Commercials – To Do Or Not To Do?

First a shout out to Summer Crockett Moore. Summer was my guest in our latest FREE Industry Workshop Series. Twenty-five actors presented their work for her and afterward she said, “I’m producing several projects right now. I am SO glad I saw these people tonight. It is going to make my job easier.”
Summer’s upcoming film projects include The Alternative, Heather, Love Thy Keeper, Before I Do, and Miss Liberty. For television she’s producing: Little West 12th Street, One Night Only and an hour-long dramatic series More. THANK YOU, SUMMER!

A few days ago one of my students asked me if performing in commercials could have a negative impact on her career. She had heard it might. I told her I had the opposite experience. When I moved to LA (after five years in New York) I knew a few other actors but I didn’t know any LA casting directors and or agents. But because I had done 60 plus commercials in New York I didn’t have any problem getting commercial representation but I had to scramble to get a legit agent.

I finally got a legit agent (Dick Lovell – great guy, long gone unfortunately) and when he first started sending me out he got a lot of, “No. Don’t know him.” Fortunately, shortly after I arrived in LA  a Hallmark commercial I had shot a few months before started to air. After that whenever Dick called to submit me he would say, “He’s the guy in the Hallmark spot.” And the casting directors said, “Send him in.”

I was lucky and booked a lot of episodic work right away –  – Hill Street Blues, Simon and Simon, St. Elsewhere – and those shows lead to other shows – Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Bay City Blues, Dallas, Knot’s Landing, etc.

And even though I was doing a lot of episodic work I continued to shoot commercials. The issue of being overexposed wasn’t my problem, my problem was getting double booked. On more than one occasion I had to make the difficult choice of which job to accept. “Is this guest role on TV show X going to lead something or is it just going to be a one-off? Or should I take this national commercial that will probably pay me a lot and allow me to put a few bucks in the bank?”

I’m not complaining. It was a nice problem to have. And by the way, sometimes I made the right choice and sometimes I didn’t. One particularly painful memory is the time I turned down an episode of Family Ties. I had been offered a national Chrysler commercial and the shoot dates conflicted.  After a lot of back and forth with my agents we decided to turn down the Family Ties job. The part ended up becoming a recurring role. The Chrysler spot didn’t test very well and it never ran the way we thought it would. I kicked myself in the butt over that for a long time.

Another question I’m often asked is: “What role can commercials play in a actor’s career?” For me they played a huge role. I’m not sure I would’ve survived in the business without them. I can’t tell you how many times I paid my rent with commercial residuals. And those residuals, along with money I made working in Film and  TV, helped me buy a house, two houses actually. I was able to take early retirement and have a really nice pension a because of the money I made from commercials. Many actors will tell you the same story. In an interview recently Brian Cranston said he lived off of commercial residuals for about ten years while he was trying to get his acting career going. I hear you, brother! I hear you!

Watching TV last night I saw Jennifer Garner and George Clooney promoting products. These are major stars and I don’t think either one of them is worried about being overexposed because they’re doing commercials. So, my advice to my students and to you is if you’re offered a commercial go for it! You never know where it might take you.

 

 

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Summer Is Almost Here!

Summer Crockett Moore that is! Only four more days ’til the invitations for this special workshop with Summer Crockett Moore go out. Here is some info on one of the films she produced last year that is coming out this year, Lost Cat Corona.  This funny film stars Sean Young and Ralph Macchio.

Above All Things

Summer also has four other films opening this year and three films in various stages of production. Plus she is show running a new TV series, More. Here is what she said about her new series and the upcoming workshop – “We have  32 characters in the first episode of the full season of this TV show that we are show-running! We need all types in this series.  Excited to see your people. Wheeeeeee!”

As you can see this is one busy lady and we are thrilled to have her as our guest at the next FREE Industry Workshop (April 25th). Be on the outlook for the invitation. It (fingers crossed and saying prayers that our new mailing system is working properly) will go out at 11:55 AM on the 20th of April.

Hope to see you there.

Cheers,

John

News Classes:                                                                                                                               Commercial Level One (1 May – 19 June 2017)
On-Camera Scene Study (2 May – 20 June)
For more info go to:  click here

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Summer Has Been Postponed…

…only kidding. The snow storm two weeks ago threw our calendar off and we had to re-schedule our next FREE Industry Workshop. It is now scheduled for the 25 of April.

