Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Whole Month Without an Audition?!! Really?!

I realized last night that my last audition was about a month ago; 30 days to be exact. Luckily, I did get that part, but we are done filming. I am submitting like crazy as usual but no one is biting, which leaves me a lot of extra time to work on this blog. I have to do something to fulfill my creative side after all. This always seems to happen after I get new headshots. I get so excited that my new pics are way better than before and that means I will get more responses. It should work that way but let me tell you it doesn't always. The only thing I can do is stay confident that something will happen soon. In the mean time I have new footage I can add to my reel, I can find a showcase for a casting director I'd like to audition for, and I can practice monologues. It also gives me extra energy to focus on things that I sometimes forget I like; doing makeup for example. So until I get that next call or email I am going to choose to stay happy and focused. I will find other outlets for my creativity. I just hope I can stay this positive each day until I get one of those glorious responses. And I also hope that it is normal to sometimes go this long without getting called in for anything.

On Being Apart from My Family to Pursue Acting

One of the hardest things about pursuing your dream is that it often takes you far away from your family. I think this is the hardest sacrifice to make as an actor. Way harder than the financial burden on struggling artists. Now, I am very blessed that I have an amazing husband who supports me and loves me and he is my favorite person in the entire world to be with, but I miss my mom and dad and sister and brother and niece everyday. I get to see them on average twice a year. I always wish that they live a little closer to me (because obviously, I am not going back to VA). They are about an eight hour drive or train ride away from here. Which doesn't sound like much, but it is when you work AND have to be in town most of the time so that you don't miss an audition opportunity. A flight is only a couple hours, but usually costs around 400-600.00$ which I don't understand because it is much much cheaper for my husband to fly all the way to Florida to see his family. I cannot afford to pay that. I just can't. For those of you who move to a completely other country apart from your families, I admire you so much.

Of course, talking on the phone just doesn't cut it. I consider myself very close to my family, but I am just not a phone person. I don't know why. I always have trouble listening to the other person. Especially when I feel worn out from working all day. So, although I think I should call my mom every single day, it just doesn't happen. Because of that, I live for the week or two weeks a year I get to visit my family.

The problem is that as I am getting older, it gets harder and harder to say goodbye when my visit is over. The first time I moved out at the age of 20, I thought that saying goodbye would get easier with each trip. I couldn't have been more wrong. Each week I spend with them flies by so fast. My parents are getting older. My niece is pretty much growing up without me. I hate that. It breaks my heart. Sometimes, I even feel that I don't want to visit them because I know that the goodbye will be harder than it was the last time. I even regret starting this post because now I am starting to cry a little (I will be visiting them soon).

But as hard as it is to be away from family, I am right where I am meant to be and I am deeply fulfilled; deeply joyful (forgive me if that sounds too corny). As much as we love our families, sometimes our lives are meant to be lived apart from them. For those who are meant to live near your families, consider yourselves very blessed and lucky. Yes, I made the choice to leave Virginia and my family. Yes it is very hard, but I know if I stayed there in the long run I would be depressed, bored, and restless. I am so grateful that my entire family is supportive of my career and understands that I am where I am for a reason.

The only thing I can do is pray for a day when I can afford to visit them more often, and be thankful for and take in every moment I do get to spend with them. I love them so much.

Friday, February 22, 2013

An Aspiring Actress in Action: Links to My Work Edition One

In an effort for those who stumble upon this blog to get to know me better (also in an effort to cheer myself up since my only upcoming audition got canceled), I am gonna start posting links to my work every once in a while. If you do know me, you have probably seen these already, but feel free to watch again;) Please take a look and enjoy! Feel free to leave feedback and share links to your work as well.

I have two features that you can see me in currently. They are both psychological indie horror films by director Joe Ciminera:

The first is Acedia; Click here to go to the website and watch the film in full.

The second is Purification; which is currently streaming on Netflix. Click here to check out the website.

