8 Ways to be Great!

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Every one of us should dare to be great, and it’s within all of us. Greatness comes in many forms, but the ability to achieve something you set out to achieve is definitely a version of being great. 

Being great is simply a belief mindset that you are willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes and no matter how many barriers you have to overcome in order to complete your goal and reach your dream. Have faith that it will get done. Focus on working tirelessly, creatively, and consistently towards it, step by step, and trusting that it will get done. 

Diana Nyad attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida five times and on her fifth attempt, and at the age of 64, she completed it. Roger Bannister became the first man to run a four-minute mile and until then, you were crazy to even try, as people thought the human body would collapse under the pressure. Believe in yourself blindly that you can and will achieve your goals. 

Greatness takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. It will demand that you give up your time and sleep. However when you do commit and complete that goal, a transition takes place. You develop a confidence that you never thought you had—a confidence that infects all areas of your life. You start to believe in yourself that anything is possible. 

Here are eight ways to get started.

1. Challenge yourself. Attempt things that are hard and that you feel are impossible. Get out of your comfort zone. 

2. Get up early. In order to achieve great things, you are going to have to get up early in the morning. It is my personal belief that the only way to reach those hard goals is to get up early in the morning so that life stays out of your way and so that you can focus on your dream. 

3. Have an expectation. Expect that once you set your mind to do something, that somehow it will get done. Have faith in yourself and trust your instincts that you will find a way. 

4. A growth mindset. Look at every challenge or obstacle that comes your way as an opportunity to grow and be better. The one thing that individuals who we define as great have is their personal belief that roadblocks are simply opportunities to work harder and grow. 

5. Be creative. Think out of the box. Try different tactics if you are at a dead end. 

6. Eliminate negative thoughts. Your thoughts and your beliefs go out into the world like waves and attract what it is you think and believe. If you believe something will go wrong or that you are not capable of doing something, that will become your reality. Your mind and your thoughts should constantly be talking positively about what you can do and what is possible. 

7. Stop making excuses. People who are great simply commit and don’t make excuses. Excuses are for those who are satisfied with “OK.” If you want to be great, you need to get allergic to OK. Use what you have to your advantage and stop making excuses. Greatness comes from hustle, hard work, and from not making excuses. 

8. Don’t strive for perfection. Perfection does not exist. Simply focus on always working towards your dream and doing the best you can do. Let others judge your attempts. That is not your role. Your role is to focus, to act, and to dream.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Aristotle

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How to Realistically Accomplish Your Goals

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There are times when we don’t feel like we have the motivation or the energy to get the things done that we need to get done. The way you find energy and motivation on the days that your lagging is to take immediate action. Taking action, and finishing a task (no matter how small), will give you a sense of accomplishment. 

It can be as easy as making a phone call or sending an email or making your bed. It could be organizing all of your emails so that you can feel less overwhelmed. Once you feel a sense of accomplishment, you begin to feel motivated to get more things done. Success will lead to more success. 

So how can you find the energy to accomplish your career goals?

1. Put yourself in situations that will help you get motivated. If you need to do some writing tomorrow before you go to bed, leave your laptop on and open with a cup of cold coffee on your desk so that you can simply wake up, drink the coffee, and get to work. If you need to work out, go to bed with your workout clothes on or leave everything, shoes included, right next to your bed so that you don’t allow your brain to talk you out of what it is you need to do. 

2. Change your environment. Working from home can be one of the hardest things to do when you are lacking motivation. Change your environment; go to a hotel or coffee shop and take your laptop to work there. It is far too easy to get caught in a meaningless task or turn on your TV and get sucked into “House of Cards.” 

3. Stop social media from distracting you. Don’t check your cell phone for 40 minutes and turn off email notifications, social media notifications, and definitely turn off your TV.

4. Don’t focus on the end goal. Focusing on the end goal can leave you unmotivated—especially when you have absolutely no idea how you are going to get there. Instead, focus on two or three small actions you can take today that will move you towards the end goal. 

5. Don’t have a never ending to-do list. Focus only on two or three tasks you can quickly accomplish. You will significantly increase your energy and motivation for that day. More importantly, you will go to bed with a sense of accomplishment and that you have had a good day, which will lead you to wake up the next day feeling confident and motivated to accomplish more things.

6. Be realistic. If you decide you want to accomplish 10 things in one day, you will set yourself up for failure. It is far better to set yourself three tasks for the day and to aim to accomplish them all by noon, and then decide to accomplish one or two more things in the afternoon. That is far more satisfying and achievable. 

7. Be a nice coach to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for not being motivated. Being harsh and calling yourself lazy tells your brain to focus on all the negative things on which you shouldn’t focus. Instead, close your eyes for two or three minutes, breathe in through your nose and out your mouth, and tell yourself, “It feels great working on this project and I can’t believe how easy it was.” By re-focusing your mind on positive feelings, you are programing yourself to create that reality.

8. Pat yourself on the back for tasks you accomplish each day. We are all wired to enjoy positive reinforcement, so when you accomplish one of the tasks you have set yourself for the day, congratulate yourself on taking action and moving your projects forward.

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7 Tips for Being an Organized Actor

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There is tremendous power in being organized. It frees your mind and relieves stress. It gives you focus so that you can become more productive and achieve your goals. But more importantly, it gives you power to create as an artist. 

When you’re organized, you’re balanced and you have a clearer focus on what it is you are trying to accomplish. However, being organized is not always a strength for us as artists, and a lot of that comes from how our brains are wired—but it can be learned

Information comes at us so fast now that sometimes it feels like we can’t catch up. What used to be a lot of clutter on your desks has now become clutter on your desktops. It is easy to procrastinate and let it build up on us. But when you do, I really feel that you lose so much freedom and power as an artist. 

