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THIS IS ACTING FOR FILM AND TV – Guest Blog by Jamison Haase


I am a theater-trained actor. I have spent years strutting the boards and working on the text, working on my projection—basically, working on my acting craft. There’s only one problem: I now work in film and television, and the mediums are very different.

Many of my students come from a theater background, and much like I did when I first entered the industry, they can sometimes have difficulty transitioning from theater to film and TV. The first thing theater-trained actors need to understand about working in film and television is specifically how different the mediums are. Obviously, there are many differences between film and television and theater— differences in physicality, rehearsal, and clearly, pay—but there is no difference more profound than how the story is communicated to the audience.

Film and television is a story in pictures.

In theater, the story is told mainly through the characters’ dialogue. Often, characters will simply tell you what they are thinking and feeling. This is largely due to the physical distance of the audience. Many of them are so far away, they cannot see what a character might be thinking, feeling, or even doing, and so this information has to be imparted to the audience through the dialogue. This is why if you listen to a radio play or attend a reading, you understand the vast majority of what’s happening even though the visuals are minimal or even non-existent.

The exact opposite is true for film and TV. If you step away from your television for even a moment, you no longer know what is going on, even if you can still hear the characters speaking. The story is told through the thoughts and emotions on the actors’ faces and not what they say. How else can you explain why Steven Spielberg calls himself a “visual storyteller”? Or how we can have movies like “Cast Away,” with more than 30 minutes of no dialogue, or “All Is Lost,” starring Robert Redford, which only has two lines of dialogue in a two-hour movie, or “Quest for Fire,” which is Ron Perlman’s first film, where there is no dialogue at all? And these a just a few examples.

So, clearly, when it comes to film and TV, the dialogue is secondary to the picture, but what does that mean for the actor? It means that what the actor thinks, feels, and physically does is the story, and more specifically, what the character thinks, feels, and does. So never set about trying to just memorize the dialogue of your scene, instead focus on what your character would think, feel, and do, and let those thoughts, feelings, or action inform the dialogue.

On top of it all, props will, on occasion, need to be in the frame to help tell the story. Think of a soft-drink commercial. The actor will often hold the can or bottle right up by their smiling face. Why? Not because we do that in real life, but because the story is about the interaction between the actor and the product. The prop needs to be in the shot in order to communicate that to the audience. Think about an action film. At the end of every film, during the final climactic battle, there is suddenly a shot of the gun on the floor, or the axe on the wall. That shot communicates the importance of the object, where the object is, and that it’s going to be used shortly, all without anyone mentioning it. That’s the only reason why that shot exists.

Think of yourself like a painter. What’s in the frame? What’s out?

For your next film and television audition, focus on the picture. Spend some time beforehand in front of a camera to work on communicating what your character thinks, feels, and does clearly, specifically, and simply, and let the dialogue go. Just a little bit. After all, film and television is nothing but a “story in pictures.”

By Jamison Haase, working actor and founder of LA On-Camera Training Center

*originally appeared in Backstage West

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Why Backstage West Is A Great NEW Resource For You

Backstage West is one of the oldest and most reliable resources for actors in the United States. And, with NEW updates it’s also one of the most complete.

Here, the LA Actor’s Blog asks 5 questions of Luke Crowe– the Vice President and National Casting Editor of Backstage and Call Sheet. He’s been working at Backstage for over a decade, so he knows what’s up!

1. Why is Backstage indispensable to Actors? 

 Founded in 1960 as a weekly magazine, Backstage is one of the world’s longest-running and most-trusted resources for actors, featuring news, interviews, advice columns, and casting calls aimed at helping performers advance their careers.

In the old days, we published separate print editions of the magazine for our Los Angeles and New York audiences; the L.A. version of Backstage was known as Back Stage West. However, with the tremendous growth of, we now reach a wide international audience of millions, and we’re able to publish new articles and casting calls throughout the day, every day of the week, providing actors with far more opportunities and timely information than ever before. We still publish a weekly magazine that’s national in scope, highlighting some of our best articles each week; while our website provides thousands of additional articles, resources, and casting calls.

images-1Casting directors, producers, filmmakers, theaters, production companies, and other content creators post more than 30,000 casting notices and job listings on every year, spanning hundreds of thousands of roles. The actors on our site are able to create customized applications to submit to the roles of their choice; keep track of their application history; communicate with casting directors; and more. Additionally, our site’s Talent Database features the profiles of over 130,000 actors, models, and performers; and content creators use the database to cast thousands of roles, supplementing their casting calls.

