With roughly five months until the Oscars, the buzz surrounding which actors are frontrunners for the various categories has already begun. Gold Derby recently hosted a virtual debate between industry experts from Variety, Deadline, and IndieWire to talk through their predictions for this year’s Best Actor and Best Actress nominees. Keep reading for a roundup of some of the top names that made their lists, as well as the pros’ personal favorites.
Many names were mentioned when the industry experts started debating who they thought would receive an Oscar nod this year. Variety’s Clayton Davis gave his clear top three frontrunners, which included Vanessa Kirby for Pieces of a Woman, Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Frances McDormand for Nomadland. McDormand’s chances of winning at the 2021 Oscars were debated, though, after her recent win in the category for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. “I think [that] logically she would not become the frontrunner,” noted Variety’s Tim Gray. “But on the other hand, she’s Frances McDormand. I mean, she’s revered in a way that most other actors aren’t.”
Amongst many performances in this category, Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Anthony Hopkins in The Father, Steven Yeun in Minari, and Kingsley Ben-Adir in One Night in Miami received a lot of attention from the experts. “He’s the Vanessa Kirby of the Best Actor race,” asserted IndieWire’s Anne Thompson about Ben-Adir. “He’s a discovery.” And Davis pointed to Boseman as the significant challenger to Hopkins in the category. “I think we’ve all been waiting for who could rival Anthony Hopkins because his performance [in The Father] is so fantastic,” Davis opined.
When Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil asked the pros who they were personally rooting for, even if they thought the actors were longshots for being nominated, a number of female actors were mentioned. Davis named Jessie Buckley for her work in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, as well as Julia Garner’s performance in The Assistant. And in a moment of agreement, Thompson and Hammond both noted the work of Rachel Brosnahan in I’m Your Woman and Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man. Cary Mulligan’s performance in Promising Young Woman and Anya Taylor-Joy’s turn as the titular character in Autumn de Wilde’s recent adaptation of Emma were also listed.
During the industry experts’ discourse, Hammond commented on the unique nature of this year’s Best Actress category, with veteran thespians competing against newer faces. “[There’s] no question about it,” the Deadline industry expert stated. “This is going to be a race like we haven’t seen in a while.” It seems fitting for what is going to be an unprecedented Academy Awards due to the changes caused by the pandemic. The delayed date of the awards show, which will now air on April 25, is just one example. But regardless of when they take place or how they’re altered by COVID-19, the upcoming 2021 Oscars represent our industry’s dedication to celebrating the best work in film. And on March 15 when Oscar nominations are announced, you can see how the experts faired in predicting who will be competing in the categories of Best Actor and Best Actress.
Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming, and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
The Snapshot: Anya Taylor-Joy plays an orphaned chess prodigy with big dreams (and a few demons) looking to master a man’s game in the Netflix limited series The Queen’s Gambit. (Premiere date: October 23rd)
The Performer: Anya Taylor-Joy
The Series:The Queen’s Gambit
Let’s get one thing out of the way from the get-go: You do not need to love chess to love The Queen’s Gambit. But it should be said that if you do, you’ll appreciate this series on a level I couldn’t even begin to grasp (I was more of a Checkers/Connect Four player in my day).
At the center of the story is Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon, who we first meet as a little girl (Isla Johnston) in late ’50s America, and who ends up at an orphanage when her mother dies in a car accident. Upon being sent out of the classroom one day to clap a few chalkboard erasers, she discovers the custodian Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp) playing a game alone in the basement:
Her curiosity leads to questions, and those answers lead to books given to her by the janitor. Soon, and with the help of the mind-altering tranquilizers the orphanage gives to children to calm their temperaments, Beth starts playing chess games in her head (and on the ceiling at night), envisioning all the right moves like a beautiful mind trying to unearth all the patterns at age 9.
At this point, we meet the older version of Beth (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), a 15-year-old teenager still at the orphanage winning basement battles with Mr. Shaibel — before he invites a local chess club over to witness Beth’s incredible ability, where she beats them all firsthand.
There’s obviously so much more that happens in this series (which I won’t spoil here), but Taylor-Joy’s performance is one to be marveled at. Not because she plays the character “big.” It’s actually quite the opposite, with Taylor-Joy capturing Beth’s discomfort around people in non-verbal ways with an understated brilliance. Taylor-Joy’s performance is also to be marveled at given the addiction problems her character deals with, which seem quietly controlled at first, before they’re not. Taylor-Joy nails Beth’s caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation — from girl to woman, from novice to expert, from recreational user to addict — as her global prominence as a chess player unfolds.
