Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sorry for the extended break...

The Monoblogue is on hold while I'm busy with more pressing engagements. Hope to be back in touch soon!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Do I really need to go to acting school?

Yes, you do. Here's why, if you're serious about becoming an actor, you really, really, really should study acting:

Acting requires technique.
Just as a pianist needs to spend hours and hours playing scales before he's concert-ready, you need to train your ass off before you can hit Broadway. Your voice, body, and brain need to be at their best, and you can't teach that to yourself.

Practice makes perfect.
Acting is one of those professions that's hard to do alone. If you only get to act at auditions and in front of the mirror at home, you just won't have enough performance time to really become great. Plus, acting school will give you the skills and discipline you need to practice on your own.

Support.
All actors are insecure, and your misery will only get worse if most of your actor-to-actor contact is at auditions. Acting school environments are usually extremely supportive and can encourage you to take the risks that will make you a better actor.

The more tools you have, the better.
A teacher once told me that ninety-five percent of aspiring actors are untrained. Wouldn't you want to be part of the five percent that have the advantage? Not only are trained actors better, but they're automatically taken more seriously by agents and casting directors.

The people you'll meet...
You never know which teacher or fellow student will get you a job in the future. Like it or not, the acting world's all about connections. (And how pretty you are).

There are some great film actors who've apparently never been formally trained. But there are no great untrained theatre actors, and it's generally agreed upon that stage actors are awesome on film -- try looking up any truly excellent film actor and they've probably been to theatre school. Johnny Depp is a notable exception, but even he has never attempted live theatre, as far as I know.

Moral of the story: get trained. You know you want to. And if you don't want to... or if you have anything else to say, leave me a comment below.

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Kato Kaelin lands a national commercial; Monobloguer is confused

Today I auditioned for an Ask.com commercial. I had to be a girl who gets really excited about finding a whole bunch of Kato Kaelin fansites through Ask and then ecstatically sings, "I've got what I was looking for!" while the real Kato Kaelin emerges out of a sea of topless Kato Kaelin look-alikes.

Obviously, the question begging to be asked here is: who the fuck cares about Kato Kaelin? Don't get me wrong -- I'm happy for Kato that he got a job. But if Ask.com wants to compete with Google (which they presumably are trying to do), don't you think they could shell out a few more dollars to get an actual celebrity in one of their commercials? Who would ever search for a Kato Kaelin fansite? Or is this some kind of Kevin Federline thing where he tries to make fun of himself on national TV and ends up looking stupider than ever before?

I don't get it. If you have any idea what the hell Ask.com is thinking (or if you're a huge Kato Kaelin fan and want to threaten me), leave a comment below.

Oh, and just for fun, here's Kato's Myspace page. It says he's 101 years old, but he's really only 48! How clever.

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Jeremy Piven: The date from hell

I know I just wrote about miserable actors, but when I heard that Jeremy Piven recently made a public douchebag of himself at Nobu Aspen, I had no choice but to bring up the subject again.

The gist is that Piven rolled into Nobu with twelve other people on a very busy night. The staff managed to find a table for them even though the Piv's group was without reservations. At the end of the meal, instead of leaving what should have been a tip worth hundreds of dollars, Piven put down a copy of the first season of Entourage on DVD. On his way out, he told the manager, "Thanks for nothing." A furious waiter hurled the DVD at Piven as he left.

Oh, Piven. You sad, sad loser. And before my gentle readers start whining that the media distorts everything and the story probably isn't even true, let me tell you: Nobu or no Nobu, Jeremy Piven is a huge, mealy, nauseating douchebag.

I know this because I went on a date with him.

A few years ago, before J. Piv had landed the part of the asshole agent on Entourage (a role I happen to think he's great in), he was stuck doing bit parts in some seriously crappy movies, like Chasing Liberty and Scary Movie 3. We met at a bar one night and he asked me on a dinner date. Then, over the course of said dinner date, he:

1. Recited an epic monologue about himself. His failing career, every sort-of-decent movie he'd done in the past, his bitterness towards longtime friend John Cusack, and a punch he once tried to throw at Eddie Vedder in a Chicago bar were all explored in great detail and with no sense of irony (or sense of humor) whatsoever. Yawn.

2. Snapped at the waitress because there was something in his pasta sauce he wouldn't eat. The Piv is one of the pickiest eaters I've ever had to witness. Severe turn-off; men take note.

