Tips for Young Actors

Archive for the ‘Industry Tips’ Category

How to Stand Out at a Commercial Audition as a Young Actor

The majority of actors would agree that to be able to master the art of commercial auditions is an invaluable skill, considering their wide berth of exposure and on-camera experience. While commercials may seem to be easy work, and even silly at times, it is essential to learn the essence of staying natural and being yourself in a genuine way, all of which are skills learned at YAC!

Here are a few essential tips to take into account when auditioning for a commercial as a young actor:

1. Dressing appropriately.

When casting directors are casting for kids and teens, they want kids and teens that look like kids and teens! That means you need to dress age appropriate. If you’re not sure what that means, try looking at other kids and teens in commercials currently, or check with a parent. As a general rule though, girls, you should not show up caked in make-up, walking in heels or wearing inappropriately provocative clothing. More coverage is best! Boys, you don’t need to be squeezed into your best, most formal clothing with itchy collars and hair slicked down unnaturally, nor should you show up in clothing that is unclean or marked with inappropriate slogans. In fact, boys and girls, try not to wear obvious brands and slogans at all. Think of this: how would you normally look on a school day? If the answer is ‘unclean’, or wearing inappropriate clothing, well, please adjust. But you get the idea, no? And certainly take the role into consideration – tomboy or girly-girl, bully or nerd? Please don’t show up in a full-fledged costume, but there’s nothing wrong with wearing normal clothing that hints at the role. When in doubt though, school attire is usually fine.

2. Taking in adjustments.

When casting a commercial, a casting director will want to make sure a you, a young actor can change your delivery in the room; this reassures them that you can take direction, which is important when being on set and actually taking directions from a director when he/she wants to try something different. If you’re cast, but can’t take directions, this not only looks bad for you, but for the casting director. So it’s not only your job on the line, but theirs too. Unfortunately though, young actors often make the mistake of repeating, memorizing lines so many times in the exact same way while rehearsing, that they’re incapable of changing when requested. Plus, added nerves can make taking in directions almost impossible.

So, when you’re preparing a role, experiment with different ways of saying the lines, different intentions, movements (only if necessary), pacing and timing, and do not settle into any one delivery. Get creative, and play around as much as possible during your rehearsal; this will not only reassure you that you’ll be able to take directions, but it will also help eliminate any nerves. You’ll be prepared and ready to rock the audition!

3. Know the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind your lines.

When memorizing a commercial audition, it’s very easy to do just that: play around a bit (as suggested above), but still just memorize. Instead of doing simply this, you should reflect on what your characters wants, what’s happening in this scene, what you’re really trying to convey, what obstacles are in your way should you need to overcome something, and so on. Essentially, understand what it is that you’re saying exactly, and why you are saying it. There is meaning behind everything, and you’ve got to find it! Try utilizing the common acting technique of assigning an objective to each line or paragraph using active verbs. An example would be: “I’m trying to convince my mom to give me the money to buy the new t-shirts.”

Even when dealing with a short commercial script, perhaps with less than five words, it’s possible to conduct basic script analysis. Think about who you are, where you are, what your relationship is to the other characters, what you want, what’s in your way, what are you’re going to do to get what you want, and so on. This may seem silly for just one or two lines, but by being specific, you’re already setting yourself apart from the other actors. Plus, if the casting directors don’t like your interpretation, all you have to do is take in their directions and deliver them. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and be different, but commit to that choice before you go in. Take that choice, and run through all of the above questions so that you know your character inside and out, and even be prepared to improvise the scene, if asked.

4. Create a moment before.

Scenes aren’t just “scenes”; they’re meant to be a ‘slice of real life’, and in real life, we are always living in moments that end, and another begins immediately. With that being said, a scene doesn’t ‘just start’—it has a moment before. Usually, something was happening before the scene started, or at least it can be helpful to imagine that something does. When rehearsing, try improvising the scene that may have occurred just prior to the one you’re auditioning for, just for fun. While you won’t be doing this in the audition room for longer than a second, it will not only help you get into the character and scene, but will also show the casting director that you understand the ‘slice of life’ concept, and that you take the audition seriously.

