Moving Forward…

Hey, everyone! I am happy to announce that I now have an agent. 🙂 Things are moving forward.

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2014: How We Used Slow Motion

Slow motion can be a timelessly effective movie technique. Do you agree?

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Color Reel – The House On Pine Street

Color Reel – The House On Pine Street from GradeKC on Vimeo.

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The One Great Success You Can Have in 2015!

It’s 2015! A new year and we feel the pressure to change. It’s in our cultural consciousness as the ball drops. We want to make some changes. Lose weight, eat healthier, get to the gym more, get signed by an agent, book a guest star role…and so on. We’re collectively hyper-focused on a new start as we transition into a new year. We want to seize the opportunity to change as much as we want to reject it. Clean slate. Fresh start. Resolutions. It’s a lot.

Who needs the pressure? We can change anytime. But if this is the time when we’re putting the microscope on what we want to change, let’s come at it differently so that we can achieve indisputable success. To do that, we’ll need to make a shift in our attitude.

Nothing happens overnight. Real change takes time. It has to. And it takes consistency. We tend to look at social movements as well as industry success stories as instant, almost magical. We romanticize them. Yes, successful endeavors have their defining moments, and stardom—the life George Clooney leads has—become an aspiration (even a secret one) for many. But real success comes with a life-long journey filled with hard work, a few battles, several disappointments, and small glories that may or may not culminate in victory. And it often takes years, sometimes decades.

We’ve been at this for more years than we care to count, but carrying a few battle scars of our own, we’ve learned to welcome the work for its own sake, and to appreciate its long-lasting value. Clooney knows this all too well.

As artists, to ask ourselves to achieve a list of external goals in 2015 is hardly realistic or smart. Alternatively, what is achievable and long lasting is embarking on a path of dedicated, consistent work in our artistic life, our health, our relationships, etc. With this pursuit will come some struggle, but a little agony is unavoidable when you begin to take risks and push yourself. Struggle is what leads to change. It comes with a willingness to embark on the path of focused practice and thus, genuine artistry.

Financial security is certainly desirable and it matters, but what we truly want is to feel the deep rush of emotion that comes with creating something and being a part of something that’s being created. The money will come, it has an uncanny way of finding talent in action.

So, we’re advocating for you to let go of the list of things you want to accomplish and look at this new year as a time to commit to your artistic and holistic path as a way of life, not a checklist. To do the work for its own sake, trusting that it will grow you, enlighten you, and draw the people you need in your life and career closer to you.

Do what scares you. Do what’s uncomfortable. Do what seems far-fetched. Sure, take small(ish) doable steps, but be willing to challenge yourself. Be willing to surrender to the process. We’ve been watching actors at the studio face their fears and take huge leaps. We see them dig deep emotionally, engage with each other in profound ways, write entire screenplays, and find power and talent they never knew they had. We’ve also seen actors hit the wall and run away, not ready to work their way through resistance—and there will most definitely be resistance. Steven Pressfield wrote, “Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
We are asking you to stare your fears in the face and embrace them. This is your true goal for the new year. To do bold, brave work no matter what. To feel your calling, more than ever at this very moment, and meet your resistance. Surrender; give up control. It’s not in the fight but in giving up the fight. It’s in the work itself.

The great actors we admire (look at the extraordinary performances in films and TV from 2014), the greatest painters, writers, and athletes, all work hard, no matter what their celebrity, creating work that’s downright audacious because they absolutely must. And from their burning need to create, their fears serve to fuel them, not paralyze them. Their conviction is stronger than the resistance. “I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn it to its advantage.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

If you’re willing to do this at the start of this new year, you will achieve the real fulfillment you ultimately crave—that which every actor, no matter how famous, rich, or accomplished craves. So make your 2015 resolution to embark on this journey of committed, whole, tireless work and the most amazing gifts will come. And you’ll be a much happier, saner actor throughout 2015.

Happy New and All Year!

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7 Audition Tips for Babies and Toddlers

Hey, baby! Yeah, you! I’m talking to you with the chubby cheeks and the bright eyes and the dazzling, toothless smile that makes everyone say “Awwww!” when they meet you! How would like to be in show business?! “Who me?” you would ask if you could talk, “But I can’t even walk yet, and I don’t even know how to use the potty!”