3. Stood up and called me a "huge fucking conceited bitch" in front of the whole restaurant. He'd been pressuring me over the course of the meal to come over, saying we could play ping-pong and watch an exclusive advance copy of Old School the production company had sent him (no joke; I guess he really has a thing for his own DVDs). I refused again and again, saying I wasn't comfortable with going to his place on the first date. He kept saying we would just hang out, that he wouldn't touch me... but of course I knew better, and anyway, I wasn't about to spend another minute with someone this obnoxious and self-absorbed.

When he realized I really wasn't going to come over -- that I'd rejected him -- he snapped, launching into a furious tirade about how stuck-up and ridiculous I was for even thinking he'd want to have sex with me and how I've got another thing coming if I think every guy that comes around wants to get in my pants. Um, wasn't he the one who'd asked me on a date?

So I told him he was a loser asshole with an inferiority complex. That's when he called me a "huge fucking conceited bitch" and stormed his way out of the restaurant, much to the amusement of the other customers, who'd overheard the end of our conversation. "Was that that actor guy? God, what an asshole." Indeed.

The reported Nobu incident doesn't shock me at all -- even now that he's achieved greater success. No matter what happens, a guy with this many issues will never be able to dig himself out of his pathetic self-loathing little hole of an existence. Fame just allows him to inflict his misery on more people more often.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: Jeremy Piven's really short. And really balding. And has a really small penis. And I don't say that because I've seen it. Sometimes, you just know.

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Do you hate me? The drama of the insecure actor

Actors are a miserable, needy, sorry bunch of wimps. Sometimes I really think we should all be rounded up and thrown into some kind of Psychiatric Ward for Performers with Low Self-Esteem and given some hardcore therapy. Like lobotomies and electroshock and caged beds. You know, old school.

Take my friend Pete. He's an actor. The other night, I was out with him and some friends at a bar, and Pete started hitting on a girl ruthlessly. Eventually, he got her number.

Pete and his girlfriend, Ethel, have been living together for about four years now. He's cheated on her before.

"Don't be an asshole, Pete," I said. "Ethel deserves better. Just because you have an inferiority complex doesn't mean she should suffer because of it."

Pete started getting defensive. "I'm not an asshole! I was just trying to be friendly! Don't give me shit!" Eventually, his whining devolved into, "I swear I'm not an asshole... Don't be mad. Do you hate me?"

Do you hate me. Lots of guys, whether they're actors or not, cheat on their girlfriends (and vice versa, of course). But when confronted with the fact of their assholery by a friend, it really takes an actor to respond with, "Do you hate me?"

Pete's priority is to be loved. He wants a doting girlfriend. He wants every woman he meets to desire him. He wants his friends to admire and support him even when he's being a total shit. He wants to make the audience laugh and clap and yell, "Yay Pete! You're the best!"

Sound familiar? I could populate a small country with all the Petes I know (and trust me, I'd be living in Pete-land too). I met most of them in acting school.

But maybe you're different. Maybe you're a really really confident, not-love-hungry, totally monogamous, sweet, tall, handsome, successful actor guy with a private jet and a really big penis. Maybe you want to leave me a comment. And your phone number.

Sweet.

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On-set with Coca-Cola: What to do when you have nothing to do

I recently did a Coca-Cola commercial. It was a three-day night shoot, so I got picked up every day at 3:30 in the afternoon. On day two, I arrived on set at 5, eager as a beaver. I was in costume and makeup by 6. And then... I waited. Still pretty eager.

And waited... Eager enough.

And waited... Not so eager.

At 6:00 a.m., the beaver died. I was back in the van and on my way home. I had don
e nothing all night.

If you're serious about on-camera work, you'd better have a lot of patience -- or at least a lot to do besides hovering around the catering table and getting your fingers sticky. Here are five productive ways to spend your off-camera time:

1. Get to know people. Never underestimate the friendships (and contacts!) you can make while waiting. Other actors and off-duty crew are usually more than happy to chat. Don't be the anti-social cast member who sits in a corner and refuses to engage; you could be missing out on a lot. On this shoot alone, I made several new friends, was invited to three performances, found out about an upcoming casting, and got plenty of tips on the local film scene. And I had fun. That said, you should also...

