Monday, July 27, 2015

Looking Good at 75!

Happy Birthday Bugs!

Discover A Trove Of Hollywood Treasures At The Motion Picture Academy Library

The Margaret Herrick Library was established in 1928. It moved to Beverly Hills in 1991. It's named for Margare Herrick, who started out as a volunteer librarian for the Academy in the 1930s, and ultimately became its executive director.
The Margaret Herrick Library was established in 1928. It moved to Beverly Hills in 1991. It's named for Margare Herrick, who started out as a volunteer librarian for the Academy in the 1930s, and ultimately became its executive director.
copyright AMPAS 
Summer blockbuster season is upon us. Dinosaurs, little yellow minions, an ant-man, all vying for our hard-earned entertainment dollars. But if you're looking for gentler thrills, try the Library of the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills. There, you can poke through artifacts from the movies' Golden Years.

The Margaret Herrick Library's vaults contain millions of pieces of paper holdings — director's shooting scripts, photos, production designs, payrolls, and of course, fan mail.

In one letter, in labored teenage handwriting on lined notebook paper, an 18-year-old fan writes to director George Roy Hill, who'd just won the 1974 Oscar for Best Director:

Dear Mr. Hill,
Seeing that ... I have seen your fantastically entertaining and award-winning film "The Sting," starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and enjoyed it very much, it is all together fitting and proper that you should "discover" me.
The kid really had nerve! He continues:
Now, right away I know what you are thinking ("who is this kid?"), and I can understand your apprehensions. I am a nobody. No one outside of Skyline High School has heard of me. ... My looks are not stunning. I am not built like a Greek God, and I can't even grow a mustache, but I figure if people will pay to see certain films ... they will pay to see me.
More of the letter — and the identity of the letter-writer in a moment — but first, let's dig further into the movie library's vault. Archivist Howard Prouty presides over shelves of studio art department records, contracts, production documents and ledgers — with handwritten entries of weekly salaries for everyone from electricians and messenger boys, to top stars.

"We have payroll records from MGM in the 1920s that will tell you how much money Greta Garbo made in 1926, how much money Lucille Lesueur made in 1926 before she became Joan Crawford," Prouty says.

MGM Studio head Louis B. Mayer made $2,000 a week. Greta Garbo? In 1926, just $400.

"Greta Garbo was in the first year of her contract at MGM, so she was essentially on probation, to see if she was going to work out or go back to Sweden," says Prouty.
The Cowardly Lion's mane in Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz was made from real, blond, human hair. i
The Cowardly Lion's mane in Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz was made from real, blond, human hair.
Richard Harbaugh/Courtesy of AMPAS 
That teenage letter-writer would one day earn millions more than Garbo — but he didn't know it in 1974 when he proposed this to director George Roy Hill:
Let's work out the details of my discovery. We can do it the way Lana Turner was discovered, me sitting on a soda shop stool, you walk in and notice me and — BANGO — I am a star.
Down the hall from BANGO boy, the film library has a large Plexiglass box covered with a big piece of muslin, on which there's a sign that says: "Caution, lion inside."
Inside the box is the Cowardly Lion headdress, with little pink ears and a mane and beard made of blonde human hair. The headdress was donated by make-up man Charles Schramm. In 1938 his job at MGM every morning was to turn actor Bert Lahr into a lion with bravery issues.

The lion's wig, along with a pair of Dorothy's ruby slippers, will go to the Academy's film museum, set to open in 2017. The museum will have costumes, too — and the Academy Library has sketches for those costumes.

Graphic Arts librarian Anne Coco pulls out a watercolor that costume designers consider the Holy Grail: It's the design for the famous "curtain dress" from Gone with the Wind.

Scarlett O'Hara is out of money, has taxes to pay, and decides to ask her nemesis Rhett Butler for a loan. Scarlett knows she has to look terrific to call on him, so she pulls down the green drapes in her drawing room, and has them made into a dress.

Costume designer Walter Plunkett made an intricate watercolor design for Scarlett O'Hara's famous curtain dress in Gone with the Wind. i
Costume designer Walter Plunkett made an intricate watercolor design for Scarlett O'Hara's famous curtain dress in Gone with the Wind.
Courtesy of AMPAS 
She looked great in the movie, but it took television to make the drapery dress a star. "In 1976 it really gained icon status when Bob Mackie did that very famous riff on it with Carol Burnett," Coco explains. In this bit, Burnett neglects to remove the curtain rod from the drapery, so her dress has extremely broad shoulders.
"That dress is gorgeous," Harvey Korman as Rhett tells her.
"Thank you, I saw it in the window and I just couldn't resist," Burnett replies.

Costume designer Walter Plunkett's watercolor of Scarlett's dress omits the curtain rod but librarian Anne Coco admires the elegant precision of the drawing of the fabric. Looking at the watercolor, Coco says, "I feel like you can brush your hand on it and it feels like velvet."

It's likely that the ambitious young letter-writer was more casually dressed when he wrote to director George Roy Hill all those years ago. But, like Scarlett, he had starry-eyed schemes:
Or maybe we can do it this way. I stumble into your office one day and beg for a job. To get rid of me, you give me a stand-in part in your next film. While shooting the film, the star breaks his leg in the dressing room, and, because you are behind schedule already, you arbitrarily place me in his part and — BANGO — I am a star.

All of these plans are fine with me, or we could do it any way you would like, it makes no difference to me! But let's get one thing straight. Mr. Hill, I do not want to be some bigtime, Hollywood superstar with girls crawling all over me, just a hometown American boy who has hit the big-time, owns a Porsche, and calls Robert Redford "Bob".

Respectfully submitted,
Your Pal Forever,
Thomas J. Hanks
Alameda, California

BANGO! Things ultimately turned out OK for that young aspiring actor who wrote to director George Roy Hill, all those years ago. i
BANGO! Things ultimately turned out OK for that young aspiring actor who wrote to director George Roy Hill, all those years ago.
Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images 
Thomas J. Hanks' letter, written when he was 18, illuminates a piece of movie history, preserved, along with millions of other film ephemera, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library in Los Angeles.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why watch "old" movies?

