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I love actors

One of the things I love about actors is their eternal optimism despite being rejected over and over again. The really tough part about this is that for the most part no reason is given for the rejection. This week I watched a Ted talk by Jia Jiang “What I learned from 100 days of rejection” Essentially, he set about desensitizing himself to rejection by inviting it. It’s a funny and very meaningful talk. However, what he did was when he was rejected, he engaged. So, he’d ask why? The problem for actors is they don’t have that option. They go for an audition, do their best and leave. Then nothing happens. I mean NOTHING. No “thanks for coming and putting so much energy into the audition but we don’t feel you are right for this”. No “I am sorry but you just blew it by being a bit ……” Nothing. Constructive critiques would be useful so they can improve and move forward armed with some knowledge. Nothing. It’s not personal. It is just the nature of our industry. A job comes in, the casting director casts it and it moves on up the chain to someone else. No one has the time to go through hundreds of auditions and assess each one. By the time that project has moved on up the chain, the casting director is prepping the next job. That’s fair. I get it. But it’s tough on actors (and their reps). It’s tough, unforgiving and sometimes it feels down right mean. Here’s a statistic for you. 3% of “actors” achieve a living wage or more. What a sad statistic. So how do we change it? Actors need to figure out two things. First, how to get past the rejection and keep moving forward because of the 97% who do not achieve the success I mentioned above, over 90% give up – disillusioned, angry and often bitter. And I don’t blame them. Believe it or not it happens to agents and managers too. We get just as upset as they do. And then how to work out what the casting director / director / whoever is making the decision want before the audition. That’s hard to do but it is what all actors need to learn to do. It’s important to understand the mindset behind the project and in the casting room. Not how they, the actor, sees the project and role but how do the project decision makers see it. So, my hat is off to all those actors who take the long waits between auditions, the constant rejections, the never-ending disappointment and never give up. In the end perseverance and faith pays off. I just wish more of the so many talented actors I see, would keep going. They are only one job away from success and as they give up and walk away, that job may come in. Be ready when opportunity knocks.

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In 7 days your life could be different

In 7 days your life could look different, in 90 days it could be different. Isn’t that a hopeful thought? Wherever you are right now, in 7 days you could see things differently. Things could be different. Today is but a moment in time and you choose now what the next 7 days will bring. I read this in a group I belong to and it resonated with me, and judging by the responses, it resonated with a lot of people. We are all hoping to be somewhere, to achieve something and often that is all it is – a thought, a hope, a dream. But what if it was more than that? It’s like buying a lottery ticket. One chance in however million that you will win. It might happen. And that’s the magic word – happen. There’s a difference between something happening to you or for you and you choosing to create something or achieve something. Buying a lottery ticket is giving you hope, something to dream about. And that’s fine. But what happens when you don’t win? You buy another ticket and keep the hope alive. But what if you choose to take a different action? A doing action. To achieve that something you hope for, that you dream about. But what action can you take? And will it be hard to make changes? And you are so busy, you just don’t have time right now. And of course, it will cost money. So maybe next year. When you have won the lottery? Or at least have a bit more money. What’s really holding you back? Why not just take one – just one – step toward your goal. See how it feels. If that feels OK, take another and then another. In 7 days, 7 steps.  In 90 days, 90 steps What a difference that would make to your life. In 7 days everything could be different.  

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Ask don’t tell

When I work with an actor, I have one BIG rule. Ask don’t tell! If you don’t ask, I can’t help you. When someone wants to work with me and then goes silent or just tells me what they have been doing then I am working in a void. The purpose of having a mentor, manager or agent is, or should be, to move your career forward. To get help from an experienced professional. Right? If a client says to me “I have done this course” or “I have these new photos”, then I am stuck with what they have done and so are they. We should have discussed the training options. A course might look like fun – they all do, but are there 20 new people in the class with you and if so, what can you learn? Group classes are about learning with and from your peers as much as your tutor(s). Also, many courses have generic content – they have to have. They don’t know who they are going to have in the class or at what level. So, my first question when confronted with “I have” is “did this course or workshop help you move forward?” I know you had fun, you got some time in the class acting – which is what you love. But what did you learn that we, as a team, can use to get you better quality auditions? Or did you just spend a few hundred dollars to have some fun? That’s fine if that’s what you want to do. But if you have career aspirations to be a working actor or more, then simply adding yet another course or workshop to your resume means nothing to me or the casting directors. Everyone does courses and workshops. What they (and I) want to see is a smart, organized approach to learning your craft with the right people, in the right order, at the right time. Likewise, photos. Are they going to stand out from the crowd? Or are they the same as everyone else’s because your friends told you this photographer is great? Did you control the session, or did you just do as you were told? Again, photographers work with a generic footprint because they don’t know what you know, don’t know or want. So, to enable the session to run smoothly for you both they have to have pre-set moves. You need to ask for advice from your mentor or manager. Tell them what you are thinking of doing before you do it. So, at the very least they can give you reasons to go ahead, not do it or if you do it, how to gain the most benefit from it. It’s not that these people are bad, or ripping you off – they just might not be right for where you are right now. To work effectively with a mentor, manager or agent, you must work together. You must communicate your requirements, your goals and ask…

