INTERVIEW: Gary Moore Reveals Mysteries of the Acting Universe
Gary Moore has been busy lately. And busy is good. He currently has three films in post-production: The Trial, The Bill Collector and Main Street. Wired4Film recently caught up with Gary — which wasn’t as difficult as it sounds seeing as we’re Facebook buds…nice one, Networking!
Anyway, he graciously splayed open that Kevin Spacey-like noggin of his and laid bare the mysteries of the acting universe. Mysteries which we pass on to you now!
WIRED4FILM: Hi Gary, thanks for taking some time out of your schedule to talk to Wired4Film. We’ve explored filmmaking from a variety of angles, but not yet from the Actor’s unique persepective. So let’s dive right in. Talk to us a little bit about your background. How’d you get started in “the biz”?
GARY MOORE: I grew up in Chicago always tagging along with my older sister, Debbie, who was a professional ventriloquist. She would perform all over the place and even on TV. When I was in second grade I remember wanting to get in the school play. I had so much fun performing that there wasn’t a school play I missed, except for the musicals because I can’t sing. Actually, in one college play I even played a non-singing guard in, “The Sound of Music.”
I followed a girl to college and one week before I left for school, I was offered a small role in a movie that was shooting in the Chicago area with the great star, Danny Kaye. It was called; “Skokie” and I turned it down because I was leaving for college in one week. I often look back on that decision and wonder what would have happened if I had done that film instead.
I majored in acting throughout college and even helped pay my college tuition from traveling on a drama team for the school.
W4F: Okay, so you started out on the stage. How does one move from stage to the screen?
GARY MOORE: After I graduated, I got married and moved out to San Francisco to start life. I had to get a real job to support my new wife and acting habit. As an actor, I was natural for sales jobs and excelled in them.
My heart was still yearning to act though, but I didn’t have time to do any stage work, so I thought well maybe I could do some commercials since they usually shoot in one day. Of course, I never had any training in front of a camera. I found a commercial acting class taught by, Jim Bressi, at Elite Modeling in downtown San Francisco. My wonderful mom, who has always supported my acting desire, paid for this class and I would take the BART to class every week.
Jim Bressi, was one of the original Marlboro Cowboys in modeling, however, he had extensive TV and film credits also. Jim had a major job taking me from the big acting of stage to the intimate acting for camera. To this day, he is my friend and supporter. With his help, I landed an agent and started doing many commercials. Camera work is all about look and I guess I looked like the guys who worked in grocery stores because I did about every one of them.
W4F: There’s a lot of actor-hopefuls out there just waiting for their phone to ring for the big film that’s gonna put them opposite of Shia LaBeouf or Kate Beckinsale but they haven’t done the legwork yet. It’s good to hear you talking about doing plays and Acting Classes and getting an agent and honing your craft, because I think that’s essential to every area of filmmaking. Training. Refining.
Anyway, just a little soapbox of mine, sorry. Ahem…where were we? Oh yeah, talk to us a little bit about the actor’s glam life.
GARY MOORE: As I was excelling in sales and making a pretty good living in California, I really wanted to venture into film work. One of my teachers from college called me and wanted me to audition for the lead role in a film he was working on named, “When Silence Speaks.” It was going to be shot in Tennessee, the same time Tom Cruise was filming, “The Firm.” I hired a camera crew to come to my nice business office and film my audition. I’m not sure how it looked, but it got me the role.
I remember driving up Highway 5 in California on my way to a sales meeting when I got the word! I was so happy……..and suddenly so scared! As soon as I got home I went to Barnes & Noble and bought the first book I could find about camera acting. Fortunately, I picked up Tony Barr’s book, Acting for the Camera. It was perfect for my needs taking an actor from a stage background to his first day on a film set. After I read it cover to cover in one sitting, I noticed Mr. Barr taught the Film Actor’s Workshop in LA. I looked up the phone number and ten minutes later I was talking to him. I explained my situation and he referred me to his associate, Eric Kline, to work with personally. I sent the script to Eric and then spent a day or two with Eric just working through all the scenes. Eric has such a gift and love for actors that he turned me around so fast and I felt so much more comfortable.
After I shot that film, I landed a Host job on TV for many years, which took me out of the film world. Well, my TV Host job ended a couple of years ago so I’ve been able to dive back into my real love, which is film.
W4F: Nice. I’ve seen your IMdb profile and some of your Facebook pics and see that you’ve met some great people along the way. What has been some advice you’ve been given by other actors that really helped you along the way? Things you’ve learned that you can pass along to the future DeNiro’s reading this article right now.
