New Year Resolutions

Kimberly Jurgen

A Template for New Year’s Resolutions for Performers

created by Kimberly Jurgen, Commercial & Career teacher

 

I, ________________________, create this contract to assist me in achieving my career goal of ___________________________.

 

RESOLVED, to achieve my goal, I am willing to _________________. I am not willing to ________________________. (This can be the types of projects you will/won’t choose or the types of support jobs you will/won’t consider or even moral boundaries. Basically, any line in the sand for what is and isn’t an option for you.)

 

RESOLVED, I will make choices that improve my physical, emotional and mental health.

 

RESOLVED, I will start each day grateful for 3 things. (Studies show that having a grateful attitude makes you happier today and improves your long-term well-being by 10%.)

 

RESOLVED, I will create a budget for the year so that I may be fiscally responsible for my business. (As a performer, you are a business owner. Budgets and strategic plans are essential to the success of any business.)

 

RESOLVED, I will get training in the fields necessary for my success. (This may include languages or accents, martial arts or stunts, surfing or line-dancing, as well as acting and audition classes. Also consider having a coach to help you prepare for auditions and record eco-castings.)

 

RESOLVED, I will read and understand all contracts before signing. (Essential for non-union performers.)

 

RESOLVED, I will make use of the resources available to me, which include ___________________. (Several industry news organizations have free e-alerts or social media sites to keep you informed. Union members have many free training and networking opportunities. Also consider beneficial member organizations, such as Women in Film or AAA.)

 

RESOLVED, I will limit time spent on things that do not assist in preparing me for success. (This is anything that is a distraction or a time void. May be video games or excessive social media or tv time. Even a useful tool can become a hindrance when it isn’t mindfully applied.)

 

RESOLVED, I will remember that I have a voice and a purpose, which I will honor with my words and actions.

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These will get you started and hopefully encourage you to personalize your agreement for your own career goals. Once completed, sign and date your contract with yourself. And post it in a prominent place where you can be reminded daily of your intention.

 

Remember that these resolutions are just for one year in your life. And this list can be amended at any time.

 

If you would like assistance in planning your year ahead, we encourage you to consider our career class, How to Hit the Ground Running, where we help you with your goals and creating a path to success. Click here for more info about this class.

Find more time & money to accomplish your career goals

kimberly-jurgen-0283

 

by Kimberly Jurgen

 

1. TIME

How often do you lose hours to the social media rabbit hole or half a day to a binge watch, which you realize only as Netflix asks if you are still watching? Do you also feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to create marketing materials or work on a monologue?

For one week keep a detailed calendar of your time. Include everything you do every minute of each day. This diary will give you a starting time budget to see where your patterns and black holes of time are.

Then use one of these great apps to help with time management. But the catch is, you have to USE the app once you download it. And all of these are free, so if one doesn’t work for you then you can check out another one until you find the perfect fit to help you manage your time.

  • TimeTune
  • Brain Focus Productivity Timer
  • Any.do
  • Evernote

Or you can go old school and set a timer before you open FaceBook.

2. MONEY

If you don’t already create an annual budget, then I encourage you to do that today. For the developmental actor (meaning one who does not yet have a resume filled with tv guest stars or supporting roles in well-known films), a financial budget includes general training and specific training for your career goal. For example, if your plan is to work in action films, stage combat and martial arts are skills that will increase your chance of success. Budgets should also include headshots (meaning photographer, makeup artist, photoshop, printing, uploads to casting sites), reels, marketing (printing, envelopes, postage, etc), networking, professional memberships (to casting sites, union dues and organizations like Women in Film), subscriptions, research, transportation and parking fees. And more.

Once you create your annual career budget, divide it by 12 and you’ll have a sense of what your acting business needs to thrive in 2017. It will also show what you need in addition to your living expenses each month.

If you need income to fund your goals and a very flexible work schedule, consider these possibilities where you can make up to $1000/week depending on your availability and your weekly budget goals:

3. NEED HELP?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, our How To Hit the Ground Running class covers these and many other subjects that will help you have the best year ever. For details about the class and the topics covered, click here to go to our Career page.

