#SelfTaping on the Global

In my head, when my big audition for that major Netflix show came along, I would have a day or two to delve into the character, try out different readings, and find the perfect scene-partner to read opposite me. I would have an acting coach give me those subtle-but-vital tips on my performance and, to tape in, I would have a professional studio (or my home studio) with a background and lighting that make my eyes pop. Well, that’s not how it happened. I was overseas and in transit when I received the submission request. And, the (wonderful) reality is, when you’re a global actor, you’re often not at home. So the best thing you can do is, be prepared for it to happen.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for self-taping on the go:

1. Don’t leave home without your smart phone, laptop and chargers. Your phone will be your camera, and possibly your microphone. If you want to ensure sound quality, you can carry a lapelle mic, they are very cheap and travel friendly. If you don’t have it already, get some basic editing software so you can start and end your video exactly where you want to, and insert title cards with your name, character name, project name and contact info. 

2. Use natural light. This means you have to shoot in daylight hours, when the sun is out,

near a window. Try different angles, walls to get the best light for your tape. If you have
blinds, you can mess with how much light you want, but daylight is key.

3. Any wall will do. Really. It needs to be blank, but you can take photos/painting off a wall, or move a bookshelf if you need to. You can also buy travel/fold-up photo backgrounds if you want to carry these with you.

4. You can also buy a mini travel “octopus” tripod for as little as AU $14,  but otherwise you can use whatever you’ve got to build a makeshift pod. Put a rubbish bin on top of a bookshelf on top of some books-- whatever you need to get your phone to the right height.

5. You will need an internet connection in order to upload your video to whatever platform required. Internet access usually isn’t an issue in most countries, but if it is, use an internet cafe. Make sure your charger has a USB connecter so you can connect to a computer.

6. Pack at least one camera ready clothing top and don’t wear it unless you’ve got a submission! Pack make-up if you won’t self-tape without it.

7. Any reader will do. Don’t worry if they can act or if they’re the right gender or have the right accent. 
A big casting director once told me about an actor who was overseas and grabbed a waiter at a local cafe to read with her-- despite the waiter's difficulty with English, she booked the job!

8. Use what you’ve got. If you’re on a shoot and you feel friendly enough, ask another actor or camera assist if they would mind helping you out. Use the new environment to give new life to your surrounding and character. Another CD once told me about an actor holidaying in Thailand who used his hotel reception and the locals in his self tape-- he booked the job in seconds. 

9. Call on global friends. If you’re in a big city, there will no doubt be local places to put down a self-tape (check some of our previous posts for recommendations in LA, NYC, London, Berlin & Sydney)-- but otherwise, ask your local acting schools or film institutes-- they can shoot you straight to being in the know. 

10. Remember to breathe. Do the best you can in the circumstances and feel proud that you used your
ingenuity and got it in on time-- what a global professional!

Bonus! Here’s an amazing video about setting up simple self-tape situations:

An Actor's Life: How to Fill the Silences

2018 so far has been a slow moving year, so I thought it would be best to share what I do to fill the silences of the industry. Lets jump straight in!

1.Produce. Produce. Produce!

It's more and more common these days for actors to become hyphenates. We are creators. We are artists. So whether it's theatre, film, pilots or web series you're into creating, it's best just to dive right in and get those projects going. There's nothing more rewarding than collaborating and creating when the string of auditions have all of a sudden become shorter for a few months; it keeps you focussed on your creativity and really, that is the challenge: to stay in your creativity through the tough times.

Right now I'm about to shoot a short that my own production company and a friend's production company are collaborating on. How did the project come about? From being introduced to an actor/writer (via a circle of friends who are a part of AMAW Studios) who had several fantastically written projects ready to go. The actor/writer managed to see a screening of one of my most recent films and wanted to work together right away, asking me to direct and play a role in this particular project - we also have one theatre project, a feature idea and two more shorts lined up.
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So it's important to find an artistic community that keeps you inspired and pro-active - you never know who you'll be introduced to, or who wants to pull you onto their next project. We have to be braver and bolder as artists to show up with ideas and start working in a very non-precious way - it keeps it all moving forward and before you know it you have a slate of projects that can be pitched and already-made content backing you as an awesome actor hyphenate! If you don't know where to start with all this, I'd always say people are the best resource-- dare to go to people you know who are already doing this and ask the questions. Keep your artistic soul alive!

