Why 90% of Actors Are Doing it Wrong.

What has always been a surprise to me is the amount of the emails I receive from Actors around the world looking for a tip on how to break into the biz . . . and fast.

In fact, do you know what the most popular blog that I’ve ever written is?  No, it’s not the crowdfunded Godspell, or the live-streamed Daddy Long Legs.

It’s this one, which is all about Actors.

I don’t know why I’m so surprised.  While this blog may be called TheProducersPerspective, it’s for all artrepreneurs out there looking for a little insight into our biz that could give them a leg (and an arm) up.  Because they’re gonna need it!

And since the acting world is much more competitive than any other profession in our industry (thanks to the sheer volume of Actors looking to make it), it only makes sense that they’d be seeking out a way to increase their odds of success.

Which is why I’m writing this blog today . . . to tell those Actors that 90% are doing it wrong.

Now granted, I may be preaching to the converted here, because if you’re already one of my blog readers, then you’re probably in the 10%.

But if not, let me give you a tip that’ll put you on the fast track to success.

Ready?  And if you’re an Actor, and can’t stand a little tough love, STOP reading here.

Ok?  Good.

Here’s what you should do, that has worked for countless others, and WILL work for countless more . . . and hopefully you.

Create your own @#$%.

The ol’ cliche of an Actor taking a job as a “waiter” has always had a double meaning for me.  Because if you are just auditioning for OTHER people’s shows and movies and plays with OTHER people’s songs and scripts . . . then you’ll just be “waiting” until you fit someone else’s idea of who you’re right for.

And you could end up waiting forever . . . regardless of your talent.  (Painful thought, right?)

Now, you could also “get discovered” but those odds are longer than recouping a revival of Moose Murders.

So don’t chase Directors and Agents and Casting Directors and Producers.

Make them chase you.

And how you do that . . . is by creating your own @#$%.

It probably won’t be great at first.  But keep doing it. And you’ll get better.  And then people will find you.

This isn’t a new concept.  I’m not blog-preaching about this today because of the recent rise of the YouTube or Instagram celebrity (although that is one way to create your own @#$%).

Creating stuff is why so many stand-up comedians have gone on to great success.

Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg all started making up their own punchlines . . . which got people laughing and got people talking . . . and got them roles on stage and screen.  (And they ALL transitioned from comedy to serious work, so don’t think this is just about the funny folks.)

But it’s not just comedians.

What about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck . . . who were struggling actors until they sat down and wrote Good Will Hunting.

And don’t get me started about Sylvestor Stallone, who refused an offer to buy his original screenplay to Rocky (yep – you forgot he wrote it, didn’t you) because the studio wouldn’t let him play the lead (they came around).

Think this is a wave of the past?

What about Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her 8,000 Emmy Awards for Fleabag . . . which started as a one-woman show . . . just like Nia Vardalos’s Big Fat Greek Wedding or Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale.

Making stuff is by far the fastest way for an Actor to make it.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  But unlike the dreadful audition process, in which so many decisions are made that have nothing to do with you or your talent . . . making stuff, whether that’s a one person show or a web series or a stand up routine, is something you can control.

This is how you design a part that no one else in the world could be right for.  So you have ZERO competition.

And you know what the cool thing is?  90% of the actors out there aren’t doing this.  So immediately you’re going to stand out.

And what stands out . . . is what “sells.”

So if you’re an Actor . . . stop waiting and start making.

And actually, come to think about it . . . this concept isn’t just for Actors.  It’s for Directors, Designers or even Producers! (I got my start by creating my own shit – by producing three shows that I came up with . . . because I couldn’t get the rights to anything!)

Get creating.

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Are you an Actor or any kind of artrepreneur that wants to learn how to create @#$%?  Click here to learn from the best.

Why you should Produce/Write/Perform what you DON’T know.

There’s an old adage that doing “what you know” is the fastest way to success.

And I believe it.

If you have knowledge of a certain area, a certain character, or even a certain culture, working within that box is where you’re the most comfortable and therefore where you’ll be the most naturally effective.

But that may not be the fastest way to grow as an artist.

That’s why I encourage myself and others to produce what they don’t know.  Write what they don’t know.  Perform what they don’t know nuthin’ about.

It’s working within new genres, with different people, and with subjects that make you uncomfortable — or that you’re just naive about — that will teach you the most, and make you a more powerful theater maker and more well-rounded human in the process.

In other words, work outside your culture zone.

That’s why Deaf West’s Spring Awakening was one of the most incredible personal and professional experiences of my career.  If I hadn’t produced that show, I would never have had a conversation with a deaf person.  And that has changed my life.  And I will treat others differently as a result.

That’s why Once on This Island with its diverse cast had such an impact on my life.

That’s why I’m producing the revival of the unfortunately-still-timely Pulitzer Prize-winning The Great White Hope (hopefully on Broadway next season – with a little help from the Theater Availability Gods).

That’s why this khaki-pants and blue-blazer wearin’ New England boy is producing a musical based on the life of Entertainer and Activist Harry Belafonte.  And why I will be announcing a new musical about the Jewish experience in the next few weeks.

