Michael Gordin Shore’s Get-CAST in The Beaches is a 24/7 one stop shop that takes care of various actor needs including Audition Coaching, Self-Tapes, Set-Preparation for booked jobs, and Private One On One Ongoing Training for beginner to veteran kids, teens, and adults.
With over 45 years of training and real world experience on stage as well as in front of and behind the camera, Michael Gordin Shore is a Toronto based Film/TV/Theatre actor dubbed by a number of press outlets “One of Canada’s Top Audition Coaches” and “One of Canada’s Most Appreciated Acting Teachers”. He is an award winning independent short film director, and co-producer of a triple award winning independent feature. Michael has worn many hats in the industry, and has numerous ACTRA, IATSE, DGC, CAEA, Casting, Directing, and Producing Credits. As an actor he has booked 18 jobs in the last three years including Suits, Designated Survivor, The Strain, Taken, Zombie at 17, Mayday, Reign, Paper Year, Alias Grace, Lethal Soccer Mom, The Sweetheart, and many others. You can watch Michael’s coaching clients on countless shows including Law and Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Kim’s Convenience, Taken, People of Earth, The Umbrella Academy, Shazam, Anne with an E, Handmaid’s Tale, Workin’ Moms, Odd Squad, Degrassi: Next Class, and The Magic Schoolbus Rides Again, and he has coached dancers and teams of dancers onto America’s Best Dance Crew and Canada’s Got Talent. Michael has been a judge numerous times for the Canadian Screen Awards, The Joeys, and the Toronto Webfest.
Thank you Charlene and thank you eBOSS Canada for inviting me to talk to everyone a little about what this business has taught me as an actor, a coach, and a teacher. It’s a huge honour for me to be able to reach so many industry pros at once. I’m happy to share my opinions. And they are only that, my opinions. There’s no actual rulebook about how to approach and survive the life of an actor, and the goalposts are constantly moving. If I’m not constantly adjusting, I will get left behind.
HOW DID YOU BECOME A COACH/TEACHER…
Well, I’ve been acting since I was 5. When I was a teenager doing amateur musicals in Montreal, I was often asked by other actors to help them run lines, or help them make their dialogue sound more natural. I graduated from High School at 15 and did what I was supposed to do, got a college degree in Science, kept my acting on the side as a hobby, and began my grown-up life. When I was 26 I had enough of that, and went back to school. I did two degrees majoring in Theatre, one from John Abbott College in Montreal, and the other at the Simon Fraser School for the Contemporary Arts in Vancouver. The training could not have been more different. From classical, conservatory style training, to modern techniques developed since the 1960’s. When I finished, I felt like a well-rounded actor, so I got an agent and went for it in Film/TV.
That’s when I discovered how much specialized training is required to learn how to use the acting techniques I had learned for theatre in this very different setting. I realized that auditioning for Film/TV was like nothing I had ever been trained for.
So I studied with every reputable on camera teacher and coach in Vancouver for years, improving my skill set. But I had trouble finding teachers who were able to help me with my technical game very much. How to make things frame friendly. How to work fake eyelines. How to adjust the scene to make it audition friendly. How to deal with nerves. How to truly own the room. There were lots of great acting teachers, but they mostly focused on the performance and not the technical, and I already had a lot of that from theatre school, so I still felt lost, like an NFL player suddenly thrust into a championship Australian rules rugby game. The stakes and the adrenaline were high and I knew that I didn’t understand the rules of the game well enough to feature myself in my best light. In theatre school, I probably accumulated twenty thousand hours of training that was largely technical, so these things were second nature to me on stage, but I didn’t know how to use them on the mark, and nobody seemed able to help me beyond with very basic ideas. I became fascinated with figuring it all out. Deconstructing it so that I could master each step of the choreography of the audition process.
