Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Five Reasons to Always Be Early to an Audition

I hate being late for auditions so much that I've started to leave an hour early for offices just 10 miles away. Yeah, it's come to that.

Good news is there's plenty of upside to arriving early to an audition. Here are my top five, demonstrated by my AFI audition a few weeks back --

#5 - Plenty of time to deal with bad traffic

Traffic congestion is one of the things all actors can count on. Leaving early meant I wasted far less mental and emotional energy stressing about the cars in front of me that just wouldn't GO!

#4 - Plenty of time to find parking

Parking at AFI is limited and especially challenging. I circled a few times before making a spot for myself --

My driver side was pressed right against the trees, so I crawled out the passenger side. Parking win!

#3 - Plenty of time to relax and calm down

I had 30 minutes to spare after parking, so I treated myself to an iced mocha from the Kings Road Cafe coffee truck.

Sipped it while listening to music and enjoying the view, totally shaking off that stupid car that almost hit me --

#2 - Plenty of time to deal with audition changes

After signing in 15 minutes early, the producer asked me to prepare a second scene from the script. I flipped to those pages and started memorizing. Another actor who arrived right on time had less time to prepare and was probably more stressed. Auditions are our chance to shine - do everything you can to ensure you're at your best!

And the top reason to always be early to an audition --

#1 - It's our job as actors!

"Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable." That's the mantra - for auditions, for rehearsals, and for bookings. We work in a business in which time is money, and a little tardiness goes a long way. Getting everywhere early is a base expectation we MUST meet.

So head out earlier than you need to - the perks are undeniable!

What do you do when you arrive early to an audition? Post in the comments below!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Soap Me Up: What's Different?

An addendum to my four-part series about background work on daytime soap operas.

In response to a wonderful question from a wonderful blog reader --
I recently submitted to do background for Days of Our Lives, and in the breakdown it mentioned "Background for soaps is different than regular background." That confused me. Why is that? Is it because of the high-speed shooting structure of soap operas? Thank you for any further insight you can add.

~ Justin
Thanks for your question, Justin! Though you kind of answered it already - soap background is different from regular background because shooting a soap is wildly different from shooting a TV show or film.

1) The scale is different. Film and TV is shot on location or on a soundstage set. Camera angles can be wide and sweeping. Soap operas, on the other hand, are shot in compact, diorama-like sets that literally have no fourth wall. Video cameras have a limited scope, which is fine because they don't need to capture that much.

Consequently, soap operas need far fewer background actors to fill a scene.

For example, in a traditional film or TV restaurant scene, you need dozens of background actors to fill the space --

In a soap opera, a restaurant scene looks like this --

Yup, just two background actors behind the railing and you have a scene. Ta-da!

2) The shooting pace is also different. Contract soap actors are used to working fast - one rehearsal and one take is usually all they need to nail a scene. It's impressive to observe.

So if you're one of the few background actors working in a scene, you really need to listen carefully to your blocking and nail it every time too. You're there to fill the background of a very tight frame, so timing is everything. Move exactly where the Stage Manager tells you to move while listening to the scene so you can do it again if you have to.

And the third (and best) difference --

3) Your commitment is different. Soap background are usually booked for one set of scenes a day. Once those scenes are done, you're wrapped! A typical day is a few hours of waiting, during which I read or work, then 10-30 minutes on set. And you always get paid for a full day - score!

Hope this answers your question, Justin!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crushing At Word Salad

Last week marked my return to WordSalad, a storytelling evening at the Talking Stick Coffeehouse in Venice. My debut performance was a resounding success, so I was looking forward to upping the ante on my return.

The theme was "Crushes." Even though I was booked before the new year, I waited until the morning of the show to type up my story --

Procrastination is a terrible trait, but thankfully the story came together quickly. Though I worried it was too simple. Would it play alongside everyone's clever, quippy stories?

Story prepared, I headed over to The Talking Stick. The place filled up fast --

Before long, I took the stage and told my story. I couldn't really see the audience, but the few people I could see were captivated as the details unfolded. Lots of gasps and awwws - very encouraging. I surprised even myself by getting emotional near the end of the tale. First love emotions never completely fade, I suppose...

My friend Ronnie's friend Jon Bernstein posted a lovely review of the show on his blog LA Culture Hound. "My fave of the night is Teresa Huang, who casts a spell with her straightforward, uncluttered delivery of her sixth grade crush on a Mormon boy." Read the rest of his lovely words here.

I love participating in storytelling events. It's thrilling and empowering to share a piece of your soul on stage. Thanks to Lora and WordSalad for another great event!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Keys of My TV Success

I love getting messages and questions from blog readers! Like this one --
Teresa -

I've been meaning to stop by and say hi. I wanted to thank you so much for giving us that inside look into Hollywood. My dream is also to move to L.A. and pursue this crazy thing called acting.

How are you able to book these roles on TV? That is awesome!!

All the best and look forward to reading more from you! Thank you!

– Alvino
Thanks for your lovely message, Alvino! Having a dream is going to be your most important tool if you ever do decide to come to LA. That passion is what's going to get through you all the ups and downs, because trust me, there will be many!

As for how I'm able to book roles on television like this --

I'd say these are the not-so-secret secrets to my success --
  • I have an agent & manager - Being submitted officially through Breakdown Services is the only way to get access to legitimate casting opportunities. TV casting moves so fast, most other methods that promise access to actors without representation (such as getting the breakdowns illegally) are likely too outdated to do you any good.

  • I know my type - I play doctors, nurses, and reporters, which are roles always needed in scripted television. You may consider yourself a chameleon, but the truth is it will serve you to be a little pigeon-holed in the beginning. Find the type that can get you cast now!

  • I've studied on-camera acting - When I moved to LA and started studying with Doug Warhit, my performance was stage-y - too broad, too loud, and too physical. Watching myself and learning what works on-camera was vital in booking those auditions.

  • I do casting director workshops - Like I said before, TV casting moves fast. Most TV casting directors don't have to time to discover new talent in the old ways - showcases, theater, etc. - so workshops are great for being seen by working casting directors and learning more about their offices.

  • I know television - I watch a lot of TV. A lot. Because this is my job. Like I said in my list of Acting Headscratchers, you wouldn't trust a mechanic that's never owned a car. You'll never work in TV if you don't watch it. TV acting is different from film acting, and every show is different - familiarizing yourself with the pace, tone, and energy of each show is essential to preparing for an audition.