2.Self Care

Our LA correspondent Christina has blogged about this awesome lady once already in her 'top 10' post -- I'm going to open up a little more on her as I discovered her work at the start of January. Her name is Wendy Braun.

It's very easy to busy our lives with the hustle of the industry and distract ourselves from what is really going on with us, so much so that we don't even realise we're doing it! The work that I have done via Wendy Braun has provided huge paradigm shifts for me, a lot of inner work that actually affects the outer. If you're feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and stuck within the confines of the industry and/or in parts of your life then her course is hugely worth it. There's a lot of self realisation that comes up about your desires too which I have found particularly useful. It's a good way to just breath, relax and focus on joy being the success of your life more than any job or idea of what your career/life 'should' look like.


No I don't mean like Robots In Disguise. Although that would be pretty awesome. By 'transform' I mean re-brand or change something in your life. Give yourself a new focus.

I'll use myself as an example. For me this was to do with my body which I knew would effect my 'cast-type'. A friend of mine introduced me to Kris Gethin's 8 week transformation challenge, a completely free online video trainer from a really brilliant body builder (you can see all his stuff at https://www.kagedmuscle.com). It was a tough commitment for sure, BUT the point is in what I have just written: commitment. I gained a new focus in my life, something I was set on doing every morning upon waking, making it work around any castings or jobs that came up, setting my mind to a very very specific task and feeling that I'm challenging myself more and more each day of the 8 week period.Image result for kris gethin

Overall, my mind and body are better for it - on top of that my body has drastically changed and it has certainly moved my casting into a different bracket which is working in my favour. Also, it took my mind off the obsession of being seen and getting work which gave more space for those roles to start landing - something to consider!

Your transformation may not be about the gym. It may be about a new haircut you've been considering but been too scared to take the jump, or to take that meditation retreat you've been thinking about but fear missing out on auditions/jobs along the way. Whatever it is, take the leap - life is too short to be in worry of not being there for the industry, it's really all about being there for you and doing those things you wish to do to improve your life. Don't get sucked into the acting industry vortex, stay out in the open of the wonderful wilderness that is life.

4. Re-connect With The Business Of Acting

This is contradictory to the above, but still certainly needs to be mentioned and I do touch on it where necessary-- but let that be heard loud and clear: only when it's necessary. Secondly, in small doses. I say that because this kind of work can potentially be obsessive to the point where you feel all the answers lie in your branding, etc and whilst it's important to know your business, it's also good to balance that with enjoying your life.

There are three awesome ladies I can recommend to delve into on this subject: Bonnie Gillespie, Dallas Travers & Amy Jo Berman.
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All three are useful in very individual ways - so if you're looking to find out your current brand and how you can make that attractive to buyers (agents, producers, directors, managers, casting directors) or not sure where to start on how to look for an agent, want tips on self taping whatever it may be there's a lot you can learn from these coaches. They're all very honest and have brilliant tools to help all, so I'll leave the rest to you guys to scout through their sites to see what hits home for you.


Some of my favourite web tools!

I often joke with my friends that no one warned me about acting being such an office job but it is true a lot of my work ("the job is getting the job") is done on my lovely MacBook and iPhone. So I would like to share with you a few of the web tools I use and how I use them. Some might be obvious, some might be completely new. I'd also love to hear what YOU use!