Around 2000, I took a job working for an acting school in exchange for free classes, and one weekend I was running camera for an audition workshop led by a former casting director who had become an agent. She was explaining the acting on camera process from her perspective, and a couple of times I slipped in a practical suggestion or two to help actors do what she was telling them she needed. It’s always seemed to me that there are a lot of teachers who can tell us what we have to do, but there are far fewer who are able to tell us exactly how to do it. And that’s always been my focus as an actor… “OK I know what I have to do, let’s figure out how to get it done”. After the workshop she thanked me for my contributions, and suggested that going forward, we co-teach the workshop together. I gladly agreed, and that was the beginning of my coaching career. She began referring me her own talent to prep them for auditions, and for set once they booked jobs, and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.
Now it’s almost 20 years later, and I’m incredibly grateful to say that my clients have had extraordinary success, and I’m on my way as an actor to the place I want to be. I’ve booked 18 jobs myself in the last 3 years, and my clients have booked hundreds, including leads in Kim’s Convenience, People of Earth, Blood and Water, The Magic Schoolbus Rides Again, and many more. I’ve never advertised, I only work on agent referral and word of mouth out of my home studio. I teach occasional workshops and group classes, but for the most part, I only work one on one. I never planned to coach or teach. I’m an actor who coaches, not a coach who acts. Coaching started almost by accident, and it’s been an amazing way for me to make sure I’m in the studio all day every day improving my own skill set while I help others improve theirs. And it’s a joy for me to play a valuable part in the development of another actor’s career, or to be able to touch a young person’s life by teaching them better communication skills through acting. My J.O.B. makes me feel like I’m putting something back into the universe to make up for all I’ve taken from life. It’s been a blessed ride so far!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR TALENT AT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR PERFORMANCE CAREER?
Get a lot of training and experience. Take a lot of classes with a lot of different teachers. I’ve studied with at least 50 great teachers in my life, and I’ve taken valuable things from all of them. Do all kinds of training. Voice, Movement, Dance, Standard American Dialect, Improv, Scene Study, and Audition Technique. Do On-Camera classes and study your tapes after. We need to make sure that what we think is on our faces actually is on our faces. Work out your idiosyncrasies. We need to be aware of every time we blink or swallow. Every movement of the eyebrow or slight tightening of the eyelids says something specific to the audience. We need to master our gesture work.
Work with teachers who use scripts from the best movies and plays ever. Also work with teachers who, like I do, use mostly scripts from locally produced projects. I focus on what I consider to be practical. I want actors to know what we shoot in Canada, and I want them to master those genres and those particular shows and styles of movies. I want them to book work, and be successful as professional actors. Which means get to set and get paid. But all these things I mentioned are crucial to build a well rounded actor/artist who has a chance at a long career. Also, get involved in indies. Give your time to small projects and student films. Create projects with your friends. Some of my favourite clips, memories, and experiences are from unpaid work. Do background work. Help out with the technical side whenever you can. The more time you spend on set, no matter what you’re doing, the more comfortable you’ll be when you have a camera pointed at you on a professional set. I put in almost 200 days as a Production Assistant on a TV show called Mysterious Ways back around 2000. Working for a full season as a crew member and watching the pros act taught me more than I had learned anywhere else about how TV shows and movies are actually made. It’s a very different world than my theatre past. Read books by the greats… Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner, Michael Caine, Stanislavski, Stella Adler, and then read The Practical Aesthetic, which summarizes Mamet’s approach. They all will stimulate ideas and help you fine tune your critical eye. Even when they seem to contradict each other, know that they are simply suggesting alternative routes to the same destination.
Understand that there will be dry periods when you won’t book. Fill your life. You can’t ‘only’ be an actor. Actors are the architects of the human condition. You can’t be that if you haven’t experienced life. The more adventures, education, experience,and training at ANYTHING that you give yourself, the more of a life you will have, the less you will depend on acting, and ironically, the better an actor you will become because you will have more to draw on and more to offer.
