what you want and how you feel about it. If you have answered all these questions for yourself, you will be able to play the reality of the given circumstances. How would you act in the world you have created?
Once you have done your actor research, you will be at a good starting point. Of course, be prepared to change if asked, but the casting director will appreciate the fact that you walked into the room prepared with valid and intelligent choices that served the script. If nothing else, the casting director will see you as a professional actor that they will want to see again and again.
About the author:
oug is an actor, teacher and commercial casting and session director.
He has been in a number of national TV commercials for products such as Mercedes-Benz, Sony Playstation, Sprint, Blue Cross Insurance, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream and Hardee’s Restaurants.
Casting Directors he has recently worked with include: Paul Ventura, Mick Dowd, Sheila Manning, Beverly Long, Danny Goldman, Jeff Gerrard, Frannie Selkirk, MC Sweeters and Mary Jo Slater.
Doug has taught acting in San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland, Phoenix and Santa Barbara. Most recently he was in Tokyo, where he taught American acting to Japanese students. Doug currently teaches Wednesday Workouts and Teens Commercial Class at Keep It Real Acting Studios.
The Following is an excerpt from Judy Kain's book I Booked It:
Finding an agent.
Do your homework. This is where the business part of acting comes into play for you. Obtain a book on the various agencies in town and find out which ones to target. Ask your friends who reps them. Go on IMDB and search the client list yourself; ascertain what types of actors the agencies represent and where you might best fit in. Before you start submitting or doing workshops, get your act together, literally.
Headshot. The headshot should look like you, on a good day but not on your best day. The chapter on head-shots goes into more detail; review it before you spend your money. Your headshots need to be professionally shot and professionally printed. Argentum Photo Lab or Pixels Digital Imaging both do a good job; their prints are always clear and the color is natural.
Résumé. Sample résumés are in the back of the book. Include both your phone and email and your Representation, if you have one.
Market yourself. Know how you will be cast in commercials. Are you a nice Midwest mom, a character type, or perhaps a hipster? Watch commercials and find yourself in them. A one-day seminar or private coaching will be helpful in the discovery process. Accept and adopt your new castable self before meeting an agent so you can truly market yourself.
Dress for your type. If you’re a character type—an uptight librarian, for example—don’t meet your potential agent while wearing skinny jeans and a tank top. Dress to suggest you know who you are in commercials. If you don’t know who you are, how will they know how to submit you?
Take a class. This suggestion is not only smart but necessary for the actor to present themselves in a good light. It shows you are eager, willing, and ready to be on the team. It is a great conversation starter to say, “Hey, I just finished taking classes at Keep It Real Acting and feel so ready to apply all that I learned and start booking.” Agents respond well to actors who are ready to go out on auditions or who have a proven track record of booking.
Judy Kain has been a professional actress now for 37 years, showcasing her skills and talents in over 350 commercials and in over 80 roles for film and television.
Some of her more well-known credits include a Television Series Regular on The Jackie Thomas Show and a Recurring role on the Emmy-winning show Mad Men, a role which won her a SAG Award. Her other favorite recurring credits include The Odd Couple, Married with Children, For Your Love, Grosse Pointe, and Manhattan, AZ with Chad Everett. She has done numerous guest appearances on the hit shows Modern Family, The Middle, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Desperate Housewives, ER, Seinfeld, The District, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, Friends, and The Drew Carey Show just to name a few.
Judy opened Keep It Real Acting Studios in 2012. In 2016, she was voted "Favorite Audition Teacher" and "Favorite On-Camera Teacher" In the Backstage Reader's Choice Awards. Judy teaches The Business of Acting Advanced Callback, Commercial A to Z and Commercial Wednesday Workouts.
One of the most important skills you can bring into an audition room is confidence. Confidence is being comfortable, willing and ready to share your uniqueness, getting rid of the ugly self- consciousness that sits on our shoulders staring back at us right at the moment we are ready to “do our thing."
A good teacher once said to me, "prepare to be ready for when you get lucky". Instead of wasting time and energy thinking about what you can't change, spend it learning what already makes you great. Once you can appreciate the things that make you loveable and unique, you will be able to walk into any audition room and make those who see you, remember you and want to work with you!
SoledadCampos is a bilingual actress, Spanish teacher, casting assistant and dialect coach, who works in both general and Hispanic markets. Her theatre roots, in Washington, D.C., taught her discipline and respect for the craft, and her love for the performing arts led her to create and produce Encuentros: Latin/o America at The Smithsonian. Soledad will be teaching Keep It Real Acting Studios' upcoming Spanish Commercial Class.