Sunday, November 30, 2014

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

My next script analysis and scene breakdown class will feature “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. 

I was at the world premier, breaking fire marshall laws by being with hundreds of other students sitting on the stairs or standing room only. During the film I predicted, accurately, every Academy Award nomination and which ones it would win. After the film when cast, director, writers and producers came out there were applause for all of them EXCEPT Louise Fletcher came out she was so hated as the nurse, there was silence, the ultimate compliment!

More on the film and links for additional information…

Awards and honors

Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman
Richard Chew, Lyzee Klingman and Sheldon Kahn
Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman
Richard Chew, Lynzee Klingman and Sheldon Kahn
Laurence Hauben and Bo Goldman


American Film Institute

How to Start Your Career as a Background Actor

By Daniel Lehma

From here to view and for links.

Barbara McNamara casts extras for films such as “Baby Mama” and “The Devil Wears Prada” and TV shows including “30 Rock” and the upcoming FX series “Bronx Warrants.” She’s always looking for new faces. To be considered for background work, register at

How do you find so many different types of extras?
Background casting is about making everything look as real as possible. You have to go outside the box. You can be on the street and find someone that looks right. I send my assistants to strip clubs, whatever is needed.

Is being an extra on a SAG-AFTRA project a good way to join the union?
It’s definitely a good opportunity to be on set. People have been upgraded and waivered. I’ve gotten so many people their SAG cards, but there is not one specific way to get it. You might be able to do something that the director really likes, or if your look is right you might be given a line. You know, Brad Pitt started out as an extra.

What are other benefits of background work?
Once you get on set, there’s a lot to learn. You want to be professional at all times, but you can learn about lighting and setting up and direction; you are given some guidance by the assistant director. But crazy people who ask for autographs won’t work again.

Why join SAG?

Why join SAG-AFTRA?

For the benfits:

For the pride of saying "I am a professional."

For the reality that you will be seen as professional.

Because only through union solidarity can all workers be sure of safe working conditions, honest wages, benefits and protections.

Because for over 75 years the names and images you have looked up to on the big screen and on television have been proud SAG members.

Because it is the right thing to do.

For union pride.

To be a part of a union respected and known throughout the world.

Because is it is the Screen Actors Guild.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

How Ancient Egypt's Royal Palace Was Created for 'Exodus' and 6 More Film Set Secrets

-Hollywood Reporter

It's all in the details: 'Exodus' required the grandeur of ancient Egypt, 'Interstellar' called for a convincing voyage to space and 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' demanded whimsy

Exodus Concept Art - H 2014
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
This story first appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Arthur Max, production designer
Before creating ancient Egypt's Royal Palace of Memphis, Max took a research trip up the Nile to visit the Luxor Temple and the Temple of Amun. He also made stops at the British Museum, the Petrie Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Egyptian Museum of Turin. The $150 million production spent 16 weeks building large sets at Pinewood Studios, and CG was used to extend their monumental scale. "Each column is 10 feet in diameter and about 70 feet high," says Max. "All the furniture is hand-built — there's not a lot of ancient Egyptian furniture around. All the murals are hand-painted in traditional pigments." They even re-created period sculptures like a 42-foot high head of Ramses the Great.

INTERSTELLAR (Paramount/Warner Bros.)
Nathan Crowley, production designer
The exterior of the film's spaceship, the Ranger, was 52 feet long and 21 feet wide and took eight weeks to build. "It evolved out of a futuristic shape and familiar NASA influences so that it doesn't feel out of place in the NASA world [of the story]," explains Crowley. "It had to look fast and sleek, but we knew if we came up with a fantastical, slick shape, then we had to ground it in reality. So we went down to the California Science Center to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The design of the Ranger is very much based on textures we know: the shuttle's white exterior and black tiles." Created in Los Angeles, the craft was then transported to Iceland for use in the $165 million production.

Adam Stockhausen, production designer
For Wes Anderson's movie about a hotel concierge suspected of murder, a 1930 lobby was built inside a defunct art nouveau department store in Gorlitz, Germany, over a two-month period. "It has a magnificent five-story atrium and stained-glass canopy roof," says Stockhausen, adding that he and Anderson brought together inspiration and design elements from books, postcards, archival photographs and visits to actual hotels, including Grandhotel Pupp in the Czech Republic.

John Paul Kelly, production designer
In a key scene, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) visits the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, where the atom was split for the first time in 1932. But, says Kelly: "It's all offices now, and there's incredibly little documentation [of what the lab looked like]. Eventually we found a newsreel that included a sequence in it, and we used that as the basis for the design." Kelly re-created the lab at an abandoned school in Chelsea with help from a consultant team of scientists and mathematicians — who also contributed the equations that appear on the room's blackboards, further upping the setting's authenticity.

Dennis Gassner, production designer
For the fairy-tale fantasia opening Christmas Day, Gassner blended locations in England's Windsor Great Park and Queen's Park with a set at Shepperton Studios. The designer wanted unusual-looking trees and was delighted the two parks "have extremely old trees. The woods had to have character, and it was beautiful and scary at the same time." That's because the woods were not just a set but also part of the movie's theme, he explains: "The characters go into the wood to find their dreams — the forest is the transformation device. This movie is basically about learning about yourself."

