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It’s Not About You

By Allen Levin

Last night Sherri Shepherd was our guest speaker. What an amazing night! What an amazing and inspirational message. She kept coming back to the message “It’s not about you. It’s about what you can give.” She was teaching that this is a great management system for nerves, alleviating fear, and the need to prove things to people, particularly at an audition. Stop trying to show people how good you are and instead illustrate how you can help them. What void do you fill? Illustrate what you bring to the role. Know who you are and deliver your truth. Sherri was on fire. She was as good as any guest speaker we’ve ever had. From the moment she began she was electric!

Many of you guys got great notes and paid attention. Many of you realized what was happening in the room and you’ll reap great rewards from last night. Go to her one actor show this weekend, where she is comping all Lifebook actors a free ticket. See the show. Continue this journey. She’s awesome. I’ve seen the show. It’s excellent. Largely what follows isn’t for you, but go ahead and review what’s said anyway. I’d be preaching to the choir if this article was pointed at you. It’s not, but lets read on.

I find myself a bit frustrated. A couple of our actors actually left at the break. This dumbfounded me. One of my actors at least had the wherewithal to ask me if it was ok if they left. I strongly “advised” them to stay. I said, “Why would you leave?” “Because I have another event tonight.” No. You don’t have another event. Nowhere in LA was there wasn’t an opportunity as big as this one. We found ourselves in a great position where a successful and honest talent is this accessible and sharing the gems you need to move forward. She was candidly answering any question asked. It took me a YEAR to get her to guest speak at our class. You think you have another event? This IS the event of the month, easily. You don’t leave. You get focused. You pay attention.

We need a wake up call. We need to understand what’s right in front of us. For anyone to consider leaving when Sherri was giving as much as she was, take another look at this career. Do you really want this? If you do, you need to get present. Let’s focus in and accept the selfless and excellent advice that’s coming our way. We need to be able to easily identify when we are in the right place. For the students who left early, contact me immediately. I need to determine if I able to help you or are you a lost cause? I need to hear what pulled you away from this night. Contact me today. Let’s problem solve.

This writing is much more carefully being constructed as I don’t want to offend but I do want to tell us all, let’s wake up. Yep. This is the edited version, gang. For those of you that realized last night was a great big night for you, you’ll be moving forward and that’s awesome. For those of you that found yourselves bored, you deserve to be yelled at. If anyone knows me, that’s not my style. I won’t be coming in and throwing my water bottle and yelling (as I’ve seen other coaches do) but I can feel the desire. I won’t be grabbing you by your shoulders and shaking you until you have to pay attention.

One of my actors that left early last night ALWAYS has drama. His life is always terrible. There are always complaints. His entire game is to try to get sympathy. The funny thing is he’s talented! No one would hire him. No one. He is, in a word, insufferable. If he doesn’t start paying attention to the path I have him on, he will simply quit without achieving the career he deserves. If you ask him how he’s doing he’ll say, “Terrible. I’m REALLY sick!” Or “You won’t believe the traffic I just sat in! Over 2 hours!!” or “My mom is a pain in the ass!! Can you believe that she….” It doesn’t really matter what he says as his aim is to get you to be moved by just how fucking difficult his life is. It’s a joke. It’s all about him. He also doesn’t typically let you speak or offer any encouragement. He’ll talk over you as he’s most interested in his thoughts. He’ll talk over a movie to tell you the first time he watched the movie what he was thinking, even though this is your first time seeing the movie. This is the type of actor that needs to wake up. Change is possible. Without it they simply won’t work.

He left last night because he had some personal bullshit he couldn’t leave outside. To the student I’m referring to, if you can identify that this is you, that’s fine. It’s important that you understand that I believe in you. I’ve told you these things directly. Review them here indirectly. You can’t come to tonight’s event. You need to sit and consider these things. If you don’t, you simply will not have the career you deserve. You deserve a big one! You are loaded with talent. It’s sad and disappointing that you can’t get past yourself. Perhaps you should know, most of the time when you corner me to talk, I give the first excuse I can and I get out of there! I’ve faked phone calls at events. I simply can’t bear to speak to you. I want you to change. I want you to become a people person so that others will actually see your talent. If you think this is you, contact me privately. In the meantime, if you attend any outside our theatre events, I’ll need to send you home. I need to see real improvement.

Remember gang, sometimes you won’t like what I have to teach you. You pay me for what you don’t know. You pay me to help you change and grow. You pay me so that more people will hire you. I had an actor quit class on Monday just before the night class yelling at me to stop trying to change them! If you didn’t want to change (and grow) why would you be in class in the first place? We all need change. We need growth. This isn’t going to be an easy path. Be able to take information that’s tough to deliver to you. Be able to be open to the fact that you may not be a perfect being, ready for the big leagues. We all need to be direct-able when a director has the right intent. Mine is simply for you to get more work and to be a giving part of a community of artists.

Educate yourselves so that no matter what personal things you have happening, you can leave them outside the door. Get focused. Take notes. Be inspired. Anyone who attended last night and wasn’t inspired, we need to shift gears. You need to wake up. Last night was amazing! I got some thank you notes from people that got it. I appreciate those. That’s how it should be. Reach out to her and thank her as well. You can do so using social media. She was a great blessing. I just hope we can all realize the gift we were given and take it with us as we move forward. Soon you guys will be giving back the way she did last night. Those of you that understand this lesson and allow it to become a part of your strategies, there will be a day you’ll come back to Lifebook and be a guest speaker. Let’s hope your day is as amazing as Sherri’s was. I bet it will be!

