The Acting Biz:
A Career Guide to the Twin Cities


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The newsletter will let you know about upcoming classes, updates to the content of the book and free ideas and tips for your acting career in the Twin Cities.  (Don’t worry, your information is private.  I won’t share it with anyone else.)


Here are the “TIPS” sections from past newsletters, just in case you
missed them!

September, 2010

Back to School time – for actors, too!

Athletes train year round and constantly work on the fundamentals
of their particular sport. Musicians practice daily or they “lose their
chops.” Dancers train and rehearse for hours on end in order to be
fit, flexible and fluid.

Hmm…. Do you see a pattern here?

Do we leave college – knowing everything we need to know about
acting? Does our on the job training suffice? Or for those new to the
business, can you take one acting class and know everything you
need to know?

The answer? No. Not if you want to really work. What are you doing
to develop your acting skills and stay sharp – on stage, on camera or
in voice-overs?

Uta Hagen once said: “To be an actor requires talent. But beyond
talent, it takes a sound mind and body… a trained voice and
fine standard speech… an insatiable curiosity about the human
condition… an unshakable desire to be an actor… and tenacity and

discipline to make something of the talent.”

“…tenacity and discipline to make something of the talent.” I love
that. Many of the most successful actors in town exhibit both.

When I help interview new talent for my agency (NUTS), I frequently
ask how many have had camera training… I’m shocked by how few
have. But I’m rarely shocked by how much it shows. If an actor isn’t
comfortable on camera, it’s obvious.

If you’re new to the biz, are you studying, working and learning the
craft? If you’re a trained actor – are you sharp? Or a little rusty?

There are some great actors in town who are constantly in demand…
and I know several who consistently take acting classes on top of
their success on stage, on camera and in voice-overs. Coincidence?
I think not.

Most agents in town recommend that you take a camera class.
One agent commented, “take at least one camera class, please!”

The business in town is competitive. What’s going to help you get an

There are some great acting teachers in town. Study with more than
one! Take the one that works in your schedule and budget now.
Take another this winter. There’s no one theory of acting that works
for everyone. All good acting teachers will be able to help you acquire
different tools for your actor toolbox.

Watch and — new classes are
advertised all the time. I don’t know all of the teachers who show up
there… but if you ask questions on Callboard, you’re sure to get
some recommendations.

So what’s the best way for you to go about gettin’ schooled? Start
with the list below. I know all of these teachers – either personally or
by reputation. If you want to sharpen your skills, get yourself into the
back to school mode!

Stage acting (even if you only want to do camera work,
stage classes will still be immensely helpful to you!)

• Cheryl Moore Brinkley – (Be sure to see her speech
fundamentals class, too.)
• Raye Birk –, (For experienced actors – by
• Steve Hendrickson – (See his notice on or visit the website. Classes coming in
• Cynthia Uhrich – (Classes starting up again in
• Jane Brody (coming to town from Chicago this fall – details in
the next newsletter.)
• Anthony Vincent Bova – (Coming to
town from New York in mid-October!)

Various instructors at the Guthrie —

Improvisation (All actors can benefit from improv training.)
• Brave New Institute at the Brave New Workshop –
• Stevie Ray’s –

• Cheryl Moore Brinkley – (Cheryl taught me camera
technique that I still rely on. If you want to work on camera, you
want to work with Cheryl.)
• Michelle Hutchison – e-mail funnyhutch [at] aol [dot] com
• Bill Cooper –
• Beth Chaplin – I’ll be teaching a new class this fall: Talk to
the Camera: Be a Better Spokesperson (See the website for

• Beth Chaplin – (See the right side of this
newsletter for classes offered this fall.)
• Sarah Jones –
• Celia Siegel – (See the spotlight section below for her VO
marketing workshop in September!)

The list above will help you search for the right classes. There
are surely other great teachers in town. Be sure to e-mail me
if I’ve missed any of your favorites – I’d love to hear from you!

Have a great back to school season!

July, 2010

What agents wish you knew…

Agents love actors! Hang out at an agency office and you’ll hear lots of great
comments about actors – on the phone with clients and around the office with
other staff. When you work as an agent you get to deal with fun, creative,
interesting people.

So yeah, agents love actors, but all that lovin’ isn’t unconditional. Let’s face it,
dealing with fun, creative, interesting people can sometimes feel like herding
cats. It can be frustrating. An agency’s success depends largely on the
performance and professionalism of the talent they represent. Likewise, your
success in the commercial acting business often hinges on your relationship with
your agent(s). You want more commercial/industrial opportunities? Then you
you want more calls from your agent! So how do you increase your chances?
First, be the best actor you can be, of course: your look, talent and training are
critical. But beyond talent, work to make your agent’s job easier, not harder.