GARY MOORE: Tim Conway told me once that he didn’t want to do anything that he would have to apologize for later in his life. My mom told me something similar since I have four boys, telling me not to do anything I wouldn’t want my boys to watch.
Stand your ground and don’t do anything that goes against your conscience with God.
Here was some of Ronald Reagan’s advice from his acting days:
1. Always be on time on the set.
2. Know your lines.
3. Hit your marks.
I’ve taken that advice and to this day, I’ve always shown up early to sets, always known my lines and the other actors lines for that matter, and try to hit my marks every take. These producers and directors have spent a lot of time and money to get to the point where they are bringing in actors for filming and you don’t want to be responsible as the one who screwed up their shoot.
My acting coach, Eric Kline, has given me some wonderful advice over the years, but some of his best was using music to get me into the emotions I need for scenes. He taught me that there is nothing as fast as music to change your emotions……and I think he’s right. I find songs and music that go with my different scenes and have my headphones on the set when I’m between takes. It has helped me tremendously! Eric says the really good directors know this and will have the right music playing for everyone on the set, but I’ve yet to experience that so I bring my own.
Never talk trash about other people on set. I learned this the hard way on a commercial I did in California during the OJ Simpson Trial. Between takes I was talking trash with the DP about a famous person in the trial who was trying to spring board his fame into an acting career for himself. Well suddenly the girl stormed off the set. I asked, “what’s up with her?” The crew informed me that she was currently dating that guy. After I took my foot out of my mouth, I apologized and tried to never do that again.
Be a Christian on set, but don’t be “over-saved” as my comedian friend, Michael Jr., says. Not everyone is a Christian on set, even on Christian film sets. It will not help the cause of Christ to be preaching between takes. What will be noticed is that you act like a professional and don’t act like a prima donna. On sets, your actions will speak louder than your words.
Let God be your casting director, it takes so much off of you. You will go to some auditions that the casting director will praise you up one wall and then next and you won’t get the job. Other auditions you will do “Ok” and not feel like your did your best but you end up booking that job. As a Christian actor you have to know that God is ultimately in control of your career and not any casting director, director, or agent for that matter. He will have you cast in the roles He wants you in, and yeah, you don’t always understand why you didn’t get that certain role, but God does because He sees the big picture, we don’t.
Never think you’ve arrived as an actor. There is always something more to learn. You can always improve your skills and work on your weaknesses. I continue to take acting workshops to sharpen my skills. I recently learned to cry on cue. This was the help of my acting coach, Eric Kline, for a recent movie I was in. Acting takes practice and more practice.
W4F: Gold, Gary Moore, that’s what you’re giving us is gold! Thank you, thank you. This is great. So you’ve got an agent…so you pretty much just let them dig up your jobs for you and you kick back in your private actor trailer and eat your yellow M&Ms and peeled grapes and drink your RockStar juice, right? Or – more realistically – are you out there still pounding the pavement?
GARY MOORE: As an actor, you are in an awkward place as a Christian. As much as the Bible teaches Christians not to be full of themselves, you have to market yourself and your skills. You have to network with other industry people. I remember getting my first agent and thinking, “wow, I’ve really made it now!” I quickly came to realize that agents have their job, but it’s not always marketing me. You have to take the bull by the horns and get out there yourself. No one else is excited about you except your mom, maybe, and even if they are they don’t have the time to spend just marketing you.
Go to industry gatherings like the International Christian Visual Media Association, the Gideon Film Festival, and so many other Christian film gatherings around the country. Facebook has been a source of acting gigs for me this last year. I can point to three different bookings I got directly from Facebook. Have your own website with demo reels so you can point directors to it. I, again, can point to three or four jobs last year that came from my website. As in sales, you can’t stop marketing yourself just because you’re busy on another shoot. You have to keep the ball rolling or you’ll come off that shoot going, “hmmm, I wonder what my next gig is?”
Invest in your career. When I was in sales, I use to take a little of my big bonuses and buy something that would help me do my job even better. I’ve done this now with my acting. Little by little, buy things that will help you. Some examples I’ve invested in that have helped me are, a MacBook Pro computer with Final Cut Express. Many auditions are now letting you submit electronically, so I also invested in a professional lighting kit and can tape my own auditions at home, edit them professionally, and send them off to agents, casting directors, or directors themselves.