Any questions or concerns this blog has brought up, please contact me. It isn’t my intent to alienate or offend. I want us to become aware. Let’s learn together. Remember Sherri’s message, “It’s not about you.” Let’s get our attention off of ourselves and take in the gifts that are around us. Let’s use the inspiration and go book that next job. We absolutely can if we can just see past our own noses. Get interested in others. Listen. Apply. “It’s not about you. It’s about what you can give.” Do you have a voice? Are you interested in helping movies and television productions with filling roles they need cast? If so, some of us do need to shift gears.

Nudity

By Allen Levin

I don’t want people to feel they need to involve their naked body in their work. They don’t. You don’t. You can avoid these parts. I don’t look at the human body as I once did. I once thought that private parts were naughty parts and they needed to be hidden away. I thought that it’s inappropriate for us to see someone’s penis, vagina, breasts, in public. I was given these thoughts by my parents and grandparents. I wasn’t thinking for me.

I now find the human body beautiful in all it’s forms. “All bodies are good bodies!” I believe this completely. We are so very lucky to have these bodies. I’m not ashamed of any part of mine. I love my body. If I believed my being nude in a movie would add to the comedy, I’d do it. If I believed it would add artistically, I’d do it (a movie like Eyes Wide Shut please!). If I believed the scene had merit, I’d do it. If it was for Spanktravision (late night wack off films) I’d skip it.

I’m not judging those that do those type of films. If you want to do that, fine, but know it could hurt your chances at a mainstream career. This type of “dirt” in your past will stop you from booking a major lead for Disney, a series lead for Nickelodeon, etc. So, skip these. Also, despite the fact that I “use” these types of films if I’m to be honest, I wouldn’t ever be in one. My artistic standard is higher than my private viewing standards.

Protect your careers above all things. Be sure the decisions you are making are good for your pride, your career, your confidence, your current journey, your future. If it’s a quality production, no matter what age you are, no matter what shape you are, I’m all for it. Celebrate your bodies. Please do not feel pressure to do these things. If you don’t want to do it, if you are unsure if you want to do it: DO NOT DO IT.

A safe space to explore nudity is a place where they don’t take pictures. Last night in class one of my actors, Tony, was stripped completely nude by Anastassia. It was delightful. It was funny! It was a bold choice. I have no problem with it whatsoever. They asked if they could do that in class and I said absolutely. Art is for exploration. If Tony is ok being stripped. Strip him. Let’s see what it adds to the scene. Now in that particular scene (the attempted sex scene with Paul Rudd in “Wanderlust”) if Tony is going to be naked, he should utilize the nudity to add to the comedy. If I were directing the piece I’d have him up and dancing for her. Trying to turn her on as he says the VERY wrong things. He didn’t do that, but he had only had the script for an hour. You guys are assigned to do this again and capitalize on the naked moments (and make them pay off by dressing him against his will at the end, over the lines).

I’m proud of all of our bodies. I hope you feel empowered as well. If you are uncertain, come to a “Nude Comedy LA” event. These are full money back satisfaction guaranteed. No cameras are allowed. Get into a wholesome group of people celebrating their own bodies. Explore your own nudity in a positive and risk-free environment. This is how I became empowered. This is how my views on nudity shifted from “I’d never do nudity” to “I’d be naked in a film! I just need to make sure it’s the right film.”

Before you make the choice to be naked in film, be naked in a safe acting class, or a nudist organization (a real one, ask me first – some of the local organizations are posers) that has the right message. Real nudists are awesome empowered and supportive people. Real nudism has nothing to do with sexuality. Sexuality isn’t wrong, but combining it with social nudism, in my view, is wrong. It’s not the true form of naturism.

If you are interested in a Nude Comedy LA event we do have a nude pool party on September 22nd. You must be 18 or older. No cameras allowed. Contact Cassie Shultz or myself for more details.

Money Management: Lessons Repeated

By Allen Levin

There are many companies out there that want to get you on a membership repeat billing platform and absolutely don’t care if you use their product or are even aware they are charging you. They will charge smallish amounts in the hopes you don’t notice and keep charging you until they can’t anymore. Many of these companies continue taxing people long after they are dead. Horrible business model. This is the country we live in.

In 2014 a company called “Rocket Lawyer” offered me a “free” trial to have access to their legal forms. I needed and NDA, so I signed up. You’d get a free week and if you cancel within that week they don’t charge you. I did that. I signed up, I got a form I needed, I canceled. Not bad! Only a few months later I caught them charging me the $40 per month for 4 months. $160 for a “free” form. I called in. I complained. As memory serves they did refund half of my money. Ok. $80. That still stings for one form I could have copied elsewhere, but at least it’s only $80. On my merry way. I completely forgot this happened. I forgot they had my information.

Fast forward to November of 2017. The 16th day, but who needs to get that specific? I was asked by a student for an NDA form. I thought I’d be a good coach and send them the form (why should they have to go to the trouble of searching on Google?). I did a search which lead me to “Rocket Lawyer.” I got on (thought this was a “free” experience once again). I downloaded a form and sent it to my student. Good coach!

