Thursday, February 14, 2013

HONING YOUR ACTOR SKILLS

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FEBRUARY 14, 2013

DR. MEL'S WEEKLY MESSAGE

Today is a very special day as many people recognize this day as one of the most romantic days of the year - it's Valentine's Day.  I love this day, pardon the pun, because it is a day where couples walk hand-in-hand, gaze into each others eyes, and whisper sweet nothings in each others ear.  That brings me to my point.  Why do we whisper "Sweet Nothings?"  Does that mean we don't actually whisper anything at all?  Oh well, I'll never figure that one out in a million years.  However, my Valentine's Day started early as my husband sent me roses yesterday as a surprise.  He has been out of town and so he wanted to brighten my day until he got home last night.  What a sweet guy.  In fact, I didn't even mind him having just walked into the house and quickly leaving to go to the NBA Hornets game.  I still had my roses to keep me company.  Just kidding.  He did go to the game, but that had been planned well in advance so there wasn't any surprises there.

So, if you have a loved one, don't forget to tell them you love them and do something special for them on this day of "Love."

I guess by now, after publishing last week's blog you can tell I'm in a little better spirits.  The numbness of having attended Frank's funeral is still there, but I have taken rejoice in the fact he is now in a better place.  It has also made me look deep within myself at my own relationships with my husband, children, and grand-children.  It is true, "Love is a many splendor thing."

HONING YOUR ACTOR SKILLS
By Dr. Melissa Caudle

Like most things in life, anything worth doing doesn't come easy and you have to work at it to be the best.  This is one of life's lessons we all should take to heart.  "If it is worth doing, then it is worth doing right," my mother always told me.  She also said, "I don't care if you want to be a garbage collector, be the best damn garbage collector ever."  I'm not sure if I disappointed my mother or not because I didn't become a garbage collector, but instead I became an educator, then a principal, then after retiring from the education field went into the film industry.  My mother's words still applied - "Be the best there is."

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I've set out on my journey to become the best.  That means I had to educate myself on many facets of the industry working my way up the ladder and paying my dues.  I didn't start out as a producer, director, or screenwriter.  Instead, I started as a film extra and then became a production assistant.  Along the way, I absorbed as much about every job on a set there possibly was.  It was only after working as a television station manager that I began putting it all together.  It was like a million piece jigsaw puzzle.  But, I think I'm finally getting to the point of complete understanding.  With that said, where do you fit into this puzzle?  What are you doing to hone your skills as an actor?  As a screenwriter?  As a director?  Are you leaving it up to happenstance and hoping that something will just come your way or are you taking the necessary steps to get to the top?  I certainly hope, for your own sake, that you are working diligently toward honing the skills you have. An excellent step is to purchase my book, Thumbs Up!  How to Nail Auditions available on Amazon.com.  Right now you can purchase the book for less than $16.00 which is four dollars lower than the retail price.  Just click on the book cover to the right to purchase your copy.  Not only will you get valuable information on auditioning, but a total assessment on your strengths and weaknesses as an actor.  Besides that, I have decided to put all proceeds from this book toward the funding of my independent film A.D.A.M.  

If you are a screenwriter, are you taking classes on screenwriting?  Are you learning to hone your skills in developing loglines, synopses, and beat sheets?  Are you evaluating your own work according to a script grid?  All of these steps are important for screenwriters in developing their own writing skills.

As an actor, what are you doing to develop your skills?  Are you taking classes?  Watching and critiquing other actor's demo reels?  Reading books on techniques of cold reading, script breakdowns, and acting methods?  If you aren't, you need to be.  You can't simply sit idle and not develop your skills.  If you do, you will likely end up on the bottom of the "For Hire" list.

So, where do you start to develop your skills?  


SCREENWRITING SERIES BY DR. MELISSA CAUDLE
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM
 STRENGTH VS. WEAKNESSES

The first thing for you to do is to identify your strengths and weaknesses.  You read that correctly - everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses.  What sets you apart from the rest is knowing your own and then doing something about it.  For instance, as a screenwriter, I think I'm really strong at developing a plot, creating characters, and writing dynamic action descriptions.  If I were to isolate a weakness of mine as a screenwriter, I think I would have to narrow the amount of locations I write into a screenplay in order to carry out the story and plot line.  Knowing this information about myself allows me to do something about it when I write.  Otherwise, I would keep on doing the same thing the exact same way and getting the exact same results.  So, once I received enough feedback from line producers stating that we can cut two million dollars off a budget, if I would either combine scenes into one location, or use the location more often and not a new one, I could direct and re-write accordingly.  Therefore, when I write a new screenplay, I now always keep that in the back of my mind.

I use the same process for my acting.  I know that I am very strong at breaking down a script and reading "into" a screenplay to determine a character.  I would say that in my acting, I lack spontaneity, and need to improve on my improvisational skills.  That way, when and if I am acting in a scene, and if either I or the other actor forgets lines, I would be able to complete the scene anyway.  This is a very powerful set of tools to have in your back pocket.  Being able to improvise sets a great actor apart from a good actor.  Again, without me recognizing my own strengths and weaknesses, I wouldn't be able to make an action plan to hone my skill level as an actor.  In other words, if I really wanted to keep pursuing my acting career, and not my producing/screenwriting career, I would need to enroll in an improvisation course.

