The talented actor, the motivated artist and how to be both
Amy Lyndon is an acting teacher, studio owner and author of The Lyndon Technique. I’ve come to know her through many of my actors who have raved about her teaching method and classes. As a booking coach, Amy has over 40 network series regulars and thousands of working actors around the world. Besides her amazing ability to make my actors book, she’s possibly the most entertaining person to be around. She knows the facts of the business and doesn’t bullshit, so if you can handle truth, you’ll fully enjoy this lively, proud, slightly eccentric Hollywood woman. On a rare rainy day in North Hollywood, after catching up about the terrible dating scene in LA, we finally got to business…
Amy, how did you get to this point in your career? How did you get to where you are?
AMY: There are certain things in life that you know you have a purpose for. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything besides being an actor. And then, 25 years ago, my friend asked me to coach her daughter and she ended up booking a lead in this really big Feature Film. That’s when I said to myself, “Maybe I have more of a purpose than just being an actor.” And that’s when it happened.
And you immediately started your acting school?
AMY: Yes, I started teaching right from there. The technique is the technique that I used after graduating from all these universities. Going to the University of London, graduating with a BFA from Syracuse University, going to the Neighborhood Playhouse then studying with Stella Adler, Harry Mastrogeorge, and the list goes on and on. But I didn’t know how to book the job so I taught myself the technique that I now teach everybody else. So what they’re doing is what I created for myself when I moved out to Los Angeles.
Some of my actors have your book and they swear by it. Some of them call it ‘The Bible.’ Tell me about this book. What are these 15 steps?
AMY: Yes, the 15 Guidelines. The bottom line is that the actor that’s going to tell the best story is going to get the job. It’s the actor’s job to ask the right questions to comprehend the writer’s intent. The 15 Guidelines are there to help them read better. It’s reading comprehension. Most actors come from the school of, I have to make a choice right away, and then they start panicking when they get a script. And I’m asking them to read it 10 times. That’s Guideline #1: Read it 10 times and write down in one word or sentence what the scene is about. What are they both talking about? Stand outside of it like you’re watching somebody else play it not yourself. Because what happens is that an actor gets the scene and they’re only looking at their own lines, so they’re only looking at 50% of the story, but you can’t have an argument with someone unless you know what their point of view is. So another Guideline is: “What’s my point of view?”
The other night, it was Co-Star Night at the school and the actor was playing a “Gate Agent.” And there was an action saying that he types on the keyboard for a long time. Which sometimes at the airport that happens when they’re typing forever and then they ask you one thing like, “Name?”
AMY: Now if they had read that one action (types on the computer for a long time) then they would have understood the tone of the show. But by missing that one action, they miss that the show has a quirk to it. So, I’m asking actors to take a huge step back before they go in so that they can see everything in order to be in it. If you don’t understand it, you can’t play it. And that’s why people all over the world write to me after reading the book! The book is like the little engine that could.
It really is! It’s not a big book at all. It’s actually very small and cute.
AMY: It’s the size of a Samuel French play. I made it with a really big font size and it’s short so actors would read it. And they actually read it over and over and over again because of that. I also didn’t fill it up with fillers like testimonials or with some random person giving me a forward just to make myself substantial. And I don’t repeat myself. It literally is the 15 Guidelines. Each chapter is a Guideline.
Do you see common traits in the actors that become successful? You’re seeing our actors more often than us agents or managers do, so what do you pick up on with the ones that hit it big?
AMY: They’re not broken. What I mean by that is, when you’re broken, bring that broken to your work, but don’t bring it into the room. People want to work with people who are powerful. If you think about picking teams in grade school, the strongest players were always picked first and the weakest players were picked last. It’s the same with this community. People want the cream of the crop even if it’s just for the smallest role. They want the best person on their team. So it’s all about power and knowing what you’re doing. Nobody wants to hire someone that’s unsure. People hire people who know what they’re doing. Hey, that’s another Guideline, “What am I doing?”
That makes all the sense. When I’m talking to casting directors and I ask what the one thing is that sticks out to them, they all say confidence.
AMY: And that comes from knowing what you’re doing. You can’t go in not knowing if you’re going to stand or sit. You can’t go in not knowing your environment or who everyone is in the scene. You can’t go in with any question marks. Also, what I have to add is, casting doesn’t fret over you going to get your line, they fret on you falling out of the scene.
How’s pilot season for you? Is it any different than the rest of the year?
AMY: No different than the rest of the year.
Do you feel extra stress that actors feel from all these series regular auditions?
AMY: They lose it. They forget everything they ever learned. They just go crazy because they start thinking about the result. That’s why I always say that you should practice auditioning with people who don’t matter. Become a booking machine. So when you get that big audition it’s just another room you’re walking in. But a lot of people don’t do that. So if you’re cold and you get that audition, then you’re going to have some stress. But as you probably know, most people that book big jobs go in with a lot of momentum. They get close, and then a callback, then pinned, then held, then booking! And then there’s a cluster of bookings in a row. That’s called creating momentum. It’s because they’re practicing. So when people tell me they’re panicked, I say, “Let’s just get back to the work.” If you get back to the work, then you won’t notice the room. Don’t forget the work. They start getting nervous about the result instead of staying in the process.