Yesterday I was catching up on the taxes I have yet to turn in for 2017. I’m going over my credit card bills from 2017 looking for any write offs I may have missed. I see “Rocket Lawyer” for $40. I think, “That’s funny. I don’t remember spending $40 on a legal website. I have a memory of getting an NDA for a student. I guess they charged me. Shoot. Oh well. $40 donation to helping out my students. I have a look at December and my heart finds a bit of pain. They charged it again. That’s when it hit me. These MF’ers have been charging me since then, not only then. I look at my latest statement from August of this year. Yes. $40 fee from “Rocket Lawyer.” That’s 10 months! They are about to charge an 11th! So far $400 spent. I didn’t know it. I haven’t visited the site since that day. The reason I know it was the 16th of November is I went back and searched my email for Rocket Lawyer and sure enough there is a “Welcome to Rocket Lawyer” email. I missed it. It’s unopened. I open it. It tells me about the fees I’m going to be receiving if I don’t cancel within 7 days.

If I knew it was a free trial, I canceled the same day. That’s how I do it. I don’t wait. I need to stop with the free trials. I need to stop giving out my card numbers like people won’t exploit me. I need to be aware and check my credit card statements each month to see that things like this aren’t happening.

Mastering money is something all actors need to do. A part of mastering money is being aware of what you are spending. Don’t allow people access to your credit card numbers, even for these sucker-traps “free trial.” “Don’t worry! Trust us! We won’t charge you if you cancel! We won’t pretend you didn’t cancel and charge you. It’s TOTALLY free!”

I got lazy. My bills were set to auto-pay. I didn’t look at the cards. This was entirely my fault and let’s all learn a $400 lesson. These free trials are scams.

I called in to Rocket Lawyer yesterday. The voice machine I got started with “To downgrade your membership press 1”. I pressed 1. The next thing I heard, “We have your phone number stored with your account and you are no longer going to be charged. You have been downgraded to our “free” membership. You’ll get a confirmation email.” I watched my email all day and checked the spam filter. Nothing. They don’t have my number and nothing was canceled. Another attempt to continue charging me.

I’ll call in tomorrow (today is Labor Day. Happy Labor Day all! Aside: Lifebook loves to celebrate work on Labor Day by working. We’ll be in class tonight getting ahead! Come join us). I’ll be sure to get a cancelation, get a confirmation number and email while they are on the phone. I’ll request a refund or even a partial refund. I expect to be turned down, especially since they got me on this con before. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…..

Let’s relearn this lesson together. That way my $400 is worth something more than the NDA form I sent my student (which I’ll also not do again). Be wary of these free memberships. If you have to get one: Cancel, get a confirmation number and email, and watch your credit card like a hawk. You might even call your credit card company and block the company from being able to charge you.

As for my strategy going into tomorrow: 1. I’ll request a refund from the company and expect no help. 2. I’ll call my credit card company and see if there is anything they can do, at a miniumum I’ll have them block Rocket Lawyer. 3. I’ll get on no less than 3 review websites and share this information with customers smart enough to look for reviews before doing business with this company.

Some lessons must be relearned. Ouch. Some lessons can be learned form others and don’t need to be experienced personally. Please be the latter.

Onward and UP.

Who We Are

By Allen Levin

2/3 of the actors I’ve met, many of whom I met only at their audition for various projects, won’t book because they simply haven’t embraced who they truly are. They don’t allow a full 3D version of themselves to be seen. Let’s take a look at who we all are. All is the correct word. If you aren’t willing to face that everything is inside you from dark to light, you’ll be one of the 2/3 who never had a chance to begin their careers as they pretend to be only one part of themselves.

So, as you read the following, be aware of any feelings or arguments that may come up inside you. If you simply agree with all of the following, you are in good shape. If you are excited about all of the following, you are in very good shape. Remember, all is true for not only all of us, but all of our characters. We humans are complex. We are everything. We fight parts of ourselves in an attempt to be more of one or another, but these are all true for all of us (like it or not). The following sentences that you say, “that’s not me” about, not only are you, you need to take on a role and play it honestly. Find it within you, and you can play it. Play an idea of someone else, removing it from your reality, and it won’t be honest. Let’s take a look at all sides of ourselves. Let’s embrace all of it. Every role is awesome. Every part needs someone to play the truth.

