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April 30, 2002

ActorsBon: Crying on Cue

Dear Bonnie,

Hello! I really need your help and if you have any advice I'd really appreciate it. I was wondering how people in like movies and everything cry on cue. I can't figure out how they do it. I've tried thinking of events in my life that have made me sad but it doesn't work and I don't know anything else to try. So if you have any ideas I'd appreciate it. Thank you for your time!!


Hi Candace,

There are many schools of thought on how to act (and that includes crying on cue). Some people say you should put yourself in the position of the person you are playing, and by living as that person, whatever is written in the script that makes your character cry should also make you cry, if you are in character.

Others say that you should put yourself back into the mindset of a time in your life that made you sad and let that memory take you to tears. I'm not a big fan of this technique, as I find it distracting to involve my own personal history when portraying a character. Also, if the moment you choose to focus on was a really tough one, you could slip out of the character and into your own emotions... and then where are you in the scene?

So, you'll hear different pieces of advice on how to do that... my preference is to hear music (aloud while rehearsing, in my head while performing) that moves me and associate that swell of emotions with the lines that are supposed to move me in the scene. That mixed-media approach will often help bring me closer to the emotion required by the script.

Hope this helps!!


Posted by bonnie at 5:35 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2002

Engaged To Dread

Being engaged is pretty fantastic. I highly recommend it. I have been engaged for five months now and have another five months of being engaged to go.

The first hour and a half of being engaged, I was speechless. Yes - me: speechless.

Something I never anticipated about being engaged was the permission complete strangers feel they have to ask about the wedding just because they recognize a piece of jewelry as a representation of engagement. Even stranger is my willingness to share intimate details about my wedding plans with anyone who asks.

The plans themselves are pretty sparse, actually. I'm pretty anti-wedding. I just attended a $35,000 170-guest affair and the bulldog of a wedding planner alone has turned my stomach. I'm hoping to do our wedding at about one-tenth the scale, all the way around.

One of the biggest issues, currently is the family. Mine is fractured and dysfunctional, as most families are. My fiancé's is no better. One major difference is that his family is happy to stay out--way out--of our lives. Mine is not. Of course, I'm too politely Southern and female to tell my folks where to stick their overblown fantasies of how my wedding should be. Don't let anyone fool you: being a Southern Belle in 2002 sucks.

That's not entirely true, but it is true enough, where wedding days are concerned.

Currently, I'm considering elopement. Now, if I can only convince my fiancé that it's a great idea!

'Til then, I'm going to milk this heavy ring finger. "Yes. Someone wants me. Someone wants the whole world to see that I am his and no one else's." Never mind the stress that the WEDDING has already caused... being ENGAGED rocks.

Posted by bonnie at 1:42 PM

April 23, 2002

ActorsBon: Not Laughing

Dear Bonnie,

I'm not sure if this is the kind of questions you answer but, there are no acting schools or anything around me, and I've been trying to get into acting at like theaters and everything, and whenever I get to a funny line that I have to say I always start laughing. So I was wondering if you had any tips or techniques to help me get through a scene with a straight face. If you could help me I'd really appreciate it! Thank you for your time!


Hi Jeff,

Oooohhhh, is this something I've faced! I was 17, doing a Shakespearean play in which I had to keep a straight face while all my peers and friends and foes sat laughing and laughing and laughing some more. It was TORTURE.

I was told, by my coach at the time, to think "forward action." This didn't mean a dang thing to me at the time, but what she meant was, place the tip of your tongue at the back of your front teeth and keep your tongue from laying down in your mouth.

I know that sounds weird, but it's amazing what that action did for me.

I was able to put the tip of my tongue at the back of my front teeth and suddenly I was put in a very serious stance. I was so busy concentrating on that action that I could NOT laugh, even if I wanted to.

Now, what this means is, you have to focus your energy away from the scene for a moment (which is risky) and you have to be able to not betray the facial expression of the scene while you pay attention to what your tongue is doing.

Like I said, I know this sounds weird, but it's the only thing that has worked for me to be able to put away laughter.

Some people suggest thinking of some really horrible event in your life, in order to get to seriousness, in the face of laughter. I disagree with that. I find that getting off into some personal tangent takes you away from the scene even more than you may be by just doing the tongue technique, and that could send you off in such a way as to destroy the honesty of the scene.

Anyway, that's how I got past it. And I can still do it, even when I'm trying to be funny in a social situation. I can keep a straight face for days. Good luck! Let me know how it goes for you!


Posted by bonnie at 5:34 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2002

ActorsBon: Where Do I Begin?

Dear Bonnie,

I'm a 21 year old college student living in Long Island , who recently took an acting class and fell in love. I shocked myself and now I finally know what I want to do and why I couldn't figure it out for so long. I am about to chase what some would say is a dream, but hey life's too short not to. So my question to you is, where do I begin? I don't know where to start. Can you help me please?

- Ali

Dear Ali,

Welcome to the dream life! It's so gratifying to be a performer. You did the right thing by starting with a class. I'd suggest that you continue to do some training. Invest in good classes with various teachers so that you can learn the fundamentals, as well as improvisation, scene study, and audition technique.

