Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Acting Class: It’s Not Just for Beginners

I went back to acting class last night. And boy, did I need it!

There is a popular industry opinion that actors should always be in class, no matter what level of success they’ve achieved. I’ve heard it from producers and casting directors alike – actors need to always be working on their craft and keeping their skills sharp.

I stopped taking acting class a few years ago – mostly for financial reasons, but also because I thought I didn’t need it. “I’m on a roll,” I thought. “I can fly on my own for a while.”

But now, after not having booked a role in months, I’m heading back into the classroom with the great Doug Warhit, an incredible teacher who helped transform my acting when I first arrived in LA. Back then, he helped me go from a Boston stage actor to booking TV roles in a matter of months.

My first impression being back in Doug’s acting class? I’m old! The class was mostly filled with 20-somethings who were all dressed like hipsters. Or maybe all 20-somethings are hipsters! Who knows…

Second impression? Super fun. Getting in front of the camera, working out a scene, finding my character’s inner life – the most enjoyable work I’ve ever had in my life.

Finally, I’ve missed acting. Most of my co-star TV auditions involve 3 or 4 lines at most. It’s been a while since I’ve tried breaking down a five-page scene. My technique was rusty, so I look forward to really transforming it over the next few weeks.

What do you love about acting class?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Money Monday: Watching the Flow

Today, I let the flow charts do the talking.

Here are two videos with sound money advice. This one I happened to find on DailyCandy from Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest.

Click to watch What Should You Do with an Extra $100?

I don't know anything about LearnVest, but her flow chart is pretty much in line with my favorite personal finance guru Suze Orman, so I like it.

The next flow chart comes from my second favorite finance guy, David Bach, author of The Automatic Millionaireand Smart Women Finish Rich. That's right, David, we do...

I agree with both videos - saving for the future comes BEFORE saving for that six-week acting intensive or new headshots or that trip to Bali. It's easy if you do it little by little, pay yourself first, and make it automatic.

Keep those money questions coming!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

When the Lord Closes a Door, Somewhere He Opens a Window

I had the Tweet all planned out too. A link to this video with a cryptic "This happened today."

Alas, not this time.

The call came yesterday – CBS has finished its pilot pickups for the year. My pilot was not picked up.

Not the outcome I was hoping for, but not completely unexpected. My show concept was pretty out of the box for CBS, which knows its niche better than any other network – crime procedurals. I had a solid chance if they decided to do something different, but if you look at the eight pilots CBS did pick up, they clearly went with shows that are in alignment with their brand.

And no, I can’t take my idea to another network of make it myself as a Web series. CBS owns it and will for a very long time. It’s over.

But really, it’s okay. This has been an amazing journey for me and I’m so, so grateful to have had an opportunity like this. I’ve learned so much about writing, about myself, and about collaborating with other people. I was wonderfully supported and guided through the entire process – I am so blessed. It was an experience I’ll always cherish and will always have in my history.

So now I look forward to what the next chapter holds in my artistic life. Staffing season, a new pilot script, a novel…perhaps a graphic novel as well? Who knows? The world is my oyster now.

Here I come.

Friday, January 27, 2012

And My SAG Award Vote Goes To...

I almost forgot to vote for the SAG Awards. They used to send multi-page, hard-to-miss ballots in the mail, but now all I get to remind me of the deadline is this postcard.

And while I truly appreciate the eco-consciousness, it easily got lost in the shuffle of my desk. Thank goodness my SAG friends were tweeting about it this morning. The deadline was today at noon – I made it just under the wire!

I saw most of the nominated film performances thanks to screenings and screeners, but not having HBO or Showtime meant I was flying blind for most of the TV categories.

No matter – I felt more than confident in voting for my favorite cast ensembles. For film, my nod went to the cast of The Help.

Delicious performances that brought to life one of my favorite novels. Hilarious, heartbreaking, and authentic – and what a joy to see a female-dominant cast dominate at the box office! Plus any cast that includes Allison Janney is a winner to me.

For television, my favorite cast vote went to The Good Wife. I devour this show every week to see these skilled actors execute incredibly well-written material with style and sex appeal. Each episode is a study in power plays and subtext – I learn something as an actor every time I watch it.

