Actors new to the Twin Cities, young actors fresh out of college, and even those who’ve been in the scene for a while and want a brush-up on the business of acting would behoove themselves to pick up a copy of The Acting Biz: A Career Guide to the Twin Cities by Beth Chaplin. This wonderful book, written in a no-nonsense, conversational style, is easy to read, easy to reference, and provides tons of information about everything from how to get a demo voiceover reel to where to send your headshots for commercial, film, industrial, and stage work.
In the preface to her book, Chaplin writes that she left her full-time teaching job in 1990, and since then has appeared in hundreds of commercial films, industrial films, and voice-over roles, on a handful of Twin Cities stages, and in a few independent films. She has also worked as a talent agent and as a teacher, coaching actors in the business of acting, on-camera acting, ear prompting, and doing voice-overs.
Chaplin’s writing style is friendly, nurturing, and full of humor. It’s almost as if you were taking a class with her. You could just read the book straight through, but it is also laid out in such a way that you can just look up the sections that are of interest to you.
For example. Need to know the sitch with actor unions? Turn to page 96. Need to know the film lingo for your upcoming screen test? Go to page 125. With a detailed index and tons of appendices that list resources that this town has to offer, this book is essential if you don’t already know much about how things work in this town. Heck, even if you think you know everything, you probably will find helpful stuff in here that you may not have realized.
Besides all the helpful information, Chaplin also provides a combination of caring encouragement and tough love. Basically the gist of her message is that yes, you are good enough and you shouldn’t beat yourself up and you should take care of yourself, but you should also know that there are tons of really talented people in this town, that you are going to get rejected a lot and if you don’t have your shit together you’d better move over because there are other people who do.
Of course my favorite section of the book is where she provides testimonials of the bizarre jobs that actors take to make ends meet (page 151)—from actors ice-skating in an enormous dot-shaped foam rubber suit to singing as a chicken for a casino spot to making out with a monkey. This section had me rolling with laughter.
So actors and potential actors: if you have dreams of stardom—well, if you have dreams of stardom you should move to L.A. But if you have dreams of making a modest living as a working actor, go buy The Acting Biz.
Note: You can get this book online by going to Chaplin’s Web site. You also used to be able to get it at Play By Play Theatre Bookstore and Opening Night Gifts, but unfortantely, after being open just a few months, the owner lost her lease. Hopefully that wonderful store will open again soon in a new location, so in the meantime, you can sign up for their mailing list here.