We are beautiful. Every one of us.
We are liars. We like to manipulate others. We don’t think of ourselves this way, but it’s true.
We are strong. We can lead
We are weak, ineffective, and incompetent.
We make the difficult decisions that are best for the greater good.
We make selfish choices and protect only our own.
We are loyal. We make sacrifices. We are well disciplined.
We are backstabbers. If given the chance not to get caught, we will take more than our share.
We are honest to a fault. We are judgmental of those who are not.
We love with everything we have. We are passionate.
We are hateful and cruel. We hunt for sport. We all killed Cecil the lion.
We are givers. We will give you the shirt off our backs and our share of dinner when we are starving.
We are unforgivable losers. We gamble. We blow it when things are going well.
We come through in the clutch. We can be relied upon.
We are killers. We like the idea of taking someone’s life. The power is intoxicating.
We are victims. We are innocent in every way. We didn’t deserve what happened. We move forward
anyway, with a positive outlook, no matter what they took from us.
We are perpetrators. We victimize. We will slip a drug in your drink when you aren’t looking.
We are heroes. We will stand up for each other and fight. We will die or be tortured, never giving up our brothers.
We are thieves. Look away and we’ll take that and run.
We are generous. We will contribute more than we can afford.
We are molesters. We are Harvey Weinstein whispering, “Don’t forget who got you here.”
We are intelligent. We are well educated. We aren’t one with which to be trifled. We are prepared.
We are uneducated and happy about it. We don’t need school. We don’t care what you think about it.
We are adventurous and bold. When the opportunities arise we run towards the adventure.
We play it safe. Let the other go to the fight. We’ll stay here and do the books.
We are ugly. We are filthy down to our core.
We are for real. We have put in the time. We don’t need to boast or brag.
We are gay. We are bisexual. We are heterosexual. We are asexual.
We are pretenders. We represent the thing we wish we were and take others in the process.
We believe in ourselves and will always bet on ourselves. It’s ok if you don’t believe. We already know who we are and know where we are going. We will risk it all to fulfill our dreams.
We cry at night. We know we are phonies. We curse our lack of progress.
We are winners. We beat out our tendencies and addictions. We are sober.
We are addicts. We can’t get off our drugs. When we can we drink, we snort, we shoot, we fly away.
We are emboldened by our journey and empowered. We rise and we march forward!
We are haunted by the past and afraid of the future.
We are Nuns, Priests, and Rabbis. We are what you need us to be.
We are sexual deviants. We want the unforgivable and will take it. We are perverts pretending to be religious.
We are sweet and welcoming. We love to host.
We have secrets. We are turned on by our shameful past.
We don’t care what others think.
We are entirely influenced by what others think.
We are proud.
We are real.
We are flawed.
We are exceptional.
We are tenacious.
We are lazy.
We have great integrity.
We are fucked up.
We are all Bill Cosby.
We are all Donald Trump.
We are all Tom Hanks.
We are all Mother Theresa.
We are all Natalie Portman.
We are all the puppy.
We are all the lion that ate the puppy.
We are all everyone.
We are everything.
We can’t.
We can.
We won’t.
We will.
We have.
We are.

We.

Look Closely To Find Opportunities

By Allen Levin

Opportunities are all around us. Life is exciting and fun! There are opportunities where you least expect them. In LA, they are everywhere. Life is an adventure!

Many times opportunities are masked as negative experiences. There is an opportunity there! Here’s a fun example from last night. Last night my wife and I went over to a frozen yogurt place for dessert. On our way over there we noticed a Halloween shop that was really cute. We looked in the window and decided to go in. There was a big section of Halloween stuff set up and caution tape was wrapped all around it. I remember thinking, “Could this section be closed? No. There would be a sign. They are just trying to make it look Halloween-spooky.”

There were many cute masks and Halloween articles that would have been expensive, they were marked down dramatically. I looked around the store again. This wasn’t a Halloween store! This was a Goodwille. I didn’t even realize it! We were in this section for a good 10 minutes looking around at the items. I was definitely going to buy some for our Halloween party this year, so I had a couple in my hands. We were not being obnoxious or loud. We were well dressed and behaving well. It was quite a surprise when we were yelled at, “That section isn’t open until tomorrow!”

I said, “I’m sorry. We didn’t know that” and I began putting back the masks from where I’d gotten them. The woman heard us apologize and could see that we were putting things back. She yelled “GET OUT OF THERE YOU TWO!!” My wife’s face had dropped. She was embarrassed. It was really uncool and unnecessary. In that moment I didn’t recognize the fun opportunities before us. I was stunned to be treated this way. Someone in customer service shouldn’t behave that way. They could have simply said, “I’m sorry guys. This section isn’t open until tomorrow.” They would have found us agreeable.

Instead my wife wanted me to write a review on Yelp and I felt the review was warranted. She also wrote her own review. My review stated,
“I was in the store with my wife moments ago. We were in the Halloween section with no way of knowing it was closed. The caution tape around the section simply made it look spooky. We were both cheerful and dressed well. We are both highly educated. It wasnt possible to think we were causing any trouble. We were going to buy some of the items. The workers kicked us out of the section with an incredibly rude and loud voice in an attempt to provoke us.

Rather than engage in the store we’d like people to know that your employees on 8/31/18 30 minutes before closing in the evening do not represent you well. They shouldn’t be working with people in customer service.

When we found out the section was closed we didn’t take issue. We were leaving and had apologized. That’s when one of them unnecessarily yelled “Get out of there!”

I feel sorry for her as she’s clearly an unhappy person who has no business working in a customer interaction capacity.

I’m a small business owner. I’d never treat people that way or employ someone that would.”

My wife’s review was up as well, in her own words stating what happened. Putting up the reviews last night returned my wife’s smile and seemed to balance things out. My wife said we should never go there again! Merely hours later I deleted my review. Much of the following I expressed to my wife: I feel sorry for the woman who yelled at us. She’s probably kicked people out of that section all day and was tired and frustrated. A happy person doesn’t act that way. She didn’t treat us well, that’s true, however she gave us a great opportunity.

Here is where we look a bit closer to find the opportunity.

If she kicked us out, and she likely kicked others out, that means no one has been able to go through this treasure trove of awesome Halloween stuff. They are open in the morning? Saturday morning? Excellent. I’ll go right after they open and take my pick of shockingly expensive Halloween gear (including one mask that was marked $9.99 that I’d seen online selling for $100) at great prices.

