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"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.

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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,

Today’s blog is on the topic of acting teachers. A participant in a recent webinar shared, “It seems to me that most acting teachers want to keep you in class and dependent on them, kind of like monitoring my fishing to make sure I fish correctly instead of teaching me how to fish.”

I couldn’t agree more and it’s what the genius of Sandy was. The Meisner Technique is a brick-by-brick, step-by-step process. It’s a two-year program and then you’re gone. I love that model. It’s a bad business model. But that’s the view of most acting classes. In order to make more money, it’d be better to keep saying nice things about people to keep them coming back.

Most acting classes, the day you first join, they give you a script or some material right away so you can “throw some acting at it,” so you can pretend you’re an actor, so you can get the feeling of being an actor. It’s incredible.   And it’s designed to have you have this experience that it’s “happening.” We have beginning students in studying with us right now and sometimes you can see something in their eyes, wondering “where this is going” because it can seem a little tedious right now (I don’t think it is).

But they wonder that because they don’t know where this is really going. And some of you that have finished the training, try to pull yourself back to those first few weeks where it’s very basic back and forth and it doesn’t seem like this is “acting,” it doesn’t seem like much is happening. A lot of people don’t have that patience to understand that this is a foundation that this all is going to rest on.

But once we get that foundation in place and once we get these other bricks and pillars in place and once that training is complete, now it’s your job to grow into it. Could you stay at our school and continue to grow? Of course you could, but we don’t want that either. It is time to go figure it out, fall down, screw up, break rules, find other classes and see if something else works for you.

That’s the other great thing about Sandy, he wasn’t autocratic. He didn’t believe that his way was the only way to work. Like any great parent or great teacher, your job is to not tie them to you, but to get them ready to go out and go after it.

 

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 is the best advice for determining how long you should study acting?

Hey everyone,

Welcome back. In Part Three of this series we’ll talk about demo reels. It’s the film business. For those of you that really want to get into this, the more tape that you can have, and quality tape, the better. And once you get enough quality material together, you want to cut together a demo reel, and that is going to be able to be used to market you to potential casting directors, directors, etc.

Now, what goes into a great demo reel? Ready? It’s really simple. It’s the money of a scene that you were in. We don’t want to see the whole three-minute scene. We don’t want to see the whole two-minute scene. Honest to God, I want to see about 15 to 20 seconds tops, and that’s it, and then move on to the next clip that you have that shows you in a different light.

If you have three straight scenes where it’s pretty much the same guy, same energy: getting angry or upset, we got that. “But my hair was different.” We don’t care that your hair was different. Doesn’t matter. That part doesn’t matter. We’re trying to find your range, the different types of characters we can see you as. So again, I don’t need a lot of content, in terms of length of scene. “I get it. This is what I do for a living. I hire talent. I get it.” That’s the casting director’s perspective.

So a quality demo reel should be under a couple minutes in my opinion. Three minutes tops, and that’s if you’ve got a lot of wonderful material. You always want to open with the best stuff, of course, right? Don’t bury the lead, as they say. Get it up to the front. And let’s say you have five pieces, three student films that are just okay and two that are really good.

I’m telling you, just use the two really good ones, take the three student film clips out. Maybe cut them together as a little montage with music for the opening. You don’t have to use the acting from it. Maybe the audio was poor or the production value wasn’t up to it, but there’s just this little segment, a nice look of yours, another nice look, that can be just this opening little montage, leading into your name, two quick scenes, out, and that’s it. It lasts a total of 45 seconds or a minute tops, and that’s your demo reel? Yeah.

That’s better than showing them crap and things that are showing them really the same character over and over. Don’t do that. Okay? Hope that helps. There’s a lot more to demo reels, but that’s the most important part to it. Reach out if you have questions too.

 

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.

 

 

Booking Your Self-Submitted Audition, Part 3 of 5

Today we’re going to talk about how to leave an agent.

You’ve signed with this agent, it seemed really positive and everyone was excited, and here we are months if not a year (or years) later and it has just died. They’re not returning phone calls, they haven’t sent you out in a long time, you are out of sight and out of mind. Maybe it’s because they’re not strong enough, maybe it’s because they got some feedback on your work from a director or casting director or somebody. As soon as they get anything negative, you have one foot out the door whether you realize it or not. No matter what has led to this, the relationship is broken and it’s time to move on.

I can’t stress this enough: The importance of being a class act in every professional relationship you have in this industry. This is such a relationship business and you don’t want to burn any bridges, even though you’re leaving. So how do you do it?

I would always recommend that you do it in person. Ask if they have a chance to meet, sit down with them to go over some things. If you can get that meeting in front of them, it would go something like:

“I want to thank you so much for this opportunity. We’ve been together now for the last year (or whatever the number is) and I’ve been very grateful for the auditions you’ve provided and the opportunities to work. It’s been clear for some time that things have stalled and I’ve tried to take a look on my end as to what I have done or haven’t done that has contributed to that, and to address that so that I could support you in the best way possible. But even after addressing those, it still feels like it’s just not moving forward. So I’m here today to see if you agree with that. And if you do agree, then we can face the truth and reality which it seems like it might be time to move on. If I’m wrong about that, then I’d love to know what I might have missed or if there’s still strong interest and belief in me, in my talent, in where I’m headed. I’d love to know if there’s still that confidence. If there’s not, no problem whatsoever. If that’s the case, then this is a chance to formally thank you for what you gave me a year ago by being represented by a strong agent in a strong agency. I’m very grateful for the opportunity, but it seems like it’s time for us both to part ways and move on.”

Something like that, it’s just off the top of my head. It’s also just “off the top of my head” after years of experience of having to take that meeting and having that uncomfortable conversation.

If they won’t meet you in person, then of course you’d have to do it by email. I prefer not doing it that way, but it just might come down to that. I’m hesitating because I’m really uncomfortable with that. When students of ours, deep into the training, decide to move on and they send us an email, it is (in my opinion) so unprofessional and not the classy way to handle it. You should come in, look the person in the eye and say, “Look, this just isn’t working for me. I want to thank you for everything that you gave me. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and I wish you the very best.” Then your side of the street is clean and it ends positive.

So that’s my advice on how to get that first agent, how to support them, and then today how to gracefully, professionally, respectfully, talentedly leave your agent. We’ll see you next week, we’ve got plenty more and please let us know what you think by posting your comments below.

 

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 latest 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,

My best,

Jim

What's the best way for an actor to leave their agent? Blog 3 of 3

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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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