MR. TURNER (Sony Pictures Classics)
Suzie Davies, production designer
The 1832 summer exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts, the setting for a crucial scene in the career of painter J.M.W. Turner, was staged on a set built in Yorkshire, England, at Wentworth Woodhouse, which bills itself as the largest privately-owned home in Europe. Says Davies, "Through research, we even found invoices the carpenters had used in 1832, so we knew the type of wood they used, the fabric they used." Her team also re-created about 250 paintings — in only three months — after receiving permission from Britain's Tate museums.

BIRDMAN (Fox Searchlight)
Kevin Thompson, production designer
Three-quarters of the $18 million movie, which centers on a faded Hollywood star who attemps a comeback on the New York stage, was filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Long Island City, N.Y.; the rest was filmed at Broadway's historic St. James Theatre. Thompson says he wanted to create a "realistic, naturalistic Broadway in terms of its textures and the no-glam setting. Even the nicest Broadway houses have very modest, quite dingy, unrenovated spaces." The set, he adds, was a "maze with connecting points and shortcuts and reentry points for flexibility on the day of shooting."

Casting Director Advice

General Advice from one individual but representative of many...

Advice remains solid, but information may not be from one casting director.

Complied by Art Lynch

Casting Directors are not gods, or your saviors. They are employees of management who have a job to do and do it to the best of their abilities or they do not work again. They audition and are hired for jobs just as actors are, and are only as good as their last job.

They are not your friend. 

They are not the enemy.

They are not your teacher.

They are not your judge, no matter how you may see it that way.

They are doing their job.

Most want you to succeed.

Most are more open then you think to new talent.

All must know the economics and politics of the business.

Their advice is to be taken as opinion, based on doing their job, not on how to act or what to do in all cases. 

There are great difference in how casting is done by budget level, location, coast, market, type of production, needs of the production and from how business is done and decisions are made from casting director to casting director, company to company, production to production.

Casting Directors usually (almost always) do not decide who gets the role. It is the CD’s job to present a casting session of the best talent for whatever characters our client (Production Company/Ad Agency) is looking to hire. After the client reviews the casting session, they make their “select” choices and present them to their client (the Product Company, Director, Producers).  From there, the choices are narrowed down and eventually a final choice is made. It’s very rare when a client will ask a CD to choose who they should book. Those rare moments usually occur with only the most trusted casting directors or on very small and "insignificant" roles.

There is a difference between NY and LA casting is that in LA a lot of the TV shows are looking for people who look like actors (polished, well-groomed, attractive, etc.). Basically people who are the best versions of themselves. In NY,  CDs are looking for authentic NY faces that look like they were plucked off a city street or subway car. They want virgins who an act and actors who look as if they never acted before. Just look at some of our TV shows in NY, LA and around the country and you’ll see its true.

Professional background talent is at its best in NYC, with larger union numbers on the set, greater training and the look of being real. They are actors from stage, television, film and now from the web and on-line gaming. They are actors.

On both coast, and in between, where union theatrical background zone exist and on most all commercials, there is a negative stigma to being an extra. It can keep you from working as an actor. Most casting directors say not want to see background work (or any lies or exaggerations) on your resume or reel. A few feel that being a background actor can be part of your training and learning curve, but warn of bad habits you can pick up as background and the industry stigma of background not being actors. 

The best casting directors are big fans of quality, not quantity. It is more important for actors to be going out on auditions that are very focused and geared toward their type/strength so that the potential for booking increases. It is better to focus on going on the RIGHT auditions instead of going on EVERY audition.

Actors will not be taken seriously until they approach casting directors as applicants. Remember, qualified professionals do not beg for a job. They apply and if they do not get the job, they move on and apply someplace else. If they do not get the job and another one opens, perhaps that application will be reviewed and they may get the next opportunity to come around.

Auditioning has a great deal to do with the art of social networking. Everything in an audition sends a message and builds a profile in the mind of the casting director. The more you know, the larger potential you have to grow.
 “Staying on a casting director’s radar” is subject to each individual CD’s methods and systems. This is a business of individuals and generally we all have a different process. What usually stays standard across the the board however is that CD’s remember good work and talented actors. IT’S OUR JOB! It’s how we make a living and advance our careers. So while there really is no rule or exact science to staying on a CD’s radar or holding their interest, my personal opinion on the matter is QUALITY OVER QUANTITY! It doesn’t matter how many CD workshops or classes you take or how often you mail a postcard out. If your aren’t presenting polished, appealing, interesting and QUALITY work, then you probably aren’t making an impression (or even worse…you’re making a bad one). 

Focusing on the actual work when you do have an opportunity to meet a CD is more important than figuring out how to keep in touch or stay on their radar. If you do good work and they like you, casting directors are going to want to keep you on their radar!
Every casting office works differently. Some only want submissions and other mail via post while others prefer email. Even after 9-11, casting offices open their mail regardless of how it gets to them. That doesn’t however guarantee or warrant a reply. Cover letters should be brief (you don’t want to take up too much of the CD’s time) and submissions should only be project/role specific. Show and screening invitations are generally always welcomed, but pleased don’t abuse the process. Quality not quantity.

