Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Following up after Industry Seminars

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I saw this question posted on a popular forum for actors, and I responded. Here is what transpired:

Hi! I recently went to one of The Network's (New York) casting director seminars. This one was with a casting director for a soap opera who says they're constantly casting for things- Under 5's, recurrings, etc. I read her sides and we chatted one on one, and afterward she said some very positive things about my 'audition' and said I should ‘definitely follow up with her’ and that she hoped to hear from me.

I've heard before with these "pay to play" situations, that following up can be a waste of time, or worse- a faux pas. But in this situation, it seems different, since she asked me to. If I do follow up (and I'd like to), what's the appropriate way to do so in this circumstance? I have a couple of jobs on the horizon I thought I'd write to her mentioning.. Or I've heard treats of some sort can be a good idea?

(I don't know if this makes any difference, but this one-on-one was cheap-- only $25. I guess I got the impression she genuinely looks for people through these things since they're casting happens so frequently.)

Thanks for any advice you can give!

Hi, there. This is a very good question- I strongly believe that you should embrace following up! It is NOT a waste of time, as you feared. I think the most valuable thing about doing seminars of this kind are the new relationships that are created- in fact, I personally think that is one of only two benefits of doing these kinds of events (the other is getting to hone your audition skills with a variety of industry folks.)

If you feel that the casting director, a) is someone you want to work with, and b) consistently has roles that are right for you - it is imperative that you have a system of ongoing follow-up. You need to build & maintain the relationship you've started, and the only way to do this is to keep in communication.

As far as what to do as a follow up- no treats are necessary, just send a photo postcard with a very nice thank you, and let her know that you will be keeping her updated periodically by postcard. And then you should keep in touch every 1-3 months with updates on your career. This is the part most actors forget to do, or start and then abandon, but it is vital in keeping your name/face in the minds of the people you are meeting. (Note: some industry folks actually prefer keeping in touch by email, so be sure to find out their preference before adding them to your updates list.)

Pay-to-play seminars are not casting opportunities, no matter how much we as actors want them to be. But they are relationship building opportunities, and casting directors are more apt to invite actors to audition if they have a relationship with them. It's a fine line, for sure, but I feel strongly that if you choose to pay for these seminars, you will get more value out of them if you have a strong plan for follow-up.

I have done tons of seminars and have actually had quite a bit of success with being called in (and cast/signed!) But almost without exception, I was called in after building my relationships via postcards for 3-6 months (or more). The best news? Several casting directors have seen me casually around town (at coffeeshops, outside audition studios, etc.) and have stopped me to say thank you for my engaging and informative updates. So, I am proof positive that it is noticed and appreciated!

I hope this helps- please do let me know if anything I said was unclear or if you need anything else.

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.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Auditioning while still in school

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This question was posted on a popular actors forum, and TAE responded.Here is what was written:

Hello! I'm currently an undergraduate drama major at NYU. I just got new headshots done and am preparing to mail out submissions to NYC agencies. However there is something I'm worried about: I've been warned about the danger of gaining a bad rep if classes get in the way of auditions too often. I am absolutely prepared to work hard, juggle school with work, and have practically zero free time, but I am aware that (especially with NYU's strict curriculum) there may be times when I just cannot miss class to go to work. I've also heard of agents who simply refuse to work with actors who aren't out of school yet. What are your thoughts on this?

Hi, there. I felt the same way when I was in school, so I completely understand your concern, and I can relate to your excitement about getting out there.

One thing I wish that someone had told me back then is that one of the most important things to do while in school is to make lasting connections with teachers, classmates and alumni. I spent most of my free time off campus pursuing projects outside of school because I thought that was the best way to gain experience. Sure, I got some amateur credits on my resume, but no one told me that making connections while at school would put me in a better position than doing a couple of roles at small theaters.

Getting work while in school is good, and if that is what you want to do, I say go for it. But I would suggest thinking about putting that same time and energy into being as involved as possible with your school and internships. When you get out of school and start auditioning, you'll run into those folks who you met years earlier through NYU and they will remember how hard you worked and how enthusiastic you were, which will put you leaps and bounds ahead of other actors they do not know.

I know this is probably not what you came on this board to read, but I wanted to tell you the things I wish someone had told me. Truly, though, it is up to you to make the best decision for your life, and I am confident that whichever path you choose, you can be successful.

The student then responded:

Thank you so much to everyone for your thoughtful advice. I'm going to have to think hard about what my priorities are: college degree or full-time acting career.