But of course, voting for the SAG Awards is completely subjective because everyone’s voting for different reasons – popularity being a primary one, whether anyone wants to admit it. For example, I will be shocked if Betty White doesn’t win at least one of the awards she’s nominated for because people just love her. (I voted for Julie Bowen – sorry, Betty.)

Tune in to see who wins this Sunday night at 8pm ET/5 pm PT on TNT and TBS!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tom McCarthy, Multi-Hyphenate Extraordinaire

I absolutely loved Tom McCarthy's writing and directing debut The Station Agent, an indie film gem that caught me completely off guard and introduced me to the sexy, sensitive side of Peter Dinklage. (No, I’m not kidding – watch the movie.)

When I realized he was also an actor – known to me then as one of the teachers on Boston Public – my respect for him went up even further. Here was a guy who was booking series regular roles while making films that won awards at Sundance. Impressive.

So naturally I jumped at the chance to see Tom speak at a recent Writer’s Guild Foundation event, during which he discussed the evolution of his career as well as writing/directing his other award-nominated features The Visitor and Win Win. The evening was amazing! He exceeded my expectations ten fold, entertaining and educating with intelligence, class, and thoughtfulness.

When asked about juggling his multi-hyphenate status – actor/writer/director/producer – he deftly expressed how he didn’t see each title as a separate hat, but rather as parts of the overall creative process. While studying at Yale Drama, he was always involved in creating performance, whether it be rehearsing a play or writing sketch comedy or working backstage. He didn’t juggle his hats – he wore them all at the same time.

He encouraged us to do the same. "If you want to own a restaurant, you should try being a waiter for a while," he recommended. "If you’re a writer, try taking an acting class." Good thing I’m ahead of the curve there.

I loved what he said, especially given my recent observations about Sundance. It tells me I’m on the right track. I’m not writing and producing in addition to my acting to get ahead or exert more influence, I’m doing it because I’m expanding creatively. And learning more allows me to be more creative.

But you don’t have to take my word for it – check out the live recording of the entire evening with Tom McCarthy for just a $9.99 donation to the Writer’s Guild Foundation. Well worth it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Actress, TV Writer...and Author?

I’m writing a novel.

(I know, isn’t everybody?)

It emerged during my Relax & Write classes – a story about two generations of fiercely independent single mothers in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It has developed over the past two years in bits and pieces – a chapter here, a scene there – always in the background of my other writing.

But as I’m waiting to hear about my pilot, my mind drifts back to my two ladies in New England. On a recent trip to Costco, I wandered among the book aisles, picking up various debut novels and reading about their authors. Some were lifelong writers while others were former doctors or lawyers adding their first fiction novel to their long list of accomplishments.

And the romantic notion of seeing my name on the cover of a published book swept me back into my imagination. I went home and pulled out all my writing journals that contain all the bits and pieces of my novel and started typing them out. I’ve gotten through the first two journals and have over 25,600 words in my computer so far. Three more journals to go!

My goal is to get everything typed up and organized, then determine what else needs to be written to round out my first manuscript, if for no other reason than to say I finished it. Published authors like Marie Lu often complete several manuscripts before writing the one that gets sold. This could be my novel in the drawer before I write my bestseller! Then again, The Help was Kathryn Stockett’s first manuscript, so you never know.

As I’m typing, I’m simply enjoying living through these characters again – their strength, their pain, and their delicious quirks – all from my mind, and yet living on their own on the page. The most joyous typing exercise ever. I’m hoping to finish by Friday – after that, who knows?

What’s your favorite novel?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Payment ≠ Paycheck

Guest Blog by Christopher Tillman

I found Teresa's recent blog post Five Things I'm Shocked Actor Still Do rather interesting. The day I read it, I realized I had just seen two actors doing number one (“Not Having Your Headshot Ready at an Audition”) the day before. And number four (“Refusing to Work for Free”) reminded me of some advice I received when I was just starting out -

You will never work a job without getting paid.

You will, however, on many occasions, work a job where you don't get paid money.

There are many ways to look at getting payment for an acting job. Contacts, experience, credit. Number three on Teresa's list reminds actors they must have a demo reel. How do you get one? Work jobs for free.

When I first got serious about acting. my first three steps were headshot, resume and demo reel. The first two were easy. The last one came from a year of auditioning for and working student films. Great experience and gave my some good film to put together a reel.

