Monthly Archives: April 2016

107 Acting Tips in Review

Friends,

Recently (other) friends of mine shared the article “107 Acting Tips” (http://www.stagemilk.com/107-acting-tips/) and I thought I would weigh in with my opinions on each tip. I am no expert, I just do what makes sense to me.

So without any further ado…

1. Watch a play. If you haven’t watched a play this month book a ticket now. – I’ve seen plays but its not really my favourite way to take in entertainment. It’s important to see a couple I suppose if you haven’t ever, but beyond the need for having a cultural context, only see them regularly if you enjoy them.

2. Work a scene with a friend THIS WEEK. – Agreed, but moreso about working a scene portion. If you have a friend great but you don’t need someone else to plumb the depths of a character’s psyche.

3. Do something you’ve never done before. – Sure, why not. But since shitting while standing in line at the grocery store falls into this category…

4. Read a poem. – Yes. Analyze them too and look for meaning and patterns even if they seem extraneous and far-fetched. This is how you get smarter

5. Speak a poem out loud. – Agree.

6. Delete embarrassing Facebook photos. – Torn on this because I have said some dumb shit that I don’t agree with anymore but nothing is ever really deleted on FB and if someone finds out you deleted everything it looks mad suspicious. We need to embrace past mistakes even if only to show how far we’ve come. This is a lesson we are slow to learn and we always try and rewrite the past to our own detriment. NOTE: I see now it read PHOTOS. I have un-tagged myself from photos people have tagged me in but ask yourself this, “Do I want to get to a level where I can’t hide anything online?” If the answer is yes, embrace whatever’s out there and even try and capitalize on the notoriety a bad pic might garner. If the answer is “no” then enjoy your comfortable, near-certain obscurity.
As a side note, don’t take yourself too fuckin seriously. Yeah, I get it, it’s your career, but if all you got to offer is a blemish-free presence online, then Jesus-Fuck you’re in for a rough go.

7. Breathe. You can’t act when you are holding your breath. – Agree

8. Do you have an agent? Spend the majority of your time getting an agent. – As someone who is self-represented for three years now I am torn on this. I can see opportunities I may have missed but I also know how influence works; you become friends with someone and you want to do right by them, but right by them might mean doing something that doesn’t fit your artistic sensibilities. I would say only look for an agent when you have exhausted every other avenue, and then only if you find someone who is on the same page as you regarding how you want to develop your career. Agents are strong personalities but its your career so you gotta be stronger otherwise you’ll get too caught up in their plans for you.

9. Sign up to IMBD Pro. – Yes, but only if you have some credits there. While a necessary cost eventually, it’s prohibitively expensive for a starting actor

10. Have a favourite actor. – Depending on my mood, mine is either Erica Fontes or Rebecca Linares. Michael Parks is good too…

11. Watch the IMDB Top 250. Finish the top 100 this year. – Meh….

12. Follow StageMilk on Facebook and Twitter. – Gonna check these guys out before making a call but in general following people online costs nothing and means a lot to them so do it.

13. Read something on Stanislavski. – Fine, but keep in mind, every generation needs a revolution.

14. Read a voice book. – 100% I gotta make developing my voice more of a priority.

15. Read The Power of the Actor Chapter 1 – 3. – Only if you can bootleg it.

16. Do an acting class. Even if it’s one hour do something THIS MONTH. – Drop-ins only! Your certificate from a four-month program doesn’t mean shit.

17. Buy a camera. – Agreed.

18. Hum in the shower. – At a minimum. I like singing and rapping. Also, scrubbing my teste-satchel.

19. Congratulate people on their success. – Only if you mean it
(19b. MEAN IT! If other people’s success bothers you then check yourself and figure out what you’re really unhappy about -my two cents)

20. Try Tai Chi. – Tai Chi isn’t really my thing but try it.

21. Try Feldenkrais – Sure…now if I only knew what this was.

22. Try Alexander Technique. – See 21…..

23. Try Yoga. – Fuck Yeah!

24. Exercise 3 times this week. And next week. And every week until the day you die. – Exercise EVERY DAY!

25. Read Plays. – Sure.

26. Learn your lines. – Agreed. Learn them like a pro so you can ad-lib like a master lol

27. Do a voice warm up. – 100%

28. Get a haircut. – As long as you don’t go completely bald like me and become competition 😀

29. Watch films. – Only ones that appeal to you

30. Read every night before bed. – Yes. I should do this more instead of dicking around on my phone. Read widely on a lot of different topics. If you just read about acting you’ll be a dullard.

