The Questions:
How do I get into "The Business"?
What are some books/sites I should read to hone my craft?
How do I get an agent?
Will you come speak at my College/Conference/Event?
How do I get an autographed picture or send you something?
Can you teach me how to act?
How do actors get paid?
Do you have a gf?
What are you doing next?
What is your ethnicity?
Who are your favorite actors?
How did your parents take the news you wanted to be an actor?
How did you make the decision to be an actor?
What are your favorite movie/scenes/TV shows?
What is your favorite food?
Is it difficult playing a Gay character?
Who is your role model?
Do you feel a lot of pressure being a role model for Asian Americans?
How do you feel about actors that take on stereotypical roles?

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How do I get into "The Business"?


~Getting work in this business is not hard.
The actors I know who work, do so because they have a work ethic.
The ones that don’t… don’t~

It’s that simple.

I suppose this comes from my business background in college but “Treat it like a business”. You are the company. You are the product. What are you going to do to be the best product out there? Once you begin thinking like that, things will logically fall into place. That means (only a partial list):

-Being on top of your game with acting lessons (which I still take). Finding a technique or combine a few that work for you.
-Reading the trade magazines. Know the heads of studios and keep abreast of what projects they are doing.
-Know which casting directors cast which shows/films.
-Watch each TV show at least once so you know the tone and style of the show when you audition (“Modern Family” is a very different show than “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” or “NCIS: Los Angeles”).
-Writing your own material. Gets you into thinking visually when breaking down a script plus no one is going to write a better part for you, than you.
-Marketing yourself with creative mailers to casting people and agents whenever you are in something.
-Taking movement classes, voice, stage combat, and commercial classes.
-Keeping a journal of your auditions and take notes on how you did. That way you’ll not repeat mistakes or recall what you needed to work on for the callback.

Do one thing a day towards your career. Whether it is working out, reading a play, studying a film, auditioning…it all adds up. After a year, you’ll have done 365 more things towards your career. Each day that you don’t, that all adds up as well.

~You prove who you are by how you behave
when nothing is happening for you~

“Winging it” will sometimes get you there but you will never know how it happened and therefore can’t repeat it. Everybody gets their shot--it’s if they’re ready to nail it down when the time comes around again, and again and again.

A career in this business is 90% work and 10% sheer luck (being at the right place in the right time). I can’t guarantee you being a star. But I can guarantee you the 90%, being a true professional in the craft and helping you stay driven in a film and television career, or any career for that matter, for the long haul. You have to fall down before you can crawl, then walk and then fly.

~Being a good actor is very attainable. You can act anywhere: through your own productions, theatre company with your friends, etc~

It took me 6 years doing all of the above before I got my shot with The New Guy and Better Luck Tomorrow. I honestly feel that the 100’s of auditions I went to and marketing fliers I sent out, learning from past auditions, got me to a place internally that when those opportunities came along, I was ready to grab it. This work ethic applies to anything that you do, not just acting. That’s why you have to really love whatever you are doing and get into it for the right reasons, otherwise it’s almost impossible to take the crap that you have to go through. Even though I work hard on my career, it never has seemed like work to me. Find something you love to do and then get someone to pay you to do it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint so enjoy the journey.

~Acting is an obsession, not a profession. If you can think of something else to do, then do that. Otherwise, it is really tough to go through all the countless years of rejections even though you’re working so hard--your obsession will be the only thing that carries you through it all~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What are some books/sites I should read to hone my craft?

"Your Film Acting Career" by MK Lewis & Rosemary Lewis
This book was and still is my bible for the nuts and bolts of the business. Everything I know is from this book. It tells you step by step on how to get your headshots done, to finding agents, to negotiating billing on a show. Helping you to avoid the scams (ie: run from any agent that charges more than 10% of your earnings or an agency that proposes taking their classes or using their photographers as a condition of representation, etc). It will help you with each step of your career.