To learn about the best that Hollywood and world cinema have to offer.

To know what directors and producers are looking for. Often they will reference classic or older films in writing, producing or simply communicating their new ideas in a way others will understand.
To understand directions when they are given to you. 

Film references are common with many directors and casting directors.

To borrow with respect and homage when it is appropriate to do so.
To know and and understand the industry you are a part of, fan of or interested in.

Over 125 years of movie history are there to study. 

Study the comic timing and physical comedy of Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin to the Three Stooges and Dick Van Dyke, from the broad yet warm comedy of Lucy to the over the top fast patter of the Marx Brothers, Jackie Chan to Ben Stiller, Tracy Ullman to Robin Williams.

Learn from to the dramatic flair of Marlon Brando to Lord Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh to Sean Penn, Benedict Cumberbatch to Denzel Washington, Ray Liotta to Anthony Hopikns, and the tones of Orson Wells, Vincent Price, Samuel L. Jackson and Morgan Freeman the styles, skills and craft used should be studied, practiced, imitated and internalized.

Know Cinéma vérité and other film techniques so you can adapt to what is needed for each style. 

Know when to be large and when to be subtle, when to be natural and when to be a characature, how to use your voice, diction, articulations, dialects, accents, affects, and how to use these tools without making it obvious.

Above all, study how the greats come across natural, appeal to or become hated by audiences and how the actor contributes to a suspension of disbelief needed for the story to become real or entertaining for the audience.

I cannot make you do it. But appreciation of old movies is key to understanding how our craft becomes the story, and leaning what works and does not work on film.

Start with the AFI Top 100 films, or build you won filmography to study, enjoy and apply to your craft.

Art Lynch, PhD
(702) 682-0469

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hollywood is Union Town

NDN  |  Photo Gallery  |  Documents  |  Classroom  |  Search

Publishing Information

Hollywood Is a Union Town

By Morton Thompson

The Nation
April 2, 1938
Vol. 146, No. 14, p. 381-383 Culver City, California, March 14