Here are the links to a couple of short films and a web-series you can catch me in:
Joe Ciminera Presents Ep 2 "Found Guilty"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Acting Training Question

I touched on training and classes in  my previous blog and mentioned that I myself have had no formal acting training; meaning I have taken classes but have not studied in a conservatory or university program. I don't believe that I am in any position to give advice on this subject one way or the other, except to say that I don't believe it is needed for on-camera work. Today I came across a couple of articles that spoke to this topic and I wanted to share them. :)

From The Theatre Doc (his blog is great to follow if you haven't already):

From Backstage:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Basic Steps to Start Your Acting Career

I'm sure by now you've read blogs and articles and then more blogs about how acting is not the glamorous profession that you think it is. I'm sure you've read how you have to put in years of working without getting paid and that if you are in this business to be famous, then you are in the wrong business because only a tiny, tiny percentage of actors are well known. Well, all that is true. Pursuing a career in acting is a full time job all in itself. So along with the day job you will have to work in order to pay the bills, you will feel sometimes as if you are working two full time jobs. And if acting is the only work that really fulfills you, it will be very hard for you to enjoy working your survival job. (I have a great job doing makeup for a cosmetics line that I love, but the more acting I do, the less makeup artistry and selling satisfy me.)

Basically, the point is that all the articles you have read about acting are true. But there is hope. If everything you have heard about acting doesn't make you reconsider your choice to pursue it and you feel determined AND you are not afraid to invest a lot of money into it, then maybe you should go for it. Remember nothing is impossible. Meaning, some actors do make it big. Or at least are able to make their living from it even though they aren't famous. So why not you? (And why not me, for that matter?) So here is my version of the quintessential "getting started in acting" article. I think it is overwhelming to try to get started in this business. Heck, it feels overwhelming to write this post because there are so many things that need to be done and tips to share. But I feel there are a few basics that can get you started in the right direction. As always, I am bringing my personal perspective and experience to each step. I do not pretend to be a star (yet!) and yes, I do work still work a day job, but I have had some small successes in this business and I am not gonna give up!

Also, I want to quickly mention that you can begin no matter where you live. That way when it is time to move to a bigger city, which will probably eventually need to happen, you will be more prepared.

Step #1-Funding: I think the first thing you need to have is to have a day job that you enjoy. A job where you will be able to attend auditions (and look for auditions) and make enough money to pay for headshots, classes, casting sites, etc. A job where if you have to step away and check an email, return a call, or quickly check the latest casting notices, it won't be that big of deal. Acting is your business and requires your complete attention to make it work. Believe me, I try not to do anything to draw negative attention to myself at my survival job but if I need to check my email I will tell my co-workers and step away. I always remind myself that acting comes first. And by the way, having a good attitude goes a long way with your bosses. If you are always positive and have a good work ethic they are usually a little more flexible with you. So, at least pretend like you care. The bottom line is that you need to make enough money to take care of yourself (and family if need be) as well as enough to start your acting business.

The rest of the steps don't necessarily need to be done in any particular order, but they do need to be done in order for you to get a good start. Focusing on one or the other first will depend on your personal timing, comfort level, and budget. In general, I think the following steps can/should all be done around the same time if you are completely ready and absolutely itching to jump right into this career.

Step #2-Headshots: I was going to list finding a good class as number two but I'm going to put getting great headshots ahead of that and here's why: you can audition for many films without training and experience. Just look on Craigslist or There are many filmmakers just getting started and will actually state in the ad that its okay if you don't have experience. In fact, some will state that they actually prefer no experience as they are learning as well. Some will even just require a regular picture not a pro headshot. These include student filmmakers and those who are experimenting with their first work. They just ask that you be professional and passionate. This way you can at least start auditioning, getting the hang of submitting to castings, making connections, start gaining experience on set, and building your resume. I also want to add that I don't think you have to spend a lot of money on your first set of headshots unless you really have the extra money. You can find deals on Craigslist. Just be sure to look at the photographer's website and google them to find any possible reviews. If you do find a class before you get your photos done your school can probably refer you to someone professional.

Along the same lines, I think getting business cards with your current headshot and contact info is a great idea. Use Vistaprint . It's easy, quick, and inexpensive. Order the glossy finish; to me it makes your cards look more professional and of a higher quality. Of course, keep it simple. Here's my current business card:

I don't think postcards are necessary quite yet. (And when you get them, I would get them at your print shop. I found Vistaprint a little confusing for these. Maybe you will understand how their design program works though, so you may want to try.) I think postcards are good once you have something specific (meaning a reel, a play, a new role, an update, etc) to show casting directors. Postcards are for building relationships with industry professionals AFTER you have met them at a workshop or audition.