(Side note: USC and Chapman University have the best films schools for working on student projects in my opinion.)

The other advice I got – treat your payment like it is a paycheck. If you are doing a project in exchange for the footage, don't let six months go by before you start asking for the tape. If a paycheck was six months late, you wouldn't just let that go. Make sure you have an agreement in place as to when you will receive your tape before you leave set. If you are working for contacts, make sure you make a good impression and exchange contact info before you leave set. If you are working for experience, then put down your iPhone between shots and pay attention!

Perhaps you are beyond the “working for something other than a paycheck” part of your career. Time to put that advice in the closet, right? Wrong. This is advice you will always need to think about. Always think beyond the paycheck as to what you are getting paid. What else is a job getting you? Range, opportunity, contacts? If the only reason you are doing something is for the money, maybe you should rethink the project. Doing things just for the money is how movies like The Smurfs get made.

Fantastic advice! Thanks Christopher!

Christopher Tillman is an actor, writer, and producer. Follow him on Twitter at @christophertill

Monday, January 23, 2012

Money Monday: DIY Receipt File

Last week, I mentioned that I’m meticulous in saving and organizing my acting & writing-related receipts for tax purposes. Forgot to mention that I’m also eco-conscious about it!

Here’s my step-by-step guide to how to make an upcycled receipt file:

1. Start with eight (8) reply envelopes saved from junk mail.

2.Lick and tuck the flap inside each envelope, making eight open pockets.

3.Take four (4) envelopes and line up the openings on the right side, staggering them evenly. Secure the stack with two staples as shown below. Repeat with the other four envelopes.

4.Write the categories on each envelope as shown below.

5. And you're done! I keep my receipt files along with any full page receipts in a large, clear plastic envelope.

Ta-da! Tidy and ready for tax time next year!

Next week on Money Monday, I'll go over allowable and non-allowable tax deductions for actors...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Remember When Mailing a Letter Cost a Quarter?

The US Postal Service is raising some of their First-Class rates today. Here’s what you’ll pay going forward:
  • Letters: 45 cents -- For thank you cards to casting directors and query letters to literary agents. If you invested in Forever stamps, you’re golden.

  • Postcards: 32 cents -- A 3-cent increase! For announcing TV/film appearances to casting directors or family members.

  • Headshots: $1.08 -- Rate unchanged. Those mailings to those agent or manager you want aren't getting more expensive. Phew!
Complain if you want, but I still think it's pretty amazing that you can put a little sticker on an envelope and someone will deliver it across town or across the country for you. Talk about letting my money work for me!

Read more about this latest postal increase here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Super Audition Tips for the Super Prepared

You got an audition! You’ve watched an episode of the show, you have your sides, and your drive-on to the lot is all set.

What else should you be doing between now and then? Here are just a few of the nerdy actor things I do to be super prepared for every audition:
  • Download All Available Sides – I only print out mine, but I’ll download and read everything I can. By reading sides for the other roles, I can piece together more of what the whole script is about, giving me added context for my audition.

    Once when auditioning for a nail salon owner, reading the other sides helped me figure out that I was actually an accomplice to the killer! They told me this when I arrived at the audition, but knowing in advance helped me properly prepare the character’s duplicity.

  • Research the Casting Director – I check my casting directors binder first, which includes notes from CD workshops I’ve attended and interviews I found on Backstage or other publications. I also search Google for more interviews or videos in which they mention what they expect from actors, how they run their sessions, or pet peeves.

    If nothing else, it helps to see what the casting director look like so you’re not thrown off your game when you see them. (Especially in those cases where the casting director is heart-stoppingly gorgeous – that has happened to me!)

  • Google Street View the Audition Location – I don’t have a GPS or a Smartphone, so I rock it old school with my Thomas Guide.Checking what the front of the building looks and noting neighboring landmarks helps ensure I won’t get lost and be late, especially when the entrance or building numbers are hidden from the street.

    I also use the Aerial View to check out potential parking spots and places where I can run errands nearby.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Waiting Room Doppelgangers

Sometimes when I walk into a casting office, I find a waiting room filled with actors of all shapes and sizes. I always breathe a sigh of relief when I see rooms like that, because it tells me that the casting director isn’t locked into a specific idea for the role. Everyone has an equal shot. All I need to worry about is being my authentic, unique self and giving a good performance. My individuality as a naturally nerdy professional is on my side.