  1. Hollywood is a union town. Its actors are union men. Its pickets are union pickets. Its scabs are mobbed with union thoroughness and dispatch. Its stars are as labor conscious as its carpenters. And the stronghold of unionism in Hollywood is the Screen Actors' Guild.
  2. Five years ago a gag about a Hollywood actor being a union man would have been good for a ripple of horror in Hollywood's drawing-rooms and for a derisive laugh along the embattled labor fronts of Eastern and Midwestern America. Stars were artists. Featured players were artists. The least conspicuous extra was an artist. The hem of Hollywood's epicene skirt was lifted gingerly and superciliously as Hollywood walked over the mud puddles of its labor problems.
  3. But Hollywood is a town where the least likely things happen. The incredible has now become commonplace. The Screen Actors' Guild rules the roost. It is probably on its way to becoming the richest and most powerful labor union in America. The stars have stepped down into the ranks to fight for the extras, the bit players, the masses. Their victories have been crushing and complete. What the S. A. G. dictates, the producers do. The result has been a startling betterment of working conditions, somewhat increased pay, and the discovery that the iron heel of the studios is still a heel, but that it is not iron and that it is not, in fact, any more impressive than any other heel.
  4. The Screen Actors' Guild really started in 1929. It started with a strike. Most Hollywood actors belonged to Equity. Equity called a strike. It wanted better working conditions than the producers were willing to grant. Equity wasn't daring enough. It told its Hollywood members who had contracts to refuse to sign new contracts. It told members with pending contracts to refuse to sign. It told members without contracts not to go to work. The brunt of the blow fell, of course, on the little fellow, the chap without a contract. The strike collapsed in twelve weeks without having accomplished much more than keeping a few hundred actors out of work.
  5. In March of 1930 the producers, a little worried by the abortive Equity affair, decided to organize the actors in their own way. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was thrust forward as an arbitration board. Actors got a few assurances that conditions would be bettered and a method of lodging complaints, in return for a signed agreement not to strike for five years. Most of the actors signed.
  6. In 1932 the Eastern banks began to send out efficiency experts to stop money wastage at the studios in which they had investments. They couldn't do much about actors with contracts, but they slashed terms for pending contracts, and by one ingenious dodge after another proceeded to snip almost in half the salaries of many a free-lance player. There were other grievances. California state labor laws stipulate that women may not work longer than sixteen hours a day. But it was pretty general knowledge that the major studios were able to control the state labor bureau. Chorus girls were worked twenty-four hours straight. Extras were kept shivering in the rain for endless hours. Stunt men risked their necks; and when they broke them the studios wouldn't pay the repair bills. Actors had no place to go to complain. True, they had the Academy established by the producers. But they were afraid to go there. They were afraid they might become known as trouble-makers and be put on the studios' famous black list. As a matter of fact, almost all who did appeal to the Academy received unfailing courtesy and fair treatment. Nine out of ten of the cases brought before the Academy were decided in favor of the actors. But not many brought cases.
  7. While Hollywood's famous parties raged, little coteries of sober-minded actors conferred furtively. Their deliberations were dangerous. Any hint of them, reaching the ear of a producer, unquestionably would have meant the black list—bad pictures, bad roles, joblessness. The studios had a bland one-for-all and all-for-one policy by which unruly actors were disciplined by universally shut doors. But out of these deliberations was born the S. A. G. The original members deserve mention. They included Alan Mowbray, Ralph Morgan, Kenneth Thomson. Alden Gay, Morgan Wallace, Leon Ames, James and Lucille Gleason, Bradley Page, Claude King, Ivan Simpson, Boris Karloff, Richard Tucker, Reginald Mason, Arthur Vinton, Clay Clement, Charles Starrett, C. Aubrey Smith, Willard Robertson, Tyler Brooke, and Noel Madison. At first they fared rather badly. Many persons asked to join were shocked at the thought of joining a labor movement. Then 1933 came along. That was the year in which the studios, pleading poverty, cut the salaries of every actor in Hollywood squarely in half on the plea that the cut would avert tremendous lay-offs. When the cut was accomplished, the studios proceeded to effect drastic lay-offs anyway. And virtually every studio in Hollywood declared bonuses that same year. This was a little too much even for blithe actors. In June the S. A. G. was quietly incorporated. In July it invited every actor in Hollywood to a big mass-meeting. Only a few turned out. It got sixty members. The big shots wouldn't come in. Most of the stars were still members of the Academy. Then the NRA motion-picture code was adopted, and the Academy promptly assumed the right to represent the actors.
  8. The producers now made a code of their own, which consisted mainly of an agreement not to bid competitively for talent. A $10,000 fine was established as a penalty for competitive bidding. It was this competitive-bidding agreement that smoked out the big names. A meeting was called at Frank Morgan's house. The Marx brothers and Charlie Butterworth spent the entire day calling every actor and actress in Hollywood. The newly founded S. A. G., shaky and pitifully small, was invited along with the rest. One of the big shots made a small speech. The gist of it was that the group gathered at Morgan's should hire someone like Arthur Garfield Hays to go to Washington as their representative. There was a considering silence. Eddie Cantor stood up. "I've apparently come here," he said, "under a misconception. If this organization isn't one that's going to help every man, woman, and child in the industry, I'll say good night!" He didn't have to say good night. Some of them sheepishly, some of them angrily, every star and featured player in the room fell in with Cantor's demand.
  9. The S. A. G. unit was asked to stand up and give its views on the situation. Its proposals, explained by Ralph Morgan, its first president, were so sound and its organization so ready for use that the meeting resolved to join the group, reorganize it, elect new officers, and proceed under the S. A. G. banner. Unionism had invaded Hollywood. The battle had begun. When it became known that the stars were joining the group, the membership jumped in three weeks from 81 to 4,000.
  10. Almost immediately the new union sent its famous two-thousand-word telegram to President Roosevelt, who countered by inviting Eddie Cantor to Warm Springs. As a result, the actors won every point on which they had attacked the producers' code and the suggestions made by the producer-managed Academy for an actors' code.
  11. Next the problem of extras was tackled—the most serious problem before the union today. In 1934 the Senior Guild voted the creation of a Junior Guild, to be composed of extras and bit players, and to give it its own council and governing board. The demands of the Junior Guild are made known to the Senior Guild, which then decides whether to give them its support. Overwhelmingly the Seniors have sustained all demands of the Juniors.
  12. The abuses heaped on bit players, extras, and stunt men had always been great. They were the victims of a stupid and lazy system which originated at Central Casting, a bureau where the name and qualifications of every extra in Hollywood are filed. Rank favoritism still flourishes at Central Casting—the same extras can be seen in picture after picture—but the extras are no longer helpless. They have bargaining power now. In the old days, when a studio called Central Casting and asked for 400 roller skaters, the lazy wretch who took the call refused to go to the trouble of digging 400 roller skaters out of the files. Instead, he drove down to a roller-skating rink, lined up 400 skaters at random, and sent them off to the studio. They were paid a top of $10 a day for their work. And they kept 400 legitimate extras out of work. That wasn't the worst of it, though. Those 400, a studio pay check hot in their hands, began to ask one another: "How long has this been going on? Let's be regular extras! Let get in on some of this gravy!" And they became extras, thousands of them.
  13. Now the studios rarely spend more than two and a half million dollars a year for extras. And the S. A. G. suddenly discovered that there were 23,000 extras in Hollywood. If the work had been spread out evenly, an extra could have earned only $109 a year! Perhaps 5,000 extras could make a living wage—if there were only 5,000 extras. Today by imposing dues the S. A. G. has cut down the Junior Guild population to 6,600, and of that number 500 are dancers and 800 are bit players. If an extra doesn't belong to the S. A. G. he can't get work in Hollywood. And he doesn't belong if he can't pay his dues, which are $18 a year in addition to an initiation fee of $25. Two weeks ago the membership books were closed. The Junior Guild asked that dues be high; it asked that its membership list be closed.
  14. In 1934 the S. A. G. affiliated with the A. F. of L. through Equity and the A. A. A. A. From 1935 to 1937 it cemented its relations with labor, mended its fences. In 1937 the producers still wouldn't negotiate with the S. A. G. The Wagner Act was validated. The producers negotiated.
  15. The Painters' Union called a strike. Actors passed through the painters' picket lines and were called scabs. The S. A. G. called a mass-meeting. It was evident that the producers were stalling in negotiations which demanded a guild shop and that the time was ripe for a showdown. The officers informed the meeting that they would bring back a contract signed by the producers in a week or call a strike. Afterward they realized that it was necessary to obtain a 75 per cent vote of the membership before any strike of the Senior Guild could be called. At a meeting held at his house Robert Montgomery opened without preamble: "Ladies and gentlemen, you are here to sign a strike ballot. If you sign, you may be called out on strike. You will strike—if you do strike—on behalf of the extras. We are not asking for any privileges for the Senior Guild." By the end of the week 600 Seniors had voted for the strike and 18 against. The union began to make plans to open coffee houses and restaurants to feed those who would be hard hit. Everyone figured the strike was four days off. The tension was grave.
  16. On Sunday morning Franchot Tone, Kenneth Thomson, Aubrey Blair, and Robert Montgomery went to Louis B. Mayer's house. Joe Schenck was there. The four told Mayer and Schenck flatly that they had to have something in writing to take to the members at a mass-meeting that night or else the strike was on. They interrupted a bridge game. Mayer was a little petulant. Schenck said it was impossible to get all the studio executives together on such short notice. Then he called Harry Cohn, who was playing the races at Agua Caliente. Cohn told him what was good enough for Schenck was good enough for him and got away from the phone in time for the fifth race. Mayer next refused to call in a stenographer. "It's Sunday!" he objected. "I've got 200 guests here!" So Kenneth Thomson wrote the historic surrender in long hand. The terms were guild shop; and Mayer and Schenck signed.
  17. The four went back to Fredric March's house, where the S. A. G. board was waiting. Now that the agreement was signed, they were a little worried about some of the terms. The mass-meeting that night ended their worries. The crowd tore the roof off. In another week the hand-written surrender was reduced to formal legal phraseology and formally signed, sealed, and delivered. Hollywood is a closed-shop town, now. When the Brown Derby's union waiters walked out on strike, actors refused to go through the picket lines.
  18. There is many a Communist in the union, for the S. A. G. doesn't care what a man's politics are so long as he doesn't bring them into the guild. A minority thinks that the Senior Guild "sold out" the extras and disagrees violently with almost everything either the Junior or the Senior Guild proposes. It is a very vocal minority and even a rather welcome one. Its latest proposal, that the Junior Guild be given equal voting powers with the Senior Guild, was voted down by the Juniors, 4,500 to 50.
  19. The guild has obtained almost everything it has asked for. Ninety-nine per cent of all Hollywood actors belong. The battle is now definitely over, though a few minor objectives are still being discussed. Producers are walking the straightest of straight lines. The victories have been victories for the rank and file. For themselves the stars have asked and won next to nothing.
  20. The important thing is that the highest stars, like the lowest extras, are vigilantly labor conscious. They are anxious to identify themselves with any and all labor movements in behalf of the under-dog. They are lending their names and their talents and their time, with unabating enthusiasm. It would be unfair to single out any individual actor as the greatest contributor. For his personal courage and incisive strategy Robert Montgomery, present president of the S. A. G., has won the respect of the producers and unstinted praise from the union and the public—a public, incidentally, which not so long ago thought of him as a movie playboy. Joan Crawford, second vice-president, has been of invaluable aid in enlisting the support of actresses. Alan Mowbray, when the organization was being planned in secret, financed the embryo S. A. G. with his personal check of $2,500. Kenneth Thomson, executive secretary, has given nearly five years of hard work and health-straining devotion. Ralph Morgan, a member of the board for five years, Chester Morris, third vice-president, Franchot Tone, James Cagney, first vice-president, Boris Karloff, assistant secretary, Noel Madison, treasurer, Murray Kinnell, assistant treasurer, and directors Edward Arnold, Humphrey Bogart, Dudley Digges, Lucille Gleason, Porter Hall, Paul Harvey, Jean Hersholt, Russell Hicks, Frank Morgan, Claude King, Fredric March, Jean Muir, Erin O'Brien-Moore, Irving Pichel, Edward G. Robinson, Edwin Stanley, Gloria Stuart, Warren William, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Young, Dick Powell, Gene Lockhart, and George Murphy are only a partial list of those who might be nominated for a labor Hall of Fame in Hollywood.

