Some great tips for new actors in town
It's so easy to make a website for yourself in today's age and also very affordable. Actors forget how important it is to be easily 'findable' by casting people. And by findable I mean on the first Google page when searching your name. First step is to buy a domain - preferably 'yourname.com'. This is easy to do and cheap. GoDaddy is an easy to use source for that. If you don't have a site up and ready yet, it's a good idea to point that domain to your imdb page or your actor's access resume link. Even a Facebook page. Something. Anything with your picture and some kind of info on there. The sooner the better too. Doing it now will give the Google search engine time to find it and index it, so when you're ready to be found by casting people you're already on page 1 in a Google search of your name. Also consider creating a YouTube channel. It's built in to your gmail account (assuming you use gmail). Every video you set to public on youtube gets indexed as well.
For the site itself, go to GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, or even use programs that come with your computer like the old iWeb from mac (now discontinued). All of these are affordable. It's simply the cost of business.
Everyone in Hollywood knows that there's really just 3 sites you need to be on: Actor's Access, LA Casting and Casting Frontier. Actors Access is primarily used for theatrical projects and LA Casting for commercials but as of Nov 14, 2017 FOX network purchased Casting Frontier to use for their projects.
All allow you to make a free profile. Fill in your info, upload your headshots and reels (of course there's a fee) and start self submitting. If you're going to self submit, it's a good idea to just pay the yearly fee for both. The great thing is that you spend all this time adding info and pics - once you sign with an agent/manager you'd have to do this anyway! Now it's done and you're ahead of the game.
FEED YOUR MIND
We all love listening to music while stuck in the car for hours in LA, but there's other things you can listen to that you can learn valuable information from. Podcasts are free and plentiful! I've especially enjoyed listening to working actors and directors. Here's a few which I've found quite valuable to the actor:
Inside Acting Podcast (archived)
Making It with Riki Lindholme (archived)
The Work by Bonnie Gillespie
KCRW's The Business
Off Camera with Sam Jones
The Nerdist (now called ID10T)
Anna Faris Is Unqualified
The Moment with Brian Koppelman
WTF with Marc Maron
There's so much debate over what your headshot should look like, how many you should have, etc. Everyone has a different answer, so use your gut when starting out. Have at LEAST one picture that looks exactly like you on the casting sites and your website. It must be Hollywood standard professional looking. That means NOT a selfie. A picture a professional headshot photographer took. New York headshots tend to look a little different than LA ones. In the past NY headshots were black & white, while LA was the first to go color. Now it's color only. Once you get them you should have some printed out. These days it's all digital but they can still ask you for one at your audition. And it's not like you're going to tell them, "Oh, I don't have any printed." Again, the cost of business.
Photographers we've used:
Donna Otten donnaOtten@me.com
(more coming soon)
Brad Pitt doesn't need to be on twitter because he's already established. But if you're not at that level yet, perhaps you do. They say casting is leaning more towards giving the role to the actor with the bigger following because their followers will watch. (built in audience) Whether you have talent or not, social media is here for now. Get on Twitter, Instagram and whatever else gets invented. Yes, it’s stupid.
Websites to keep:
SAG-AFTRA Foundation educational videos
SAG/AFTRA Liferaft videos
20 On Set Film Terms You Need to Know by Matt Webb
MOW (Make Own Way) – An actor or crew member will transport themselves to set for their call time as opposed to being picked up and driven by the transport department. Don’t muck this one up or you’ll be waiting for the public bus and late to work.
Crew Call – The time of day shooting is scheduled to begin for the day. Your call time may vary.
Unit Base – This is where the makeup, costume, and cast trailers are located, as well as crew parking and catering. It’s the largest base and first point of call when arriving for work.
Recce – Visiting a location before shooting commences there to plan and work through any issues that may arise from the location. Multiple location recces will take place in pre-production with HODs present to ensure no time is wasted during the shoot. Or, often I’ll do important ‘recces’ to the crafties van just to make sure they still have plenty of donuts available.
Craft Services (Crafty) – An oasis in the desert of boring equipment trucks. The crafties food truck supplies snacks and food to the crew.