 

http://home.earthlink.net/~jaquino/
(Jen's got a lot of great info and I totally agree with her philosophies.)

http://wp.me/p1zIfy-bV
Some notes from my acting mentor who taught me everything I know, Heidi Helen Davis, (/http://wp.me/p1zIfy-bV)

http://www.imdb.com
(I am on this site everyday researching directors/producers/actors I'm about to meet and cross referencing them with their projects.)

Must Have's:

-"The Working Actor's Guide" (WAG)
(Listings on classes, photographers, photo duplication services, theatres, demo tapes, etc)
-"Casting Directory" by The Breakdowns
-"Agency Guide" (NY & LA Editions) by K Callen, or "The Agencies"
-"Hollywood Creative Directory"
(Listing most production company addresses to send mailers to)

Acting Techniques:

-"A Challenge For The Actor" by Uta Hagen
(What my entire technique is based upon: Stanislavsky and Uta Hagen.)

-"Ivana Chubbuck Studio: Script Analysis Handbook" by Ivana Chubbuck
(A great abridged version to the above technique.)
-"Acting: The First Six Lessons" by Richard Boleslavsky
(A little old school but has good lessons in it.)
-"Sanford Meisner on Acting" by Sanford Meisner & Dennis Longwell
(I personally don't vibe with this technique but I know too many great actors who swear by Meisner, that I cannot dismiss it completely.)
-"True & False" by David Mamet
(You should read this book after you have a technique down for several years in your subconscious and are trying to "throw it away" or if you are over analyzing things and need to get out of your head. Do not read this book first! It will screw you up thinking you don't need a technique.)
-"Act Right" by Erin Gray & Maria Purl
(About invaluable film set etiquette.)
-"Acting in Film" by Michael Caine
(Get the videotape version as well. I always watch it before I do film to brush up on my camera know-how.)

Screenwriting:

-"Which Lie Did I Tell" by William Goldman
(One of the best books I've read period. He's written Misery and The Princess Bride and shows you his first draft of a script at the end of the book and has all the best screenwriters in the world critique it to shreds.)
-"The Screenwriter's Bible" by David Trottier
(The title says it all. Format, Format, Format.)
-"Story" by Robert McKee
(A little dry, but everyone takes this guy's course on screenwriting. He's the teacher Adaptation's based on.)

Marketing:

-"An Actor's Business" by Andrew Reilly

Auditioning:

-"Audition" by Michael Sturtleff
-"How to Get the Part Without Falling Apart" by Margie Haber
(Everyone who studies with her raves on her audition techniques but they're pretty much based on a crash course of Uta Hagen's stuff.)
-"Superman (1979) DVD" by Richard Donner
(Check out the Lois Lane screen tests. It shows all these great actresses auditioning for the role, but you can see why Margot Kidder is the clear choice. It's like sitting in on a casting session, where everyone is good-but it's that one person who does that extra "something" that nabs him or her the role.)

Commercials:

-"Acting in TV Commercials for Fun & Profit" by Squire Fridell

General:

-“The Little Stuff Matters Most” by Bernie Brillstein (A great little book about Business etiquette written by one of the top managers in the business that represent: Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, etc)

Extra Work:

-"Back to One: The Movie Extras Guidebook" by Cullen Chambers

Personally I’m not a big reader, so these books I’m recommending are the cream of the crop in my book and easy to get through than others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How do I get an agent?

From my experience, 90% of the time, the people who ask -- are not ready to have an agent yet. Just having a headshot and being ready to mail 'em out, does not make one "represent-able" goods.

Because once you get an agent, you're going to be instantly thrust into a playing field amongst actors who are honing their chops daily or have been for years. You don't want to be labeled as being "too green" on your first impressions in front of casting people. And the agents sure as heck don't want you embarrassing them. And the agents that do take on tons of newcomers are already known for their weaker talent pools among the casting community anyway - so his/her submissions probably won't get open very often.
The key is to take your time. Otherwise it's a lose-lose situation in the long run. I can't tell you how many times I've personally seen how the agent appropriate for the level you're at -- will usually always wind up "finding" you. But who am I to be discouraging? After all, I too once submitted to agencies I had no business sending out to. So with that said...

I came across a really well done book called: "An Agent Tells All" by Tony Martinez.