Plan to make your money in ways other than acting. I don’t want to sound cynical, but I want to make sure I survive for a long time. My goal is to be the last person standing. A couple of years ago, I went a year and a half without booking a job. Then I booked 4 in a month, and I’ve averaged 6 per year since. But if I add up all the money I made off all 18 jobs that the last 3 years have blessed me with, it would not add up to enough to get me through a single year of life without my coaching business to feed me. Yes, there are a few actors in Canada who make a very good living from their acting. But most of us need to earn the bulk of our money from other sources. In fact, many of the actors I know who do regular background work make more money from the industry than I do, and have better health insurance than I do. It’s a funny business. The goal is to thrive and survive, which means work and keep working. So get good at your craft. Leads often shoot 10 pages a day, 5 days a week. For months. That’s a lot of sleep deprived memorizing. Are you a strong enough memorizer to absorb 10 pages of sides every day, in between shots and over lunch, while you’re in the middle of a 14 hour shooting day?Can you do it day after day, week after week, month after month? If not, practice more. Get ready. That audition is coming. Memorizing gets easier and faster the more you do it. But memorizing is just the grunt work. We haven’t even talked about the acting performance and what work might need to go into preparing that… I’m not trying to freak anyone out, I’m trying to be realistic about what’s coming, and to inspire everyone to train harder so we raise the bar across the board. None of us dreams about being one line characters, although I for one am grateful for any and every day on set. We dream about booking bigger roles. So it’s on us to make bloody sure we’re ready for them when they come. That’s about training. And practicing. A lot. Set high standards from yourself. You’re choosing to go into an art form that has been practised for thousands of years. Respect it and yourself enough to not ‘wing it’. Please.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR TALENT TO HAVE A DEMO REEL?
I’d like to say it’s crucial, but it could be argued that it’s not. I know lots of working actors that haven’t cut a reel in years. They say they don’t need them. Casting knows them, the clients know them. They know they “should, one of these days… “
But is it good advice for me to say don’t bother getting a reel? Of course not.
If you have enough material to have a reel of booked work, even if it’s short, that’s great. It’s a very helpful tool not only to get more auditions, but also for the casting director to be able to provide to interested clients to reassure them that you can do the job on the day.
But it’s not like a headshot where if you don’t have one, you can’t book work. Lots of actors are out there working with no reel. So if you don’t have one yet, don’t panic. Keep prioritizing booking jobs and getting to set, and the reel issue will take care of itself. If you’re not booking enough pro jobs, do student films and indies. You’ll get enough footage soon enough, and then, yes. Cut a reel.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISTAKE ACTORS MAKE WHEN AUDITIONING?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one without acknowledging the others. Some of the common mistakes actors make include but are not limited to: not being well enough prepared, not knowing their lines, not understanding the style of the show or the genre, not wardrobing the part properly (I wouldn’t go for a lawyer audition in sweatpants and a t-shirt. I’m wearing a suit to that one), and the killer of all killers, being high maintenance in the room.
But assuming the actor has done everything right in their prep, knows the choreography of the audition process and knows how to deliver on the mark like a seasoned pro, the biggest mistake actors make when auditioning is:
Trying to figure out what ‘They’ want instead of doing what YOU want to do with the audition. I have a simple approach. I do what I want to do in the audition. I pretend I’m on set. They already gave me the job, told me I could do whatever I thought was right for it, they trust me. Then I just go ahead and do that. If they want, they can redirect me after. Great actors have said this, I’m just repeating it. They don’t know what they’re looking for until they see it. So stop trying to figure out what they’re looking for and show them what you want to do with the part. You’re the artist. Create something 🙂
HERE ARE FOUR TIPS TO HELP YOU STAND OUT IN YOUR AUDITIONS:
1- Be really well prepared and then do amazing work that helps the story and serves the script. Most actors don’t. Most actors shoot themselves in the foot and ruin their own chances by being too nervous or unprepared. So if you assume that half the actors who audition will not give competitive performances, then all you have to do to stand out is do good work when others don’t.
2- Be yourself in the character. With very rare exceptions, every character I play is one facet of the real me, exaggerated to become a full person. That naturalizes my delivery, and makes sure I have a completely developed character, even if I have a very small part. For many years, my demo reel consisted of only actor roles, but I was often told that each clip felt like I had chosen my favourite scene from a much larger character.