Babies! They are everywhere you look! I cannot keep enough adorable babies on my roster for the amount of castings that come in for them. Besides diaper and baby food commercials, infants and toddlers are featured in car commercials, toilet paper ads, cleaning supply commercials, banking and investment commercials, mobile phone ads, and many others. You get the picture: Everyone wants an adorable baby in their ad, even if the product isn’t for babies. Let’s face it, there are lots of beautiful babies out there all ready, willing and able to start a fat college fund before they are even in school.

So with all that competition out there, how is a baby to compete?! By using these simple tips and tricks:

1. Before even walking into the casting office your baby (by baby I am including any child from 0–3 years old) should be awake, fed and changed, and alert. Little ones usually sleep in the car on the ride to the audition and wake up groggy. Arrive at least 20 minutes early to take care of food, diapering, and a walk around the block so that are fully awake upon walking in.
2. The baby should be dressed like…wait for it…a baby! No frilly party dresses or little suits or anything else that is too mature looking for an infant. Simple, solid-colored pastel onesies look best. If you are auditioning for a diaper commercial, make sure your baby is wearing the brand that you are auditioning for. A sure-fire way to blow a Huggies audition is to show up in a Pampers diaper.
3. Photos/stats. When your baby auditions, they will normally take a digital photo on the spot to see how the child looks at the casting. Always have a photo that you brought from home to offer them also. This should be a very current photo, no more than a month old. The child should be smiling, looking at the camera, alone in the picture, no hats, plain background. Have your baby’s most current measurements (height and weight and sizes) on the back of the photo. You should also be updating your agent/manager every two-to-three months with sizes and pictures, as babies change so fast!
4. At baby/toddler auditions, the casting director many times will take the child away from the parent and into another room to audition. This is to see how the baby separates and interacts with strangers. The parent whom the baby is least attached to should be the one taking them to the audition. Oftentimes a baby will scream when taken away from Mommy and not make a peep when taken from Dad or Grandma or the babysitter.
5. One trick I find very helpful is having a special toy that always makes the baby smile and saving that toy for auditions. Offering a squeaky toy or stuffed animal to a CD when they are taking the child in and telling them that the child will smile at it makes things very easy for them when they interacting with a little one. Maybe it’s a special phrase or noise that makes a baby crack up. Mention it before the baby goes in.
6. It is helpful to note what doesn’t work also. I’ll never forget taking my daughter Ashley on a huge national commercial audition and being told afterwards that they couldn’t get her to look up, no matter what they tried. Turns out she was transfixed by the bright red booties she was wearing and wouldn’t stop looking at them! Lesson learned!
7. Some babies and toddlers will go through separation anxiety no matter what you do. This can’t be helped and the only solution is to wait it out. During this period, you as the parent should be exceptionally friendly and outgoing to everyone you meet (seriously!) so the child can see that there is nothing to fear from strangers. I know this is completely counterintuitive to the way most of were raised.

We have to remember that “babies are babies.”  If your child is sick, let your agent or manager know as soon as possible that you won’t make the audition. There is no need to push it. As all parents know, a baby’s mood can be unpredictable from one moment to the next, however, if you practice the tips above, your child may be the next baby star!


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10 Tips for Combining Your Career and Financial Goals

A few weeks ago one of my clients told me that she was taking a class in career and money management and wanted to know how actors can formulate a financial plan in today’s economic climate. The best way to do that, is to tie together your economic and career goals.

We all live in times of tremendous economic flux. Gone are the days when a person could work for General Motors for 50 years and enter retirement with a hefty bonus and a gold watch. Our business has always operated under a model that makes planning even more difficult. While a company like General Motors uses 90 percent of its budget for production and 10 percent of it for research and development, in our business, all the money goes for research and development. Here’s an example:

A studio pays a writer $1 million to write two scripts. The execs hate one of them and trash it, thereby losing half of their investment. They put the other script into “development” which means plugging it into a system where 10 studio executives descend on it, rip it apart, and add things their research departments tell them are “trending well.” If, at the end of that process they don’t put that script into production, the studio is out the entire $1 million and no “product” has been made.