Sometimes I find out that my actor hasn’t read the full script before the audition. Do you ever pick up on that?
AMY: Yes. Especially in television pilots today, there are so many tones and styles and you can be a great actor but not for that show. So that’s why if you read the script, you’ll know what that show is. And since another bus just pulled up with people from, I don’t know, Milwaukee, they’re going to take your job. You need every edge you can get. So my job as a Booking Coach is to make actors realize that you have to be at “No Question.” There’s “No Question” that they have to have you. And that comes from reading the script! If you have the opportunity to read the script, then you might understand the tone and the style of that script. Like with “Mr. Robot,” actors probably picked up the sides and thought, “What the heck is this?” If you didn’t read that script, then there’s no way you were going to understand those sides. There are no reference points.
Very different show.
AMY: It’s insane. I tell everybody how much TV they have to watch for tone and style.
Yes! Please expand on this because actors do need to watch a lot of television.
AMY: TONE & STYLE. They will lose the job because they missed the tone and style. I met this actor at my Saturday Intensive and he told me that he was called back for “The Bridge” 8 times. I asked him, “How many times did you watch it?” He said, “twice.” I said, “I’m sorry, but you don’t deserve to be on that show. If you don’t love TV, why should TV love you?” If I could find time in my crazy busy schedule to watch so much programming…
Agreed! I watch so much TV. I squeeze it in between every crook and cranny of my very busy schedule. But the other important thing is – I watch very varied programming. It’s not all Shondaland and Netflix. It’s not all sitcoms. I watch everything. And a lot of the actors that I meet don’t vary up their programming.
AMY: I agree with you.
They also have to watch TV proactively. Not just lying on the couch on Saturday all day getting high and eating pizza.
AMY: Not just watching for entertainment. They need to sit there and take notes; NCIS is similar in tone to Bones and Rosewood…
Yes. Pace of talking, how the scenes end, if there are dramatic looks into the distance, how long dramatic pauses are…
AMY: Non-verbal things.
What about being in class once a week. Some actors think that they show up once a week and they check it off their list. They’re ‘training.’
AMY: I still believe that most actors don’t know how hard it is to get to that high level they dream of and what it takes to get there. And I think it’s just because they don’t know. And I tell them, “You’re in class once a week. Would you put on skates once a week and be in the Olympics?” I always suggest that they take two of my classes a week or take one and watch one. And even though auditioning for AFI or USC Thesis projects are inconvenient, it’s sure better to be hot when your competition is cold.
AMY: Are you going to be able to compete that way? Because it’s all about your competition, right? So why aren’t you looking at it like it’s a competition? Why aren’t you looking at it like you’re trying to get into the ‘Actor Olympics’ over everyone else?
How many hours do you think getting into the Olympics takes? Definitely a lot more than class once a week. But guess what? Some actors do put in those hours. And they’re beating you.
AMY: When you were on your high school team and before the big game, didn’t you go over the big play? Didn’t you group together and go over exactly what you needed to do? Well why aren’t you doing the same before your audition? Why are you on the phone in the waiting room? Or why are you talking to your competition?
Amy, it literally makes me want to vomit when I see an actor posting on their InstaStories about being in an audition waiting room. My heartbeat is quickening just thinking about it.
AMY: Actors just don’t understand what they need to do to get the Gold. It takes a ridiculous amount of focus, practice, information, talent and determination.
I’m always listening to see if an actor was the #1 basketball player in their county or the best regional flutist or pianist because then I think they understand the crazy hours and devotion it takes to be #1 at something.
AMY: I completely agree with you. When I send out packages to agents and managers for actors, I always point out what kind of awards they’ve gotten in different competitions as children. Then people will know that they know how to compete. It’s a major key to booking.
Yes, that fire has to be there. I can only give so many motivational speeches. Some actors get it, but some don’t. And some actors are so talented, but they’re going to sit and wait for the perfect role to come to them and sometimes it does but sometimes it doesn’t. But then I have actors that are writing stuff with their friends, and meeting people at festivals and filming things and taking all these classes. And more happens for them faster. But some are just very talented and they sit back and they wait.
AMY: Doesn’t matter. Do you know how many talented people there are in town? Tons. To tell you the truth, the amazing actor isn’t always the one that gets hired. I’m sorry to say.
You have to have the right personality. You can be an amazing actor, but if you come off pompous or you’re socially awkward or you can’t click with people, it’s just weird energy. Nobody wants that on set.
AMY: People want to like you.
Charming. That’s the word. Read and learn about charm. It’s the key – I promise. Do you know the craft of charm? I would say, read How to Win Friends & Influence People. All actors should read it, (after they read your book), because it’s all about people skills! I like to recommend books to my actors. Who knows if they read them, though.
AMY: Well that’s the difference between a manager and a real manager. You’re a real manager. There’s a submission manager and a career-building manager. You’re a career-building manager. And yes, you can learn charm. People should want to ask you out to lunch. See, you asked me out to lunch!!
Yayyyy!!!! Thank you Amy 🙂
WHAT’S FOR LUNCH
RESTAURANT: The Front Yard
LOCATION: 4222 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91602
DISH: Margherita Flatbread & Chop Shop Salad
NOTES: Big restaurant with different areas & settings to dine in, valet parking or parking lot attached and tasty American dishes.
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