3- Look the part. Don’t go rent an expensive costume… but if I audition for a lawyer in a high end firm, I wear the same kind of thing they would wardrobe me in on the day. A new sharp suit, new shirt, nice tie, etc. I have my ‘audition clothes’ that never get worn except on camera. I’m not wearing my old baggy suit to a Suits lawyer audition unless the character is the kind of lawyer who would wear an ill fitting suit. My feeling is that the clients will look at me and see that I don’t look believable as the high end expensive lawyer that they want for Suits. And that might cost me the job. Other actors and coaches often disagree with me and tell me that dressing the part makes me look desperate. I respectfully disagree. My answer is always, I’m just making it easy for them to see that I’m perfect for the role. When I went to audition as the waiter in White Chicks, I noticed the scene was set in a restaurant in The Hamptons. That screamed high end and wealthy to me, so I wore black pants, a white tux shirt, a black bow tie, and a black cummerbund. When I got to the audition, the other actors snickered at me for trying too hard. So I looked at them, unshaven in their Hawaiian shirts looking all cool, and I asked myself if this was going to pay off for me because I too, had been told by my teachers not to dress the part too much. It did pay off though. I booked it, and wore exactly the same thing in the movie. In lower budget movies in recent years, I’m often asked to wear my own clothes, and that means what I wear on set and on screen is literally the same thing I wore in the audition. I believe that looking perfect for the character helps me to bend the clients towards me and away from my competition. I believe it’s my job to reassure them on camera that it’s simply easier to hire me than to keep on looking. If the audition is more than one scene and the character would be wearing different clothes, I will make a choice that is good enough for all three scenes, I won’t do major wardrobe changes. I’m not above putting on or taking off a jacket between scenes though.
4- Avoid making “interesting’ choices for the sake of standing out. Yes, I am always looking for my own unique path through the scene… where I think others might yell, sometimes I’ll choose another tactic… But I have to serve the script. I can’t take the character written to be The Mean Guy and make him nice, because the movie needs The Mean Guy… on the other hand, there’s a lot of ways to be mean, and I’ll try to do it my own way…
Bottom line: If you want to stand out in the audition, be bookable. That means do set ready work, look and sound right for the role, and be very well prepared so you can hit bullseyes on your first choice, and be able to turn on a dime for their redirections, if they come. Be ready to shoot it tomorrow. That’s the part that’s under your control. Whether or not you book it from that point forward is a matter of somebody else’s taste.
WHEN PREPPING AN AUDITION WITH A NEW CHARACTER, WHAT ARE TWO QUESTIONS A PERFORMER SHOULD ASK TO UNDERSTAND HOW BEST TO APPROACH IT?
My favorite place to begin is: What’s going on in the scene? What’s my relationship with the other character or characters in the scene?
Situation and Relationship. If I have those, I can survive with nothing else. If I don’t have those, then I don’t get the scene. Whatever else I do have won’t make up for the fact that I don’t really know what’s going on in the scene. I won’t even fully get who I’m talking to.
I’m talking to my ex about her new fiance isn’t enough. I’m talking to my ex who I’m still deeply in love with and secretly want another chance with as I try to pretend I’m happy for her that she just told me she is moving on and getting married, is enough. At least to begin.
I can build a great little scene knowing nothing more than that.
If I have to. Truth is, there are a lot of other great questions to ask, and when we get a new character, these two questions are only the beginning of exploring and developing it.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEATRE ACTING AND ON CAMERA ACTING?
It’s a common mistake to think that they are different. They aren’t. The size of the playing area is different. In a theatre it may be 40’x20’. In a Film/TV audition, it’s the size of a big hula hoop. On set, unless it’s a moving shot, it’s the size of your mark, which is a piece of tape.
