Guest Blogger Ashley Tabatabai: It's A Mindset Game

First of all, a big thanks to Scott and the team for inviting me to do a guest blog this month. I was thinking about what topic to write about and kept coming back to one thing; mindset! That's what everything is underpinned by and it applies to whatever you do in life, especially as actors. We know that rejections and "no's" come with the territory. We have to be able to handle those moments ; our belief systems and attitude are everything. 
The reality is that humans are all really good at overcomplicating things. Every one of us can overthink ourselves into a frenzy. And it's usually based on someone else's story. Things are a lot simpler than we allow them to be. We're just pulled in millions of different directions by other people's thoughts and opinions; usually our parents, close friends or the "ideas" imprinted on us by society. 

The bottom line is that none of that stuff matters. The last thing anyone wants is to look back with regret, so why the hell do we hold back based on what other people may think? Normally because somewhere along the line we allowed ourselves to value someone else's opinion more than our own. Life's too short for that. Why do we care so much about the casting directors opinion or what the agent or manager might think? What's the pressure in having to have booked a certain number of jobs by a certain time? Yes, I appreciate that there is a system we're playing within. But, now more than ever, the system is not the only game in town. Look at all walks of life, business models have come into play disrupting the traditional way; Deliveroo, Uber, AirBnB. As actors we can work within the system (auditions, bookings, networking etc etc) AND outside of it. Now is the single most opportune time for actors ever! Because we can create our own content and we have access to a media distribution device at will. Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix.......these are the new TV networks, the golden age of radio is reincarnated with podcasts; Instagram and Snapchat are audience building tools (you get to be your own TMZ). And yet, I still go back to my original point..........we have to focus on getting mindset right first.

I'm trying not to be all douchey and banging on the "ra ra positivity" drum, but that stuff is real. Before focusing on which agent to approach or the headshots we should get, I think there should be a real focus on self-awareness. Because that, combined with patience will allow for a smoother enjoyment of the process , which will have highs and lows!

I believe that we should all start by defining why we want to act. Yes, I'm going all Simon Sinek on you! But that stuff is legit and has been around in different ways before he did a great job of making it more mainstream. It fascinates me as to why people spend so much time on creating mission and vision statements for companies but not themselves. We'll slave over a film logline and yet turn away from that level of self introspection. 

If people only take one thing away from this piece, then I hope it's that they allow themselves to truly explore and define their why and then consciously live from that place. And I want to add something to that, because I've seen a lot of actors describe why they want to act. 90% of the time it's always got something to do with them; how it makes them feel, what they get out of it, what it lets them explore. That stuff is great and massively important. However, I urge you to go deeper. Define a why that is beyond just yourself. What do you want your acting to contribute to others. That's the deal and it's counterintuitive. But it's where the power is at.
From there your focus can be so much clearer. When you approach agents or casting people you come from a place of knowing what you bring to the table. And, more importantly, if they or the project doesn't resonate with that then you can save your time and focus on what does. Beyond that, I think we should all just do more. As in, make more of our own work. Invest the time and just go for it. When you define your why you can be much more clear on the type of stories you'd like to tell, the people you'd like to resonate "live on brand"; which really just means you act authentically. It's in every one of us to do that. And you don't need to wait for the system to give you permission.

I'm sure some may read this and think that, yes it makes sense............but my situation is different because *insert reason here* . I get it and I empathise, because we all have stuff in our lives to handle. We all have had things happen that can stop us in our tracks and we can find reasons not to do something. However, what's the alternative? Because when it comes down to it, it's your life and things are very clear, either do what you want or don't.  Both options are fine, just be aware of the path each one leads down. You can't make a short film of your own because you have no crew or cast? What about the people in your acting class or the crew you worked with on that student film? No film credits to your name, find film students on Instagram or Twitter whose stuff you like and DM them to see if they'd be open to collaborating. You don't have the money to make a piece? Try crowdfunding, see if a 0% interest credit card will help out, hell.....sell stuff you don't use on ebay or Facebook Marketplace. We have so many more option available to us then we may think. Just go for it............and give yourself the luxury of allowing your opinion of you to be the one that matters the most! the words of the 1980's WWF legend Hulk Hogan:

Please do reach out on any of the social links below if you want to share any of your thoughts on what I've written.

Ashley Tabatabai
Ashley Tabatabai is an award winning International actor and filmmaker from a culturally diverse background. After growing up in Spain and then attending University in the UK, Ashley's focus gravitated towards an acting career. He has worked with numerous leading acting coaches in LA and Europe, namely Backstage winner Anthony Meindl. At whose studio he continues to study. Ashley has appeared in various independent films, including Allies (eOne Entertainment), featuring alongside Julian Ovenden. His degree in Management has provided an opportunity to add value as a producer as well, a role that he undertook on the Feature Film "Digital You", in addition to starring as "Charlie". He went on to work on "Color Me Grey", where he once again was involved in both capacities, helping to produce the project and performing as the complex and enigmatic "Johnny". He produced, wrote and starred in the award winning short film Falsified, which was his first project under his production company Taba Productions. The film premiered at the prestigious Los Angeles International Short Film Festival in August 2017. Ashley is represented by leading talent agency Mondi Associates.

