Recently, we featured an article on the Art of Acting by Shauna Blaize, an actress, model and film producer. In the article, Shauna shared her perspective and the “reality” facing budding actors in the film industry. In today’s post, Shauna reflects on how type and often race play a part in casting choices and how she is showcasing her own abilities as an actor and a producer.
We all have a type and when casting directors look at us they see the girl next door, the sassy girl, the best friend, the leading lady, etc and quite frankly it may not be what you or your friends/family see when they look at you. But again we are not looking at our personalities or our inner essence; we are looking at ourselves with a critical eye, knowing the type we fit into and how we can sell that type. In other words how our type fits in with the need they are trying to fill.
Type has a few branches; it’s not only if you have straight or curly hair, if you wear glasses, or if you are short or tall or have a “look” that is more on the “businesswoman” side versus a “hippie chick.” It goes deeper than that. For instance I need to know that as a Black woman I will be viewed for certain roles. Roles such as the neck twisting/”around the way” type girl. If you want to go even deeper, I am a woman of mixed ethnicity and “light skinned” so I will be viewed as that “pretty light skinned chick” from the projects that is considered a “prize” because let’s be honest, I have a lighter complexion.
We look at Kerry Washington (Scandal) and recent Emmy winner Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder) and it seems that it’s all good for actresses of color but we are still quite far behind.
Interested in acting and dreaming of glamorous nights on the red carpet, a big award speech and champagne flowing parties? Getting into the movie industry or television requires careful planning, grit and a huge dose of business sense. In this two part series, Shauna Blaize, an accomplished model, budding actor, producer and writer, shares her opinions about the art of acting as well as the reality which budding actors may encounter and should prepare for.
When I say actor, I don’t mean the A list celebrities that we see on the red carpet. That is a level that many of us (let’s be honest) won’t get to see. In this business, you are lucky enough to just be a ‘working actor.’ To be a working actor it means that your income comes from acting-you don’t need to waitress, work in a fast food restaurant, basically you don’t need to do any side job(s) and/or mind-numbing work that allows you to eat while going on auditions.
I live in New York and to meet a true actor…it doesn’t happen very often. I meet tons of actors (as a matter of fact who isn’t an actor in this city?) but rarely do I meet any that actually earn their living from acting. So here we are, the “non-working” actors consistently looking for acting work while working that dead end job. Now this is the day to day that you don’t read about too often when you Google “how to be an actor.”
Most people think you take a few classes, get a manager, then a talent agent and then boom! you are on your way. Well not exactly. When you graduate from an acting program at a well-known school like Julliard or NYU for example, they have showcases where agents and managers can come to see you perform and you may get a bite off that. Those of us who did programs at conservatories/studios that are not Ivy League (and for those who didn’t get signed on the spot at a showcase), we have to hit the pavement.
I won’t tell you how to go about getting representation because Lord knows I am not in any position to share the secret as I myself am not privy to it! Also, the truth is that even if you were to obtain representation, your job doesn’t end there. An agent/manager’s job is not exactly to get you a job so much as to put you closer to it. YOU still need to book it. Also keep in mind that you are not the only client your representation has. Even if you are with a boutique agency that has a smaller roster of clients, you still need to have the mind of a hustler. You still need to wake up every day with an intention. You cannot sit down and wait for a call. To be an actor is to be an entrepreneur. There is no boss giving you a “to do list” or a desk where you sit down every day, open up Excel, and then find what your responsibilities are.
Acting is a business with a lot of grunt work and many of us don’t realize how much of that type of work is involved. Many of us focus on the creative side but there is absolutely no getting around the need of having a business savvy mind. You hear it all the time but to actually live it; to get up every day and push yourself when there is no one standing there managing you or telling you that you will be fired if your work is not completed, is a different thing. Any work, pay checks, professional and personal fulfilment will all be generated by you. The truth is, you can’t have the creative mind without the business smarts.
“You can be creative from your head to your big toe but if you do not have the drive or the savvy to sell yourself, you will not get far”
In a business that people think involves a lot of “pretending” or “faking” you actually need a lot of truth. According to the late Sanford Meisner, “acting is being truthful under imaginary circumstances.” You want to be truthful in your work of course but you also need to be truthful with yourself-brutally honest to be exact. You need to be able to ask yourself if a life of uncertainty (that can stretch for years with no visible end in sight) is something you can deal with.
“You need to ask yourself if you can motivate and light a fire under your feet when you are tired and there is no immediate or obvious consequence should you decide to skip a day-or two or three”
You also need to be truthful in what you are in this industry and that is the most personal and I think the most important thing I can share with you.
APH: Many thanks to Shauna for sharing this great post with us and we look forward to sharing the second part of the “Art of Acting” with our readers in December.
About the Writer: Shauna was recently in the off-Broadway play The Girls of Summer and last month she produced and starred in her self-written short film Winning.
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