Hello fellow artists! Hope this new blog entry finds you all in great health and spirits.
I wanted to share a funny audition story with you all. I recently had an audition for a national commercial. The casting director and the client were looking to cast physically imposing and threatening guys in this commercial spot. I didn’t turn down the audition when I read the character breakdown. Instead, I took on the challenge (Hey, I’m from Brooklyn. I AM tough.)
When I got to the audition, the room was filled with exactly what I envisioned in my head (guys who were physically imposing and threatening. They were either very muscular or burly) I must have been the skinniest guy in the room and their wild-card casting choice.
The casting director put everyone in groups of five and we received an explanation of the scenario. I totally got it. It made perfect sense. I just now had to channel this inner anger and rage to match the level of the other guys in my group.
I thought about things that could make me channel my inner anger and rage, but nothing seemed to do the trick. These things weren’t hot enough to inspire great acting choices. All I knew was that I had to come up with something fast because my group was up next.
Finally, something popped into my head and I knew that I struck gold because I could feel my blood boiling and my face turning with anger.
What was it??????
It was when Shangela didn’t win “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3” earlier this year. She was robbed! She was clearly the frontrunner after Bendelacreme left the competition. The fact that she didn’t win, LET ALONE NOT EVEN MAKE TOP 2, is the biggest tragedy and farce I’ve seen on “Drag Race”. The biggest mistake this franchise has ever made. How can someone who is so polished, professional, magnificent, who is light years ahead from where they first started, who is a star, lose?!?! It’s criminal and it’s something I still haven’t gotten over.
That’s all I needed to think of when we went inside the audition room and the session runner said, “Action.” I came alive and delivered my product.
Three days later, I got a callback! I ultimately didn’t get the job, but I got a callback. And I was happy with that!
Until next time!
Hello fellow artists! I’m celebrating two special anniversaries! Actually, I’m a little later on both anniversaries, but I’m acknowledging them now!!
One is that I have been living in LA for 16 years! I landed in LA on August 26th, 2002 and it has been a wonderful journey of discovery, of failing forward, of finding my personal voice, of finding my artistic voice, of building quality friendships, of changing my life, to changing other lives, to inspiring myself, to inspiring others, to leading myself, to leading others.
And the second anniversary that I’m celebrating is that Chasing The George is three years old! Wow! Wow! Wow! I launched my first blog entry on July 10th, 2015 and now my blog is being read all over the world: the United States, Canada, Spain, Ireland, France, Germany, the U.K., the Philippines, etc. It’s truly been a blessing to share Hollywood industry advice and the personal journey I am on to create and carve out the career I want for myself on a weekly basis.
And here is how my blog started (Taken from the “About” section of my blog)
Hey everyone! I created this weekly blog on July 10th, 2015 upon the recommendation of one of my mentors, Richard Lawson. I am a working professional actor and writer who works hard and understands the concept of what it means to have a career. So he advised me to create a blog where I would share my advice, my journey, my stories and interests with other artists. A “Hollywood 101” if you will that reveals and shares the sustained effort, work and fun it takes to have a career in this industry.
“Chasing The George” is a play on the phrase “Chasing The Ambulance”. When an ambulance is in emergency mode, they cut through traffic with intention. Nothing gets in their way. Some people will illegally chase after that ambulance because they too can get to their destination faster. While I don’t condone illegal activity, I do love the concept of chasing a career with that same intention and focus. I am the ambulance. Chasing The George is a reflection of my intention and focus to carve out the career I want in Hollywood.
I hope that my advice, my personal stories, my enthusiasm and my sometimes funny and direct approach will inspire you to carve out your own fabulous and exciting career in Hollywood.
So pull up a seat and welcome to Chasing The George.
ONWARD AND FORWARD!!!!!!!
Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd is the famed and well-respected casting director behind such Hollywood projects such as “Fruitvale Station” and “Being Mary Jane”. Her complete work can be found at: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1359173
I first met Twinkie a few years ago when she came to speak to students at the Richard Lawson Studios. Since she was the guest speaker, we wanted to screen a reel of her casting work before she spoke to the students. Richard put me in charge of finding examples of her casting work and cutting it together to form the reel.
When we played the reel, Twinkie was thrilled and overjoyed. I even remember her turning to me at one point and saying, “Oh my God, where did you find that? I’ve been trying to find that movie!” My detective work, and the fact that we were both from Brooklyn, began a journey of mutual admiration and respect for one another. I’ve also had the honor of auditioning a couple of times for Twinkie and she has praised my acting abilities.