For many of the same reasons The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel became a hit — brilliant writing to go with dazzling set, production, and costume design — The Queen’s Gambit is a beautiful 1950s-60s period-drama journey well worth taking. And Taylor-Joy’s Beth Harmon is at the center of it all.
If you’re wondering how a 24-year-old American-Argentinian-British actress originally from Miami, Florida ended up portraying Beth Harmon’s complete character arc (starting at age 15), it’s a story of smart casting (by industry vet Ellen Lewis) and Taylor-Joy’s instant buy-in based on her love for the book the series is based on, The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis.
In fact, in the show’s production notes, Taylor-Joy reveals that she “fell in love with Beth immediately and there was a really strong kinship. Even though I knew nothing about chess whatsoever, I understood her really well and I cared about her.”
As for where you’ve seen the talented Taylor-Joy, she landed on the scene as the star of A24’s The Witch (2015), where she won rave reviews after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The horror film, for which Taylor-Joy won a Breakthrough Actor Award at The Gotham Awards, is about a family of Pilgrim settlers in the 1630s New England who encounter, well, a witch.
Then came a couple of notable lead roles in films as the title character in Morgan (2016) and M. Night Shyamalan’s horror-thriller Split (2016), where she played the kidnapped victim of a man with 23 split personalities. After surviving those roles, Taylor-Joy went on to star in series of note such as The Dark Crystal (2019) and fifth season of the gangster epic Peaky Blinders (2019) before doing another notable film, reprising her role as Casey Cooke in Shyamalan’s Glass (2019). In this year of all years (2020), Taylor-Joy has starred in two feature films as well – playing a mutant in The New Mutants in addition to the lead in the latest Jane Austen adaptation of Emma.
None of the previous roles, however, are destined to be celebrated as much as her latest in The Queen’s Gambit, which will likely see some awards action come 2021 as it’s currently trending up on Rotten Tomatoes, critics’ lists, and your Facebook feeds in between political posts.
As for what’s next for the talented actress, she’s currently shooting The Northman, Robert Eggers’ Viking revenge saga set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century with Nicole Kidman.
In the chess game of life, it seems clear the star of The Queen’s Gambit is making her move.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.
If you’ve ever taken an acting class, you may have been instructed to “have a moment before.” But what does that really look like? Also called a pre-beat, a moment before is exactly what it sounds like: the moment that precedes the start of the scene. While it can be text-based, the actor often has to fill in the gaps with their own imagination.
Why is it important?
A strong pre-beat can make or break an audition. Those first thirty seconds are so crucial to hooking a casting director — you don’t want to spend them warming up into the scene. A pre-beat acts as an emotional springboard. Even if you’re working with a reader, it is likely you won’t have someone giving you the emotional stimulus to support an organic reaction. So you have to find that stimulus yourself.
It’s not just auditions, either. Any time you enter a scene, you need to know where you’re coming from, what just happened, and how it affected you. Get specific about why you’re entering a scene, and what you’re fighting for. You want to be walking into a scene with a perspective. Life doesn’t suddenly start when you walk into a new room.
Where do you start?
If you’re struggling to craft a moment before, it might be helpful to write it out. Sit down and really imagine, beat by beat, where your character is coming from. Journal it if that helps. Really dig into the sensory imagery. Break down how it makes your character feel. If your character is coming from somewhere where there were other people, what is the last thing that was said to you?
If the text doesn’t provide these details, feel free to make them up. You can make an educated guess based on your knowledge of the script and the character. If you’re struggling, go back to the scene that is about to happen. What is your objective in that scene? What are your character’s expectations coming into the scene? What is the arc of the scene? Trace these clues back to the beginning of the scene to see where your character needs to start, and craft a pre-beat that will set you up for that. Remember, it’s about making the strongest choice, not getting mired down in details.
As with any actor homework, the audience won’t see the prep work. Eventually you will find a way to condense your work into emotional shorthand. A pre-beat is a tool for you. It is to make sure you start any given scene from a place that is specific, active and grounded. Don’t stress out over getting it “right.” Choose something that works for you.
What makes a pre-beat “strong?”
To summarize, a strong pre-beat is one that is specific, grounded, emotionally charged, and gives the actor both a clear idea of where they are coming from and a clear set of expectations coming into the scene. A strong pre-beat sets you up to fight for your objective. Find what works for you and set yourself up for success!