Tony is currently an agent at KSR and was growing weary of the same “how to get an agent” questions. So he wrote a book from the agent's perspective on how to: submit to an agent, knowing when you're ready for an agent, how to handle the interview, what tools you'll need, what an agent does, what you should expect from your agent, etc. The book's also got a website.


In the book, Tony agrees that training is a tool that most actors forget they need. It's a very easy read and he thoroughly lays it all out in a clear, no-nonsense writing style similar to mine. If I were to write a book about this stuff, it would come from the same principles. A "Thumbs Up" from me.

In fact, I learned a lot about the pilot season process in later chapters that I wish I knew while recently going through pilot season. Those starting out may not need that info right now, but that's what good guidebooks do -- have all the info available there when you need it.

So any of you folks looking for an agent, this is a great place to start accumulating a lot of information you'll need... that is if you're ready.

Other good books about agents and the submission process are: "Your Film Acting Career" by MK Lewis (my bible when I started out) and "The LA Agent Book" or "The NY Agent Book" by K. Callan. Although both books provide timeless advice, the agencies/names may be outdated in the editions I linked above. After reading about the agent submission process, then go into a Samuel French Bookstore in NY or LA and pick up "The Right Agent" or "The Agencies" (for some reason not available online) to read about each agency in detail and get their current addresses/agent names when you're ready to submit.

Also, reading the “acting bible”: “Your Film Acting Career” will walk you through it. But as a crash course, locate agencies in the “The Agencies”, read and locate the appropriate ones for your level (Beginning, Mid-Level, Advanced) and submit a headshot/resume with a cover letter no longer than 5 sentences. Send out 10 inquires and then follow-up with a phone call. Think of a creative way to get around the gate-keeper (ex: Say something like, “I just sent my package a week ago to “so and so” for representation, and am making my final choices this week, just wanted to follow up with “so and so”. It’s best to get a referral from a casting person or someone in the business. But if you can’t, everyone’s done a blind submission. Your first agent, won’t be your last. But you need to get into the door and they have access to most of the roles.

When you interview with them, see if the phones are ringing? Are they busy for their clients? What’s the décor like? How many people do they represent? An agent can only charge 10% of your earnings. But that also means, if they get 10% of the money, you’ve got to do 90% of the work and hustle yourself to get jobs as well. You can’t just rest on your laurels once you do get an agent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Will you come speak at my College / Conference / Event?

Please visit the TOUR section on the site.

 

 

 

 

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How do I get an autographed picture or send you something?

For an autographed photo, see "MERCHANDISE" and the “PHOTOS” sections of the site. I can also receive mail at the same address listed there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can you teach me how to act?

Can you teach me how to act?

I did a 3-part entry on my old online journal, remember XANGA?! (www.xanga.com/parryshen) entitled: “Acting Skool” that is a mini crash course into the how an actor might work on a role.

Part I
Part II
Part III

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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How do actors get paid?

The residual system on Commercial

The residual system on Film/TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do you have a girlfriend?

I don’t have a girlfriend…but I do have a wife. When I was working at the H.S. boarding school (see bio) and took care of the boy’s dorm, my wife took care of the girl’s dorm. We worked there 4 years together and started dating our last year there. So we were the best of friends while basically being the parents of 80 teenagers! I edited my proposed in 2001 through the pier scene in “BLT see here (I get a box as a gift and inside is a gun. In the proposal when I open the box, the ring is in there instead--Zooey Deschanel from The New Guy even pops in for a cameo). In the wedding Roger Fan, Sung Kang and Jason Tobin were my groomsmen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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What are you doing next?

The “Home” section of the site will be continually updated in regards to projects/appearances, etc. Also, on twitterwww.twitter.com/parryshen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is your ethnicity?

Chinese-American. Mom is From Hong Kong. Dad is from Shanghai. I was born and raised in Queens, NYC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who are your favorite actors?

I will pretty much watch anything these actors are in because I know I’ll never be disappointed. To me, that is a true sign of talent when your technique/sensibilities transcend all genres.