MailChimpEvery 4 to 6 months I use MailChimp to send a personalised newsletter to Casting Directors in the U.K., Germany and France. MailChimp allows you to track who opened your email, how many times and which links were clicked on. The program is fairly straight forward but you need a day to save all your contacts in the right lists and get a grip on all the features. I keep my updates short and to the point, nothing personal and I only write when there is really something new to share - starting usually  along the lines of "I'd like to invite you to watch" or "I am happy to share with you" etc. I strongly suggest personalising (not starting with "Hi everyone" but Dear *FNAME* *LNAME*) and not sending them out more than quarter-yearly.https://www.mailchimp.com 

DramaQueenI have recently started venturing out into screen writing and DramaQueen is a brilliant, freely downloadable program that lets you write professionally formatted, Final Draft compatible scripts offline. https://dramaqueen.info/about-en/?lang=en Our own Michaela recomends https://v4.writerduet.com for writing together.

WixI built my own personal website with wix.com. There is a free version that comes with adds and it is super easy to use. The templates are simple and beautiful allowing you to create a very professional looking website. Albeit that it is not obligatory to have a personal website as an actor, I like the idea of having everything I want my professional contacts to know about me in one place. Check out my website: www.katharinasporrer.com

DuolingoLearning a language has never been easier and as actors it is always useful to learn or improve foreign languages. Duolingo and its sister app Tinycards allow you to practice languages easily and fun on the go. Podcasts such as “Coffee Break” are also a brilliant get to get into a new language. This is how my French and Italian became fluent :)

AccentsFor any accent or dialect of English you might need there is a voice sample on this website: http://www.dialectsarchive.com.  If you'd like lessons on different accents go to https://www.accenthelp.com

MeditationSometimes I do, sometimes I don’t but I know it only has benefits. Two apps have helped me: https://chopracentermeditation.com > Deepak and Oprah offer free 21 day guided meditation programs on a regular basis, a very easy way to get into it.Insight Timer > an app on my phone that times my meditations and ends them with a beautiful Gong.

IMDb pro
Having a pro account is definitely worth it once you have done some work in the industry. Not only can you add your own credits and control your pictures etc. but also you have all the industry contacts to your fingertips. Who represents who, who casts what? And what is their personal email address? In many cases you find all that on IMDb pro.

Casting Sites
These are the ones I use in Europe and have gotten jobs via: www.encast.eu, www.casting-network.de, www.castforward.dewww.cineaste.org and of course www.spotlight.com. This topic deserves an extra blog post ;)

10 x Scene study and On-camera Classes in NYC to check out now!

We all know that going to drama school can be an incredible investment in your career. Taking those years to immerse yourself in the history of plays, writers and actors, and taking on the challenge of becoming part of a repertory troupe can allow an actor to expand her wings and try out many different parts before emerging as professionals ready for the 'real world' of show business.

Meryl Streep at Yale Drama School

Of course, this investment is one of significant time and money- neither of which every actor automatically has at their disposal.  But whether you had the opportunity to go to drama school or not, most actors worth their salt knows how important it is to continue studying and keep themselves match fit once they're ready to embark on a professional career.

Learning on the job is an amazing thing (all those opportunities to work with and learn from new directors, cast members and crew) but there's no guarantee you will be working 5 weeks of the year,  let alone 50, to keep your skills honed. Ongoing classes can provide a much needed safe space to take on different challenges, observe your peers, try out new techniques in your work and make bold casting choices. This is the opportunity to stretch and make 'mistakes,' all the while growing.

It may take a few different attempts to find the teacher or class that suits you at a particular time in your career. Most classes will let you come in and audit (mostly for free) before making a decision to join. Chat with other pupils and alumni, do a cost analysis and ask yourself whether this is an environment which will challenge you as well as protect you and set you up for success - being an independent, smart working actor within a strong supportive community.

I urge you to learn from teachers who are or have recently been actively working in the business. You may be thrilled to get into a class with a particular coach, but if it's been many years since their last professional outing there's a chance that you may be working with outmoded methods, inflexible working practices and an unrealistic understanding of what the current industry needs and conversations are.

If possible, don't be the most experienced actor in the room. Particularly when it comes to an ongoing class commitment that may stretch over a year or more, try to take class in an environment where you'll work and learn from more experienced and hard working actors than you.