Actress Claudia MareeMailer wasn’t about to let the pandemic get in the way of the release of her indie thriller DieRy, which marks the 26-year-old’s first lead role in a film.
DieRy, shot before the pandemic, sees Mailer playing a young woman whose diary is stolen, and the obsessive thief begins sending her letters and killing people around her. The film’s producers, Mailer Tuchman Media, had planned to do a festival run with DieRy first, but when the pandemic all but eliminated that option, they released it via iTunes/AppleTV, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and Vimeo beginning August 25. The decision was made after noticing a surge in the VOD market as people across the world were quarantined with limited options for entertainment. A captive audience looking to consume new content seemed like the best way to get the maximum amount of eyeballs on a little indie.
But Mailer took it a step further. Inspired by watching actors post self-tapes and monologues on social media during the pandemic while the industry shut down, she created the DieRy Monologue Challenge to coincide with the VOD release date.
The instructions were simple. Pre-order the movie, receive three monologues from the film, and upload them to Instagram. Ten winners would be picked to receive a virtual one-one-session with the film’s director, Jennifer Gelfer, who was also one of the DieRy’s producers. All proceeds from the pre-order benefitted The Actor’s Fund, which works to assist performing arts and entertainment professionals. (Casting Networks promoted the DieRy Monologue Challenge on its social media channels.)
The one-on-one sessions with Gelfer had the potential to be career breaks for the winners. Gelfer also happens to be the executive director of Mailer TuchmanMedia, which is different from most other production companies. It uses its own roster of actors, directors, producers, and screenwriters. Mailer, who was at one time Gelfer’s assistant, had risen through the ranks to become part of MTM’s actor roster, having had supporting roles in MTM’s TheSecond Sun and the upcoming Inside Me. She has since wed MTM’s creative director, John Buffalo Mailer, son of legendary author Norman Mailer, who also wrote DieRy’s screenplay and had a supporting role in it.
“MTM is all about discovering new talent, and I felt we could take this social community of actors flexing their muscles with self-tapes and pair them with Jen, who is always on the lookout for new faces for upcoming projects,” said the actress. “I know that if this were any other studio movie, I never would have been cast as the lead in DieRy because I wasn’t a recognizable name. With the monologue challenge, I wanted an opportunity to pay it forward, so others could have that same opportunity.”
Now, she said, all ten winners are part of MTM’s exclusive acting group and will have access to be part of future MTM table reads for developing projects, and getting first crack at being looked at for possible film roles.
As for Mailer, her career path started back in New Zealand, where she grew up. She came to the United States at 18 by way of a talent competition called World Championship of Performing Arts, and from there, enrolled in New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. During her second year, she did an internship at Michael Mailer Films. When she graduated from acting school in 2015, Michael Mailer asked her if she’d like to be his assistant on the feature film he was about to direct, Blind, starring Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore, and Dylan McDermott.
That’s where she first met Gelfer, a producer on the film, and her future husband, Michael Mailer’s younger brother John Buffalo Mailer, who had written Blind’s screenplay. Over the next two years, these individuals continued to work together on subsequent film projects, all in various capacities both in front and behind the camera. When John Buffalo Mailer began writing the screenplay for DieRy, MTM was officially formed. Meanwhile, a professional relationship between Claudia (then Peters) and John Buffalo Mailer eventually became personal when the two began dating in 2016.
While DieRy was being written, Claudia was already getting invested in the screenplay as she watched her then-boyfriend work on it. When she finally read the script, she knew she had to play the lead. But she also knew that she had to convince Gelfer, who would be directing the film, that she could handle a role that required her to be in just about every shot, playing scenes that were often emotionally draining or physically demanding.
“I had to work harder for it because Jen wasn’t just going to give it to me,” she said. “I had to show her I could do it, and I respect her for that. I auditioned, I table read, I did private coaching. I worked my ass off to earn this role.”
In 2018, two monthsbefore production began on DieRy, Claudia and John Buffalo Mailer married. And while intertwining personal and professional lives does not work for all couples, this pair doesn’t know any different. “We met on a film set!” she chimes. “I love working with him. He is an absolute gem, and we are two peas in a pod. It’s so seamless, and I feel like we make a great team.”