Hugh Jackman
Christian Bale
Matt Damon
Ryan Gosling
Ken Leung
Rachel Weisz
Saoirse Ronan
Chloe Moretz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How did your parents take the news you wanted to be an actor?

My mother was like any other caring parent that didn’t want to see her son starve to death. She still nags to this day about putting my money in a Roth IRA or the practical things in life. But I think what calmed her down was that she knew I had a plan and wouldn’t just go waiting for work to come to me. I told her, “If I can succeed in getting straight A’s in business school when I really don’t care for it much, to even being the President of a business fraternity, imagine how much butt I’ll kick doing something I love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How did you make the decision to be an actor?

It’s always been a part of me. I was a latchkey kid and was brought up by the television. I would literally log in about 8 hours of TV/films a day. I’d come home from school at 3pm, turn on “Voltron” and didn’t stop until 11pm. That’s when I’d start my homework. But when I was watching, I was observing the storytelling and how they did things. Jack Tripper from “Three’s Company” taught me the beats of a joke, “Tom & Jerry” taught me comedic timing, “Little House on the Prairie” taught me dramatic performance.

In college I was a business major by day but at night, my girlfriend and I at the time would write our own pieces and cast our friends in them. We entered the pieces in talent shows. So it wasn’t like I just jumped into it. I had years of hands on experience and instinct.

But what made me make the actual decision to commit to a life of acting was when I interned at corporations. I heard the same thing from people: That they felt stuck at their jobs/they’d already invested too many years at their job/they had a pension/they had a family to support, etc. I decided: If not now, then when? So I did the first “unpractical” thing in my life and gathered my life savings and took a serious 6 year plunge into the business. Knowing what you want is the toughest part. Once you can pinpoint that, everything falls into place--you know where you want to go and can take the small steps to get there rather than doing a bunch of things just mediocre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What are your favorite movies / scenes / TV Shows?

My requirement of a favorite movie is one that I have watched over 20 times without getting tired of it:

Amadeus
(Tom Hulce is amazing. He was robbed of an Oscar for this)

American History X
Primal Fear

(Ed Norton does some first rate stuff in the above 2 films)

Beautiful Girls
(All of Natalie Portman's scenes, especially when she sees Timothy Hutton's girlfriend for the first time)

Best in Show
(Any scenes with Fred Willard doing commentary)

Big Night
(The last scene when they are making eggs. There's no dialogue but there's none needed)

Black Hawk Down
(When the two snipers go on a suicide mission to save Ron Eldard's character)

Blue Valentine
(Way too tough to watch 20+ times, but watching Ryan Gosling in this made me want to be a better actor)
Braveheart
(Especially the scene when William Wallace discovers he's been betrayed by Robert the Bruce)

Back to the Future I & II
Charlotte's Web
The Contender
(Great all around performances by Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges)

Crimson Tide
Deep Impact
(Especially when Tea Leoni is on the beach with her father before the tidal wave hits and when Leelee Sobieski says goodbye to her parents)

Enemy at the Gates
Fight Club
The Firm
Frequency
Gattaca
GalaxyQuest
(Especially when Laredo is trying to pilot the ship)

The Godfather, Part II
(The scene when Al Pacino tells Fredo that "He knows")

Good Will Hunting
Goodfellas

(I never tire of this film. Ray Liotta does an amazing job)

In the Line of Fire
Hannah
High Crimes
(Jim Caviezel is awesome in the interrogation room trying to convince Ashley Judd he's not a murderer)
Inglorious Bastereds
Iron Man
(My Favorite Superhero movie of all-time. Pitch perfect with the comic yet also tweaked for cinematic sensibility)

Kill Bill: Vol 1&2
Keeping the Faith
(Ken Leung as the Karaoke Salesman)
Kick-Ass
(Chloe Grace Moretz is incredible as Hit-Girl)

L.A. Confidential
(Crowe and Pierce are such great finds in this film)
Leon, The Professional
(Especially Natalie Portman's scene playing Russian Roulette)
Let Me In
Memento
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
(Gollum's scene when he's talking to himself really scares me that they'll soon replace live actors someday)
Mission Impossible: 2
(On the DVD's Special Features: Ben Stiller's MTV " Mission Improbable" segment busts my gut)

Manic
Mumford

The Good Girl
(Zooey Deschanel is great as always in the 3 films above)

Reservoir Dogs
(Michael Madsen torturing Officer Nash)

The Matrix
The Muppets
(My favorite film of 2011 -- The Moopets are hilarious.)

