Leave Nothing On The Table

I’ll start with this. The definition of leaving something on the table is “to refrain from taking the utmost advantage of something, to not address every aspect of a situation, i.e. in the form leaving money on the table, negotiating a deal that is less financially beneficial than is expected or possible.”

Now, here’s the crux of your audition philosophy: Leave nothing on the table. You only have one shot. Make the most of it. An audition is not like shooting a film, TV show or doing a play. There is no rehearsal. Your rehearsal is your preparation and everything you do leading up to the moment you walk into that room. Then it’s game time and leave nothing on the table.

Needless to say, do your homework. All of it. Know who and what you’re auditioning for. Read the script if it’s available.  Be prepared.  Learn your lines.  Execute the specific, intended tone and pacing of the material and make strong, text-based choices. If it’s a comedy, find and maximize every joke on the page. If it’s a drama, make the boldest, most intense choices possible within the parameters of the script. If you’re reading a single scene, create a solid arc. If there are multiple scenes, insure that they are different.  Choreograph your audition accordingly.

Guage the room the moment you walk into it and be ready to work. If the auditors are warm and friendly, be polite, but don’t get distracted and know that you’re there to do a job. If they are curt and ready for you to begin, take their lead and do so. Make note of where the camera is set in the room and place your eyelines accordingly. If you are moving, check your marks with the camera operator, take moment to focus yourself and then go. If you make a mistake or flub a line, DO NOT BREAK! Either keep going or simply raise your hand, take a brief moment and begin again from the last logical point in the scene. Don’t paraphrase your way through it! That never looks good. Only start from the top if you are a few lines into the scene. If, once your read is over, you really feel as if you blew it and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can nail it (I mean Oscar worthy nail it) then ask if they would permit you one more shot at it. But I will never bullshit you: If you do the latter and don’t hit it out of the park, you will end up with a lot of egg on your face.

As more and more casting is being conducted off tape, I am discovering few things.

First, CDs are more frequently giving actors adjustments in the absence of directors and producers in the room. Nevertheless, do not expect or request them. When you coach or rehearse an audition, ask whoever you are working with to give you adjustments – any adjustments. Don’t preoccupy yourself with whether or not they are good or warranted. Simply get used to being malleable with the material.

Second, if your audition is short (roughly half a page or less), prepare it a couple of different ways.  Mind you, the variations must be text based, valid takes on the material and markedly different from one another. Tell the CD in advance that you’ve prepared the scene a couple of ways and that you’d like to show them the differnt versions. If they ask what the different versions are, then tell them. If they want you to start with one and go from there, lead with your strongest version and let the situation play itself out. If they are satisfied with one take, do not press, argue or fight with them in the slightest. That’s definitely a losing battle.

Third, if your read is great and the CD thinks you may be a contender for the role, but you flubbed even a word, they may ask you to take it again. This is the CD’s way of expressing that, if they’re going to fight for you, they want to show the director and producers a flawless take. Take a moment, begin again, make no adjustmensts if you weren’t asked to do so, let the scene fly and stick it like a gymnast does a landing.

So here it is: Do your homework. Own the room from the moment you walk into it and stay in the zone. Think about everything you’ve prepared and deliver an awesome take – or takes. Be prepared for adjustments and, if the audition is short, prepare it a couple of different ways – as long as they are valid takes on the material. You don’t want to be in your car or at home later beating yourself up about what you could or should have done differently because, at that point, the audition is over and it’s time to move on to the next one. But always remember…leave nothing on the table.

Always Wear Sunscreen

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune under the title “Advice, Like Youth, is Probably Wasted on the Young” and later developed into a song by Baz Luhrmann, so many of life’s great lessons are contained in this brilliant piece.  Read it.  Listen to it.  Adhere to it.

“Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.”

There it is. Nearly all of life’s lessons in one place.  You can’t predict the future or what other people will do.  The very next moment consistently remains an unknown.  You can only control your actions.  But one thing is for sure…always wear sunscreen.