Waiting

Lauren Lethererby Lauren Letherer – Commercial Auditioning Teacher

 

Waiting.

It’s one of those things that is associated with acting.

You wait to get auditions. Then you wait to hear if you get a callback. You wait through avails. THEN, if you do get the job, you usually spend a lot of time waiting in a trailer to actually shoot. It’s been said that you don’t actually get paid to act, you get paid to wait.

How do you get through those times when you feel like nothing is happening?

Think about this – if you were a musician you would play your instrument everyday. Same with a dancer, sculpter, writer… You name it. But, for some reason, actors finish school, or take one class and think they are done.

Then wait for the phone to ring.

You are constantly changing and evolving. Likewise your craft is constantly changing along with you. An art form does not stop transforming. So in those moments that feel stagnant, do something to feed your creative soul.

Read a play, work on a monologue, go to a museum, write something, enroll in an improv class. The list is endless. By feeding that creative soul you are not only keeping yourself from going crazy, you are keeping that channel open and ready for the next opportunity. Plus, you never know when inspiration will hit you. Don’t ever stop learning. The beautiful part of acting is – you are never done.

Free Tool for Cold Reading

Kimberly JurgenFree Tool to Help with Cold Reading

by Kimberly Jurgen

 

I’m not gonna make you wait for it. Let’s cut to the chase. The free magic tool is reading aloud. And here is why you do it. Most of the time, when you hear your own speaking voice, you are making sounds and saying words that originated in your head. Which means it is your authentic voice using words and patterns that are natural and organic to you.

 

However, for auditions, we usually receive scripts with characters that speak differently. They use worse (or better) grammar than we do. Or the word order may like Yoda be. And it can trip you up. And then, sometimes you’ll see copy and wonder if any human being speaks that way.

 

When you read this audition copy aloud, it will sound odd to your ear. Unless you have created a habit of hearing your voice speaking words and thoughts that are unique from your own.

 

Not only will this tool improve your cold reading skills, but it will broaden you as a human being as you explore texts of various topics. And if, like me, you are dyslexic, it can be invaluable as a tool to make you a more confident and flexible reader.

 

Here’s your training program:

  • Week 1 – read aloud 5 minutes each day
  • Week 2 – read aloud 10 minutes each day
  • Week 3 and on – read aloud 15 minutes each day

Be sure to vary what you read. Children’s books. Plays. Poetry. Biographies. Novels. Magazines.

 

One last tip on reading aloud… stay with a pace that is real. Reign in your eye so that it doesn’t jump ahead. Hear the story unfold moment to moment.

 

Let me know how this works out for you.

4 Things Actors Learn from Olympic Athletes

The Olympic creed states: “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.” Artists can learn a lot from this ideal.

Skill + Passion. Of course, not everyone who tries out makes the team. But that doesn’t diminish their love of their sport. No one stops shooting hoops because they didn’t qualify for the Olympic basketball team.

Likewise, if you love being an artist, be an artist for the love of the art. It doesn’t have to be your career. You can share stories by reading to children at your local library or to seniors in assisted living, perform with community theatre, direct a high school production, or write a play for youth at your church. There are so many ways you can honor your passion without saying ‘career or nothing’.

A winning combination. It took millions of steps to get each athlete onto the medal podium and just as many steps for each athlete who did not make it past preliminary rounds. Each participant is gifted in their sport, has sacrificed, is passionate and has mentally prepared for ‘the fight’. As an artist, it takes more than visualization to achieve your dream. You can dedicate years to visualizing yourself reaching that goal. But without training and consistent practice to develop your skill, then your passion will be little more than a dream.

Career artists need determination. Michael Phelps competed in the 2000 Olympics and did not win a medal. His best ranking was 5th in 200-meter butterfly finals. But the next year he set a new world record in the same event at the World Championships. If you have the talent and passion for a career in the entertainment industry, then determination will see your hard work rewarded with success.

