Acting Tips

Attention, Commercial Actors!

Attention, Commercial Actors!

Attention, Commercial Actors!

The world of commercial casting is always turning, and always seeking talent! Find out what commercial casting directors are after, and ensure your profile is up-to-date!

Basic On-Set Etiquette Every Actor Should Know

Basic On-Set Etiquette Every Actor Should Know

Once on Set: Do not bring your camera, laptop, iPad on set. Always turn your cell phone OFF whenever you are going onset. Once on set, the ADs (Assistant Directors) and AD PAs (Assistant Director Production Assistants) will let you know what you are supposed to do in a scene. 

Being Persistent To Understand Everything About Making Movies Is Important To Your Success!

Tom Cruise-Risky Business

Today's selection -- from Power House by James Andrew Miller.

Tom Cruise gets the role of Joel Goodsen in the movie Risky Business:

"Thomas Cruise Mapother IV was nineteen when he started his movie career as Billy in the 198l film Endless Love, which was followed the same year with a supporting role in Taps and then continued in 1983 with The Outsiders. He turned heads in all three films, but it was his level-jumping first leading role as Joel Goodsen in Risky Business, released in l983, that would bring him national attention, [and] launch his stardom. ...

I wanted to make movies since I was four years old, and I had seen a lot of movies. Suddenly I'm in Taps and I thought, If I never get to make another movie again, I'm going to study how they're made. I was able to go to each department. We had Owen Roizman, who was the cinematographer, and I had known his amazing work from seeing his movies. Harold Becker did a wonderful thing by sharing his movies, and of course I was familiar with Stanley Jaffe's movies. I remember once they knew how interested I was in cinema, Stanley, Harold, and Owen were so generous because they answered all my questions, and I must have asked a million of them. At the time, we had dailies, and they brought me in and showed me rushes of my work and the other actors' work and said, 'Listen. These takes are going to be in the movie. So you've got to try to watch it as though you're the audience and not yourself.' There were all these wonderful lessons about how to prepare films. ...

I had just come to CAA. A lot of the movie stars had outpriced themselves in the marketplace. Studios were getting wind of the youth film market and they were using more and more unknowns, so I got this idea: sign all the young top talented people out there I believed in, put them in the best projects, and make them movie stars.

"There was an actors' strike, and in that period of time Taps got put on hold. I put a few people up for the roles but none were cast. They had done an all-out search across the country, and found a lot of really talented young people. ...

Paula called me and said she desperately wanted to sign Tom and said, 'If he asks about me, would you mind putting in a good word?' I said, 'Of course.' I was happy to do it. I always liked Paula.

Penn goes, 'Come out to L.A. and stay with me,' so I stayed in his guest house for a couple of weeks. I remember he said, 'You've got to check out CAA,' because I wasn't signed with any agent.

Tom came out to L.A. and was staying with Sean Penn, and Sean told him about me. At the time, I was working with the cov­ering agent on Risky Business and was trying to find an actor for it. I met with Tom on top of one of these buildings in Century City, and we had an amazing lunch together. He borrowed a sports jacket -- he didn't own a sports jacket. I remember that he had this very fascinating intensity in his eyes -- and he was warm, polite, and caring. We found common ground -- it's important to find common ground -- when we talked about our families, and he had played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls in dinner theater in New Jersey, and probably ten years or so earlier I had played Adelaide in Guys and Dolls in the USO tour. We both had also studied with Sandy Meisner.

As I got to know him, I thought, This guy is more than a heartthrob. He's going to have a real career. He's determined, he's focused, and he wants to be a movie star. A lot of the younger people were anti-movie star. They didn't want to be. He definitely wanted to.

I got Sean Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Bad Boys and it was all very exciting. I had so much faith in Sean to do almost any role, and I really cared about him. During this time, I had also had a lunch with Steve Tisch, the producer.

We went to the Palm for lunch, and he said, 'We can't cast Risky Business' I immediately said, 'Tom Cruise is perfect for it.' He said, 'Yeah, they won't see him. Nobody thinks he's right for it.' It turned out people thought, based on his earlier roles, that Tom was too blue collar to play an upper-middle-class kid from the Midwest. I said, 'Steve, I don't ask favors of you very often, but I'd like one now. Just meet him. He happens to be in town. Don't send him to anyone else. I want you to meet him, then tell me what you think, because I really believe in this guy's talent and I believe he can do this role.' He said, 'Okay, Paula, for you I'll do it.'