The next morning (today) I went in about 30 minutes after they opened. I was surprised to see that the Halloween section was already really popular. Did I come too late? No. All of the masks I wanted from the previous night were there. While I was checking out the man behind the counter (she from last night was at the other counter) said, “You know there are more masks kind of hidden in a drawer as we didn’t have the room to display them. Follow me.” I found even more great masks! While I was looking through them a woman who had been there looking for deals said, “OMG. I didn’t see those! You found the treasure!” I said, “Yes I did!” I spent about $85. I got at least $500 worth of great stuff for our party this year! What a great opportunity! This was made possible by her kicking people out of the section (albeit rudely). There is simply no way I could have gotten this deal. She was (in effect) protecting my great find!

As I left the store feeling much better about the previous night and my great finds, the woman who had told me I found treasure was excited! She said, “My goodness you scored. You scored all the way!”

Yes I did. Thanks for the opportunity!

Aside: While I was checking out the teller from last night yelled at someone “The short sleeves are over THERE!” I still feel sorry for her. I’m glad I took my review down. I hope she gets some help.

And What Not

By Allen Levin

As much as I love my mother (a lot!) I have to admit she’s a champion grudge holder. Rub her the wrong way and she’s done with you. Her mind is closed off to anything you say or write. If you are on TV, she’ll change the channel. When she’s done, she’s entirely done. This being the case, my natural instinct, as I’ve been taught is that if someone falls afoul of us, eliminate them from our life. This line of thinking is flawed. With people like Cosby, Weinstein, etc, it’s very difficult for me to admit to myself that they might have something for me to learn. I’ve decided I don’t like them. I’m in the process of trying to re-open my brain. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

I used to train under the tutelage of Milton. I didn’t like him personally. He didn’t earn my respect based on many rotten personal choices he made (in the open, let alone behind closed doors). He pushed his “religion” on us. He was a sexual predator towards multiple female students. He was sued successfully by some of them. He was disgusting. At the same time was the best acting coach I’d ever met and I learned a lot from him. He influences my coaching as much as any other. I learned from him plenty of what to do and what not to do. Upon reflection, despite the fact that I didn’t like him, I believe he was mostly a positive influence on my life. Would I go back and change the past and train under someone else? No.

I’m currently reading the book “A Life” by Elia Kazan. Personally, I don’t like him. I don’t like the choices he made in his personal life. He goes into great detail about his thinking and choices and the family life that he destroyed by sleeping around. I don’t like that. Worse yet, he is a racist. I can’t stand that. Can I still learn from him? He directed some of the best movies of all time, including: A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, Splendor In The Grass, On The Waterfront, and quite a bit more. Can I learn from someone I don’t like? Can I learn both what we should and should not do? Yes.

Kevin Spacey is someone that I don’t respect. I knew that he was a predator decades before all the recent news came out that shattered his career. Can I learn from him? Yes. He taught an acting class on “Master Class.” I paid for it. I already knew he was a piece of shit, personally. Might he still have something to teach us? Yes. Sadly, they took the class down before I got around to taking it. Doh! In any case, I’m realizing that I don’t think we should close our minds to those that might still have something to teach us. Should we seek out people we don’t respect? No. Just because someone has fallen from grace, doesn’t mean they don’t have knowledge that helped them along that might also help us. If that class is made available again (even a pirated version) I’ll be taking it.

It’s our job to learn from as many people as we can. We can learn from Michael Richards. We can learn from Bill Cosby and even the devil: Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein wrote a book called “The Art of Miramax.” If I wanted to be a producer, I’d read it. It would be a struggle not to vomit as I listened to his voice, but I’m realizing that I need to work on this. We need to assemble knowledge. The intention of this article isn’t to forgive the unforgivable. It’s to learn from various sources and to attempt to keep an open mind.

As I leave this bit of writing to do my daily reading, I hear my voice saying, “Forget Kazan. He’s an ass. Find a new book.” I won’t do that. I’m going to keep reading. It’s likely that I’ll learn something. Remember, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s to be avoided.

Onward and UP.

Share Love

By Allen Levin

If an actor can’t love, an actor can’t act. It’s as simple as this. If you haven’t been in love in your life, open yourselves up to love. You can’t play it if you haven’t done it. In truth, you can’t really get angry if you haven’t first loved. Love is your foundation for every color, every emotion, every feeling. If you’ve never experienced love, you won’t identify and experience pain.

Love will be what keeps you going in your career when it’s nearly impossible. You need to love what we do (not what we do so that we can act, the acting itself). Keep your focus on what you love and you’ll last. Lasting is the key to creating a real body of work that will equal a true acting career.

What do you love?

With whom have you shared love?

Have you loved pets?

Have you loved hobbies?

Have you loved someone else where you’ve given yourselves entirely to them?

What is your experience with love? Brainstorm it out.

Love is always the answer. If we want to get beneath the superficial discussion we can go as far as to say about love: Is there anything else?

Happiness and creative satisfaction is our goal. Both are based in love.

