In Memory of Carrie Fisher and Those We’ve Lost in 2016

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4749584 By Jason Godbey, Creative Director, Behind the Rabbit Productions

I had the privilege of sitting in the front row of Carrie Fisher’s Broadway show, Wishful Drinking. At the top of the show, she came out and put confetti on the heads of the people in the front row. When she got to me, she noticed I was wearing a hat. She looked at me as if to say, “are you going to take that thing off?” so I did, and she put glittering confetti on my head. I then put the hat back on. It was like a comedy baptism. I’d just done a bit with Carrie Fisher: a shared moment with one of the funniest, most talented women I’d ever seen. For myself and so many others of my generation, she was royalty. She will always be our princess.

When people like Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, leave us, it’s as if a light has gone out, and the world becomes that much darker. These people shaped our memories. We can remember where we were when we saw Star Wars for the first time. We remember who we were with when we saw Singin’ in the Rain.

In 2016 the world lost many of its iconic artists. There are too many to mention. They are gone, their voices silenced, and it is tragic to think that they will never again create new work for us to experience. It seems like the world is so dark that we can’t see the lights that are still here and the light within us.

We feel the loss of these artists because we feel a connection to them. Their work is a part of our lives. The things we love: music, art, films, television shows, and the artists who make them are a part of what makes us who we are. So when they die, we feel as if we’ve lost a part of ourselves.

Hopefully the people the world has lost this year have inspired the next generation of artists, the icons of the future who will light the way for years to come. It is our job to nurture and support them and to embrace the art within ourselves. As Carrie Fisher once said, “I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.”

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How Keeping an Audition Log Changed My Acting Career

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mariaBy Maria Aparo

The year I decided to take on representation as an actor was exciting and a real investment in my business. If you’re reading this and wondering, “What business? You’re an actor! You mean show business?” I’ll politely remind and/or educate you that most actors are actually entrepreneurs who do contract work on a project-to-project basis. Anyone can be creative or be an artist, but to make a living at it means taking your craft as seriously as any other business. The best part is you’re the CEO.

So I found myself bringing on my first “commissioned sales rep”: my manager. The exciting thing is now I have two people looking for work, two sets of eyes checking contracts…. and two people to pay. My manager doesn’t get paid unless I get paid, so if I’m not bringing home the tofu bacon, no one’s eating. Naturally, as the CEO of Maria Aparo, Inc., I wanted to pull my weight, and I was also eager to quantify my new investment. After all, it’s not sound business if I’m now paying more for the same opportunities.

I knew that to really quantify the relationship I’d need to collect performance data. So I decided that for one year I would keep a log of every audition I went on, who got it for me, the casting details, and any pertinent info that I discovered. What I found was astonishing. Most importantly, I would have never learned this information or had the opportunities I did if I had relied solely on my feelings or my memory of the year. Here are my biggest takeaways:

Dispelling the actor myth “Once I signed with my rep, my auditions declined” 

I had heard this from a number of people. I can only speak to my own experience, and this was not the case for me. In fact it was the opposite. But what I can tell you is that I changed nothing about my own job hustle.  Meaning: once I knew someone was helping me, I didn’t stop helping myself. At the end of the year, according to my log, I had more auditions than ever before, averaging 1-2 a week for the year, and a booking rate of about 25%. The ratio of who set up the auditions? 50/50. My manager was working just as I was, and my investment was paying off.

Your relationship game should be ON POINT

Because I was tracking the casting directors and directors I was auditioning for as well as notes from the auditions, I started to see patterns. I tracked thank-you cards and emails and built a list of the casting directors who were repeatedly calling me in and giving good feedback. I made sure to pay them extra attention to them and learn about what they were doing and keep them up to date on what I was doing . Real relationships are a two-way street of communication. I also let my rep know to send me in any time she could for these people. Those turned into bookings pretty quickly; all because I was paying attention to who was in my corner and who liked my work.

What you track grows. What you seek you find. 

There is a golden rule of the universe: Law of attraction, like attracts like, whatever you choose to call it. This experiment proved it, in my opinion . If you want to see hard work produce results, track it. Data tells you immediately if you’re going toward your goals. For actors it can be easy after a lag in bookings to get caught up in the mindset of “Oh my god, what am I doing with my life? This isn’t going to plan! Maybe I should just quit and work at Subway.” But then you pull up your log and see your progress right in front of you, getting better every day you put energy toward it. It gives you a reality check. It also tells you really fast if you actually ARE putting in the work.

Not repeating what didn’t work and cultivating what does.

Based on my notes and patterns, I began to see where my efforts were best placed and where I was getting the most traction at this point in my career. It became increasingly obvious to me that commercial and TV was dominating my auditions and bookings, so then why would I be hustling to shake down every play reading that offered a $100 stipend? That was clearly not serving me at this juncture. Instead, I took that data and decided to take some on-camera commercial workshops. I beefed up my voice-over reel and made sure my contact with those casting directors was outstanding. In the meantime, if a play came along that really excited me creatively, I could pursue it with ample resources and energy.

***

By simply tracking the basic nuts and bolts of my acting business I was able to make substantial and strategic moves within a relatively short period of time. It also brought a new level of discipline to my craft. I can’t recommend this method enough to actors who may be feeling like they’re not gaining traction in any one place, or maybe feel they need just that little extra push to take their career to the next level. You really have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

BTRP Recommends-Clerks

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4749584 by Jason Godbey, Creative Director of Behind the Rabbit Productions

A decade before the digital revolution, there was a renaissance in American independent film that gave rise to a generation of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Edward Burns, and Richard Linklater.

Kevin Smith wrote and directed four feature films in the 90s: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma. His first feature, Clerks, epitomized the ideals of independent filmmaking. It was edgy, smart, and irreverent, and just as shocking as it was funny.

Clerks is a black and white, dialogue-driven comedy about two twenty-somethings working at the Quick Stop convenience and RST Video stores in New Jersey. Some critics have called it “raw,” some would even say raunchy, but that irreverence was part of the appeal. There was really nothing like it at the time, and it struck a chord with Generation Xers who were trying to figure themselves out.

The story of the making of Clerks is legendary, an inspiration to filmmakers everywhere. At the age of 24, Smith was able to make a 16mm feature film on a micro-budget of $27,000 He maxed out credit cards and scammed discounts wherever he could. With the help of producer, Scott Mosier, he assembled a cast and crew of family and friends and completed production in just 21 days.

Smith was inspired by Richard Linklater’s Slacker and by other independent films he saw at the Angelika Film Center in New York City. After reading an interview with Robert Rodriguez and learning about resource filmmaking, he decided to make his first feature.

The movie relies heavily on Smith’s funny and filthy dialogue and characters who seem to have no filter. Smith allows the scenes to play out in long takes where the pace of the scene is dictated by the acting and not the editing. Howard Hawks used similar technique in movies like His Girl Friday.

Clerks and its contemporaries inspired young filmmakers like me who wanted to make movies but didn’t know how we’d ever be able. We saw it and said, “If that guy can do it, so can I.” Clerks is a testament to what a filmmaker can do if he’s creative enough to overcome his limitations and daring enough to try.