Try to look at the time spent organizing the files on your desktop as valuable as the time you spend trying to find work as an actor. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but think about it. When you open your computer and you first thought is, Ah, I need to organize this stuff, does that not demotivate you to work on a project? Being organized allows you to find information quickly and efficiently. It allows more time for you. 

Here are a few suggestions: 

1. Put every file into a folder as soon as you are done with it or have downloaded it. 

2. Create a “miscellaneous” folder for downloads you create that are temporary. Don’t download everything onto your desktop. File or delete the download once you are done with it so your download folder has hardly anything in it. 

3. Keep your desktop super clean. Try to have about three or four folders and files on your desktop. Personally, I have a current headshot folder, current résumé folder, a current project folder, and two files that I downloaded that I have not filed away yet. 

4. Create and use folders within your email and file every email you have. Use your inbox as a call-to-action of either things you have not read or things you have to tend to. Move everything else into a folder and don’t let any email sit in your inbox for more than a week.

  • Emails in your inbox and sent box should only be active emails, and once you have acted on them or someone has responded, file it or delete it.

  • Once you reply to an email, delete it out of your inbox. If you are waiting for a reply from it, leave the sent email in your sent box as a reminder.

5. Keep a notebook at your desk and write down all the tasks that you need to get done for the month. Don’t keep anything in your head. 

6. If a thought or task comes to you while you away from home, write it down in a named file either in Notes for iPhone or use Evernote, a crazy useful software that everyone should know and use. My life is on Evernote. Get in the habit of organizing your thoughts.

7. Make a new list every couple of days with items you still have to do, but also new items. Don’t work with an overly cluttered list that has lots of items scored out and notes written all around it so that it is disorganized to look at. This will sap your energy and inspiration. 

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9 Tips for Surviving an Independent Film Shoot

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Working on independent films where the budgets are small, grueling sets and conditions in extreme cold and heat for little and no pay, it’s easy to get lost. The important thing to always remember and tell yourself that you are doing it because you have a deep passion for learning and moving your career forward! 

1. Dress your character yourself and don’t get screwed by wardrobe! 
Take control of how your character is going to look and arrive on set with the right costume. Be open to the director’s opinions and ideas but have your own thoughts in case he has none and just throws you into something completely wrong, either from the lack of money or from running out of time. Finding your outfit can be as easy as taking a trip to the Salvation army or local thrift store – I have found countless of amazing costumes for auditions and film projects for less than $30. Taking control and bringing options for your director will help him, your character and how you end up looking on screen.

2. Know your lines because you will only get ONE TAKE!
Rehearse your lines over and over and know them backwards and forwards. You need to be able to say your lines in your sleep. You just don’t know how many takes you are going to get because of the inefficiency of the production and lack of time and budget. Knowing your lines ensures that your best take makes the cut.

I was working on a film scheduled to shoot at 6am in a Brooklyn bar. The bartender was running late closing the bar so we didn’t start shooting till 8am. The symphony of noise started outside, beep, beep, beep, doors slamming and delivery guys yelling which made it near to impossible to get a clean take of the scene without sound being ruined. When we did, we moved on.  My lines needed to be perfect in each and every scene in case that was the one the background noise worked.

3. Bring food!  
Take some of your own food to the set or shoot so that you are not forced to eat cheap granola bars, chips and or pizza which can sap your energy. It seems that many times the director remembers everything except but food for the actors. Unless you bring your own  food, you could be in some small town shooting a scene and starving or eating crap. Being hungry is not the best way to get your most creative work out. Take nuts, apples and protein bars so that you always have something to eat.

4. Easy on the Caffeine. 
Don’t drink caffeine all day on the set, it’s easy to do when you are just sitting around. Caffeine can have the opposite effect on you, it can sap your energy especially late at night and it makes emotional scenes more difficult. Caffeine can also make sleeping difficult – remember that in Indie films, there is no 8 hour turnaround rule and instead it is more like “when can you back to set?”, so you need to be able to sleep immediately when you have the chance. Drink water, eat apples and nuts to keep your blood sugar up and give yourself energy.  

5. Tell them to hold their scripts off camera if they don’t know their lines. 
If your scene partner or partners don’t know their lines, tell them to hold the script during your close up so that you and your director can focus on your take. If you don’t, you could be doing take after take until they get their lines right and then your close up is ruined because the production runs out of time, day light, or simply needs to move on in order to finish the film. 

6. Listen and talk to the director.  
When you are on set and the director is having trouble communicating to you what they wants out of the scene or you,  a good rule is to reply to them with “O.K, I can try that.” or “Yea, I like that. Let’s give it a go.”  This approach shows that you are listening to them and are wiling to try their direction.  It also stops the vicious cycle of you and him trying to defend your positions, which can go on and on and lead into confrontation.

7. Give the director different takes of your scene. 
After you do the scene and the director says “Great, I got it!”  Simply and politely ask “Do you mind if I try something different just to give you some variety?  I doubt he will say no, in fact, I have found they always appreciate you helping them have options to choose from when they cuts the film. There are no wrong choice except doing the same thing again and again exactly the same. And usually when you let the scene go and just throw it away to see what you find, that becomes the best takes in the film.  