No Footage for a Demo Reel? Here’s Your Solution!

No Footage for a Demo Reel? Here’s Your Solution!

First, let’s define the term demo reel. A demo reel is a carefully selected and edited montage of an actor’s work as a performer in film, TV, or other video productions.

What makes an effective demo reel? 

An effective demo reel will be a minute to a minute and half long and will have three or four clips from different projects. It features your performances, nothing else. Agents and casting directors looking at a reel only want to know what your heat level is as a performer – something they are very good at discerning if they have decent material to judge by. The less they have to wade through any roadblocks a reel presents, the better. These roadblocks are shoddy production values (the kind you inevitably get with guerrilla film school style projects), too much time spent on other actors, and too much “production” (music, graphics, etc.).

When an actor sets out to finally get their reel together, he or she presumably has some footage to use, and just needs it edited together, right? You’d think.

But I get calls regularly from actors who want me to create a demo reel for them and upon being asked, admit that they have no existing footage. None. “So,” I say, “What were you hoping to put together to create the reel?”

“Well, gosh, I thought maybe you could shoot me in a scene or something.”

Yeah, I could do that. And there are lots of other people who could do that. But there are several reasons why there is a much better alternative.

To create a scene as if it were taken from a movie, a TV show, or even a low-budget web series requires an enormous amount of work, other people, and time. And, not least of all, money.
I know actors who’ve hired some kids with video cameras and wireless mics, leaned on a friend to allow them into the restaurant where she works for a couple of hours when the place was closed, and staged a short scene between two actors at a café table. Maybe they also used some kind of makeshift light. Maybe not.

But even if the economics and logistics of that are acceptable, the result won’t fool anyone and may even make you seem too hopelessly naïve for the business. 

When you begin to contemplate the costs of creating every minute of real TV shows (thousands and thousands of dollars per minute), you can better understand why your modest approach to doing the same thing has no chance for lift off.

I have edited demo reels for actors with this kind of homemade footage in the mix with other, legit projects. It never adds anything positive.

The better solution to spending all that time and money trying to fake something you don’t have is to feature yourself doing something you already do very well, in a professionally recorded video. A monologue. A song. A bit of a stand-up set. You can have this on the web for instant viewing by anyone at any time from anywhere in the world.

It’s not a “demo reel," per se, but it can still work for you. The video should be just you performing something you’ve chosen in a close-up, uncluttered shot – a virtual screen test where you are in control of everything, and the result is 100 percent you at your best. Any video production service that offers to shoot online auditions can create this for you, and rates are generally very reasonable. At ActorIntro in NYC, for instance, we create such showcase videos for $75 and host them online for free.

When a casting notice asks you to submit video along with your headshot/resume – and most of them do – this is what they’re hoping to see.

Brad Holbrook is the founder, chief cook, and bottle washer of, a Manhattan studio that creates video marketing tools for actors. He also trains and coaches actors in the skills required for performing on camera, privately and in group classes.  He can be reached at Brad has spent his entire adult life in front of the camera.  After getting degrees in theater arts and journalism, he first worked as a reporter in a small Midwestern TV station. That led to a 20+ year career as a reporter, anchor, and host at stations across the country. For the past several years, he has had the chance to scratch that acting itch again, and has worked as an actor on NYC stages, as well as in network TV shows and studio films.  Currently he plays a TV host in The Onion News Network’s continuing parody series “Today NOW!”

The Secret About Demo Reels

By Amy Jo Berman | Backstage

The Secret About Demo Reels That Nobody Told You

The secret about demo reels. The SECRET. It just evokes an air of mystery, doesn’t it? But a secret is just a piece of information that YOU don’t know yet. So I’m gonna just spill it. And then you’ll know it and that will be that.