2. Not be annoying. Okay -- this one's not really a thing to do. But some of the
goings-on during the Coke shoot reminded me of this all-important rule: don't piss off the cast and crew by being all actor-y and obnoxious. If it's a night shoot and you're all holed up in a room where elderly people are trying to sleep sitting up in wooden chairs, don't run around playing tag with the cute teenage extras. No one will like you.

Also, don't babble incessantly about how many commercials you've done, what your salaries were, and how your last role involved your being chased through the woods by a pack of wolves with a huge slab of bacon in your pocket. Even if you happen to make it interesting, we're all tired and unlikely to give a shit for long.

3. Get some work done. If you have some lines you need to rehearse for the next scene, study them. If you're in school and have homework to do, do it. If you need to learn a monologue for an upcoming audition, learn it. You get the idea. Teach yourself to concentrate even when you're surrounded by chaos.

4. Sneak around the set. But don't be stupid. Don't go where you're really not supposed to be -- it'll usually be pretty obvious what the boundaries are, and you should do your best not to cross them. You can, however, learn a lot by observing professionals, including your fellow actors, at work. If they're shooting on digital and there's monitor playback you can watch, so much the better.

5. Meditate. I'm not kidding. Teaching yourself to meditate can help you rest and clear your brain so you can focus on the work when you finally do get called on set. But keep the chanting to a minimum (see tip #2).

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Very bad writing: What do you do when the script sucks ass?


Ever tried reading lines that are just awful? Clich├ęd, unnatural, illogical, and grammatically incorrect? Did you all of a sudden feel like a really bad actor?

Don't worry, it's not your fault.

Bad scripts are the bane of any good actor's existence. We're dependent on the writer's words, and when those words are lame, it's pretty hard not to look lame yourself.

Case in point: Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio -- both excellent actors -- who were forced to speak some abhorrent dialogue in Titanic. Lines like "I'm flying, Jack!" and "I'm the king of the world!" just can't be said convincingly. Kate managed to pull it off fairly well, but Leo's miserably wooden performance almost destroyed his career.

So what do you do when you're stuck having to take your lines from a James Cameron screenplay? You suck it up, find some truth in what you're saying, and commit. Again, if you're afraid of looking stupid, you'll end up looking stupider. And think about what kind of person would say "I'm the king of the world!" Try to figure out what's going on in your character's brain to make him want to say something that asinine. There are reasons for everything people do. Our job is to figure out what those reasons are, and to use them to create believable characters. It isn't our job to rewrite the script -- as much as we sometimes wish we could.

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Be my friend on Myspace!


I'd love to know a little more about who the hell you are. So let's get together.

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What makes a good headshot? The top three tips for headshot perfection

The vast majority of actors have really bad headshots. This is good news, because if you and I manage to get ourselves some great ones, we already have a huge advantage over the teeming masses of professional actor wannabes.

Don't have any headshots yet? Get yourself some, pronto. You can't see an agent or a casting director without them. And while you're getting them done -- and choosing the shots you want to print afterwards -- keep these headshot basics in mind:

1. You must look like yourself. For the love of God, don't underestimate how important this is. Your headshot photographer might take a few of you at an exposure that completely washes out your enormous nose, and you'll naturally want to pick that one as your final print. But when a casting director calls you in for the part of the fair-haired, button-nosed ingenue on the basis of that headshot, she'll be pissed off that you're wasting her time. And if your photo doesn't look anything like you, the director's unlikely to remember your audition later, when he's looking through a stackful of headshots to narrow down the candidates.

Also, keep your headshots updated. Yup, that means shelling out for new headshots every few years, no matter how little you think you've changed (balding men, take note). Everyone should update frequently -- but if you've cut off all your hair or gained more than a couple of pounds, new headshots are a must.

2. Emphasis on the eyes. You should be looking into the camera in your headshot. Actors occasionally break this rule, but it doesn't usually work to their advantage. Think of your headshot as your first opportunity to make meaningful eye contact with an agent or casting director; it's an introduction to your personality. So make sure to assess carefully what your eyes seem to be saying. Is it, "I'm a deep thinker"? "I'm fun to work with"? "I have to pick up my dry cleaning now"? If there isn't anything going on behind the eyes, no one's going to give your headshot a second look.

3. Get a professional photographer. There are thousands of actors who use pictures of themselves by the Christmas tree as headshots. It doesn't work. Hire a professional. You'll have to pay, of course, but it'll be worth it. A professional headshot tells agents and casting directors that you're serious about your career as an actor, and, more importantly, shows you at your best. You don't have to get the most expensive headshot photographer in the business (I'd actually advise against it), but pick someone whose work you like and who you feel comfortable with.