Step #2b-Resume: Put together your resume. Nice. Neat. Don't lie. If you think you don't have anything worthy to list, I bet that's not true. Put any theater programs you took in school or any plays you did,even if they were part of a class. If you were stage manager or production assistant or even in the chorus, list it. Those things show that you have experience in the field at least. Put any plays you may have done in church. If you sung in the choir at church or school, list it. If you ever took dance, list it. Here is the link to my resume at NYCastings: Tiffany Browne-Tavarez Resume  (Focus on the format/content of the text, not the photos/video for the purpose of learning how to write your resume.)

If you really, really, really, have never done anything that's okay. Just make it look professional and make sure your contact info and physical stats are accurate. A decent headshot and a good cover letter will go a long way when submitting to castings. Once you have started taking classes, be sure to list them under training.

Step #3-Training/Classes: You definitely want to get into some classes or workshops with teachers that have good reputations. You can find something no matter what your price range is. I would even recommend taking a seminar that is geared towards helping actors get started in the biz. If you are in NYC, I know that often these types of seminars are free or low cost.

If you have time and want to spend money on a conservatory program and believe that that type of training is best for you then go for it. You will be able to learn technique, character development, and scene breakdown. If you have never tried acting on any level, maybe this is the way to go. I personally did not take this route so I cannot say anything for or against it. But to me, I think when you are just getting started you should take more affordable classes until you have a clear idea of what you want. And I don't really believe that for film or commercials (especially commercials) you need conservatory training. For theater, yes, because that is the first thing that casting looks at. But for camera work you can find shorter classes that get straight to the point and allow you to just act and learn without over complicating things. You can find classes that are only one-three weeks in length or classes that are 8-12 weeks in length. You can take classes at studios where there are many teachers, or you can take different classes all taught by the same coach. Again it depends on your needs and what is gonna make YOU a better more fulfilled actor.

The best thing you can do is audit classes that you are interested in. Many coaches offer free seminars and classes to promote their teaching. When I took a few classes at Terry Schreiber Studios in NYC--which is a studio I would highly recommend--there was a free meet and greet with the teachers before you chose which classes you wanted to sign up for. Also try to look for instructors who have actual acting experience. If they are currently still acting, even better.

My Training History: I have relatively little training considering how long I have lived in the NYC area and how long I have been acting. I was in the Theatre program in high school and I did plays for class. Then I started doing community theater. All that went on my resume. When I moved to New York, I started with background work. And yes, I listed it on my resume until I got speaking roles. My first speaking role on camera was one line in a trailer that I never saw and have no idea what happened to it. My second on camera part was in a silent student film, and once again I never heard anything about it after filming. I have built up my resume, experience, and connections little by little. I have taken a few classes since moving to New York, but mostly my talent has been honed on set or at home studying my characters. Honestly--and I'm not necessarily proud of this--I am not usually enrolled in a class. Maybe my way is unconventional and maybe it takes more time than intensive studying. Or maybe I'm on to something here. I really don't know. But it works for me. I do believe in continued classes and coaching, in fact there is a class starting in March that I am hoping to take. But I think being on set is more important. Actually, several times I have decided to take certain classes only to be cast in a part that would keep me from attending. I mean, what's a girl to do? Decide for yourself what is right!! And remember, I did at least have a substantial background in theatre when I moved here.

Step #4-Get Experience: Start submitting and auditioning!! Audition for everything including student films. It's free to search Craigslist and In fact, is not only free to search, but you can upload your headshot and resume and submit directly to the projects listed on the site for free as well. Another free casting site--at least for basic membership--is Talent Pages. Build your experience by using these sites. When you are ready, then you can pay the fees to join Actors Access, NYCastings, and/or Casting Networks.

Along the same lines, try to get on set somehow even if that means starting out with background work. You shouldn't list background work on your resume unless you have no other on camera experience whatsoever. Until you get speaking roles at least this will show you have been on set. But be honest and make it clear on your resume that you were an extra and don't try to exaggerate it. Once you start getting even one line roles in even student films take off the background work. And when working as background, pay attention to EVERYTHING!! If you are able to, watch the principle actors. Learn the lingo and the roles of each crew member. Learn about marks and lighting and sound. Take it all in. The set itself and how the shot is carefully created is one of the most exciting things about this business.

Step #5-Get Good: Work on your craft at home. Find monologues, screenplays, plays, commercial copy and practice them. Practice them different ways. Practice them in front of the mirror. Record yourself on your phone or webcam performing something and then watch it back. Learn what you do well and what habits show up too much on camera and may need to change. If you are brave enough yet, post your videos online and get feedback.

So, to me those are the main actions you need to take in order to get started in acting. But before I end this post I want to give a few tips to ponder that will help carry you through each phase of your career.

BIG Tip #1: If you are just beginning, don't worry about trying to get an agent or joining the union. Just get experience and build your connections.

BIG Tip#2: Use everything you learn to your advantage but at the same time find your own path.

BIG Tip #3: Don't compare yourself to any other actor. And don't compare your career to any other actor's either. I know this is easier said than done and we all struggle with it from time to time (yes, I'm guilty okay!), but when it happens check it quickly so you don't lose focus.

BIG Tip #4 : Just be your charming self when meeting with industry professionals.

BIG Tip #5: DON'T GIVE UP!! Of course, if this is what you really want no one should have to tell you that. Because if this is what you really want then you will never care what any one else thinks. You will chase this dream no matter what; whether you eventually catch it or chase it your whole life. If this is what you really want, you will not put any limits on pursuing it. Meaning you will not say "if I don't get an audition in a few months, I will go back to what I really went to school for," or "if I don't make it by the time I'm 36 years old, I will give up." Don't get me wrong, I understand that dreams may change as we age, and I also think that some dreams we have may never be fulfilled. You may even have to sacrifice one dream to obtain another. So always listen to God, follow your heart, and choose wisely.

Well, that's it. Those are the basic steps (according to me anyways) to take in order to get started in an acting career. Once you start to gain experience, if you remain consistent, you will naturally add in steps like branding yourself, attending industry showcases, utilizing social media, getting postcards, and forming a reel just to name a few. But at the very beginning you don't need to get caught up in or worry about not having those things.

After reading this post, I hope you are feeling encouraged and not overwhelmed. I hope that if acting is your one true passion you will be able to put some of these steps into action and I wish you the best. If you think I left any thing out, or you want to share something from your journey, please leave a comment. Thanks so much for reading!!!:)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Acting vs Day Job: Making the Leap of Faith from Full-time to Part-time

I am about to take a big step in my life in an effort to take my acting career to the next level; I am about to go from a full-time position at my day job to a part-time position. That's right folks. It is time and things are set in motion. I've been preparing for this and praying over it for a few months now. This isn't just some spontaneous decision.

I am super excited. My days will be open for auditioning and searching for auditions (the position consists of night shifts). And I will have a WHOLE extra day open for any possible acting job. I feel like not only will this help me to be more dedicated to acting, but I will also be able to be more focused at my regular job. I mean, less hours equals more energy right? Really though, I am tired of going into work and not being able to focus on my tasks because I am thinking about how much I need to step away ASAP and check Actors Access.

But I'd be lying if I said I am not anxious about this change, or even a little nervous. In my head I have gone over and over how much money I need to make in order to pay my half of the bills each month. I should be fine. I will just have to really cut down on dry cleaning and Starbucks. (I love getting my clothes dry cleaned: they come back looking brand new.) But the key word is should. This transition being still a few weeks away, I really don't know what it's gonna be like and that makes me nervous.

Of course, the goal is to get more paid acting work to help balance out the difference in income. I especially want to break into commercials this year, and when you are called in to audition for one, it is usually the next day. I don't feel comfortable meeting with commercial agents and casting directors if I know my daily work schedule will be an issue. Now I will be free to do more networking.

But what if I don't get any auditions? What if I get lazy with the extra time? Even though I get acting work pretty consistently right now, what if right when I have more time for it all of it ironically stops for me? These are all questions going through my mind at the moment and gripping me. Or rather they are fears.

That realization hit me while writing this post. These questions are fears. And I do not live my life according to fears. Yes, wondering whether or not you will be able to pay your bills is a valid concern, but when you are feeling the tug to do something, and the opportunity presents itself, you can not let questions and fears and the "what ifs" stop you. I have peace deep down, deeper than any emotion or feeling, that this is right thing for me at this moment.

Maybe I won't book anything for months. That happens. But I can't imagine that I will get lazy when it comes to making this career happen. (Hopefully not anyways; after all, I am not perfect.) I've come so far in the past couple of years. I know it won't be easy, but I feel that as long as I keep doing what I've been doing I should continue to move forward.