Summer Crockett Moore is going to be our guest. In case you don’t know who Summer is (one of New York’s most prolific producers) here are a few of her credits: Summer has spear-headed award-winning independent feature length and short films, Off-Broadway theater productions and numerous multi-media ventures.  Current film projects include: Lost Cat Corona (2016), After the Sun Fell (2016) Wholly Broken (2016), Above All Things (2017), Block Island (2016), Lez Bomb (2017), Junction (2013), Trust Me I’m A Lifeguard (2014), These Things We Hold (2015), Mired (2015), Chosen (2016), Symposium (2016), A Younger Man (2011)Upcoming film projects include: The Alternative (optioned), Heather (pre-production), Love Thy Keeper (pre-production), Before I Do (announced) and Miss Liberty (development). Television projects include: Little West 12th Street (2016) Vevo’s One Night Only (2015) and the upcoming hour-long dramatic series More which begins production in New York in April 2017.

As you can see this is one busy lady and we are very lucky to have her as our guest for the next Workshop. Invitations to the workshop will go on the 20th of April at 11:55 AM. The first twenty-five people to respond will get a spot in the workshop.

What will you need to bring to the workshop?  A headshot and resume, a two-minute contemporary monologue (shorter is okay, longer is not okay). Location and other details to follow.

These workshops fill up fast so be on the look-out for the invitation.

Hope to see you there.

John

New class info:                                                                                                                      Commercial Level One Class                                                                                                          May 1st – 12 June 2017

Two-Camera Scene Study Class                                                                                                       May 2- June 20th 2017

For additional details on both of these classes go to https://johnhowardswain.com/classes-2/

 

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Summer Is Coming! Summer is Coming!!

images Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Is this guy with the megaphone nuts?” it’s not even Spring yet. But on the 18th of April the producer Summer Crockett Moore will be the guest instructor at our next FREE Industry Workshop. Summer is what is known in the business as a fire starter. In ten years she has become one of the most prolific producers in New York.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with this multifaceted lady here is a brief introduction: Summer is an award-winning actress/producer and a Managing Partner and founding member of Choice Films and Choice Theatricals. As a producer, she has helmed award-winning independent feature length and short films, Off-Broadway theater productions and numerous multi-media ventures.  images-3Film projects include: Lost Cat Corona (2016), After the Sun Fell (2016) Wholly Broken (2016), Above All Things (2017), Block Island (2016), Lez Bomb (2017), Junction (2013), Trust Me I’m A Lifeguard (2014), These Things We Hold (2015), Mired (2015), Chosen (2016), Symposium (2016), A Younger Man (2011).  Summer’s upcoming film projects include: The Alternative (optioned), Heather (pre-production), Love Thy Keeper (pre-production), Before I Do (announced) and Miss Liberty (development). Television projects include: Little West 12th Street (2016) Vevo’s One Night Only (2015) and the upcoming hour-long dramatic series More which begins production in New York in April 2017. Theatre projects include the Off-Broadway world premieres of Scrambled Eggs, Reading Under the Influence, Stain and In The Daylight, as well as the regional / world premiere of the new play, American Stare. For a full list of her credits & awards visit: www.choicefilms.com and www.summercrockettmoore.com.

Invitations for her workshop will be going out mid-April so stay tuned.

images-4Also, happy to announce we are in discussion with director Matthew Penn to be the guest at our FREE Industry Workshops in June. Matt was the Executive Producer of Law and Order from 2003 through 2007. He has directed a slew of network TV shows including The Mist, Queen of the South, Unforgettable, Royal Pains, Orange is the New Black, Golden Boy, Damages, Blue Bloods, Law and Order (27 episodes), NYPD Blue, Pan AM, etc., etc. Prior to working in television, Matt spent many years working in theatre and is currently co-artistic director of the Berkshire Playwrights Lab located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

We are excited to bring this caliber of talent to our workshops and hope to see you there.

class-announcementCommercial Acting Level 1.   6 March – 24 April 2017 (no class April 10th) ONLY TWO SPOTS LEFT!!

Commercial Acting Level 2: 9 March – 6 April 2017. This class is only offered once a year and is already SOLD OUT!!

On-Camera Scene Study class: 14 February – 11 April 2017. The current session is SOLD OUT! Registration for the next session of this class opens on the 12th of April.

For additional information about any of these classes click here.

See you soon,

John

 

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Status, Why It’s Important

A lot of things need to happen to make a scene successful, some more obvious than others. One thing that helps me gauge how well a scene is going in my on-camera scene study class is whether or not the actors are aware of and playing their character’s status.