INVOLVE YOURSELF

Now that you can isolate your strengths and weaknesses, the second area is to involve yourself with other who also want to improve their own skills.  This means that you need to get involved with others with the same goal and aspirations.  You can take classes, join discussion groups, join a social network site, etc.  The point is to be involved and stay involved.  Don't let the excuse of not having extra income to pay for classes keep you from getting involved.  You can always start your own "Study Actor" group in your own home with other actors in the same situations as yourself.  This also holds true for screenwriters.  There is nothing to stop you from starting a group to review plot structures, dialogue, and a myriad of other screenwriting topics.  As a retired educator with a PhD, I know first-hand, that when you teach something you learn it far better than if you simply attend and participate in a course.  So, take the lead in your study group and sit back and watch the results.

SET GOALS

The final step is to establish and set goals for yourself.  I personally recommend the technique of a "Goal Poster Chart."  A Goal Poster Chart, is something that you make for yourself and hang on your bedroom or office wall that has a timeline of what you want to be and where you want to be.  Your chart should have two areas:  one-year goals and five-year goals.  That way you have something to work towards.

YOUTUBE TIME CAPSULE

Another way to stay on track is to make a YouTube Time Capsule and post it on your channel.  You'll be surprised to watch them year after year.  To make your own YouTube Time Capsule, simply record yourself and answer the following questions.

  1. Where do you currently live?  Where do you want to live five years from now.
  2. What do you currently do for an occupation?  What do you want to be five years from now?
  3. What current relationships are in?  Discuss whether you are single, married, divorced etc.  Then discuss, what type of relationship you want to be in five years from now.
  4. What is your current financial status?  Where do you want to be financially five years from now.
  5. Discuss your strengths in terms of your desired occupation?
  6. Discuss your action plan of getting there.
Other areas to consider discussing in your time capsule are:

  • Where are you now?
  • What is the date? What is the weather like?
  • What’s the last movie that you saw? What was the last movie that you loved?
  • What are you listening to on your iPod?
  • Who are you in love with?
  • Who is your best friend?
  • What do you wish you could own right now?
  • What do you want your next vacation to be?
  • What are you most worried about?
  • What is one amazing thing you expect to do in the coming year?
  • What is your favorite recent memory?
  • What were the top 3 accomplishments from the last year?
  • What made you laugh the hardest most recently?
  • What are you best at?  What do you think are you greatest assets and skills?
  • What are your life goals at the moment?   Did you make any progress on them?
  • How much do you think gas will cost at the end of next year? In 5 and 10 years?
  • What are your wishes for the upcoming year?
  • What do you think you will be doing this time next year?  In 5 and 10 years from now?
  • What do you think will change about you over the next year?  How do you want to grow?
  • Where will you be living next year?  In 5 and 10 years from now?
  • What is one piece advice would you give your future self?
  • What is your purpose in life?

Good luck with your time capsule.  I would love to see them posted on my Facebook site THE KEYSTROKE KILLER FAN SITE.  Just post the link to share with everyone.  In five years, you'll thank me.

LACA NOLA ACTOR OF THE WEEK

Congratulations to Graham Clarke, LACA NOLA'S actor of the week.  Just in the last month I've seen Graham on Raising Hope.  I'd say this qualifies Graham as our actor of the week as there will be a lot more in store for Graham.  We salute Graham for a job well done and we know this is only the beginning for him.  

To book Graham for your next film or television project contact LACA NOLA TALENT GROUP or give us a call at 504-301-8000.


GRAHAM CLARKE
SAG/AFTRA




ABOUT GRAHAM CLARKE

Graham is a gifted actor that can change characters on a dime.  Not only does he have comedic timing, he also have a dramatic flare and able to deliver powerful roles.  From playing the perfect husband, a sinister lawyer, or the quirky reporter, Graham stands ready to bring his talent to the big screen.  He is best known for his roles in "Super 8," an independent film just released.  He also has portrayed a variety of television characters including roles on "Tosh O," "Weeds," "The Young and the Restless," "Raising Hope," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Criminal Minds."  His talent doesn't end here as he can perform more than 85 impressions.

Special Skills:  Impressionist, Comedy, News Reporting, Greenscreen, Teleprompter,  Billards, Bowling, Canoeing, Combat Stage, Equestirian - General, Football, Golf, Ice Hockey, Sonowmobile, and Speed Skating.

Dialects:  Canadian, Cockney, Irish, Italian, New Yorker, Scottish, and Southern.