Whether it was the hard work she poured into her role, the comfort factor of collaborating with people she was close to, or both, Claudia Mailer’s performance in DieRy attracted attention from talent representatives. She has since signed with Key Talent Management.
Does she think COVID has impacted her career in any way?
“I don’t know because, in my eyes, my career is just starting, which is so weird having it happen in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “I didn’t have representation before, and now I do, so I feel I’m about to take my step into the world. If this is the time, then this is the time. What’s for us won’t pass us, even in a pandemic.”
During our recent interview with Faith Hibbs-Clark, the casting director mentioned how her background as a deception detection expert played a role in her casting. She even came up with an acting technique called the Communication Method for Actors based on the science behind her former profession. Hibbs-Clark said that through auditioning actors, she saw a need for a science-based approach that helped them deliver consistently strong performances, rather than leaving it up to chance. Keep reading for Hibbs-Clark’s overview of the Communication Method for Actors and how it works. Faith, it’s great to talk with you again, and I’m so curious to hear more about this method. Can you start with an overview of how it works?
The Communication Method for Actors comes from the point of view that all acting is communication and that all acting is a lie. When an actor performs lines, they are essentially telling a lie because they’re not that person and not experiencing those things. So how do we make their audition believable? We use the science of psychology and the art of communication to evoke feelings in the person watching the performance. It is an outside-in approach that focuses on how the actor is perceived and allows them to specifically craft their performances. Instead of hoping for a happy accident and having that magical moment in an audition where everything clicks, actors can use a science-based technique that offers consistency in their work. That is such a fascinating way to apply science to acting. And how does adopting certain body language affect an actor’s emotions?
So the science of nonverbal communication is based on the fact that the human brain is hard-wired to behave in certain ways when we feel certain emotions. And each and every one of us knows how to interpret those messages. For example, if you come home and see your significant other sitting across the room with folded arms and a scowl on their face, you would probably think that they were angry with you. Their brain would be sending signals to their body to display mannerisms that reflect their emotions, and your brain would be reading and interpreting those mannerisms. But if you reverse-engineer the process and take on the physical manifestation of the reaction that the body has when it feels a certain emotion, you can actually trick the brain into thinking you’re experiencing that emotion. So if you fold your arms and furrow your brow, your brain will eventually accept the message that you’re angry. And then it will release chemicals to make your body actually feel angry. Wow. The power of the human brain is so incredible. How does that all factor into your technique?
Instead of pretending to feel something or trying to conjure up emotion, it allows the actor to in essence hack their brain to make it actually feel something. They then get this chemical cocktail that makes their entire being feel the emotion they’ve chosen. The technique also gives your brain a constructive plan, which helps it function under the pressure of an audition without going into survival mode. Actors may forget their lines or start shaking or sweating as nervous physiological reactions to fear in an audition. The idea is that having a carefully-crafted plan for your brain to focus on is very helpful for your performance. I create formulas for actors that are based on certain communication and scientific principles. One example of a formula that can be utilized in an audition is based on how the brain receives visual and vocal information. They’re processed in different parts of the brain, and sound is actually received one-tenth of a second slower than sight. So the formula plays on that dynamic to ensure that the receiver of the actor’s performance is best able to take it in.
Hibbs-Clark has introduced names like Emma Stone to her method and often uses it to coach A-listers when they’re filming in the Albuquerque production hub where the casting director is located. Those interested in learning more about the Communication Method for Actors or trying out a virtual class can check out its website. But the casting director reminds us that the science behind her method isn’t limited to actors. “The practical application in our real, everyday lives is that if we take on the physical manifestations of something positive, such as happiness, it will send that message back to our brains,” Hibbs-Clark noted. “No matter how awful your life may be, you can actually trick your brain into feeling happiness. And I think that’s a super important lesson for all of us, regardless of our acting ambitions.” So whether you are a thespian or someone just trying to get through 2020, the Communication Method for Actors and the science behind it might be of interest to you.