Then there are other times when I walk into a waiting room and find twenty women who look just like me. This happened at an audition this week. Not only were they all 30-something, Asian-American females, but they were exactly my type – professional, intelligent doctor-types. Several were wearing nearly the same business casual ensemble I was wearing. Yipes.

This always makes me more nervous, because my individuality feels smoothed over and smothered. The sight naturally begs the question, “How will I possibly stand out in this sea of smart-sounding Asian women?”

My old tendency was to panic – throw out all my preparation in favor of a rushed new attempt to be “different” from the crowd, which usually just resulted in a bad audition. Because I can’t be in the moment if I’m in my head.

So instead, I’ve learned to take a deep breath and un-see the room, block out all the mirror images of myself walking around, and concentrate on what I came there to do. I can’t control who will stick out in a casting director’s mind. All I can control is my performance.

Doppelgangers be damned!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Fifth Finish Line

It’s true what they say – having written feels so much better than writing.

After turning in the latest revision of my pilot yesterday, I spent a glorious day off running errands – oil change, post office, Costco run – all enjoyed with delicious ease and peace of mind as I reflected on my latest accomplishment – having written my fifth pilot script since starting my solo writing career. Five agonizing periods of beating out story, reworking characters, and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting that felt like hell while doing it but feel amazing now.

So many times I almost gave up – contemplated giving in to my left-brain, staying in Internet marketing, generally listening to my inner critic. But I didn’t give up. Writing can be difficult, uncomfortable work and even though I procrastinated plenty, I pushed through plenty of awful days and nights too.

And I’m so glad I did, because now I can say I have written five television pilots. And that feels pretty damned good.

(Of course, another writer I know told me he wrote nine TV scripts last year! Let’s see if I can even get close to that this year...)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Art of Writing

In writing, there are painters and there are sculptors.

I’ve known many painters. They stare at the blank page while forming the perfect line in their mind’s eye. They take their time – painting is meticulous work. And when the line goes onto the page, the words are well-constructed and elegant. A finished product.

I am a writing sculptor. I start with a loose idea of what each line should look like, then slap down a lump of clay and just get started. I form one side loosely, moving on to other parts, knowing I’ll come back and refine what I just did. I allow for the finished product to reveal itself as I work from all angles, slowly but surely.

I’ve learned that writing painters don’t often understand my sculpting methods, so when I’m in a room brainstorming with them, I’ll often manage the their expectations by disclaiming my suggestions with statements like, “Bad version….” or “This isn’t the line, but something like this…” Otherwise I know they look at me and think, “That’s a terrible line – she must know that, right?”

And I’m learning to be patient when I’m working with writing painters, who stare into space while forming brush strokes in their mind, waving away my suggestions with a simple, “No, that’s not it.” They simply can’t start painting until they know the words – it’s just how they work.

So consider your own style before asking for feedback from or writing with another writer, who may have a completely different style of their own. Artistic collaboration is built on a mutual understanding of methods. Finding and understanding those methods now will likely save you heartache and hurt feelings later.

Are you a writing painter or a writing sculptor?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Money Monday: Taxes for the Artist, Part 1

Question from a reader!
When filing taxes, do you use an entertainment accountant? Also, any tips on taxes or saving money would be great. Love the blog, discovered it recently. – From an actor/ professional drink slinger
Thanks for your question, actor/drink slinger! I don’t use an entertainment accountant, though I know many actors in Los Angeles who swear by Chuck Sloan & Associates. I prepare my tax information meticulously in advance, so I feel comfortable going to H&R Block or any walk-in tax prep shop to do the actual filing.

As for tax tips, my biggest one is save those receipts! I deduct everything I can that’s related to my acting and writing career and I organize my receipts like an extreme couponer. Keeping track of my deductions throughout the year helps me maximize my refund.

I itemize my deductions using Form 1040 - Schedule C - Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship). Because yes, my expenses add up to more than the standard deduction, which for 2012 is $5,950 for single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing separately, $11,900 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and $8,700 for taxpayers filing as head of household.

If you’ve never done a Schedule C, don’t assume you don’t have enough expenses that add up to more than the standard deduction. Keep track of your receipts for a year and see for yourself!

