Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Market Your Acting Career (Tip #3): Agents, Headshots and Casting: Oh My!

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This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and I replied to their post. Here is a repost of what was posted there:

“Someone please point me in the right direction! I graduated in May with a BFA in Acting from a grade-A conservatory and moved to New York soon after. I did quite well at our showcase and proceeded, like a good little actor, to follow up with the agents I met with both immediately after as well as upon my arrival in New York. Unfortunately, the interest had diminished and I got no bites. A trooper, I self-started by calling the agencies that had attended our showcase and managed to snag a few more meetings. However, the interest was lukewarm and nothing seemed to pan out. I've been going to the open calls and have been seen at around 50%, have gotten good feedback, which I view as a positive sign, since the casting director/associate is actually taking the time to compliment me. I've self-submitted through Actors Access and New York Casting, and am lucky enough to be doing a thesis film in the upcoming weeks. I've attended agent and casting director seminars and have had, once again, positive feedback on my work and "look." I follow up, but responses are nil. What else can I do to get an agent??”

Hi, there. Thank you so much for your question- there are many, many actors who are in your situation and I imagine they will be anxiously awaiting responses to your post!

First off, I want to tell you that what you are experiencing is more typical that you'd think. Graduates are often told that all they have to do is go to a good school, have a successful showcase, move to New York, follow up using good business instincts, and you will get an agent, lickety split. What they don't tell you is that you will be competing with thousands of other actors with the same accomplishments, and there just aren't enough slots for agents to take every qualified actor. Add to that the number of actors who graduated the year before you (and years earlier) who are also vying for those spots, and you can see what a long and difficult process finding an agent can be.

There certainly are actors who gets agents right away, and this can be for all kinds of reasons. Most often, it is a question of timing. Sometimes, actors meet an agent at the exact time that agent has an opening for someone just like them. In your case, it is likely that the agents called in far more actors than they had room to take. Keep these agents on your short list of people to update, and submit again in 6 months. You never who when or why the agent might need someone like you- actors come and go from agencies all the time, and you want to be sure they have you in mind when a slot becomes available.

As far as meeting agents and casting folks at networking seminars... think of these events simply as introductions, kind of like a handshake at a party. It is rare that someone would get called in for an interview or brought in for an audition right away after that first meeting. Usually it takes that introduction, plus rigorous follow up before an actor moves to the next level (and most often, they'll wait until they see you in a show or in a film before bringing you in.) So, rest assured, even if you aren't being called in yet, the seminars can make a big difference as long as you keep in touch and steadily build your relationships.

However... If you feel like the response you are getting is less than you deserve, it is possible that there is a disconnect somewhere in your audition presentation. It could be that your audition material(s) are stale or ill-fitting, your headshot may not match the "you" that walks in the room, or you may not have the level of resume the agents are expecting. Or it could just be that these agents already have a numbers of actors who fit your type and they are reluctant to take another on (this is often the case.)

Since I don't know you, it is hard to say which of these might be true. I will say that with most actors I meet, there seems to be a divide between who they truly are as actors, and how they present that package to agents and casting directors. The more clear and specific you can be about your place in the industry, the better your results will be. A good career coach or acting teacher should be able to help you determine your niche in the market. In business, they call this kind of query "market research" and I think it would be very useful for you.

My suggestion would be to find someone in the industry that you can trust and go over all of your materials with them. See if they have any suggestions about how you can bring your audition/marketing package to the highest possible level. Ask a current teacher, hire a career coach, or talk to an actor who seems to have a knack for the business- this should go a long way in making your auditions more effective.

I hope that this response makes sense to you- I would be happy to elaborate if needed. Best of luck to you as you navigate the business, and Welcome to New York!

The actor then posted a response:

“Erin, you happened on a key point! I have found that about 50% of the time, the industry people I encounter have a negative reaction to my headshots. To remedy this, I am getting them redone, simply to have more of a choice. I know I can't please everyone, but I'm going to try to maximize positive results. However, if someone is meeting with me in person, how much do headshots matter?”

TAE responds:

You're right one one respect- if you meet with someone in person, that can have more influence than the headshot itself. However, industry folks are going to use your headshot to sell you to those who don't know you, so it is vitally important that your headshot looks exactly like you and reflects the kind of roles you will realistically play. It is probably one of the most important investments for your career.