This morning I was taken out of my peaceful sleep by two emotions: Love and anger. “Jimmy Tato” is our new kitten (the one that was living under our lemon tree, we have now adopted). He was at the foot of my bed and apparently I moved my feet. Anyone with kitten experience here? Yep. He attacked my feet (if we break it down, he was playful and sharing love). There was love. Bella happened to be on the bed as well and unleashed anger at Tato. She hissed very loudly. There was the anger. I moved Bella outside and came back to the bed. Jimmy Tato came over to me and threw his tiny, hardly qualifying as a cat, body against me and began purring. Pure love. He, and that moment, created in me an epiphany: Love is the only thing that really matters.

Love is the solution to nearly all problems. Having trouble with money? How can you utilize your true love to help you out? The answer is in there. Having trouble in a relationship? Come from the standpoint of love before you communicate the problem. No matter what the situation, allowing your love in can’t hurt you.

As an actor, you’ll need to understand that in every scene includes love (or the removal of love). Every scene is a love scene. You absolutely must be able to love. We can all fight. We love the fight. We are trained in “creating conflict” within our art. Can we love?

In your next improv, begin with true love. Honest love. Don’t push it. Find it. It’s in you. Utilize it. From your love, arch out into the frustration, and anger. Don’t start with Anger. Don’t start suspecting your partner is cheating. Suspect everything is marvelous and you are in your “Honeymoon phase.” Discover the problems. Discover the pain. Find the tracking between love and hate. Play it all. Ultimately purge your demons, but do not start there. Start with love. The love can be your foundation within art and most importantly in your life.

Don’t know where to begin: adopt a homeless puppy.

Take this puppy on walks every day (mine is growing restless as we are just about to go on ours – I had to blog first today, which I usually do right after the walk, but THIS blog needed to come out immediately.) and spoil her with love. Give her treats but love her enough to keep her fit. Take care of her and put a priority on her health. ***Do not bring her to auditions! I’ve seen this. Those actors don’t book (although it’s a cute distraction, it’s still a distraction). Love her fully. Snuggle up to her. Pet her. Groom her. Share that love. A kitten will also work (you can’t have Jimmy Tato, find your own! I might give you Bella…. These are the jokes!)

Can’t have a pup or kitten? How about a Dwarf Hamster? Find an innocent being and give it the absolute best life you can. Get a Beta fish. Learn how to love and play with them. They love it when you slowly move your finger along the glass and they actually play with you! With either of the last two suggestions, they must live alone. You don’t put them with mates as they will get very violent. You are there friend. In other words, don’t guess. Learn about how to love a pet properly. Care enough not to be lazy. That’s what love is. Love is putting effort in so that we can give of ourselves. Love is taking our eyes off of ourselves and reacting in kind to our partners.

Share love. It’s the single biggest ingredient to our end game of happiness and creative satisfaction.

This article is an expression of love to you. I want nothing in return but for you to feel the love I’m sending you and pay it forward to another.

Sending love to you.

What If Today Is My Last

By Allen Levin

If today is my last day on Earth, if it’s in the stars that by tomorrow I’ll be no more, there are some important questions I want to ask myself. It’s a good idea we look at these concepts before our last day. Let’s have some great answers for ourselves when that day comes. We don’t need to worry about death, let’s focus on our lives. How are we using our time? Are we really giving ourselves the best chance for success?

If today is my last day:

1. Did I attempt with courage to pursue my true passion and number one dream?
2. Did I ignore dissenting voices and people limited by their own fears?
3. Did I do my best in the time I had?

If today is my last, there are plenty of things to consider about being an actor.

4. Did I truly accept my identity as an actor?
5. Did I hide my passion from those that could help me?
6. Did I produce things myself, to star in, while at the same time auditioning for roles?

If today is my last day, if our world will end for me before midnight:

7. If I were to grade my journey as an artist, in the time I had, did I get an “A?”
8. Did I spend time worrying about what others thought or let others slow me down?
9. Was I judicious over whom I shared my dream so as to protect it?

If I let go of the worry of the end of my journey and look at the journey itself:

10. How far did I climb?
11. What personal walls did I conquer?
12. What were my 3 best accomplishments as an actor?
13. Did I leave behind art to challenge and improve others to create a better world?

How we use the time we spend here in our journey matters.

14. What did I discover about myself?
15. What major growth did I undertake?
16. What did I learn about others?

If I did my job well, if I was truly an actor:

17. Was I able to relate to anyone, or was I left with judgments and limitations?
18. Could I play any role offered to me? Were there roles I simply wouldn’t play?
19. Was I too hard on myself (and too hard on others?)?

If I found a degree of happiness as an actor:

20. Did I celebrate my wins?
21. Did I express and share my joy and passion?
22. Did I take time out to list the things for which I’m grateful?
23. Did I truly share love?

If I made headway towards being creatively satisfied:

24. Did I work on roles that matter?
25. Did I find the truth?
26. Did I effectively take risks and go beyond my comfort zone? (or was I coasting along?)
27. Did I challenge myself with actors that challenged me?

As an actor:

28. Did I use my life experiences and personalizations to illuminate my work?
29. Did I hide my secret shame or was I bold enough to use it?
30. Did I find complete freedom in the range of what I’m willing to create in my work?

If today is my last day and I look back on my artistic journey

31. Did I exhibit and utilize great patience?
32. Was I as tenacious as I know I can be?
33. Was I persistent?
34. Did I work smartly and with precise goals, sub-goals, and task lists?

