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   Training Review
   Hitting Your Mark, Version 2
   Author: Steve Carlson
   Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
   Format: Book (216 pgs.)
   Topic: How to be a better film actor.

   MSRP: $22.95
   For Special Price:
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   Website: Michael Wiese Productions
   Release Dates: June 15, 2006

   Review Date:
December 15, 2005
   Reviewed By: Kari Ann Morgan
Final Score:

As an actor whose career spans almost 40 years and over 10 feature films, 3 soap opera series, 50 guest television appearances, and hundreds of commercials, it's safe to say that Steve Carlson knows what he's talking about when he brings up the topic of acting. His incredibly diverse resume affords him unique and knowledgeable insight into the requirements for different types of performance: cinematic, television, and commercial.

In this book, he talks about what is expected of you on set as an actor; the crew members and their various important jobs (emphasizing the mutual respect and cooperation necessary between both cast and crew); how the environments and demands of cinematic, television, and commercial filming and acting differ; and how to act not only with other actors, but with the camera, lighting, sound, and editing, as well.

One thing to note, however: this is not a "guide-to-acting" book. There are no instructions for how to act; rather, this book is geared toward those with acting experience (theatrical or on-camera), who want to learn how to improve their work and performance on film.

Steve Carlson tells of how he came to Hollywood years ago from his home in Wyoming, where he'd lived all his life; needless to say, the transition was a big one!

To help other newcomers adjust to the "organized insanity" of a film set, Carlson begins by explaining who everyone on the crew is and what they are responsible for; he then goes on the explain blocking and "camera awareness". Once these basics have been covered, he gets into how to work effectively with other actors, understanding the technical aspects of shooting, and working in unique situations. And that's just in Book One! Book Two explores the more "professional" side of acting. Whether you're working in television or movies, whether you've got a regular acting stint or are a struggling or beginning actor, Carlson explains what truly makes a good actor. (And he should know!) He discusses how to handle oneself professionally and personally, and how to strike a balance between the two. While this books covers a large and diverse amount of information, it is remarkable easy to understand. It more or less assumes that, while the reader may have some acting experience, s/he has little to no experience acting on camera.

The book's only drawback is that, although it largely follows a logical progression of topics, there are some subjects that are scattered throughout the book and might be more effective if they were condensed into their own chapter or section.

The two in particular that leap to mind are soap operas and commercials. These two are vastly different - from a production standpoint - from almost anything else in television. Because of their extremely tight shooting schedule (24 hours, start to finish!), soap operas are going to have an exceptionally different environment than a show that only comes on once or twice a week. Commercials are a different animal altogether, because not only is the final product extremely short (and, by necessity, concise), but its goal is to sell a product, not tell a story or give information. Because the goals and production styles of soap operas and (especially) commercials are so different from those of cinema or typical television, I think that they would be much more effectively discussed in separate chapters specifically for these genres.

Depth of Information
There is nothing quite as valuable as experience. That being the case, Steve Carlson is passing on a tremendous amount of invaluable experience in this book. Sure, you could learn some of this stuff from a classroom, but there are a lot of things that can only come from experience. Luckily for us, Steve took care of a lot of that already!

The amount of information he covers is plentiful and varied, to be sure, but it is incredibly important. Actors will inevitably encounter directors who are vague in their descriptions of what they want and crews who will assume that the actor knows what is going on. However, under Carlson' tutelage, the actor can gain valuable insight without the (frequently) frustrating experiences.

Interest Level
Because this is almost more of an "educational memoir" than a "how-to" book, it is very enjoyable to read. Sprinkled in among the explanations and instruction are stories of Carlson's own experiences in film, adding a very personal touch. It's almost as though you're on a field trip with the teacher, Mr. Carlson, taking you through a set and introducing you to the various crewmembers and explaining what they do. Then, he demonstrates how the actor should work with his environment and coworkers. Finally, he guides you off the set into an audition, where he instructs you on what casting directors, producers, and film directors look for in an actor, how to compete (professionally) with other actors, and how to handle both success and failure in acting. This approach makes Hitting Your Mark very enjoyable to read.

The depth of valuable and helpful information in this book, combined with its easy comprehension and engaging style, make this a book that you will not only enjoy coming back to, but one that you will recommend to others as well.

Value vs. Cost
This book is a must-have for actors looking to improve their craft. If you're wanting to get into film acting - or even if you've done a lot of film acting and merely want to learn from the experiences of a seasoned professional - Hitting Your Mark is definitely worth the cost.

They say that experience is the best teacher; consider this book to be a full course.

Overall Comment
I am very glad that Steve Carlson took the time to put together a book like this. It's amazing just how much one can learn from listening to another's experiences. This book is well-written and well organized overall; its educational-yet-conversational style makes it easy and enjoyable to read. These things, together with the depth of information, add up to an all-around great book.

My only suggestion would be to give commercials and/or soap operas their own separate chapters, simply because their acting and production needs are so vastly different from cinema and other television formats.

Depth of Information            
Interest Level            
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