A famous singer once sang about knowing when to stay in a card game, knowing when to walk away, and knowing when to run. Country and Western singer Kenny Rogers has nothing on our own local AEASAG-AFTRA acting coach Sean Allen Pratt, who is teaching two workshops at Kimberly Skyrme Casting on April 9th between the hours of 10am to 5pm: “Work – When to take it, when to turn it down, and how to know the difference!” and “To Be or Wanna Be – The Top Ten Differences between a Successful Actor and A Starving Artist”. The former workshop teaches actors, most of whom are loath to turn anything down, that sometimes it is OK, maybe even for the best to walk away from a project. Both workshops focus on the importance of knowing the business side of the acting business.
Currently working as an audiobook narrator (which he’s done for 19 years) Pratt brings over 25 years of experience as a working actor to his workshops. Sean was once a member of The Pearl Theatre, an Off-Broadway classical repertory; he has performed at numerous regional theaters around the country. Pratt has appeared in films like “Iron Jawed Angels”, “Gods and Generals” and “Tuck Everlasting”. He’s served as a TV host too, on shows like HGTV’s “Old Homes Restored” and supporting roles on “Homicide”, “The District” and “America’s Most Wanted”. Pratt has recorded over 850 books in a wide variety of genres and has won eight AudioFile Magazine “Earphones” awards and five “Audie” nominations from the Audio Publishers Association.
Between coaching performers on audio book narration technique, teaching classes and writing articles about the business on his Website, Sean Pratt Presents dot Com, Pratt found time to fill me in on his upcoming workshops and tips for actors.
William Powell: What can students expect from your workshop “Work – When to take it, when to turn it down, and how to know the difference!”?
Sean Allen Pratt: Basically, it’s an introduction to learning how to negotiate a contract. Since almost all performers begin their careers without an agent, it’s important to learn how to review a work offer, discover the issues you may have surrounding the project, and then see if you can negotiate with the producer to get the best deal possible. This class also shows performers that sometimes, walking away from a gig is the right thing to do.
WP: Is that workshop good even for veteran actors?
SAP: Absolutely! I’ve been teaching this class for 20 years, and I’m always pleased when a veteran comes up to me afterwards and says, “’Man, I’m so glad I came! I had totally forgotten that I could do X, ask for Y, or develop a system like this!’
WP: Doesn’t turning down work hurt an actor’s career? You hear about famous actors who turned down famous parts—which they regretted.
SAP: Well, none of us are that successful…yet! Of course, there’s always that possibility, but usually the performer can work out a deal that makes the gig workable for them. Also from my experience, and from the anecdotes I’ve received from people who take my class, the projects they do walk away from turn out to be what they thought from the beginning; a bad project or not what they wanted to do anyway.
WP: What can actors learn from your other workshop “To Be or Wanna Be – The Top Ten Differences between a Successful Actor and A Starving Artist” ?
SAP: The class follows the outline of the book I wrote with the same title. It was written to be a primer for the beginning actor and a refresher for any veteran and is a business/self-help book that highlights the behaviors, actions or attitudes that have the greatest impact on their chances of becoming a “Successful Actor.” I contrast these with the destructive ones of the “Starving Artist”; starting with what I consider the core differences and expanding out to encompass the more complex ones. These ten differences have been drawn from my own experience, as well as the mindset I’ve tried to create in my own career, and observed in others.
Each chapter is composed of three sections. First, I identify and examine the distinction [between the sections]; its origin, its effects and its consequences on an actor’s career. Second, I share a personal story of how I came to discover this key difference and/or the way I use it in my career today. Finally, I’ve included a section at the end of every chapter titled, “So…Let’s Get Started”! Here the performer can find the specific, concrete steps they can take to begin working toward the difference discussed in that chapter. Also, I’ve thrown in a selection of books for further reading that relate to that particular topic.
WP: You’ve been in the business 25 years, how has it changed since you’ve been in it?
SAP: The Internet has fundamentally changed how we go about looking for work, send in auditions, and stay in touch with people! What hasn’t changed is the relentless effort of sharpening your skills, networking with the powers that be, and running your career like a real business.
WP: What’s the single best advice you’ve ever received about acting?
SAP: There are just three things that go into being a successful actor; Talent, Type and Tenacity, but not in equal amounts. Talent and Type together make up only a third of what is needed; the rest, and largest amount, is Tenacity. If you’re tenacious, then you’ll push yourself to sharpen your talents and refine your Type; more importantly, you’ll just keep getting up after you stumble and fall and keep going!
WP: Many DMV-area actors debate relocating to either, New York City, L.A. or Atlanta. What have you heard about the market in Philadelphia?
SAP: All these markets are constantly evolving, so what’s happening now won’t be the same a year from now. I think the bigger question is, “What are your career goals?” If you can define them precisely, be honest about your type in relation to those goals, and look at these different markets and their opportunities, then you’re better positioned to make a rational business decision about your chances of success in that particular city. Use the Internet to talk to other actors in those markets and find out what it’s really like there, build some connections, and go for an extended visit if you can. It takes a load of money to relocate, so only do it after really exploring the new market!
WP: What films or shows can we see you in this year?
SAP: LOL! None at present. I’m narrating audio books full time and coaching narration students via Skype. At present, I record 50 books a year and teach actors from all corners of the globe…..not a bad gig, huh?
WP: What’s next?
SAP: Getting ready to teach these two GREAT classes for Kimberly Skyrme!