OK, are you sitting down?

Here it is: The SECRET about demo reels is most of the time, people never watch past the first 10 seconds.


Yes, it’s true. Although, I can’t speak for everyone, what I’ve observed and experienced is that the vast majority of reels that are sent to casting directors get turned off in less than 10 seconds. Now, I know you may be already scrolling down to the bottom of this article getting ready to write your lengthy, outraged comment. But, before you go there, please let me explain.

When I say the “vast majority," I’m mostly referring to unsolicited demo reels. Those are the demos that you send a casting director when they didn’t actually ask for one. I don’t mean the ones your agent sent to a casting director whey they actually requested to see it. Those usually get about 30 seconds before they are turned off, unless they are GOOD, of course and then they get watched some more.

So now you are probably asking, "What makes a demo reel good?" But the question at hand really is, "What gets a demo reel WATCHED?"

In my humble opinion, after having watched thousands of demos over the years – both solicited and not – here are a couple of key things (besides a great performance) that make a demo reel much more likely to be watched past 10 seconds.

Put your best, most impactful clip at the top of the reel. Reels are not like meals. Don’t save the best for last. Your best clip should not be the dessert, but rather the first course. If you wait and buy your best, most impactful clip later in the reel, it may never get seen. You have less than 10 seconds to catch their attention. Make an impact! If they like what they see, they will continue to watch. Get them hungry for more.

Keep it short. I’ve found that the three-minute mark is usually the sweet spot. Long enough to show some good stuff, but not so long that your watcher is getting bored. Believe it or not, five minutes can seem like a lifetime if the material isn’t scintillating.

Put yourself in a casting director’s shoes. Say you need to look at the reels of 50 actors for one role. 50 demos times 5 minutes each. That’s more than four hours of footage. Build in a few extra minutes for clicking on and off and maybe a bathroom break and that’s nearly five hours. And that’s just one role.

Understand that your reel is not being watched in a vacuum. They are not sitting down in a plush private screening room with an icy cold drink and some warm popcorn, relaxed and excited to enjoy a great piece of entertainment. In reality, they are sitting at their computer after hours of auditions and millions of phone calls, tired, harried, and stressed, eating lunch at their desk (again) with a mountain of demos to get through before the next session.

To give yourself the best chance of getting watched, pick your best stuff and cut it down to 2-3 minutes and lead with your very best, most attention-getting clip. It’s actually a GOOD thing if they wish it were longer. It’s infinitely better than the reverse!

With reels, as with any great performance, the rule of thumb is “Always leave ‘em wanting more!”

Amy Jo Berman is former Vice President of Casting at HBO and for 14 years has overseen the casting of over 150 films, mini-series, and series. She is the founder of Audition Polish, a membership-based audition coaching program that has helped actors around the globe nail their auditions on the first take. Using her 18+ years of technical audition experience in the casting room, Amy has helped thousands of actors with her tele-classes, private coaching, workshops, and seminars. Amy loves staying in touch with actors on social media. Watch her video acting tips on Youtube, join her Tips On Acting community on Facebook and get her VIP event updates here.

Stand Up for Your Union

Stand Up for Your Union
A few days ago, I auditioned for a job that was put out as a union commercial. Two days later, I got contacted directly by the casting director, who, is a friend and client of mine, and who had already emailed my agents and not yet heard back. She said she wanted to put me on avail for the job, but told me that the clients had decided after casting was completed to pay more up front and make the job nonunion, and asked if I would still be willing to do it. She said the type of job it was might not preclude me from doing the job even though I am union.
I told her I’d get in touch with my agent to get back to her.
This job is for a high-profile brand; one of America’s biggest, in fact. It wasn’t an issue of money for them, so why change the project to nonunion? My agent and I discussed the situation. She asked me what I wanted to do. I told her that I’m a union actor for a reason. The union takes great care of me. I take pride in the work the union does on our behalf. So I told her to do her best to negotiate with the CD and clients to get them to go back to union. Otherwise, even though I’d love to do the job, I’d have to pass.
Three hours later, I got confirmation that the production decided to make the job union again and book me. I’m actually being paid much less up front and have no guarantee I’ll make it up on the back end, but at least I can do the job now.
The casting director (who is awesome, by the way) was great about the whole thing. My agent had my back through the whole thing. I’m so happy the client made the decision to run the job through the union again, and I’m proud to be shooting the job this week.
But it made me think. In that moment I got the call from the CD that morning, though, I could easily have felt pressured to accept the job, trying to not be a pain in anyone’s ass, hoping SAG-AFTRA wouldn’t find out, and taking the extra upfront money. Personally, I’ve been blessed and happy with how much I’ve been working, so I wasn’t desperate for the money, credit, or job, but other actors I know would feel that way and it would potentially affect their judgment. Desperate or not, I wouldn’t be surprised if, like me, many of you know union actors who routinely do nonunion work they shouldn't, hoping they won't get caught.
But SAG-AFTRA is our union. We’re the only ones who can protect and empower it. And today showed me that we actually can protect and empower it. In the words of Kevin in “Home Alone”: “This is my house. I have to defend it.”
Sure, I’ll make a little less upfront on this job, but thanks to the union, I made over six figures on another commercial that paid me for three years. So, the choice was an easy one for me. It’s getting harder to make a living as a middle-class actor, and eroding the power of the union isn’t going to make things any better.
I’m worried about our union being weakened from a thousand small cuts. We union actors make up the body of the union. It’s easy to think that one union actor here or there doing nonunion work under the table won’t hurt anything, or going Financial Core, for that matter, won’t affect anything, but that’s just not true. All of our actions make a collective impact.
Maybe there’s nothing we can do to stop SAG-AFTRA abuse. Maybe we just have to accept that some union actors will continue to undermine our union and its ability to protect us.
But, my call to my fellow union brothers and sisters of the craft is this: Stand up, not only for what you, individually, are worth, but for what all of us and our entire profession is worth.
We’re the only chance we’ve got.
Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!
Shaan Sharma is a session director, teacher, and author of “A Session Director’s Guide to Commercial Acting in L.A.” For more information, check out Sharma’s full bio!

