The Uta Hagen Cry

As you may know I work with some famous people, and recently I’ve been enjoying the new young and passionate Zac Efron and Usher, who are eager to share the work. Also recently, a new phenomenon has occurred– it is that my hard working actors are being paid pittance. I’m not talking about Zac or Usher– in fact, I’m not going to name names because this isn’t an exposé but an observation. You are not interested in famous working actors being paid a pittance? Let me suggest you be interested!

Jack Nicholson was one to fight for the recognition of the actor’s work. Jack Nicholson understood that the actor had to dig deep down into self and supply deep emotional material in order to produce great work. This emotional material had to be accessible for the period of the shooting of the film and ready to go on the word “action.” For him, the actor who did this in-depth work should be paid 20 million dollars. The point is not the exact amount; the point being stressed is the recognition of the work. A pittance does not acknowledge the work!

Often as a young actor you are asked to do plays and student films for nothing. You do so to grow in your craft, and to develop experience and your reel. When do you stop working for nothing? And when do you stop working for a pittance? An actor will go on a film set and see huge lighting instruments on it and will wonder why those instruments are more important than the actor. It seems that the acting instrument is not the essential instrument to tell a story– but it is! This is not an observation of the nickels and dime-millions of the movie business– it is the Uta Hagen cry “Respect for Acting.”

The director can seduce an actor into doing the film by talking about the great talent and how he/she would love to work with that great talent. But it has often been proving that the director will put money into technology and not into that great actor. So to the young actor who goes into the business with the consideration that you will make good money—yes that is possible– but I repeat respect what you do– especially those of you who will give a little piece of your heart to every character that you play and every film that you do—respect that you are an essential, important instrument in the process of story telling.

Always in the art! – Susan Batson

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When your work is captured, it is captured forever!

I’m in Paris working with Juliette Binoche on a film. It is Sunday. In art there is no day of rest. On Broadway, the day off for others is the working day for the artist. For Juliette Binoche, when she loves someone or something, she loves it every second, minute, hour of the day, every day. For her, there is no day off with her acting. (Juliette Binoche won an Oscar for English Patient, and is most famous for her role in Chocolat with Johnny Depp. This year, she will have several films coming out: 1,000 Times Good Night, Clouds of Sils Maria, Words and Pictures.) In other words, she loves her work and the work loves her!

After 7 hours of non-stop work, I returned to my Parisian hotel to eat and to restore. I turn on the TV to find out from BBC what country is at war and how many innocent souls have died, when I am compelled for a moment to stop at the channel before BBC. Why? I don’t know. I only feel that there is a connection. The sound of the man was simple, deep, and in French. The image appeared and the man was all in black, with black hair, a beard, and a moustache. Just as I caught the image, the camera cut to Vanessa Williams for a second. Then, back to the very connected, intense actor. I scream… Wass!!!! Yes, it was our Wass Stevens that stopped me. I was so pleased because Wass is family. He began with us and now generously gives back to us by teaching Industry Prep every Tuesday at 5pm. When the camera returned to Wass, it held a moment and then the scene was over. Much to my surprise, I had stumbled upon the end of an episode of Ugly Betty. I never saw Ugly Betty until this Sunday evening in Paris. Like Wass always says, “When your work is captured, it is captured forever!”

Long live Wass Stevens! Look for him in the upcoming series Public Morals!

Always in the art! – Susan Batson.

Trust- Inspired by Casting Director Brette Goldstein

Industry Nights at the Susan Batson Studio present much food for thought. Brette Goldstein recently came up with two gourmet dishes. First, an actor asked her, “What do you think my type is?” She cringed and responded, “I don’t like to think like that.” I applauded her disdain for type-casting. Then, after a moment, she said, “I like to think about it like this- if you could choose two people, who would you be the love child of?” This question turned out to be such fun for us all. So, I pass it on to you.

The second dish came when I asked Brette how she felt about a certain actor. She responded, “I don’t trust her.” To tell the truth I wasn’t shocked by her answer- but I am seizing upon it to explore and find the way an actor builds a paradigm from which to operate trust.