Runner – Runners are the most junior positions on a film. Managed by the office, runners transport stuff between the production office and set, and also pick up anything else needed for the crew. They are not here to pick up your dry cleaning (unless you are the Producer) but they can be great in organizing any pickups and deliveries your department may have. Get friendly with the runners and they’ll be able to help you out in so many ways.
Pre-Call – When a department or individual has a call time earlier than the crew call. Be sure to check your actual call time rather than the crew call, as it may be different. It’s always embarrassing receiving a call from your boss while you are still in bed.
New Deal – Moving on to a new camera setup for that scene. The Director and all involved are happy with the takes and “new deal” will be called out by the ADs.
Flag On the Play – After calling “new deal or moving on” but then someone realizes there was an issue and the take needs to be redone. Crew may call “flag on the play” so people pause and discuss the issue before moving equipment.
Per Diem – A daily allowance for costs incurred while filming on location. Usually for food and laundry. They used to come in wonderful cash-filled envelopes but now are deposited in your bank account with your paycheck.
10/100 or 10/1 – I’m going to the restroom. This often confuses newbies on set as to why someone wouldn’t just say “I’m going to the restroom”, but apparently it’s more polite and film etiquette to use code.
The Lot – No you aren’t ordering burgers. The lot refers to the film studio. As in “Are you on the lot?”.
Hot Set – A set that is currently in use for filming or needs to be left as is because filming will return there in the near future. Don’t touch or move the props or set dressing, or else prepare to feel the wrath of the art department.
Hot Brick – A fully charged walkie-talkie battery. When starting out you need to supply these to your superiors throughout the day.
DFI (Don’t Follow Instruction) – Stand down, don’t do what I just told you to do, something has changed so it’s not needed anymore, standby for new instructions. Someone may tell you to “DFI” after they have just given you an instruction. Again why not just say “don’t do that”. I think it’s so we film professionals can pretend we are highly skilled individuals.
Cowboys – A shot that is framed just above the knees of the subject. No Indians required for this.
Blocking – The early stages of rehearsing a scene. The Director works with the cast to place everybody in the set and walk through actions and dialogue. Be sure to give them space and stay quiet while this is happening.
Abby Singer Shot – The second last camera setup of the day. Named after the renowned Assistant Director, Abby Singer, who always called the last two shots, giving the crew time to start packing up their gear knowing they were almost at wrap. This is the time to make sure the beers are on ice if they aren’t already.
Martini Shot – The last camera setup of the day. Announced on set so everyone knows to pack up any equipment not in use.
Wrap – End something, usually the end of the day of filming but can be used as wrap on a scene, actor or item. It’s always nice to hear these words called out at the end of a day, or even better at the end of a job.
AKS – Abbreviation for accessories. Often labeled on the boxes of camera equipment.
Check The Gate – Called out after a take that the Director is satisfied with, for the 1st AC to check the internal part of the film camera called the gate. They check for any signs that may cause the film to be unusable in that previous take. Nowadays, as we use digital media rather than film stock, some people use the term ‘check the chip’ as there is no film gate but a camera hard drive. The 1st AC may playback the last take on the camera to ensure there were no technical faults.
Crossing – Called out as you walk in front of the lens if the camera operator is lining up the shot. Courteous to let them know you will block their shot momentarily but are passing through.
Cutaway – A shot of something that isn’t directly related to the action sequence. E.g. A cutaway shot of a clock, as a student rushes down a hallway late to class.
Dirty – Something is in the foreground of the shot. E.g. An actor’s shoulder or some set dressing.
Eyeline – Where an actor looks relative to camera. This may be adjusted on different camera setups to ensure the shots can be cut together smoothly.
First Position (Ones) – The place where an actor starts in the scene. They may then have a move to a second position and so on.
Jam – To sync something, usually the camera to the sound time code.
Marks – Colored tape, sausage-shaped bags or t-markers put on the ground to help the performers know where to stand. Can also be used as focus marks or dolly marks to help the camera and grip team through their camera moves.
Master – A camera setup that runs the entire scene and keeps all characters in view. Often used as an establishing shot of the scene. Most directors will begin by shooting the master coverage of a scene and then move onto the closer coverage of singles, etc.
