Category Archives: Acting

Book, Writing and opportunities. Quick Update

Man, I’ve been neglecting this blog. Surprisingly, traffic has increased, without any type of promotion on my part. Guess, my content is timeless after all, eh?

I’m still writing. Still acting. Still working on my source of passive income.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Writing

I didn’t/don’t want to overcrowd this blog with more self-improvement/development/growth-oriented content than acting content. Even though, I’m not solely an actor. I suppose it shouldn’t;t matter since it’s my blog. Anyways, I’ve been writing for Untemplater. So if you’re looking for any entries from me, you can catch them there.

Also, I’ve been getting a lot of writing opportunities from numerous sources. I got to write a piece for the upcoming book, The Hood Health Handbook, which is an anthology of health information geared towards the urban/hip hop community. They’re striving to get people who would never read a book, especially one regarding health, to become more aware and informed. I was happy to contribute.

2. Moving to LA.

Why? Because as an actor, I’ve got to be there. I hate spending 2-3 hours in traffic, just to go audition down there. I can’t stand traffic. Also, it will open up numerous opportunities. Most of my friends and a whole lot of like-minded people are down there. Vegans/vegetarians, people with the same spiritual and scientific beliefs, family, etc. It’s a whole new adventure. I’ll be moving down before the end of this year.

3. Reading and studying

I mentioned previously on this blog that I was looking to set up a source of passive income. *Sigh* I would have liked to have started on that already, but doubt was sinking in, as well as a plethora of other (read: financial) problems. It worked to my benefit though. I feel like I can really offer something of value now. It’ll be health-related, as that’s been the focus of my study for the past few months. I’m working on a small book regarding eating healthy on a budget. It’ll include recipes and other resources. With it, I hope to offer people a new perspective and challenge the idea that eating healthy has to be expensive. A friend talked me into it and a lot of people have been encouraging me and said they’d like to have the information. I just got to do some more research in this area. I’m also waiting for the Hood Health Handbook to come out, so as to make certain that I’m not writing anything that they already cover in there.

4. Extra work

I couldn’t call myself an actor if  wasn’t doing some type of acting work. I’ve been doing a lot of extra work lately. Nothing major or anything special. I did do a music video and got a split-second of fame-yet to get paid for it though.

Maybe I should blog about the little extra gigs that I do. They’re nothing exciting though, especially when you’re sacrificing your sleep to do nothing on a set for 6-8 hours.

Stay tuned…

Should You Act? Why?

When the going gets tough in your journey to become an actor-or whatever you’re striving towards – you may find yourself asking this question. I remember reading in Audition- I think it was-  the author’s answer to the question. He said something like

If you have to ask the question, perhaps no, you shouldn’t be an actor. If you could be reasonably happy doing something else, then by all means, no, don’t become an actor.

Should is a word that I don’t like to include in my vocabulary. It takes away freedom of choice and kind of implies expectations and what not.

A better question would be, “Do I want to act? Would I like to act?” Or something along those lines.

A good follow-up question to ask would be, “What is my motivation?” This is your why.

As any actor can attest, your motivation is what compels you to act. So know that there is no wrong or right answer to this question but stronger and weaker. Whatever your answer, make certain that it is strong enough to sustain your fire and keep it burning while driving through the obstacles that you are likely to encounter along the way.

The Decision Contract

Success and failure are the results of the use of mind. Every success-motivated mind has been a decisive mind. Every failure-motivated mind has been an indecisive-mind. Only the dreamer who acted with decision on his dream brought  forth something new and valuable- Raymond Charles Barker

I’ve come to a point in my journey where I’ve identified those unpleasant moments that just seem to come with the package. Every career has them. Matter of fact, EVERYTHING has them! Parents may love being parents, but there are those times where dealing with kids may feel like more work than passion. The gift and the curse, right?!

I remember driving a member of my ensemble up to Big Bear. We were going to one of our weekly meetings and we had a discussion about the nature of the acting business. I think we got into a discussion about Heath Ledger or something and the subject of sleep. I was telling him how loaded my schedule was and how I wasn’t getting any sleep. He told me, “actors don’t sleep, it’s a fact of life!” I laughed at him and ignored his remark. I though he was just being negative and trying to avoid the fact that I would’ve gotten a bit more sleep if I didn’t drive him up there, because we were doing this more for him than for me. I told him that wasn’t going to be me and that I was going to get sleep. I wasn’t going to end up some sleep-deprived insomniac on drugs a la Heath Ledger or Michael Jackson. After all, rest is part of being healthy, right?! A healthy body with optimal health is definitely required for an actor. Our body is our only instrument.

