For those of you who have been able to finally (or easily) snag an agent/manager that you had good vibes with, congrats! Most of you are thinking the hard part is now over and all you have to do is get auditions, be the best, book something, and then you’re good.
Ahhhhhhhh if only it were that easy. While you can be lucky and start getting auditions right away, most of us will not be in that fortunate position. A good number of us will be twiddling our thumbs, wondering why auditions aren’t coming our way.
So what can you do in the meantime to not only help your agents/managers but yourselves?
(And we’re going with the position that your agents/managers are not evil cruel people ignoring you and not submitting you. More often than not, they are working hard to submit & pitch you.) Here are the following things that I do to keep myself busy…you may have your own but at the very least, I hope this provides an idea of what I do so that I never feel like I’m waiting for something to happen. If I’m missing anything, please feel free to chime in 😀
1. The most important thing to know is that your agent/manager is not your parent. They get 10/15% of your earnings, which also can be seen as they do 10/15% of the work. You do the rest. So remember that, if nothing else.
2. Remember that a typical primetime/cable audition session can see about 10-40 people per role. From this, there are about 800-1500 submissions from agents & managers alone. Just think on that. Also keep in mind that your rep has OTHER people on their roster to take care of. It is not only about you.
3. A good demo reel is key. 1 to 3 minutes. No need for your name title at the beginning nor a silly montage sequence. If you have scenes where you don’t have any dialogue, YOU DON’T NEED IT. And if the sound and picture quality is wretched, don’t put that shit there.
4. Good headshots. Not the ones where you look the most fabulous, but the ones that actually look like you. Good lighting, good expression, and a bit of a magic retouching to make the background and face pop up never hurts (not too much retouching, you don’t want to look like a flawless doll.)
5. Marketing material (postcards, business cards, letter heads) catered to the unique essence that is you. A standard headshot is fine but be more creative. Show YOU (I f**king love my Cinnabons so mine is just being the Cinnabon Monster) and never let them forget it.
6. FOLLOWUP. For every audition you have, follow up with a thank you. For every job you book, follow up with a thank you. Whether it’s a student film, a commercial, or that James Cameron franchise, follow up with the ones you met in the room. If the producers/director/writer were in the room for callbacks/testing, follow up with them. And always keep the casting folks in mind, they work hard for that one moment where you can validate their decision to bring you in. Keep them all logged in your tracking list and then continue to keep up with them every 2-3 months. It’s not stalking. It’s just good business. Even if they’re students, if you find great potential in them, it’s good to send them an email to see what’s going on with them for they may just be working on the next Cannes festival darling hit.
7. Keep your reps constantly in the loop with what you’re doing that will help with their job in pitching you. Get in the habit of at LEAST contacting them once every two weeks. It’s not considered annoying, it’s absolutely essential, especially if you’re with one of the big dogs.
8. Submit constantly on ActorsAccess. I do this daily and look for grad student thesis projects (preferably Chapman) as well as indie webseries, shorts & feature films that appeal to me. Even if they are unpaid, I will still submit if I find the project and role extremely intriguing. While there are services like LACasting and CastingFrontier that have projects too, I find the most legitimate theatrical projects on AA.
9. Read Deadline, The Wrap, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and similar sources everyday and know what’s going on. Which writer is attached to what project? This director is now taking over this franchise? That favorite book of yours from middle school is now becoming a feature? Information is power and as an actor, this is where it’s crucial for you to stay on top.
10. Make the time to watch as many TV shows and films as you can. Not only the ones where everyone raves about for its quality, but also once or twice a really shitty TV show that is still somehow on the air because middle America likes shows about men dressing up as women in the office space. Pay attention to the writing (turn off all judgment), the humor, the acting, and what it is about these shows that get attention.
11. Write letters/emails/tweets to the industry folks you admire and do this at least once a week. No matter how big or small, whether it’s a writer, producer, director, showrunner, write a nice letter or words of encouragement about their work, their life story, or whatever specific detail that you most pay attention to. There is no need to mention you’re an actor or that you’re looking for work, just so that you appreciate what they do. If you’re writing a letter, you can use a letterhead or a card that just has your name, email address, and website in the case they get curious. And if you ARE writer a letter, write it out with a c/o to their manager or legal rep…never their agent (most of them being with CAA or WME will not even look at it). And write it from the heart. Put some care into it. You never know what difference you’ll be making in that person’s day..
12. Who are your top 30 film and TV casting offices? Do you know their names? What they look like? Who are their associates? Their assistants? This sounds weird but it makes a difference when you go into the audition and you just know who everybody is and say “good to meet you Emily!” and see Emily’s pleasantly surprised reaction as she sees an actor who did research.
13. Make a habit of going to film festivals and industry mixers, with your acting business cards ready. Dare your typically shy self to mingle and network with HEART. Casting workshops are also considered networking (whether you approve of it or not) so if you do those, do them with heart.
14. Push yourself to create your own content. But don’t get too egotistical about it. Sure you can probably act, produce, write, direct, and do food catering for your short films but get in the habit quickly of getting more qualified people who can take care of that so you can just focus on one or two hats with more focus. When you create these projects, surround yourself with critical people who want nothing but the best. When you create them, create them well. Make the informed decision if this short is one you want to spend money submitting to festivals or it’s better off as an internet project where you exploit the social media realm to its fullest degree. And if you take that new media route, do so in a consistent manner so that your fans can expect new content from you.
15. Act in every aspect you can. Whether it be theater (good theater, mind you, with a good rep), standup, improv, these are excellent ways to keep yourself busy and also get seen.
16. Be on top of the social media world. Have a FB fan page, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram (I know there’s more but just those will be a good starting point). Use them consistently and use them with care (AKA don’t post naked pictures of you dryhumping a crippled horse). You as an actor are a product so you must do just that. When people google your name, the first searches should all be you, not some random dentist in Oklahoma.
17. Keep training in an acting class and/or improv class. Keep your acting muscles strong. I don’t care what anybody says, you will NEVER be the master of your craft so quit acting like one if you believe you know everything there is to know about acting.
18. This might be covered in some of the topics above but create a list of every single person you every worked with, auditioned for/met with, and the ones you want to work with. This should keep you pretty busy.
Holy moly, I’m gonna stop here but this is just 17 examples and I am pretty sure that there’s a lot more you could do. So as you can see, there is much for an actor to do and I challenge you all to do at LEAST 10 of these every week. So get to work!