As far as how to meet casting folks- you've listed the main avenues of meeting them. To help in the process, you want to make a thoughtful list of what types of projects you are interested in, and then note which casting directors work on these projects. Then, get to work on building relationships with them. That way, when you get a meeting with an agent down the line, you'll have a list of casting directors who already know and love your work, which will make a huge difference to the agent you are considering.


Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Great Way to Get Plays & Acting Related Books

PaperBackSwap.com - Our online book club offers free books when you swap, trade, or exchange your used books with other book club members for free.

Rates for Background Actors

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I have been asked lately to share pay rates for background actors. Here are the most recent published rates for SAG, AFTRA and non-union actors (published 2008):

SAG & AFTRA Background: $130 for 8 hours of work on primetime TV or feature films, plus overtime (does not include 1 hour non-compensated lunch break). $145/8 for stand-ins. $140/8 for daytime background work.

Non-Union Background on Union Projects: $75-$85 for 8-12 hours of work

Non-Union Background on Non-Union Projects: Anything from $0-$100 for any number of hours.

Note: On union projects, you are contracted to be paid for a minimum of 8 hours, and will be paid as such even if you are released earlier than 8 hours have transpired. On non-union projects, there are no protections, so anything goes!

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

TAE Blog Wins Awards!


I just found out that TAE’s blog has been named #1 Acting Blog by Networked Blogs - check it out the awards page here. Amazing!

It was also listed featured as a Top 50 Marketing Blog. Check it out here.

Where can you be "found"?

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I was listening to a monthly podcast by the American Theater Wing, which featured an interview with casting director Bernard (“Bernie”) Telsey, a casting director for many of the top shows on Broadway. He was asked to name one of his toughest casting projects- he answered by talking about how hard it was finding legitimate rock singers for “Rent.” At the time, very few musicals required that style of vocals, and he was having trouble finding exactly what he needed. He looked everywhere he could think to look - he even went as far as to call rock and roll music teachers to see if their students would be a good match. They put out ads in local papers, went to see performances... basically scoured the country to find the right fit. And this started me thinking... if you were perfect for a brand new style of show, how would the casting director find YOU? Bernie Telsey was somewhat new on the casting scene when he took on “Rent” for the New York Theater Workshop (though he had been in NY theater for many years prior.) He didn’t have the luxury of a long list of relationships with actors, so he really had to hunt to find the right cast. So... what are you doing to be on the radar of TODAY’s up and coming casting director?

Start by thinking long and hard about what parts of the industry you are most interested in being a part of (see my article with hints about how to figure this out.) Then, grab a Ross Reports and take note of the casting directors listed. Do a little research online and see what you can find about them - do they hold general auditions or EPAs? Do they teach classes? Do they do lectures or sit on panels for SAG or AEA? Do everything you can to build and maintain relationships with the key casting directors in your chosen medium. Hint: Up and coming casting directors do a lot more public events than the busiest casting offices, because they have to. And they are hungry for fresh, new talent.

There are other ways to get yourself out there. Watch plays and see local films - you’ll often find casting folks in the audience and you can take the time to introduce yourself and acknowledge them and their work (if you already have an established relationship, you can also acknowledge them with a card by mail.) Intern at a casting office or volunteer to be a reader. Volunteer at arts related events (film festival season is upon us...) If you are the competitive sort, do a talent competition (there’s often prize money and industry judges, as well as positive press!) Create demos and short projects and self publish on the internet, making sure that these clips appear in searches when your name is entered. Etc etc etc.

And for goodness sake, make sure your headshot has crossed the desk of every casting director on your list. There’s no excuse- do it!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How to Network, Physically


I recently read this fantastic blog post about how to network at a party. For many actors, networking at a party seems distasteful, at best, and downright torturous, at worst. Part of the problem is that actors are not sure, physically, HOW to network in a group of people without looking desperate. This blog post gives actors ideas about how to make networking a natural phenomenon, simply by how you position yourself in the room. Have you ever noticed that some people are able to draw others to them easily, and others tend to keep to themselves? This blog post may just give you the tools you need to get a handle on this very important aspect of building your business!

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