8. Be nice and focus on yourself. 
Don’t talk badly about anybody on the set and respect your cast, even the jerk. Remember everyone is under a lot of pressure. Walk away from the situation and focus on yourself, work on your lines, rehearse with your scene partner while they set up the shot, think about how you want the scene to go but most importantly, be doing something to focus on the task at hand to keep yourself ready for your shot.  Another option would be to ask yourself instead how you make their job easier, usually that makes your job easier.  Hold yourself to a higher standard than everyone else and add to the project don’t subtract.

9. Don’t get drunk the night before your scene. 
Enough said.

Summary:

  1. Dress your character yourself and don’t get screwed by wardrobe!

  2. 2. Know your lines because you will only get ONE TAKE!

  3. Bring food!

  4. Easy on the Caffeine.

  5. Tell them to hold their scripts off camera if they don’t know their lines.

  6. Listen and talk to the director.

  7. Give the director different takes of your scene.

  8. Be nice and focus on yourself.

  9. Don’t get drunk the night before your scene.

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Control Your Career by Controlling Your Calendar

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Controlling your calendar is controlling your time, and since time is your most precious commodity, when you manage your calendar, you stay in control of your life and your career. Managing your calendar will allow you to focus your time and energy on what it is you want and need to get done as an actor. You will squeeze the most productivity out of yourself and your day.

Once you decide on what tasks, goals, or projects you want to work on, schedule those tasks into your calendar for the day, week, and month, and be disciplined in sticking to them. Write them into your calendar as you would an appointment or audition. Break down tasks into 30-minute or one or two-hour chunks so that you can achieve them. 

Focus on the tasks that are critical, and understand which ones are time sensitive and which ones you simply enjoy. Plan them into your day accordingly, making sure you are getting some time to focus on what you really enjoy and what makes you tick. Be realistic. Understand what appointments and tasks you have planned for the day and don’t over schedule. 

It is a big mistake to wake up in the morning and schedule your day ahead for the first time over coffee. Plan ahead. Like any CEO or company, their days, weeks, and months are scheduled by their assistant for maximum productivity. You need to be your own assistant and be disciplined in scheduling your calendar. If you don’t, it is more likely that you will feel out of control and stressed about the things you need to get done because you are constantly reacting to what is coming at you. 

Schedule less in the day so that you can have the energy to accomplish more in the week and methodically complete all of your goals. Success breeds success, so if you can complete the tasks you have planned for the day, you are more likely to be motivated to keep working on the ones you have planned for tomorrow.

Once you have set yourself up for a productive day, work through the items. And once you have finished your tasks for the day, relax and reward yourself for your work. Finishing your tasks doesn’t mean you need to find more tasks to do so that you keep working like a robot. When you don’t rest and reward yourself, you will never feel like you’re resting, and you will feel like you aways need to be working. It’s a horrible and vicious cycle to be in and it leads to feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Draw your lines clearly as to determine when you are working and when you are resting. 

If something comes up that is not in your calendar, do not work on it now. Schedule it for another day in the week. Obviously if it is an audition, you have to make that a priority, but then you move what you are going to work on for that day to another day in the week. By keeping the tasks as appointments on your calendar, it is very easy to move them to another day and to block the appropriate time for them. 

In order for you to have the most impact, schedule and control your calendar and make it your most critical action on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even inter-daily basis.

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5 Tips for Achieving Your Every Goal

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Crystal clear, passionate, and written down goals have the ability to transform our lives. They motivate and sustain us, and give us the laser focus to reach our full potential.

The absolutely most important thing you can do with your goals is to write them down. A goal that is not written down and seen every day is useless. Writing it down makes it explicit. Placing the written down goal in a place where you have to see it every day keeps it in the forefront your mind as you go through your day. In my experience, when I have written down a goal and placed it where I can constantly be reminded of it, I have achieved it. And when I have kept the goal in my head or a notebook, almost 90 of the time, I have failed in that achievement.

In 1979 a study was done at Harvard with its graduating class. The 13 percent of the class who had goals but did not write them down were earning twice the amount of the 84 who had no goals. But the three percent who had written goals were earning, on average, 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of the class combined!

When coming up with goals, here are five things you should remember:

1. Create a goal that inspires you! Why do you want it? Once you can say why you want a goal, it will give you purpose and focus for achieving that goal. Ex: I want to write a play. Why? Because I believe it will open more acting opportunities for me. 

2. Always, always write down your goals and see it everyday. A goal that is not written down is easy to forget and ignore.

3. Break a goal down into steps. What do I want to accomplish this and next week for my goal? What do I want to accomplish by the end of the month? In three months? Six months? Give each step a due date so that you know where you are and you stay committed. 

4. Review and revise your goals. Every week look at what you have done towards your goal and write down and date the next week’s and next month’s steps towards archiving that goal.

5. Never give up on your goals. Even if you don’t reach your goal by the date you wanted, if you have worked towards it with your full heart, that is success. Re-evaluate, write down the updated goal, and move forward.

"If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.” —Jim Rohn

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How to Make the Most Interesting Choice in a Scene

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As two of my former acting teachers, Jonathan Silverstein and Carl Forsman, used to suggest: Finding the positive choice in a scene is the most helpful and interesting choice you can make. Always look for the agreement in the scene; it wins the day. 

It is always more dramatic if you need, or use, the other actor in the scene. Use them to help you win the agreement that would best help your character achieve his needs.

As actors, we like playing the pain in the scene, we like to suffer, and I’m as guilty of this as anyone. However, what helps the scene the most, and us of course, is when we try to solve the problem in the scene. Given the option, most actors will pick fighting on stage because it’s easier and less vulnerable. Loving is always harder and more vulnerable in life, so why should it not be for the stage?