31. Read the first three pages out loud. – Agreed

32. Watch television shows. – But not television. There is great programming on television but advertisements are cancer & AIDS in A/V form (sorry if commercials are your bread & butter) and an assault on your consciousness. Every fibre of your being should resent that assault. Don’t own a television. Watch on your computer. Install adblocker.

33. Read books on acting. – Occasionally, and only if you’re looking to tweak a certain part of your skill-set. It’s not like you’re gonna hurt yourself reading acting books, but at the same time there are only so many hours in a day and so many things that will give you a much broader glimpse of the human experience, which in my experience is what really gives you material to draw from.

34. Get an acting coach. – Can’t really speak on this but one day I might.

35. Read plays out loud with friends. – Sure

36. Tell stories. – Agreed.

37. Tell jokes. – Agreed.

38. Learn to dance. – Agreed, but that doesn’t mean you need lessons. Get high, put on music and dance alone in your room in front of the mirror in your underwear. Emulate your favourite music videos (Method Man’s moves in Da Rockwilder were a formative part of my repertoire). That’s the dancing you’re gonna truly enjoy

39. Dance. – Agreed.

40. Learn to sing. – Agreed.

41. SING. – 100%

42. Fall in love. – With several people. All at once if possible. I would recommend falling in love at least once a day. If you can’t you either have a faulty heart or you’re hanging around uggos.

43. Live your life. – Disagree on principle because this is really trite. But insofar as it means “don’t try and be someone else,” I agree.

44. See a therapist. – If you want to experience the egoic masturbation of talking about yourself in depth, just do quizzes online. I might recommend a Meyers-Briggs test…

45. Watch interviews with actors. – Agreed. You’ll see that everyone struggles and hear meaningful anecdotes you can relate to

46. Write everyday. – Fuck, if you can discipline yourself to do so then absolutely.

47. Read everyday. – Agreed

48. Go to drama school. – Get Fucked!

49. Listen to podcasts. – Onlu if you find them interesting.

50. Talk about theatre. – This seems dumb to me but whatever. I guess it makes more sense if you’re a theatre actor…

51. Ask questions! – Only if you have a question. Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions.

52. Have your heart broken. – This isn’t one of those things you can put on a to-do list but I think it’s an important part of the human experience which will enrich you as an actor.

53. Be vulnerable. – Always.

54. Have an opinion. – Have a view. And hold onto it loosely, always willing to change it if new evidence presents itself.

55. Get political. – Don’t be a cunt though and make sure you get mad about the right things, not paltry and inoccuous shit like offensive words when 1 billion people are starving. Vicinczey said it best:
“To be great is to assume great concerns.” -We would all do well to remember that.

56. Learn to love conflict. – I would rephrase it to “Learn to love controversy.”

57. Be honest with yourself. – 100%

58. Get a mentor. – Agreed, but my experience with mentorships is that they happen organically so you cant really look for one.

59. Get an apprentice. – If you ever see someone struggling in a position you were in ALWAYS help them.

60. Stay flexible. – Survival of the most adaptable

61. Open your heart. – The phrasing of this bothers me but sure. Know what moves you. For me its certain songs and monologues and they will elicit tears no matter where I am. Cry often

62. Start a writing group. – Agreed. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum and its better to have many names on a great script than one name on a mediocre one.

63. Join a book club. – If you’re inclined to do so and it helps you read regularly.

64. Engage in your community. – 100% These are likely gonna be your first fans. Never forget where you came from.

65. Write a play. – I suspect this list is geared toward theatre actors more, but yes, write a script of some kind. A play too if it helps you think more spatially in terms of where everything has to be.