The Princess Bride
(The second funniest film on the planet)
The Player
Pretty Woman
(Especially all of Hector Elizondo's scenes)
Pulp Fiction
Rounders
Saving Private Ryan
(When Giovanni Ribisi is shot, when Matt Damon refuses to go home & Jeremy Davies is frozen in fear on the steps)
The Shawshank Redemption
(Holy freakin' cow. Probably favorite film of all-time. To this day, every time I see Bob Gunton (The Warden), I feel like punching him in the freakin' face)
Silver Linings Playbook
(I have never seen characters with such quirks like these before)

Spider-Man 2
(Not only because I was in it, but when the subway crowd promises to keep his secret always gets me)

Stand and Deliver
(Edward James Olmos is rock steady in this)

Star Trek
(Casting was perfect and a great re-boot to revitalize the franchise. My Favorite movie of 2009)

The Thin Red Line
(I could not stand this film but Jim Caviezel is the only thing worth watching)
Thirteen Days
(Bruce Greenwood is magnificent as JFK)
Tampopo
(Any scenes when they are making ramen noodles)
Superman
The Thomas Crown Affair
Titanic
(Especially when Rose jumps back onto the ship to be with Jack)
Tombstone
Top Gun
(I can recite 90% of the dialogue in this film)
Tommy Boy
(Probably the funniest movie on the planet. Farley & Spade had super chemistry in this one)
The Toy Story Trilogy
(A great beginning, middle and end that stayed fresh but consistent in the toys' journey through life)
Troy
The Untouchables
(Just a great ensemble. Connery, Garcia and Costner all work so well in this one)

Wallstreet
(Sheen's best stuff. Douglas totally deserved the Oscar)

Up In The Air
You Can Count on Me
(Like 'Blue Valentine', too emotionally draining to see 20+ times, but Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney's subtlety are powerful in this)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is your favorite food?

NYC Pizza. I could live on that stuff forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is it difficult playing a Gay character?

Not, really. I and everyone already knows what love is in all varying degrees. It's universal - love is love -- everything (the emotions, the flirting, the butterflies, the passion, the itimacy, etc) are ALL the same. The one thing that took some getting used to, was kissing beard stubble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you feel a lot of pressure being a role model for Asian Americans?

I wouldn't even dare to be presumptuous and deem myself as a role model. But since what I do is in the public eye and there aren't many Asian faces on Film/TV, I realize that people just seeing my face will subconsciously trigger me as a "representative" of sorts. The best thing I can do for Asian Americans and myself is to not focus on being a "role model" but just going out there and being the best damn actor I can be. The worst thing I could do for AA's, is not working on my craft and depend on my ethnicity as a crutch and whine about getting cast because I need to be seen as an AA. I honestly believe good work will find you and vice versa if you're the best out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is your role model?

My mom. She worked really hard as a single mom to put my brother and me into the best schools in NYC. Came home late from working multiple jobs, then cooked us dinner and checked our homework. I don’t know how she did it but my brother and I are better men because of her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you feel about actors that take on stereotypical roles?

I’ll never judge another actor for the work they’ll accept. They each need to eat and pay their dues in the business. It really depends if they can personally stomach doing a questionable role. It’s that tough decision of “Do I just stick by my values and never work doing what I love?” AA film is still in its infancy and we have a lot of catching up to do, so we still have to sort through a bunch of garbage that is still out there. But hopefully it will be accelerated with increasing forms of media like the Internet so that we can catch up with African American and Latino Films. That way, I won’t be 70 and receiving an award from a young AA actor going, “Mr. Shen, due to your work in ‘BLT’ 40 years ago, you’ve paved the way for us.”