5. Memorize the first and last lines.

When you get a commercial audition, it’s most likely going to be cast the next day, which means that should you be sent sides, you won’t have very much time to memorize. The casting directors know that you’ve had little time to prepare, but when you have the lines with you in the room, ideally, they want to be able to see your face, not the top of your head as you look down to read (especially because the casting directors are taping the audition). Again, they understand there’s not always time to get off-book, but a professional young actor should try to get as close as possible! They will be very appreciative of the fact that you tried to be memorized. Hopefully though, in the process of exploring your character and playing around, you’ll begin to learn your lines naturally. But at the very least, you should learn the first and last lines by heart, so you can start and end with your face off the page. That will make a lasting and much better impression with casting, as opposed to a young actor who reads with their head down, eyes glued to the page.

6. Have fun with it!

One thing that casting director’s all love, is when young actors come in looking like they’re super excited to be there and ready to have fun! Show them that you want to be there! Not only will they be excited to work with you, but you’re showing them that not only do you have a great attitude, but you’ll be pleasant to work with on set. Try looking at commercial auditions as an opportunity to give a mini-performance to an audience that really wants to watch—they want you to be amazing and to enjoy yourself, so have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, then revise your acting choices so that you are J

7. Let the pressure go…

At any audition, it’s very easy to only focus on how much you want or need this job, but your true focus should be on feeling good about your auditions, and the work you produce. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, and celebrate when you give an awesome audition, regardless of whether or not you book the role. And when you give a not-so great audition, reflect on what you could have done differently and make note of that for your next audition. Either way, after an audition you should do something fun and forget about it! Celebrate the fact that you’re a young actor, that you got to perform today, and that you’ll get to do it again soon.


Happy Acting!


How to Find Your ‘It’ Factor

There are many actors all over the world, young and old: it’s a fact. That’s why truly knowing what sets you apart from the crowds and loving what makes you, you, is vital to your career. In fact, too many actors can’t name their own ‘it’ factor, which can not only decrease their confidence, but also make it harder to be cast by casting directors, as too much ambiguity—especially when an actor is just starting out—can be confusing and even irritating when decided who to call in for roles.

So, how do you find your ‘it’ factor?

That’s easy!

Take a moment, and grab a piece of paper and something to write with, or perhaps a phone, electronic tablet, open Word document? Just be ready to write a list!

For those of you who have already worked on this at YAC, try doing another one! Has anything on your list changed? Been added? Give it a go!

1. My Appearance? This is the first thing people notice about you as soon as you walk into an audition room, go on tape, perform, etc. So go on, check yourself out! You need to evaluate your appearance and view yourself from an outsider’s perspective. Essentially, be honest! If a stranger bumped into you on the street and walked away, what would be the one feature they’d remember you by? Would it be your style, your eyes, face shape, unique nose, cool hair color, or your beautiful smile? The goal is to stand out, but not to an extreme, i.e. you don’t feel comfortable or like you’re truly being yourself.

2. My Personality? You may need some help with this one; it’s very difficult to objectively write down what your personality traits are! But, your genuine personality is a big factor of what sets you apart from the masses, especially if you can generally pinpoint it. Start off with this: what roles have you already seen in movies, TV shows or plays that most closely resemble you? Are you quirky? Are you witty? Are you shy and sensitive? Are you outgoing and friendly? Are you a clown? Are you a girly-girl? Are you a punk rocker? Are you none of these things? Are you all of these things? It’s up to you to decide, but be honest!

3. My Experience? Did you work on a school theatre set that required you to perform your own stunts? Has most of your on-screen work been in comedies you’ve shot with a friend on YouTube? Been in a period piece at your local or professional theatre? Have you created your own traveling improv troupe? Every time you perform, you acquire a piece of experience that can be put toward your dream role or project. Every role you take on enhances you not only as an actor, but also as a person. And professionally, even the smallest of experiences can be spun in your favor. Your acting experience may show variety and range, which is great, but remember, when trying to impress a casting director, it’s best to emphasize your past work on your resume that is most relevant to the role you’re auditioning for.