Let it go. In the 2004 Olympics, Vanderlei de Lima was leading the men’s marathon by 45 seconds with two miles to go when a spectator grabbed him and pushed him toward the crowd. He struggled to get back his rhythm and finished with a bronze. When asked after the race about the incident, he said he could hardly remember it. He had let it go so that he could get back to running his marathon.

If you are a career artist, there will be many unwelcome surprises that will jump out at you – a bad review, malicious gossip, an audition waiting room saboteur. Learn what you can from these moments and then refocus on your craft. Remember you have limited control over your surroundings, but you have complete power over your reactions.

Audition Submissions

Kimberly Jurgen by Kimberly Jürgen

You have the training to prepare you for the job. You understand who you are and how you fit into your local market. You know the characters you are able to portray as well as the types of projects that will help you achieve your ultimate career goal. Now you are ready to audition.

Of course there are non-typical avenues for gaining access to roles such as networking, recommendations, being seen in a play, nepotism. This article will focus on the typical process.

Where can I find auditions?  For commercials, hosting and print, there are two primary sites on which every actor should have a profile – Casting Frontier and NowCasting (in LA, this is LACasting). For theatrical (meaning tv & film), actors will find roles on those sites and should also create a profile at ActorsAccess, which is the actor side of Breakdown Services. Because some projects and casting directors are exclusive to one platform, I encourage you to explore each and receive the free emails of ‘roles that fit’ to determine which are the best investments for you. Whether you self-submit or have representation, you must at least create a profile on each of these sites so that casting has access to your information.

What is my profile? This is your resume, headshots, list of special skills, contact info, your rep’s info, acting reel or clips (used mostly for theatrical), voiceover reel, skills clips.

How many headshots? That is a loaded question. Some casting directors will not call in an actor if they see too many headshots because they interpret this as not knowing who you are. Some casting directors have told me they want to see 8-12 pictures. Personally, I believe in efficiency and suggest using shots that say multiple things about you. Two pictures are a great starting point – one for your typical commercial character and one for your theatrical sweet spot. Beyond that, it is up to the actor (& your reps). Character actors tend to have more pictures because there is a wider range of characters that they portray. Helpful hint: keep your pictures current because casting can see the upload date and may not trust that you still look like your image from 5 years ago.

Which projects should I submit on? Depends where you are in your career. If starting out, submit for every student film, spec commercial and micro budget indie that you see. These are your opportunities to practice your audition skills and see how successful your headshots are at representing you. You do not have to say ‘yes’ to every job you are offered, so this is also good practice in learning how to say ‘no’. However, do not accept a callback if you are not interested in the job because it isn’t fair to the filmmaker. When you have been doing this a while and gained confidence in your skills, you can start auditioning with professional casting directors. Keep in mind, however, that they do not need the practice of auditioning actors, so it may not be the best idea to accept an audition with them if you cannot do the job.

Side note: Sometimes these projects hold auditions at locations other than university classrooms or casting suites. Use caution when going to auditions at unorthodox locations such as a residence. Take a friend if it will help you to feel safe.

Another side note: You’ll find that there are times in your career when you level up and stop auditioning for certain projects as you turn your energy toward the next stage of your career. It is important to refrain from audition envy and do not compare your number of auditions or bookings to others. Evaluate where you are on your journey. Keep your eye on your career goals and what you need to do to reach them.

Which roles should I submit on? The ones where you fit the description. If it calls for twins, do not say ‘I can plan both roles’. If it calls for a specific gender or race or age that does that not fit you, trust that any limitations on the description are for a reason. Your age range for camera is typically 5-7 years (unless you are a celebrity and then Matt Damon can play 16). If a commercial role calls for someone who actually uses a product or has an illness, do not submit unless it is true for you. If you are 6′ tall, you cannot sit on a stool to play a 4′ character. Trust that there is enough work out there.

What should I put in the notes section of my submission? Usually, nothing. Do not write ‘thank you’. Do not send a link to your reel or website. Casting doesn’t have time to click a link. Either upload the digital file to your profile or don’t. But sending unsolicited links looks unprofessional. The only thing you should include is something that will help casting see you in the role. Such as ‘4 yrs in military’, ‘Russian native’, ‘black diamond skier’, ‘flair bartender’. These are things which might be in your special skills but should be highlighted when they qualify you for the role.