66. Go to fringe festivals. – If you’re inclined to.

67. Go to opening nights. – I’ve always had a strict hierarchy of priorities: Shoot – Rehearsal/Table Read – Audition – Party. But some premieres are more important than some shoots. Choose carefully.

68. Make a short film. – If you’re a film actor, absolutely.

69. Produce a play. – If you’re a theatre actor, absolutely.

70. Go backstage in a big theatre. – Especially if you’re not supposed to be there…

71. Stand on a main stage. – Sure

72. Make mistakes. – Don’t be afraid of mistakes would be better.

73. Do what scares you. – But only if it feels right.

74. GET FIT. – Agreed, but understand that you’re body is a reflection of your values and experience and also that certain body types lend themselves to certain roles. What do you want role-wise? Go get it!

75. Meditate… – Absolutely. Do a 10-day Vipassana retreat if you want to

76. Download Headspace. – Will have to google what this is.

77. Do an improv class. – Absolutely

78. Roll around on the floor.

79. PLaY like a CHILD.

80. Trust yourself. – Yes

81. Trust the director. – 99% of the time

82. Trust your casting.
83. Read the play before learning your lines. – Agreed

84. Watch people. – BUt don’t ever identify as a “people-watcher” -these people are insufferable and pretentious

85. Listen. – Agreed

86. Listen to your parents stories. – Agreed

87. Learn history. – Having a degree in history I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here.

88. Learn the history of theatre. – Sure

89. TRAVEL. – As an avid traveler and adventurer I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here….srs though, it helps give you context for life and see the people around you in more detached, observant ways. Plus, there’s a way in which new places can spur latent creativity in you.

90. Try new things. – Anal? It doesn’t mean you’re gay, it means you’re an actor and you do kooky sex stuff

91. Enjoy your own company. – 100%

92. Stay up all night. – Fuck yeah. Add an open word processor file and a bottle of scotch and you have the makings of excellence

93. Go sky diving. – Meh

94. Learn EVERYONE’S names. – I’m bad for this but working on it. It’s nice to be remembered.

95. Help friends with auditions. – Sure

96. Build something. – Agreed

97. Learn a poem. – Agreed

98. Write a poem. – Agreed

99. Get a diary. – I get what they mean here but honestly notepad on your phone is the best route

100. Write. – I could have sworn this point came up earlier. Yes.

101. Buy a Dictionary. – No. Dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are free…..definitely use them though

102. Learn a new word everyday. – Fuck, if you can. I’m in the position of re-learning words I forgot the meaning of.
(100b. Create new words/neologisms to encapsulate ideas, feelings and emotions that existing language is inadequate to describe.

104. Learn a new skill. – Always.

105. Sit in on a rehearsal. – Sure

106. TEACH. – If you’re in a position to pass on knowledge, do so freely and willingly.

107. Be E.P.I.C. – This is the straw that broke the camel’s back -not sure what this acronym means and after all the goofy fluff advice in this puff-piece I’m not really inclined to find out. Also, it’s 11:54 and I got blown up on set multiple times today.

A few that they missed….

108. Develop your online presence. – Your fans want to hear from you and they can only do that through instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube, snapchat, etc… Closing yourself off from any of these is a slap in the face to all the users, basically telling them to get on your level. BUT, all these things take time. This blog here takes time. And you only have so much of that. Luckily we all find literal hours per day to dick around (vagina around) on our phones. Make that productive time.

109. It’s not about who you know, but it is about building relationships. – Beware anyone who says “I know a guy…” because he is trying to sound connected. Who you know doesn’t mean shit. Who thinks of YOU first when they have a project or a problem is what matters. If you wanna work with someone be in the top 3 of their mental rolodex.

Related to that….

110. 95% of success is showing up – You’re lucky if you get one shot. Don’t fuck it up. Also, even if you only have a small role, don’t be daunted. Treat it like it’s you first project and people witll remember your enthusiasm.

111. Have a life before acting. – The need for child actor’s notwithstanding, there’s more to life than standing in front of a camera pretending.