Friday, July 17, 2015

What Should an Actor Never Do in an Audition Room?

Backstage Experts Answer: What Should an Actor Never Do in an Audition Room?
Photo Source: Jesse Balgley
With our Backstage Expert contributors spanning various areas of this business, they’ve worked with countless actors in their careers, so we knew they’d be the perfect group to ask the following question:

What should an actor NEVER do in an audition room?
(And if you missed the last installment of this column, check out “What’s the Best Advice an Actor Has Given You?” and see how to get your acting questions answered at the bottom of this article!)
Now, before you audition for that next big role, keep in mind these things you should never, ever do from 14 of our Backstage Experts.

Paul Barry, L.A.-based Australian acting teacher An actor I know from Australia once told me that a casting director said he “wasn't angry enough,” so mid-scene he put his foot through the wall and said, “Is that angry enough for you?” He didn't get the job, but films with him starring have since grossed around $4 billion.

Another Aussie friend said that when Oliver Stone gave him a similar direction in an audition he slammed his fists on the coffee table and performed the scene inches from Stone’s face. He still hasn't been in a Stone film, but then lead roles in blockbusters, and Kathryn Bigelow, Terrence Malick, and Baz Luhrmann films have served him just fine. His films so far have grossed $2 billion worldwide—and are rapidly climbing. 

Do not misunderstand me. Their lack of physical control and professionalism lost them those particular jobs, but their legendary passion is why they are working when they do. Having known these guys for close 20 years, nothing was going to stop them from having stellar careers, not even advice on what not to do. 

Professionalism is essential, but without passion and the courage to take risks, it is nothing. 

 Somehow when walking into a casting room, your better judgment can fly out the window. You think you have to “help it up.” Here are some don’ts for auditions. And while we don’t like focusing on the negative, you’ll get the gist of why these are behaviors to leave out of the work. You’ll recognize, cringe, regret, and shake your head at these things never to do or say in a casting room. Take a look at “13 Things to Never Do in a Casting Room” and “13 Things to Never Say in a Casting Room” and have a good laugh or a good cry!

It’s all about the work. Nothing you do to augment your audition or feed your anxiety will serve you or the strong work you’re about to do. So shed the trappings and bring in your core, authentic self. We always appreciate it and are able to see you (and the writing) with far more clarity. And we will experience what’s most important together—the work. 

 An actor should never leave the room without feeling they have given it their best. If that requires doing multiple takes then that’s what they should do. Everyone in the room wants you to succeed, so give yourself every chance to do so.

 Care! Never feel like it’s important. Sounds tough? 

Acting is all mind over matter. Everyday, we convince ourselves that we are characters other than ourselves in places that aren’t real. So trick your mind into not caring if you win the audition. Of course you do want it, but just before you go in, you have to convince your mind to forget that. Instead, tell your mind it’s all just about having fun doing what you love. Keep telling yourself that you don’t care and that you just want to amuse yourself. Just have fun and set yourself free to play.

Joseph Pearlman, L.A.-based acting coachDon’t guess what they are looking for. Assume you are who they’re looking for, and bring yourself to the piece with a fun and impactful choice. Too many actors examine their sides with a focus upon trying to determine what the lofty-powers-that-be are looking for. That’s honestly the most futile thing you can do. Quite often, what the producers and directors are “looking for” is someone to save their ass. That’s the full extent. Sure they might have a rough idea of the character in their heads, but so what? They’re seldom married to that hazy notion. Have the courage to assert yourself as the solution to their casting problem, and then make a courageous choice that leaves a permanent mark, so that they see you and nobody else in the role. Trust in your own individuality and instead of stifling your uniqueness in the name of trying to be more what you think they want, let your weirdness, imperfectness, depravedness, and freakishness shine! Those are quite often the most memorable. I help actors discover their singularity—the exclusive combination of attitudes and behaviors that make them an original. 

Jackie Reid, manager, and owner of L’il Angels Unlimited
 Don’t ignore direction given to you by the CD. I know that actors practice lines and scenes over and over before an audition, but don’t be married to your performance. Be open and flexible to direction that the casting director gives you and make the adjustment. You may think that the way that you envision the character is the only way it’s supposed to be played. A CD may tell you to do the scene in a way that is totally contradictory to the way you practiced. They may have received other instructions from the production team or they may be testing you to see how well you take direction. The important part is to make a visible adjustment, not a subtle change (unless you are instructed to make a subtle change). I have heard feedback from casting about actors that were given eight different ways to read a scene and they read it exactly the same way eight times. 

And please don’t say you’re sorry if you mess up the lines!

Jessica Rofé, founder and artistic director of A Class Act NYIf you flub a line and really feel you need to start from the top, never ask the casting director or associate for permission to start again. Simply and politely of course say, “I’m going to start again.” If you ask and the casting director says no, then you’ve lost your opportunity to do another take, so it’s really professional and in your best interest to simply tell the casting professional that you will be starting again. 

 1. Don’t wander around the room; go straight to the mark.
2. Don’t shake hands.
3. Don’t bring in food.
4. Don’t ask personal questions.
5. Don’t apologize for starting over.
6. Don’t ask to playback your performance.
7. Don’t take a long time to leave the room. 

Shaan Sharma, L.A-based session director

Never slate with anything but your name unless asked.

Never lie about your experience with a skill essential for the job.

Never present a headshot with the résumé unattached or not cut down to 8x10.

Never make up a bullshit story to share in an interview-style audition.

Never blame your scene partner or the reader for your performance.

Never resist or refuse notes from your session or casting director.

Never fail to listen to group and lobby explanations.

Never open a closed door to a studio room. Just wait. We know you’re there.

Never fail to silence your electronic noisemakers. Vibrate isn’t silent.

Never change the copy unless given permission or direction to so.

Never bail in the middle of a take unless it’s a total train wreck.

Never initiate handshaking. It wastes time and spreads disease. Just act well.

Never do anything you feel is unsafe, exploitative, or unprofessional.