I know that the journey was toughest getting past my own limitations and temptations:

35. Did I keep my own moral code and integrity in tact?
36. Were there times I should have done something else, but I sold out?
37. Am I ashamed of my actions or did I make the tough decisions when the moment arose?

Artists many times self sabotage their own journey:
38. Did I feed into my tendencies and harmful addictions or did I acknowledge and conquer them?
39. Did I utilize discipline and restraint?
40. Did I make sacrifices for the betterment of my career (like not partying the night before)?

Money can be the destructive source that can inhibit a career in acting.

41. Did I master money?
42. Did I monitor what was coming in and work hard to ensure more came in than out?
43. Did I set budgets and stick to them?
44. Did I take stock of what I can do when I’m in a pinch to earn some money quickly?

Was I a good example to others attempting this craft?

45. Did I become part of the artistic community? Did I really participate?
46. Did I help others whenever I could?
47. Was I a great listener both in the roles I played but more importantly in my life?

As I round out this journey:

48. Was I able to truly let go of fears and worry?
49. Did I surrender? Could I separate my desires and my emotional attachments from work?
50. Was I completely free? Did I find freedom within my art?

51. Did I create real relationships? Partnerships? Friendships?
52. Am I proud of me? Am I excited about how I used whatever time I had?
53. Did I find real happiness?
54. To what degree did I find creative satisfaction?
55. Did I really commit to my dream and follow through with the hard work?
56. Did I take a look at the tough questions before it was too late and put in the work to find my happiness and creative satisfaction?

If I read this blog and took these concepts to heart, I did. Let’s have agreeable answers to these questions. The journey is long and beautiful. Give yourselves time, but do your best. Commit to this dream. Push all in. Let’s do this together.

In a world where people try to kill as many as they can, where accidents happen, where the end is typically unforeseen, let’s utilize our time with moments that matter.

Sending love, belief, and encouragement for you to live your dream as I’ve been blessed to live mine. It’s all right here for you. Let’s. Do. This.

Onward and UP.

Build It

By Allen Levin

I’m so excited about where I find myself each day. It’s amazing. It took a couple decades to get here, but each day is better than the last. This dream can be built. Day to day. Experience to experience. The experience matters. Paying your dues matters. You’ll add to your repertoire and gain an advantage over any “competition.” I remember when I decided to take the leap and be an professional acting coach over a decade and a half ago. I thought I could do it. I really wanted to do it. It took plenty of studying under mentors, experimenting, reading, and the one thing I couldn’t have done without: lots of experience. On the job training is imperative. If you don’t have that, you need to get training elsewhere. There simply is no substitute for training.

So many of the actors that I was an actor with two decades ago now have intensely gratifying acting careers. They are the real deal! They have done it and they continue to move onward. They continued to build on what we had done together. They have the life they’ve dreamed of and in many cases beyond. It took building it. It took getting past their own bull shit / tendencies. It took the ability and willingness to grow. I think of so many of my students (I began to list them, but honestly the list is too long) that I’m in the privileged position to witness the birth of starring careers. They are changing and growing in front of me. To think I have some part of that makes me so proud. They are bulding.

If you want this thing you should accept fully that you can have it. You should surrender any time demands. The faster you let go of, “If I don’t _______ by _______ then I’ll do something else” the faster you’ll find your career breaking role. Don’t forget that one role can really catapult you into the next levels (sometimes skipping levels). Hollywood needs your talent and is hungry for new faces. You have that face. You have that talent. You must also have the patience and understanding that this thing is built over time.

Prepare for 5 to 8 years of struggle. When you earn money: stretch it out. There will be thick times (these are wonderful) and times that are very very thin, perhaps even homeless times. We need to reduce the thin times by stretching the thick as far as we can. Shop at TJ Maxx and Ross for a while. Rodeo Drive is for tourists! Stretching is so important. I remember one of my first years as an actor, in January I got a gig that paid me 4 figures and I thought I’m off and running! Let’s do this every month!! I didn’t get another good paying gig that year! It happens. Get smart with your budgeting. Understanding money and stretching it can be a great big factor in your success.

In other words, understand and commit to this process. Plan for the future. Too many artists blow money when they have it, falsely thinking they are going to make more money before this money runs out. Let’s make this marathon much more comfortable. Let’s play smart. DO NOT LEND PEOPLE MONEY. It’s not your responsibility to take care of your family before you are certain you can take care of yourselves. If you have 2 years of reserves in the bank, then maybe you can send some money home. Get your 2 years reserves and live on the excess. Don’t touch your reserves unless an emergency happens. (Spoiler: The newest Iphone isn’t an emergency). Create a nest egg and leave it alone!

The smartest artists I know make good money and hardly touch it aside from paying for excellent long term training and administration needs (headshots, postcards, fliers, websites, etc). They aren’t caught up in showing off their new Porsche. They aren’t getting things they can’t afford. They never lease cars and they don’t get taken in scams. They invest smartly in their future. They aren’t gamblers. They are betting on themselves and that’s a winning bet. They drive sensible cars that can be relied on (like Hondas) and aren’t too flashy. These are the smart ones. These actors are going to last.

Since we are building something real, we’d like to last. We’d like to add to our “building.” I love being an example as I’m the happiest person I know. Each day I wake up and realize I’ve built something important. I look at the faces of my actors as they grow. They illuminate our entire block! I want this life to last as long as possible. I want you to feel the same way.