Well, weeks, or months ago, I finally realized, yeah, to get ahead and seriously grind in this industry, you’re not going to be getting a whole lot of sleep. I wouldn’t say this is an objective view though. Maybe you’re not working two-different jobs and running to an audition on your lunch break. Maybe you’ve got a stream of passive income paying your way, or a large savings. Even still, the on-set hours are long and tedious. Endless rehearsals, repetitive practice, same take after same take.

Here’s the thing about decisions:

1.) You never really and wholly honor a decision until you’ve accepted the fine print.

Whenever we want to do something, buy something, experience something or someone wants to sell us something, all we ever hear about are the pros, the good parts. We seldom hear about the negative parts. Oh sure, we might hear, “it’s got a little scratch on the side,” or “it shakes a little, but they all do at times,” but we often must find out the negatives for ourselves. Maybe it’s due to the subjective nature of the words “pro” “con” “good” and “bad.”

The Fine Print

These things that lure us in stop looking so good when we experience our first unpleasant experience. But if you are fully committed to your decision then you should have come to accept “the terms and conditions of this agreement below.”

In the real world, this fine print is not always easy to find and know ahead of time. It’s an outlook, a prediction that is often hard to see-but not impossible- from the outside looking in.

Treat this like a real contract. Most people don’t know or can’t make sense of the fine print so they go out and hire a professional to make sense of it for them. So go out and ask someone in the field. Take them out to lunch and just talk about their experiences. Listen to their story, the failures and bad experiences they went through. People love to talk about their misery and how they’ve suffered. Go out there and test the waters yourself. Read a little about whatever it is that you’re looking to do or experience.

Do You Agree to the Terms & Conditions?

Once you find out or get a feel for what the day-to-day is like, come to accept them.

Once we come to terms with the day-to-day, our reactions usually lie somewhere along the 5 stages of grief. If you can’t come to the final stage of acceptance, maybe it isn’t the perfect fit for you.

I’ve come to accept that I won’t be getting very much sleep for the moment. Even if you can’t fully accept the conditions, you should be able to tolerate them while looking for something better. I don’t like having to go to casting calls after I’ve been at work all-night, so I’m working on building a passive income stream so I can drop my 9-5.

2.) You never really honor a decision until you’ve ‘burned the ships.’

Did you know the word decide comes from two little Latin words that literally mean “to cut off”?! Yep. To make a decision means to cut off other options and commit to one. If you could do both options, or however many you’ve got, then you wouldn’t have to make a choice and decide now would you?

To ‘burn the ships’ is not an entirely new concept, but one that most people aren’t familiar with. Basically, you cut off any areas of retreat to ensure you press on in any scenario, no “if ands or buts.” You sink or swim.

 In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells how a warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to insure his success on the battlefield. Basically, he and is army were going up against a powerful foe,whose army greatly outnumbered his own.

 Before the first battle, he gave the order to ‘burn the ships’ and told his men, “You see the boats going up in smoke! That means we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice- we win- or we perish!”They Won!! Only by doing so will an individual be able to maintain the mind state known as a burning desire, which is essential to success.

Will smith said in an interview that the success of his marriage to jada (even though he had previously had a divorce) is that they can’t have divorce as an option. They both don’t even consider it. It’s non-negotiable. They have problems but work through them. He took his vows more seriously. He says, “they’re either going to be together forever or someone has to die!”

He also made a great point in another interview. He said when you create a back-up plan you also create the necessity for that backup. You are subconsciously telling yourself, “I might not wanna go through this, I don’t know about this, let me just create this backdoor so that I might be able to escape when the going gets tough.”

Likewise, Sun Tzu mentioned in his classic, The Art of War,  how it is necessary to create an image of retreat for your enemy so that they won’t fight as hard.

Decisions, Decisions

Tough decisions are a part of life. What makes decisions tough are the stakes, consequences, tradeoffs, etc.Regardless of how tough decisions are, your ability or inability to make decisions can stagnate or propel your ability to take action in life. Any leader will tell you, if you can’t come to make decisions quickly, you won’t be a very effective leader. Before making decisions, first, figure out whether you need to even decide at all. More than likely, it’s not that serious.