4. My Talents? No, no, not acting talent! The other kinds of extra skills, tidbits that are unique to your skill set. Do you have any unusual talents? Burping the alphabet, or singing while your mouth is close may be impressive, but that’s not quite what we’re talking about. Good examples include opera singing, playing an instrument, cool skateboarding tricks, sports you play well, etc. These extra talents are meant to not only show your individuality, but are for when casting directors are casting a role that requires  ‘and extra something’. Having these talents separates you from the pool instantly and increases your chances of an audition! And even if you don’t book the role, your chances of being remembered by the casting team also increases heavily.

5. My Background? And finally, what got you to where you are now? How did you get into acting? Are you from a small town in Kentucky? Are you part of a military family? Are you a former child gymnast who decided to pursue acting on whim? Although you won’t likely be asked to tell your life story in a casting room, never underestimate your story and how you’ve gotten to where you are today. Just because you don’t tell it to a casting director today, doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be asked be an agent at a workshop! And who knows! You may even have something in common with the industry people you meet. Just remember, your background, whatever it is, makes you unique!

At the end of the day, your “it factor” is comprised of a variety of things, and whatever factor gives you the extra edge, roll with it!


Happy Acting!

How to Keep an Audition Notebook, and Why

To be a great actor, you need to audition well, plain and simple. To audition well, you need to be self-sufficient in ‘becoming’ a few different people, to help through the sometimes tiring and sometimes fun process; most importantly, you need to be a good actor (you knew that one, right?). You also need to be an insightful and knowledgeable self-director during your preparation, to guide and decide your course of acting action and execution. Lastly, you’re going to need to be your own best friend when the audition is over, to give yourself comfort, praise, and help you forget and move on.

Dang, this acting thing is tough, isn’t it!

This last step of friendship and taking care of yourself is many times the most important, aside from being ‘the actor’; it’s what allows you to learn from and then let go of the audition, which is half the battle of being an effective and healthy actor. Now admit it, you’ve obsessively rehashed auditions before, even though they may have happened weeks and sometimes months ago—am I right? This post-audition fixation is far too common, amongst all types of actor, all because they didn’t take the time to sit down right after their audition and go over their experience. I bet you didn’t take a moment to pat yourself on the back for the great bits you accomplished, or heal your wounds, should you have had a bad experience. That, right there, is a missed chance to learn lessons while audition was still fresh, and now there’s a good chance you’re living with the repercussions: you may be stuck racking your brain as to why you didn’t get the job, or trying to remember the exact tone of the “thank you” from the casting director, and generally conjuring far fetched and toxic, neurotic scenarios that usually have nothing to do with what actually happened.

Stop. That!

I know, I know. That’s much easier said than done. Unfortunately though, over time this can become very dangerous, because without closure, this one little audition is now taking on a unnecessary significance and carrying an emotional weight that can wreak havoc on your psyche, confidence, and the next audition.

The solution is this: keep a notebook just for your auditions. It’s easy, simple, and will do wonders in maintaining or helping to repair the above-mentioned areas of an actor’s life. Have it with you at the audition, and when it’s over, review and examine the experience on the ride home, or as soon as you get home. The point is to do this right away, while you are still in the mental space of the audition. At the top of an entry, be sure to write who was in the room with you, what the project name was, your role, the date, shooting dates, callback dates, and any other relevant information. Later, when you find out if you got a callback or not, be sure to make a note of that in the entry. The main thing is to be specific, so write down everything: how you felt in the waiting room; how you entered the room; your opening beat; how you listened; your commitment to choice; your closing beat; how you handled adjustments, and how you exited the room.

Another vital tip is to be honest about what went well and why, and what could have gone better and why; the purpose of the notebook will be negated if you lie, so don’t do it! Be firm, gentle, and complimentary as needed. Treat yourself as you would a best friend, remembering that no one has ever improved through self-punishment. Also, remember that you are a young actor: you are just starting out, and you are learning. When you’re done, close the book, put it away, and do something that you enjoy. That audition is finished, and you’ve taken the time to learn the lessons it had to teach you. Now, you can let it go. For your next audition, open the notebook up and use the lessons from your past experiences to guide you in your preparation.