Be A Long Term Investor

Long term financial investors follow a set of a few simple rules:  Develop a strategy and stick with it, focus on the future, adopt a long term perspective and don’t sweat the small stuff!  As an actor, you are your own commodity and your career trajectory is very much like that of a stock. 

Consider any enormously successful multinational company such as Apple (AAPL) Google (GOOGL) or Facebook (FB) and take a look at their stock chart.  But don’t look at their five day, one month, three month or even one year growth. Look at their their five and ten year progress and beyond.  You will unequivocally see hills and valleys, but also an overall significant rise in price. 

Your acting career is no different.  Resist the urge to analyze it every day.  Not only will that drive you insane, but it is not smart investing.  Don’t asses where you are at any given moment, but where you are overall.  Yes, if after ten years, you are not further along than you were a decade ago, it’s time to rethink some things.  But you have chosen a tough, extremely competitive profession that requires hard work, tenacity and perseverance.  No young lawyer graduates from law school, passes the bar and expects to try a high profile murder case right out of the gate.  No young surgeon graduates from medical school and expects to waltz into brain surgery.  If so, they would be highly let down. 

I moved to LA in 1991 and met a lot of young actors at that time who were expecting to “give it a couple of years…maybe a few” with the hopes of landing the next 90210.  Over the years I’ve wondered what happened to many of them.  When IMDB came along, I realized that none of them worked much past the mid nineties.   Now, I did meet a few actors who were in it for the long haul.  Some are very successful today.  Some have turned to producing or directing, but they all continue to train and plug away despite the valleys between their hills. 

A few years ago an enormously talented, hard working, extremely funny client of mine was frustrated about her career.  She had been in LA nine years, had fantastic rep, done several guest spots and tested for bigger roles, but she had yet to land a series regular or that “star making” part.  I pointed out to her that Jane Lynch had worked sporadically in her twenties and thirties, but her career did not really take off until the age of forty when she landed BEST IN SHOW.  “You’re a lifer” I told her, “embrace how far you’ve come and work diligently every day, but don’t think short term.”  Being a flash in the pan is one thing – crafting a long term career is another.

Acting is not for the feint of heart and not for those who aren’t all in.  Expect that there will be ups and downs and don’t analyze your career every day.  Look at it it from a much broader perspective.  And if you’re feeling down, glance through the stock charts of the companies I’ve mentioned as well as dozens of other successful enterprises.  Develop a strategy, stick with it (but be malleable), focus on the future and don’t sweat the small stuff!

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Be a lifer.  Be a long term investor. 

Shit Just Got Real 2.0 #StudentTakeover

Welcome to our first #StudentTakeover on the blog.  I have a ton of great topics I will get to in the upcoming months, but when I recently received the following email from a long term client of mine (and outstanding guy), I knew immediately that I wanted to share it with you.  Here goes:

Subject Line: A Story

I miss you and the studio a ton, but things are going really well in New York! I’m digging my job with The Future Project. I’m a “Dream Director” and work with high school students.  I have also had a great run of work! I’ve booked 4 shows (QUANTICO, BLUE BLOODS, HAPPY!, and a recur on GOTHAM) in the last six months and wanted to share a story about my last episode on GOTHAM…

I’ve played a news reporter and have appeared in each episode for one to two scenes or a few lines or short speech. For this last episode, it was the same..and then the afternoon before I was scheduled to shoot, production sent me an email with “some additional dialogue” – it was the attached pdf.

A full page monologue! No prompter, no cards, no cuts. I, of course, got to working on it as soon as I could.. and honestly, from prep for your class, I KNEW HOW TO WORK ON IT. I knew what it took for me to get a full page of dialogue completely prepared, so it wasn’t a shock or overwhelming in any way – it was just the work we do.

