Artists’ Issues #5: 10 Tips They Don’t Teach Ya


Paula Rhodes smallThis month (a rather hectic one for me involving a move into our first little house after a year-long hunt) I have noticed a plethora of little gems of knowledge coming my way through the chaos, and despite an initial selfish thought to hoard them all, I’m going to share them with you. Use them well, my pretties, and may they bring us all much success!

*For the most part these do tend to pertain to Acting specifically, but some are transferable to various Arts*

#1 – Send Thank You Notes. I know, it’s a pain and seems outdated, but I personally have gotten more repeat auditions with casting directors specifically because of this than I can count. In a related note, Michael’s craft stores have packs of 8 cards for like $1. Boom.

#2 – For Film Auditions – BE STILL. Duh, right? But no, I mean REALLY REALLY STILL. Like don’t move your head at all, be super grounded and let it all come out through your eyes. You will exude a power and invite an intimacy that is key for film/TV and it will help you stand out. It does feel weird at first, but on screen it works. You may be directed to or decide to move as one normally does once you book the job and are on set depending on the material, but check out some of the most powerful performances in your favorite flicks – notice the stillness. Magic.

#3 – Be Nice. Always. Seriously, that jerk that cut you off on the 101 and you decided to flick off and honk at… kinda awkward when you have to read together for your audition you were rushing to. Or worse yet, when you have to read FOR them. Always play the Grace Card.

#4 – Look Beyond. This is a fun little trick I wish I’d known earlier in my career (see pic below for a time I did not use it. *facepalm*). Directors take note if your actors don’t know it! When they’re filming your coverage on a close up and you’re staring lovingly or angrily or whatever into your costar’s eyes just inches from yours, it’s most likely gonna make you look rather cross-eyed. To avoid this, look “through and beyond” them at some point far in the distance. It takes some imagination, but when you’re sitting in the screening looking at your 20 ft tall face sans crossed eyes, it will be worth it.

9-01-2013PaulaRhodesPic1 A frame of me in a scene with the wonderful @TJThyne in the film Shuffle currently streaming on Netflix. I’m really proud of that lovely film despite my ignoring Tip #4.

#5 – Your Mic is On. This one harkens back to #3 but covers a bit more ground. Once you’re on set and your microphone has been clipped to ya (or even if there’s just a boom being held off to the side – that sucker picks up LOTS), be aware that everything you do and say can be heard by someone. Everything. And you never know who has their headphones on. Most likely at least the sound person, but perhaps a Producer, Director, etc… as well. So ask to be shown how to flip your battery pack to “off” before bathroom runs, don’t say things you wouldn’t say to the whole set, and don’t complain. Just don’t.

#6 – Google it. Use your time on set to learn. Don’t know what a “Gaffer” does? Wondering what they mean when they say they’re shooting the next scene “M.O.S.”? Wonder how many hours are left before lunch will be served according to SAG rules? While you certainly could ask these questions of the nearest crew member, you risk showing your greenness and potentially slowing down the set as they explain it to you. Use it as an opportunity to educate yourself and look it up.

#7 – Be A Team Player. In this case, I mean like when the shot is on a close up of your costar and you’re either off camera talking to them or they’re shooting over your shoulder with a just a bit of your body in frame (“dirty”), really be there for them. Give them at least close to the same performance you’d give in your close up so they can feed off of you and give their best take. Also, try not to step on or over their lines with yours in this situation so the editor has an easier time of cutting back to you 😉 Now, this courtesy may not be reciprocated (which can be frustrating), and you may often find yourself acting out your emotional close up with a post it note on a wall for an eye line and a P.A. deadpanning the other lines at you, but be a good example and be there to give whatever is most helpful to your fellow actors and director (which, sometimes may also mean just heading to your trailer if they request it instead. Who knows, actors are weird).

#8 – Step Forward. This one seems a bit odd but works wonders. When auditioning, they often have you do a scene once, then give direction and have you do it again accordingly. While the CD or Director is giving you notes, move just a little bit toward them (not too close, but enough to break through and become a human who is interacting with them.) It shows you’re interested in what they have to say and really listening. Take it in and then move back onto your mark to give take two. It also gives you control over when take 2 starts as they need to wait until you’re back on your mark.

#9 – Technical Skillz. Yep, with a “Z” cuz there’s lots. There’s tons that goes into a good performance that directors and editors can help you achieve, but make sure they never have to make up for your snafus in these areas (or you’re left hanging in situations where one of those positions is occupied by a less-than-magician). Make sure you and your co-stars have the same eye line when watching that vampire/bounty hunter/hot guy in the distance. Know how to hit your mark when one is given to you (good peripheral vision!). Make sure continuity is on your radar and/or know how to utilize the Script Supervisor (i.e.: if you pick up a donut with your right and take a bite right after you say the word “bumblebee,” make sure you do that the same way/time every take ). Making it all look easy will come in time.

#10 – Be Responsible. This covers lots. Aim to be early a pinch, not just right on time, never let the hold up on set be because of you. If you sweat buckets, remember to bring your super-powered Certain Dry and maybe a personal fan or blotting papers to set. If you can’t always guarantee tears with your performance and your scene that day demands it – bring a tear stick in case they don’t have one (they sell them at makeup stores like Namies and Cinema Secrets, they’re small menthol blowers that will give you eye rain for sure). If you’ve got specific dietary needs and are shooting in say, Texas, plan ahead and make sure you won’t starve even if the caterer forgets to accommodate you. Just be your own mother and make sure you’re taken care of. Now, of COURSE a great crew/set will have all this stuff for you, but juuuust in case there’s a weak link in that team, cover your own bases.

Now get out there and do stellar work! Cyber-fives!