Learn from your mistakes, and celebrate the awesome triumphs!

After just a few entries, you’ll start to see patterns, both positive and negative, and if you’re not able to, review the notebook with a parent, trusted friend, or an acting teacher or coach. With the patterns, you’ll be able to prepare for different rooms and different projects with greater specificity and clarity, since you now know—and remember—in advance how you’ll react.

By writing and then closing the book on each audition as it happens, this will make it make it easier to let go and move forward with ease and growing confidence as you make your way through a budding and exciting career as an actor. You’re free to move forward, unrestricted by emotional baggage and in a way that allows for effective learning experiences. When this is combined with good training, knowledge of the entertainment world, and experience—all of which can be found at YAC—you know you’re on the right track J


Happy Acting!


From Camper to Capable: Tales of a YAC Actor Gone Professional

From Camper to Capable

Post #2 

Hey YAC campers, past and present!

We’ve just received another update from our past camper, and here’s what she’s up to…


Hey guys!

I’m feeling so good today! Last week I finished workshopping a play with a world-renowned theatre company (for legal reasons, I’m not allowed to say which), and it went so well; I had so much fun, met the greatest actors, and learned a wealth of information.

You know, involving myself in this production has reminded me of how much I love theater, and the work that goes into ripping apart a play and finding the truth in a character. It’s funny, the work we did also reminded me so much of my conservatory group at YAC: a small group of devoted actors, working to bring a scene, a character to life truthfully. In fact, we even participated in an exercise where you stand up on your own volition, proclaim that you ‘have something to say’, and repeat this phrase until it’s true. I know it sounds a little odd, but the results are incredible! While I personally needed a bit of prompting from the director, in the end this gave me such a sense of emotional freedom and validation, and I felt completely secure and able to give myself to the character, fully… I can still remember the first time I ever did this at camp! I’ll always keep that with me, and call on this exercise when I have trouble letting go and emotionally connecting to a character.

As for any upcoming work, episodic season is beginning to wind down, and the holidays are upon us! You know what means—a drastic slowdown in auditions and productions. Ugh! I’m gunna get antsy with no auditions for a few weeks! But, at the same time, I think it’ll be good to take a break and relax, maybe go to a workshop, see a play or two downtown, catch up on seeing movies J That’s something I also haven’t forgotten from my time at YAC—that in order to be the best actor you can be, it’s important to not only stop and relax, but to also enjoy other actor’s works.

I love not only watching movies and seeing plays that inspired me, and continue to inspire me, but looking for new inspiration in current work. In fact, I channeled an actress by the name of Mariann Mayberry in an audition last week, all because I saw her in play less than a month ago. In the end, the casting directors brought me in for a callback because of that! So, thank you Mariann!

Oy! Speaking of the holidays, afterwards comes pilot season! I personally am making the move back to LA, so I’ve got a lot to plan. Thankfully though, my team is very supportive and has already begun to help me in my preparations to get back out there, and hopefully stay. Currently, we’re working on narrowing down the teachers I could possibly train with—there are many great ones out there, and even as a working actor, you must stay tuned up!

Before I go, I just wanted to quickly thank everyone at YAC: I wouldn’t be where I am, heading back out to LA in just a few months, if it wasn’t for what I learned, the friendships and connections I made, and everything in between.

You guys are the best, and I’ll always be grateful for you!

Alrighty, I’m off to buy tickets for a new play.

Until next time  :)


Congrats on the workshop!

Keep up the great work!

How to Avoid ‘Traps’ When Self-Submitting an Audition Tape

As young actors of today’s generation, you have the ability to audition for casting directors in Los Angeles and NYC, without even leaving your home! Yes! You have the opportunity to put your learned YAC on-camera skills to work! But, when self-submitting, there are many technical and artistic traps to fall into, with these five being the most prevalent:

1. Auditioning on video is different than auditioning in person in more ways than just the technical considerations. You don’t get to have that brief interaction with the casting people in the room, and they don’t get to gauge your demeanor, your personality as you walk in. (Both of these things could work in your favor!) More importantly, you are expected to submit a stumble-free video audition, since you have the opportunity to record several takes. In person, if you blow a line or lose your place, you’re not faulted nearly as hard. So, make sure your videos are as good as they can be!