I had heard about the project the year before, and remember thinking when I was reading it, Am I ready for this? Can I carry a film? What's it going to be like having a starring role? Interestingly enough, I felt at the time that I was ready.

Of course when he walked into our office at Warner Bros., pretty much all he had to do was smile and then we got it.

So now Steve calls and says, 'I met him, and we're testing him tomorrow for the lead role in Risky Business.' I said, 'Okay, give me the lowdown. Who's he testing with? I don't want him to go in right after lunch; I don't want him to go at the end of the day; I don't want him to be first.' I had a strategy about everything. Steve said, 'It's just going to be him and this young actress Paul wants to see named Rebecca De Mornay.' Tom tested, and boom, the rest is history. ...

I brought him up to the office, had him meet everybody, sold my heart out, and everybody was like, 'Okay, take a shot, let's see what happens.' This was a new thing, signing these new young actors. Tom was nineteen when I signed him. ...

Cruise's name came up late in the game. We had been casting Risky for many months. I can't recall who brought him to our at­tention. He was on location working on The Outsiders. Coppola gave him twenty-four hours' leave to audition for us.

He came to our office at Warners in the afternoon for a read­ing. I was impressed by his confidence. Once he stopped himself in the middle of a scene, chose a different approach, and started again -- a rather bold move for a nineteen-year-old actor. It was apparent to me that Tom had the potential to fulfill two charac­ter requirements: he could play both strong and vulnerable. And he could be both naive and sexual. We had read scores of actors. I had many points of reference. I knew there was something spe­cial here.

Because he was scheduled to fly out the following day, we ar­ranged an early-morning screen test with Tom and Rebecca De Mornay to take place at Steve Tisch's house. Jon Avnet shot the test with his home VHS camera and deck. (Some of the test is included in Risky's twenty-fifth anniversary DVD.)

I drove to pick up Tom at 5:00 A.M. In the dark, I waited out­side a nondescript apartment building in a bleak L.A. neighbor­hood. Nobody came out. I only had the address; no apartment number or phone number (and it was pre-cell phones anyway). By 5:20, I was about to call it quits. Either I had the wrong ad­dress or there was some snafu or the guy was flaky, No way of knowing. I convinced myself to give it five more minutes. At 5:25, I started the engine, thinking about getting some breakfast with Avnet and Tisch. I killed the engine. Five more minutes, I thought. That's it.  

Eventually Tom appeared. I was a little pissed. I thought, This screen test had better be pretty damned good. It was. So it was a really small amount of patience that allowed film history to take its course.

If Paula Wagner hadn't been as persistent and as supportive of Tom, he quite simply wouldn't have been in Risky Business." 

How Do I Bring My Own Take to an Already-Written Character?


By Erin Cronican | Posted Jan. 29, 2018, 8:30 a.m.

Q: What’s the best way to bring your own take to a character that’s already written? Should you stick to the script or try to make it your own? —Mike W.

I firmly believe that what makes an actor stand out is not her talent, training, experiences, or connections. Instead, we get hired because of our unique interpretation of the text, a skill that comes from our years on the planet coupled with our life experiences. The more empathic and curious an actor can be, the more interested she is in learning about others, which will make it easier for her to bring her own take to a character.

When it comes to how to do this, it depends on how the material is being used. There’s some wiggle room when using established text in an audition, because the actor’s job is to take a scene and create an arc as though it’s a stand-alone piece. There are liberties an actor can take with her imagination, answering questions like:

Who is the character talking to? What’s happening in the scene? How does it mirror something that has happened in my life that I can relate to? What problem is the character facing and how can she overcome it? By choosing this piece, what do I want to say about who I am as an artist?

When working an established text as a project, an actor can ask herself similar questions. But then she advances, finding clues and filling in gaps for anything not answered. So in addition to the above questions, an actor can add:

What are the relationships in this piece? How do they mirror relationships I have had in my life, which might be useful for my imagination? What problem is the character walking into each scene with? Which tactics does she use to overcome the problem and get what she wants?