Do your homework. Research the roles, the director, the CD and the projects before you submit. If you are right go ahead and submit an be ready to apply your research when applicable  (it may not always be). If it is about an historic event, actual issue or based on a the books, research in an academic and not just a cursory way, what you need to know to have a complete, deep and well reasoned audition. Then internalize your research.

Read your resume and review your experience and skills before every interview to remind yourself you right for the job!

Remember that auditioning is what you do. It is your chance to shine, to act to do what you love doing. If you land a role that is cream and money in your pocket. If not, you are practicing your craft and doing the best you can with every opportunity.

Know your craft, even that which goes beyond the talent and instinct of actors. You need to know how to slate, how to audition, camera angles and frames, how large or small to make a character or line-read, how to be real and when not to be real.

Take lessons and stay with the same teachers. Less than a year, and in some cases three, should not be on your resume. If a Casting Director calls the teacher or coach, they must know who you are and be able to recommend you. Never lie.

There are a large number of actors in the non-union market who are new to this business and unfortunately do not have any on-camera training. You need to study, learn, stay on top of your craft and of the industry. Sometimes an actor will shift their weight, blink their eyes a bit too much, lick their dry lips.  Those are the most common ones.

When slating, it’s always better to keep it real and simple.  And be yourself. Remember the "edit time", so pause before and after your audition. The camera is still rolling and your knowledge on how to use that time shows your professionalism or lack of professionalism. Use the moment before to be in a reality, whatever is required to set the scene and make you a real character before anyone opens their mouth in a scene or monologue.

Relax.  If an actor is relaxed and open to the direction they are showing their mastery of the craft.  It does not matter if the direction is real or made simply to see what you do with it.  If an actor looks good, then the casting director looks good to their client. 

Read the trades, follow blogs, seek out advice on where to list your services, how to build your own tools (web site, IMDB, Actors Access, head-shots, reel, business cards and so on).

On reels keep it simple is the rule and put your best foot forward. The average attention span of watching these reels is 10 - 15 seconds. Have a creative way of showing your best work. Usually  put the most recent work first and edit them together in chronological order.There are alternatives of having larger segments, but these are more for agents who know exactly which segment to submit for which role,  Do not make a self produced reel any longer than 90 – 120 seconds. Most casting directors don’t have a lot of time to sit through 3 – 5 minute reels. But as always follow the advice of your agent or manager, as the trends change, vary by coast and by the nature of the submission. Thee is no such thing as one perfect reel.

Working in LA or NY is like working in most major cities. There is lots of quality work here that’s both union and non union. The qualified professional talent will have the edge in landing jobs, as the market will know who does the Job well, can be reliable and is takes their craft seriously enough to do their best work when it is needed most. Find some sort of survival job ASAP ( even before moving to the city) because both cities are expensive and rent is also high even in less popular areas.

First published March 7, 2013

Friday, November 28, 2014

Acting Resume Tips !

Dos and Don'ts

  • Print or staple your resume to the back of your headshot.  
  • If you are stapling, trim your resume to fit the headshot. Cut you resume - 8x10.
  • Make sure the contact information on the back is up-to-date, and that you have an email address.
  • If you have a lot of projects, it's better to list the best ones.

  • Never lie about your experience.
  • Don't make up special skills or write things down just so to fill in the special skill area.
  • Don't use a resume that is larger that 8 ½ x 11.
  • Don't use a resume that is more than one page. 
  • Don't staple reviews or clippings to your resume. They just get in the way.
  • Don't make the type smaller than 10 pt. If you have that much experience, edit it down.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Christmas with the California Rasins and Friends

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The California Raisins were a fictional rhythm and blues musical group composed of anthropomorphized raisins created on behalf of the California Raisin Advis...
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Best viewed at 720p. Clip from the ending of the film "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" with the Fred Astaire mailman giving us words of wisdom, followed by th...

Christmas Claymation - We Three Kings
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Christmas Claymation - We Three Kings
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Some wise men and some camels come together to sing this rendition of We Three Kings.

Claymation Oh Christmas Tree
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Will Vinton's Oh Christmas Tree Claymation Video

Walrus & Penguins - Claymation Christmas - Angels We Have Heard On High
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Walrus & Penguins - Claymation Christmas - Angels We Have Heard On High
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Walrus and Penguins from the Claymation Christmas special ice skate and crash to "Angels We Have Heard...
Clamation Ring the Bells...
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A brief explanation of where we are going with this waffle party thing

Clamation Christmas Special...We Three Kings...with the California Rasins...
Kings and camels sing in this fun version of We Three Kings as preformed in Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas special. This was one of my favorite parts. Th...

Remember the California Rasin Christmas Special...."Here we go a Waffling, a Waffeling We Go..."?
Here is the Rudolph The Raindeer Clamation segment...
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The Temptations, as the California Raisins, sings Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.