2. Video auditions should be shot in close-up. Most casting directors will tell you that they’re looking to see the life in your eyes when you read for a part. On a video that will be played back in a small rectangle on a computer screen this is best demonstrated by shooting from the clavicle up. Why does that matter to you, the actor? Because you must be unnaturally still! Any head movement in a tight frame will look like you’ve just mainlined caffeine, or worse. Not pretty. Even wildly emotional, action scenes must be kept in that small frame, with very little physicality.

3. When filming, do not look away from your reader, even if the sides call for it, even if you’re supposed to be speaking to more than one person. The moment you look away is a moment the casting director cannot see your eyes, and it’s the moment they loose interest in your audition. While it may feel unnatural, it’s important to remember that taped auditions are special in their own right, which calls for special circumstances and practices.

4. Make a choice to focus on what you want your reader/scene partner feel in the scene! If you do that, you’ll be setting the viewer up to feel those same emotions, thus creating a connection, creating authenticity. This is what makes casting want to see more of you, which is what gets you a callback. In some sides, this may feel unnatural, and when this is the case, make a choice that allows for a refocus on the person that isn’t your character. Then, if you’re brought into the actual casting room, with the casting director, producers, director and so on, then you can shift the focus so the scene is more natural.

3. Shoot the audition from a seated position. It doesn’t matter what the character is doing. You will perform better (i.e., be more still) if you have both feet solidly on the floor and your butt on a chair. No one watching the video will know whether you were seated or not.

4. Do not fall into the trap of recording your audio on the built-in mic on the camera. There are many inexpensive solutions to this problem, and you are not to be forgiven for not taking advantage of them. Recording your voice to the on-board mic, even from just a few feet away, is the equivalent of submitting a faded black and white headshot – with jelly smudges on it. Not good.

5. Make sure your contact information is part of the video itself. You should always have your name and contact info on the video itself to make sure you’ll never be the answer to the producer’s question: “Who is this actor that we almost called in for our last project, but who would be great for our next one? I’ve got her audition right here, but the file name is” You don’t want to loose out on a part just because of a silly thing like this!


Happy Acting!

Agents & Beginning Young Actors: Why You Don’t Need One…Yet

As a new, budding young actor, an agent may not be the best thing for you to invest your time in… yet. Here are five reasons having an agent might not be a good move at this point:

1. You’re not ready to act professionally. Ouch! I know, that might sound a bit harsh, but just remember! Everyone starts out like this. If you’ve only just started out in your acting classes, or have no training to speak of, that’s a sign that you’re most likely not ready. When auditioning professionally, there is a standard that must be met and is expected, but how can you know this unless you’re taught? You can’t! That’s why it’s important to continue training, until both you and your teacher agree that you’re capable of handling the professional world. Until then, why waste the time, energy and money to find an agent? But, if even then you still feel like you should be auditioning and want to submit yourself without an agent, you can do so by visiting the many acting websites dedicated to open calls and self-submission tapes, such as Now Casting, Actors Access, Cast It Talent, and more.

2. You have little to no acting credits. Before you and your parent drop that bundle of headshots and resume into the mailbox, do you ever wonder why exactly an agent would be interested in you? Most actors just do it and pray that something will spark their interest, but why don’t we even know what might ignite that spark? How can we possibly be sold, when we don’t know what we have to offer? If you don’t know what you have to offer, aside from perhaps your looks, you have nothing to offer. Regardless of headshots, reel, and general look, you have to have credits. The main criteria for any job is experience, and in the case of acting, credits. If you have not done any work, you are not a professional actor so why would you be trying to get represented by a professional agent? Try gaining a couple of credits first, train, hone your craft, make connections, and agents will be far more receptive to you.