Tune in next Money Monday, when I'll explain my absolutely no-cost receipt tracking system. And keep those Money Monday questions coming!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Fortunate Friday the 13th

Sometimes, the message from the universe is loud and clear:

Three in a row, thank you very much. (I know, my camera phone sucks.) Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Organizing a Thousand Story Ideas

I already loved Orson Scott Card for writing Ender's Game,
a sci-fi novel that I absolutely adore. Then I found this quote from him:
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.”
-- Orson Scott Card
I find story ideas everywhere, most notably in my dreams. I keep several notepads in my nightstand for receiving my barely awake scribbles. Looking at them again once I’m lucid is always a trip. " 'Sharon Stone elephant angel race' - What could I have possibly meant by that?"

I’ll write notes on the back of receipts in my bag, scrawl thoughts in my day planner, or beat out ideas in the margins of the script I’m supposed to be working on. I considered hanging a bulletin board in my room and tacking up all these scraps, but they started to grow exponentially in numbers and I realized the sight of them on the board would overwhelm more than it would inspire.

So how do I organize them all?

I store them into my computer. I have different Word files for each writing medium – TV, film, short film, short story, etc. Each file starts with a one-column table. I type one idea into each row, often with additional thoughts that came out while typing.

I prefer writing by hand when it comes to the initial brainstorm phase, but there’s something about putting all my thoughts in the same font in one document that allows me to look at them all with fresh judgment the next time I go looking for an idea.

How do you organize your writing brainstorming?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Five Things I’m Shocked Actors Still Do

Whenever I see an actor doing one of the following, I instantly know – they’re clueless about their career.

Are you still doing one of these things? Cut it out!
  1. Not Having Your Headshot Ready at an Audition. I’ve seen it so many times – an actor pulling out their headshot and a separate resume and asking the waiting room, “Does anyone have a stapler?” Imagine sitting in a restaurant where the chef wanders up and asks, “Does anyone have any salt?” I’ve even seen actors ask casting associates for scissors so they can trim their resume to fit their picture, or even worse, actors who just let the excess hang out.

    Your headshot and resume are a representation of your professionalism. Have them ready to go before you walk in the door!

  2. Auditioning in Costume. I’m talking head-to-toe rented cop uniform with a fake badge, clown costume with the rainbow wig, or surgical outfit with booties over their shoes. It’s overkill and it makes you look crazy.

    Be creative and wear things that hint at the role you’re auditioning for. I always wear a v-neck pink t-shirt when I audition for nurses. I know guys who wear the same tight black t-shirt when they audition for cops. The casting directors have imagination – they’ll get it.

  3. Not Having a Demo Reel. You don’t need a montage or twenty different contrasting clips. If all you have is one solid scene, that’s fine. Casting directors want demo reels to show how you look on camera – are you natural, can you be authentic, do you connect with your fellow actors? Plus having a demo reel puts you at the top of the submission pile on Actors Access, so it’s a must. If you don’t have anything, shoot it yourself! You can do it on your iPhone in a day. No excuses.

  4. Refusing to Work for Free. I get it, we all have bills to pay. But working on student films and indie projects is like getting free on-the-job training. It’s impossible not to learn something from every project if your attitude is right. Experience is experience, and today’s no budget student filmmakers are tomorrow’s highly paid filmmakers. It’s a better use of your time than surfing College Humor.

  5. Not Having your Acting Resume Link on Facebook. What’s the point of having an online acting resume if no one can find it?! Every actor should have ALL of their resume URLs and IMDB page listed under Contact Information. And make sure Everyone can see it – not just Friends. Bonus points to those who put the link on the Twitter profile too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Plight of Actors...in Japanese!

I love discovering new foreign films. Their storytelling feels more pure and untouched by the flashy blockbuster trend of American films.

So imagine my delight when I discovered a foreign film that was written, produced, and directed by a fellow MIT alumnus! It’s called Cast Me If You Can, and it’s all about actors. Here’s the trailer:

It’s being released on DVD in the US and Canada on January 24, 2012.
Writer/producer/director Atsushi Ogata, nicknamed “Japan’s answer to Woody Allen,” graduated from MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies and exhibited his video art in festivals and museums all over Europe before moving into acting, screenwriting, and directing. Such an eclectic background!

When I heard about the film, I absolutely had to interview Atsushi. And even though he started off an MIT nerd like me, he's clearly realized a full, creative life.