So without further ado, here's a Top 10! a few of my favorite go-to places of learning, scene study and on camera acting class in New York:

1. Mimi Lieber's masterclass. Mimi is one of the smartest and tough-but-fair-est teachers I've ever been blessed to study with. An actor who regularly appears on and off Broadway, she runs scene study classes for students on Monday nights. (For more information: annieleemoffett@gmail.com)

2. Kimball Studios. Founded by TV writer-producer Kelly Kimball, this fast growing studio offers acting classes, on camera work, private career coaching and their signature 'Ballistics' class designed to strengthen preexisting technique through improvisation. Members are also invited to meet industry guests in casting director sessions. (http://kimballstudio.com)   

3. The Barrow GroupFounded in 1986, TBG is a New York City theater company and performing arts training center. Artistic Directors Seth Barrish and Lee Brock oversee three plays per season in the main theatre, alongside the wide variety of programs and courses on offer for adults and young people - from day long intensives up to one year programs. Notable alumni include Anne Hathaway, Lola Kirke and Vera Farmiga.  (https://www.barrowgroup.org/)

4. Lyle Kessler Theatre Workshop. A lifelong member of the Actors Studio, Kessler has had numerous plays produced on and off Broadway, including 'Orphans' and 'Collision.' Lyle studied with Lee Strasberg and class focuses on building strong character work and strengthening an actor's theatre muscles. On occasion writers, directors, actors and filmmakers will pop into class to observe and participate.  Previous guests include Alec Baldwin, Malcolm McDowell, Larry Moss and Chazz Palminteri. (http://www.lylekessler.com) 

5. The Acting Studio. This studio boasts its own resident theatre company Chelsea Rep, and runs the gamut: from introductory classes for the complete newbie, through to acting, stage violence, on-camera, accent, voiceover and auditioning classes and private coaching for the seasoned professional. There is a special series of classes dedicated to Meisner training, as well as separate workshops for playwrights and directors. Alumni includes Julianna Margulies and Ato Essandoh.

6. Maggie Flanagen Studio. Maggie opened her studio “to provide a small, intimate, and nurturing home for serious actors to sharpen their skills and solidify their craft.” Her work is rooted in the technique of Sanford Meisner, coupled with an emphasis on creating behavior organically and truthfully from genuine experience. The studio offers year long core programs as well as summer intensives. (http://www.maggieflaniganstudio.com)

7. Ellen Novack's On-Camera Audition Class. Ellen has worked in film and TV in many guises - as director, casting director, producer, actor, acting teacher, coach, and manager. Her on-camera classes support actors honing their skills for the realities of TV and Film castings by offering a clear and systematic way of dissecting and analyzing audition scenes. Private sessions are also available, and for those desiring a bit of a reboot Ellen also offers ActorLaunch for personal career coaching. 

Alumni includes Alison Williams (http://ellennovack.com)

8. HB Studios.  Founded by Viennese actor director Herbert Berghof in 1945 and shortly thereafter joined by Uta Hagen as its master teacher, HB Studios is committed to providing a haven for working professionals, free from commercial pressures. Alongside their one year signature acting conservatory, The Hagen Core Training, there are a whole host of workshops and class choices on offer on everything from NYC specific accents to musical theatre, movement, Alexander Technique, improvisation and on-camera work. The illustrious list of alumni includes Anne Bancroft, William H Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker and Al Pacino  (https://hbstudio.org) 

Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen

9. Anthony Meindl's Actors Workshop. Commonly known as AMAW, this studio was founded in LA and now boasts locations in Atlanta, Vancouver, Sydney and London as well as New York. Tony's philosophy is rooted in actors trusting their artistic instincts, taking risks and stop 'performing' and reconnecting to their own human feelings. His work has reached countless actors around the world thanks to his bestselling books and addictive podcast series. Teachers at AMAW studios around the globe are professional jobbing actors and boast AGG's very own Scott Michael Wagstaff! (http://www.anthonymeindl.com)      