Meanwhile, try to get into a play at a local community theatre. Theatre is a great place to start, as you really do get to put a lot into the process of putting together a play and seeing it all the way through. There is a lot out there for you to read. Read everything you can get your hands on. I have a list here on the Actor's Bone of the books I like to recommend. I would ask your former acting coach to recommend a book that's right for "where you are" in terms of level, experience, and goals.

You're absolutely right that life's too short to not pursue your dreams! Have fun and make sure that you are learning from every experience. After you've taken another couple of classes, gotten into local theatre, and done some reading, you can begin to look into the larger elements (like agents, unions, and professional pursuits).

You may want to pick up Back Stage, a weekly paper for the east coast (I work for the west coast version), to see what sort of things are going on in the business and what sort of student films and other "starting level" projects are going on (things where you work for free, but get a copy of the tape of your performance).

I hope this helps. Remember that everyone was a beginner at some point, and there is nothing wrong with having questions. NEVER pay anyone to represent you as an agent or manager. They only get paid when you get paid. And when it's time to get headshots (black and white photos you use to submit to projects), you should research a few photographers first to compare prices, quality, and personality. It's important to be in sync with the person who's responsible for capturing your TRUE image on a headshot.

Let me know if you have more questions. I hope this helps, and that you have a lot of fun pursuing your new-found passion!


Posted by bonnie at 5:30 PM | Comments (0)

April 9, 2002

ActorsBon: Where Do I Look?

Dear Bonnie,

Hello! I am kind of new to the acting world and was wondering about something. I was hoping that you could help me. I was wondering, where do you look when you are auditioning, and someone is just reading the lines with you and not acting out a scene, do you look at the camera, or the person?

Thank you for your time and all of your help! I appreciate it very much!

- Donna

Dear Donna,

When you audition for an on-camera job, there will be a camera in the room, most of the time. You should ask the person for whom you're auditioning whether she would prefer that you look into the camera or at your reader. It is always preferred that you ask what they prefer than make a mistake and have to start over (also, that could throw you if they ask you to start over, and nobody wants that!)

Usually there is a reader (and sometimes that person is the casting director, but usually it's someone who is there JUST to read with you) who may or may not have any acting experience, so you're expected to "act with a wall" sometimes. It's good practice to be able to act with no one helping you out, since that way you won't be ill-prepared, when in the room auditioning. If you're auditioning for a commercial, many times there will be a need for directly-into-the-camera reading. That's true especially when there's a pitch about the product in your script. If the pitch-person would be talking to the viewing audience, rather than to someone else in the commercial, your best bet is to prepare to deliver your lines to the camera, as you would in the actual commercial.

Good luck, and do good work!

- Bon

Posted by bonnie at 5:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 2, 2002

ActorsBon: Written Writing Advice

Dear Bonnie,

Just a quick note to let you know I am really enjoying reading your new "BON" section on The Actors Bone. You give great advice to everyone! From there, I clicked on to your website link and read the latest news - congratulations about the new Chicago-based magazine you will be writing for - that's awesome!

I've been trying to get back into writing after not really doing anything for quite a long time. Starting off small - I just wrote a few movie reviews and I'm contemplating what to do next - maybe trying my hand at some short stories or something. The whole screenplay/one-woman show, etc. seems a bit daunting at the moment (as well it should) so for right now, I guess I'll work on smaller projects and try to get the creative juices going.

Anyway, just wanted to say hi & congrats on your all great work lately.

Talk to you soon,

- Danielle

Dear Danielle,

You are so kind! Thank you for the support. I'm so thankful that I have various places online for my work to show itself off. Honestly, if it weren't for my bonsite (and the Writing Archive), I would've never been tapped for the Chicago writing gig. Make sure, once you do get some more "clippings" of your work, that you keep a nice, professional website going so that people who like to hire freelance writers can find you! It SO pays off, let me tell you!

Have you picked up the huge book called Writers' Market 2002? I still use my 2001 version, but it's a great bible for freelance writers. There are all sorts of listings of where you can get published, how much they pay, what their requirements are, etc. Also, I run a Yahoo Group called The Writing Circle. You should come subscribe. There's VERY little email traffic (mostly just me passing on information on writing contests and such) and there's a great Bookmarks section I set up which includes links to all sorts of screenwriting contests, freelance-driven magazines, etc.

I also really liked the book Secrets of a Freelance Writer and others like that (one called Feminine Wiles about submitting to women's magazines, another called -- I think -- How to Sell Your Work Without Selling Out) for ideas on how to pitch your work to various papers, magazines, trade publications, etc.

The most important thing, at this stage, is just keeping a copy of everything you do. I did free movie reviews in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution (they were looking for readers to contribute and I sent in reviews on three movies I'd seen) and that meant, even though I didn't get paid, I had proof that the largest daily paper in Georgia wanted to print my work. So, print out (or put on a website) your reviews and anything else like that. You'll feel like you're starting off small, but I'm living proof that that stuff pays off!

Wait until the story comes pouring forth, with regard to the one-woman show. I'm always working on mine (and on one with another actor friend) and it's amazing how daunting that is, even for someone who's been writing for a living for a couple of years. Just keep making notes and stay organized. That story will come through.

Have you seen "Jonna's Body, Please Hold" yet? It's the most amazing one-woman show I've ever seen. She performs it free every six weeks or so at ACME in Hollywood.

Take care and keep me posted on how things are going for you!

- Bon.

Posted by bonnie at 5:27 PM | Comments (0)