Review: The Crafty Art of Playmaking

thecraftyartofplaymaking“The Crafty Art of Playmaking” by Alan Ayckbourn has some useful information on the art of playwriting. I especially enjoyed the highlighted “obvious rules” that Ayckbourn sprinkled throughout the book. They helped call attention to main points that were useful for me, an aspiring actress and script writer. I also thought it was interesting how it was divided into two sections, one on writing and the other on directing. From an actor’s perspective, it gave some helpful insight into the world of casting and directing. It also provided some good basic rules to refer to when playwriting. However, it was more of a brief overview of various aspects of a director/writer’s world, and didn’t focus too much time or attention on any one area.

Review: How to Audition for TV Commercials

How to Audition for TV Commercials by WL Jenkins“How to Audition for TV Commercials from the Ad Agency Point of View” by W.L. Jenkins was a pretty helpful read. I have only had a chance to audition for a couple of commercials thus far, and while reading W.L. Jenkin’s book, I realized that I have a tendency of making several mistakes that he pointed out. The best advice I took away from this book was don’t overact for commercial auditions, do your homework (research the agency, producer, etc. that you are auditioning for), and be calm, relaxed, and believable.

Aside from having several helpful tips and suggestions for ways to improve your craft at commercial auditioning (i.e. study commercials that are out there), Jenkins also reviews the commercial process from the ad agency’s perspective. I really enjoyed how he mentions the various stages in the process of creating a commercial. As a creative person, I am always fascinated by different creative processes, and I find it helpful knowing more about how a commercial is pieced together so I can feel more comfortable about the process the next time I have a commercial audition.

Jenkins touches upon the common styles of commercials, which gives an actor an idea of what to expect as far as commercial scripts are concerned. He also does a break down of the various terms used for “stage directions” in commercial scripts. And I thought his recommendations on questions to ask a casting director and questions you should definitely not ask were incredibly helpful words of advice.

Overall, I was pleased with the information Jenkins presented. After reading his book in one sitting, I feel more comfortable about the next time I stop by an ad agency for a casting call.

Review: How Not to Audition

How Not to AuditionI read “How Not to Audition: Avoiding the Common Mistakes Most Actors Make” by Ellie Kanner and Denny Martin Flinn all in one sitting. I liked the brevity of this book. Some “how-to” books have a tendency of being repetitive and not quick and to the point – this book did a great job of avoiding that problem.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts was how throughout every chapter there were little blurbs and quotes from actors or people in the entertainment industry sharing stories from auditions gone wrong or those that went well. It put a face on the experience of auditioning and helped round out the whole experience. Some of the tips and suggestions were things that I had heard before from reading other books on the same subject, while other tips were new to me – like the idea of playing a role and not a type. I also appreciated how the book reviewed how its best to avoid unproductive or negative attitudes which is something that’s easy to do when you’re pursuing creative work, a world where rejection occurs often.

It also provided some useful examples, like examples of acting resumes and headshots. I always think that the more good or bad examples that are pointed out and explained to me, the more I can improve with building my own resume or taking better headshots.

Overall, I finished this book finding myself inspired. I’m ready to get back out there with auditioning. And I’m also ready to start doing a better job at preparing for those auditions.

Review: Finding Your Voice

Finding Your Voice by Barbara HousemanI decided to take a look at “Finding Your Voice” by Barbara Houseman in hopes that it could help me with my acting technique. However, it looks like the target audience for this book are actors who have had a bit of voice work experience. For me, a beginner in this area, it was difficult to stay interested and keep my thoughts from wandering while reading through the first few chapters.

Overall some of the exercises seemed useful, and I liked Houseman’s description of how an actor should approach his or her craft with “quiet sureness.”

Review: Acting as a Business

Acting as a Business by Brian O'NeilBrian O’Neil’s “Acting as a Business” is packed full of helpful bits of advice for the working actor. At the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure how helpful/useful/how much I’d enjoy it. O’Neil filled one of the beginning chapters with various names of well-known actors and gave examples of the work they’ve done. I wasn’t particularly interested in hearing a laundry list of actors and their work since I wanted to get to the real meat/content of the book. But much to my satisfaction, the majority of the book is well written, thoughtful, and incredibly helpful for beginner/mid-career actors.

