Archive for commercials

Feb 20 – OK, um, let’s try that again.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on February 22, 2010 by actingchick

Since I’ve been doing rather badly on my auditions lately, I decided to take Jodi Rothfield’s Auditioning for the Camera class. I’m glad I did.

Jodi Rothfield is as highly respected casting agent in Seattle.  I’d been wanting to take her class for a long time.  She was endorsed by one of my teacher’s at Freehold, George Lewis. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect of, she is an ethical and real person in a business not known for that.  Because of that comment, I was looking forward to meeting her.  I was not disappointed.

Jodi is a boisterous, passionate person, in that way that people from New York can carry off.  For those of you who know Robin Lynn Smith, I’d say there is a similarity of energy that I found comforting.

I showed at up her office.  She was efficiently handling conversations with the people already there, while informing me that still owed her $75, and telling everyone to ignore the signs that said that everything in the fridge was a dollar, and that really it was free for the class, and to sit down and make myself comfortable, and that bathrooms were around the corner.  She sat at her desk in the ping-ponging conversation with everyone.

When everyone arrived she ushered us into the casting room.  The first part of the class was lecture.  She tells you what you need to have and to do to show up as a professional for an audition.  Very helpful.  Some of it I knew, but the questions you are supposed to ask when you get called by a casting agent for and audition was great.  Not only did she tell you what you were supposed to do, but she gave you the reasons why you did them. Most of which distilled down into “this will make your life easier, and the casting director’s life easier.”

One of her main points of the day was that “Auditioning is the most unnatural thing you will do as an actor.” She stated this over and over again.  All her tips and tools presented that day were to help you survive this crazy process.

Another point she made is that acting for the camera, and acting in general, is about connection.  But how do you connect with an inanimate assembly of plastic and metal?  It’s not going to give you any feedback or respond to your demands. You can play your action at it all day long, it doesn’t care…it can’t.

She gives you three simple questions to ask when you do a cold read, and a process to answer them for yourself, so that when you go in front of the camera, you have something to work with.  For the second part of the class she gave us some text from commercials she’s cast.  She gave us some time to work through her process on them.  Then we went in front of the camera.  The rest of the group got to watch you on the TV.

I went first, because I like to get the painful experiences over with as soon as possible.  I got worked over a lot, but that was OK, I didn’t expect less, and it was handled humourously and compassionately.  My big issues were trying to read my lines from the paper, while also trying to have them somewhat memorized.  It doesn’t work real well.

We would do readings in acting class where you would look down at the paper, get a chunk of lines, then look up at the person you were reading with, say your chunk of line, then look back down. Repeat.  This doesn’t work for auditioning for the camera.  You need to be able to read lines and remain connected at the same time.  Your script has to become and extension of your body so you can glance at it and move it naturally at any time you need to.  This is very hard.  Did I mention that auditioning is the most unnatural thing you can do as an actor?

We watched each other as we went up.  She corrected and encouraged.  After lunch we did the same thing again.  It was amazing how much better everyone was with just that one earlier session.  Not that we all couldn’t improve a lot, because we could all use a lot more work, but everyone was improved.

After the second round, Jodi opened it up for questions. She is very actor friendly and very supportive.  If we had questions, or needed recommendations for things, she offered herself up to being called and emailed.  You really got the vibe that she wanted to help you and was in your corner.

Anyway, I’d recommend her class.  Sign up at her site at World Perc to get on her email list, or call her office to find out when the next class is.

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June 5 – Sounds like money.

Posted in Acting, actor, Art, Theatre with tags , , , , , on June 5, 2008 by actingchick

I’ve been rather overwhelmed with school lately.  The Stage Combat test is only ten days away.  I am nervous.  We haven’t gotten all our scenes and choreography down.  Or I should say that we have the fight choreography down, we just haven’t gotten the talking part down.

At least we finally have scenes now.  That was the hard part. Then we had to edit them down to fit the fight.  I did a version, which was WAY to long.  Luckily my partner took on the task of integrating the talking an fighting bits, and worked it down to something sizable and doable.

Even so, we had to cut more out last night, and rearrange things. We had a practice session, the first where we really got to try out the talking and swashbuckling together.  We only got through the broadsword fight, but at least now I feel like there is some hope.  This Saturday we will work out the unarmed fight and the rapier and dagger fight.  We are running those together into one scene, so that adds another layer of complication in trying to work out the transition from one to the other.  I’ll see if I have to start panicking again after this next class.