If you’re a fan of either family or sports dramas, Embattled might be the film for you. Making his English-language film debut, Nick Sarkisov directs from a script penned by American History X writer David McKenna that centers on father and son MMA fighters. Stephen Dorff plays the former, a character called Cash, who is a world champion fighter with 37 wins to his name and only one loss. His 18-year-old son Jett (Darren Mann) is an up-and-comer with just three fights under his belt. The relationship between the two is complicated because of Cash’s abusive nature as a father, and their tension eventually leads to a widely-publicized match between father and son. We won’t give away the ending, but keep reading for a review of how Dorff and Mann did in their complex leading roles. Stephen Dorff Many may know the industry veteran from his role as Deacon Frost in Blade, meaning that the actor is no stranger to playing villains. It’s a good thing, because Cash is certainly not a hero in Embattled. At different points in the film and through flashbacks, we see him hit his ex-wife, choke his current wife, and slap around a young Jett. These acts of violence against those physically weaker than him may make us dislike Cash, but Dorff creates a more complex character than just a one-note “bad guy.” We find out that Cash is also the victim of an abusive father, and the actor’s nuanced portrayal of the role allows us to see a person locked in a cycle of abuse. Dorff delivers a complex, layered performance as a man who throws out homophobic slurs at an alarming rate, has a list of rules for how to get away with drinking and driving, and who owns a t-shirt that reads, “I f–k on the first date.” We are not meant to like Cash, but Dorff finds the humanity in an incredibly lost character. Darren Mann You may know the relative newcomer from his recurring role as Luke Chalfant on the Kiernan Shipka-led Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. And if Mann’s performance in Embattled is any indication, you’ll be seeing a lot more of the budding star moving forward. Many actors have a hard time playing characters younger than themselves, but Mann is believable as a high school senior while also bringing depth to the role. Jett is getting pulled in all different directions as he tries to balance school with supporting his mom and helping parent his younger brother Quinn, who has Williams Syndrome. At the same time, Cash is exposing Jett to the party lifestyle of the rich and famous, as well as coaching him in the ring. It’s a lot for a high schooler to handle, but Mann believably navigates Jett through all the hurdles and family dysfunction he faces. The actor radiates a certain goodness in the role that is displayed whenever he’s caring for Quinn. Jett has essentially become the father figure in their relationship, and Mann’s performance is a brilliant foil to Dorff’s Cash. The thespian’s grounded and emotionally available work is one you will remember long after the credits roll.
The film also includes names like Elizabeth Reaser and Donald Faison. And keep an eye out for Colin McKenna, who is the real-life son of the film’s writer and was born with the same genetic condition as his character Quinn. The actor delivers a strong performance, and the casting choice demonstrates inclusivity and authenticity in casting characters with disabilities. You can see all the listed performances and more on November 20 when Embattled releases in theaters and on demand.
“Oh my god. If I have to go through another horrible headshot session and deal with more terrible jokes and awkward silences, I’m going to jump out that window.”
Samantha looked at me, “Well that’s harsh, Martin. This isn’t their fault, it’s yours.”
She was absolutely right.
You see, I made a simple error when I posted the job description to find a new photographer for our team at City Headshots, and now I was experiencing one of the worst series of interviews and test shoots I’d ever been through.
What was the error, you ask?
Well, it could be summed up in this single sentence I added to the job description:
“We’re looking for a photographer who is funny, outgoing, and engaging. A big plus if you can tell jokes throughout the shoot.”
Why was that simple sentence such a huge mistake?
Because it got me tons of submissions… but every single person told me exactly what I wanted to hear.
“I love shooting headshots and I make the experience fun and engaging. I’m very outgoing and I like telling jokes.”
Even though almost everyone said things like that in their applications, almost none of them were actually engaging. They all adjusted their camera settings silently while I stood there in front of the lights awkwardly wondering what they were doing.
And they told jokes like, “a man came home one day to find someone had stolen all his lamps. He was delighted.”
(To be honest, though, that’s a pretty fantastic joke.)
Anyway, to cap it off, after a long day of interviews, I wound up choosing someone I thought would be okay, but they ended up not being a good fit with my team, and I had to let them go.
So why am I telling you this story?
Because believe it or not, it’s the exact same thing with casting directors.
They will never tell you what they’re really looking for because if they do, they’ll make the process of narrowing down actors for the audition incredibly difficult for themselves because everyone will try to change themselves to be exactly what they’re looking for.
Just as I don’t want to hire a photographer who pretends to be outgoing during the interview (and is actually shy and reserved during real shoots), a casting director doesn’t want to accidentally hire an actor who seems to play a character well in the audition, but is not naturally that character — because they know it will come out later on set.
Keeping the specifics of what they want hidden accomplishes two things:
It lets them find actors who naturally fit the bill. When an actor’s brand is aligned with a character perfectly, magic happens on set and the performances that result are vastly superior.