W4F: Your acting process — from the time you get the script, how do you approach your lines, your character? Versus how much the director is bringing to your lines and character. How do your characters evolve?
GARY MOORE: When I land a part and actually get a whole film script then I start breaking down the script into my scenes. While I break down the script, I read the entire script every day, twice a day if I can fit it in. I can’t tell you how important reading the entire script every day is! I read somewhere that one of my favorite actors, Anthony Hopkins, reads a script over 300 times before he walks on a set. I can’t verify that, but that’s what started me reading scripts every day and it has proved immensely beneficial.
Of course, films are never shot in order of the script; in fact, on The Bill Collector my first day on the set we filmed the very last scene. That can really throw you if you let it, but I got some good advice from my acting coach, Eric Kline. He told me that it’s actually great because filming the last scene first lets you know where you’re ending up as a character. Reading the entire script through every day also prepares you for starting in weird shooting orders because you are so familiar with the story that you know the emotions needed for each scene, it will also be the best way to memorize.
How to know the emotions needed for each scene I use the following method:
1. Go through each of your scenes and find out your character’s need in that scene. It could be as simple as; to get a drink of water.
2. Next find out the obstacle that is hindering you from meeting that need.
3. Having these two important items gives you the overall emotion that your character is feeling during the scene. Going back to my example, it could be as follows:
Need: to get a drink of water
Obstacle: my wife is yelling at me
Emotion: frustration, mixed with some anger and thrist
When you do this throughout your entire script and make a chart showing these three different items, you get a very clear picture of the overall personality of your character; where he changes and arcs. There could be multiple needs and obstacles in one scene so dig them out.
The next tip I use is print out the subtext in the other person’s lines. By this I mean, what is my character thinking about as this person is speaking, I shouldn’t be ignoring him or her. In real life we actively listen and it’s always best to “care” about what is being said unless it’s obvious that your character is trying to ignore them.
W4F: What is your take on cold-calling production companies as an actor. Are you for this? Does it work? I mean, as a Director, if I’m not ramping up for a shoot, I’ve got no real place for all these headshots…until I”ve got a specific role to fill. Then I audition for specific roles and unfortunately a headshot I may have filed away 2 years ago may not even be remembered. Advice there?
GARY MOORE: Can you cold call a director or producer? The answer is, of course, yes, but it might not be the best answer. I get much of my work on my own, not because I don’t love my agents, I do, but they have many other actors to promote and I don’t have a full-time manager, so it’s down to me to market myself. Directors, producers, writers, and anyone else that has to do with making a film aren’t sitting around hoping an actor is going to bug them for work today. I do find it funny though, that when they are looking for actors, they suddenly become as aggressive as we do when we look for work, so they should give us a break, but they won’t.
A better approach I believe is to keep loose contact with them and continue to let them know you are working, where you are working, and how in demand you are……..even if it’s only from your family at the time. Social networking is the best way to do this. Facebook and Twitter are wonderful ways to show everyone what you are doing without bugging these other industry people directly and burning your bridges before you even get to them. If you aren’t friends with other industry people on these social networking sites, then a quick email after you’ve just landed a great gig or photo of you on the set working isn’t going to hurt, just save it for the worth while times.
W4F: Awesome. Thanks, Gary. Have we left anything out that you’d like to add?
GARY MOORE: I love acting and I love just being with industry people. My wife says when I call her from a set that I sound like I’m in Heaven.
I can’t hide that feeling, I love sets and everything around them, I guess that’s one reason I like to show up early. Being an actor is a job you have to love or you will be crushed like a soda can. It’s so full of rejection and hard work, but the rewards are so great, especially when you do work that really speaks to people and relates God’s message. Just this past year, I ran into a lady at a grocery store who said, their daughter came to know the Lord after their church showed, “When Silence Speaks.” I’ve had the chance to run into others through the years that have said similar nice things. As an actor, there’s no better feeling in the world. I don’t know why God would use me as an actor, I’m far from perfect and often screw up, but He forgives and keeps using me.
I can’t wait for my next role!
W4F: I know, right? We can’t either. Thanks again, Gary.
March 20, 2010 Gary Moore will be teaching an Actor’s Workshop geared toward ages 12 – Adult in Fayetteville, NC.
( Technique for Beginner – Highly Experienced Actors and Actresses)
COSTt: $100 for first family member; $90 for each additional family member
PLACE: Tallywood Shopping Ctr., #223, Raeford Rd, Fayetteville, NC 28303
Find out MORE about Gary at www.garymoore.me