Love and the Actor

by Katharina Sporrer

“Don’t you get jealous?,” is often the first question people ask my boyfriend, when he says that I am an actor. And the answer is yes, he does. There is something strange about the blurred lines of intimacy that our job brings with it and yet, it is just that - a job. 

When I first started out, a more experienced colleague gave me an important piece of advice: if you really fancy an actor you’re working with, wait until the production is over. At first I thought she meant that mixing work and love (or sex..) is not a great idea but it’s more complex than that.  On my first professional gig, I fell hard for my co-star. We played a romantic couple, with intense, passionate scenes and spent every day together - on and off set. We were both in (failing) relationships and when he needed a room after his break up, after our work was done, I offered him one at my house. I was sure we were going to end up together. Instead, without the lines written by a brilliant writer, we had nothing of great depth to say to each other. All our chemistry was gone - it had only existed inside the bubble of our work.

The other fact is that a romantic scene, or even a sex scene for that matter, isn’t necessarily as seductive as one thinks. There are at least a dozen people around watching your every move, you’re more often than not cold, and it is very, very rare that you are put together with someone who you’d really like to kiss or date. Sometimes it does happen and then yes, it is great (I am still human), but still not like in the real world.

The more complicated part of dating an actor is the lack of consistency. Every day is different. I hate Friday afternoons for example because I know until Monday morning nothing can happen - no phone call might change my (professional) life. As much as I love to travel it is impossible to plan far ahead for me. I enjoy making the plan, but an uncountable amount of times I had to change my flight, cancel a trip etc. -- and the thing is I do it happily. Imagine planning an amazing trip with your loved one and the moment that work comes up, they gladly cancel it. And not only for the lead in a Steven Spielberg film (I’d miss my best friend’s wedding), but even just to say two lines playing the waitress. So, I am flexible and incredibly inflexible at once. Spontaneity is a quality you must possess as an actor and as a person dating an actor.

I also have to admit I have never actually dated anyone who wasn’t at least somewhat in the industry. My best friends are doctors and teachers but I don’t happen to have crossed over romantically. I don’t know why. 

One can get caught up in the inconstancy that the job brings, the ever changing people and environments, but the truth is, that film sets are like very close-knit families that immediately fall apart after the shoot is over and with rare exceptions these people will never become part of your real life. So, always stay in touch with the people who love you in your old pyjamas.

And actors dating actors? Well, for me it was horrible. It was like we were trying to outperform each other. One ex (actor) of mine constantly wanted to turn me into his audience and he was only happy when it was him “advising” me but as soon as I got any job that he would have liked, he got bitter. While I do know of other actor couples who are more benevolent towards each other, I would still never advise an actor to date another actor. Directors, Writers, Editors and Composers are a much better fit ;)

Don’t shit where you eat is a good motto to date by. For Actors and Lawyers.

De-Stress! Go on a vacation!

Hello Friends,

I spent over a week on vacation in Cartagena, Colombia this month

 I made new friends, ate at the same restaurants Anthony Bourdain raved about, explored new sites, jumped into a bottomless mud volcano and fell in love all over again with myself and with my life.

It was a big deal to get away from the hustle of LA LA LAND. 

The day before my flight to Bogota, Colombia, I was on avail for a commercial and promised my new commercial agents, if I booked it, I would cancel my trip. 

Originally at the casting and callback, the dates did not interfere with my trip.  As much as I wanted to book that $50,000 commercial so I could travel even more, I am glad I didn't because I would have had to cancel my July Colombia vacation.   And what would that have meant, I am putting my personal life aside again and again for my career.  I love traveling.  It truly makes my soul sing. And what I have learned since returning back to LA LA LAND is, I am a better actor and an even better person, because of all the places I have been, people I connected with and experiences I have had. 

Since returning back from Colombia, my energy is more in the flow.  Casting opportunities are falling in my lap and I just know I will be on avail again real soon for another spot and book it this time.  More importantly, I am enjoying life even more and embracing every step of this journey and ready for my next vacation.

New Mexico and Buenos Aires, Argentina is next on the list...for this 2018!

As I slip back into "work mode," I'm noticing the reappearance of stress already.  So my advice to all of you, (myself included), wherever you are in the world, wherever you are in your career, is to TRAVEL.  Get out there and visit those friends you haven't seen in years!  Go to that country you always wanted to travel to and try new foods, meet new people.  It will make you a more interesting actor, and ultimately an even better person!

Bottom line, Do what brings you joy!  Joy leads to more Joy!

