The 100 Day Project: Process

I can’t believe The 100 Day Project is over. I did it! I put myself on camera and worked on my acting for 100 days straight. What a journey! Now I am looking back at what I learned and how I grew over the last 100 days. Not only did I see my skills improve, I can actually see a difference in my ease in front of the camera, from my first post to my last(you should take a look!). Through the journey, not only did I recognize the obstacles that lay in way to doing the work, but I also learned a lot about my artistic process. What do I need to do to get the best result? One of the best things about the 100 day project is that it forces you to do something tangible every single day. While that created a habit of practice for me and improved my on-tape acting skills, I began to wish I had more time with each piece. Some didn’t require that much time: commercials, improvised bits, co-star roles with a couple pages of script. But the Shakespeare monologues, guest star roles, leading roles ask more of you and I wish I’d had more time to dedicate to them. That being said, I learned a lot about what I need to do to best prepare for all sorts of auditions or roles.

  • Accountability. I work best with accountability. Social Media has been the best form of accountability for me. If I put it out there that I’m going to do something, then I am much more likely to follow through. If I have an audition, the accountability with my agent and the casting director is built in. I need some form of accountability for my daily practice(at least I did to get started).
  • Time to memorize. Or at least get familiar with the words. I have learned to audition with script in hand, without staring at the page, but sometimes(more often than not) the better you know the words the better you will do. While my focus was on doing the character prep work, I didn’t dedicate as much time to memorize and I could tell. I am learning some new memorization techniques and I think that will help me, moving forward.
  • Figure out the technical requirements. I know that I have to figure out what the scene/monologue will require physically and rhythmically. That takes some trial and error. That’s where self-taping is very handy. Something I think reads on screen, may be completely lost.
  • Emotionally connect with the relationship, truth and need in the conversation. In Annie’s class, we work on being able to connect to the conversation with only 40 minutes and then with 48 hours. Obviously, 48 hours gives more time to find a deeper connection to the relationship and words. For the most part, I was only giving myself about 40 minutes in the 100 day project. I started to miss sitting with it for longer and having the freedom to explore, image, and create.
  • Time to make it my own. After I’ve done all of the above, then I feel like I can finally discover some things that are a unique perspective that only I have. I might come up with some of that off the first read, but more likely it will come with a bit more familiarity and experimentation. Also, the more I practice, the more quickly I can find those things that make it uniquely mine.

Now that The 100 Day Project is over, I know that I have created some excellent habits and carry more knowledge and experience with me moving forward. I may not be posting a self-taping video every day anymore, but I will be working daily on my craft. Again, so many thanks to Elle Luna and The Great Discontent for organizing this group of artists across the globe. I had so much fun and connected with such a great community of people through this project. May the creating continue!

 

To view my journey through The 100 Day Project, go to my Instagram feed and search #100daysofselftaping.

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Finding the Right Teacher

A couple years ago, when I first arrived in LA I audited a whole bunch of classes and wrote a wish list of the ones that interested me the most. Then, last year I was able to take Annie Grindlay’s Advanced Intensive Audition Experience. It changed my life! Well, maybe not my life, but my acting, which in turn changed my life. With my previous training, I felt well prepared for auditioning and developing a character in theatre(in other words, when you have time to figure things out), but not super confident when approaching the limited time frame you have with film and TV auditions.

Photo of Annie Grindlay from anniegrindlay.com
Photo of Annie Grindlay from AnnieGrindlay.com

Soon after taking Annie’s class I booked The Reel Deal with this audition (even though the show was postponed, I’m still really proud of my work). Then I booked a feature film in Seattle over the summer and GRIMM last fall. Booking jobs aside, I feel more confident going into auditions and I know my acting has improved. Just yesterday, I had a coaching session with Annie in preparation for an agent showcase and I was reminded of all the reasons I love working with her. I left, having worked out the kinks, confident in my performance, and ready to have a great showcase!

If you’re an actor reading this, looking for a teacher, I highly recommend you check out her FREE Workshop/Audit!!! Hey, IT’S FREE–which not a lot of things in LA are. BUT, here’s the thing. I’m raving about Annie Grindlay, but she may not be the right teacher for you, just like I didn’t click with all the teachers who came highly recommended to me. She also may not be the right teacher for me in a couple years. I know at some point I will move on to someone else who can help me with a different area of acting. But for now, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.