It also allows them to be more creative with casting sessions. Sometimes a casting director doesn’t know exactly what they want, and they just hope actors will show them interesting versions of the character so they can pick the one they find most intriguing.
In my case, I believe that had I not posted that “funny, engaging, and tells jokes” detail in the job description, I would have opened a wider net and might have brought in someone who, though not funny, was something else — such as nurturing, relaxing, and calming — and a person like that could have been a great addition to our team!
Casting directors won’t tell you what they want because they hope you’ll simply play your brand — or in other words, be yourself.
The more authentic you are, the more likely you’ll intrigue the right casting directors and stand out to them.
Remember: You’re not trying to stand out to everyone, just the people who are already looking for someone like you. By playing yourself, you’ll stand out to the casting directors you’re meant to work with and you’ll book the jobs you’re perfect for.
Casting directors are trying to help you by not posting too many details.
A simple two-step process to be more authentic in auditions:
Here’s a super quick process you can use to instantly be more authentic in auditions. By following the two steps below, you’ll come up with three words (called your pride words) that will help you feel way more grounded before each audition. Not only will you perform better, but you might also even start enjoying the audition process!
Step 1: Take a moment to think about someone you deeply admire and respect. Ideally, you should know them personally. Come up with someone specific before moving onto step 2.
Step 2: Now that you’ve thought of them, what are the three personality traits you most deeply admire about them? Are they confident? Strong? Intelligent? Funny? Loving? Take a few minutes to think and then write them down. Be sure to only come up with three words.
Congratulations! Those are your pride words.
Now, next time you’re about to audition — whether for self-tape or in person — close your eyes and deeply experience each of those three words one by one. For example, imagine “confidence” and feel it. Then imagine “intelligence” and feel it. And finally, imagine “loving” and feel it. Do this for your own words, and when you finish, open your eyes. You’ll feel way different, and you’ll be ready to knock that audition out of the park.
By following this super simple process, you’re using a psychology technique called projection, which allows you to immediately uncover the traits within yourself that you’re most proud of.
Every actor has three pride words, and discovering and using them will help you feel more grounded and in control — so much so that it’s even possible to minimize nervousness before big auditions.
In fact, by getting clear on his pride words, one of my private coaching clients landed his first-ever role on Broadway — something he’d been trying to do for seven years without success — in less than four weeks of working with me.
It’s funny how at the end of the day, being a great actor is not about trying to be someone you’re not. It’s not about trying to get out of your own skin and play a completely new character.
The real reason casting directors will never tell you what they want is because at the end of the day, standing out is about owning yourself and being truly proud of who you are.
Being a great actor is about using your authenticity to bring a character to life in a way that only you can.
Martin Bentsen uses “outside the industry” hacks to help actors book more work. He’s helped over 6,000 actors with their careers and headshots since 2009 and his photography studio City Headshots is ranked #1 on Yelp. He’s taught marketing to actors at NYU, The New England Theater Conference, The Actor’s Green Room, and numerous other major venues.
Want to start booking more work by thinking strategically? Check out his completely free mini-course called The Practical Performer.
Now, more than ever, viewers may be looking for a little bit of hope in the content they consume. Or perhaps they want to watch something that offers a break from the chaos with a good laugh. We’re featuring a filmmaker who has put out these types of projects throughout the trying times of 2020. Strø Galang To goes by @DirectedbyStrø online and is especially known for his projects within the digital space, working behind the camera to create content with social media stars. Keep reading to hear more about the person known as “the influencer of influencers” and how he’s using that role to help reach large audiences with messages of positivity and purpose. Before we dive into what you’re doing now, I’d love to hear more about what led you to this place in your career. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a filmmaker? It was a little unorthodox, because I was actually planning to become a teacher. I’d had a lot of great mentors that were teachers and that really shaped who I am as a person. It made me want to do the same thing so that I could also directly influence children’s lives at a very personal level. I also loved filmmaking, which was just a hobby at the time, and I was super into technology. I begged my dad to get me a camera in high school and then started shooting films with friends, which led to commercial work. I grew up in a small town so word spread that I was good, and I started making money off of it. I thought it was really cool that I could create stories and people would pay me for it. This went on through college while I was working toward a degree in teaching. I got to the point where I had two months left to get my diploma, and I dropped out. I was so immersed in the world of filmmaking at that point and just knew it was a better path for me. I had been creating for a lot of hip-hop artists with important messages to tell so I saw the connection that making projects with purpose would still let me teach and help people, just in a different way. I love that and can definitely see it in your projects. A lot of them could be classified as inspirational, such as your #StruggleStories series. Would you say that’s an intentional choice or something that just naturally comes out in your work? It’s definitely a combination. Since helping people has always been a genuine passion for me, it was great to just naturally connect with creators putting out content that makes people laugh. I mean, there are a lot of kids who aren’t happy at home, but they can watch these comedy videos, and it may help lighten things for them. And as I got to know these social media influencers, I started encouraging them to create content that can really inspire and motivate the younger generation, as well as make them laugh. We’d spend a lot of personal time together and have some deep talks. I would hear their stories and couldn’t believe they hadn’t shared them before. So that’s what led to #StruggleStories, which started when Adam Waheed and I drove by a bus stop. He told me it was the one he used to get to by 5:30 a.m. every morning so that he could bus for an hour and a half to go be someone’s personal assistant, and then he’d catch the last bus back at midnight to get home. Now Adam’s like this full-blown star, so it’s great to get to tell his story. The series helps humanize social media stars, which is great because viewers can then relate to them as real people, which is different from what you can do within the more traditional medium of film or TV. I like that perspective. When watching a show or movie, viewers will only get to know the character. But creative videos on social media that show an influencer playing a role can be found right next to content showing their real life. So you’re saying the medium provides a point of connection for viewers?
Yeah, people can relate to the different challenges they’ve faced because everyone goes through struggles. A lot of kids will watch these influencers on social media and think, “I want to be like them — they have the perfect life.” But the medium is perfect to showcase that these social media stars have overcome a lot of things to get to where they are today. Those types of stories tell young viewers that they’re not alone in going through hard times and remind them to work hard, follow their passions, and not give up.
Amongst many inspirational videos that the filmmaker creates is a series labeled with #VoicemailDiaries. Strø shared during the interview that the concept for it came from needing to process the pain he was feeling from a breakup. “I always tell people that if they’re going through a really tough time, they should do something where they can let their emotions into a piece of art, whether it’s a painting or a video like I did,” Strø shared. He recently co-founded a company that will provide on-camera artists with assistance in that area. Strø and his business partner Jesse Dueck started Room 1041 Studios to help creators make content, all the way from brainstorming to shooting to editing the final product. Other new projects for the filmmaker include an upcoming feature film, which will be his first and one he’ll be working on with industry heavy-hitters like producer Cary Granat. “I want to be able to eventually bridge the gap between social media and traditional film,” Strø noted as he wrapped the interview. We’re looking forward to the projects that will come from it and to the hope they’ll inspire.
Casting director Brian Beegle breaks down the practice of telling the truth on camera, which in turn liberates actors from having to “memorize” lines!
Brian Beegle grew up in Atlanta, Ga. where he spent his childhood as an actor and competitive tennis player, and would go on to graduate from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. After three years of the actor hustle in Los Angeles, Calif. where Beegle also managed for Rose Bowl Flea Market, he drove a $200 1984 BMW 318i home to Atlanta where he would book his biggest film, “We Are Marshall”, spending 42 days on set as starting running back Lucas Booth. Beegle also began singing in the cover band Xtra Medium and would play over 350 shows across the south — getting “paid to party.” In 2006 he was hired as an assistant at Stilwell Casting, one of the nation’s leading commercial casting directors. After studying for two years under Melissa McBride (Carol on “The Walking Dead”), Beegle took over the department and has lead the country in commercial casting for the past 10 years. After casting over 1,500 projects, he still feels joy in the mission of finding new actors every day. Beegle also loves teaching actors of all levels, focusing on getting them to tell the truth on camera, and to never “memorize” a line. In 2018 he founded Georgia Entertainment Sports League (GESL.club), a club for anyone in entertainment that wants to meet new people in the industry. Beegle began his directing career in 2018 when he wrote and directed six commercials for a gym in Atlanta. As an independent contractor, he is also available to cast TV/film, help with content creation, or direct just about anything. In 2020 Beegle proposed to his girlfriend live on Facebook during his late-night TV show, “Quarantime”, which he produced and hosted from his backyard. She said “yes.” He loves a challenge and is always up for anything fun.
Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
The Snapshot: Karl Urban plays an ex-CIA-operative-turned-vigilante obsessed with taking down an evil superhero empire in the superb Amazon series, The Boys. (Season two premiered September 4th, 2020.)