 Among a variety of entertainment-industry tools on the site, also includes an auditions calendar (featuring details on upcoming auditions), a database of monologues, production listings, and our popular Call Sheet directory (which includes company profiles and contact details for thousands of top casting directors, talent agencies, managers, and more).

 The incredible actors that got their start with Backstage include the likes of Robert De Niro, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Amy Schumer, James Franco, Scott Bakula, Jonathan Groff, Marcia Gay Harden, Todd Field, Caitriona Balfe, Chris Cooper, Chris Evans, Kim Cattrall, Connie Britton, Ed Burns, Patrick Wilson, and so many more. The list is endless. We’ve compiled some of our favorite quotes at And we’re very excited about helping to launch the next generation of actors as well.

2. Why are there sections online for cities other than LA and NY — Atlanta, for example? 

The entertainment industry has changed a lot over the last decade, with new opportunities for actors cropping up across the U.S. For instance, a lot of Hollywood film and television productions now shoot in states like Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Georgia. Independent film and theater has exploded in states like Texas. Content creators are shooting indie films, web series, and commercials across the country. And almost every state has multiple theater, film, and digital-media schools now, resulting in more local content being produced.

With that in mind, we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure that actors and content creators have a great experience using Backstage regardless of their location. Backstage’s casting site ( is set up to allow actors to easily filter through the opportunities based on their location, “type,” and interests; and the content creators that are using our site to cast their projects can likewise filter through the applications they receive (and our Talent Database) based on their needs. For example, our casting content can be viewed from a national perspective, or quickly drilled down to a specific state, city, or geographic radius.

And although we offer our services everywhere, cities such as Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Miami, and Chicago have been particularly popular topics for visitors to our site lately, so we’ve added additional news and casting coverage to these cities to help meet the demand. We’re always working to meet the needs of our readers, wherever they may be living. (And, of course, New York and Los Angeles are still the biggest areas for casting on by far, since they’re the entertainment capitals.)

3. What are the newest features of your digital magazine? 

 We publish the weekly Backstage Digital Edition, which is a PDF version of the print-edition magazine — it looks great on tablets, and our magazine readers love it since they’re able to see it as soon as it’s published, without having to wait for it to arrive via snail mail. However, our full website is where all the big innovations are happening: On, we’ve launched tools for actors to create highly customized casting searches and automatic alerts; profiles featuring their credits, photos, videos, and audio reels; more powerful application tools for submitting to casting calls; a messaging system; a Talent Dashboard for actors to easily manage their profiles, applications, and private communications; interactive resource databases; more articles and advice columns; and an advanced suite of tools that make it easier for casting directors to cast their projects. We’re constantly launching enhancements to the site, as the art and technology of online casting continues to evolve.


4. What does an actor “get” out of a subscription to Backstage? 

Every subscription includes full access to all of the articles, casting calls, and tools on — including the ability to add an unlimited number of photos, videos, and audio clips to their accounts for no extra charge (compared to other casting sites that charge additional fees for every media item); the ability to apply to an unlimited number of casting calls; exclusive audition details; optional inclusion in Backstage’s Talent Database; unlimited access to articles and advice columns; exclusive entertainment-industry company details in the Call Sheet resource databases; optional email newsletters; weekly delivery of the Digital Edition magazine (with the option to upgrade to receive the print-edition of the magazine as well); individualized casting searches and automatic notifications; and more.

5. How has Backstage changed in the last 10 years? 

Thanks to, our audience has grown exponentially in the past decade, reaching a global audience of actors, models, performers, and content creators. Along with that, the growth of digital filmmaking, web series, and online video distribution via sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and Netflix has had a huge imimagespact on the number of productions that now need actors. With more projects taking place and a wider audience, we’ve seen astounding increases in the number of projects using Backstage to find talent, which means more opportunities for actors to perform.

At the same time, technology has vastly changed the way casting takes place: Even just a decade ago, a lot of productions were still requesting headshots and resumes be sent via snail mail, and casting directors might have to wait weeks for all of the submissions to arrive and get sorted. Later, a lot of casting moved to email, but initial applications were still largely just based on a single photo and resume, and managing the submissions was still clunky. Nowadays, however, most casting takes place directly on our site, which allows for lightning-fast submissions that often feature a wide range of media items, including an increased usage of video; state-of-the-art tools for organizing submissions; and a quicker and more high-tech casting process overall.