GRAHAM IS REPRESENTED BY
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WRITING OPPORTUNITY


Do you have something to share with my readers?  It could be a personal experience you had on a film set or an audition.  Think about sharing something you learned from one of your acting classes or acting coach to help others.  It could even be a self-help idea of how you prepare for a role or audition.  I am a firm believer that I don't know everything and would love to publish your article or experience.  To submit an article for consideration email it to drmelcaudle@gmail.com and put in the subject line - "Article for Blog."




LOVE AND BULLETS
NOVEL BY JEFFREY GENTILE

LACA NOLA TALENT GROUP also represents several talented and gifted screenwriters and novelists.  One of which is Jeffrey Gentile, author of the book Love and Bullets.  "The book is a great read and full of surprises.  You won't want to put it down," says Dr. Melissa Caudle, producer and screenwriter.  "I can see this book easily turning into a feature film - Capone style that is."

Jeffrey Gentile
Author
Jeffrey was born mob-adjacent in Chicago, near the intersection of Hoodlum and Gangster, where few things are as they appear, and you always know somebody who knows somebody. After graduating Southern Illinois University, he moved to Los Angeles in search of better weather and brighter opportunities. Every time he would tell stories about mob players that circled the periphery of his youth, his friends would either stand agape or accuse him of lying.

According to Jeffrey, "But normal is what happens everyday, and crazy is a subjective term. Finally, when life hands you a bucket of crazy, either pay for therapy or use it in fiction."  Thus, the formation of his journey into book writing.

Jeffrey's Aunt Jeanette once said, "Your father was never a gangster. He just knew people."  Jeffrey says, "It was true. Dad grew up alongside the men that became the post-Capone Chicago mobsters of the 50s and 60s - men like Sam Giancanna, Tony Accardo, and Jackie Cerone."  He further revealed that one of his dad's best friends was a retired jewel thief affectionately known as Crazy Tony. A paroled mobster worked at Jeffrey's family's produce market. "My Confirmation sponsor was a mob boss' nephew," Jeffrey said. "At my sister Lisa's wedding, Aunt Marie wanted to know why the people at one table got platters of appetizers delivered while everyone else got tray service. Dad bent his nose in the universal sign for wise guys. She nodded knowingly, and nothing else was said about the table of mobsters in the corner."

While the story-line in Love and Bullets is fictional, it borrows elements from Jeffrey's life. His father's family lived on Aberdeen Street and the family home became the protagonist's home. Family members appear in cameos as neighbors, as does D'Amato's - a legendary real-life neighborhood bakery.

LOVE AND BULLETS explores what it means to be a family when the family is out of the ordinary.

SYNOPSIS OF LOVE AND BULLETS


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When a nightclub entertainer and a gangster take a battered teenager into their home and hearts, they become a family as real as any bound by blood, and “bringing up baby” gets a whole new meaning.

There’s nothing unusual about the family living on Aberdeen Street. They’re just like every other family. They share meals and chores, watch television together, celebrate special occasions, and look after each other. They’re the kind of family Norman Rockwell would paint if he were still alive – and doing acid.

“Mom” is Chicago’s most famous female impersonator – Billy Blanchard, better known as Blanche D’Almond, belle of CafĂ© Muse. “Dad” is Sammy "The Pig" Gavone, a mid-level mobster, and their “son” is the banished child of religious fanatics. Who’s to say what makes a family?

But it’s not all white picket fences on Aberdeen Street. There's a greedy IRS flunky looking for a big score, an FBI agent with an axe to grind, a clingy male model with the prettiest feet in America, a meatpacking heir with a taste for S&M, a kinky trophy wife, and an unfortunate incident involving a vat of eucalyptus-scented wax. Then things get really complicated.

MARKETING YOUR BOOK

In order for any book to sell you have to let people know about it which often can be a daunting task.  However, with just a few suggestions you can find your way to making money with your book by implementing a marketing plan.


YOUR MARKETING PLAN

The marketing plan is the most important part of your nonfiction book proposal, and there’s an easy way to prepare it by finding information on the Internet:
  1. First, consider your audience. Who will buy your book? Hopefully you’ll find several categories of people. For example, parents, grandparents, special education teachers, and healthcare providers might be interested in a book on autism.
     
  2. Find out how many people fall into each category. (Example for autism: number of children with this diagnosis, number of parents, number of special education teachers, etc.). Use the statistics in your proposal and be specific. This may take time, but it’s worth the investment.
  1. Treat the proposal as a serious document. Don’t be cute; this is business. 

  2. Examine your target audience and where they gather. Do they hold conventions? Do they belong to a national association? How about local and regional groups? Find out when and where the next big convention is held and how you could present a workshop and/or sell your book at a booth.
     
  3. What newspapers and magazines cater to your audience? Could you write articles for these periodicals based on information in your book? Would they print an excerpt from your book? List each magazine and newspaper.
     
  4. Of course you’ll need a web site – every published author should have a web site. But how will your web site market the book? Photos of your family and pets won’t do the trick. You need to use sales tools on the web site, and that includes giving something away. Look into Internet marketing.
     
  5. Can you line up personal appearances on regional radio and TV shows, plus newspaper interviews? List each potential venue.


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