The moment you work for the agreement in the sceneyou give yourself an objective—something to work towards. You begin to use yourself and your imagination in the scene. You almost have to because now you’re working towards the goal and not playing a general mood or emotional state. 

It’s a much stronger choice when you work hard for the friendship in the scene, even when it’s apparent that the two characters hate each other. Remember, it’s useless to argue for the sake of arguing. As in life and on stage, you always get more with sugar that you do with vinegar. 

It’s a more interesting choice, and scene, if:

  • A con man is trying to befriend an officer with charm instead of trying to be tough and mean.

  • A wife, whose husband has left her for a younger women, behaves sweetly and kindly towards him instead of yelling and being angry.

  • Two lonely and depressed people act as if they are enjoying each other’s company because they want to stop feeling lonely, rather than acting lonely and depressed.

What a lot of us will want to do is play the end in the scene at the beginning so that we can show we are “acting” in the scene. Instead, play the opposite in the scene and look for the conflict or problem and try to solve it. 

On camera, this is even more critical that you look for the agreement in the scene and don’t play the end the whole way through. It ruins the pictures in the story and makes it difficult to edit. You have to see a change in the relationship in the scene and you do that though the pictures you create. 

All scenes have to have a change, and if you play the end of the scene at the beginning, you don’t have that change. Playing the love in the scene, looking for the agreement, helps you create that dramatic transition in the scene, and on camera, gives editors and the director something to cut and edit. 

Don’t look for the fight. Next time you get a scene where the two characters are either yelling at each other, don’t go for the obvious choice (hate and anger). Instead, look for the love between the characters. Try to get the agreement from the other actor you’re in trouble with. 

Here are two questions you can use to help you win your next scene: 
What would success look like for me in the scene? Then, how can I achieve that success? Then use yourself as you would in real life to try to win that objective. Remember, you get more with sugar than you do with vinegar.

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How to Thrive as an Unemployed Actor 

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Acting is the only profession in which you will always be in a constant state of unemployment, always,  you will always be looking for work. You book a TV series, a film, a play or a tour, and when that project ends and it will end at some point, you’ll need to find work again. This is the harsh reality of being an actor but you can not only survive in this constant state of unpredictability, you can thrive. 

The key is to having a goal, having something to aim at. During times of unemployment, goals support and protect us. Goals keeps you sharp and they opens doors for you but most importantly, they give you a purpose as an artist.  You need a goal that inspires you to do more, and to improve every single day. Even if it's only by a small percentage.  Be a better actor today than you were yesterday. Strive to do more today than what you did yesterday. 

Sitting around waiting to be booked on an acting job, or hoping that your agent or manager finds you work, is aimless and hopeless. And is what causes such large amounts of depression in actors.  You feel like you have no control over your artistic life but you do have control. You have so much more control than you think. 

Go to work on a monologue that needs to be sharpened, learn a new monologue, learn twenty monologues or create a project for yourself. Always be improving and creating every single day that you call yourself an actor. It is not only the best strategy, it is the only strategy you have. 

Improving your craft as an actor gives you a strong sense of purpose and direction, it invigorates you. It keeps you moving forward towards something a target, and that action will always open doors for you - and there’s a practical reason for this. 

When you improve, people will want to move closer to you and will want to present you with more opportunities.  It is why the phrase “success breads success” or “work begets work” hold such truth, because we're attracted to improvement.  It’s in our DNA as humans. But the opposite is also true, the less you improve the further people want to move away from you and less opportunities will be presented. And that too is in our DNA. 

If you improve every day in some way, even if it’s just by some incremental amount, you will grow exponentially as an actor. These small incremental moments of improvement compound over time and allow you to achieve things literally off the charts.  You have no idea how it can radically changes your life. Opportunities will come to you that you could have never even imagined.  

When I was a young actor,  I would work with a good friend and we both gave ourselves goals to learn 20 monologues. We would meet once a week, bring in a new monologue and give ourselves friendly notes on the pieces. Every week we both moved forward with our monologues.  

And there were days when one of us didn’t have the pieces fully memorized or crafted out but we kept meeting and inch by inch moving forward. By the end of one year, we each had close to twenty-two monologues. I can’t tell you the power and confidence that gave us as actors. It open doors for us and attracted opportunities to us. I truly believe that we have more control than we tend to believe as actors. 

I also wanted to create a project for myself as an actor. So every day, for five years I worked diligently on a play that I wanted to create.  I had many days when I didn’t progress as I wanted to.  It’s never a straight line that only goes up. It goes up, down, sideways, backward but over time, it is going up and consistently moving forward. I’ve taken that project inch by inch to the Kennedy Center, to the Library of Congress and could not even begin to tell you the opportunities it has presented me as an actor.  

Don’t let the distance from the goal crush your spirits. Break it down into small parts so you can have something to aim at every day. But make the aim high enough that it inspires you. Every day just do a tiny bit towards the goal, but every day you must move towards it. And never beat yourself if you don’t achieve 100 % of what you set out to do today but 50% is better than 0%, and 10% is still better than 0%.  It adds up so quickly. 

Make a schedule and keep to it, but write a schedule. Write your over all main goal down on every page of a notebook, diary or your calendar entry on our laptop. And every night before you go to bed, write down one step you wan to accomplish towards that goal. Just keep moving forward inch by inch, and you will be amazed what you can accomplish, it really is off the charts.  Your spirits will lift, your energy will grow and how your career will take the shape that you want it to take. 

Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. That is a recipe for failure.  You must only compare yourself to the you of yesterday. Anybody you compare yourself to is pointless. You don’t know all the detail of their lives, and you're making assumption about them in a complete vacuum. Your are the only measuring stick you need and should every use. 

Acting is hard work and it takes more than it gives you. There is no way around that reality.  Its’ why 90% of your friends you grew up with don’t act and why 90% of your families doesn’t act. It is hard, hard work. But you can find happiness and success if you have a goal to aim at, a sense of purpose to move forward with as an actor.  It’s how you thrive when you're unemployed, which is the one thing you can depend on as an actor.  But when you go to work on your goals, they will go to work on you. 

Are you better today than you were yesterday?  Did you do more today than you did yesterday? It is the only thing that matters.  


Summary:

  1. Have a goal - sharpen your skills, create a project for yourself.

  2. Write it down.

  3. Break it down into small parts.

  4. Write it into your calendar.

  5. Everyday work inch by inch towards that goal. You will get it done!

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. 
- Friedrich Nietzsche

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How to Handle Rejection as an Actor

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Being an actor, unfortunately, means that you will experience failure—likely more than once. I’ve experienced it, A-listers have experienced it, and if you haven’t already, you will. I’m not saying this to discourage you. On the contrary—“failure” is part of the game and if you’re not failing, you’re probably not trying. As you move along your journey as an artist, failure is a necessary part of the trip.

Because at the end of the day, it’s all about how you frame the experience. Instead of beating yourself up over a botched audition or forgotten lines, think of it instead as feedback. Yes, you’ll experience rejection and have tough moments where you feel like you royally messed up and there’s no possible way you can come back from whatever it is you deem a failure. But trust me when I say that it is never as bad as you think it is.

As artists, we focus so heavily on our failures, almost ignoring the positive aspects of our careers and performances. But our goal as performers should be to develop the ability to think extraordinarily, which in turn will help us frame those perceived “failures” in a more positive light. Thinking extraordinarily means having the ability to experience failure and have the discipline to ignore it, move on, and immediately focus on the next audition or performance. What separates those we admire in any field is their ability to learn from their failures, acknowledge, then ignore and move on.

That said, our brains are wired to let failure weigh heavily and to only see the negatives in a performance. It’s a survival mechanism; if we think of the negative first, we can, in theory, avoid danger by taking the less-negative route. But as a performer, you’ve got to rewire that part of your brain at least as far as your art is concerned.

Remember: You will get another opportunity and when you do, you can’t be dwelling on a past failure. So here’s an exercise to help you get over it and move on for the sake of your work:

Write down two or three things you could have done differently that might have helped improve your performance. Think about everything honestly: Did you prepare as much as you could have? Did you go to sleep at the right time? Did you have one-too-many drinks the night before? Did you leave yourself enough time to get to the audition so you weren’t stressed about traffic?

Then, write down two or three things you felt you did well. This part is critical—you need to focus on the positive so you can ingrain the things you did well and give yourself a better chance of repeating them. Train yourself to focus on the positive, even if you feel like nothing went well. It can be something as simple as how you walked in and out of the room. Or that you got there early enough to get a good parking spot.

Make it part of your mission statement as an artist that when you feel tired or stressed, you won’t make excuses. Don’t give yourself an opportunity to not be fully prepared. None of that, “I’m just too tired to work on this material.” The thing that separates elite performers from everyone else is their ability to prepare when they don’t feel like preparing.

Your job is to hammer away at all cost at your craft even when you’re exhausted and don’t have the energy. That is what will separate you from everyone else and it’s what will change the course of your career.

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3 Hacks for Having an Amazing TV Audition

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Over the years acting in Manhattan, I’ve learned a few hacks to help for a TV or Film audition. When we prepare for an audition, we imagine that who we’re auditioning for will be reading across from us slowly and clearly. So we prepare our audition and learn our lines at a comfortable pace, and imagine the casting director acting them out fully with us. But in reality, what happens is that you're most likely not going to get any acting from the other side. Zero. 

In fairness to them, that’s usually because they have so many actors and projects to get through, however, the tempo of the audition and the speed casting decides to read at can throw you off if it’s different than how you prepared. It can mess with you because you’re anticipating more space and more beats. This can also happen if the casting director is reading two or three characters at the same time with the same tone and speed as if they were reading the lines of one character. If you don’t prepare and ready yourself for such differences and they happen, you might begin to feel your nerves, go up on your lines, and your audition can go into the trash can.

Auditioning for TV is about getting through the audition confidently and efficiently so that the casting director will call you back in. It can feel like a magic trick at times, but it is a trick that every actor needs to learn how to do. We all need to find what method will help us be as relaxed and confident as we can in the audition. So finding different ways to prepare yourself can give you a leg up on your competition. Here are three helpful hacks you can try to make sure your audition goes smoothly.

Hack 1.

Right before the audition starts, when casting says “are you ready?” Say “No, can I please have a minute,” and then take three slow breaths in and exhales out before you begin. This will focus you, relax you, and more importantly bring oxygen into your bloodstream and brain.  

If you’re all amped up for an audition, your breathing will be shallow, which means there will be less oxygen going to the brain, and less oxygen will make you nervous. Watch what a professional athlete does before a big moment. You’ll see them breathe in and out. Also remember, breathing looks good and relaxes the casting director. When you breathe, they breathe. 

Hack 2.
This hack is the one I believe is the most important: Prepare all your dialogue as if you had one long monologue. By memorizing all of your dialogue as if it were one giant monologue, you learn all your lines incredibly well. This will give you confidence that you know your lines, but more importantly, it will guide you in the audition, so you know exactly where you are in the script. 