The distance to the back row of the audience is very different. That’s actually a huge thing to get used to for theatre actors coming to Film/TV. But it’s an easy thing to adjust. In theatre school I was taught to make sure the person in the last row gets their money’s worth. That means volume, and large choices when we’re in a big space. The bigger the space, the bigger the choice so they can see it. In a big theatre space, the back row might be 100 feet away from the stage or more. In a tiny space, the back row might only be 15 feet away. On camera, in a tight-medium shot which is what we use in auditions, the audience feels like it’s one or two feet away from my face. I’ve heard it called 3 people in an elevator acting… me, my scene partner, and the entire audience of one. The camera. Everyone is so close. I need to trust that it’s not necessary to send my work to the back of the house, because the back of the house is 18 inches away from my face… even if the camera is 10 feet away, it’s zoomed in and that makes it feel closer. I can’t send my work to the camera, I need to let the camera come to me.
But details aside, in the end, acting is acting. Film/TV and Theatre all require the same level of specificity and meticulous attention to detail, both require similar skill sets, they both require an almost inhuman level of commitment, sacrifice, and hard work. The biggest differences in my opinion lie in the different technical skills we need as actors in the different mediums.
But those of us who aim to master our craft understand that honing those technical skills is simply a part of the job.
WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH BEING AN ACTOR WHO IS ALSO AN ACTING TEACHER/COACH? THIS IS A QUESTION I’M OFTEN ASKED.
There are no challenges I can think of associated with being an acting teacher. I love my J.O.B.. I get to help people, I’m always learning, and as I get better at teaching, I’m able to communicate more clearly as an actor. I also have a kick ass studio for my own self tapes. On the flip side, yes, there is a certain angst in selling off (in bite sized chunks for an hourly wage) what I’ve devoted my life and my life savings to. And what I’ve learned in 47 years of practice, training, and experience is worth a lot more than I charge for it. But I chuckle as I say “I have learned to live with that”.
There are many challenges associated with being an acting coach however. I’m available 24/7, I have to be. That interferes with my evenings, my weekends, my social time. Financial stability? What’s that? I never know what’s coming. I look back at last week in my daytimer and it’s jam packed seven days in a row, I look at next week and have almost nothing written down. It’s been like that for almost 20 years. And our hours, all of us in the industry, are hard. When we are busy, we are busy. 80 hour weeks are far from uncommon in our world. That’s a challenge we all share.
But. The elephant in the room for an actor who is also a coach. How do I feel when I help another actor change their life by booking a series lead, or something along those lines…
That’s the real question. “I would have thought it was going to be harder” is my answer.
I am grateful to say that there have been very few times where it has brought me anything other than pure unadulterated joy. Since I moved to Toronto 6 years ago, I’ve helped actors book hundreds of actor and principal roles. Those aren’t usually life-changing and they come so often that they don’t seem to attract too much attention. And I have so many fun stories… like the actor that coached 2 roles in a single session and booked both of them.. or the self tape from last year that helped an actor book a million dollar per season role on a potential multi year contract and then had it taken away over a scheduling conflict with a previous booking… one client booked 13 jobs out of around 20 auditions in the first couple of years we worked together. And he’s an actor I audition against for roles at least half a dozen times per year. Another actor booked, I believe, 7 out of 8 that I coached her for. And how could I be envious of the incredibly talented, generous, and deserving actor who helps to carry both People of Earth and Umbrella Academy? He was on the Conan O’Brien show not too long ago! What about the opportunity to work with so many of the leads of Blood and Water? Is that challenging for me as an actor who coaches?
It’s the big ones that are the eyebrow raisers… the conversation starters. The leads, the recurring roles and the series regulars.
Let me start by saying that I’ve never helped someone in my category to book a life changing role that I auditioned for and wanted. I imagine that will come someday and that might be very difficult.
But for the ones life has thrown at me so far? Easy shmeezy. My pleasure. Besides the adults I just mentioned, in the last couple of years I’ve also helped kids and teens book leads, recurring characters, and guest star roles on Law and Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Degrassi: Next Class, The Magic Schoolbus Rides Again, Workin’ Moms, and so many others. I can’t book those jobs myself so I can’t be too envious. Their success is my success as both a coach and as an actor. After all, what am I teaching them? The way I approach my own acting. And every booking is an homage to my own teachers, because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. My clients’ successes are the reason I have an income to support my acting addiction, and the reason you’re reading these words. My acting career is going very well, and my coaching career, which began by accident almost 20 years ago, has grown beyond my wildest expectations. I’m incredibly grateful to be living the life I’m living right now.