10. T Schreiber Studio Founded by Terry Schreiber in 1969, the studio has grown exponentially since then. Alongside the accompanying theatre which supports playwrights by by producing new short and full length plays every year, there are a host of acting classes (levels I – IV) Meisner, Commercial, On Camera, Auditioning and industry workshops. For those looking for intensive training with a flexible schedule, T S Studio allows an actor to customize their own conservatory program. In addition, the studio hosts a “Conversations With…” series with established actors, directors and playwrights in a very informal setting. Recent guests include Edward Norton, Cynthia Nixon, Peter Sarsgaard, Mary-Louise Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Folks, this is by no means a comprehensive list - and there are new classes being set up all the time! Let me know  - who have I left out that should most definitely be on this list? Get in touch and we'll make sure to do a follow up on some of your favorites and top tips for New York City. Happy studying! @EdithKisAlacska

#TheSeoulBrotha: An American Actor in South Korea

by Kahlid Elijah Tapia

Building My Foundation In The Land Of The Morning Calm

Eight and a half years ago, I was taking acting classes and working for the University of Phoenix as a recruiter in Tampa, Florida (USA).  During my orientation, they sat us all down and asked us to introduce ourselves with our names and something unique about us.  One of the young recruiters said her name and that she had taught English in Turkey.  I thought to myself, “how interesting that would be to teach English overseas.” (I know this is an actor’s blog but bear with me.) After about a year at Phoenix (and realizing I wasn’t great at sales), I started looking at other options.

I was home one day reading a book called Think & Grow Rich.  In this book was a poem and it went like this:

“I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;

For Life is just an employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial's hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.”

I busted into tears and asked myself, “Kahlid, what do you want?”  I answered, “I want to be an actor.” “Do you want anything else?”  I said, “I want to live abroad.”

Immediately, I called that recruiter and started asking questions about Turkey. I realized that country had options, but not the best.  I went online and began inquiring about teaching English overseas, and South Korea, with its great contracts, excellent benefits and low cost of living, rose to the top. So there I was looking out the window of Atlanta International Airport at the biggest flying tank I had ever seen.  I was carrying my jacket, a small bag, and stomach full of the most active butterflies.  Before that moment, the only other country I had been to was the British Virgin Islands.  It hit me like a ton of bricks that I was going to be in a whole new world within the next 16 hours.

Once I landed in Korea, I used my passport for the second time in my life, found my group of fellow English teachers, went through teacher orientation, and was assigned to my first Korean Elementary School. I figured I was set.  "I’ll do one year of living abroad, and that will be it", I thought.  Fate had other plans.  I went out partying one night and met a young lady who is now one of my closest friends.  I let her know I was an actor and found out that she was too.  It was this young lady who recommended I put my headshot and resume on Craigslist to see what happens.  I looked at her in disbelief but made the post anyway, not expecting anything at all.

A young British film director and his girlfriend saw my post and asked me to be in my first short film.  I WAS ECSTATIC!  I emailed my four sisters, posted on Facebook and told every person I knew that I was going to be doing my first film.  A terrific experience, a wonderful director, a great short film, and the beginning of what is now my acting career.   I left my headshot and resume on Craigslist and phone calls started coming in.  It was literally a snowball effect.  However, I still had major issues back then, as I didn’t have the proper visa or the best flexibility in my schedule (I was a full time English teacher after all).  Regretfully, I didn’t get any paid roles because of this.  That same director asked me to come back and do another short film, but apart from that, I thought very little of what Korea could do for me.

A month before I was to leave Korea, a friend called and asked if I would be interested in being in a Korean feature film.  The production company was seeking foreigners for a scene which involved a political round table of global politicians.  Once again, I was on cloud nine.  Not only did I get to be in the film but I received lines and I got paid. (Hey, I was a month from leaving Korea what did I care of visa or schedules, I was going to be in a movie!) I played the American Representative in the movie Super Monkey Returns.  Before leaving, I had three credits to my name, not including everything I did at university in the U.S., and felt ready to tackle the world of acting as a career.  It was February 2010, my year in Korea was up, and I had a mission.

