#4 Stop Being Tech-Phobic


#4 Stop Being Tech-Phobic

An actor sends me a pic / res in hope of joining my class. Here are some of the ways actors shoot themselves in the foot ... just by sending out a pic / res.

  • the resume is NOT a PDF, it's in WORD. Even if you can open it (cause lots of us don't use WORD anymore), it goes all kaflooey, loses margins, line breaks etc. Looks like the work of a 7th grader.
  • the resume is called something that isn't your name. Here's a sample of some of the terrific resume titles I've encountered.
    • 06624B9874RR copy
    • 3rd version
    • old agent 
    • acting resume
    • this one
    • verdana
  • As for headshots, they too are rarely named after the person they purport to represent. Here are a couple of nice ones:
    • hair to one side
    • sad
    • Commercial
    • 0782.jpg
    • older
    • & can you guess how many headshots are called . . . "HEADSHOT" ?!?!

How many casting directors / potential agents & managers etc. are going to carefully re-title your  resume / head-shot with the right identifying feature, like, your name? 

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Actor-tech-phobia. Actor-tech-illiteracy. It makes me want to cry. Daring, dazzling actors . . . these highly intuitive, sensitive, visceral beings, these physically / emotionally / socially intelligent bundles of nerves; these impulsive, fascinating, dangerous, silly, unconventional, deeply truthful artists, who can imitate every nuance & tick of another human being . . . These fabulous creatures who can do just about anything, go through life unable or unwilling to master vital skills for navigating the modern world. Skills necessary to reach his / her maximum career potential as a professional actor.


This doesn't apply just the old timers, who proudly confer on themselves the title of "luddite" as if it were a badge of honor. Even more amazing, lots of young ones also keep tech skills at arms length. Worst of all are those smart & successful middle-aged ones, who like Bartleby, just prefer not to. Why should they? They're by now pretty high up on the food chain & have others to do it for them. & quite possibly their keen primal / visceral actor-instincts have long masked & over-compensated for a real learning deficit in this area. Lots of actors can't do math, either. 

Whatever, why ever, they dwindle in the shallow-end, splashing around, never learning how to swim. They waste scads of time sputtering & doggy-paddling through the easy stuff & habitually eschew all new stuff. (There's nothing more excruciating than watching someone stumble through basic computer interactions. What was a hilarious Reddit comic explaining this bone-gnawing frustration has become an even funnier animation by Guy Collins. See a little below, to the right.) They miss out on the rewards waiting on the other side, across the deep end: things that exponentially advance craft, community, & finances. Unfortunately, they don't even know what they don't know, because this stuff is of an experiential new order. (When they came out with the TV some people wondered who would ever buy one.) Until you apply some dedication & discipline, & discover the experience of tech-deep-diving, you don't have a clue as to why you should & must.  


Maybe you're one of them. Okay: yes or no: You often can't find an email among the thousands never-deleted in your inbox. You can't cut & paste. You never update your operating system. You don't know how to listen to music, watch movies, keep up with what's on TV. Your passwords are on post-its & in 3 ring notebooks. Specious emails routinely generate from your (non-firewalled) laptop. You open email attachments. You forget to blind copy when sending out your latest mass update. Your wi-fi (or aol) is constantly on the rails. You talk to Siri when she's not listening. Some of your contacts are still in a roll-a-dex. Your voice-mailbox is always full & you don't know how to clear it.

The printer never works. For an exasperating 20 minutes you can't log in because the caps lock is on. You complain that your computer's running slow but you ride with 17 windows open. "USB drive / port" are not words in your lingo. &, the printer doesn't work. You crank out recipes out on Word 2007. You plug your printer into your computer. You can't create a PDF. You hire people to scan things for you. You don't have a surge protector. You wonder why things don't shut down when you unplug them. You keep hand-printed instructions as to how to do certain things on the computer taped to the screen. Nothing's backed up. &, the printer still doesn't work.

***Update: sitting in my studio with my dear friend, the wildly talented actor Larry Pressmen. His computer's in the shop. According to Larry "Google won't update my operating system." (Huh?) I handed him my old mac. His face lit up. "Does this have a disc drive?" he said? "That's want I want!" he cried. (God give me strength.) & now comes what I call the "tech-slave" moment: Larry asks me to print out his boarding pass, for a flight tomorrow. Which I of course agree to do. Except ... he's not sure how to forward it from his phone. (Our mutual good friend, the extraordinary theatre & tv producer Joe Stern, frequently emails me things to post things on "my Facebook" for him.) Yes, sigh, I'm a willing tech-slave for those I love.


