Why Knowing Your Type Is Important

By Charis Joy Jackson

Previously published on Backstage.

I have a love/hate relationship with being typecast. I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking. Many actors endeavour to break away from being cast in the same roles over and over again. I think I speak true when I say it’s the actor’s dream to be one of those few who are known for breaking the mould. Gary Oldman comes to mind, the man is a chameleon.

However, I think it’s important to take note of your type.

Recently, I posted two of my head shots in a couple of acting groups. I was curious to read what people saw in them. Most of the people don’t know me, so I knew their answers would be purely on my look and not my personality or character.

It was a valuable insight for me and one I recommend you try too.

Knowing your type is important because it can broaden your horizon

We all have our own presupposition of the type of characters we should be playing. However, we’re not always as perceptive to the vast pool of character types we could go for.

For example, I only saw myself as the best friend type. Or the quirky girl on the sidelines. Not as glamorous as the leading lady types, but still fun characters for a lifetime career as an actress.

Then in one acting course, my classmates and I were asked to spend a full minute silently staring at each other, to think up the types of characters we could see that person playing.

I loathed it, but soon learned how beneficial it was to have an idea of how others saw me.

During the session, my preconceived ideas were replaced with a whole new bunch of characters I never thought about before. Knowing this, helped me to branch out in my acting too.

The same can happen for you. If you have a small circle of characters you think you’d be good for, try asking fellow actors what roles they’d see you in. Then use it to your advantage by workshopping scenes with these types of characters. Not only will it help you grow as an actor, but it may help you go for auditions you would’ve never gone for.

Knowing your type is important because it can save you time

As someone who has been Casting Director on two independent features, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your type. You’d be surprised how often I put out a casting call for a specific character, giving information on the age range and look only to have a heap of actors apply who clearly don’t fit. My favourite is when I have twenty-something’s asking to audition for a character who’s six! (True story.)

It’s a waste of my time and a waste of the actor’s time too.

When an actor knows the types of characters to audition for, it frees up their time to go for roles they actually fit, versus waiting on auditions where they don’t. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend a day auditioning for characters I actually have a real chance to play, versus ones where I don’t.

Last bits of advice… Sometimes it can be disheartening to hear what type others think you could go for, but take what they say with a grain of salt. Learn where you can and dismiss it where it hinders. And definitely don’t see it as a part of who you are, it’s not your identity, it’s like a skill or tool for your trade. That’s it.

Knowing your type is important and can definitely be beneficial to the actor’s career, but at the end of the day, go for the roles which inspire you.

The One Thing You Need To Know About Acting: There Is No Formula

By Keaton J. Evans

 

One of the biggest temptations for actors, when they begin their creative journey, is the desire to have everything figured out as quickly as possible. Which is completely natural. I did this when I first started learning how to act, and I still find myself doing this.

 

Thing is, I like to make formulas for problems I find in my life and in my acting. The classic A+B=C right? Well, mathematically yes, but not in other areas of life. Especially for any problems you face as an actor.

 

With acting you have so many things to think about and work through. You gotta break down a script, learn about the story, your character, your relationship with the other characters and emotions and everything else under the sun. And while there are things you can do which will help, there is no formula.

 

One reason for this is because of how different techniques work for different people. I mentioned this a bit in another article I wrote, which you should check out. The basic idea is an acting technique which works for someone else may not work for you. You may find certain acting tips don’t work, while other ones will. The point is don’t rush to find a system. Know it will take you awhile to figure out this whole acting thing. When starting out, patience is key.

 

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The second case for no formula is this: art is fickle as well as acting. And an approach or technique which may work for you once may not work again. And if you stick to only one approach, especially early on, you’ll get stuck in a single way of doing things, instead of exploring all the techniques which exist.

 

There’s a “Creative Spark” starring production designer Rick Carter where he mentions how he never knows how he’s going to do a movie. He doesn’t go in with preconceptions. Carter is a major production designer in the film industry and his words surprised me at first. Surely by now he would have a system for making a movie after years of doing so many films. But in fact his openness and acceptance of his own limited knowledge is exactly why he’s so good. He understands it’s not about figuring it out.

 

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You gotta let go of what you think you know. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it helps to be completely clueless and open when approaching your craft.

 

Curiosity should beat out needing to have all the answers in a nice formula. If that makes sense. Just like Rick, you should always be searching for answers. There is no one method which covers all. If you think you’ll be able to find some formula or something that works each time, maybe you should try openness of mind and asking more questions.