WHAT CAN CANADA’S ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY DO DIFFERENTLY IN ORDER TO GROW…
I’m not sure. This isn’t my area of expertise. From my perspective, I think they’re doing great. Whoever ‘they’ are. The people who having built this industry in Canada so that we can go to work. I’m working a lot, our crews are working a lot, and my clients are working a lot. And our industry’s infrastructure and studio space seems to be growing daily.
So go you! You smart people who know how to make this industry grow and thrive. I would be nowhere without you. Thank you.
WE ALL HAVE MENTORS. MINE HELPED ME GET TO WHERE I AM TODAY. WHO WERE THEY?
My mom. Who taught me my work ethic, introduced me to acting, taught me how to use a tape recorder to help me learn my lines, supported me through theatre school from ages 26-33. She was the hardest working, smartest, most creative person I have ever known. She was a brilliant costume designer, worked as in artist in various mediums, she read at least a book or two per day, she sat on me and encouraged me and pushed me. If it weren’t for her influence, the bar I set so high for myself now would likely be much lower. My mom taught me that if you’re going to do something, do it as well as you can. And she taught me to finish what I started. I lost her 12 years ago but she is with me, protecting me, and guiding my decisions every day. She also passed along her genes, and our family tradition of a life in the fine arts. Her great grandfather, Jacob Gordin, was a well known Yiddish playwright in the Lower East Side of New York around the turn of the century. He wrote, among many others, The Yiddish King Lear, which was known as the signature role of Jacob Adler (Stella Adler’s Father). I’m five generations into this thing. I’m not going anywhere. As I said earlier, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.
My dad. He did Olympic length triathlons until he was 77 when his legs hurt too much to keep running. He trained at least 30 hours per week for my whole life. He worked as an accountant, and still at 83 does Sudoku every day. My dad has won medals in around 50 triathlons since he was 60. He isn’t fast, but he finishes. Every time. And most don’t. Most of the time by the time my dad crosses the line, the awards ceremony is finished, all the chairs are packed up, and almost everyone is gone. But he finishes. And someone is always there when he crosses the finish line, waiting with his medal. Once he hit his 70’s, almost all the medals were gold or silver. Because there weren’t very many people in his category. He won a bronze in Bejing at 77 years old at the Triathlon World Championships. He could barely finish the run, his legs were done. That was the day he retired. A 77 year old medal winner at the World Championships.
My dad taught me that 75 percent of success is continuing to show up. When I was a kid I thought that was a joke, because obviously if you didn’t show up anymore, then you had already quit… when I was older I realized the profundity of that statement. Now it’s my long term survival plan. The truth is, no matter what you’re doing, if you do it for long enough, eventually you will get very good at it and other people will start dropping out like flies. From my dad I learned that no matter what ‘gifts’ we receive at birth, if we want to rise to the highest point possible in our chosen area, we have to work harder and longer, and never stop. Until our legs fail beneath us. Then we can rest.
The many acting teachers I’ve been blessed to have learned from are still my mentors and I quote them daily. As I said earlier, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. If I hadn’t listened to these people, I’d still be winging it like I was until I took my training seriously as a young adult. Terry, Penelope and Mark, Andrew, and Peter. My Kudoki Sifus, Sifu Max and Sifu Nick. And the agents and casting directors, producers, and directors who have believed in me, befriended me, talked candidly with me, guided me, and protected me. I won’t name them without permission. Bottom line is that this is a relationship business. The friendships that I’ve made with my work colleagues have furthered my career and brought love and joy into my life. The people I work with have become my chosen family. Acting is not something that can be done alone. As I look over my resume I realize that every single job I’ve ever done required a whole lot of people to do me a favour, give me an opportunity, take a chance on me… I would be nowhere if other people weren’t helping me. Thanks everyone.
And thank you eBOSS Canada for inviting me to talk about my journey, and for all you do for our community and our industry. It’s been amazing to have the chance to share a bit of my story with you and your readers.
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