Chapter 4 of The Acting Biz has great information about the actor-agent
relationship for both new and experienced actors. Last week, I asked agents to
chime in – and wow, did I get answers! I can’t possibly fit all the responses into
one newsletter – but I’ll share the highlights here, with more in future newsletters.
Here are ideas and quotes from four of the top local agencies (guaranteed
anonymity so that they could be bluntly honest).

What agents wish you knew on the phone…
Be efficient on the phone! “Know that 100% of an agent’s workday is spent on
the telephone and they don’t want to chit-chat.” It’s great if your agent initiates
the chit-chat – then follow their lead. Otherwise, be quick and efficient.

This one seems small — but two agents stressed this! “If you receive a call from
us, and you miss picking it up, do NOT call back and say, “Oh I missed your call.
What’s up?” LISTEN to the message and call back with your response. Don’t
make us go through giving you all the information that we just took the time to
leave on your phone. I know, it seems tiny, but when you have to contact 20-30
people regarding an audition, that adds up.”

“Your agent is not your GPS. We can get you the address of where you’re
going…. but it’s up to you to get there on time and find parking.”

What agents wish you knew about their e-mails…
Read all details of any e-mail from your agent about auditions or bookings.
It is “absolutely loaded with all the information you need.” Don’t show up for
auditions and say, “Oh, gosh, I guess I’m out of town for the shoot date.”

If you’re asked to “be familiar with the copy” or even memorize for the audition –
then do it! Most of the time, audition copy is relatively short. “The usual excuse
is: I couldn’t open the email. Then CALL and we can figure out another way to
get it to you.” Print your copy and take it with you to the audition.

What agents wish you knew about auditions…
“When you walk into an audition at a casting director’s office, the best way to
succeed is to stop thinking about yourself. Try to think about how you can make
your audition go as smoothly as possible for the person running the audition.”
Many actors don’t know that the casting director controls who gets to come to
the audition – agents suggest, casting directors choose. Make the CD’s job easy:
arrive early and prepared, focus on your copy, focus on the casting director’s
instructions. It’s not about you – it’s about the client’s copy and vision for the
spot. Be efficient and professional – and you’ll increase your odds of being
invited back for the next audition.

“Do NOT accept an audition if there’s any possibility that you’re not going to be
able to make it.” Another agent adds: “We get a lot of last minute cancellations
and general flakiness. I forgot. It is raining and I can’t ride my bike. I put it on the
wrong day in my calendar. They fail to understand they are taking an opportunity
away from another actor and from the agency. We get blasted by the casting
director for no shows and last minute cancellations.” (If the agent “gets blasted”
because of you, you’re less likely to get the next call.)

“Male talent (and sometimes women) – please don’t show up for auditions really
ungroomed. Buy starch, get a good iron, buy wrinkle free dress shirts. Powder
your face before you step in front of the camera. Ladies, wear the amount of
make up where you reach the “I feel really pretty” stage.” Agents and casting
directors can’t be your stylist! (But don’t show up in glam make-up and heels
for a soccer-mom casting. “It drives me crazy when women show up for ‘mom’
castings looking like they just stepped out of Vogue.”)

What agents wish experienced talent knew…
“Please know that no matter how awesome you are on camera, no matter how
much work you book, no matter how many times you’ve worked for a client,
you are NO MORE IMPORTANT than anyone else on the production. You just
happen to be in front of the camera instead of behind it.” Save your special
needs, scheduling conflicts and requests for when you really need them. When

the agent calls, say yes and get the necessary details – then rearrange your
own schedule whenever possible. Your agent is happy to try to work around
legitimate conflicts when need be. However, some actors constantly ask the
agent to negotiate special needs and schedules with the client or production
company. No matter how much money you make for your agent, too many
special requests and conflicts can be really annoying… thus causing the agent
to be hesitant to call you next time.

“Haggling over a set rate with your agent is icky (this isn’t a flea market in

Be a team player! “Don’t throw your agent under the bus when you’re at a shoot.
If you show up unshaven, or with wrinkled clothes, or with incorrect wardrobe,
or late… It’s not cool to tell the client that your agent didn’t give you the correct

In general, what agents wish you knew…
“Treat your business like a business. Be professional. Dress well. Firm
handshake. Remember to say thank you. Look people in the eye. BE ON
TIME. Be gracious.”

“Don’t always TALK. Listen, and ask people you’re working with about
themselves. You know how much you like to talk about what you’re doing?
Other people like to talk about what they’re doing too, not just listen to you talk
about what you’re doing.”

“Take at least one on-camera class. Please.”What The Acting Biz wants you to know…

Agents love actors… but they’re sometimes frustrated with us, and vice versa!
No human relationship is perfect. You can’t control whether or not you are cast
in any given role or project. However, to maximize your chances of success,
there are lots of things you CAN control. I say this all the time in my classes:
“Never give them a reason to not call you! Never give them a reason to not cast
you!” Make them WANT to call you more often by being the easiest actor in town
to work with, in every way possible: professionalism, efficiency, positivity, and