 

You can’t have all the answers, and you’re not suppose to. My third point is exactly this. Have questions instead of answers. You’ll find answers when you ask questions. So ask away! There are answers to be found in the script, and you’ll be able to answer them. It’s the same as not going into the script with preconceptions. You come at it with a clean slate.

 

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There are definitely things you can do which will help you in acting. Little tricks and tips here and there which will help.

 

But needing to have a consistent overarching formula and approach won’t really help you here. Which is totally fine. Grow your curiosity, ask questions, and be free to be completely clueless especially at the beginning. That’s acting and that’s art folks.

 

As actors, we need to learn to let go of formula and embrace the journey.

 

How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

“Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

1. Incompetech

I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

2. Free Music Archive

With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

3. Bensound

Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

4. YouTube Channels

Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

You can find music one of two ways:

  • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
  • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

  1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
  2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

7. Audiojungle

If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

“The Expanse” Will Make You Feel Lost In Space

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Netflix’s new show, The Expanse, is extraordinary, visually stunning, and has a gritty, realistic look which makes the show quite unique and creative when compared to other sci-fi shows.

There’s a lot going on right off the bat, with colonies across the solar system, a futuristic Earth, a militant Mars, and plenty of water shortage on some smaller worlds. I would say there’s a lot going for the show.

This being said, there are also a few things which the show isn’t so great at doing. Below are some thing it does well and some things where it misses the mark. All points considered, you’ll feel lost in space watching this show.

Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Worlds Are Incredible

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The production quality is the shows number one quality, hands down. The worlds and ships they show glisten with details and have almost a Blade Runner vibe especially on the Asteroid colonies.

The show also hits well on the realities of space and what could go wrong. One example, is the water shortage on the asteroid belt. There’s moments where shipments of ice are delayed and the people on the belt suffer because of it. It goes even farther to point out that if a second shipment is delayed then people will die.

It was refreshing to see so much thought put into the mechanics of world outside of earth, and see the messy reality, and complications which could arise. The visual aspects of the worlds and the realism they present are both excellent.

Seeing all these real intricate worlds allows you to get lost in them, a feeling which was a pleasant surprise.

Wait, Who Are These People?

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After watching The Expanse, I noticed the one thing I didn’t quite like: the character development. Probably the weakest aspect of the film. While the production design is quite superb, the characters fall short, especially in the beginning.

I thought about why this was. The characters are interesting enough, they live in incredible worlds, and the plot is good, so what gives. Well, here’s the deal. While the characters may be interesting, it’s hard to know because they rush the character development.

It feels like we are supposed to know who these people are as soon as we see the first shot. It almost seems like the beginning of the show is the middle of a show. Now, there is development of the characters, a little.

But for the most part, all the introductions are rushed and end up leaving you feeling  little connection with the people you are watching. I think to myself, “A spaceship explodes and people might die! Oh no! Wait, who are these people?”

If they want the events to hold any weight, they need to let us get to know the characters, and then put them into dangerous life-threatening situations, or we won’t care.

If you feel stranded and not quite sure how to feel then don’t worry, it’s an effect of rushed character intros.

Feeling Lost Could Be Either Good or Bad

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Both the best qualities of the show and the worst qualities of the show will make you feel lost. But which feeling sticks with you? Does the production design and visuals carry you through the hard-to-know characters, or do you feel not knowing the characters takes you out of the show?

Either way, it’s an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a science-fiction show.

How to Promote Your Acting Career for Success

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

Actors need to get creative and build a community around their career. In other words, they need to promote themselves to become more successful.

This is not success in the manner of earning the bigger bucks, or becoming famous. Those can be byproducts of your success, BUT they should never be the reason to promote your acting career.

The success you’ll find in promoting your career come more in the community you build. The more you relate to your fan base and fellow dreamers, the more likely they’ll want to watch you in a film.

Here’s a couple tips to get you started on the path to success.

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CREATE A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM

Create your own Facebook page, start an instagram account, jump on Twitter, and build your own website. This can be a huge help to boost your career.

I’ve heard rumors of some agencies who won’t even look at you as a potential client unless you have a certain amount of followers on Instagram and Facebook. While I can’t confirm or deny this, I can understand the principle behind why an agency would do this.

If they can find someone who’s already showing themselves to be a bit of an “X-factor” then they are more likely to want to work with you. In some ways it means less work for them too, but it can also show them you mean business and acting isn’t just a hobby, but your life.

I would recommend you start with building your own Facebook page, but don’t do this unless you know you’re ready for the hard work of pursuing your dream. Acting is fun, but it is a lot of hard work and takes incredible tenacity to stick to it in the long haul.

If this sounds like you, then you should create a Facebook page. Invite everyone on your friends list if you can. The more personal the invite, the better. Send it to them in a message versus just clicking the invite button.