Upcoming topics in the What makes a good headshot series: Choosing your headshot photographer, What to wear, How to get the most out of your shoot, Commercial vs. legit shots, Picking your final prints, etc.

Photograph by Jordan Matter

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Audition anxiety: Playing the hot babe

When I have an audition and my agent instructs me to "look as HOT as you POSSIBLY CAN," I can't help but feel a little nauseous. Oh, so this for one of those really pretty characters. The "hot babe." Dammit.

This one happens to be for a big Hollywood movie, so I know the competition's going to be brutal. And I'm not one of those classic beauty types, either. So I bought myself some new makeup and a push-up bra, and I practiced pouting while batting my eyelashes and saying the line, "I had no idea you had such a secret life outside of here, Wesley."

Wish me luck.

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Headshot from hell

I'll get into detail about what makes a good headshot very soon, but I couldn't resist handing you this golden little nugget first:


This picture depresses me. I'm sure I don't really need to spell out why, but I'll tell you anyway.

  • Please don't look at me that way. Anybody looking to cast an evil gnome? I found him.
  • The Floater. Unless you want to look like the result of an underground lab experiment, avoid black turtlenecks against dark backgrounds. In fact, just avoid black turtlenecks altogether. They never did anybody any favors.
  • I think there's something in your eye. Get that hair out of your face, for Christ's sake.

  • I know what you've been doing. See those dark shadows? The ones right next to those gleaming white cheekbones? That's from too much fiddling with your photo editing software. I know you probably have wrinkles and a face full of pockmarks, but your audition won't come with a brightness and contrast button. So you might as well be up front about what you've got -- even if it's not so pretty.

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Yoghurt and the value of commitment

Lately, my agent's been sending me to a ton of auditions that I have no business walking into (there's no way I could be a sexy young mom, even if I am technically of childbearing age -- I'm way too infantile-looking). So I was thrilled when I finally had an audition for a part I could actually be cast in.

This was for a UK and Ireland Danone yoghurt commercial, with a typically moronic premise: two girls are sitting across from each other in a boxing ring, with a table between them covered in donuts and onion rings and other fatty yummies. They're both on a diet, and are competing intensely to see who can resist the junk food the longest. One of them is eating only salad; the other one... yup, just Danone.

The audition consisted of a prolonged fierce look at the opponent while gripping the table, trying not to cave in and eat (the moral of this commercial's story is really pretty shameful).

The girl opposite me was a model, not an actress, so naturally she was terrible. When she wasn't laughing, she kept squinting her eyes at me like she was trying to read something written across my forehead.

Then I did the scene, and after the casting director said "Cut!" the model bimbo squealed, "Oh my god! You were so good! You scared the crap out of me."

Well, that's what I was there to do, right? Even in a casting for a completely improbable, ridiculous commercial (and there are plenty of them out there) you have to commit, and commit hard. Your audition will be worth nothing if you let yourself laugh or blush because you're afraid of looking stupid. You'll only end up looking more like an idiot, especially on film.

And seriously, don't be afraid of intense eye contact; it's one of the best tools an actor's got going. The bimbo blew it because she wasn't capable of looking straight at me and holding my gaze.

I'm intimidating, I know. But deal with it.

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Why 'the career from hell'?

You know why.

Because 98% of you will never make a living from acting.

Because everyone thinks they can be an actor too.

Because by choosing to be an actor, you're entering a vast community of insecure, self-involved, delusional twats.

Because you'll probably end up marrying one of those insecure, self-involved, delusional twats, and one of you will be more successful than the other.

Because your insecure, self-involved, delusional twat spouse will have illicit sex with more gorgeous co-stars than you ever thought possible.

Because everyone from your hometown in Kentucky is sure you're the next Angelina Jolie, and they can't understand why they haven't seen you in a Hollywood movie yet.

Because when you eat in a restaurant in New York or L.A., your waiter will always be another actor.

Because no matter how smart, funny, charming, and talented you are, your looks will always come first.

Because it's all you want to do, and on most days you won't be doing it.

Because you will make a huge ass out of yourself.

Because you will fail and fail and fail and fail.

And that's the truth. But as they say in addiction recovery, knowing is half the battle.

Welcome to The Monoblogue.

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