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I hope these tips are helpful as you submit for projects. And I’d love to hear your questions or comments.

Business Essentials

Kimberly JurgenBusiness Essentials

by Kimberly Jurgen

One of the first things Carolyne would ask actors that she coached was – are you curious to see if this industry is for you or are you casually interested in acting as a hobby or are you serious about a career in the entertainment industry?

Acting is a craft. To be a successful actor with a long term career, you must not only master your craft through diligent and consistent study, but you must also be a savvy businessperson. Since most acting schools don’t teach you how to be a business owner, here are some fundamental tools you’ll need and why each is important.

1.      A mission statement. Typically this will include the effect you want your career to have on yourself/family and your clients (or audience). It should also identify the type of work you want to create. A mission statement will put your goals into focus and prevent you from chasing someone else’s dream or diving down the wrong rabbit hole. Or taking a job that doesn’t help you achieve the career you want.
2.      A business plan. A terrific way to create yours is to work backwards. Think where you want to be in 5 years and reverse-engineer your route to that destination. For example, if you want to be a series regular in 5 years, what should you be doing in 3 years? In 1 year? In 6 months? In 3 months? Then create your calendar for the next month itemizing the tasks that must be accomplished each day to set you on the path to reach your 3 month goal. By itemizing your ‘to do’ list and addressing one task at a time, you will feel less overwhelmed and will become more productive.
3.      A budget. Once you know where you are going, you can create an annual budget to help you get there. List everything – classes, marketing materials, submission subscriptions, gas, parking, membership organizations, networking events, union dues, etc. And remember to include any specialized training which your goal may require, such as stunts or martial arts or teleprompter. This will also give you a clear idea of what income you will need to cover these business expenses.

While you are drafting these tools, keep a daily diary. You’ll be surprised how much time you actually have available in your ‘I’m just too busy’ schedule. And look for organizational apps that can make your life easier.

You should re-examine your tools every 2-3 years to adjust for life delays which may have slowed down your progress or to shift for those rare and wonderful chutes and ladders that help you skip a few spaces along the road.

In the CBAA career class How to Hit the Ground Running, we tackle each of these tools and help each student create a personalized strategic plan for their career. But these are all things you can do for yourself. In fact, make completing each of these a priority for your first month.

Mistakes that turn your acting career into a money pit

Kimberly JurgenA Texas actor called me recently, asking for advice. He’s been studying acting in a group class for almost two years and working weekly with a private coach, yet he isn’t getting callbacks. Despite his lack of booking success, his agent encouraged him to sign up for their showcase for LA and NYC agents – for this opportunity, he paid them $2000. My heart went out to him and I shared a hard truth.

His career had become a money pit and he had become so eager for success that he was scammed by someone he thought he could trust. How to turn it around?

  1. Don’t put the cart before the horse. You wouldn’t hire a PR firm before you have something to talk about. And you don’t need to work privately with an acting coach each week when you are still developing the foundation of your training. If you get a break and land a big audition, yes, hire a coach to help you prepare. Otherwise, trust your teacher and commit to your training.
  2. Know when it is time for a second opinion. If a doctor treated you for years and you were still sick, wouldn’t you ask for a second opinion? Likewise, if you’ve been working with the same acting coach for years and are not seeing tangible results, then you need to consider getting a second opinion. Doesn’t mean anything about either of you beyond the fact that, for whatever reason, you are not responding to what they are giving you. Sometimes you simply need to hear critique from a new voice for the lightbulb to turn on.
  3. Accept that there are no shortcuts. Every now and then, life gives us a Candyland slide and we jump ahead a few spaces. And it is amazing. But the reality is that if you want to play in the NBA (which is the level of excellence demanded when working in a top market like LA or NYC) then you had better be finding success at the college level. If you are getting appropriate auditions for your type but not getting callbacks and bookings, then you need more training, experience and confidence before you are ready for your “NBA tryout”. And if someone tells you they have magic beans that will grow you a career overnight, just say no.