Then start your own Twitter and Instagram accounts. Follow other budding actors you know and hopefully they’ll return the favor. Follow casting companies like Backstage to get updates on potential auditions and jobs.

Having your own website can be helpful too. With platforms like Weebly, who do most of the hard work for you, it’s really easy to build your own site. If it’s done well, then it will aid your professional appearance, making it more likely for agencies and films to hire you.

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BE CONSISTENT WITH THE CONTENT YOU SHARE

An important key with your social media platform is to be consistent with what you produce. Set aside some time to figure out what you can realistically produce in a week, then create a schedule for yourself.

Research when each site’s high traffic times are and schedule posts for those times. Take advantage of the almighty hashtags on Twitter and Instagram especially. Ask questions, take pictures of the projects you’re a part of and be real with people.

The more real you are with your growing fan base, the more fans you’ll acquire.

For example, look at Robert Downey Jr. If anyone had the excuse to not promote themselves, it would be him, but if you’re like me and follow him on facebook, you know he’s always active with his fans and more than that, he’s real with them.

Zachary Levi is another actor I’ve noticed who is incredibly active with his fans. Almost daily, he’s responding to fans on Twitter, being real, sometimes even cheeky, but he’s still taking the time to see them as individuals versus a whole.

This is something I wish more actors would do as they build platforms to promote their careers.

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“Don’t tell people your dreams. Show them.”

(author unknown)

I know it can be a bit scary to think about promoting yourself. Maybe you’re afraid it’ll look a bit pompous or narcissistic. Think of it more as you inviting them on the adventure, make them feel like they’re part of your inside team. Build a community of dreamers and creatives.

Continuity’s Best Friends: What You Need To Succeed

Written by Brenden Bell.

New to the continuity department and unsure what to bring? Check out this list and don’t be unprepared for your first day on the job!

Shopping to be a script supervisor on a film crew and shopping to go back to school are basically the same thing; it’s all pencils, erasers and rulers.

The equipment needed for other roles on a film set is obvious and overly technical. Not so for the script supervisor. The tool belt for this unique member of the film family is pretty basic.

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  1. The Pencil is Mightier than the Sword

Ultimately you can use any writing utensil, but a pencil is ideal. You’re going to be making many mistakes making notes on a sheet of paper with limited real estate. The more you can erase, the more space you have to write your observations.

In this vein, it becomes paramount to have a great eraser (or rubber if you’re an Aussie), because let’s face it…those erasers on the top of pencils straight up suck. Also, I would bring along a pencil sharpener, a plethora of back up pencils, and a pencil pouch to keep everything ready to go and organised.

Script Notes

  1. The Ruler’s the Thing

The next item to include in your back to school shopping is a simple ruler. They’re nice, especially if you’re anal and like to be neat, to help keep your notes more organised, but they serve a larger purpose as well.

In your binder, you have your continuity notes on the side which corresponds with the hand you with your writing hand. I’m right-handed, so my notes are on the right side of the binder. The script pages for the scene I‘m taking notes on are FACING that page on the opposite side.

With your facing script, it’s part of your job to keep track of coverage with a combination of straight and squiggly lines. You’re creating a visual reference point for the director and A.D. to ensure that every moment from the script has been put in film in one form or another.

How does this archaic system work, you ask? A line is drawn throughout the entire portion of a scene a shot encapsulates; the line is straight during the portion of the script caught on camera in the shot, and a squiggly line through the portions not shown.

If there is a portion of the script without lines, or is all squiggly lines, then the director knows perhaps an additional shot is required in order to have proper coverage for the scene in question.

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  1. Mega-Binder

The next thing you’re going to need is MEGA-BINDER. This will either be a tome, or simply a normal, 3 or 4-ring binder (depending on the length of the script). What goes into this binder? All of your continuity notes from set and the facing script.

If I’m continuity on a feature film (rather than merely a short film), I tend to pull the notes/facing pages from the scenes on the call sheet for the day and put them in a smaller binder or a clipboard. Carrying around a behemoth of a binder becomes a bit of an issue.

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  1. iPad Dreamz

The last bit of equipment wasn’t on the school shopping list when I was a kid, but has become commonplace in the classroom these days (at least here in Australia).

This is an iPad (or tablet/touch screen PC with camera).

As a script supervisor, it’s important to have a camera in order to take continuity photos. If you don’t know why, feel free to read through this article and learn all about it.

Sadly, most digital cameras have a small display; meaning if you need to reference back to a continuity photo on set, you may need a microscope. There are countless solutions to this problem, but an iPad is one of them. The large, high-resolution display as well as the ability to zoom in on images easily is a Godsend.