What was your inspiration for Cast Me If You Can?

The original inspiration was (1) an image I had in my mind of the lead actor (who also acted in my previous film) running around Tokyo wearing a police uniform, and (2) “Frasier,” the American TV sit-com, whose humorous father-son relationship reflects also the relationship I have with my own father.

Did you try acting yourself? Or did you know actors in Japan?

I have a minor role in the film, but the main cast consists of famous seasoned veterans from the Japanese film industry: Toru Masuoka, Hiromi Nagasaku, Masahiko Tsugawa, Keiko Matsuzaka and Akira Emoto. We were very fortunate to have these stars in our film.

The secondary cast were also professional actors. In the spirit of "Cast Me If You Can," for some of the minor roles and extra's, we also had our crew, investors and friends "act" in our film.

What was your biggest unforeseen production obstacle while shooting your film and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging shoot in terms of time constraint was shooting in a moving train that we had rented for two separate mornings. The first day, we only had 46 minutes to do 6 set-ups, and we were only allowed to have 10 extras to fill a whole train!

The main crew and I took the train the day before, and we decided on the shots and blocking, which was basically how we prepared for the shoot. Still, it was quite nerve-wrecking to shoot under such a time-constraint, especially since the light kept changing as we passed through stations and tunnels.

I felt like we were in some kind of battlefield during the shoot, but after we were done, we felt like we could overcome any obstacles, and the remaining shoot at the train station that day went extremely quickly.

Did you always have creative aspirations since childhood or did they develop later in life? Perhaps while at MIT?

As a child, I read a lot of stories, wrote some and also drew some cartoons. In high school, I learned still photography and super-8 films. Back then it was a hobby, so I never thought I would actually go into this field professionally until I had finished college, worked at a company for a couple of years doing software research and decided to go back to grad school at MIT to pursue my creative artistic calling!
That’s right – artists come out of MIT too! Congratulations Atsushi!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Money Monday: Buying Again

I didn't buy anything in 2011.

Yesterday, I did this -

Sort of.

To recap my year of not buying, I have to say it was surprisingly easy. I cracked a few times to buy wedding or baby shower gifts and professional tokens of thanks, but otherwise I didn't buy any new stuff in 2011. There were a few moments of really hating everything in my closet, but a few clothing swaps healed the desire to shop.

So even though I had that momentary epiphany about retail therapy, all in all, it felt good to save money and time by taking this one year break from shopping.

And that feeling continues into 2012. A few friends and I headed to Santa Monica Place yesterday, with the intent of celebrating the new year in the spirit of Parks and Recreation:

It was a fun day, and while I treated myself to a decadent Fingerling Potato Pizza from The Curious Palate, I didn't buy these:

Or this:

Or anything, for that matter. Buying brand new things (that are all disturbingly made in China) has officially lost it's appeal for me. Instead, I headed for my favorite mega-thrift store:

For only $20, I got a black skirt from Banana Republic, a Liz Clairborne bag, two blank books for writing (made from recycled paper!), and a cute pair of brown wedges:

Now that's what I call treating myself.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Soap Me Up: The Under 5 Game

The last in a four-part series about background work on daytime soap operas. Read Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3 here.

I enjoy doing soap background work, but my overall goal as an actor is always paid, speaking roles. In the daytime soap world, these small speaking parts are called Under 5s because they refer to roles where the character speaks five lines or less. Speak more than five lines and they have to pay you more.

Getting an Under 5 is the same process as getting a primetime co-star role – you have to audition. I’ve met many extras who think that working background regularly will eventually earn them an Under 5, but as far as I know, that doesn’t happen. You still have to be submitted by an agent/manager and go in for an audition.

I did one Under 5 role for The Young and the Restless many years ago, playing a reporter. The casting director at the time brought me in to read a few reporter scenes from past episodes. She booked me for one episode, which was super fun. Unlike the background, I got my own dressing room and had my hair and makeup done by their staff – the most glamtastic reporter I’ve ever played! The CD tried to book me for a second episode a few months later, but I was on Knight Rider at the time. Then she moved on – dang, that could have been recurring.

The first 20 seconds below is my Under 5 scene opposite Vail Bloom, who went to Princeton with my brother!

Any final questions about working background or Under 5s on a soap opera? Post them below!