Much love!
Christina DeRosa

From Munich to Sydney: Advice for Actors Making a Global Move

by Guest Blogger Julia Stubenrauch

I’m from Munich, Germany. And you could say things were going well for me there. I was in my first year of acting school, had an agent, and had already made a few guest appearances on TV. I had a producer I was writing music with, and had opened for a huge concert in Romania, live-streamed on international television. Everything seemed to be on a great path. And then, I met a boy.

Not so much of a boy really, a man-- from Australia, who was living in Munich for a year. And badabingbadaboom, six months later I was on a plane and had moved to Sydney, Australia, a place I had never been before, for a guy I had known less than seven months. He had offered to stay with me in Germany if I preferred, but sounded pretty exciting to me. And to be honest, the path I was on wasn't that great. My acting school sucked, my producer was preoccupied with his growing family, and Munich isn’t exactly the height of the screen industry-- unless your thing is becoming a soap opera lifer. So, Australia. I quit acting school, ended things with my producer, cleared out my childhood bedroom and hopped on a 25 hour flight. I cried. A lot. Spoiler alert – it all worked out in the end. But there were a lot of bumps along the way and I’ve made a little list of things to keep in mind for actors who are thinking of moving to a new place. Well, to be quite frank, I made it for myself, hoping that I will actually remember some of it for next time. There will be a next time-- don’t want things to get too easy ;)

  • Say yes, and figure the rest out later.
To be fair, I was 20 years old, had never had to pay for rent, let alone buy toilet paper and hadn’t really nailed this whole being an adult thing yet (I still haven’t, but at least I’m way better at pretending I have). So I was scared. And because I was scared I said no to things before they could become an issue – or an opportunity. I found the most bizarre excuses not to take that phone call, not to audition for that role, not to do that interview because – What if I can’t understand them (I was still struggling with that aussie accent) or even worse – what if they made fun of my accent? What if it overlaps with something else that I applied for? What if I don’t have anything interesting to tell them? Plus, I couldn’t do anything that was unpaid, because I was too good for that, right? Well, newsflash. It will all work out. Somehow. And chances are, you won’t exactly be swamped with gigs when you first arrive somewhere, so yes, you do have time to do that unpaid shoot if it gives you good footage and lets you meet new people. Don’t stress about it before it’s even begun. Say yes to each and every opportunity that is presented to you and to be realistic – most of them won’t work out anyway. But at least you tried, made new connections and hopefully you’ll still be left with some of them who do work out. And if two things ever do overlap – go with the one that’s more fun…or the one that pays more. See, easy.

  • Not learning the accent is not an option.
I was lucky enough to not have a very strong German accent to begin with, thanks to watching Gossip Girl, but still, when I met with agents they all said the same thing – we can submit you for non speaking commercials. That’s it. And I thought, what a bunch of crap, I’m broke, I don’t have enough money to take accent classes. There must be roles for people with a different accent. I mean… I could be a backpacker? Or a Bond Girl?! And maybe it’s not as big of an issue in the States, but it is a huge deal in most places and it’s always going to be very limiting. So be smart and go learn that accent before you move to a new place. It will save you a lot of time once you get there. If you’re committed it won’t even take that long and it’s definitely worth the money. Because let me tell you – I’ve been in Australia for almost four years and not once have I auditioned for a German role.

  • Connections, connections, connections.
Well this one is not exactly news and to be honest it’s the one that I’m still struggling with the most. Because who wants to be that person who annoyingly self promotes themselves everywhere they go? But, I have found a few ways to hopefully give me a bit of structure for when I start all over again. Step 1: make actor friends. Making friends is actually a lot harder once you’re out of high school, something I would have never ever expected. The best way for me was doing acting classes and community theatre. Hanging out with the same bunch of people for weeks on end, you’re bound to find one or two good people in there. Step 2: Find people who have experience and ask them what other courses they do? What acting facebook groups are they in? What acting blogs do they read? Are there any special workshops coming up you should know about? And most importantly – which casting agents do acting courses? I don’t know if this will be the same in every city but in Sydney there’s a bunch of casting agents and even directors who regularly hold workshops and courses. Step 3: Do courses with every single casting agent/director you can find out about (or that you can afford). This not only gives you a great opportunity to hone your skills but also introduces you to the people who have the power to get you into the audition room. Step 4: If you’re lucky (and you also must be reasonably talented of course) they won’t just remember you and bring you in for castings but they might also put a good word in for you with a good acting agent. One of the top 10 agents in Sydney met up with me after a recommendation from someone in the industry without having even looked at my footage. Which then unfortunately turned out to be an issue because I still had a funny accent (see point number 2) and he couldn’t represent me. But still I never would have gotten that interview if it hadn’t been for that recommendation.

So that’s my little list. I swear to god, I wish I would have known this when I first moved to Sydney. It would have sped up this whole process quite a bit.  But then again, sometimes you need to learn it the hard way, because with everyone throwing different advice at you it’s hard to filter out the crap.

#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: