Monday, May 18, 2009

ACT TRUE - an article by Marc Durso

We occasionally will feature articles on our blog written by other acting instructors who we feel embody the highest standards of skill and professionalism in their teaching. Marc Durso, the founder of ActTrue in Miami and Los Angeles, is such a person. We met Marc at Big Break Hollywood when he was one of the guest instructors. Ever since then, the actors who experienced his approach have been asking when we might have him at yourACT for a workshop. We are looking at dates when that might happen. In the meantime, enjoy this article and the video links at the end - thanks, Marc!

accomplish, achieve, attain, bring about, carry out
authentic, actual, factual, faithful, precise, undistorted

Acting is undeniable action and imaginative living that is so truthful, so passionate, so clear, that it engages the mind and spirit of the audience, till they breathe with your character.

High standards? A lot to shoot for? Absolutely! Art. Why do it any other way!

We are called actors, not "feelers" or "emoters" or "posers". We DO! Because that’s what makes human beings. We are in action, with goals, objectives, expectations of success. We "feel" because we have set ourselves in motion, in action. Emotion is a result of the actions we take.

We live within a world of circumstances, of place, of time, of relationship, NOT LINES! Young actors standing in hallways outside of camera classes practicing their lines, trying to find "interesting ways" of saying them, are working from a false premise, that it has something to do with lines. The legendary Master Teacher Sanford Meisner said, "An ounce of behavior is worth a ton of words."

And it is behavior that we investigate in our work at ActTrue: NOT ATTITUDES, NOT FEELINGS, NOT EMOTIONS, NOT TRICKS, NOT GIMMICKS, NOT SHORTCUTS! Stanislavski’s premise, "Action with thought is behavior" is the basis for ActTrue's approach to text. Our teaching is grounded in the unshakable integrity of the Hagen Process of creating truthful human behavior. As both a student of Master Teacher/Tony Award winner Uta Hagen and then as her associate director on a NY premiere, I have specific professional experience with the application of the Ten Object Exercises.

Ten Exercises that free the actor into action, who lives within the exciting imaginary circumstances of the work, without the inhibiting weight of predetermined emotional choices.

Ten Exercises which reveal the Thoughts which create action as human beings, Exercises which have been applied to acting challenges for over 50 years at HB Studio in NY by actors who have gone on to create acting in America:

Al Pacino, F. Murray Abraham, Debbie Allen, Anne Bancroft, Candice Bergen, Peter Boyle, Matthew Broderick, Gary Burghoff, Stockard Channing, Jill Clayburgh, Whoopi Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Hal Holbrook, Harvey Keitel, Jack Lemmon, Bette Midler, Penelope Ann Miller, Geraldine Page, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jason Robards, Fritz Weaver, Sigourney Weaver and many, many more.

Let me quote from a Backstage West interview, Feb. 12, 1998, with Award winning Director Sydney Pollack, (who was also a teaching assistant to legendary Master Teacher Sanford Meisner):

"...behavior is the key...doing is the operative word. Acting is doing. The great misconceptions is that it’s about saying things--that it’s about the way you read lines....In fact, the last thing that happens in performance is speech. Everything else comes first, and is the real part of the iceberg. It holds everything up. Acting is doing something...and the emotion sometimes expresses itself verbally. It’s (emotion) the last thing in a chain of events. And it’s very hard to convince people that that’s where the search always has to be: for the behavior..."

I invite you to join me in that search.
Marc Durso
ActTrue, Inc.

More Videos of Marc in Action - click on titles to view

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tax Incentives bring more film to Georgia!

Tax incentives give Georgia entertainment industry a boost
Companies can get up to 30 percent of budget in credits if they meet terms

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Friday, May 08, 2009

Metro Atlantans have spied Bill Murray, Woody Harrelson, Sandra Bullock and Ashton Kutcher trolling local watering holes in recent weeks.

No, this isn’t some strange reality show concoction. It’s a direct result of tax incentives the state of Georgia passed last May for film, TV and digital media production companies.

“Despite the economy, we’re going gangbusters,” said Ric Reitz, a local actor who helped fashion the tax incentive package. The Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment office predicts this will be Georgia’s biggest year ever for entertainment production.

Even though the new incentives didn’t pass until mid-year 2008, the office said it helped boost the economic impact of the movie and TV industry in Georgia over the previous year from $413 million to an estimated $524 million.

This time last year, Georgia had only two major film productions. Now, just over four months into the year, the state already has exceeded last year’s film output. At least a dozen major film and TV productions have wrapped or are currently filming, from a Lifetime TV series (“Drop Dead Diva”) to a horror flick (“H2”) to a historical drama (“Get Low”).

The biggest coup for 2009? Disney will shoot “The Last Song,” starring Miley Cyrus, in Savannah this summer. Because of stronger tax incentives, Georgia beat out North Carolina for the Nicolas Sparks film.

For doing business here, a production company that spends at least $500,000 in a calendar year can get up to 30 percent of its budget in tax credits as long as they display a special Georgia tourism logo prominently in the film credits. A company can sell its unused tax credits to other Georgia taxpayers to help them write down their tax obligations.

The tax incentive also helps Georgians already committed to the state. That includes the Food Network’s Alton Brown and Paula Deen as well as Tyler Perry, who last fall opened a 200,000-square-foot studio in southwest Atlanta. Perry’s studio, which films TBS sitcoms “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns,” employs 100 to 350 people at any time.

Race to attract films

Even before tax incentives, Georgia already had a business-friendly environment, a variety of vistas and an easily accessible airport. As a result, many popular films have been shot here through the years, including “Deliverance” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

But in the 1990s, Canada began offering financial incentives to attract American film and TV productions. It worked. Hundreds of films were shot up north, and Georgia began losing ground.

Things got worse in 2002 when Louisiana, and later New Mexico, started dangling tax credits and rebates to film companies. That’s how the Oscar-winning drama “No Country For Old Men” landed in New Mexico, not its fictional home in Texas. That’s also why the Louisiana Superdome substituted for the Georgia Dome in a Lifetime biopic about “American Idol” Fantasia Barrino.

Then in 2005, Georgia launched an incentive program of 9 to 17 percent in tax credits, drawing the ABC series “October Road” and the film “We Are Marshall.”

But business dried up again as the incentives race heated up. That prompted Georgia to raise its maximum tax credit to 30 percent last year. While many states offer similar percentages, most have more strings attached (such as giving tax credits only for employing people from that state).

“Georgia makes the process so easy compared to most other states,” said Yolanda T. Cochran, senior vice president of physical production for Los Angeles-based Alcon Entertainment. “They have great crews, great infrastructure, great support.”

In 2006, Alcon shot the film “One Missed Call” in Georgia after the first incentive package but later skipped the state when other states offered better incentives.

Now with a bigger carrot, Alcon has returned to Georgia for Sandra Bullock’s $30 million drama “The Blind Side,” which started production in Atlanta last month. The film is employing 150 to 200 people, mostly Georgians.

“If you show the money,” Alcon said, “people will come.”

Incentives can be costly

California, the biggest state for film and TV production, has seen work there plummet. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that film and TV production has dropped to its lowest in decades.

Some states say tax incentives can become a net negative.

Stephen Moret, secretary of the Louisiana economic development office, told the New Orleans City Business newspaper last month that while film production generated $15 million in tax revenue in 2007, the state handed out $115 million in tax credits. (That doesn’t take into consideration that movies create jobs and businesses that generate additional tax revenue.)

“We have to be careful about how far we privilege one industry over every other industry in the state,” Moret told the publication.

Allen Buckley, an Atlanta tax attorney who ran for Senate as a Libertarian last November, said politicians have a tendency to succumb to the sexiness of entertainment-related entities such as sports stadiums and filmmaking.

“If you’re in those industries, this is great,” Buckley said. “You’re getting work and a handout. But to the extent of the revenue lost, taxpayers as a whole in Georgia have to pay for it.”

Some states have commissioned studies to find out if tax incentives are worth the dollars the state coffers are sacrificing. Bert Brantley, spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue, said Georgia will commission its study later this year.

“The hope is we can build our crew bases and reputation so long-term, we can reap the benefits,” Brantley said.

Ted Morrow, managing partner of All About Props in Tucker, which specializes in historical period items not readily available at local stores, says the incentives have been a godsend.

In recent weeks, Morrow has provided props for “The Blind Side” and the Lifetime film “The Wronged Man.”

“Without the incentives, I might not be here,” Morrow said.

Ironically for Perry, the influx of business has “been a double-edged sword,” said supervising producer Roger Bobb.

“The level of success in such a short time has been phenomenal, but we’re actually now having to compete with other productions for crew,” Bobb said.

Reitz, the actor who also runs a consulting company that helps producers sell their tax credits, said a 20 percent tax credit is considered a basic break-even proposition for the state. Still, he convinced the Legislature that the on-screen Georgia logo can more than compensate for the extra 10 percent because it is effectively advertising for the state.

“The state is getting promotional mentions worth millions,” said Denise Elsbree, who runs TRIO Media Group. She flies to Los Angeles regularly to pitch the state as a place to shoot films and TV shows.

Reitz admits it’s too early to say whether the logo will translate into direct tourism dollars, but films do boost a city’s image. Savannah, for instance, has gotten plenty of mileage out of 1994’s “Forrest Gump” and 1997’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

“They keep Savannah in people’s minds,” said Jay Self, director of Savannah Tourism and Film Services. “I still walk down the streets and people will ask me, ‘Is that the “Forrest Gump” bench?’”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Great advice for actors

Thanks to A.C.T.4life ( for sharing this. Do you have some great info you'd like us to publish to our blog? Email us at

This is an excerpt from a fantastic monthly blog written by award-winning former copywriter and commercial actor, Colleen Wainwright ( Things that actors can do in just 30 minutes that can make a difference:

30 minutes sketching out video ideas.
If I were an actor working now, I would be doing everything I could to leverage the amazingly cheap and powerful tools available for putting myself out there in the new media world. I don’t mean that you should turn on your webcam and get all LonelyGirl15 (although if you can come up with the 2009 version of an attention-grabber like that, more power to you). I mean coming up with a clever, interesting way to showcase what you do (i.e., act) online. Back in my day, some poor actors paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to get some crappy tape of themselves. You have no excuse not to be doing 10 times better.

30 minutes doing your social media sweep.
Facebook. Twitter. MySpace. YouTube. Your network is your life, so treat it with the respect it—and you—deserve.

30 minutes getting current on film and TV.
No one can go see everything. But there’s no reason you can’t know about most of it, including who was in it, what it was about and what people are saying about it. This is not a free pass to go spend a half-hour on the online Lost forums, either. This is about you learning the whole landscape, not gorging yourself on stuff you’d watch anyway.

30 minutes schmoozing before or after a play.
Yes, schmoozing. Yes, even if it’s just your dumb friend’s dumb play and there’s no one there “worth” meeting. (A) You never know who’s “worth” meeting, and (B) you most likely need the practice in a low-stakes environment.

30 minutes punching up your bio.
Read through these old columns. Look over your own bio. Is it up-to-date? Does it show you in the best light? Is it user-focused (i.e., interesting for the reader)? Here’s a hint: a bio can almost always be better. And shorter. And by the time it is, you’re usually overdue for revising it again. Always be writing.

30 minutes putting yourself on tape.
How do you work on scenes? Are you watching how you look on-camera? Getting more comfortable with working small? I’m a big fan of actor play-reading groups.

30 minutes writing thank-you notes.
You get auditions. You go to seminars and workshops and classes, meet with casting directors, read acting columns (ahem!). You could easily fill 30 minutes this week writing thank-you notes to people who have somehow, in some small way—even a very, very small way—helped you move the ball forward. Be brief, be genuine and be polite. But be grateful, out loud. It will make you more aware of all the goodness in your life, and it will make the day of the person on the receiving end.

30 minutes reading the trades AND the news.
This one is self-explanatory. Don’t be a dummy actor with no awareness of your industry or the world around you. Even if you’re not in a union yet, educate yourself on the issues. Even if you’re not going out for A-list parts yet, know what’s going on in the business. You don’t have to know the minute details of every last deal, but you should have some understanding of what’s going on in and around your chosen profession aside from what you read in OK! magazine. And you should have some idea of what’s going on in the world around you, if for no other reason than having something besides the latest celebutard DUI scandal to talk about over lunch on a shoot day. You are your own best P.R. agent; don’t feed into the Dumb Actor stereotype.

30 minutes making sure your meeting wardrobe is in shape.
Missing shirt buttons. Run-down heels. Stained suit pants. It’s a good idea for any business person to have a good, working wardrobe; for an actor, it’s indispensable. Do not give them any reason to not hire you; do not let yourself go out looking anything other than your best.

This is all great advice. Also check out Bob Harter's article "12 Steps to Becoming a Pro" on the Resources page of the yourACT website

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Great VO advice from

In a creative industry, there are no 'absolutes', yet the one thing that seems to have changed very little over the last 20 years is 'how to read copy', even with all the technology out there, which changed the way business is done.

Back in the 90's, I read the book 'Word of Mouth', by Susan Blu & Molly Ann Mullin. When it comes to copy reading, I still refer to tips in this book. Of course, the way we do business has changed with online casting, in that it is now more 'do-it-yourself'. So, as someone, who listens day to day to demos and auditions on Voice123, I would like to share some thoughts and tips about copy reading, a main component of booking voice over work.

*Know who you are talking to, always, while you read copy.
Each script has an audience. It is important to sound as if you are addressing someone while you speak. I have always believed that 'if you talk to someone specifically, you talk to everyone at the same time', and if you are listening to a voice over, the voice that stops the audience in their tracks is one that sounds as if it was directed at one person.

*Do not try to sound like anyone else. Be yourself.
In a business with so many talents, you have to sell a product, that being your voice, and there is no other person out there like you. Trying to sound like what you perceive voice over artists to sound like, actually makes you sound inexperienced.

*Creativity & originality is a must, BUT know the basic rules first.
I live by the motto, 'You can only break rules, once you know the rules.' That said, true creativity and originality can be implemented when you know what is being done, and should not be done. For example... Announcing in an audition that you are 'Trying something new here...', actually scares people into thinking you do not know what you are doing. Why? Because true creativity and originality that holds the listener's attention requires no explanation, before or after. Just do what you think is best, based on what you know. If you are having a creative block, just change up the cadence, and try inflections on words, even if they make no sense. Remember though... do this when you practice, so that when you audition, it is second nature to you. On this point as well, all creativity you have may be lost if your recording quality is poor.

*Repetition and practice is key.
The best way to learn a new skill is through repetition of educated steps. The best way to learn how to read copy is to practice reading it consistently. Doing this in classes and with coaches is better than trying it for the first time when auditioning. You want scripts and copy to become a new language for you. Practice also helps your diction, and also gets you 'out of your head', almost so that you are not thinking so much about how you sound, but more so whether or not you are accomplishing the goal that the script has set before you.
I still remember the day I felt like something clicked inside me while reading copy... I was reading something, and I knew while I was reading it, that I was not getting the point across, I was speaking too fast, and that my NYC accent slipped in there by mistake, and it was out of place and not asked for in the script. It was very much an 'in the zone' feeling that came after many months of working diligently with a coach, and classes on what types of voice overs I sell best. I also remember that when I auditioned on Voice123 as a talent, I read the script almost 20 times before recording, just to make sure I knew what the script was really trying to do, backwards forwards.

I hope this insight helps. You can always share your opinions or ask for Demo Advice on Voice123's Premium Forums. Opinions may vary, but you can never forget practice, and dedication.

Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
Voice123 Premium Forums
Steven's Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123

Coming up at yourACT Studios July 1, 8, and 15 -
BEGINNING VOICE-OVER taught by Della Cole
Get started in the exciting field of Voice-Over
For info on this course, and the Intermediate V-O and V-O Demo Workshop go to and click on Adult Classes (we also offer a V-O Demo Workshop for Kids and Teens)