On the Voiceover class front, I have a big homework assignment.  I have to come up with six to eight clips to use in voiceover demo reel.  Basically recorded audition pieces. I have to look for things that will highlight my type of voice, and the kind of work that I would like to do.

I think I would really like to do audiobooks.  It seems like it would be fun.  I’m sure it isn’t really, but neither is filing and photocopying and sitting at a desk all day.  I am sure it is hard work, but at least you get to be a bit creative, and I hear the pay is pretty good.  Plus I think it is something my voice might be suited to.  If you’ve read my earlier post, you will hear that I have a good narrative voice that sounds really, really “normal”.

I will find one audiobook piece, and then I will need to come up with some commercial bits.  The nice thing about demo reels is that you can totally rip off actual commercials.  You can do a McDonald’s commercial, or Ford truckcommercials.  The fact that the words are someone else’s doesn’t matter, you just want someone to hear your voice, and if you have a voice that sounds like it can sell Ford trucks, than it’s good to have Ford trucks on your reel.

My problem is figuring what sort of products I would be good at selling, then finding the corresponding commercial, writing down the text and practicing it.  Next class, this coming Monday, we are going to Jack Straw studios, where we are going to record the vocal track of our demo reel.  Later on, if we are so inclined, we can edit the bits of commercial text together, add the background music and sound effects that you hear on real commercials to snazz it up, and presto , professional demo reel, ready to send off to prospective agents and clients.

So I am going to go home tonight and watch TV, for the commercials.

May 1 – Speak normally.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on May 1, 2008 by actingchick

School is chugging along. I am continuing Stage Combat. The test fast approaches. I believe the date is June 15th, but I am still waiting for final confirmation. This coming Saturday, we are going to Cornish College of the Arts and watch the theater students there take their tests. This way we will know what the process is like and what is expected of us. I look forward to seeing it.

I have had two Voice Over classes now. The class is taught by Gin Hammond, who taught the Voice class that I took last quarter. She is a fun teacher, and I was looking forward to this class. There are two other people from the Voice class, so I know some people which is always nice.

In the first class we all had to read some random text while everyone else closed their eyes and listened. The reader’s job was to read the text in their “normal” voice. The listeners’ job was to determine what type of voice the person had, i.e. what kinds of characters they could be, what type of products they could sell, or just overall qualities of voice.

The first woman read aloud as we all closed our eyes. I’m not quite sure that she was using her “normal” voice, as it sounded pretty radio-like and overly enthusiastic to me, but maybe that’s just me. She got feedback saying she could be a sassy best-friend, confidant, or a business executive.

The second woman read, and she had a deeper, more smoky, husky voice. She could be the best-friend too, but not so sassy, more of the “I’m concerned about you, let’s take a yoga class together” best friend. Her tones also resonated “buy a Lexus”, and I could imagine without much difficulty a surly, chain smoking waitress.

The next woman was interesting in that her voice could sound both young and old. If she got a little higher pitched and excited she sounded like a teenage girl, which was interesting since she is probably late forties. If she spoke slower and a little lower, she sounded more her age and mom-like, or perhaps also a business person.

Then it was my turn. I read my text, which I might add we didn’t see until moments before we had to read it, so I literally didn’t know what the next word was going to be until I read it. I tried to read it pretty normally, not putting a radio tone, since the point was to see what our “natural” voice was. I got done, and there was pause before feedback was given, as if people were having trouble coming up with something to say.

Then one guy said, “You voice sounds just really, really normal.” People nodded in agreement. The teacher said I would be good at narration. I tried not to read into this feedback, gee, your voice is kind of boring, but it was hard not to think that, since I didn’t get a character type. No best-friend, no business executive, no “you could sell luxury products”. I did get the quality of “trustworthy”, which is nice, I suppose, though not exciting. And I did get a last minute “you could probably do a mom” from the instructor. But I think that was thrown in to appease what I assume was a look of disappointment on my face, that I didn’t get something more interesting.

Other people seemed to have more interesting voices, and more character types. Maybe that’s why they came to this class, people have been telling them you should do voice overs, you have _______ voice, you should be in radio, you could do cartoons, etc.

Still I suppose their is a place for normal and trustworthy narration. Perhaps insurance commercials and audio-books are in my future. I won’t complain as long as it pays.