Friday, 15 February 2013

My acting career and your questions answered!!

Hi there,  sorry, I know it's been a while!

So this post is about acting. I'm constantly asked by my followers and new friends about my acting career, my performance degree and even how to become a working actor!
My aim is to try and answer as many questions as possible and to make you understand what working as an actor is like.

First and formost, I just want to clear up one thing. I call myself an actor because it is primarily what I do. I am literally acting all the time. I am constantly involved in stage productions, short films, extra work on feature films, and I even act on my comedy channel on YouTube! HOWEVER, I have only had one paid acting job thus far, have never had a paid speaking role and am a long, long way away from becoming successful!! Thankfully, I have an agent now, and once I get my headshots and everything done, I should be getting some more paid work, which will be nice.

So, what does acting mean to me? I recently got back from a trip to America and while I was over there, I asked my grandma what her first memories of me acting were. She started laughing and said "The way you CRAWLED was dramatic!!". From the time I could talk, my family and family friends were telling my parents to put me in acting school. I had a lot of energy and was, well, a drama queen! If you look at old pictures of me, you see me pulling ridiculous faces and posing, which has basically stayed the same throughout my entire life. When I was 5 or 6, I first started drama school. I absolutely loved it, but it was just a hobby for me. I got too excited by all the pretty dresses and would play with my hair and spin around in circles after I said each line. Try to imagine that.

I got involved with a few other hobbies after that (mainly Tae-Kwon-Do) but I still needed somewhere to channel all of my creative energy so I went back to acting school again when I was 12. This was a time where I was going through absolute hell at school. I was completely miserable, coming home from school crying every day due to bullying. But for one hour a week, I didn't have to deal with my problems. I got to be another character. With a different name and a different physicality and different mannerisms and different problems in a world completely separate from my own. It was my little escape. Everything going on in my life vanished and my whole body would just be filled with little bubbles of happiness!!! Once I realised that I actually had some talent (I was cast in main roles for years at this drama school) I gained confidence, not just in my acting ability, but in myself. I was able to overcome my problems at school and start to like myself as a person again and be comfortable in my own skin.

After I realised how much acting had helped me, I knew that this was what I had to do with my life. If I can act, I am a happy social butterfly! If I'm not acting for a while, I get sad and withdraw from people more. I got through highschool by trying my absolute hardest in all of my drama classes, and usually ending up at the top of my class. I actually went to 2 different highschools and I left both schools with the Drama Award, that they give to one student each year.

When it came to thinking about university, I wasn't sure if I should go. I knew that there were performance degrees (there was literally no other degree that I would even consider taking, as there is nothing I am as passionate about besides acting) but I wasn't sure where that would get me and I thought I should just get out there in the real world and just make my dream happen! But oh my goodness, am I glad I decided to go to uni. There was so, so much I still had to learn.
So, my course. It's a mix of theory and practical work. I'm about to enter my third and final year, and by the end of my degree, I will have learnt how to properly perform Shakespeare's work and understand his verse, how to stage fight, how to use my voice to it's full capacity and avoid vocal strain and injury, different acting techniques from actors around the world to help me play a role better, different exercises I can do so I can fully understand a character and become the character in order to give a truthful performance, how to direct performances, how to devise performances... I will have learnt how broad the term 'theatre' actually is. I will have learnt different genres of performance, some that I have never even heard of before. I will speak to industry professionals who will help me network and give me advice on how to actually make it in the business. I will gain experience working on both major and student-directed productions (both acting, and in backstage in roles like stage managing and costume designing). I will written thousands of words on acting techniques, famous playwrights and their legacies, and analyse the significance of dramatic texts and the influence they had on society. I will have directed 2 short plays (Hint: If you want to act, directing something, however small it is, helps. As a director, you learn what you want from your actors and it helps you to become a better actor and take direction better). I will have gone to watch several productions that I'm not involved with, all which have just made me love the industry more and motivate me that much further.
As you can see, it's kept me pretty busy! And if I didn't love it so unbelievably much, I would have dropped out from the stress.

Once I finish, I plan on moving to Los Angeles. With the other hundreds of thousands of hopeful actors... Go ahead, roll your eyes. I'm used to it. But I'm a big believer in following your instincts. I've been to LA twice now and both times I felt a pull to the city and it just felt like it was the place for me. I know there's about a hundred times more competition there than where I am now, but I will also have more auditions and hopefully more work. You learn something from every single audition you go to, and I plan to take all the advice I get and work on it to better myself as an actor. I've done my research. I know how hard it is. But I want it more than I've ever wanted anything. So I'm going to go, and keep working at it, and keep working at it, until I do it.