Never attempt to do it off-book if you aren’t. Boards and sides exist for a reason.

Never make a list you can’t finish.

Denise Simon, NYC-based acting coachSpread germs consciously. Since I work largely with young performers, and we all know kids get sick often, I caution my clients and students to never shake hands unless a hand is extended to them first. Casting directors are very sensitive to getting sick as they see hundreds of actors on a given project. Always wash your hands, and if you are sick, stay home please! Especially if you have fever and are contagious. There will be other opportunities, I promise you. 

Craig Wallace, L.A.-based acting teacherNever start until you are ready. It doesn’t matter how fast they’re going in the room. After you’ve taken your space say, “I’m going to take a moment” or “I’ll look up when I’m ready,” or whatever language with which you’re comfortable. The first 10 seconds of your audition are everything. You must be totally “there” from the first moment, because if you don’t compel us to watch you in those 10 seconds, you’ve lost the room and wont get it back. It’s your audition; you must have the confidence to set the room up and run it, as it will benefit you the most.

Ben Whitehair, L.A.-based actorDon’t bring a gun, molest the casting director, or otherwise be a “whactor.” (Yes, these things happen. I know.) But more importantly, don’t give your power away. You, specifically, were called in for a reason. They want you to succeed, and this is your chance to shine, to work your craft, and God forbid have a good time. And to paraphrase Noël Coward's original saying, “Speak clearly, and don’t bump into the furniture.” 

Ryan R. Williams, L.A.-based on-camera coach, founder of Screen Actors SystemNever audition in an audition room. It’s not an audition. You already have the role. Granted, you only have to do it just this once…for now. The venue is a small room and the audience is all industry. You get one take, maybe two, but you already have the part. It’s yours to perform and it’s yours to lose. Take joy in it. It’s happening. This is it. Release all expectation of an outcome and perform for love of the game. 

What’s the difference between five minutes and five seasons? Nothing. Between action and cut, actors live in present time or they fail to enthrall. 

The audience is in the state the performer is in. Do auditions feel good? So why would you ever audition in front of anybody—let alone someone who can give you a part? Do the full performance. And no matter what the part is yours.

I have seen no less than five thousand actors audition for me. They come with the tips and tricks they scored in a “weekend audition intensive.” Please. They come rusty, cocky. They are not training anywhere but in a gym. We want to see a real actor bring their real work. Forget auditioning and work scene study every damn week. 
Have a question? Message us on Facebook or tweet @Backstage

Want to be more involved in the Backstage community? Become a subscriber here

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Avoid the heard mentality and do not allow others to tear you down...

“I’ve heard actors spout all varieties of this form of “advice” and it ranges from not great to terrible. For example, I’ve heard actors say that it’s good for an acting to teacher to “break students down” because it creates thick skin—that’s just an excuse for abusive and subpar teaching. I’ve heard actors say that “casting director workshops are the best way to get ahead.” That’s just another manifestation of what I describe as “the herd mentality.” I’ve heard actors say that they just need to “be patient and my turn will come.” That attitude can too acutely set one up for a lifelong lethargic career where one expects opportunities to be presented on a silver platter.” —JOSEPH PEARLMAN

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It's funny wehn it is ten PM and you are in you're 15th hour of a meeting...

It's funny when you are tried at near the end of a fourteen plus hour meeting...

What Everyone Should Know About Auditions

What Everyone Should Know About Auditions
Photo Source: Pete McDonnell
An acting career is a strange thing. You spend more time interviewing for jobs than actually doing the work. I don’t think there are any other occupations like that. Looking back at my life as an agent, I’ve had only three job interviews in the last 15 years. A working actor probably had hundreds during that time.

This is why you have to learn how to handle an audition. Sadly, there are a lot of talented actors out there who never had a career because they couldn’t deal with the auditioning process.

The first thing you have to understand is that auditions aren’t about booking the job. You can’t do good work with that kind of pressure hanging over your head. As an agent, I don’t expect my clients to book every time I send them out. The only thing I expect is good feedback.

If the casting director says my client did a great job but he was too young or too old or too tall or too short, then we’re solid. That means we’ll get repeat business, or even better, the casting director will bring the actor in again without me having to pitch.

Look at it this way: Auditions are an opportunity to create fans in the casting world. And if you can get on the good side of 10 film and TV casting directors, you will have a successful career.

Another thing you want to keep in mind is that nothing a casting director does is personal. Remember, these people are under a lot of pressure. They have to get the job done while fielding calls from their producers, the director, the studio, the network, and guys like me who are trying to get their clients in the room. So if the casting director is eating lunch during your audition, it means he’s hungry. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.

That’s why it’s a mistake to read into every little moment that occurs before, during, and after your audition. That road leads to madness. And nine out of 10 times, you’ll be totally wrong.

One of my pet peeves is when clients call me after an audition to inform me they were wrong for the part. I recently had a black actor do this. The guy explained that he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of booking the role because he was the only black guy there. All the other actors were white. He figured the only reason they had him in was to fulfill a diversity quota or something like that. 

Amused, I let him ramble on for a while and then I explained the casting director had already called to tell me he booked the job. 

If you want to become a working actor, you’re going to spend a large part of your life auditioning for jobs you’re never going to get. So learn to enjoy the process. See every audition as a chance to perform, and don’t sweat the outcome. 

I think acting coach Ian Tucker said it best: “All you guys want to do is act, and you finally get an audition, and all anyone is asking you to do is focus and act for two minutes, because that’s about how long an audition is, and none of you can do it. You jump into their laps and wonder if they’re paying attention. Do they like it? What are they thinking? Forget it. Just perform.”