What evokes trust in the industry? Honesty? “My mother died three weeks ago- I know my work is in trouble.” This statement will perhaps evoke compassion, but not trust. See if this helps: A resume with perfect margins, good font, no misspellings, clarity of information, which gives a picture of the actor’s career and where to get in contact with the actor, a list of skills, and, finally, citizenship status and union affiliations. This begins the trust. A good picture that looks like you- and more trust is established. Regarding the picture: if you have an obvious scar above your left eyebrow- and you’re drop dead gorgeous- do not have it airbrushed on your picture… you will not be trusted. You have an audition and you dress like you just had a run in Central Park or a dance class at Steps… You won’t be trusted. Wear tight fitted expensive leather pants on your incredible sexy body when you audition for a social worker- you will not be trusted. Wear a suit, shirt, tie, and a pocket-handkerchief when you audition for a lawyer- you will be trusted and appreciated. As you see, the paradigm is first being built from the outside. It is the external things that first come into the auditor’s view. Oh yes, you can be trusted if you walk in the door with warmth and energy. A great smile covers all evils, and you will be trusted.

Unless given to you at the casting office half an hour before your audition, have the text in- in other words, have knowledge of all the meanings of the words, names, places, and things. If done, you will be trusted. If tears are required for the material you are auditioning with, they must be invisible upon arrival into the office- and they must magically appear when the text dictates their appearance. Trust is instantaneous. A well-trained, emotionally accessible actor can make this happen. Taking an adjustment– even the most outrageous ones- brings respect and trust for your actor. Weep to the raw bottom of your soul, but restore immediately at the end of the audition—this evokes trust and sometimes curiosity. Mucous is dangling from your nose- no trust, just disgust. Guns at an audition- even if it is your nephew’s toy gun- do not create trust, just fear. If, in audition, a new impulse hits you and you decide to follow it through, make sure that you do so in character and in the character’s circumstances. If you do not artfully follow the impulses, you will be considered crazy and not be trusted. It was a psychotic impulse when van Gogh cut off his ear, but wonderful art when he crafted Starry Night.

As you build your paradigm to gain trust, remember that you can have personality disorders, perhaps like van Gogh, and still be a great artist. Also, as you know, in this day and age, mental disorders not only have names and pills attached to then, but they can be diagnosed and co-exist with talent, if responsibly treated.

It is not only the job of the actor to prepare the audition material- it is also mandatory for the actor to gain the auditor’s trust. You are brave, hard-working souls who take on the arduous task of acting… Stay in your dreams.

With deep respect and well wishes- Always in the art! – Susan Batson

PS- Thanks to Brette Goldstein for inspiring this post!

Putting the Artist First

Can we have an industry in which the artists come first? This is a question pressing against the left side of my rib cage. The conditions of our industry often seem anti-artist. Yet, I must encourage artists to create in spite of this because to create is to exceed oneself and one’s environment. So I cannot just have this pressure against the left side of my rib cage- I am obliged to move passed it and demand an answer. Can we have an industry in which the artists come first?

There is the fear that no one is listening and, therefore, there is no one to answer the question. Do not take my aphorism as one of a victim, but as one of a fighter determining his/her strategy. The role our industry is playing is one of commercialism- the mighty dollar first. So some of us have compromised our passion for art to fit into this sluggish reality of the big bucks busters. Make 520 million dollars in the first week of a movie, and they say that’s art! Yet, I must encourage you to fight for art and to put your artist first in an industry that has placed mad profit as their primary concern. So, do not make your only solution dissolution or compromise. Be aware and passionately assert your art amidst the shoot-‘em-ups, technological violence and innocuously loud humor. Those that have the guts break through enough to be seen and find the luck to establish their own perfect time and space.

All of this is being stated in generalities, but I am certain that will takes courage, and the courage to believe in one’s desired principle is worth the trouble of willing its realization. I know that I am talking to many artists who exemplify great passion for the art and have the desire to bring it into the world population. All of you are poetic, conscious, innovative, powerful, and with all the qualities to begin an artistic revolution. Yes, even with the state of the industry and the world today, I do believe in the creative artist. You are out there, eager, hungry, and deeply passionate. You are still dreaming, believing, hoping, and struggling to bring truth to your art. No matter where I go around the world, I see your eyes light up full of love, gratitude, and inspiration for the art form you love. It is for you that this pressure against the left side of my rib cage is released with the hope that I am able to instill in all of us the motivation and guidance to bring us an artist-first industry with a healthy environment to create.