If you have had experience using Backstage in any city, please tell the LA Actor’s Blog how it worked for you in the comment section below!

 And if you’re ready to find out more, click below to subscribe today!

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FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLETT! Pilot Season started earlier than ever this year and is moving like lightening. Don’t get lefPilot-Season-Logot behind, find out what you need to know here. 

1. WHAT IS A PILOT? The Pilot itself is a stand-alone episode of a series that is used to sell the series and will usually run as the first episode of the series, if picked up.

Over the summer the major networks all received short pitches for new shows from writers and producers. Then in the fall, each network requested scripts from about seventy of those pitches.

By January, the network has chosen twenty of those scripts from which to make pilots. Pilot season is the annual high-pressure race to the finish line. The race generally happens between January andApril, culminating at The Upfronts in May.

With more and more cable networks producing original content the start and end times of pilot season as blurred. This year pilots began casting as early as NOVEMBER! Whaaat? Yes. True.

During the coming months studios battle it out to cast, produce, and test the best new series.

Once they have been produced, those pilots are presented to studio and network executives (and sometimes to test audiences). Each network then chooses between 4 and 8 pilots to present at The Upfronts where they are added to network schedules for the following season.

2. HOW ARE PILOTS CAST? Most pilots have about 6 weeks to cast anywhere from 5-25 roles. In the TV world where you have 2 days to cast 12 roles, 6 weeks is A LOT of time, meaning A LOT of actors can get seen. However, because producers want to sell their idea, they usually jam pack that pilot with well known actors if they can.

First, lists are made up of first choice actors – the A-List – then second choice – the B list- (hence the term A-List, B-List etc.) Later in the season casting will pull from agent submissions. Often actors on the aforementioned lists will opt out of auditions for already-established TV programs during this time. The reasoning behind this strategy is that most actors (and their agents) would rather bet on booking a pilot that gets picked up, where they sign a multiple year contract, than take a week’s worth of work on a current show. Lessmoney upfront, but it could pay off with more money and work in the future if the pilot goes to series.

3. HOW CAN AN ACTOR PREPARE? If you have representation, follow up with them now and figure out a game plan.

This should include your own marketing plan of drop-offs, postcards and networking. Consider doing Casting Director Workshops with new casting offices, but also re-meets of people who like you (they have called you in before or booked you).

Additionally, don’t focus solely on pilots. Even with great training, reps, some credits and business relationships, you might not get any pilot auditions.  Keep in mind, pilot season is also the second half of 2014/2015 episodic season. REMEMBER all those actors who are opting out? They leave a chasm for YOU to fill. Also, shows that have a full season pick-up order are still very, very active in casting!!

+ Make sure that you are audition-ready no matter what stage you are at! Luck + preparation = opportunity!

+ If you do not have representation, you REALLY need to make sure you have a marketing plan in place for drop-offs, postcards, other updates (Mail Chimp anyone?) and networking. Actors without reps should not rely on pilot auditions. Most of the time casting goes to their industry list and then agent submissions.

+ If you are non-union, your first priority should be getting at least SAG/AFTRA-Eligible. No matter the season, your focus should be on commercials, films and a very, few, specific tv casting directors who are open to seeing non-union actors. Here is my post on EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET SAG-AFTRA. No excuses!


Now that Amazon and Netflix are in the game, the landscape is more and more crowded. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m always telling actors to create their own work, weather it’s a webseries or a short film or stand up comedy.

This year’s trends include a lot of pilots based on webseries or even podcasts. Yes. Podcasts. Also there are a lot of the tried and true procedurals, medical dramas and crime dramas. See more here from the Hollywood Reporter on development trends. 

Fellow consultant, Mackenzie Marsh auditioned for lead roles in 9 pilots and tested on 3 last year, this year she has ALREADY tested for one and it’s only January.

Likewise Act Now consultant LJ Salerno had this to say:

“This was the first year I went in for series regulars on pilots since the first year I moved out here 12 years ago. I went in for two comedies. Both were in November and December.   And for a series regular on “Good Girls Revolt” in April-ish?..right after my guest star on the Middle aired. That was a Netflix series. “


TVLine writes super informational articles about each season, but it’s released late Janurary.

 Variety has a list of up-to-the-minute series and pilot orders.

 Deadline Hollywood is another great resource.

There is also The Hollywood Reporter. As things get moving and shaking, and are great ways to keep up with developments in addition to who the casting office is attached to each project.

Any pilot season stories to tell? Comment below and help your fellow actors!