This is especially helpful when you have a lot of dialogue and the casting director is reading two or three characters potentially running all those lines together as if they were all coming from one character. When the pace is fast, and the stakes are higher, and you look down to see where you are, it’s incredibly easy to lose your lines.

Hack 3.
If you find you need to go again because you didn’t start smoothly or if the casting director is going so fast that you can’t keep up, take a breath and ask the casting director if you can do it again and to please slow down. Ask calmly and professionally. Remember, it is your audition, and you want to do everything you can to give them the audition they need to keep you on the tape to show the directors and producers. If they say no, don’t take it personally because it’s not about you. There’s something else going on in the office that has nothing to do with you. Do your best and say thank you for the audition. 

So, remember, before you start, take three breaths and when they say “are you ready,” ask if you can have a minute. Take three breaths in and out, and look at your lines and then say, “OK, I’m ready.” When you have a lot of dialogue, prepare by learning all of your lines well as if you were learning a monologue. And if you do get lost, politely and respectfully ask to go again.

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On set on The Affair

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2 TIPS for Musical Artist on How to Act on Screen

Acting in a musical comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles. It has a specific technique and training that is unique to the medium, as does acting in front of the camera. 

Musical theaters artist tend to forget that acting in front of the camera does not need the large gestures and actions that you need to communicate intention as when you act in a musical. You don’t need to push with your body or large hand gestures, and you certainly don’t need heavy breathing and big rolling eye gestures. When you make these large gestures in front of the camera, you are overacting.

Inspiring Quotes

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Your brain is a computer and your constant thoughts are the software that allow you to accomplish the goals and projects you dream of. Below are a few of the quotes from books that I have read, leaders that I have followed and a few quotes that have inspired me and given me direction and inspiration.

Live your life with PASSION and PURPOSE

1. You do under conditions of stress what you practice in training - Charles Poliquin

2. Focus on the task moving forward. It’s all the matters. - The Mental ABC’s of Pitching

3. Feeling emotional is common and ordinary but not allowing those thoughts to affect your focus on the task is EXTRAORDINARY.

4. Learn to focus on the next performance, irrespective of physical symptoms of fear. Detaching yourself from emotions.

5. Emotions feed your monster. THOUGHTS starve them!

6. Courage and conviction are required to change a negative habit, particularly if experience has taught you to make excuses. Don't make them!

7. Procrastination is the enemy of HUSTLE

8. All Behavior is Believe Driven

9. Anything worth having, is worth working for!

10. Know who you are, be who you are. Have the courage to be yourself

11. If you want to manage it, you have to be able to measure it.

12. To dwell on the things that depress or anger us does not help in overcoming them. One must knock the down alone - Einstein

13. Leaders are READERS.

14. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle

15. Who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. -Aristotle

16. Leaders must be able to compartmentalize. How many major issues does the President have to deal with in one day? Compartmentalize.

17. Results do not indicate performance failure. Poor behavior and execution does.

18. Practice your positive thoughts because, THOUGHTS equal behavior which equals ACTION, which equal CHARACTER & DESTINY.

19. Focus on the present, and what is the next step you will take. What happened in the past is IRRELEVANT.

20. You aren’t a failure until you start to blame. - John Wooden.

21. Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.

22. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ... I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. -Robert Frost

23. You have to work hardest for the things you love most.

24. Think about what you want to do, not what might happen to you.

25. Emotions feed your monster. THOUGHTS starve them!

26. ACTION & HUSTLE defeats procrastination.

27. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. -J.K. Rowling

28. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. - Chinese Proverb

29. Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices.

Do the hardest thing on earth for YOU. Act for yourself. Face the truth. -Katherine Mansfield

30. Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. -Bruce Lee

31. Real living is living for others. - Bruce Lee

32. Never waste energy on worries or negative thoughts, all problems are brought into existence, drop them. - Bruce Lee

33. A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at. -Bruce Lee

34. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover!

35. When you play it too safe, you're taking the biggest risk of your life. Time is the only wealth we're given. -Barbara Sher

36. Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear. -George Addair

37. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough: we must do. - Bruce Lee

38. Everyone has a 'risk muscle.' You keep it in shape by trying new things. If you don't, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day. -Roger Von Oech

39. Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the

second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it. -Oprah Winfrey

40. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot lear, feel, change, grow, love and live. -Leo F.Buscaglia

41. Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs,

and that is the risk of doing nothing. -Denis Waitley

42. You can measure opportunity with the same yardstick that measures the risk involved. They go together. -Earl Nightingale

43. Do one thing every day that scares you. -Mary Schmich

44. I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. -Pablo Picasso

45. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. -Steve Jobs

46. Rational and positive self talk helps behavior and action.

47. Rational thoughts trump all fears and worries. If not adequately addressed, performance anxiety can grow into a pervasive fear.

48. Learn the massive value of focusing on execution.

49. Feeling emotional is common and ordinary, but not allowing those thoughts to affect your focus on the task is EXTRAORDINARY.

50. The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It determine whether you become the person you want to be.

51. Judging yourself on execution is all that that should matter because that is what you do have control over.

52. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there - John Wooden

53. Correction not excessive criticism should be the focus. Thoughtful and positive talk on the task is what ELITE performers have. -Michael Jordan

54. Build a positive self image by taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions, rather than trying to make excuses.

55.The best strategy for controlling excuses is to keep quiet and allow the deed to represent itself-for better or for worse.