Know that the work you are putting in counts. It’s adding up to something incredibly real. You don’t know how close you are to your own personal greatness. Keep refining. Keep marching. Keep building.

Onward and UP.

Role Call

By Allen Levin
Parts I &  II

There are a variety of rolls we should all be able to play with no hesitation or “flinch” as my acting coach used to call it. If a role changes from straight to gay with no warning, the best actor can make adjustments on the spot without skipping a beat. If a roll all the sudden includes violence, where it didn’t before, that shouldn’t throw you. If you’ve played all the roles that follow (multiple times if you can) you should be ready for anything. The best actor can act when called upon, no matter the direction they are given. The best actors can find belief and reasoning for any action. “What’s my motivation?” is a joke. If you ever have to ask that you are an amateur. You should always be able to figure out why you’d do anything, even if you need to sit down for a moment and work it out. Take directions without that flinch.

To begin you must be able to play all sexual orientations:

1. Heterosexual
2. Homosexual
3. Bisexual
4. Pansexual / Omnisexual
5. Asexual

Let’s just start there. Have you played all of these? If not, get to it. If a role doesn’t specify sexual orientation you can play any of the above (don’t attempt to show your choice in any way, just allow it to be the truth. Keep in mind, sometimes we hide our sexuality for a myriad of reasons). If we are playing any part and the writers change our sexual orientation 180 degrees it shouldn’t bother us in the least. Personally I don’t have a preference and am happy to play any of the above.

Employment is a big part of who are characters are as well as sexuality. Let’s be able to play all of the following:
1. Gainfully employed and happy with the job
2. An absolute pro
3. Employed with a job we no longer want
4. Employed and completely miserable at work
5. Unemployed and uninterested in finding work
6. Unemployed and looking
7. Unemployed and desperate for work
8. Self employed (sometimes delusions of work, sometimes one that truly does work)
9. The rookie at work (a new job)
10. The expert at work (a top producer with seniority)
11. Jaded
12. Kiss up
13. Ambitious
14. Dishonest / Scam artist
15. Criminal
16. Overlooked / Passed over
17. Well connected

Some of these jobs may include:

1. Artist
2. Salesperson
3. Cashier
4. Waiter / Waitress
5. Personal assistant / Driver
6. Actor / Stand Up Comic
7. Chef
8. Clerk
9. Real Estate Agent
10. Lawyer
11. Customer Service Rep
12. Doctor / Registered Nurse
13. Computer Tech / Web Engineer
14. Manager
15. Police Officer
16. Athlete
17. Cheerleader
18. Drug Dealer
19. Detective / Investigator
20. Engineer
21. Analyst
22. Psychiatrist / Psychologist
23. Assassin
24. Prostitute
25. Undercover agent
26. Mechanic
27. Jeweler
28. Teacher / Coach
29. Truck Driver / Bus Driver
30. Groundskeeper / Gardener
31. Child Care
32. Carpenter
33. Electrician
34. Plumber
35. Contractor
36. Designer
37. Farmer
38. Boater / Life at Sea
39. Painter
40. Model

Within relationships, in addition to all sorts of conflict, there will be times we’ll need to play:

1. Loyal
2. Cheater
3. True love
4. Hatred
5. Despising
6. Jealousy / Controlling
7. Proposal (accepted and denied)

Many times we’ll need to play

1. Winners / Leaders
2. The Middle / Average / Followers
3. Perpetrators / Users
4. Victims / The Taken
5. Losers / Self Defeating

Begin practicing your physical state work. There will be plenty you’ll be called on to play. If someone directed you and said, you know what, let’s play it drunk! Would you be able to do so?

1. Drunk
2. High
3. Sick
4. Severe Pain
5. Withdrawal
6. Very Hot
7. Very Cold

Number 3 is a particularly challenging physical state that includes sickness of the mind. We considered “Haunted” a sickness of the mind despite the fact that the haunting could be very real. In the mind of the haunted it’s always real (unless it’s a lie). “Haunted” is very exciting to play and a gift to your partner, particularly in an improv situation. Give it a try.

Accent work:
If you’d like to work on accents perfect one. Work only on one. Need a place to begin? How about Italian? Just pick only one accent (in this case Italian) and perfect it. Use it in your life with strangers until they believe you are really Italian. There are six most popular Italian accents from different regions. Know where you come from and which accent is used there. People you encounter as you are training and perfecting your accent should believe that’s truly who you are. Have them help you with your English!

You don’t need a million accents. Just start with one. If you truly perfect it you can move on to another. With most of you, skip accent work altogether. Use your voice. We can always work on accents after we’ve broken in.

I recommend having only one go-to accent for a long time. If you have an ear for it and a talent, you can go to another. ***Don’t ever use an accent in your work unless it’s flawless. These take time and training. You can get people from the place you are learning and have them help you as well. You can employ a voice coach. It’s not me, although I have a friend that is one of the best in the world. He’s expensive, so be ready with some money if you want to go this route. I’m happy to refer you.

Build a long list of characters that you can play fully. Patience. You will not finish this list, or add to it, right away. This journey is long and beautiful. We have time. Dive in and enjoy creating different people that are fully developed. Any holes will be filled with you. You are the foundation of every character you build and that’s a beautiful thing.

Onward and UP

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