No matter what market you are in, there are ways to fulfill your desire to act, host or do stand-up; there are networking opportunities and training options. The key is to remember that this is a business. The people reaching into your pockets are focusing on what is best for their business. And you must have the level head of a savvy business person, making smart choices.

And amplify your bs-radar so that you can recognize a snake oil salesman when they promise miracles.

Hack your Headshots

After your photo shoot, selecting a few perfect headshots from the sea of 400 options can be overwhelming. At least, we always hope it will be a difficult task. Eliminating the obvious duds should get you down to about 40 potential gems. Then what?

Here is a quick hack to drop that 40 down to 10 or 20 to show your reps and colleagues. It is a system I learned back in my modeling days and it helps to remove the ‘looking at self’ element that can distort your evaluation.

Before your shoot, you nailed down your goals. (If not, then let this be a reminder for next time.) Look at your potentials and see if they are telling the story of these target characters.

Now cover the lower half of your face and just look at the eyes. What is the story? The emotional state? What is this person thinking?

JL eyes

Now cover the top half and look at your mouth. What is this story? What is this person’s state of mind?

JL mouth

And here is the biggie… do their stories match? If they are not telling the same story, then it is not going to be a successful headshot. Because even if someone can’t tell you specifically what is off, the observer will feel the inconsistency.

Jennifer Lawrence

In modeling, the next step would be to split the face on the vertical axis and look independently at the left and right sides. But that is less important for actors.

If acting is your career, then you have to set your standard higher than just a good picture. First, it must look like you (so limit the photoshop). Second, it should tell a unified story – especially if it is your commercial shot.

Thanks for reading. And please let me know if this hack was helpful!

Improv Tips for Hosting

Frank Moranby Frank Moran, Sena-Series Hosting Coach, Weekly Workouts

When people hear “improv” more often than not they think of “Whose Line is it Anyway”.  But improv isn’t just about coming up with funny things to say and do with a giant foam cowboy hat.  The skills you learn studying improv are invaluable as a Host.  It also is an incredibly helpful tool to have as a host.

The most important part of improv is listening.  And I mean active listening.  If you’re not actively listening to everything your partner (and for hosting your partner is whomever you’re sharing the camera with – a co-host or someone you’re interviewing) is saying or not saying and are caught up in your own head thinking of the next question or some witty comment, then you are missing potentially interesting statements or responses that can lead to far more entertaining and revealing moments than you had been planning in your head.  It’s great to go into a co-hosting or interview situation with a plan but you have to be ready to drop it when something far more interesting presents itself.

Don’t apologize or judge yourself.  When we mess up our first instinct is to apologize and then the judgment starts. A person will start reading copy, stumble on a word or lose their place and immediately apologize.  You can see the confidence and enthusiasm drain from the person as they start judging the rest of their read. Audiences and casting directors want to see how you take that gaffe and turn it into something amazing.  Improv teaches you that mistakes aren’t something to apologize for but rather embrace and see it as the gift that it is.  A slip of the tongue, a stumbled word, mispronouncing a word are all opportunities for you to have fun with yourself, your co-host or the person you are interviewing and make an incredibly memorable moment that will stick with a casting director.

Improv helps you realize that you are your greatest tool. Take what is uniquely you and let that be a part of your hosting.  Let that influence the types of questions you ask, the way you interact with a guest or co-host or handle yourself when you flub a line during a live read or audition.  There are thousands of aspiring hosts trying to be the next Ryan Seacrest.  Well, Ryan is already doing that and doing it very well.  Instead, trust in your uniqueness and focus on being the best possible of yourself and that will make you stand out.

In the Weekly Workouts that I’ll be coaching on Monday nights as part of the Sena-Series Hosting classes we’ll work on embracing your mistakes as gifts, making you your best possible version and being as comfortable as possible in any situation so that when the time comes you can show a casting director why they don’t need another Ryan Seacrest but the first you.  See you Monday nights from 7-9.