The Performer: Karl Urban
The Series:The Boys
If you watched season one of The Boys, you know superheroes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The “bad guys” are actually good and the superheroes (aka “supes”) are flawed human beings who come off more like pampered A-list celebs than a Super Friends-style Justice League.
But like everything else in good drama, not everything is black and white, and that’s where Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) thrives — in the gray area with a ferocious and rare brand of machismo. Butcher is an ex-Special Forces agent, hell-bent on avenging things that happened to his wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten) eight years ago at the hands of lead superhero and diabolical d-bag Homelander (Antony Starr). To say there’s hate there would be an understatement for all time.
Butcher spent season one trying to sink Homelander and his superhero corporation, Vought International, with his team of talented misfits. The Boys, as they’re known, include Hughie (Jack Quaid), the everyman of the series who spent a decent chunk of season one covered in blood — in addition to Frenchie (Tomer Kapon), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), and their new super-terrorist friend, The Female (Karen Fukuhara).
Together, with Butcher as their ruthless leader, they’re once again intent on taking down this corrupt batch of super frenemies. But, in season two, this clandestine unit becomes America’s “Most Wanted” as they get closer to completing their mission of disrupting the superhero status quo. This is due in part to strategic relationships with sexy supe Starlight (Erin Moriarty) and CIA connections that keep their mission on track — that is, until they have to contend with new nihilistic feminist superhero Stormfront (Aya Cash), who has a different master plan.
Throughout it all, Butcher’s grit and bravado take the tough guy thing to a new level, but season two also lends a softer side to the Butcher character. Urban meets the challenge by adding new heartfelt dimensions to Butcher’s world, which includes reuniting with his wife and his hated father, and pondering the idea of becoming a father at a time when the fate of the world is in serious peril.
Urban gives it all to a character who stops at nothing to achieve his goals. There’s no better indication of that drive than episode three (in season two) when he literally torpedoes a speed boat straight into the belly of a beached whale in attempts to off a supe in a gutsy maneuver.
Ultimately, Urban kicks butt as the foul-mouthed Englishman who uses his charm masterfully to rally The Boys, delivering infinitely quotable lines and no scarcity of “c” words — as he creates an irreverent and irrevocably badass character that will go down as one of the all-time greats.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, the 47-year-old actor reportedly got his start at age eight when he had a line in a TV series. He then went on hiatus until after high school, when he landed a role on a Kiwi soap opera called Shortland Street (1992), the same year he enrolled in college.
After a year at Victoria University, Urban left to pursue acting full-time. That’s when he landed several theater roles around Wellington before moving to Auckland, where he starred in various TV shows and films while continuing his training and theater work around Asia and Australia.
It wasn’t long before Urban got his film debut in Heaven (1998) before garnering a couple of Best Actor noms at the New Zealand Film Awards for Via Satellite (1998) and the indie The Price of Milk (2000). He also won Best Supporting Actor at the Qantas Film Awards for Out of the Blue (2006).
But where you no doubt know Urban from is his work in bigger Hollywood films. Notably, he played Éomer in the second and third films of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in Star Trek (2009), William Cooper in RED (2011) and amongst others, Judge Dredd in Dredd (2012), which incidentally was a comic book Urban was a fan of as a teenager.
Urban also recurred on Xena: Warrior Princess, where he shuttled between the roles of Julius Caesar and Cupid from 1997 to 2001. In an interesting twist to his career arc, Urban also has the distinction of starring in the second installment in each of three huge film franchises: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), a tidbit I probably would’ve never pieced together without the trusty trivia section on IMDb.
Until the world gets a third season of The Boys, which will be a while, Urban is rumored to be slated to reprise his role as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the next Star Trek sequel. This would be Urban’s fourth appearance in the franchise, which seems to be on the back burner for now.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.
It is confirmed that Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, Timothy Olyphant, Michael Shannon, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Andrea Riseborough, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Alessandro Nivola have all joined the starry ensemble of David O. Russell's forthcoming feature for New Regency.
It may be daunting for an actor or a casting director to bring to life for a modern audience such a well-known character — or even a specific version of a real-life person. But it is the type of creative challenge that countless television shows have recently embraced.
Actress Michelle Lukiman shares her experience with Actors Pro Expo’s Meals 4 Monologues showcase, and how her performance led to new career opportunities. Read more about her journey and how you can perform for casting directors as a part of Meals 4 Monologues, starting February 11 at Actors Pro Expo.