This reference includes lots of helpful advice on headshots, resumes, cover letters, contacting agents, and ways to break into the industry for actors who are not yet represented. There are also useful tips that I never would have thought of – for example, I thought it was interesting that O’Neil mentions that breaking into the film/tv industry via the soaps is a great way for actors to acquire eligibility for the unions.

When it comes to the arts, often times the business side is neglected during the artist’s training. That’s why giving this book a read was helpful in giving a perspective on the other side of the art of acting – the art of promoting your work. I liked how O’Neil presented the profession realistically and by mentioning that through persistence, an actor can open up more doors to opportunities. You never know what may happen if you don’t put yourself out there.

O’Neil shares info on how to approach agent interviews and office auditions. I especially liked his comment about how you should “make the most of yourself” – that an actor should present his or herself in a positive light, to find a way to pull the positive from your work experience and training. He also touches upon how an actor should be ready to perform at any moment because you never know when you’ll be put on the spot to audition.

Overall, his realistic yet encouraging tone was very refreshing and made the book an enjoyable read. And if I don’t say so myself, I’m now feeling pretty motivated about looking for auditions and contacting agents. I also must say that thus far, this has been the most useful book I’ve read on the business side of acting.

Review: Ten Minutes to the Audition

Ten Minutes to the Audition by Janice LyndeThe other day I sat down and read Janice Lynde’s “Ten Minutes to the Audition” all in one sitting. What’s nice about this book is that it’s very concise. The book doesn’t come close to all the repetitive problems that occurred in “The Art of Voice Acting” by James R. Alburger. So the reader doesn’t run into the problem of feeling like parts of the book are wasting his/her time.

I also like how quick of a read this book was because it made me think that it would work nicely as a quick read before an actual audition. It has a quick checklist that reviews twenty different items that the actor should do. It covers everything from getting to the audition on time to how to introduce yourself at the audition and ways to tackle the script. Then towards the end of the book, Janice Lynde includes a number of actor resources as well as a handy list of recommended books. I hope to take a look at a couple of the books she recommended sometime soon.

Overall, this was a handy reference guide. If you’re constantly on the go and don’t have enough time to work your way through a lengthy book, you will definitely appreciate Lynde’s concise and helpful words.

Review: The Art of Voice Acting

The Art of Voice Acting by James AlburgerI recently finished reading “The Art of Voice Acting” by James R. Alburger. Overall, the book was pretty helpful for someone not knowing where to begin with voice acting. It included info on what areas you can get voice acting work in, different techniques, exercises for your voice, and tips and tricks of the trade. The book did seem a bit repetitive at times – it had a tendency of mentioning that you must know your character’s back story and who your audience is throughout.

Towards the end, Alburger points out all the various ways a voice actor can present his/herself professionally. I liked the marketing tips and the worksheets he included to help actors with their business plans, written agreements, letters to agents, and figuring out a character’s back story.

This book is definitely a good read for any beginner actors, although there are a few areas where the information is repeated a couple times. I found myself skimming through the repetitive information to get to the newer material.

Review: How to be a Working Actor

How to be a Working ActorI’ve decided to read a few books and articles on acting as I venture on my quest to learn more on the craft.I recently finished “How to be a Working Actor” by Mari Lyn Henry and Lynne Rogers. For anyone new to acting, I highly recommend this book. It’s filled with lots of great tid bits about marketing for actors, auditions, acting tools, and analyzing scripts.Parts of the book weren’t really relevant to my interest in acting – such as the chapters that focus on what you should do before moving to L.A. or New York City. I was more interested in the meat of the material – where they listed the best practices for wearing different types of makeup and the best kind of wardrobe to have on your hands. I really loved all the information they provided with the best colors and style of clothing to wear for photo shoots for headshots and film work.Henry and Rogers also give good advice on auditions and actor interviews. With info on what to expect for commercial, soap opera, and TV series auditions, it gave me a great background/foundation as a beginner. I feel more confident about how to approach auditions – especially since I feel more comfortable with my ideas of what to wear and how to rehearse.

I’m not sure how more advanced actors would feel about this book – perhaps I’ll pick it up and give it another read once I’ve gained more on-camera experience. Overall, I was pleased with what I read and jotted down quite a few notes.