MOS (Mute On Sound or Mit Out Sound) – Rolling cameras without recording sound. MOS is written on the slate so those in post-production know there are no sound files to sync with the takes.
Off Screen – The actor is not in the camera frame but is still required to be on set for an eyeline or to deliver their dialogue for the other actors.
POV (Point of View) – A shot taken from the view of the subject. Normally what the actor is looking at but can be the POV of any item. E.g. An animal’s POV looking up at its owner.
Second Sticks – The first clap was missed so the 2nd AC does a second clap and calls “second sticks” so the post-production team can sync the sound and image effectively.
Singles – A close up shot containing just one character.
Slate (Clapper Board) – The clapper board used by the 2nd AC’s to put an ID on each take so the editor can easily see what scene this shot is for and what take it is. It is also used to sync the sound between the camera takes and sound rushes during post-production.
Spraying – When spraying any aerosol such as hairspray or water around the camera, it’s considerate to call “spraying” so the camera department can either cover up the lens or turn the camera away from where you are so nothing goes on the lens.
Tail Slate/End Slate – The clapper board is added at the end of a take rather than at the beginning. The slate is turned upside down or 90 degrees to identify it is a tail slate.
6 Mistakes To Avoid Your First Day On a Film Set by Matt Webb (mostly for crew but great lessons for actors too)
1. Arriving Late
If you’re not early, you’re late. I aim to get to work at least 15 minutes early each day on a film set. This gives me time to setup, read my call sheet and sides, cram in some extra breakfast and make my boss a coffee. If you are late on day one you instantly create a bad reputation for yourself and this industry is built on reputation and relationships. Set your alarm early for the first day, pick out what you need to wear the night before and make sure you’ve had a look at where you need to get to so you don’t get lost.
2. Forgetting Names
No one will remember your name but don’t let that be an excuse to forget theirs. It’s great if you can remember as many names as possible on your first day on a film set, at least those in your department. This will make you stand out and give you the best chance of them remembering you. I sometimes even write down people’s names in a notebook or phone when they aren’t looking so you can refer back to it. Alternatively, you can also ask the production office for a crew list to help you remember who’s who.
3. Asking An Actor What They Do
You’ll be trying small talk with whoever is standing around. It’s pretty embarrassing when you ask an actor what department they are in or what they do. Embarrassing for them I guess, as they expect that you’ll know them from the seven short films they released on Vimeo last year. As long as you are polite I’m sure they’ll get over it. I’ve asked Mel Gibson’s son what his last name was. He politely replied ‘Gibson’. That makes sense, I thought.
4. Phone Ringing During A Take
This is even more embarrassing than when you wet yourself in kindergarten and had to go to sick bay to get some spare clothing. Don’t let your phone ring on set, especially during a take. At least have it on silent or even better, just turn it off if you don’t need it for some kind of emergency calls. Your Facebook and Instagram updates can wait until you get home. If your phone does ring during a take I can guarantee the crew will remember who you are and be hassling you each day until you provide a case of beer for your sins.
5. Walking Through The Back Of Shot
Film sets can be a daunting place at the best of times with crew members rushing about knowing exactly what to do and where to be. You’ll find it hard on day one to even find a place to stand that is out of the way. Have a good look at where the cameras are pointing and make sure you don’t settle in the back of the shot. It’s always embarrassing when you hear “Cut!” and the director berates the person that was standing in the shot only to realize that was you… A safe bet is near all the equipment trolleys. Usually, this is fairly close to set but enough out of the way until you discover your place on set.
6. Standing In Another Actor’s Eye line
An eye line refers to where an actor is looking in the scene. It may be directly at the other actors, it could be out to the horizon or it could be an imaginary moving car that is driving in the distance. So, why should you stay clear of it? Actors are performers and they need to feel secure during filming. You’d likely not love fifty people gawking while you feign ‘true love’ and awkwardly kiss your sweaty co-star in a claustrophobic studio. Such a kiss could only be made worse by a wandering PA aimlessly ambling into their line of sight. If you need to be close to the action during the scene, try and hide yourself behind some equipment or set dressing so that you remain inconspicuous. Alternatively, turn your back to them or simply look down at the ground while the scene is played out. Don’t move around and fidget.