HOW TO START AN ACTORS’ CO-OP, (DRAMA SCHOOL) or a WRITERS CIRCLE --- in your living room! AND SAVE LOTSA $$$
The front page headline blared: "WOULD-BE ACTOR GETS 15 years." A French boy named Charles Robinet, 24 years old, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for robbing an LA bank. He told the judge he'd done it to pay for acting lessons.
We should be compassionate. Today, a young wannabe in Hollywood who needs an acting coach or "DRAMA CLASS", pays 150$ to $175 a month for four classes. OUCHEY! These teachers have a dozen people in there, paying roughly 40$ per person, or $400 minimum for a night. These sons of guns really STICK it to the obsessed, desperate and hungry, don't they? MORE THAN A SHRINK EARNS and a SHRINK has to go thru MED SCHOOL and INTERN! There's a HUGE SCAM going on.
So while your FIRST reason for starting an acting class where YOU live would be to save decent folks (whose only sin is loving the movies) a lot of money! Some more reasons you might want to star a class? So you yourself can learn to act well and make money in theatre or film. Also so you can make a decent living doing this dharmic work, of teaching.
Or perhaps you could create an ad agency, and as a group, shoot commercials for small businesses that want a TV profile. Also so you can all act doing roles in commercials and get the film on yourself, necessary to audition for and get those jobs. You can do it to make you focused when on camera, acting or shooting commercials. So that you can watch yourself on a video monitor and see how your concentration and focus are ALL of it. Or you can do it to start a FILM LOCATION OFFICE in a city away from L.A., so that when FILMS shoot where you are, you and your friends and students can do character bit parts in the flick and attract film shoots there which the Chamber of Commerce will LOVE.
Well, if you're in LA or not, let's do ourselves a BIG favor. START YOUR OWN GROUP. SERVE THE COMMUNITY. DO IT OUT OF A LIVING ROOM, TOO. If I lived in LA I'd do it, (I live twenty miles north in the VALLEY!) ...but when I lived there, I went to classes for years, years on end. Started age fifteen, was acting professionally in films/ tv by age l8, so for me, it worked.
The truth is that MOST wannabes are studying all the time and paying heartily for the 'privilege' We know how classes go. What they do. So do most of the actors in town around you who NEED the FREE ACTORS' CO-OP. They could help run it, help critique scenes, all of it. So get them to assemble in your living room.
Back in the eighties, I needed a writing group, I started my own, the L.A. Free Screenwriters' Co-Op. In my living room. I let it be known with an ad in DRAMALOGUE magazine that we were starting this group, and a free ad in some magazine that's in every healthfood store in L.A. can't recall what it is, the WHOLE LIFE JOURNAL or something. If I were doing it today, I'd put the ads at Craigs list! Marvellous resource, exists in every city of the world, too! Go to GOOCHes and find out what it is. They put your ads in for free if it's a free group. YOU WILL HAVE MORE PEOPLE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE. CALL YOUR group the FREE ACTORS' CO-OP.
All you need is for one of your group to have a nice sized LIVING ROOM. Everyone leaves their shoes at the door, in the entry hall so the carpets don't get old. Serve punch and cookies. Or make hummus and bake your own crackers. Ask for food donation$. Serve Herb Tea.
First month or so, do improvs only. You know what an improvisation is? If not, don't worry. The other actors will and you'll be doing it sooner than you imagine. Then, when 'you're all pals,' start on SCENES FOR ACTORS, you know THE RAINMAKER, OUR TOWN, the usual scenes. THE GROUP itself plays the part of the teacher and cooperatively 'critiques.' Most of us have been in some drama class and know 'games to play' and what a 'sense memory' exercise is. We do not need a teacher to critique us. The group can usually do it charitably enough. And members of the group will 'show up' who can direct a little. EARLY in the game, remind them, that if you want to be a director one day, help out by directing other actors.
Nobody should go on brutal tyrades. Ask students to remember the rule, ‘never criticize what they did. Only how they did it, whether believably or not.’ Everything actors know is summed up in two words, concentration and ENERGY. The concentration is about focus. Everything comes out of that, the listening, the not being up in your head (a terrified actor who is planning, but a REAL PERSON, really in that situation doing some genuine reacting, genuine feeling. When you concentrate there is no audience, there's a third wall there. There is no camera. Getting free to be alone on stage when there is an audience or a camera is what it's about. so FOCUS is FREEDOM. NEXT, ENERGY. That's almost totally conferred by diet and exercise. Stars are energetic people. They don't mumble. They're intense, alive. THEY STICK OUT. You can learn to have energy though, and practice SHOWERING the room with energy when you're on stage, and when you get free, you'll learn to work BIGGER. But mostly filmwork or tv doesn't require ReAL BIG, energetic work, so don't worry about this one.