3. An Agent’s Reputation & Your Funds. An agent gets paid 10 percent, taken from your paycheck after a day’s work. Not only is that money being taken from you (which you want to save for training, workshops, new headshots, and anything you’ll need as a new actor), but that also means that an agent is not going to put their reputation on the line trying to convince a casting director that you’re so right for a role, until they are sure you are the next Dakota Fanning or Josh Hutcherson. When you find an agent, you want them to be one of your biggest cheerleaders, because they know how amazing you are! Why sign with anyone else? Wait, and you’ll be rewarded with a great team.

4. An agent can’t change the person you already are. A common phrase you may see or hear when potentially looking for an agent without the above ‘it factors’, is “developmental talent”; this means that the agent is interested in just that, developing you, helping you grow as an actor into your full, professional self. But, despite seeing and hearing this, in reality, no one truly wants to develop talent. That’s like gambling blind with really long odds and very little to gain. They would rather have someone signed that knows what they’re doing, has training, maybe some good credits, a good look, and so on. Agents and managers are happy to sell you, but they have to know what they are selling and it needs to be more than a headshot.

All of this may seem a bit pessimistic, discouraging, but don’t be! Don’t be disappointed! As a young, beginning actor, no one expects you to have it all just yet; you’re learning, developing your craft, skills, and who you are as a person, and that’s more than great J. Of course, don’t let being young stop you! Go after your dreams, take classes, workshops, attend YAC, where you can take classes covering topics such as these, on-camera classes, and more!


Happy Acting!

How to Get Through—and Totally Nail—Your Audition

There are many things that can be disputed in the entertainment industry, but one thing that cannot be challenged is this: actors who can’t audition are not likely to have a future.

But don’t panic! We’re here to help! But remember, while these steps will help you stand out, it’s important to continue your training, honing your craft as an actor, which you can do by taking auditioning classes, or attending a camp like YAC, where classes specifically pertaining to auditioning are offered!

Pretty nifty, huh?

Prior the Audition:

Firstly, let’s talk about the basics: get a proper amount of sleep the night before, have your lines memorized, dress appropriately, and have your headshot and resume ready to go. Now, attitude; you have to walk into that room prepared, without a care in the world. Auditioning is an opportunity to act, and that’s the one thing you love most, right? So don’t worry about booking the job or getting a callback. Just focus on giving a good performance. If you can do that, you’re already halfway home.

It’s very common for actors to freak out when arriving at the casting director’s office, to find 10 other actors who look just like them. Or on the flip side, actors are often stunned when everyone else is a different ethnicity, or age range. But the question here is, who cares? None of those people are your concern. The audition is about you, not them. So keep your focus and don’t allow made-up anxiety to get in your way.

Here’s something else you need to know. Agents don’t expect clients to book when they send them out on auditions. Now of course, bookings are a good thing, and your agent wants you to succeed, always, but auditions aren’t always about getting hired. They truly just want you to do well so the casting director will become a fan and start bringing you in on a regular basis. The more that happens, the more likely you are to become a working actor.

Remember, casting directors want you to do a good job. They want to be impressed. If an actor nails an audition, they’re that much closer to being done with the part.

Here’s a great quote from acting coach Ian Tucker: “They are dying for you to blow them away. They’re on your side. What do you think—they want to go through hundreds of people and settle? No. Just do what you do. Either you’re right for the part or you’re not—let them decide.”

After the Audition

When you’re done, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask if the casting director has any notes. If the answer is yes, listen carefully and make the adjustment. If the answer is no, say “Thank you” and leave the room respectfully. The audition is over.

On the way home, it’s a good idea to go over the performance in your head. Congratulate yourself on what you did right, and make a note of what you can do better if there’s a callback. But don’t obsess, and please don’t beat yourself up for tiny mistakes no one noticed! You’ll do much more harm than good. Again, the audition is over.

And there ya go! If you follow all of these steps, you’re already a head above the rest! Look at you go!

Now, the sad truth about the business of acting is that you will spend more time looking for work than actually working. That’s why it’s so important for you actors to enjoy their auditions. And that process begins when you first hear about the audition, not the moment you say your first line.

Happy Acting!