112. Never let money or lack thereof stand in the way of a project you wanna do.

113. Don’t try and squeeze every last penny out of your project. Get it seen by as many people as you can and book your next job off of that. If it’s good enough to get distributed its good enough to bootleg.

Me sleepy now

 

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Division of Labor

Friends,

I spent the last month of this past winter in Nicaragua working at Carpe Diem eco-village.

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It’s a project where volunteers can go and live for free in exchange for working roughly four hours every morning on the various eco-friendly construction projects being undertaken there. Given that it is a place where you are learning these processes for free it is actually quite a good deal as you leave the place enriched.

While it is not an intentional community proper, I did learn some things about human behaviour and initiative that I imagine would carry over. As I ultimately hope to live in such a community, I have wondered how people would sort out who does what and what would motivate them to do it when the monetary incentive was removed.

There are two primary lessons I learned:

1) The Culture Dictates Behaviour

Ghislain, the owner and originator of the project described to me how during the first season of the project he attracted a lower calibre of volunteer -people who wanted to come live for free but didn’t much care to fulfill the work obligation, preferring to go out boozing every night and recovering every day. It was an uphill battle, but as a start-up project he had to take what he could get. The larger problem was that when new volunteers would show up they were shown a culture of lazing and idleness and would either be turned off or fall into the same habits.

When this next season began in January he resolved to not indulge such behaviour and even had to ask some returnees to leave after the first day -a difficult choice for someone whose vision demands helpers. But ultimately this discernment paid off as the small core group of hard-workers attracted more people and inclined them to stay longer. I can attest to this as I initially passed through CD in early January 2016 (the beginning of the season) and opted to return in mid -February after finishing my ayahuasca pilgrimage to South America -that’s how impressed I was by the culture there. I stayed a month upon my return and was impressed by not only how much got done, but also by the work ethic of my peers.

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It even brought out the inner maker in me and I frequently took
on small personal projects which I’m not always wont to do.

Still, it’s kind of funny to muse that if these same peers and myself had showed up last year, our more idle and lazy traits might have been nurtured too. But, by changing his standard he changed the culture of the camp into something more congruent with his vision. That’s powerful and profound.

2) Everyone Will Find Their Place

One volunteer showed up during my month there named Nina. Nina was a 19 year-old German girl who was neither diligent nor motivated when it came to work. Mixing cob, building walls, preparing food -these were all things that she would only make the most gestural efforts at, and those efforts only when she wasn’t too sick to do anything but lay about in camp.

At first I’ll admit I looked at her a bit resentfully as I carried heavy loads of building materials around and scraped the shit out of my limbs gathering the thorny firewood for our cooking fires. Quickly though, I overcame this resent because I am a firm believer in the maxim, “What you eat don’t make me shit’ -or simply, as long as you’re not posing a detriment to me it’s not my business. When I got over myself and my ego in this manner I could look at Nina a little more dispassionately and objectively. What I saw was that while she laid about she was engaging and playing with the young Nicaraguan toddlers who lived next to us and who would always wander into our camp to observe and play. It occurred to me that if this were an intentional community where people were having children and building lives, I would be grateful to have a Nina around -someone who relished being with kids and playing with kids…

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…and not simply just acting like a kid.

Then I thought about myself -for the duration of my stay I woke up at 5:45 every morning to get the fire going and the water boiling by the time people started waking up 6:30. On top of that I would do the wake-up alarm by singing at the top of my lungs every morning. Nobody told me I had to but I wanted to because I wanted to have breakfast and coffee before work started at 7:30, and of course because I love singing. As well, I always gravitated toward gathering firewood and building fires -I just liked to do these things and they needed to be done.

On a similar note, my friend Marijo usually did meal prep because she was good at it and liked to do it. Nobody said she had to.

And I think this is the larger point. I saw people finding their equilibrium and their place within a society in a very natural, very organic way. And this gave me hope that the community I’m looking to build and be a part of one day just might work.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

Carpe Diem Eco-Project: https://www.facebook.com/carpediemecoproject/?fref=ts

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