NEXT, the directors who have video shoot the actors doing scenes they've prepared so you have FILM ON YOURSELF for auditions at studios. Directors want to see you on film. They can't imagine what you're like just in person so FILM is good. Video is super cheap too. So these are things we can create, do practice and all without paying $two or three bills a month. INSTEAD use your hard earned money for good B&w headshots, photographs, If you don't have to work so hard and long earning $275, so why give it to some jerk? NOT giving it to him will right away free you up a whole lotta time and money to do other things. Like getting good photos. HEADSHOTS they call them. 400$ unless a pal does it. Then you go to HOLLYWOOD FILM FAN PHOTO and get the COMPOSITES. 500 duplicates, then you hit the agents, (SAG has a list) to find one to get signed. Then the interviews come. If you're in LA. this whole procedure is easy, fast and soon the jobs are rolling in.
In another city, you have to start a FILM BUREAU and let all the studios know what your town looks like, so they can use it on locations. But your acting class might be useful for doing plays on the church or high school stage. For cash. The latest Broadway plays, too.
SIDELINES: Get the group to practice stand-up comedy routines. Get them to enhance the weird factor in their personality, the sarcastic, the kooky to help the comedy to play. Get the COMEDY WRITERS to write scenes or skits for these actors. “DYING IS EASY, COMEDY IS HARD,” said WC FIELDS as he passed. See if that’s true.
SIDELINE #2 you could use your class as cast for a MOVIE. Shoot in video. An entire movie might cost you 200$.
SIDELINE#3 Train the group to be SPY SHOPPERS with the smallerversion spy camera or IPOD, and they can each make l00$ a day. Read how by clicking on that URL.
I took some NOTES ON USING VIDEO to make your own documentary films. SURF THERE!
Last, when we started THE LOS ANGELES FREE SCREENWRITERS' CO-OP we advertised it in freebie ads (think craigslist.org) as "the place where you will learn "How Absolutely Anybody Can Write and Produce a Movie EVEN IF you THINK you CAN'T WRITE!" Ad said: "Attend one meeting and you will be convinced. Group Meetings are inspirational. They will show you that you can write and sell. Meetings will keep you at it. These are an "O.A. meetings for screenwriters" where you will meet writers who persevered and made it, struggling artists like yourself.
WRITERS on every step of the ladder visit THE WRITERS' CO-OP as guest speakers. There are execs from the business: Baby moguls, agents, studio execs, famous screenwriters, D-girls as well as beginners just like your who've wedged one foot in the door and who are starting their climb. From all of these 'experts' you'll get tips on how to start, and how to persevere, ways others have made it, tricks, tips and industry needs NOW.
THE WRITERS' CO-OP teaches the 'Writing from the Unconscious Method' that does not require great knowledge of the so-called 'craft' of writing. You can get the file from me by email, astrology@ earthlink.net
The CO-OP feels that everybody has seen a million movies. Everybody unconsciously knows what the film media requires of us, and what a movie plot entails. What we teach is HOW YOU CAN pull an interesting, convoluted PLOT from your own unconscious in one session. The techniques are part psycho-dynamic, part metaphysical, and easy to learn. See, we believe a great film story is in there. IN YOUR UNCONSCIOUS. You just have to know a few, easy techniques for drawing it out in sequential fashion.
THE WRITER'S CO-OP teaches producing, too. Yes. As you wrote that maga opus, you own the script's rights & YOU can be included in the studio deal with an on screen credit as PRODUCER and producer's fees on top of your script's sale price. And, if you turn out good scripts regularly you could get yourself a production deal with a major studio. Studios have learned that 'the play's the thing. So don't think there are limits on what you can do. There are not. So ask yourself, do you think you're feeling lucky?" We got loads of people. Then we started our own LITERARY AGENCY, and submitted to publishers and studios. And got everything we sent in read. So that’s another possibility. And as the least you can make selling a script is 50 thousand dollars it beats a lottery ticket. I find that after you have the plot cards, it takes 4 days of work to write a screenplay. That beats writing a NOVEL! Prose takes years. Screenplays really go fast! Once you have the cards, 4 1/2 days! And they pay better than any lotto ticket! One in a hundred scripts the studio reads get made. That's a good lotto payoff!
Anita Sands (later Hernandez) an actress from the 60's
For MORE TIPS on making it in Hollywood, NYC go to HOLLYWOOD BOUND