So when I discovered that Twinkie wanted to take the Professional Development Program 1.0 class at the Richard Lawson Studios, I was thrilled! I interviewed her and I asked her why she wanted to take the course. She told me that she wanted to take her career to the next level by incorporating directing and producing into the mix. I knew that PDP 1.0 would be perfect for her because she would have to write, film and edit 10 short films over the course of 16 weeks.
It was also great to see Twinkie, a casting director, have to do auditions in the PDP 1.0 class. She got to be an actor and audition in front of the camera. And because she had been casting for years, she instinctively understood acting. She made wonderful choices as an actress and knew how to work in front of a camera.
Richard and I both taught this class and it was great to see her growth and wins, as well as the growth and wins of other students. For the Final Film project, Twinkie and fellow classmate, Ashley Jackson, collaborated to create a project called “The Counter: 1960”. Their short film looked at the segregation that existed in America during that time. It was a powerful film that utilized a number of Richard Lawson Studios students in front of the camera and behind the camera. It was cast well (of course, Twinkie’s a casting director!) And Twinkie directed it.
The first cut of “The Counter: 1960” was really well done. The story was incredibly impinging. It was ambitious in concept. Richard gave his notes in terms of how they could elevate their film to the next level. They took their notes like pros and their excitement grew.
Twinkie and Ashley decided to reshoot the film from scratch and gave themselves more time to carve out the film (In PDP 1.0, you only have one week to conceive, shoot and edit these 10 short films)
They reshot the film, with Twinkie staying on as director, and ever since they released it to the world, it has been killing the film festival circuit! “The Counter: 1960” has won awards in Cannes and Hollywood and has also screened in Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, Atlanta, India etc.
Twinkie recently posted a message on Instagram that thanked and acknowledged her PDP 1.0 teachers. I was moved because it’s these moments that remind me why I love teaching. As a teacher, I love seeing the numerous and diverse wins that my students have. Whether it’s a student booking a job or finishing a passion project or having a positive shift in their personal lives, it brings me immense joy.
As much as I love acting and writing, I also love giving back as a teacher and knowing that I had a meaningful impact and contribution on my students’ lives. That I had a hand in bringing out their full potential and talents.
And I love that Twinkie acknowledged the people who played a part in her current success! It’s so important to acknowledge the people who contributed to your journey and success. Your acknowledgement will come back to you a hundredfold. I taught the Audition Bootcamp class this past Friday and I said that more often than not, people only acknowledge the new friends who conveniently show up at their new level of success. I told my class to acknowledge the people who were there from the start. The people who were there when you weren’t a household name. The people who were there when you didn’t have money. Or when you didn’t have a meal to eat. Or when you didn’t have a place to live in. Or when you wanted to quit and they convinced you not to. The list goes on and on.
So thank you Twinkie for your acknowledgement. I am so proud of your success. You postulated at your interview that you wanted to be a director and now you are experiencing déjà vu! You saw it in your mind as a foregone conclusion and now you are experiencing it again in a realized, tangible way. You are such an example of what we teach at the Richard Lawson Studios!
Below is Twinkie’s Instagram post:
Hello everyone! I wanted to quickly share some of my favorite blog entries of 2018. Here they are! All in one place!
Honor Your Genius: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-Co
I Can’t Act! https://wp.me/p8uI5M-CJ
Table Read Fun! https://wp.me/p8uI5M-CM
My Oscar Speech: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-CU
How I Got An Agent Offer In One Week: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-D0
James Franco Said No To Me: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-D4
How To Make Yourself Valuable: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-Dd
Finding An Agent Is Like Dating: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-Dp
An Ode To Actors: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-Dr
You ARE An Artist! https://wp.me/p8uI5M-E1
How I Wrote A Script In One Hour: https://wp.me/p8uI5M-E6
I am so proud to announce that a film I wrote, executive produced and co-starred in, “The Doppelganger”, is done with post production! My director and I have a solid game plan in place to submit this film to a specific list of film festivals over the course of one year. We just submitted the film to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Sundance on August 3rd! In addition to the film festival circuit, we will look at distribution platforms for the film.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There is nothing like creating your own evidence. It’s exciting and it truly takes a village of people to come together and bring your vision to life! I am truly grateful.
The idea for this story came to me while I was scanning shoes at a department store’s bi-annual inventory extravaganza. No joke. I saw the entire story play out in my mind while I scanned various pumps. I saw how the hero of the film travelled from the orphan phase to the wanderer phase to the warrior phase to the martyr phase (Please check out the amazing screenwriting book, “My Story Can Beat Up Your Story”, by Jeffrey Schechter.) I knew what compelling thing the hero wanted. I knew what compelling counter-argument the hero would receive. I knew that Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone would influence the style and context of my film. I knew who I wanted to cast and the people I wanted to work with behind the camera. I knew that I wanted to star in it.