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Is signing with an agent the end game?

Do you think that signing with an agent is the end game? That’s it. Now you can sit back and they’ll make your career. Right? Wrong! What you have done is engaged the interest of someone who thinks you have potential. It might be your look, your training or even your current level of acting ability or talent. Whatever it is, you currently have their interest. But here’s the kicker. If you don’t continue to show them how good you are, how professional you are and how hard you are prepared to work. If you don’t show this new “interested party” that you are prepared to invest in yourself then it won’t be long before they begin to lose interest in you. Unless your material is perfect and you are the best actor in the world then your job is to continue to earn their interest and hope that interest turns into belief in you because then they will do everything in their power to make your career happen. Because you have been on a course or even graduated with a degree in acting does not make you a good actor, it makes you a trained actor. There is a difference. Your training is a great start but it will most likely not get you in the room with a casting director unless your material and your rep back up your belief in yourself. No-one will take your word for it. So, what do you do? You have to show your agent and the industry decision makers that you are worth investing in by being proactive, learning about type and niche and who you are as an actor now (not in 10 years), up-skilling by continuing to attend workshops and shooting scenes that showcase your type and your ability – to prove your case. To show what you can do and that you are working hard to improve and grow as an actor. Scenes that are even a year old should be out of date because you should have got better. If you haven’t then you have reached your chosen upper limit or you have stopped trying. So, getting an agent is the perhaps the first step on a very long ladder or squiggly road as I like to call it. You must now navigate your way until you reach a point where that interest in your potential becomes belief in your ability. Now comes the next part – and for some the hardest part. You have to trust your agent. There is no point signing with an agent and treating them like a casting service. That will get you nowhere. Signing with an agent has to be about moving forward as an actor or performer. So once signed ask for advice and take it. Trust them. They are on your team. They are there to help you.

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Are you a wannbe or a gonnabe?

Are you a wannabe? Or a gonnabe? Every agent I know represents some of both. It’s true this industry is a numbers game, but everyone gets it wrong. It’s not all abutthere being so many others competing for the work. The numbers game is in the wannabes vs the gonnabes. A wannbe is the actor who puts a few photos on an agent’s books or a casting site – or both, attends an acting course or even two and maybe even shoots a show reel. All of it goes on the sites and agent’s books. And then they wait. And wait. And wait. A gonnabe does their research, finds out what the agents and casting directors want (and need) to promote them and then goes about getting it. And yes, they wait. But there is a difference. While they wait, a gonnabe keeps; updating their show reel or scenes finding different stand out photos attending workshops learning everything they can from the people who can help their career networking and they keep pushing to keep their name and image alive in the minds of those who matter by refreshing their material – providing proof they are good and improving. So, in the end the gonnabe has a better chance of success by a long way because they have the numbers. They have their supporters in the industry who know how hard they work how dedicated they are and so they get the attention AND the auditions. Are you a wannabe or a gonnabe?

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Casting Services – why you don’t just need them, you have to have them