First and foremost, actors need to know what their Main Objective is. What is it that your character wants from the other character(s), or from the situation or the circumstances revealed in the scene? The Main Objective is the engine that drives the scene.

imagesOnce a character knows what his/her Main Objective is then the element of status comes into play. There are two possible scenarios for your character in a scene: you are either getting closer to whatever your goal is or you’re moving further away from it.

In a well-written scene the issue of your character’s status should always be in flux.

With each scene the writer wants to impart a certain amount of information but if they23yytwx4h3h2ckhjs47icijwusr4z3_17-1 slant the scene too heavily in one character’s favor the audience will get bored. Why? Because there isn’t enough conflict or tension to hold their interest. So, in a well-written scene, one moment you might be getting closer to what you want only to discover in the next moment you have lost ground and the thing you wanted is actually slipping away from you.

Where actors get into trouble is they pick a main objective and then make a beeline toward it. By doing so they miss out on the chance to orchestrate the scene, to play the highs and the lows, to experience and express the shifts in their character’s status. Once you understand how important this shifting of status is, you can create compelling, exciting characters. Ask yourself the next time you’re working on a scene “Am I, at this moment, getting closer to what I want or is it slipping away from me.” And let the answer to that question motivate what you do next. I promise you, the ride in both directions will be incredibly rewarding.

COMING UP:

9 February 6:30 – 9:30

Casting Director Cindi Rush will be our guest at the next FREE Industry Workshop. Invitations will go out February 6th at 11:55 AM. The invitation will be going out via Mail Chimp so please make sure you look for your invitation coming from them. We are discontinuing our relationship with Constant Contact.

Here are a few highlights from Cindi’s bio: NY: Promising, Ruthless, Disenchanted, Drop Dead Perfect, Under My Skin, Silence!,Rooms, Jacques Brel, Urinetown.The Thing About Men, Home Street Home, Regional Theaters: Triad Stage, Hudson Stage, Penguin Rep, Pittsburgh Public, Charleston Stage Co. Film: The Grief of Others (SXSW/Cannes), Runoff (L.A Film Fest), Policy of Truth (SOHO Film Fest),The Woman (Sundance),Funeral Kings (SXSW) Ghoul, Theresa is a Mother, Jugface (Slamdance), In The Family (Independent Spirit). Plus she has been a consultant for NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (1999-Present).

New Classes:

Commercial Level 1 class starts the 6th of March and goes thru the 17th of April.

Commercial Level 2 class starts the 9th of March and goes thru the 6 of April.

Two-Camera Scene Study class starts the 14th of February and goes thru 11th April.

For more info on these classes go to click here

Cheers,

John

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Things I Learned About Acting From Beau the Wonder Dog

Beau packed and ready for a trip!

Beau packed and ready for a trip!

The great thing about animals is that they are honest, simple and efficient. Every morning when I take Beau, our almost-twelve-year-old Golden Doodle, out for a walk he stands in front of the door. When I open the door he moves out of the way just enough so the door doesn’t touch him. This isn’t a case of laziness; God knows and thank God for it, when we get to the park he still plays like a puppy. What he is, is efficient. He knows just how far he has to move and that’s what he does.

This is an important lesson for those of us in the acting profession. Too often when we’re asked to play a character we do so much more then we have do to. Usually it comes from a good place — we’ve been hired to tell a story and we want to make sure the audience “gets” what’s going on with our character. But the problem is we often end up trying to influence the wrong group of people. The only people we should be concerned about influencing are the other actors we’re working with. Instead of worrying about the viewing audience we need to focus on having honest and truthful connections with the players we have banded together with to tell our particular story.

The reason what Beau does is so honest is because he doesn’t have any agenda beyond the immediate. He lives in the moment and isn’t overly concerned with what other people think. As actors we can’t be that cavalier, we have stories we have to honor and the best way to do that is to make sure we stay connected to the present. When I am breaking down a script and preforming it I don’t ask myself, “What would Beau do,” but I constantly ask myself “Am I being honest, simple and efficient?” And when I am, those are the times I feel the most connected to my art.

15338768_10157927114345615_8788680208685320905_nThree weeks ago Ross Meyerson, one of New York’s most prolific and respected casting directors (Nurse Jackie, The Affair, The Following, The Americans, Black Box, Rescue Me – just to name a few) was the guest in our FREE Industry Workshop series. He led a very spirited hour and half Q & A session. Many of the people who attended said they felt it was the best workshop we have had so far.