If one of the scripts is in good enough shape to be “fast tracked,” it will be another year before filming starts, several more months before it is finished, and another year before it is edited and released. Even in the best case scenario, the initial $1 million investment will not have created a sellable product for three-to-five years and, after that, there’s no telling if it will succeed or flop. While this is a very risky way to run a business, our founding fathers understood how the creative process worked and were willing to gamble on it. Around 1993, however, outside companies started to buy up our studios and networks and they didn’t want a creative gamble. They wanted to see profits and a balanced budget by the end of the year.

The result is that our business is at odds with itself on a fundamental level.

If the infrastructure on which all production is based is too nebulous to chart and if the pay scale for actors continues to shrink, how can an actor hope to set reasonable monetary goals?  Here are a few guidelines:

1. Only count on money you actually make, not what you think might happen. For example, if you get cast in a pilot, don’t assume that it will be picked up or, if picked up, will stay on the air. The only money that is real is the actual money you got paid for the pilot.
2. Make up a reasonable budget for your living expenses and then look at your average income for the last two years. If the money you’ve made does not allow you to pay for the basics, how are you going to live?  Actors don’t always like having “job-jobs,” but the practical truth is you need to make money to support your acting. Some actors try to write scripts, but fewer scripts get made than there are actors to be in them. You may, however, catch lightning in a bottle on the Internet. Come up with a Web series idea, get together with some friends, and film it. The costs are low and, if you get enough views you might spark some interest from an outside source.
3. Be entrepreneurial: Find something to do that utilizes the same skills you use as an actor—teach, organize an after school program, get involved in a nonprofit organization, etc.
4. Start a different kind of business: Study what trends are being predicted as the next “big thing” and follow that model. Who knew cupcakes would take over the world? But, if you had started a small bakery, you would be reaping profits.
5. Look at things you like to do or are skilled at and put those talents to work: caterer, gardener, jewelry maker, sportscoach, researcher (for a writer who needs someone to do the legwork),etc. There are lots of things you can do to support yourself until acting becomes self-sustaining.

Additionally, to get a realistic take on the state of your career, tie your financial goals to yourcareer goals. Set a four-year window during which you will chart movement. Chop those years into six-month chunks to evaluate your progress and see if you need to change tactics. Be more concerned about a pattern of movement than the actual achievement of specific things. Keep a record of your progress and how you feel about it.  For example:

1. If, after one year, you get an agent or a manager and go out on auditions but haven’t booked anything yet, that is progress enough to extend to another year. Sometimes it takes a while for casting directors to get comfortable with an actor and trust his work.
2. If during the second year you get cast and maybe even test for a pilot, this is good progress and you can safely take on another year.
3. However, if, at the end of two years, you have not gotten any paid acting work on a TV show, or in a movie or play, put up a red flag. Take your career’s pulse to decide if it still has life and, more importantly, what is the toll it is taking on your sense of personhood?
4. The third year is a crux year in terms of being honest with yourself. If there is no forward movement, you need to start looking for alternative acting paths.
5. At the end of the fourth year, ask yourself these questions: Are you a paid, working actor? Can you live off the money you make? Is the kind of work you are getting what you want to do? Is it enough to play characters who have three lines and no names?

Being honest is not shameful if it gives you a better life. If you chart your career path in conjunction with your finances, you will have an overview of where you are. You do not want to wake up in 20 years and realize that nothing has changed. You don’t need to give up acting but find ways to do it in conjunction with a life that is more financially and psychologically rewarding. At every step, ask yourself whether your chase is giving enough back to continue the ride. It is hard on your psyche to live without knowing  how you will pay your rent. Being able to act is a rare and special gift and there is more than one way to use that gift. Follow the money so you don’t let your dream cloud your reality and keep your life on hold. You are better than that.


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Say Merry Christmas – Vocal Carrie Rinderer and the American Christian Life United (ACLU) Choir

If you’re tired of hearing the politically correct “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, listen to this song.

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6 Things to Consider When Asked to Do a Nude Scene

At some point in an actor’s career, a proposition to do the infamous “nude scene” will appear and a constant back and forth between agent, actor, casting director, etc. ensues. Regardless if you believe in displaying your goods in the name of art or shielding them in the name of God, you are exchanging more than just your time and energy, but also giving up a naked digital clone of yourself. If you decide to do a nude scene, then ask yourself the following questions so you can maximize as much publicity from the project.

