“Sold Out”

“Sold Out”
The very best I had to say!
if such a thing exists…
        Since the very earliest of modern theatre, as we’ve learned to know and understand it, the most welcome statement being posted by a producer is a simple two word statement: “Sold Out”!
It just doesn’t get any better than that people! 
What questions should I ask, when I don’t know what questions to ask?
        The questions rarely ever change from generation to generation—for as long as actors have ventured forth, on whatever the stage, whatever the time of day, whatever their age, or where they happened to be. Actors would and will continue to raise their questions. First, they aspire to the heights. Then, they fall from favor. Families have debated the question for centuries. Why would their children —their fathers, their mothers, their aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, or just passing acquaintances— ever want to become an actor?
        Long before anyone ever heard of the voice over artist, the same questions where being asked. Remarkably, not only are the same questions being asked today, but also the same answers are being given. Many of you are wondering whether or not you bought the right book for a prospective voice talent to learn from. This book is about voice over; voice over, as the truly subjective art form it happens to be. And make no mistake, voice over is an acting craft.
        For me the bottom line will always be the same for actors: I always advise actors to look out for those (out there) professing to be the last word when it comes to how an actor can accomplish success. What we are involved with is a method for helping actors to establish their true signature. It’s a way for actors to find out who they are today. Nothing is ever a tougher direction for an actor than when they are told to be themselves. Act natural” is another of those seemingly simple enough directions for an actor to handle. In truth, it’s these simple directions that send many actors into a state of shock.
        Fifty years has allowed me to gather what certain individuals have found as their important tricks of the trade. As I began this book, I couldn’t help but look back at the actors who have come my way, in what feels like such a short period of time. Some folks might receive a great deal of satisfaction as they sit in their counting house, looking at what coinage they’ve been able to accumulate. In my case, the satisfaction comes from the thousands of voice actors that have gained from my teaching method, the thousands that have crossed my path as a director.
        From telephone answering machine announcements to the likes of Orson Welles reading a dessert menu… from a voice at an airport warning that the yellow zone is for loading to Buddy Hackett portraying a troll in an animated feature film… from the joy of Brock Peters functioning as the voice of a sage to experiencing the patience, and professionalism of Cloris Leachman… coupled with the relentless over and over approach of a John Houseman, or Howard Duff.
        And the beat continues to go on. The list swells, and the learning process continues.The names that I mentioned are a mere sampling of the actors and directors that I have gleaned from. It is virtually impossible for an actor to exist by him or herself. Watching and listening plays a big part of any good study program.
        I can remember as a very young guy, having the privilege of interning for a short period of time during the Alfred Hitchcock anthology series. With Mr. Hitchcock, this intern learned (when he wasn’t doing a wide variety of tasks) by watching and listening. Certainly Hitch, (that’s how the “in” crowd referred to him) wasn’t about to talk to anyone of my limited attainment. Maybe a small amount of eye contact took place if he was trying not to fall over me.
        Even at my then young age, I understood how important focus was to any creative person. I marveled at the way Hitchcock watched and listened with unbelievable intensity. But it was his listening to what the actors looked like that astounded me.
        What I learned then is what I practice today as a director. If I can hear the smile or feel the emotion of anguish or frustration without being influenced by the actor’s visual display, then, as the director, I’ve received a very strong message that I am on track. For that ability to listen, I respectfully submit my thanks to that one short, round man. 
        It has always seemed like such an obvious trait for the actor to develop. The ability to listen and the ability to focus are just about one and the same, you might think. Often people profess to be listening, and while they appear to be listening the what’s missing is the fact they are simply not focused on the direction. Direction might come in the way of a question. It might be a case of the director asking the actor a question in order to get a response allowing for where the actor is emotionally in that moment.
        And how can you get started on your long journey? We advise you to begin by getting a trained professional guidance counselor to listen to your needs. Doesn’t that sound hokey? Wait! Don’t hang up on me. Remember what I said about listening? Well, that’s what a trained counselor is trained to do: listen. 
Who can you trust?
Where do you find people like that?
Will it cost a great deal of money?
        All of the above are valid questions. You are not only entitled to a straight answer, but an honest and informed answer is an absolute must in order for an actor to have even the remotest chance of succeeding in our world of voice over.
Work Shops & Coaches
        In general, actors have the very best handle on the good, the bad, and even the most ugly of what’s out there, professing to be the actor’s helper. The larger the city, the more good and bad helpers you will find. I call them the in and outers. These are the folks in our business who find themselves in a struggle to make a living. They turn to coaching.
        What I suggest first is the most tried and true method for finding help in a big city like Los Angeles. Word of mouth. Actors talk to one another. While advertising can be a marvelous signpost, that’s all it is. Read the sign, and then ask an actor or two if they have had experience with the people whose name appears on the signpost. The really good workshops have a tendency to stay around for long periods of time. The bad ones disappear quickly. Word of mouth works both ways. 
        When an actor calls a workshop enquiring about what they have to offer and his calls are consistently being answered by a machine (with no one getting back to him that very same day), well, for me, that isn’t the kind of a place that I would like to trust my career too. It may be a workshop that you’re calling about, but it must be run like a business.
        For me, personally, I wouldn’t think of signing on with a workshop, unless it was recommended by an actor or two who I respect. Agents are also good authorities on where to go for education. Even if an agent does not represent you, they will usually be amenable when it comes to making workshop suggestions.
        Before enrolling a workshop, have your questions answered in advance. Either by online research or by calling. It is important to know how long they have been in business, as well as their qualifications. How many different kinds of classes do they offer? It is important for you to be studying with a like group of people. What I’m getting at is that you obviously wouldn’t want to be in a beginners group if you happen to be an actor with twenty years of experience in the theater.
        The workshop representative should be amenable in giving you a reasonable amount of telephone time. That representative must be knowledgeable. Too often a person who is acting as nothing more than a telephone receptionist will handle your call. When your career is at stake you should expect a great degree of caring to be displayed by the people running the workshop in question. Never settle for second best. Los Angeles is the home to the finest acting coaches in the world. Just ask another actor. They’ll know where to find them.

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