"Your profession is not your job.
Your profession is what you're put on this earth to do with such passion and intensity it becomes spiritual in calling."
Vincent Van Gogh

If that’s how you feel about being an actor we’d like to help you.

Check out Jim's welcome video!

Jim's Video Blog

For over a year, Jim posted weekly videos about the business and art of acting. The blog covers topics from agents and managers, to auditions and art-life balance. Below are just a few samples.
Most Popular Post
Demo Reel Do’s and Don’t's

Your demo reel is an important calling card. Here are some quick tips for making it as solid as possible.

transcript

Hey everyone,

Welcome back. It’s good to see you. I’m grateful you’re joining us this week. Last week we touched on making sure that the quality you shoot is quality, that the level of script, performance, lighting, camera, sound, everything, is at a strong level if you’re going to use this in your demo reel.

So let’s talk about demo reels. I know we touched on this way back when, but I want to hit on it again.

How long should they be?

How many things should be in there?

Here’s the rule of thumb: less is always more. Two minutes is plenty, and we don’t need the full scene. We just need the money. Within 10-15 seconds, I get your character, I get the emotional life, I get your type. And you want to show as many varied types as possible.

So let’s say you’re a guy. One minute you’re a tough guy, and the next, you’re a very sophisticated professional guy, and maybe the next one has an impediment where you’re drunk (not literally drunk, but you know what I mean), or you’re high or something where it could show that kind of range.

They’re looking for shades and colors, obviously. You’d don’t want to have the same guy every scene, the same character, the same emotional note. You want variety. Put yourself in the buyer’s position, and that’ll help dictate how long the scene should be.

Here’s another good rule of thumb: get in as late as possible and out as early as possible. That’s a good editing tip for any filmmaker, but it’s especially important in your demo reel.

Less is more.

Just get in as late as possible and out as soon as possible. They don’t need much. This is what they do for a living: view and buy talent, and they can tell right away.

So there are some tips. Oh! And always lead with your best stuff. Always have your strongest work up front, and honestly it should all be strong, so there’s that. But absolutely put your strongest at the top. Hope that helps, and we have more coming.

 

I HAVE A GIFT FOR YOU

I’d like to invite you to check out my Artistic Family Newsletter. These newsletters are for any actor in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Europe, and beyond because my goal every week is to empower, inspire, and educate any actor living anywhere who has the burning desire to really do this.

I believe these newsletters are the best of what I do as an acting teacher and it’s free to you, so join our family today by going here and signing up.

Alright, we’ll see you next week. We’ll see what we can advance for you. Thanks for joining us.

 

To access the entire blog library, including Meisner Trained - Jim’s video teaching series

Here are just a few of our most popular posts:

Hey everyone,

Welcome back! Here we are, another week together. Thanks for joining us. So last week we talked about the audition process and entering the room for a dramatic audition. So this week let’s talk about something that’s more commercial or fun or a comedic piece, etc., that doesn’t require a big heavy grounding of yourself prior to beginning.

So it’s that social period when you walk into the room. Typically they’re going to ask you the big softball question which is, “Tell me about yourself.” You sit down and they look at your headshot and resume and they say, “Tell me about yourself.”

One of the biggest mistakes actors make at this point is they begin to tell them about themselves. And what I mean by that is they’re not really asking you, they don’t really care about your cat, that you’re a vegetarian or that you love finger painting or hiking and mountain biking….they don’t care.

You know what they care about? You know why they’re asking the question? They want to meet you. They want to see how free you are. They want to see how relaxed you are, how personable you are. Because if you can’t handle the stress of this, you’re not ready to be sent for the callback in front of the director or the network or the producers or these co-stars or this big opportunity. If this is freaking you out, that’s really going to freak you out.

So that’s really the purpose of all the questions that they’re asking you. We offer this class at our school when the formal training is done dealing with this, the art of auditioning. And so often, that’s exactly what the answer is. We ask them, “Tell me about yourself,” and they answer, “Well, I love cats and rainy days and nice fires and of course I’m an actor and I really love acting…” and it’s like blah, blah, blah…..they don’t care.

So you want to be able to come up with something in advance so you’re ready for this, something that’s fun to share that brings out your personality.

In fact, next week we’re going to start with one of my favorite things I came up with in my years of auditioning, okay?

 

I HAVE A GIFT FOR YOU

I’d like to invite you to check out my Artistic Family Newsletter. These newsletters are for any actor in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Europe, and beyond because my goal every week is to empower, inspire, and educate any actor living anywhere who has the burning desire to really do this.

I believe these newsletters are the best of what I do as an acting teacher and it’s free to you, so join our family today by going here and signing up.

Alright, we’ll see you next week. We’ll see what we can advance for you. Thanks for joining us.

 

Kick Ass Auditioning Tips Part 4 of 5

Hey everyone,

Today’s blog topic is for directors. I recently got this question:

“As a Meisner trained director would it be understood that no two people will play a role exactly the same, as they shouldn’t because that would not be living truthfully into the role. So as a director, if acting is living as truthfully as one can under imaginary circumstances, is it simply mostly in the casting? What do you do as the director without stepping on craft? What do you direct?”

You’re right. No two people are going to play the role exactly the same. But as a director, you have a vision. If you have two actors and you have them playing the same role and every other night you’re going to switch them off, but it is clear who the character is and you give a nice blueprint for both of them marching forward, you’re absolutely right. Every night it would be two different experiences, but it shouldn’t be wildly different if you’ve done your job as the director. They should be close, but they’re going to act from who and what they are. One person may be a little more free or more alive, and so it’s going to color that performance, no doubt about it.