56. He who says he can, and he who says he can’t are both right - Confucius

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The American Soldier Solo Show Trailer

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 Trailer to The American SoldierBased on real stories and factual accounts from actual soldier and family member letters written from the American Revolution all the way through current day Afghanistan.  It examines the internal struggles and problems that soldiers and their families face when returning home from combat.  It has been nominated for the Amnesty International Award for theatre excellence, received 4 stars internationally,  performed at the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, New York Federal Reserve Bank, American Legion National Headquarters and been featured in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Military Times and Time Out to name a few, and received overwhelming responses from veterans, audiences touring through the country.  

The Life of a Performer

Guest blog by Jamie Soltis / Episcopal Actors' GuildAh, the life of a performer. What could be more glamorous? Sailing along the seas of survival jobs, living on the free pizza at Crocodile Lounge, avoiding the wacko roommates (who, insanely, think you're the wacko)-- why doesn't everyone live like this?  If you ask me, most of us are not so motivated by things like routine and security, but by some variation of passion. Some of us need to tell a story, some love to spread joy, provoke thought, or evoke emotion; all of us feel a certain pull to be doing what we do. Performing is a noble service, but it is not without its challenges! I'm an actor, and I just started a new survival job at this magical place that I wish I knew existed YEARS ago- The Episcopal Actors' Guild (EAG). EAG exists to provide charitable assistance to performers that are going through a financial crisis. (And PS-- don't let the name fool you. This nonprofit is, and always has been, for NYC performers of all faiths, and none. If you're into NYC history, definitely read up on ours.) Since 1923, EAG has been able to help clients with critical issues such as:

  • Eviction
  • Housing Court Stipulations
  • Utility Shut-Offs
  • Emergency Medical and Dental Costs
  • Transportation

Furthermore, an alarming amount of performers have told us they don't have enough to eat. So in response, we created the Actors Pantry. Now, when a performer comes to us for financial assistance, they’re able to leave with a bag of nutritious, delicious groceries as well. Thanks to our donors and members, we also have funding for performers living with HIV/AIDS, families who are struggling with life-altering illnesses, and veteran actors who have retired. And, hallelujah, once a year, we offer free headshots to our clients!The help provided to performers in crisis is one side of the Guild. The other side is that we are a sweet, sweet actors' club! Located at 1 East 29th Street in Manhattan, EAG is on the second floor of the landmarked "Little Church Around the Corner." Guild Hall is decked out with historical relics from famous actors of yore and is just about the coziest place I have ever set foot in. Plays, readings, and cabarets grace our stage regularly. We host a bunch of free events for members like our Artist Afternoon career-development workshops (with topics like scene study, Shakespeare, Feldenkrais, meditation), Broadway Book Club, and actors/playwrights/poet nights. We also have the pleasure of meeting the numerous theatre companies who rent our space. And usually, there's wine.One of my favorite things about theatre is the new set of friends you make with each play. Lovely, talented friends that you promise to keep in touch with after closing. When I first moved to New York, I found myself pining for a theatre community like the one I left in Philly. I'm really, really grateful to have found this at EAG. Don't fret, fellow commitment-phobes, you only come by when you want to come by. Membership for performers ranges from $30-$45 per year and goes to helping our charitable work. See you at the Guild!The Episcopal Actors' Guild1 E. 29th St.New York, NY 10016actorsguild.orgFacebook, Twitter, Instagram: @actorsguildnyc

How to have more Confidence as an Actor!

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The mother of all skill is repetition!

To have the confidence you want on stage or in the audition room, you have to be willing to go the extra mile. Be willing to rehearse and practice more than others and go beyond what your body and mind think is enough. 

When you go the extra mile and drill your work over and over, that is when your skills become sharp and your confidence grows.This past year I was asked to perform my current solo show The American Soldier plus a new solo show that I was commissioned to write and perform for the Library of Congress, (An American’s Journey Home).  

The deadline was tight and the work was intense but I knew that in order for me to have the confidence I wanted on stage, I needed to rehearse after my scheduled rehearsal.  I had to go the extra mile.After rehearsal with my director I felt exhausted physically and mentally, and that little voice inside me would start to talk to me “Doug, you have done enough, you need to rest.” 

However I knew I could not listen to that voice and that I needed to spend additional time rehearsing in order to perform at my best and have the confidence I wanted on stage.I would rehearse with my director for about three to four hours and after he left, I would run the whole show again, sometimes even twice. That was where I gained my confidence as a performer. 

Extensive rehearsing can change the physical wiring of your brain to help support exceptional performance.  Like lifting weights develop biceps muscles.It is also where I discovered moments in the play that I never found in rehearsal.  Your mind starts to switch from right side dominance (the logical) to the left side of the brain dominance (the creative).

Practice shapes your brain how you want it to perform.Our minds are designed to steer us away from anything dangerous or anything uncomfortable, it’s how we’re designed and how have survived as humans.  So you’re never going to feel motivated to do anything that your mind deems uncomfortable or difficult.Instinctively, we always want to choose the path of least resistance. 

The next time you hear that voice inside you telling you to stop and that you have done enough, push yourself to go through it and you will reap the benefits.Tips on how to gain confidence. 

  1. TV or Film Audition - Once you feel you have it in you, drill the material again for 30 to 45 minutes non stop. You will find that you will discover more about the material and character. The more you rehearse it, the more your logical (right side) part of the brain turns off and the more your creative (left side) part of the brain turns on.

  2. Theatre scene - Rehearse your scene once or twice through after you feel like quitting. Push your rehearsal endurance and you will develop the confidence on stage that you want.