Now this blog is getting pretty long and you've heard enough about me. Time for me to give you my advice on how you can be an actor (and I do get asked this a lot).

I'm going to be brutally honest here. I have way too many people coming up to me and saying "Oh, Taylor, I really want to act but I just don't even know where to start,". This makes me angry. Are you an infant? Are you incapable of going out and finding things out for yourself? You are never going to get any work if you sit around waiting for it to come your way. I'm going to say something that I say to everyone who says they want to act (and I've heard several other people say the same thing)- If you do not need to act like you need to breathe, you do not need to act. If you can think of ANYTHING else, and I mean ANYTHING, that you can make a career out of besides acting, go do that. The acting world is way too competitive and full of too many rejections and heartbreak that if you don't want it as badly as those that do, then you don't deserve the chance. Hey, I said I was being brutal. NOW, if you DO need to act like you need to breathe, I'm going to put all of my judgment aside (why haven't you done something about it before now????) and try and give some advice.

1) Get some training. Get some more training. Get even more training. Even if you think you're already an amazing actor, you can always be better. Even the best actors are always improving themselves. Use the Google on the Internet machine and find out what short acting classes are running near you. These can be a day long, a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Take every training opportunity you get. Actually getting a degree in acting will be hugely beneficial. Think about how much you'll learn in 3 or 4 years compared to just a few months.

2) Be pro active. Get up off your bum and stop waiting for opportunities to come to you. You need to go out looking for them. Again, Google, Google, Google! Find any agencies near you that let you know about casting calls. Several websites post acting jobs that you can apply for (a lot of them are paid, too!) and it only costs a couple of dollars a month to be a member. Do you know any student filmmakers? Let them know if they're looking for an actor, they can count on you. If you are not a successful actor yet, student films are not below you. You never know how talented the filmmakers are, and who knows? The film could go places you'd never imagine and give you some exposure! Take every single opportunity that comes your way, even ones that you think are silly. Add them to your resume. A bigger resume is always going to be more impressive than a smaller resume! And that brings me to my next point...

3) You need a few basic tools. You need a resume. This should include any film work, television work (TV series or commercials), stage work, and training. Visit acting agencies' websites and check out their talent- you can usually view their resume which will give you an idea on how to set yours out so it looks professional. You also need a few headshots. Get a professional photographer to take them for you. Almost every casting agent will require a headshot from you before they decide if you're even right to audition. A voice demo reel also helps, if you can sing or do different accents. You also need an agent. They will help you get work if you're not having much luck looking by yourself. Many directors will go through agents first before they start looking for freelance actors. One thing to consider is that agents only look for paid work for you. That way, they can profit from it. There is lots of work out there that is not paid, and you need to find those jobs yourself!

4) Make connections. Network. We've all heard it before, but "It's not what you know, it's who you know". Just the other night I went to a networking event where I met tons of fellow actors (several who were pretty accomplished) as well as directors, producers, cinematographers, scriptwriters... Make connections. Let them know who you are, what you do, and that you would love to work with them. And give them a way to contact you.

5) Decide if where you are living now is suitable for launching a successful acting career. If you live in a country town that only has 200 people living there, you're going to have to move eventually. Move somewhere where there are more opportunities for you. Make a name for yourself and make sure you have a fan base, and have done at least a few successful jobs, otherwise noone in Hollywood will take you seriously (I'm just talking about if you want to go to Hollywood!)

I'm not going to give any advice on how to make it in Los Angeles as that would be improper of me. I am in no position to give that advice as I don't live in Los Angeles and I haven't "made it" in the slightest. That is up to you (Google again, it's your friend!!!). I have a lot of work to go but I think with my determination I can hopefully get enough work over there to make a living. I am not looking to be famous. Just to be paid for doing what makes me happiest.

So wow, this blog was ridiculously long. But I hope it answered all of your questions. Again, I just want to stress that I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR. I haven't even had a paid speaking role yet. But I don't sit around dreaming about it, I'm actually making it happen. It's a very slow process, but one day, guys. One day :)

Lots of love,
Taylor xxx