As to our biz: Luckily your agent takes care of you, or you wouldn't have a resume. Sending off an audition tape is more challenging than making acting choices; printing sides requires the aid of young children. If you use Skype for professional reasons, the camera is generally focused on the underside of your chin. & the long-fended off iPhone, that you only bought when the keypad chipped off your Blackberry, still blares its "marimba" ringtone loudly in theaters & restaurants.

If things work for you, it's because you were grandfathered in long ago, & you still do everything mostly the same. You don't like change. To you, the
Player's Guide is still a great big hardcover book. You're clueless about Actor's Access, Breakdown Services, even IMDB (Pro? -- do you need it?) Maybe you should have a website, but you don't know any "coders." You're not on Facebook & so you are often the last to hear about what's going in the industry -- & with your competition!


 & the other day your manager tossed out the idea of a web-series. Involving you. Because you're so funny. The idea was -- you create one. Shoot it on your iPhone. & you just sat there & looked daggers at her thinking, "Are you fucking kidding me?" 

Let's not even get started on social media. Maybe you're on Facebook, but as an actor where you really belong is Twitter & that's no man's land, right? (Instagram's also important & happily more & more actors are embracing this platform.) Yes, you've heard tell that actors with lots of Twitter followers have become highly attractive commodities to casting directors & networks, but it makes you angry when I mention that (again), when you're complaining to me again over a glass of wine (again) that your career's gone down the toilet. You also don't like me reminding you Casting Directors are all over the damn tweet board -- especially since you know a whole lot of them, & realize that you must be missing out. I posit (again) that being on Twitter is exactly like making the rounds in the old days. Remember? On a nice crisp Manhattan afternoon hoofing it around to the various agencies & casting offices, for no reason except to show our face, remind them how pretty & smart we are, jog their memory that we exist. We didn't do "sell," we did small talk. To great effect: the next day, the phone rang! An audition! & now we don't even have to put on makeup to do the same thing on Twitter! Easy peasy! Find the ones you know & follow them. Respond to their tweet about their dog or a restaurant, or the show they just cast. & then, the spark ignites, the idea lights up, the bell goes off: ding, ding, ding -- "Oh yeah! Her. She'd be great for that."

& what happens when you get a job on a show, like say, Mr. Robert, whose creator & head writer, Sam Esmail, who wanted to create an in-depth, real story about hackers. "I grew up as a techy & a lot of my friends grew up to be coders. I was fascinated with the culture & always wanted to tell stories about that. This is the thing that I think prior shows & movies got wrong about hacking. There's a lot of social engineering that goes into hacking. It's literally about human to human contact & discovering vulnerabilities from there, & then being able to get into a system based off of that information.The frustration of growing up as a techy & watching shows & movies about hacking was terrible. Because there was no attempt at authenticity at all. & I really want to be as accurate as possible."

Can this possibly be interesting to you? I bet it would be if you did get that recurring role or guest star. Your actor-in-over-drive appetite for research would kick in & you'd do what you always do: learn, study, engage, with no lack of faith in your ability to master the task. So, I guess what I'm saying is, it's not that you can't do it, it's that you won't. (& the video pre-commercial about using Vimeo is also excellent fodder for what I'm talking about ...)

I speculate in wonder about those who resist / refuse / ignore the ways the world now chooses to communicate. I remember, years ago, a boyfriend who was also a TV "name," swearing he would never ever get a cell phone. Ad nauseam I listened to him passionately articulate the imperative of disconnecting in the car & on the road & by the sea. (Within 2 years he had one). I heard the same things years later from friends who vowed they would never go on social media. & yet as soon as you meet up for lunch they grab your phone to troll your Facebook. People have lots of complicated feelings about these things, which must correspond in some way with our complicated feelings about getting older. On a psychological level there's gotta be something about resisting / avoiding contact & communication while at the same time deploring change. Everything was fine before. The Blackberry was the last new thing you liked. Besides, once you learn how to do something, it changes. & if you don't practice often, you forget. 


Simon Helberg (a former student of mine!) in a delicious phone call on BIG BANG THEORY, teaching Mom how to use the mouse.

In fields such as law, medicine & journalism, technological incompetence is no longer just a competitive disadvantage. Now, it is a potential ethics violation — or even legal malpractice. As one lawyer put it, “We have not quite reached the level of ‘if you can Google it, you must,’ but we are fast approaching it.” (— Megan Zavieh, Lawyerist.com.) Last year the founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales accused David Cameron of “technological incompetence" when the former U.K. Prime Minister tried to "ban encryption." Speaking to Huff Post Live Wales said, “The idea that you could ban encryption… it is just nonsense, it’s impossible, it’s math, you can’t ban math.”