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Create the REEL that Gets You Noticed!

My mother once got Aaron Spelling to agree to look at my Reel just by calling him over and over and asking real nice.4267356010_d737f6cf79_m True story.

Did he watch it? What did he think? I’ll never know.

But I learned one thing. Be ready with a kick ass reel if someone DOES ask for it. And be up to date on how to present it.

Below are my own suggestions combined with the aggregate wisdom of the Act Now consultants.

 Ultimately when you are starting out, agents want to see what you look like on tape…. & hopefully see you have some talent as well.

If they haven’t met you before, Casting Directors are looking to see if you fit a certain role, or they may use the tape to pitch you to a director or producer.

So their needs are different, and that means you need to present the reel is several different ways.

BELOW ARE SUGGESTIONS FOR BEST PRACTICES to Create a Reel that Will Get You Noticed!

  • If you are looking for representation and will be going out for co-stars (very small supporting roles that can be filmed in 1 day) have a 1:30-2 min reel ready.
  • If you start going out for recurring guest stars and especially series regulars, have a 5 min reel ready.
  • In both cases, Put the BEST stuff FIRST. Odds are the whole thing won’t get watched anyway, so definitely open with your strongest work.
  • Also in both cases, the focus needs to be on you YOU; if another actor has a big chunk of dialogue, cut it if you can; it’s YOUR reel, so we want to see as much of you as possible- not some other rando actor! (or the series regular you had your scene with).
  • Act Now consultant Becca Leigh Gellman told me that recently a client sent a reel where he didn’t even speak until 18 seconds into it. It’s important that you are TALKING at the top of the reel; no need to open with some long, artsty fartsy, slow-motion shot, panning the skyline. A reel is not the place for that; you just want to show what you look and sound like on camera, so they get a sense of YOU.
  • Of course, the quality needs to be excellent and professional- well lit, good quality sound, writing, etc. If you aren’t sure what industry standards are like, ask someone you trust (a CD, your agent, your Act Now consultant) BEFORE you post it for all the world to see.
  • Once you have enough material you can do a comedy and drama reel, some people like it, I suggest it. If it is a theatrical reel I shy away from putting a commercial in it at all or at least not the first bit at the top of the reel. I actually have a completely separate reel for commercials as well as for comedy and drama.
  • Most importantly for Casting Directors you want to have each scene posted separately as a clip on Actors Acces NOT as a full length reel. (I also suggest posting this way on IMDB and on your own website). These can be just 5-20 seconds long and the point is to just show you has one particular character. For each scene label it with the genre and the character. For example: “DRAMA- Criminal Minds- Serial Killer.” This way, when you/your agent is submitting you, they can select the clip that is most appropriate for the specific role. I.E., if it’s the role of a killer, and you have a clips where you’re a killer, it’s much more effective to just submit that clip, rather than your whole reel, where the killer clip may not be until the end. It streamlines the process for casting.
  • When you do post your reels (and clips) make sure the thumbnail of the reel is also a clear shot of YOU (maybe even your headshot); but not a wide shot of you and someone else, or something else altogether. If it’s a clip for a particular character, make the headshot the one that matches!
  • If you need to get one made, Mackenzie Marsh, my fellow Act Now consultant recommends Relentless Filmworks. They have a consultation with you, you tell them what you want exactly (type of show, genre, etc), they write you scenes (so no one else has your reel), they can cast the other roles, do hair/makeup, then shoot, edit, done. Some scenes are indoor, some outdoor, they change up cameras to make it look like different projects. Awesome guys!!!

RESOURCES: I’ve used them for years to edit my reel, the cost is affordable and they do good work. Various editors there will help you.

When you do have something airing you need an “aircheck” service. An Aircheck is the recording of a complete television show, provided on a DVD. An Aircheck + Upload is a recording of the program with your scenes extracted and uploaded to your Breakdown Express and Actors Access accounts.  Actors Access in partnership with Edit PLUS provides this service.

Casting Director Amy Jo Berman also does consultations on reels for $75, if you feel you need another opinion.

* Patrick Donahue is a great resource for both editing and airchecks. $20 per episode capture (cheaper than Actors Access below), $75 for reel consult AND edit in the same session. (cheaper than Amy Jo Berman + you get editing!). You can contact him at *

I invite you to post your reels here, or a link to them. Comments on the reels as well as any additional suggestions are welcome. What did you find most helpful in this post? Let me know, I’m eager to hear from you!

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