The next day, I outlined the script in 30 minutes. Four days later, I sat down at my computer and completed the first draft in 1 hour. Shortly after, I presented the first draft of my script in class and it went great. My classmates had positive responses and reactions to my script. I made a couple of tweaks afterwards, but I kept everything else I had written intact.
We shot the film on December 10th, 2017 and wrapped post production on July 31st, 2018.
Going back to the script, it came to me so quickly because I was on go. I didn’t question my ideas. I didn’t question my impulses. I didn’t fall into any agreements that this story wouldn’t work or that it would be unbelievable. I allowed myself to be on go with the story that was unfolding in my mind.
Writing can be such a confronting process. I know. I totally understand. I’ve been there where I would rather paint my entire house than to write a script. Where I would rather find the cure for cancer than to write a script. However, I also know that when you have a compelling story burning inside of you, you have to write it. You HAVE to write it. It won’t leave you alone until you do. It will keep bothering you until you sit down in front of a computer and start typing.
THIS story was compelling. The story felt instinctual and visceral. I could not wait to stop scanning those shoes so that I could go home and start working on this story right away.
So if you have a compelling story or idea, make the time to write it. Sit down and write it. Whether it takes you one hour to complete it or one year to complete it, do yourself a favor and get that sucka done!
Thanks to all the people who helped bring my story and vision to life: Lindsay Hopper, Javier Lezama, Hitoshi Inoue, Beth Berlin, Sayaka Miyatani, Jessica Sade Ward, Lauren Elle Christie, Taylor Babb, Courtney Nichole, Craig Taggart, Richard Lawson Studios PDP 3.0 class (What! What!)
You can check out The Doppelganger and my other credits at:
Hello everyone! Hope you’re all well!
I was teaching a class recently called the Professional Development Program 1.0. This class is designed to look at the whole of your career. In addition to helping students create a business plan for themselves and teaching them how to audition on camera and having them read industry books, we also require the students to film 10 short films (3 minutes or less) that are each designed to make them stronger artists and individuals.
Recently, my students shot, edited and turned in their first short film. We screened them in class and their first films blew me away. At the end of the screening, I told them: “Give yourselves a round of applause. You are now filmmakers! Congratulations!”
The class applauded, and immediately, I caught one student in the front row do air quotes with his fingers, “Filmmakers”. He said “Filmmakers” and did air quotes with his fingers. And I got all his subtext behind that: “Yeah right”; “sure”; “sure we are”; “if that’s what you say”; etc.) And I was like, “No, you ARE a filmmaker. Claim that. You just turned in a short film. You didn’t have a film to your name last week. And here you are, a week later, with a film that you originated, conceived, wrote, acted in, shot and edited.”
I continued that just because it’s a short film for class, just because it’s a three minute film, doesn’t mean that you’re not a filmmaker. You ARE a filmmaker. You MADE a film. The first step to believing that you are a filmmaker is to believe that you are. Point. Blank. Period. Fuck it, the first step to believing that you are anything is to believe that you are.
I continued by saying that people like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron believed from jump street that they were filmmakers. I added that if you looked at their first films, it probably wasn’t the greatest in terms of production value and what they are able to create now, but I bet you anything that they stood by their films with pride and confidence. You couldn’t tell them anything that they weren’t filmmakers.
When I look back at the films I did when I took the PDP 1.0 class, I claimed that I was a filmmaker. You couldn’t tell me shit. I stood by each film project I did with confidence and pride. Each film came out exactly how I envisioned it in my head. Now, when I look back at these films, I chuckle and cringe sometimes because the sound was off or the lighting was off or some production value was off. However, that being said, I could also see each film getting better and better.
I look at the films I am able to produce today and it is night and day. But the only reason why I am able to produce better films today was because I fucking claimed that I was a filmmaker from the moment I shot my first film project in PDP 1.0 and because I kept getting better and better. I failed forward.
I’m sure Steven Spielberg and James Cameron got better and better with each film they did. I’m sure many artists have gotten better and better with their craft (actors, writers, dancers, painters, authors, photographers, musicians, etc.)
So, claim that you ARE a filmmaker. Or an actor. Or a writer. There’s this fucked up notion in the entertainment business that you aren’t anything unless you get paid for it. Or unless you’ve “made it”. “I’m not an actor unless I’m on a series.” Fuck that. You ARE an actor because you’ve decided that you are one and you’re building a career around that passion and love you have for it. Don’t wait until you’ve “made it” to declare or believe that you are an actor.