You might think that answering these questions means the actor is giving in to the writer’s wants and not her own, but the act of answering them gives the actor great power in blending her perspective with the writer’s story, which is a beautiful artistic collaboration.


Erin Cronican is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, TV, plays, and musicals (NYC, LA, regionally.) She also produces and directs with The Seeing Place Theater, a critically acclaimed non-profit, indie company in NYC. Passionate about sharing her knowledge with other actors, Erin is the lead coach and founder of The Actors' Enterprise, one-on-one coaching service that provides affordable career coaching to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. She helps actors set goals, design their materials, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level with an emphasis on feeling empowered and working smarter, not harder. The first consultation is always free. Follow her on Twitter @ErinCronican and like her on Facebook.

5 Unbreakable Acting Resume Rules

5 Unbreakable Acting Resume Rules

Television, film, and commercials use different terms, and none of them use the same terms as theater. There are no Principals in film, and no Leads in a commercial. (Note that the word is principal, not principle. Spelling counts.)

One Question An Actor Should Never Ask.


Why Study? 

As Told By: Beverly Hills Playhouse

The idea exists out there that acting training is a waste of time. Or that it's something you might do to "tune up for pilot season." Or that training is less important than meeting people – casting directors, agents, producers, Hollywood parties, screenings, going to Sundance – the myth is strong that success is based primarily in such networking activity.

And why invest money in a good acting class if you can take the same money nowadays and produce a short film that you can put on YouTube within 24 hours, receiving comments and acknowledgments, and maybe even... a deal!?

So why study?

Because whether you would say it aloud or not, there is something other than money and "success" that has driven you into acting. There is the thrill of performance, the ability to affect an audience, to create an emotional experience, to have an artistic experience yourself in performing – this is the true motivation. And in order to do this – you need to know what you're doing. You need to be trained. You need to study. Hard.

Money and success are the exchange you receive for providing quality performances. And the networking and parties and YouTube videos – these are means by which you try to create the opportunity to deliver a quality performance. Networking is important for sure – actors should be proactive in administrating their careers – and this is part of what we teach at the BHP.

But professional musicians, athletes, dancers, artists – they all embark on a lifetime of training that never ends. The same should be true for actors. Musicians play every day. Writers write every day. Dancers dance every day. Athletes work out every day. The actor needs a group, needs other actors, and thus a good class is the best way of maintaining your skills and developing them, even while working professionally. The pursuit of excellence and your personal expansion as an artist are lifetime endeavors.

Our culture holds celebrities up to the light of adulation, no matter the underlying talent. There are even celebrities who are just famous for being famous, without a single product to their name, nothing they offer in exchange for the attention and money they receive. In such a world, training may seem to be of diminished importance.

Who needs training when such-and-such an actor moved to LA, walked into his first audition, and that was the TV series that made him famous?

Who needs training when such-and-such a standup comedian is so funny, so personable, that ABC made a series for the guy and now he's making millions?

Who needs training when your friend Joe moved to LA only 6 months ago and hooked up with some connected people up in the Hollywood Hills and his YouTube short has 20 million views and now he swears he has a deal for a series and he keeps getting invited to these fancy parties?

Who needs training?  You do. Everyone does.

 The longer a student has been studying the more likely it is they are working on a regular basis, and yet some of the most successful actors in the professional world are also the ones who are the most regular in their attendance and their production in class.

You want fame? Study. 
You want money? Study.
New car? Study.
Swimming pool? Study.

More importantly – you want to become the best actor you can be, which will open the door to all of the above? Study.




15 New Years Resolutions for Actors To Succeed In 2018.

A New year, means a new you! Well, only if you are committed to evaluating your progress as a successful actor.  The start of a new year is always a great time to hit the reset button and make new career goals that will lead to success!  Backstage Experts know what tools actors need to succeed and we wanted to share with you as we start a brand new year! 

What New Year’s resolutions will help actors succeed in 2018?

Here are 15 resolutions to set you up for a prosperous new year! 

Paul Barry, L.A.-based acting teacher and founder of Acting 4 Camera 
When was the last time you made a resolution to do something radically positive in your life? If it was last year around this time then please read my thoughts in “7 Honest Resolutions Worth Making.” 

Declan Donnellan in “The Actor and the Target” speaks of “concentration versus attention.” By concentrating on one specific outcome we may overlook experiences along the way that could help us get there another way. Sometimes the seemingly random occurrence is better than our original goal. 