Here are a few questions I’ve come up with to help me find the right teacher:

  • Does the teacher’s philosophy connect with me?
  • Is this teacher helping me with the area(s) that I want to improve?
  • Is my acting better, whether or not this teacher is present? (In other words, is this teacher giving me tools to take home or just teaching me to rely on their coaching?)
  • Do I feel the money I am paying is worth every penny and then some?
  • Can I see/feel a difference in my acting?

Listen to your instincts. If you’re on the fence about a teacher, they’re probably not the right one. Look around. Find the one who speaks to you where you are right now. In LA, there’s bound to be at least one!

Training: My Wish List

My perspective on training has certainly shifted since coming to LA. Everyone here is taking classes. Now, maybe you think that is because people are taking advantage of the poor actor and extorting him/her for all he/she is worth. There will always be people doing that, especially in this town. HOWEVER, there are some freaking amazing teachers in this town and you are either penniless, too timid or too proud if you don’t take advantage of learning from the best of the best. In this town, it seems like everyone takes specific or ongoing classes in leu of a bachelors or masters. Hey, I have a lot of affection for my little theatre program and the people that I met there, but I have to say that there is so much more that I need to know for my career than what I learned there.  In Seattle, it seems to me that ongoing training is not highly valued. Of course it can’t hurt, but I never got the idea that it was necessary. As long as you get cast, neither the need nor the expectation was there. Last year, because I wasn’t getting cast where I wanted to, I started to desire more training. These are the options that I found in Seattle.

  • Charles Waxberg with Theatre 9/12. He hosts an ongoing class (the only one I know of in Seattle) which uses scenes as a means by which to study the Stella Adler technique.
  • Freehold. They offer a wide range of classes from Voice to Meisner. If you have a specific aspect of your craft you want to work on, you can probably find a class that addresses it there. Often the faculty there offer coaching too.
  • David S. Hogan, Angela DiMarco and Tony Doupe with Mighty Tripod Productions. They now offer on-camera classes for adults and children. I am sure they have some other courses up their sleeves as well, so stay tuned. They are committed to raising the bar in Seattle!
  • Steven Anderson with Actorswork. Steven teaches in LA on a regular basis, but travels up to Seattle every few months to do weekend intensives.

These are the main places, that I know of, where a professional actor can study outside of college in Seattle.
In LA, I learned very quickly that ongoing training is an expectation. Agents and Managers ask you who you are studying with. The name of the teacher is less important than the fact that you are studying and improving your craft. The competition is so fierce here that there isn’t room for laziness or complacency. “YOU MUST TRAIN” is the motto. Athletes train. We should be held to just as high a standard.
As for the teachers here, I don’t even know where to begin. I have barely scratched the surface of all the acting teachers here. However, I have had the chance audit and visit a few. (If money were infinite)… Here is my acting class wish list in LA:

  • Lesly Kahn. She offers a Triage session to assess where you are at and what you should work on (with her or with other teachers in town for Improv or Commercials). Lesly is keenly perceptive and will not shy away from telling you exactly what’s wrong, even if it isn’t your acting, but some other facet that might keep you from getting cast. I left feeling like she would be able to address my specific bad acting habits and mental traps and be able to steer me in the right direction. Can’t wait to take classes from her!
  • Annie Grindlay. I visited a free workshop she offers, which explains a bit of her methodology. She addresses the acting technique through the lens of your audition experience. This seemed especially helpful to me because how to do we get work? By auditioning. If you can’t audition well, you can’t work. I loved her!
  • Stephen Book. He offers a free seminar every time he accepts new students (only every 18 months or so) to demonstrate his methodology. He approaches acting through the lens of improv and spontaneity. Over the course of two years with the same students he teaches exercises, tools and structures by which to approach scripted work. I was fascinated by this idea, very tempted to sign up for the class, but not ready to make a two year commitment. I hope to be able to in another 18 months.
  • Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop. I was able to audit his class and was fascinated by what I found. He teaches in almost the complete opposite way of the traditional 20th century acting technique because he bases a lot of what he teaches on science. From watching the class I am not sure what the basics are, except that he doesn’t encourage memorization and wants you to create in the moment. It seems taking the basic class is necessary to learn how he goes about his technique. It seems really intangible the way I’m describing it, but I left completely fascinated. I want to read his book: At Left Brain Turn Right. This I think will give a better idea of what to expect.
  • Improv!!! Every comedy casting person has said that improv is a must. I am currently taking an introductory class at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) and LOVING IT!!! The other main schools in LA are Second City, iOWest, and Groundlings.

I know there are MANY more teachers I should visit and audit, but so far theses are my top choices. Now, to make the money to pay for them…. it’s all in the priorities. One thing is for sure. I want to keep training!