1. What is your ultimate career goal? There is no guarantee that a nude scene will elevate your career, nor is there one that it will enhance it. You have to be selective in the projects you choose since there will be an exchange, and it’s up to you on who will be profiting from the deal. If your ultimate goal is to win an Oscar, then showing off your naked body in the 20th “American Pie” film will affect your goal. The roles you select will sculpt your public image over time, which will also play a big factor in future castings and your appeal to select demographics.

2. How much is shown and how is it presented? A static shot of an exposed body versus a love scene illicit different vibes and using your objective view—you’re better able to agree or disagree with the way you’ll be exposed. For instance, a renaissance period film having a love scene while playing corny pop music will completely negate the credibility and elegance of the film’s image. Remember, you want to win the bigger payoff in every decision you make; your body, brand, and talent is your meal ticket and your performance weighs heavily on the way it’s received by the audience. This leads me unto the next point….

3. Contracts on exposure. If you’re exposed, there will always be a naked digital version of you floating around, but to what extent? If the agreement you make is casual and not in writing, you will have a hard time combating any discrepancies in the agreed shots taken of you. Also, is this project independent or attached to a studio? How long are you required to promote the film, if outlined? Make sure you know your rights before you shed the clothing.

4. Getting a body double. Depending on your career level, your acting ability may entitle you to a body double. This option isn’t likely when you’ve just begun your career in acting, but it never hurts to try.

5. What’s your marketing plan? Referring back to my exchange analogy in the above points, executing a marketing campaign in conjunction with your first nude scene will add extra mileage to your goal. You need to evaluate all known projects in the near future that may be affected by your nudity. If your agent has notified you of a possible Disney audition and you get the role, bare in mind that your previous roles will affect future casting selections.

6. How will this be distributed? Understanding the path of distribution will assist you in your assessment of the value of the movie; for instance, knowing whether it’s set for domestic or international release or even straight to DVD will give you an idea of the value of your commitment. By having an idea of the length of time it may take before the film is distributed, you may be able to slyly take advantage of your younger image before transitioning into more adult roles.
There is nothing wrong with nudity, however, being wary of affects on your image, needs to be evaluated so you don’t regret your actions later on. Acting may be your passion, but keep in mind that you’re still your brand that is moldable by your choices. Any event or role can be spun in your favor, but it’s a lot easier to fall than it is to fly, so keep that in mind.


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4 Ways to Bounce Back From Negative Press

Being in entertainment, you are probably familiar with the constant wave of negativity. Whether it’s from a botched audition or being a little short with next month’s rent, the daily negativity can be draining. What about when your project gets hit with a negative review—whether it be an article, blog, vlog, tumblr post, tweet, etc.? It can be devastating to a newbie, especially since each project is being added to your demo reel or IMDb page for a future casting director to see.

You’ve worked too hard to let a bad review affect your career, and in the eyes of a publicist, there’s always a way to recover from any negative review.

1. Spin It. Depending on the media platform, there’s always a way to increase any form of publicity in your favor. Is there a negative review about an independent slasher flick you starred in? Entice your audience by asking them about their thoughts, link the article, and get a discussion going. Also, express how much fun you had on the project. Did you love the script? Was working with the cast amazing? This allows you to tweak your PR once you’ve received a consensus on your audience.
2. Embrace it. If the movie was meant to be dramatic but fell a little flat and ended up being comedic, sometimes you have to accept it. (However, you only have to accept it if you want to. If you believe a love story between a human being and a mutant tomato is romantic, then you fight for their love until the very end.) From a publicity standpoint, you should be willing to view your project by all perspectives to gain true insight on why it didn’t resonate as strongly as you had hoped.
3. Contact. I’ve seen actors who’ve received negative criticism on their acting get edits done after reaching out to the reviewer. Contact the author of the review and ask them why they were dissatisfied. Read their review and address certain critiques. Remember, just because someone says your project isn’t good doesn’t mean they’re right and it’s important to keep that in mind. The reviewer will also probably be surprised to communicate with one of the actors. Communication makes you tangible and real, not just a character they saw on television or in a play.
4. Move on. If the negative reviews grow so much that it’s easier to cut the chord than to stand-up for your project, then it may be time to move on. So you were in a blockbuster dud, there’ll be plenty of other roles for you in the future. Jennifer Aniston was in “Leprechaun” before becoming a household name, if she can recover from that movie, you can recover from anything!

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Rachel McAdams Talks Career, Life, & Her Bucketlist

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