I find focusing on how I want to be infinitely more useful than focusing on what I want to possess. “Integrity above all,” “get better every day,” and “you are deserving” are all mantras I have had written at various times on cards above my desk. They guide me in a positive way, but don’t blind me to specific experiences in the way that, “I want to play a lead in a ‘Star Wars’ film” might. 

If you’d like to make a resolution, choose not what you want, but what you want to be. 

Joanne Baron and D.W. Brown, L.A.-based acting teachers
A New Year’s resolution for an actor to succeed in 2016 would be for them to seriously reflect and identify a single obstacle that they have avoided dealing with or working on—whether it’s an accent they need to reduce, a fitness regime they need to start, or an Alexander Technique class they need to take. Everyone has something that is nagging them in the back of their mind that they just haven’t really worked to overcome. Make this year the year to tackle that thing. This new year, make your weakness your strength! 

Risa Bramon Garcia and Steve BraunThe BGB Studio
Stop resolving and start doing! The key to success in making any resolutions is to have a plan of action. A map and calendar of what you’re going to do to actualize your dreams. It’s likely you’ve tried to start the year with the resolve to lose 10 pounds, exercise three more times per week, cut out sugar, find ways to “network,” and by Jan. 17, it’s all gone down the tube. Try setting goals with a clear and specific practice in place. Not only will you define how exactly you might do it, you can also create a creative and enjoyable process. So create a ritual. Give yourself a simple three-week goal of daily practices. Before you know it, a goal is amazingly achievable and new routines emerge. Be accountable to yourself by doing what makes you happy, what stirs you deeply. Don’t be afraid of your hunger for it, whatever it is. The aching is already there, so see what happens when you grant it power and set it free. The reward and success are in the doing, and your resolutions become your reality!

Marc Cartwright, L.A.-based headshot and editorial photographer
A great resolution that I made for myself a few years ago was to do five things for my career a day. Big or small. You could browse the latest issue of Backstage or Variety for helpful career insight. You could reach out to one industry professional that you’ve been meaning to contact. At least one of the five tasks should be challenging for you. You’ll be surprised at what you uncover over time. 

Cathryn Hartt, founder of Hartt and Soul Studio
New Year’s Day is a great time to turn your dreams into goals.

1. First, make sure you really know what you want. Take time in a quiet, uninterrupted spot to get in touch with what is truly important to you. If you start going after a dream, you just might get it so make sure it’s a dream that you really want. I, personally, like to ask for the “optimal” instead of specifics (optimal love, work, happiness, prosperity, home, support, health, fulfillment, etc.). Put everything that is important to you on this list and look at it frequently.

2. Now, turn that dream into reality by planning a six-month goal and the weekly steps you must take to achieve it.

Kate McClanaghan, L.A.-based casting director
I don’t recommend you wish for just one audition, one job, one agent—don’t wish for one of anything. Strive for abundance. Otherwise, and I have no idea why this is, I simply know it to be true—you will only get one audition, one job, one agent, and so on. Instead, resolve to create an ongoing career for yourself marked by many auditions, both good and not-so-hot; many jobs, both remarkable and ridiculous. And multiple agents, colleagues, and cohorts who will effectively support and assist you in achieving a body of work you can honestly be proud of. I wish this for you every day of the coming new year, and every year to come! May your path be as extraordinary and unlimited as you and your imagination can bear. This is how you create anything, including your career. It requires a continued effort and plenty of it. Give yourself plenty of room to make a wonderful mess of things! 

Anthony Meindl, L.A.-based acting coach
Resolve to fall in love with the process! We come out here with dreams of Oscars and Emmys, our names on a trailer, and buying groceries wearing a ball cap and sunglasses indoors at night while TMZ records you on a camera phone, because stars are just like us, dammit! OK, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. The process of getting to your goals—the auditioning, the showcases, the workshops, the mailings no one reads but you have to do, and your seventh round of headshots this year—we mostly see all this as the grind, the long slog to the top, something to suffer through! No! This is your life now, not some shiny future over which you have no control. Love the little things you do every day for yourself and your career and release yourself from the burden of results. So resolve to fall in love with the process every day, and success won’t be something passive that you might someday have, it will be what you already do.