But life is truly stranger than fiction, because the American recession was now in full swing, and when I got back to America it was hard enough to find a job much less an acting job.  I found work at a photo factory and one day while packing the 1000th photo in its respected courier box I had an epiphany:  “Why stay in America working at a factory when I can go back to Korea and live the dream?” So I told my family I was moving back to Korea, got all my paperwork together again, signed a new contract with my old English teaching company, gave my two weeks’ notice, and I was gone.  Now here’s the best part: two days before teacher orientation was over, I got a phone call from another British director saying that he met me a year ago at the first "48Hour Film Project" in Korea, and would I be interested in auditioning for his film.  I knew that I had made the right choice to return, but that phone call solidified everything for me. I auditioned, didn’t get the role, but I got another role, and my acting career in Korea was off to a great start.
My first week back in Itaewon, just a few days before shooting with that British director, I learned that a Korean-American couple had started their own independent production company called Side Project Productions.  Through this production company I met two other American directors: one that had just wrapped his independent feature Fear Eats The Seoul, the other who started a monthly film-critique meet-up for up and coming filmmakers, called "The Seoul Filmmakers Workshop." My gift of the gab was in full swing.  I was networking my way into short films and independent features.
However, I began to realize some things very quickly. First, I didn’t understand the business of acting.  Second, there were no English speaking acting workshops available at that time. Third, I was in desperate need of stepping up my game if I wanted to get the attention of the Koreans. Fourth, being an actor in Korea was terrific, but if I couldn’t figure a way to incorporate my work overseas for the American industry, then it would pretty much be a moot point.

So I bought the book Acting: Make It Your Business by Paul Russel, and started learning the business of acting.  After having been recommended another great book, The Power of the Actor, I found out that the author, Ivanna Chubbuck, traveled overseas quite often and attended two of her workshops in the Philippines and Japan. I started learning Korean and although I wasn’t fluent (and still am not), I spoke enough to get the attention of my first talent agent.  Lastly, I paid to have a website built, and started paying very close attention to how strategies in America can be utilized overseas. I read books, lost weight, read more books, changed the way I dressed, received career consultations, applied for auditions daily on Craigslist and any other site I could find, networked at Korean film festivals, traveled for actor training and took a few online acting classes. In other words, the realization of what a working actor is started to sink in.  Taking action became crucial because as an expat actor you can’t sit and wait.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “What about the visa and schedule issue?”  “Were you still an English teacher?”   I’ve been an English teacher for the full 8 years I’ve been in Korea.  I found a legal loophole.  As long as I have a permission letter from my visa sponsor stating that I can do ANY & ALL additional work, I was good to go.  That letter opened doors.

However, my career took its most amazing turn when I realized that I had a niche, but needed a way to promote that niche, and #TheSeoulBrotha Blog was born!  (Yes, a typical play on words but catchy none the less).  In addition, I invested in "The Actor’s Business Blueprint" by Dallas Travers and began to understand the value of giving of myself and taking full control of my career.  As my creativity started to develop I realized that expat actors needed something to invest in and that’s when I created "The Actor’s Guide To Overseas Success":  A 15 page PDF of strategies I have used or wished I had used to propel myself forward in an overseas industry.

Today as I type this post, I’m eight and a half years as a working actor in South Korea. I’m down to my final month before I head to Thailand to train in Muay Thai.  I look back through my 35 IMDb credits, 3 awards, 2 years of blogging and my plethora memories in an overseas film industry and I think to myself, “I wouldn’t trade any of it”.  I wouldn’t trade being on set for 22 hours and only being in front of the camera for 2.  I wouldn’t trade freezing on a bus because there was no heater and no green room to do my first TV spot. I wouldn’t trade working 9 to 5 Mon-Fri as an English teacher and then 8a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends for my first independent film.  I wouldn’t trade being so busy with my career that sometimes I had to remind myself that I needed a life outside of acting.
I walk away from Korea with a solid foundation of film, television, and stage credits.  I walk away with ATL-wood and Hollywood in my sights. I walk away knowing that I did what I said I was going to do all those years ago in that photo factory.   I came to Korea and made mistakes and will make plenty more.  I came to Korea and I blossomed where I was planted. I came to Korea and I lived the dream.

For more on Kahlid, visit http://kahlidelijahtapia.com/
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