& let's face it: (okay, IMO) the reason that Hillary Clinton isn't Prez today (besides all the obvious BS going on...) probably isn't because she had a grand design in mind regarding a private server. Most likely she just didn't have a clue as to how stuff worked. In a 2016 New York Times article, Hilary, Me & the Internet Divide, Alessandra Stanley states that one of the personal secrets Mrs. Clinton was hiding was her discomfort with the digital revolution. Hundreds of emails cover topics like this one: in 2010, she was having trouble using her iPad. “I don’t know if I have WIFI,” she wrote to a close aide. “How do I find out?”

& then of course, we got the Donald, Technoramus in Chief. Uses Twitter but doesn't know how to work a computer. This guy once said he'd call Bill Gates about "shutting down the internet." In a campaign speech he talked in his usual wildly inarticulate way about the advantages of conducting all military correspondence on paper

Tech-Phobe in Chief.

Tech-Phobe in Chief.

‘… & I like the old days, especially for the military, on things like that…. you wanna attack or you wanna do something….. it’s called courier…..it’s called… let’s put it in a thing…. put it in an envelope & let’s hand it to the general… let’s not send it over the wires (waving his stubby fingers in the air for some reason) where everybody’s probably reading it, right? & no matter how good…. no matter how good they say it is…. it’s not…. I mean, people can hack it I guess…. it’s terrible… I know & if you talk about military & you talk about secrets, you talk about politics . . . DJ TRUMP
Kristen Dunst & Jason Schwartzman, on set.

Kristen Dunst & Jason Schwartzman, on set.

Boom. Literally & figuratively. This stuff in the real world is life or death. But come on, are actors really endangering the world by not understanding tech? Depends on what you call the world. The practical real world? Not. The world of spirit, soul, art?Yeah. Shying away from this stuff means we are not just hindering ourselves as individuals -- we're also keeping the field itself from advancing. Which is especially vexing because actors are innately imaginative & innovative. I mean, if anyone could contribute to saving the practical world through its soul, it's us.

Besides, our business is collaborative. It needs large groups of people in a room together. It's ABOUT connecting. & now we have sophisticated tools to do so! But if you don't know how to use it, you are still slumming in an analog world of "networking."

If you're spending all your time finding passwords, searching for emails & things you've downloaded, being generally tech-disorganized, you're using up precious & productive creative time. Using it & not keeping up with how it works is worse than not using it at all. Because you never get over the basic learning curve & hence waste a lot of time figuring out the same things again & again. If you're not using Evernote & Dropbox & Google office suite; when you don't know how to share your photos except by texting them; when you lose your phone & lose all your phone numbers because your contacts aren't synced with all your devices, you're sunk. The good news with tech is, once you master how to do a couple of things, you can extrapolate how to do lots of other things. You get stronger with time & repetition. Sound familiar? We know how to do this. Sharpening tech skills is just another way of being fit for our profession.

Creativity resides here, people. If you don't know what's possible, you aren't going forward. Stanislavski once said something to the effect of: "If you're not actively moving forward in your art, then you're moving backwards." There's a great big world out there of digital theater sites & free scripts & acting class videos & Ted talks, & ways to connect to more people than ever before. Howlround is live-streaming & podcasting & Snapchat is feasting on audition tapes & new social media & website platforms have the ability to effortlessly promulgate your brand (the unique essence of YOU), creating followers, creating community, creating the breadcrumb path to the next job. Being active on social media means all you have to do is be present -- you never have to "sell" yourself again.

You can rule this world, too, by applying the same commitment, stamina, & perseverance you bring to your craft. Go for it.



help for the tech-phobic

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Okay, so she bills herself as "The Tarot Lady." Still, Theresa Reed's
got some great tips & resources here for confronting tech fears. read:

HOW TO GET OVER YOUR TECH-PHOBIA (aka fears & excuse) & start running your online running your online business like a BO$$.

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from capx.co
David Waller compares resistance to the industrial revolution to now:

"The lesson for today is that technological innovation can be extremely painful, but that over the longer term it does not necessarily come at the price of jobs or prosperity: indeed, new technology begets further innovation that creates wealth & employment in entirely unforeseeable ways. This was not appreciated by the frock-wearing Luddites of the early 19th century, nor is it understood by their spiritual heirs two centuries later."

Why We Should Never Listen To Luddites