Real decisions are like contracts, they take real committment and people rarely read the terms and conditions. Because of a lack of attention to the fine print, they usually get in trouble later and regret it. Take your time and honor your committment. Don’t be in such a rush to sign onto anything either, especially when it comes to something as serious as marriage.

*In a future post, I want to suggest a simple decision-making model that I’ve learned from a couple of great books that has worked for me.

Empowering Words and Stronger Vs. Weaker language

As an actor, you’re taught to use active words instead of the passive voice. You want to use words that compel you to act rather more than not.

Whether you’re an actor or a person striving to achieve some sort goal, everyone can benefit from the power of words.

Words psychologically affect us on a subconscious level and in many other levels we may not understand. Though they vary in degree, your choice of words can help you significantly as well as hurt you and your endeavors.

Although there are much more, here is a list of some disempowering words and some empowering alternatives.

Not all of these words are that bad but as any actor or actress can attest to, some words are just stronger and some words weaker.

I found a lot of these in some of my favorite books like the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Rap Race and Revolution and you can find more active words in any thesaurus, especially The Actor’s Thesaurus.  

* Note-I’ll be gradually updating and adding to this list.*

1.Try– Whenever people fail at doing something, they love telling you they “tried.” Well, if you try to pay the rent, does that mean you paid it? And when you tell your landlord you “tried,” will he/she let you stay?

 Trying is a word for people who give up, because to “try” something usually means you gave a shot and that was it. People who continue to work at something ’til they get it, they “strive.”

2. Broke– Something is only “broke” if somethings wrong with it. Is something wrong with you? Or are you just low on finances?

3. Worry– Another unhealthy word and emotion. Are you “worried” (scared) or are you concerned?

4. Wish– Is there a Genie in a lamp somewhere? Are you at a magic wishing well? In real life, “wishes” don’t come true. Work does. Plans do.

5. Can’t– Saying you can’t automatically weakens you. But you’ve been conditioned to think of life terms of what you can and can’t do. Try to avoid saying “can’t” for a day, and see how hard it is to think differently.

In reality, because of the infinite potential of the human mind, there’s actually nothing you “can’t” do.

6. Maybe– is one of the favorite words of people who either hate thinking or hate making decisions. Either way, make up your mind and live in  the affirmative.

7. But- is another weak word. It automatically weakens the strength of any positive statement you make.

Ex.” I was going to go work out at the gym and lose some of these pounds BUT I ended up passing Jack-in-the-Box on the way and you know how things are with my undisciplined ass.” or “I was going to ask her out to the dance BUT I punked out, she wouldn’t give me the chance anyway.”

8. Rituals vs. Habits

“People tend to talk in terms of “good habits” and “bad habits,” but I prefer to think in terms of rituals and habits. Think about it. Whenever you hear someone say, “She/he has a habit of …” the thing that comes next is rarely positive. The difference between rituals and habits is that you choose to do rituals; you have some degree of awareness and intention. People tend to admire your rituals.” ~ Shawn Phillips

Extra Work and Gigs

Thank God for gigs!!

How else do we keep money in our pockets? We’re steadily working for free to earn credits, build experience or just for the fun of it, it’s nice to get paid sometime!

I just recently did an industrial shoot at Knott’s, for some company that sells ball-barrings for roller-coasters. It was pretty fun, all we had to do was ride Boomerang around 7 times or more so they could get the perfect shot. They served us breakfast-a pretty good one at that-lunch, and if we wanted a full free day at the park. I didn’t stay because I had already spent too much time there waiting for them to install the camera on the roller coaster and do whatever else they were doing.

Be Productive

When it comes to doing extra work, whether it be a feature film, student film, play or whatever, ALWAYS bring something to do so you don’t be bored out of your mind. A book, your i-pod, a play, crossword puzzle, sudoku, etc.

Oh! Bring your own food too! Or else-if you happen to be a vegetarian like me- you’ll be stuck with the Standard American Diet.

Networking

Did I mention it’s a great time to network?! You’re surrounded by people who have the same interests and may have some of the same goals as you.

Every one of the extras I meet has  had story. How they found out about the project we’re working on-different sources, websites and contacts all the time.