  3. Monologue - Run it for 30 minutes without stopping. The reps in repetition will give you the confidence you need to perform it under pressure.

  4. Water - Drink plenty of water during your rehearsal. The hydration you have in your body, the more hydration you have in your brain. Dehydration causes you to feel more exhaustion.

  5. Eat healthy - Eat something healthy. Don’t eat super sweet foods like candy or candy bars because this will crash your sugar levels. Eat a protein bar or a piece of fruit. You simply want some food energy to help you push through.

  6. Record your TV and Film audition scenes - Record your scenes with your iPhone so that you can listen to the other characters lines while you work on yours. You basically have a scene partner on your iPhone. I make a funny voices for the other characters and then record mine with my voice and listen to it over and over until my audition.

"Under Conditions of Stress, you do what you learned under training"- Charles Poliquin, Olympic Coach Video testimonials of American's Journey Home

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HoneySuckle Magazine Interview

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My Recent interview with Jaime Lubin of HoneySuckle Magazine We talked about my process and my new solo show An American's Journey Home which premiered at the Library of CongressWith current events highlighting the divisions in our country, this Veterans Day Douglas Taurel seeks to reunite us by living in the past. But it’s not what it sounds like. As the Library of Congress kicks off its centennial anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I on November 11th, Taurel will be on hand in the Coolidge Auditorium to perform his acclaimed solo show The American Solider and premiere his latest play, An American Soldier’s Journey Home: The Diary of Irving Greenwald. Turns out we have a lot in common with people from 100 years ago. 

How to Handle Failure

 How to Handle FailureBeing an actor unfortunately means that you will experience failure.  I have experienced failure, stars have and you will also as you move along your journey as an artist.   It’s part of the game and if you’re not failing, then you are not trying.At the end of the day failure is simply feedback. You will experience rejection and you will have tough moments in your career when you feel like you royally messed up. Maybe you lost your lines at an audition or simply didn't’ perform well, however you should always remember that it is never as bad as you think it is.  It never is.  As an artist we always focus heavily on our failures rather than on the positive aspects of our careers and performances. However, our goal as performers is to develop the ability of thinking extraordinary, not common and normal.  Thinking extraordinary means having the ability to experience failure and have the discipline to ignore those failures, move past them and immediately focus on the next audition or performance.  What separates those we admire in any field is their ability to ignore their failures, to learn from them and to move past them. A more normal way of thinking is to ponder heavily on our failures and to only see the negative in our performance. That’s normal because that’s how our brains are wired. They are designed to think of the negative first so that we are able to survive. There isn't a performer who has not experienced failure and had a massive disappointment. It is important for you to remember you will get another opportunity to perform and make up for it.  Here are some exercises to help you get over the failure:

  • Write down two or three actions you could have taken to prepare differently and that might have helped you improve your performance.   Ask yourself, honestly:  Did I prepare enough? Did I go to bed at the right time? Did I drink too much the night before?  
  • Write down two or three actions you feel you also did well. It is critical to focus on the positive so that you can ingrain what you did well and give yourself a better chance of repeating it. Train yourself to focus on the positive even if you feel like you did nothing well.  It can be as simple as how you walked in and out of the room. Or how you marketed yourself to get the audition. Train yourself to always focus on the positive.

Also, make it a part of your mission statement as an artist that when you feel tired, or feel too stressed for whatever reason, you will not give yourself the excuse to not be fully prepared. You won’t use the excuse, “I’m just too tired to work on this material”.   The thing that separates elite performers from everyone else is their ability to prepare when they don’t feel like preparing.   Your job is to hammer away at all cost at your craft even when you are exhausted and don’t have the energy.  That is what will separate you from everyone else and it will change the course of your career. 

How to Find Happiness As an Actor

 

Success and happiness come to us when we remove our egos and focus on our effort and to do the work: becoming better storytellers, being prepared and creating as many opportunities for ourselves as we can. When we do that, that is enough and success will follow.

We tend to let our egos dictate how success is defined for us. Ego has us comparing ourselves with others, hence IMDb’s star meter. When we let go of our egos and only judge ourselves by the amount of effort we have put into our careers, we begin to take control of our careers and begin to take risks. And taking risks is what leads to success.

Ego stops us from pursuing our goals because we fear we won’t be appreciated or we will be criticized too harshly.  Ego prevents us from making that call to the agent or attempting the project that we have been so longing to create. We focus on the applause that it will or won’t receive instead of being happy with the fruit of our labor. You will be unappreciated, you will experience surprising failures and your expectations will not be met at times, but how you pick yourself up, carry on and how you see your failures defines the character in you which will lead you onwards and upwards.

I find that feeling depressed about our careers comes when we feel helpless and judge our success by only the praise we have (or have not) received from our parents or from friends back home. Remember that in life there will be times when we do everything right, but the results will somehow be negative and you will experience failure, even a resounding yawn from the world. I believe that if you focus on your effort and take pride in your effort, you will have the confidence to keep moving forward towards your goal in the good times and tough times.

Think of Steve Jobs, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah, JK Rowling, Bloomberg, Spielberg, Emily Dickinson—all these amazing individuals were either fired, laughed at or given resounding rejections. But they never let their egos get in the way of what they wanted to achieve.

Start the project you have been wanting to start, without worrying about whether people will think it is stupid. Make the call to the agent without the fear of him/her hanging up on you.  As the new year rolls around, focus on letting go of your ego and on being content with the quality of your effort without looking for approval. Your effort is sufficient and is where success and happiness lies. Take risks!

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming"–John WoodenRead how to accomplish your goals