The next FREE Industry Workshop will be on the 9th of February and the casting director Cindi Rush will be out guest. In New York she’s cast: Promising, Ruthless, Disenchanted, Drop Dead Perfect, Under My Skin, Silence!, Rooms, Jacques Brel, Urinetown, The Thing About Men, Home Street Home. Regional Theaters include: Triad Stage, Hudson Stage, Penguin Rep, Pittsburgh Public, Charleston Stage Co. Film: The Grief of Others (SXSW/Cannes), Runoff (L.A Film Fest), Policy of Truth (SOHO Film Fest), The Woman (Sundance), Funeral Kings (SXSW) Ghoul, Theresa is a Mother, Jugface (Slamdance), In The Family (Independent Spirit). Cindi has been a consultant for NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (1999-Present).

Hope to see you there.

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What I Learned While Falling Off My Bike In Portugal

img_2171It was a beautiful day just outside of Porto, Portugal. Seventy degrees, sun shining bright, blue skies overhead, the Atlantic Ocean on our left, straight, paved road in front of us. And then, boom! Next thing I know I’m on the ground. At first I didn’t know what had happened but I knew I was in a great deal of pain: my head, my ribs, my left arm.

I dis-entangled myself from the bicycle. The group I was riding with, including my lovely bride of twenty-five years (this trip is our anniversary present to each other), hovered over me, asking how I was. I assured everyone I was okay, although I was feeling far from it. I convinced my wife and the group to head back to Porto. Once they are gone I asked the bike tour guide to take me to the hospital.

The hospital was clean but shopworn. Looked like it should have been painted three or four years ago. The hallway outside the emergency room was lined with people laying in gurneys. I was beginning to wonder if going there was a good idea. Then I was taken into triage – the doctor is beautiful, literally one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I was in pain but I flirted with her. Couldn’t help it. She ordered a cat scan of my head and x-rays of my left arm and chest. The equipment, unlike the facility itself, was first class; brand new. Everyone I come in contact with was terrific. Most of them speak English.

My head was okay, my ribs were bruised but not broken but my left elbow – not so lucky there, it was broken. The surgeon (another doctor – he wasn’t so beautiful) tells me I’ll need surgery. By this point, facility aside, I was very impressed with the quality of care I had received but I tell him I would prefer to have surgery back in the States – not because I didn’t think he would do a great job – I was sure he would – but it was more about the recovery period. I wanted to be home for that. So, he puts me in a cast and I rejoin Marsha and the biking group. We travel onto to Lisbon the next day and three days later Marsha and I fly home.

The lesson in all of this: pay attention to what’s important. I was distracted by a piece of string hanging down from my pants leg. There was no way it could’ve gotten caught in the chain wheel but I leaned down to tuck it away, took one hand off the handlebars, hit a bump and went down.

Many times during my recovery – walking around Lisbon with a cast on, flying, getting home, having surgery, during re-hab – I thought about those two seconds and the many other times I’ve been guilty of not paying attention to what’s important. And the consequences of those lapses. I’m sure each one of you has a story similar to this – where you stopped paying attention to what was important and then the next thing you knew you were flat on your metaphorical back.

Life is filled with distractions both good and bad and that is why paying attention to what is truly img_7879important is so…important. Take it from a guy who now has a plate and six screws in his elbow.

Okay, here’s what’s coming up:

On the 1st of Dec. we’re going to have a very special guest leading our next FREE INDUSTRY WORKSHOP. Because of commitments to other organizations our guest has requested two things: One, that we don’t use his name. (Trust me you are going to want to be there for this workshop.) and two, that the workshop is only open to actors who have actually studied with me.

As you know, ordinarily these workshops are open to those actors and to the readers of this blog. I wish all of you could be there but because this guy is a GIANT in the industry we are going to honor his requests.

The format for that evening is going to be different as well. Instead of actors doing monologues this workshop will consist of a talk followed by an extensive Q & A. Our guest has assured me this workshop will rock everybody’s world. Knowing him I am sure it will.

Other stuff:

The next two-camera scene study class starts on the 6th of Dec. It goes until the 7th of February. We will be off the 20th and 27th of Dec. for the holidays.

The next commercial workshop starts on the 9th of Jan. 2017 and goes until the 20th of February. More details about both classes can be found here.

That’s all I’ve got. Remember, when you figure out what it is you want, pay attention to what’s important so you don’t end up with a broken elbow.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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