The State of the Arts Today

Something I was thinking about concerning the current state of film, music, acting and art in commercialized form today... There seems to be a current trend that goes something like this: Not to be confused with "less is more," but there is a definite consistency with LESS ABOUT PEOPLE AND MORE ABOUT STUFF. Some of the biggest movies, biggest actors, biggest figures in music seem to be on this mindset. But why? Why is it that when we watch movies today that there is such an emphasis on needing A LOT of CGI special effects? To wow kids? I haven't met one kid who said "WOW! Special effects!" He or she was more likely to say, "I think The Rock is cool! Or I freakin' love Mark Wahlberg!!!" and then I look at these actors and I think, "Where are the actors that really made me feel something and weren't just part of the scenery?" Even George Clooney in 'Tomorrowland' seemed like he was very detached from everything going on in the film. Lyrical content is pretty thin these days compared to even 1990's music and most of this generation's heroes seem to be acting like idiots.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying take away any of the positives that are going on in TV series, certain amount of indie films and webseries, but it seems like we have become so complacent as an audience that it's no wonder Michael Bay makes so much money on Transformers films because... IT HAS STUFF IN IT? I could literally see those films online for free, but for some reason... people want stuff than to actually understand people. If director William Friedkin was right, then we are just as responsible for eating all this up because... we have no other choice supposedly?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

NPR's annual salute to the Fourth of July: their reading of the Declaration of Independance

Stated: The Declaration Of Independence

Twenty-seven years ago, Morning Edition launched what has become an Independence Day tradition: hosts, reporters, newscasters and commentators reading the Declaration of Independence.

It was 237 years ago this Thursday that church bells rang out over Philadelphia, as the Continental Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence.
Below is the original text of the Declaration, alongside photos of the NPR staff members and contributors who performed the reading

Declaration Of Independence

The original text of the Declaration of Independence, with photos of NPR staff and contributors who performed the reading:
  • Steve Inskeep
    Doby Photography/NPR

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for 
    one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected 
    them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, 
    the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and 
    of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
    mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel 
    them to the separation.
  • Renee Montagne
    Renee Montagne
    Doby Photography/NPR

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, 
    that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, 
    that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
  • Paul Brown
    Paul Brown
    Doby Photography/NPR

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, 
    deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That 
    whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, 
    it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,
  • Jean Cochran
    Jean Cochran
    Doby Photography/NPR

    And to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles 
    and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely
    to effect their Safety and Happiness.
  • Julie McCarthy
    Julie McCarthy
    Wen Wang

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should 
    not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience 
    hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are 
    sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which 
    they are accustomed.
  • Don Gonyea
    Don Gonyea
    Doby Photography/NPR

    But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the 
    same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, 
    it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to 
    provide new Guards for their future security.
  • Deborah Amos
    Deborah Amos
    Steve Barrett

    Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is 
    now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former 
    Systems of Government.
  • Chris Arnold
    Chris Arnold
    Doby Photography /NPR

    The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated 
    injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of 
    an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be 
    submitted to a candid world.
  • Mike Pesca
    Mike Pesca
    David Banks

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary 
    for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of 
    immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation 
    till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly 
    neglected to attend to them.
  • Tamara Keith
    Tamara Keith
    Doby Photography/NPR

    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large 
    districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of 
    Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and 
    formidable to tyrants only.
  • Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
    Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
    Dario Lopez Mills

    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, 
    and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose 
    of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • Sylvia Poggioli
    Sylvia Poggioli
    Kainaz Amaria/NPR

    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with 
    manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • David Greene
    David Greene
    David Gilkey/NPR

    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others 
    to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, 
    have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State 
    remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion 
    from without, and convulsions within.
  • Cheryl Corley
    Cheryl Corley
    Steve Barrett/NPR

    He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that 
    purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing 
    to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the 
    conditions of new appropriations of lands.
  • Nina Totenberg
    Nina Totenberg
    Steve Barrett/NPR

    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his 
    Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made 
    Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, 
    and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a 
    multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to
    harass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • Eric Westervelt
    Eric Westervelt

    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without 
    the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the 
    Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • Elizabeth Blair
    Elizabeth Blair
    Doby Photography/NPR

    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign 
    to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his 
    Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
  • Adam Davidson
    Adam Davidson
    Jay Paul

    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us, for protecting 
    them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they 
    should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.
  • Robert Smith
    Robert Smith
    Steve Barrett/NPR

    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world; For imposing 
    Taxes on us without our Consent; For depriving us in many cases, 
    of the benefits of Trial by Jury.
  • Mara Liasson
    Mara Liasson

    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences, 
    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, 
    establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries 
    so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing 
    the same absolute rule into these Colonies.
  • Linda Wertheimer
    Linda Wertheimer
    Steve Barrett

    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and 
    altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments; For suspending 
    our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power 
    to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • Tom Goldman
    Tom Goldman
    Steve Barrett

    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection 
    and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged 
    our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • Jackie Northam
    Jackie Northam

    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries 
    to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already 
    begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled 
    in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of 
    a civilized nation.
  • Michele Keleman
    Michele Keleman

    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken captive on the high seas 
    to bear arms against their Country, to become the executioners of 
    their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
  • Ari Shapiro
    Ari Shapiro
    Doby Photography /NPR

    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored 
    to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, 
    whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, 
    sexes and conditions. In every stage of these Oppressions We have 
    Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated 
    Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
  • Richard Knox
    Richard Knox
    Jacques Coughlin

    A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may 
    define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have 
    We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have 
    warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature 
    to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.
  • Susan Stamberg
    Susan Stamberg
    Doby Photography/NPR

    We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and 
    settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, 
    and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to 
    disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our 
    connections and correspondence.
  • Scott Horsley
    Scott Horsley
    Doby Photography/NPR

    They too have been deaf to 
    the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, 
    acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, 
    and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, 
    in Peace Friends.
  • Cokie Roberts
    Cokie Roberts
    Steve Fenn/ABC, Inc.

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, 
    in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge 
    of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, 
    and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly
    publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right 
    ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved
    from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political 
    connection between them and the State of Great Britain, 
    is and ought to be totally dissolved.
  • Renee Montagne
    Renee Montagne
    Doby Photography/NPR

    And that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to 
    levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances,establish Commerce, 
    and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States
    may of right do.
  • Steve Inskeep
    Steve Inskeep
    Doby Photography/NPR

    And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance 
    on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge 
    to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Related NPR Stories