The belief starts now. The enjoyment starts now. Because if you don’t believe it now, claim it now, own it now, then you’ll never be happy. You’ll never be satisfied–even when you book the fucking series. You’ll qualify your series booking with some unfounded nonsense.
The student got my point of view and his attitude towards being a filmmaker changed from air quotes “Filmmaker” to “Yes, I am a filmmaker.”
Cause truth be told, if I had let that moment slide by, then 1) His ability to create future projects would suffer and plateau/crash immediately. He would not be able to soar to his greatest potential. 2) His attitude would have infected others to go into agreement with him. Other students–who just one minute ago had a tremendous win and a tremendous sense of pride with their own film projects–would have started questioning themselves and gone into agreement with him: “Yeah, he’s right. We’re ‘filmmakers'”. They would have been air quoting as well.
And the tragedy is that we then lose the future Steven Spielbergs, James Camerons, Ava DuVernays, Patty Jenkins, Ryan Cooglers, Guillermo del Toros, Alejandro G. Iñárritus, Kathryn Bigelows, etc.
And I won’t let that happen.
Happy July! Hope you’re all staying cool in this hot, summer weather! I wanted to give out some quick Hollywood tips.
Slating: This is your opportunity to introduce yourself on camera to the decision makers-the people who will end up watching your audition. This could be the clients of a product on the commercial casting side or it could be the executive producers and/or directors on the theatrical side. This is the first time that they’re seeing you on camera before you even audition. Make it count. Impinge. Be warm, inviting. Think about how you introduce yourself to people in real life.
Playing within the frame: As you prepare for an audition, think about how you can play within the frame. Remembering that the story is key. The story is the most important component. Does playing within the frame enhance the story and push it forward? When you play within the frame to service the story, you impinge the audience who watches it. Do you lean into frame to appear more menacing if you’re playing a darker character? Do you lean into frame if you’re looking to create more intimacy and chemistry? Do you back away from the frame to reveal that you are scared or frightened of the situation in front of you? Do you walk into frame? And if so, where are you coming from? When you come into frame, does it give the audience a sense and reality of where you’re coming from? Playing within the frame can really heighten the story.
Attitude monitors talent: Perception is everything. If you walk into any room with a bad attitude, they see it right away and their first impression of you is not favorable. How are you coming into the room? Do you come in with a sense of life force and a great attitude where the people in the room want to work with you? If we’re looking at a series or a feature film and we’re talking about long days on set, do you want to hire the person who comes in with a bad attitude? Or do you want to hire the person who comes in with a great attitude and makes everyone feel better at the end of the day? Put it like this: Would you hire you?
Compliance: According to Merriam-Webster:
to conform, submit, or adapt (as to a regulation or to another’s wishes) as required or requested. conformity in fulfilling official requirements. Derivation of comply: enfold. EMBRACE.
Follow directions to the T. Be open to direction. Be open to change. If you’re given an assignment, do it. There is gold on the other side of that assignment. It will pay off. Embrace the assignment. Part of training to be a professional is compliance. If you can comply in your training, you will comply when given direction in a casting office or on set. Comply.
Now go and enjoy a cold, refreshing cocktail!
With everything that is happening in America at the moment, I couldn’t find the exact words to express how I was feeling. Then, I remembered the healing power of art. And how I could use art as a way to reveal the kind of America I want. The America I see. The America I know we can become again.
I see America as a place of inclusion. Of color. Of acceptance. Of possibilities. Of freedom. Of equality. Of helping one another. I’m not here to talk about politics, but rather, to express what I want America to be through different forms of art. And I know there are several works of art I’m leaving out, so I’ll continue to add as it occurs to me.
In no particular order, this is my America:
Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 10. “I Am American”:
Madonna “Why’s It So Hard To Love One Another” from The Girlie Show:
Whitney Houston “National Anthem”:
Photo by Clip Art
Photo by Master File
Photo by Purestock/Thinkstock. Featured in Slate Magazine
Hey gang! A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog entry about how I started looking for new representation and that I received an offer in one week. I ended up not signing with that particular talent agency and I have since continued the search for theatrical representation (I received an offer for commercial representation on May 4th and I accepted that offer)
A few days ago in my PDP 3.0 class, I was chosen to do cold stand up comedy. I talked about how searching for an agent is like dating. Listen to my stand up comedy below and find out why! I would also love to read your agent dating stories in the comments section below.