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DEAR MICHAEL:

I've noticed a growing demand for hosts and/or people with teleprompter experience. However, I haven't been able to find any schools in Los Angeles offering hosting classes or workshops, especially in teleprompter. How does one become "teleprompter proficient" and learn the dos and don'ts of hosting?

—Back to You

Los Angeles, Calif.

DEAR BACK:

Marki Costello teaches a hosting boot camp several times a year through the Creative Management Entertainment Group. For information on her class, go to the CMEG website, www.cmeg.com, and click on the "Hosting Boot Camp" link.

You may also want to check out Hollywood Hosting, www.holly woodhosting.la. It offers workshops—taught by E! Entertainment and Style Network's Annie Boedeker-Roberts and Maureen Browne—that cover hosting, broadcast journalism, celebrity interviews, perfecting your reel, working with co-hosts, and so on. The email address is hollywoodhosting@yahoo.com.

See you on the red carpet.

DEAR MICHAEL:

Since moving to L.A., I've had two theatrical agents. The first did not send me out once in an entire year. The second has sent me out about five times in 10 months. I provide a lot of audition leads on my own, because I realize that actors can't rely solely on their agents.

I'm not a member of SAG but have a strong background in improv, standup, and regional and college theatre. I have a unique "alternative" look but can also look very girl-next-door, and I've played a lawyer. And I'm in what seems to be a pretty marketable age range: 18–26.

Am I not being sent out as frequently as the other clients because of something specifically about my look or background? Or do I need to start looking for another agent?

—SMAG

Los Angeles, Calif.

DEAR SMAG:

Ready for some tough love? Here it is: Because of your light résumé, non-SAG status, and "alternative" look, there are simply not going to be as many TV and film opportunities for you as you might like. It's great that you've been able to find an agent at all, considering. It shows that you're probably good at what you do. But agents can't create auditions that aren't there.

Yes, I agree, a whole year without a single call is unacceptable. Five in 10 months, with you providing leads, is also pretty bad. And yes, you may indeed need to shop around a bit more. But I advise you to be realistic as well, factoring in where you're at in your career and what's out there for your type. If you end up changing agents, be sure it's an upward move. Wandering around laterally won't do much for you. Have you tried sitting down with your current agent for a collaborative brainstorming session? Maybe together you can figure out ways to increase your opportunities.

DEAR MICHAEL:

I must send out thanks to Jason La Padura for his response to the question "What's your top tip for cold readings?" in Ask a CD in the Jan. 11, 2007, issue. Jason said, "I don't think I ever do cold readings. I never throw anything at somebody without having provided material ahead of time…. I do not do that to people."

I know that when I get my sides, I have at least 30 questions I want answered about my character, including: Where is he from? What is his family like? What type of education does he have? Where is he now? Who is he talking to? What is the conflict or crisis? What are his dreams, needs, obsessions, desires, etc.? I can't answer all these questions in five minutes with a casting person or scene partner constantly asking, "Are you ready?" every minute. I need time to get a good picture of the scene.

Why do they do these cold reads? Doesn't SAG require the material to be given at least 24 hours in advance? Granted, nonunion films do not have to follow SAG rules, but do they expect to get an excellent performance from someone who just saw the sides?

In my discussions with professional actors and acting coaches, their opinion of auditioners who do cold reads is that they are inexperienced and do not understand the acting profession. What do you think?

—Steamed About Cold Reading

via the Internet

DEAR STEAMED:

I think you took the words right out of my mouth. People who hand you a scene and expect instant acting probably don't get how acting works. And that's not their fault. It just means that they haven't come from an acting background.

No, there's no SAG rule guaranteeing actors adequate time with audition materials. But, like La Padura, most casting directors understand that getting us sides sooner rather than later means there's a better chance we'll nail the audition, which means they can breathe a sigh of relief and go to lunch.

We actors have a strange tendency to think people are out to get us. But if sides are getting to us late, it's a safe bet that casting got them late. Yes, it's a drag, but don't assume they're being negligent or inconsiderate. Sometimes roles get written in at the last minute, copy machines break, things happen.

Still, I'm sure that some of the situations you're encountering involve people who just don't know any better. And you shouldn't be rushed, under either circumstance, to deliver without any preparation. Instead of feeling victimized, you have a great opportunity to gently assert yourself and maybe even help the casting people learn a bit more about our process. When you have someone rushing you, instead of allowing it to make you anxious, do what big stars do: exercise gracious strength. Smile warmly, and tell them you're going to need about 20 minutes—or whatever you need. Be very nice and very firm. If they have a problem with that, explain kindly that you've only just gotten the script and couldn't possibly audition until you've had an opportunity to study it. Don't let anything ruffle your feathers. You're the expert. Take control.

Here's another way to approach it: If you haven't been provided with the materials in advance, go to the casting office early, but don't sign in. Grab your sides and take a walk. Get away from talkative actors and harried casting assistants, and do your work. When you're ready, come back, sign in, and knock 'em dead.

Michael Kostroff is a series regular on HBO's "The Wire" and the author of the book "Letters From Backstage: The Adventures of a Touring Stage Actor," available online and at bookstores.

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