It’s important to be prepared on a film set; I hope this list helps you in becoming an indispensable part of someone’s film crew.

 

Is “Guardians of the Galaxy” Marvel’s Second Best Film?

BY KEATON J. EVANS

*Warning: Huuuuge Spoilers!*

Guardians of the Galaxy is considered to be one of the greatest creative achievements by Marvel and also the favourite of many fans. But is it the best Marvel film? Or has the new Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 surpassed it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the film when I watched it a few days ago, and I wondered how it stacks up to the first one. I made three rounds for both movies to compete in and we shall see who the winner is at the end of the article.

These three points are the ones I considered to be the most important differences between the two.

ROUND 1: THE PLOT

Guardians Vol. 1: Peter Quill embarks on an adventure to escape Ronan and everyone else out to get him and the infinity stone he carries. Along the way he’s forced to work with other convicts. They all learn to work as a family and end up saving Xandar, a planet that Ronan was bent on destroying. Only by uniting as a team do they stop Ronan and take-back the infinity stone. Overall, the plot establishes the theme that family is what is most important. To read more about this, read Brenden’s piece here.

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Guardians Vol. 2: In the second installment we see the team working together to protect a superior race of people and then fleeing said people when Rocket steals one of the batteries they were hired to protect. Their ship crashes on an alien planet where they meet Peter’s father, Ego. We then follow father and son and the plot between Gamora’s sister Nebula, who’s out to take her revenge of Gamora. It’s a bit slow in some areas, which is understandable because the movie is character-focused. Both films are. But overall, the plot drags in some areas, being sacrificed to the jokes and humor, which are good, but take away from making the plot stronger.

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The first film brought the charm of family and bringing together a ragtag team to win this round over vol. 2.

WINNER: Vol. 1

ROUND 2: THE VILLAIN

Guardians Vol. 1: In the first volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy our heroes face Ronan, a leader of the Cree people who’s out for the infinity stone and couldn’t care less about Thanos. He’s about as flat as a villain could be, but still intimidating and powerful. He’s defeated by the Guardians rather easily, though that hammer of his sure was crazy good with an infinity stone strapped inside of it. Overall, he’s about as typical as Marvel villains come.

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Guardians Vol. 2: In the second volume of the Guardians’ adventure, we face a whole new kind of villain: a father gone bad. His reveal is dynamic, a twist to many fans and a highlight of the film, to be sure. I know I was shocked and I feared for Star-lord, a reaction I haven’t felt for many characters. But when Star-lord literally went starry-eyed, I was concerned. And the horror of all the children Ego killed and buried was also uncomfortable to realize. And, being a planet is something we haven’t seen yet, which adds to the originality of the character. Admittedly it feels like they’re fighting the Death Star at the end, but that’s for another round. The thing about Ego is his motives sound grand, but they too appear a bit murky.

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With Ego being the more original and surprising twist of the two, the winner of this round belongs to Star-lord’s dad.

WINNER: Vol. 2

So far the two are tied, which is good. It’s what makes fights interesting. Good thing there’s a third and final round to settle which one’s better!

ROUND 3: THE CLIMAX

Guardians Vol. 1: The climax of the first film included an epic space battle above Xandar, the planet the heroes are desperate to save. After trying to stop a giant ship from crashing into the city, the ship is able to break the blockade and crash into the city. But before Ronan can slap his infinity stone-infused hammer into the ground and wipe out the world, he is challenged to a dance-off by Peter. After distracting Ronan he takes ahold of the infinity stone and defeats Ronan with the help of the other Guardians. The dance-off is completely unexpected and hilarious and the moment they unite is a powerful one.

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Guardians Vol. 2: At times the climax reminded me of people trying to blow up the Death Star, and I’m still trying to figure out if this is a good thing or not. It was unique that they had to fight a being which was a planet, and it added a strange dynamic to the fight. I think Ego being essentially invincible (until you destroyed the core) made the fighting seem superfluous, but what was thrilling was seeing each member of the team having to fight Ego in their own way. There was a good deal at stake too, with the earth being in danger of Ego’s take-over.

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With both movies having excellent final clashes, this one is probably the closest of the three rounds. But….

WINNER: Vol. 1

With two out of three wins, the original Guardians of the Galaxy remains one of the best films in the Marvel cinematic universe. I enjoyed both quite a bit, and think the second one is good, but the first one remains the better of the two. Do you agree with the results, or do you think I’m crazy?

Whatever you may think, James Gunn knows how to make popular movies, no doubt about it!