You share something, they share something, you both learn something new, and possibly make a new acquaintance on your journey.

In the future I’ll include a section with some links that give a lot of extra work, castings and all that good stuff.

Update

As it stands right now, I’m your typical starving actor. I mean, I’m not starving literally, I’ve been living off of sandwiches, pasta and enchiladas and other cheap vegetarian food, so I’m good.

I’ve decided that for the greater part of next year, my primary focus will be on my finances and my career will take a step down to the secondary slot. My plan is to work an additional part-time job and to pour all of that income into a savings account. All that money will then be used to take more classes the following year.

In addition, I plan to launch a Site-Build-It website with the same focus- the journey of an aspiring actor- come January. If everything works out, I should have my passive income stream in place by the end of the year. As an aspiring actor, I can’t think of a better way to support our career path. It should get rid of all the juggling jobs and stress that we have to deal with.

To this day, I have been posting on this site periodically without any type of schedule. Until I get my laptop fixed, which I plan to do in the upcoming weeks, my internet time is pretty much limited to the libraries hours or whenever I can get my hands on a friend’s laptop. Once that is done, I will posting more regularly and reaching out to connect and build more relationships with you people. Chow.

Sharpen Your Acting: The Habits of an Actor

I made the jump earlier this year to follow my passion of acting head on. I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was to go about doing it, I just started moving. I eventually started researching the best schools in my area and came upon Stella Adler Los Angeles.

I made the move and got enrolled. The class was great. The only thing was, I only had enough money for one class.

Use Your Time Wisely

I came upon my first setback. I planned to only take one quarter off and find a better paying job (or an additional one) to help me pay for the rest of the classes I planned on taking. The job that I thought I had lined up didn’t come through like I had hoped and I felt stuck. I knew I had to do something to keep my skills sharp while outside of school. So I emailed my teacher and told him about my current situation. He then sent me a list of creative habits and books to read while I was away.

Why Doesn’t an Actor Act?

We pay all that money for training and acting school, and after we feel confident enough we go searching for work.Alan Nusbaum asked on his blog, “if a painter paints, how come an actor does not act?”It’s a great question because as actors sometimes we tend to forget all about the theater and student films and go straight to Hollywood for the paid gigs.

Here is the list of creative habits my teacher gave me to keep my craft sharp

1. Work time- find yourself a time to work that you protect. Know when you work best and take advantage of that time. Structure your day around that fact.

2. Pianists/ Musicians- They always accept the fact that for them to be better they must do their scale work . They must practice. Dancers are the same way. What are the scales for an actor?

  • Practice Script breakdown- get a play and break it down into its beats, units, etc.  See how fully you understand it. What is the plot? What’s the theme? Setting? Idea?
  • Practice cold reading- If you plan on becoming an actor, this skill is an important part of the audition. Grab a monologue and practice.
  • Poetry- My teacher had us doing poems. He would have us see the images before we would speak. I learned that in order to move an audience with the poem, I had to be moved myself. If it meant nothing to me, it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else. So it forced me to start taking time to connect with things in real life. Just to be present and allow myself to become affected by things I come across. Different images and what not. Poetry is a deep form of self-expression and can better you as an actor.
  • Shakespeare-need I say more?
  • Reading history, philosophy, literature, political theory, religious texts, psychology, and studying other cultures. Acting is all about connecting with the text and bringing the life behind that text to life. What better to study than life and people itself. Not only your own but that of others as well.
  • Visiting art galleries and museums. Museums carry things of significance. Things relative to points in time, a peoples’ history and items pertaining to a their culture. Art has a way of carrying a peoples’ culture and history. It can represent their times  and evoke feelings.
  • Observation/ People watching. It’s the heart of our work and all art. Learn to see, putting yourself into the shoes of others.
  • Writing-anything. Journal, poetry, plays, screenplays, film. Get to know yourself.
  • Anything that can give you focus
  • Watching great work of both theater and film. Learn from your fellow actors

3. Take care of your body and voice- practice physical work and voice work everyday. Our body is our instrument.

4. Doing theater- It’s our place.

In addition, he gave me these words of advice:

Acting is a lifetime committment to learning

Discover what moves you, what do you want to fight for or express

If you are not learning you are standing still

Set goals for the parts you want to play