Big Choices to Make

“Have you considered suicide?”

My acting teacher asks me this question with unsettling regularity. No, she’s not suggesting I give up. (At least I don’t think she is…) She is simply pushing me to make big choices.

Because I never went to a formal acting program, I would sometimes get confused about the idea of “making a choice.” What does it mean to make a choice? A choice about what? Furthermore – what does it mean to make a “bigger” choice? Continue reading Big Choices to Make

The Birthplace of Innovation, Creativity and Change

For the longest time there was a wall I couldn’t surpass as an actor. I didn’t know how to be fully emotionally vulnerable in my work. Every now and then I would hit on something and it would surprise me. I couldn’t get back there, and I didn’t understand why.

A few months ago, I saw a play that featured a word that I thought I understood, but realized I didn’t truly understand. The word was shame. I thought I had a sense of what shame was, and I had a feeling about its pervasiveness in our society, but it was a vague sense and a vague feeling.

As it turned out, Vulnerability and Shame were inextricably linked. Continue reading The Birthplace of Innovation, Creativity and Change

What Will Your Oscar’s Speech Be?

As I watch the various entertainment awards ceremonies that populate the first few months of the year, I am always struck by the depth of intention artists find in work that can sometimes feel like pure entertainment. I’m reminded that in everything we as actors do, we must find the greater purpose. Make it about something bigger than ourselves because that’s where the possibility for greatness lies.

Last night, during the SAG awards, many of the actors rose to the occasion of our times, understanding that the work they do does not exist in a vaccuum, but is rather reflected through the prism of the culture, giving their award an importance beyond simple recognition of talent or hard work. Continue reading What Will Your Oscar’s Speech Be?

How to Improve Any Skill

When I first began teaching at USC, I was hesitant, afraid. “Those who can’t…” kept ringing in my head. I didn’t want to focus too much time and energy training other people to do what I was still focusing on perfecting myself.

The past few years of teaching acting has proven me very wrong. Rather than sapping my attention away from my skills, it has only honed them and made them all the more available to me in my professional career.

It reminded me of the time I spent helping my friends with their homework in grade school. My friend Danny was not very good at math. So I would sit with him and work through the problems, step by step, going through the process we had learned. Doing this allowed me to solidify the process in my own head. When it came time for the test, I now had double the practice and confidence to do well.

If you want to improve something you know how to do, all you have to do is teach it to someone else. Here’s a list of things you’ll find: Continue reading How to Improve Any Skill

Streep. Agree or Disagree?

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Last night during the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award for Lifetime Achievement. There’s hardly an actor more deserving it would seem, as she has been celebrated almost from the day she first emerged on screen. The woman collects award nominations the way most of us collect ugly Christmas sweaters. We don’t ask for them and yet every year, there they are.

Her thank you speech last night was…surprising, I think. While many actors take those opportunities to speak broadly for what they feel their career has meant to them or other people, Meryl took an interestingly more political, and potentially divisive tack. She (quite brilliantly) dissected the phrase ‘Hollywood Foreign Press’ into the people that have been and will doubtless continue to be some of the most vilified people in our current President-Elect’s playbook. Continue reading Streep. Agree or Disagree?

The Money Problem

moneyI have always been a worrier when it comes to money. Blame it on my practical Midwestern upbringing. Or my Father. Or the fact that I’ve chosen writing musicals as my ironclad fall-back career in case acting doesn’t work out.

Thankfully, I’ve been extremely lucky to make my living as an artist. I say “artist” because it encompasses the various roles that I play in my work. Sometimes I’m an actor, sometimes I’m a writer, sometimes I’m a musician or a teacher. But it all stems from my passion for and abilities as an artist.

It’s only been recently, though, that I’ve had to actually sit down and think about what to do with the money I’ve made.

Shortly after college, I found myself with a big chunk of credit card debt. And because of the piecemeal nature of making money as an artist, I had no real system to keep track of how much I was making and how much I was spending. Never mind saving or investing!

That’s when I had to get smart about my money. Continue reading The Money Problem

Nailing Your “No Sides” Commercial Audition

Before I get to the tips, I want to share some good news.

I’m very excited to announce that I have joined Arlene Thornton’s On-Camera Commercial Department.

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My agent there, Janet Tscha, is a winner and multiple-time nominee of the Seymour Heller Award for Commercial Agent of the Year. (Heller, yeah!)

I’ll be sure to let you guys know when you can catch my ugly mug selling products on TV’s everywhere.

Now onto nailing your “no sides” commercial audition.
Continue reading Nailing Your “No Sides” Commercial Audition

How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Today

07a7f800-b3b0-0132-457f-0ebc4eccb42fIf you’re shy about taking risks, you can thank evolution.

Humans evolved to be risk-averse. As social creatures, we don’t always feel comfortable standing out from the crowd, and in small populations (as humans typically evolved within) taking a risk could lower your chances of survival.

But as artists and creators – risk is necessary to success.

In teaching actors at USC, I’ve noticed that one of the hardest things to get them to do is to be “outrageous” with their acting choices. To go too far. Even though that’s always the advice acting teachers are giving! “Go too far, and then you can dial it back.”

But people are afraid of doing what they think will be making a fool of themselves. The truth is, however, when you “go too far” you’re actually going exactly as far you need to go. The ideal place to get to is exactly one step outside your comfort zone. That’s where vulnerability shows up, and real moments begin to happen.

But how to get there? Continue reading How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Today

Mind-Hacking the Audition Process

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The relationship between actors and the casting process can sometimes be antagonistic, and that’s super unfortunate. If you find yourself ripping your hair off over the audition/casting process, and feeling resentful toward casting directors who “always bring you in, but never cast you,” consider these 3 mind-hacks: Continue reading Mind-Hacking the Audition Process

Craft is for the Brits!

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An article in The Atlantic caught my attention the other day with the headline The Decline of the American Actor. Being an American Actor myself, I must do what I can to stay up-to-date about my decline. Wait…come again?

First a quick digest of the article: author Terrance Rafferty makes many assertions that bumble about throughout the piece. The most important, in my opinion, is the comment that (in relation to their more successful British counterparts) American actors have less appreciation for training and technique. Continue reading Craft is for the Brits!