I got to basecamp feeling solid and continued running it while I waited in my trailer. When I got to set, I sat in a chair with the rest of the cast and pulled out my sides to review them.  The series reg next to me saw my pages. “What is THAT?” she says. I reply “My scene.” She immediately responds` “what the? — I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

The director then comes over, introduces himself and asks if I had any questions. I tell him I’m good and he says they’re losing light so we’ll need to roll on the scene quickly and get it in the can. Great.

I get outside and see that there are about 40 extras behind me, other cast members, police cars, etc. and all their action is motivated by parts of my speech. I’d never been in a scene with so many moving parts.

After we’re set, the director calls action and I go – it’s word perfect and then – CUT for camera. I almost pass out, my heart is beating so hard. So we have to take it from the top – and we’re really losing light. We go again.

And I nail every word. It was kind of surreal. The director comes over and gives me an adjustment. I take it and roll through again, word perfect. We have time to run it 3 more times and I don’t drop a thing. It was amazing.

I definitely thought of you and the studio and the work ethic you’ve instilled in us..so a very big thank you!

My response:

You’re welcome, Scotty, and thank you as well!  I’m thrilled for you and extremely proud of you! As I say below guys, get ready and stay ready because at some point every actor realizes…shit just got real. (2.0)

(Blurred out to honor the show’s privacy.)

Shit Just Got Real.

A client of mine who is enormously talented fought for a number of years to get good rep. He had just guest starred on FRESH OFF THE BOAT (an audition he procured on his own) and finally landed with a prominent agency. Within 24 hours he received his first audition from them. It was for the lead role in a comedy pilot and he was asked to prepare two scenes.  The first was, I kid you not, a single spaced monologue more than a page long that contained a massive amount of beats, builds, turns…comedy technique galore. The second scene was four pages full of rapid paced, witty banter and a fair share of jokes.  He received the audition notification at roughly 8pm for his appointment at noon the following day.  While I was teaching class that evening, he scheduled a late night coaching.  At 11pm I met him in our waiting area where he handed me the sides, looked me dead in the eye and promptly said “Shit just got real.” 

We quickly got to work. He was remarkably prepared after having had only three hours with the material.  By the end of our session, he could rattle off the monologue with hardly a glance at the page and scene two was tight and completely off book.  We were both satisfied and confident about his audition.  At that point he had been a student of mine for two years and he thanked me for for pushing him every week and demanding the most from him.  I then told him what I’ve repeated to numerous actors: I can help you make strong choices, find jokes and navigate your way through the audition with precision and specificity, but you have put in the time. You have to study and prepare like a top tier athlete. You have to be able to retain dialogue quickly, take adjustments on the fly and then deliver in the room. This actor not only made this audition happen through his sheer tenacity, but he busted his ass in class, rehearsals, workshops and honed his skills relentlessly for years to get ready for it. 

As actors, you work arduously to acquire auditions and good representation, but you need to ensure that when the opportunities come, you are ready for them because, as in sports, they come fast and they come hard.  You can rapidly make fans in the room or get knocked on your ass just as quickly.  Get ready and stay ready because at some point every actor realizes…shit just got real.

Success Is Infectious. Failure Is An Epidemic.

Success Is Infectious.  Failure Is An Epidemic. I say it all the time and I believe it wholeheartedly.  

This is a crazy business. This is a hard business.  It will elevate you to enormous highs one moment and knock you down the next. Don’t EVER let it keep you down and always GET BACK UP!!! Surround yourself with a community of actors and teachers who push and challenge you, but who are also genuinely happy for you when you succeed.  And CELEBRATE YOUR WINS – EACH and EVERY ONE OF THEM!!! Stop saying things like, “well, I booked this part – but it’s JUST a student film” or  “it’s JUST a co-star”.  Do you know how many other actors wanted that part? Do you know how many people wish they had the courage to take the leap and pursue their dream of being an actor? You are here and you are fucking doing it! Surround yourself with positive people, avoid negative ones like the plague and good things will come your way.  It is a basic law of attraction and it can make ALL the difference!!!

Success Is Infectious, Failure Is An Epidemic. Don’t go to the second place.


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