Honestly, I never set out to produce this way.  I’ve just been drawn to great stories.  But as I walked by the show posters on my wall the other day, I realized that the greatest experiences I’ve had . . . and will have . . . are the ones I knew nothing about.

So it’s now become a new mission.  To do what I don’t have a clue about . . . so I can learn.

It’s scary.  It’s uncomfortable.  And it doesn’t always make money.

But it’s also the most rewarding way to work live.

Podcast Episode 184 – 3 Time Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep!

 

 

Sometimes this biz is all about being in the right place at the right time.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I’ve been traveling a lot lately.  And, well, when you’re sitting in the Flagship Lounge at JFK, you’d be amazed at who’s hanging around, especially when high winds have delayed every flight by at least an hour.

Honestly, I didn’t even see her at first.  We were both in the buffet line for the scrambled eggs.  Then she asked me to pass the pepper.  I did.

And when I realized who it was, I almost passed out.

I told her that I produced Broadway shows.  She told me how much she missed the theater and wanted to do more of it.

I told her I’d produce her reading one phone number in the phone book. She wouldn’t even have to read the whole book!

She laughed and was as sweet and gracious as you’d imagine, and as she walked away toward the baked goods on the buffet line, I said, “Hey – looks like we’re both gonna be awhile.  Would you be interested in doing my podcast?”

Imagine my surprise when she said, “I love podcasts. Have you heard of Serial?”

We ducked into a corner of the lounge and recorded this ‘cast on my phone (apologies in advance for the less than perfect audio, but frankly get over it – you take Meryl when you can get Meryl).  Her handler grabbed her after about 10 minutes so it isn’t a long one . . . but hey, it’s Meryl Effin’ Streep!

During our 10 minutes, we talked about . . .

  • How she chooses material . . . when she can do anything she wants.
  • The craft and importance of playing a diverse set of roles.
  • How she’s still honored to be nominated for Academy Awards, even though she’s been nominated 21 times!
  • Why the theater will always be her first love.
  • And yes, why she WOULD consider starring in a revival of Mamma Mia!

Ok, that’s enough, because I’m sure you’re as excited to hear this as I was to interview her.

Ladies and gentle blog readers and podcast subscribers, please enjoy Meryl Streep!

Listen to the podcast here.

 

Podcast Episode 176 – Two Time Tony Award-Winning Composer/Lyricist, Maury Yeston

There was one disappointing thing that I kept thinking during the recording of my podcast with Maury Yeston.

During the recording of my podcast with the two time Tony winner, I kept thinking how disappointed I was . . . that I didn’t have him on sooner.

You’ll hear what I mean from the get-go of this episode.

Because not only is Maury a super-talented genius of an artist and a Grand Master of the Musical Theater form, he has a passionate positivity for our business that few can match.

And it wasn’t always easy for the man who dreamed up Nine and wrote the “other” Phantom . . . not to mention writing one of my favorite musical theater songs of all time.

We talked about his struggle to “make it” along with . . .

  • Why he wrote Nine before he even had the rights to the film on which it was based.
  • How critics have changed, and how he believes they should write their reviews (this one is not only for the critics out there, but for anyone who has asked for advice on a show, or tweets, etc.)
  • The most important thing he learned in his decades with the Lehman Engel BMI Workshop, both as a student and as head of the program.
  • How bad reviews for an out of town tryout can actually be a blessing in disguise.
  • What he thinks is the biggest mistake writers make today.

Enjoy this podcast, and I wish you the same joy in your work as Maury takes in his.

Click here for my podcast with Maury!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Podcast Episode 175 – Composer-Lyricist and Winner of So Many Awards, Ryan Scott Oliver

 

With apartments as small as they are in this city, I’m not sure where Ryan Scott Oliver keeps all his trophies.

Because Ryan has won just about every single award an emerging musical theatre writer can win in this town.  The Jonathan Larson, multiple ASCAPs, Richard Rodgers, etc, etc.  I mean, you’d think this guy has a big future ahead of him.

Oh wait, Entertainment Weekly did call him “The Future of Broadway.”

And that’s why I wanted to talk to him.

Ryan has built an amazing career of super cool projects from Darling to 35mm to Jasper In Deadland, all of which are performed all over the world.  Recently, he passed over 1 million streams on Spotify.

And he hasn’t yet made his Broadway debut.

It’s coming, for sure, but how has he done what he has done in the meantime?

We found out on this podcast.  We also discussed:

  • Why he decided to go into musical theatre rather than join some of his peers in pop music.
  • How he found a balance between making money and pursuing the projects he’s really passionate about . . . and how you can too.
  • His pros and cons of grad school.
  • Why he founded the super successful Actor Training Program Actor Therapy with Broadway Star Lindsay Mendez.
  • The reasons why feedback from fellow writers is so important.

 

Click here for my podcast with Ryan!

Listen to the podcast on iTunes here.

Download it here.

And when you want to hear some of his tunes, check them out here.

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