The major ongoing expense for actors today is online profiles on casting services. Every day, someone says I can’t afford this one or that one. I get that. Life as an actor is tough. Your income is rarely guaranteed and some years many will not earn at all. You may have a great year this year and nothing for 2 years. It happens. However, the adage “advertise always and especially in adverse times” applies here. There are thousands of casting directors, directors, young film makers and their teams, scouring the internet every day. Casting Services give the industry professionals two very valuable tools. •   Access to a lot of talent in one place •   Freedom to browse anonymously Why can’t they just go to the agents’ websites? Because they’d have to go to hundreds, even thousands of different sites depending on the country and region. Also, many agents have stopped listing their clients on their website because of security concerns. It’s costly and an ongoing daily process to stay abreast of security online. Casting services have the resources to do this. Most agents do not. Why do they want to browse anonymously? Maybe their script isn’t fully developed yet and they are fleshing out their characters and looking for ideas. For sure they will have concerns around confidentiality. Most projects including their synopsis and script are very confidential right up to release but even more so when in the ideas stage. So how can you use the casting services to enhance your career? First you have to understand the purpose of the online profile. Your online profiles are there to promote you by making your resume, photos and reels easily available, in an approved industry format, to verified industry professionals, in a secure place. But most of all your online profiles allow you to tell your story. Most actors just throw up a photo or two, a reel or a clip and some credits. And they only update their profile when reminded. If that’s how you look at your online profiles then you are missing opportunities. Your profile is a reflection of you. A casually put together, out of date profile indicates a casual, unprofessional, perhaps disinterested or uneducated actor. A professionally put together profile contains just the right amount of information to get people interested and then tells your story. The story of an actor who has attended relevant courses and workshops, invested in quality photos and clips or scenes and who has proactively sought out quality work. It also tells the viewer that you are a rounded individual who has interests outside of acting; sports, dance, music, languages, home based skills like cooking or knitting; extreme sports like mountain climbing or base jumping – whatever you do. It’s not so much about what but that you do it. That you do not sit at home waiting for the phone to ring; you are out in the world gaining life experience and skills and embracing life. It makes you…

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Why do the same actors get all the auditions?

  Why do the same actors get all the auditions? Why them and not you? Essentially the director and / or writer knew them, trusted them and they are right for the role.  Simple. So how do you get to that place? You have to gain the trust of the casting director. Which is fine for me to say but if you aren’t getting in the room how can you do that? It’s NOT all about your acting.  In fact your acting is a tiny part of what you need to do in the casting process. Getting in the room is more about being the right person, not the best actor.  But to be seen as the right person you have to have all your tools working for you. You have to know your niche and type and only submit on those roles Over submitting by you or your agent tends to make you invisible – which is why having multiple agents is rarely a good idea. You have to tailor your material to your type So when you are submitted you look right.  The casting director doesn’t have time to look at every resume or reel.  In fact they look at very few. They look at your head shot and that tells them whether to look further or not. If you don’t look right for the role it’s all over right there – unless they know you and trust you can do the job. If your head shot looks right but your resume and reel don’t reflect the role – both in ability required and type then you won’t get an audition. If you have the right material and submit on the right roles the casting director will trust that you and your agent know what you are doing and are more likely to take a chance on you. And then you are in the room. The purpose of any audition is not all about getting THAT role. It is to gain the casting directors trust so that they remember you and ask to see you again and again and again. Then you are the actor booking all the auditions.

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All work is not good work

All work is not good work. You can damage your career or impact your earning ability by accepting anything and everything. This week I had an example of how this can happen. A client who did a car commercial two years ago for $500 via a casting site, wasn’t eligible to audition for a car commercial this week. The fee, if he could have auditioned and got it, was $12,000. Why couldn’t he audition? Because these days the industry has a conflict rule. Almost every commercial brief, in every country, has a conflict list on it and it invariably says “no competing products in the past 3 years”. So he couldn’t audition. In fact it gets worse for this guy because the original job he did for $500 didn’t have a contract so, in essence, by not signing a contract stating otherwise, he has given away the right to that company to air their commercial anywhere in the world, in perpetuity, thereby potentially stopping him from doing car commercials forever. So get some advice before agreeing to anything – even an email can be taken as your consent and never go on set – any set; film, TV or commercial without a solid signed contract. Protect your career, your brand and your future income.

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It’s a numbers game – do you know how to play it?

There are two types of people who work as “actors” in our industry; Those who want a career and want to work at it. Those who just want to do anything on set and have a bit of fun. Those in number 2 are easy – they can get work on casting sites and with extra and commercial agencies. The first list however have a different requirement and the first thing they need to know is how the industry works and how to manage their career, because that is what it is, a career. So, if you are serious about being an actor you need; Advice on what are good jobs and what are not. Why some work is bad, or at least not helpful to your career. What a useful credit is. You also need to know; What your type is What your material should look like and how to achieve that. If you don’t know these things then you just become another one in the numbers game. David Rapaport tweeted this a while back – it highlights how much of a numbers game this is and if you don’t know how to play that game, and don’t have the team around you to help you learn and smooth the way then you can’t win.  

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