Joseph Pearlman, L.A.-based acting coach, founder of Pearlman Acting Academy
Actors need to get that anything capable of being accomplished can be done, including launching a successful acting career. Stop undermining yourselves by dreaming up obstacles to your success. Memorizing lines, not having a reel, no representation, no major credits, etc. These are all bullshit excuses for delaying your career a day longer. Our actors get that nine-tenths of the performance is the personality of the actor. If you can truly fathom that 90 percent of the heavy lifting is already accomplished, then you’re going to have the best year ever.

Jackie Reid, manager, and owner of L’il Angels Unlimited
One resolution that would help actors succeed in 2016 would be to check and update their casting profiles once a month. Do you have a new credit? Have you taken a class or a workshop? Have you learned something new? Do you have any new pictures?

If you are the parent of a young actor, you can add all of the above plus update their current sizes.

This will take about 15 minutes a month and ensure that when your reps are submitting you, they are sending out the most current and viable information possible. Because we all want you to book in 2016!

Jessica Rofé, founder and artistic director of A Class Act NY
As an acting coach for young performers and the artistic director of an award-winning acting studio for kids and teens, I would suggest that all young actors do their due diligence and follow up with every casting director they audition for. Send a clever note with a picture! Let the casting director know what you’re up to! Marketing yourself is also part of your job as an actor, even if you’re still just a kid! Hint: Parents, help your kiddos out! Don’t miss out on an opportunity to remind casting directors about your adorable and talented little star! 

Erika Shannon, founder of Don’t Dodge the Dance Call
Resolve to be more generous.

As performers, we have to be vain, maintain a killer self-care regimen, and look and feel our best. So we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves, and that is totally OK and necessary. However, the truly successful actors are the artists who listen during a scene, and who give attention onstage instead of volleying for it. The breathtaking dancer gives heart and soul in every gesture. Think of this saying: “What you give is what you get.” Give freely. Give attention, support, money, treats, compliments. Share monologues, sheet music, and audition tips with newbies. There is enough for everyone, and the sooner we change our focus from lack to abundance, the sooner we all succeed. 

Bret Shuford, NYC-based actor and the Broadway Life Coach
I would suggest making a resolution to focus on adding value to all of your relationships. Are you only asking your reps, casting directors, and others how they can serve you? Start to ask yourself how you can serve them? When someone says they have booked/are working on a project, simply say congratulations, and restrain from asking how you can be a part of it (at least in the moment). Find ways of giving to people instead of only trying to get, then watch how freedom begins to appear in your life.

Douglas Taurel, NYC-based actor-producer
I don’t necessarily believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I do believe in goals. The one goal I would suggest is to double your effort in 2016. Effort is the great equalizer in today’s world and in our business. Those with the highest effort output usually win. And one task for each month to help increase your effort for the year would be to wake up twice a month at 4:30 a.m. to either work on your body, your mind, or your career. 

Ben Whitehair, L.A.-based actor
When I moved to L.A. I replaced “resolutions” with an “Annual Review + Action Plan.” I have found it very supportive to look both forwards and backwards. Every holiday season I spend about 10 hours looking back at the previous year. What worked? What didn’t work? What were the major themes, takeaways, and lessons for the year?

Then, I spend dozens of hours setting goals and an action plan for every domain of my life in the coming year. I discovered that for me, resolutions without an action plan weren’t very likely to succeed. However, when I create an in-depth action plan for my entire life, I’m able to get specific in ways that have dramatically improved my results. 

If you’re interested in conducting your own annual review, I’ve created a free template document you can download on my website

Ryan R. Williams, L.A.-based on-camera coach, founder of Screen Actors System
Watch more great movies. Even better if you see them in a theater on opening weekend. Pay attention to the audience reaction. This will help you calibrate your own choices against what is popular with audiences currently. It may sound like a “sell out” move, but I find that if I don’t stay in touch with the multiplex, my sensibilities tend to become a bit obscure. It’s a way of connecting to the inspiration that brought you here. It’s an added bonus that it will improve your ability to network. If you are a current movie buff you will never run out of things to talk about with the filmmakers you meet. We’re all movie buffs. The holiday season is the best time to do this. You have downtime and all the Oscar contenders are in release.