Is it simply “mostly in the casting?” The answer is YES. I learned something interesting from reading a book this summer on Elia Kazan. He rarely read actors for his lead roles. You know what he would do? He’d call them in his office and he’d just talk with them and if the lead role required somebody to be really passionate and intense, he’d want to get them talking about something they were passionate and intense about, just to see if they had that level, the natural characteristics.

He wasn’t interested in having actors stretch and grow into a role that they’re not right for. His attitude was (especially at the top of his game) that ‘I can have anybody, so I want someone that is the perfect fit naturally for this role.’ I’m not saying that’s the best way to do it overall, especially because so many of us have invested so much in craft and training and we feel capable of stretching ourselves quite a bit. But that’s the importance of having range, right? So that you’re not one note and you’re able to play more than just yourself over and over, but that you have range. From great passion and great love and everything in between, and you can dial that down and shape it to be able to give the director what their vision is.

But with that said, casting is critical to going after what it is you’re looking for.

What do you do as a director without stepping on craft? First of all, ask them their process, ask them how they like to work. You need to find the language that can work for them. If you’re coming from Meisner training, we certainly have a language. I’ve found when working with people that are not Meisner trained, it’s just talking them through it, “What’s going on in this scene? Tell me what you want in this scene,” and really getting clear about what the stakes are and then ask them, “Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt that way?” Try to get them to personalize it, again, if these are people that don’t have much craft or training.

This is a way of bridging that gap. In my years I’ve only had a few directors that were, in my opinion, really talented and were really an ‘actor’s director.’ They’re sensitive, they know what it’s like to do this and they know how to talk to you. Another thing I think that’s really important as a director is to be as positive as possible, especially in front of cast and crew after each take. It may not be what you want, but be positive. Actors want to give you what you want; they are dying to please you, they are. But they’re also very fragile, and I’m not talking like they’re some neurotic bunch, but on a set it can be very delicate.

So after each take I find it so important to go to the actor right away and say, “Way to go. How did that feel, what did you think about that one?” Now you know perfectly well that it’s not even close and they say, “Oh, it was okay,” and you say, “Ok, well, we’re gonna go again. It’s building and growing. Let’s try this, though,” or another way is to say, “What do you think about this?” and basically plant the seed and so it’s almost as if they’re coming up with it as well. I’m not saying to be manipulative, I’m just saying to co-create so they feel a part of it, so they feel honored. And they are going to help with that process, and it raises their confidence as well.

 

I HAVE A GIFT FOR YOU

I’d like to invite you to check out my Artistic Family Newsletter. These newsletters are for any actor in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Europe, and beyond because my goal every week is to empower, inspire, and educate any actor living anywhere who has the burning desire to really do this.

I believe these newsletters are the best of what I do as an acting teacher and it’s free to you, so join our family today by going here and signing up.

 

ANOTHER GIFT FOR YOU

When you register today I’ll also send you the link to my Q&A Webinar that was held a few weeks back. This hour long video Webinar was a wonderful exchange between myself and dozens from our Artistic Family members so I hope you’ll enjoy the information as much as I enjoyed sharing it.

Ok, see you next Wednesday so until then my very best to you,

Jim

 

 

 

What's the best advice on directing actors?

Hey everyone, welcome.

Alright, what are we going to talk about today? You know what, this is going to be a series over the next several weeks about the audition process.

Oh my goodness, I know for a lot of you going on auditions is terrifying and so over the next several weeks we want to deal with those nerves and those insecurities, because it always chokes our talent.

So first and foremost – if you don’t have proper training, both as an actor and the audition process, then no wonder you’re nervous. No wonder you don’t know what you’re doing. So if that’s the case, then you need to get quality training both in the craft of acting and the audition process, and being used to that whole experience.

But let’s say you do have quality training and you have been through some audition classes and workshops and intensives and things that have taught you the skill set to go about this. Let’s go on that assumption and let’s say you still have nerves. Now I’m talking to you, okay?

Where do the nerves come from? It’s really simple. They started on the drive over in the car. They escalated in the lobby, and the second your name was called they went off the charts and it all comes from one simple place. It’s this desire to be good. The desire to book the job, which is what will choke our talent every time. So today’s teaching is going to be very simple and straightforward.

The more you want to book that job, the more you’re going to choke it. The less you care about the outcome and just celebrate that you get to go to work at your dream, you get to go audition, you get to go play, you get to live this thing out…if you come from that attitude, then it’s already a victory. Just getting to go in there and do what you love and have the goal be not booking the job, but freedom. Absolute freedom.

And if you come from that place then you’ll release this desire to be good, this attachment to the outcome and this pressure on the situation. So, that’s how we’re going to start with this and then next week we’re going to build on it. So I’ll see you next week, okay?

 

I HAVE A GIFT FOR YOU

I’d like to invite you to check out my Artistic Family Newsletter. These newsletters are for any actor in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Europe, and beyond because my goal every week is to empower, inspire, and educate any actor living anywhere who has the burning desire to really do this.

I believe these newsletters are the best of what I do as an acting teacher and it’s free to you, so join our family today by going here and signing up.

Thanks!

 

 

Kick Ass Auditioning Tips Part 1 of 5

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Eric Burke
Eric Burke

This is NOT, I repeat NOT, just another acting class.

What I learned today

Today we are sharing a “What I Learned” video from recent graduate Andrew Spach, who says that the number one thing he learned about acting is that acting is about giving.

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