Always in the Art, Susan Batson

Perfect Time and Space

Understanding that things come in their own perfect time and space can try your patience or set you free. There is a bit of mythology surrounding the actress Mildred Dunnock, who started her acting career in her late 30’s. Some say she was a bank teller and some say she was a teacher. The truth about her prior occupation is irrelevant, because that day in her late 30’s, when she made the decision to act, brought her great rewards (two Academy Awards nominations, one for Death of a Salesman and the other for Baby Doll, and many other awards). Certainly, one can say that Mildred Dunnock’s career arrived in its perfect time and space.

Recently, I was watching the 2014 Tony Awards and experienced perfect time and space example. Let me set the stage for you: in 2004, I joined David Binder as a producer for the Broadway revival of the great play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, starring Sean Combs. It was a very successful production. The 2004 production was Tony nominated for Best Revival of a Play- it did not win. The three actresses in the production (Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, and Sanaa Lathan) were Tony nominated. Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald won. Of course when I was involved with the 2004 A Raisin in the Sun revival, I wanted not only to be nominated, but to win. It was not about me- I couldn’t believe that this great play didn’t win!

Ten Years later (2014) as I watch the Tony Awards, I saw A Raisin in the Sun, now produced by Scott Rudin, win a Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Perfect time and space? The director, Kenny Leon, won the 2014 Best Director Tony for Best Revival Play- when he was directing the play in 2004 he wasn’t nominated for a Tony Award. Perfect time and space? Seated in the audience of the Tony ceremony was David Binder, the producer with myself and others of the 2004 production. This year, he was the winning producer of a Tony for Best Musical Revival (Hedwig and The Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick Harris).  So as A Raisin in the Sun is winning for Best Revival of a Play, David Binder in all of his generous joy and passion accepts the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. Yes, all perfect time and space.

As I watched all the happenings, I was laughing and crying, experiencing an epiphany filled with poetic justice. Divine intervention, truth, love and passion, for a moment the world spiraled in perfect time and space, from prehistoric time to me present. All has come to us in perfect time. The question is: Will you be ready when it arrives?

Get ready because it will arrive in its perfect time!

Congratulations to all Tony winners, and a big smile for Kenny Leon and A Raisin in the Sun winners. And David Binder, I thank you for your inspiration and integrity.

Always in the art, Susan Batson

Dear Prospective International Students, We Now Offer a VISA Program!

Dear Prospective Students,

I am very pleased that you are considering the Susan Batson Studio VISA Program. We are excited about your interest and grateful for this opportunity to share our process with actors around the world.

I coach powerful actors such as Nicole Kidman, Juliette Binoche, and recently Zac Effron has started to use our process as well. This is the work that we offer you.

I recognize that the yearly cost of the program can be a hardship. However, if you are dedicated, this investment can guarantee you tools, comprehension, and confidence in your craft. At the Susan Batson Studio, we give you the real world experiences by exposing you to agents, casting directors, and directors.

If you are ready to come to New York and embrace this very challenging work, we at the Susan Batson Studio will commit to accompanying you on your journey to find the great actor within you!

Please don’t hesitate to email (SBSinformation@gmail.com) or call (212-226-4630) if you need further guidance in making this choice.

Always in the art,

Susan Batson

If Loving You is Wrong- I Don’t Want to be Right!

I like that these days I’m wrong- Every once in a while I’ve been slapped into humility My arrogance splattered floor before me, stinking like vomit. Righteousness and arrogance amongst artists are violations of the unwritten artist’s code. A real artist is quite aware of how humane an artist must be to achieve their craft. Like all beings they are flawed, but even with a multitude of imperfections their struggle for truth integrity authenticity and humanity in their art gains them grace. It is understood that there is no such thing as perfection. Failure is always a lesson in art. And you can’t please all of the people all of the time. What speaks to you may not speak to me- And it is not a reason for condemnation.

So, I don’t want to be right if I don’t like all of Tyler Perry’s movies. If the truth be told, I honor and respect Tyler Perry for all that he has achieved, and when I walk on the grounds or through the halls of the Tyler Perry Studio, his passion and acknowledgement of all who have gone before him is not only informative but touching. Although our drummers may differ, Tyler Perry opens his ear and shares with me our differences and our commitment to what we love doing. For this feature, I am most grateful. Tyler Perry has many detractors, perhaps they are jealous or sincerely critical of Tyler’s work, but let us put our harshness and arrogance aside and share with Tyler Perry his commendable achievements. So if deep appreciation, gratitude and respect for Tyler Perry is wrong…  I don’t want to be right.  Good luck Tyler on your new project, If Loving You is Wrong.