I chose NYU mainly to take advantage of the location, find an agent, and begin working...maybe even find work that would end my involvement with college. But it seems that many of you older, wiser folks would disapprove of this. I'm almost afraid to ask: what are your opinions on an actor who hasn't finished college?

From a fellow actor (and coach's) perspective...

Any schooling on a resume is better than no schooling. I do think that if you list only a few years of college on a resume, folks might wonder if a) you are still in school, or b) why you decided to quit. The only real negative about this is that these questions keep them from focusing on what you DO have to offer.

I assume that if you don't go to NYU that you will at least be taking acting classes in New York. You want to make sure that you have plenty of well-rounded training to list on your resume so that producers/casting directors/agents know that you can handle the roles you are submitting for.

Most people would agree that you do not NEED a college education to be an actor. But what you do need is the ability to be a good storyteller, which requires you to be learn everything you can about what it is to be human. You need to know information on all different kinds of subjects, and the easiest way to do this is to go to school. I use what I learned in my non-acting classes all the time (history, economics, French, etc.) If you can gain this same education from reading books/going to lectures outside of school, and you gain life experience by getting out there an experiencing life, then the value of a degree from NYU is lessened.

Personally, I think that getting a 4 year degree at a school like NYU is a wonderful way to gain life experience and a solid education, which are both vitally important in the development of your career. Add that to the networking opportunities and you've got yourself a very bright future. But many, many people opt to put their education on hold in favor of starting a career right away. Ultimately, you need to decide the pros and cons of each, weigh them very carefully, and then commit to your choice passionately so you achieve everything you desire!

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, June 16, 2009

New York/Tri-State Actors: Come to the Soiree

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Actors who are within short travel distance to NYC are invited to attend TAE’s next Bite-Size Business Soiree.

SUNDAY, JUNE 21 -- 12pm
Bite-Size Business Soiree. 
Topic: "RESUMES and BIOS that Sell YOU." Join your fellow actors at this two-part event hosted by The Actors' Enterprise: Part 1 is a "master class in business"; Part 2 is a networking soiree for ALL industry folks. 12pm, Manhattan. Pay what you can ($10 suggested, but any amount accepted, even zero).

RSVP at 917-574-0417 or by email.

See our event on Facebook: www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=94478537870

Full information posted at: www.theactorsenterprise.org/events.

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.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to List Special Skills on Your Resume


Recommended Reading:
(and if you buy, I get a little gift!)
Accents & Dialects for Stage and Screen
Tales & Techniques of a Voiceover Actor
Juggling for the Complete Klutz

I recently got an email from Tina who writes:

Hi! I would like to ask you some questions about special skills in an actor's resume. I would really, really appreciate your help. I am a dancer and a singer and also…I write lyrics for the songs, ...actually I do a lot of things but I'm curious what fits in an actor's resume....Photoshop and making banners isn't really a skill that matters, right? And also, I won a lot of competitions in dancing, should I list that too, or should I omit this kind of information, because it sounds like you are bragging (I've read that casting directors don't like that), …but on the other hand if you don’t put all this kind of information, there isn’t a lot of info (I haven' t been in a movie, but I' ve done some TV work, but again, mostly extras) for me to enlist. I'm confused about it really and I would appreciate any kind of help. THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!

Hi, Tina! It is wonderful to hear from you, and I will be glad to answer your question. Here's what I usually suggest when it comes to listing special skills. You want to list skills that can be demonstrated on stage or on screen. Meaning- it needs to be something you could conceivably be asked to do in a play, on TV or in a movie. Based on the things you mentioned, I would include information about your singing and dancing, including something about your awards, like, "award-winning dancer- multiple competitions" (and then perhaps list the styles of dance that you do- It's not bragging- it's the truth!) I would also make mention of your lyric writing since it is so relevant to our industry.

The rule of thumb- special skills should be things that not that many regular people can do! Accents are special skills, everyday hobbies like knitting are not. And as wonderful as doing Photoshop and graphic design are (and not that many know how to do it), it is not something an actor would typically be asked to do while actually performing.

Here is a sample list of the kinds of things that can go in a special skill section - if you do them very well:

Accents
Dance (list styles)
Singing (list styles/range)
Tricks (balancing on unicycle, juggling, etc)
Stage Combat/Swordplay
Clowning/Tumbling
Stunt work
Musical instruments played
Languages spoken
Sports
Hobbies (if they're demonstrative and unique)

This isn’t a full list, but it is a good place to start.

I've also written a separate article on special skills that you should check out:

Bite-Size Business for Actors: Special Skills

Last thoughts- If you are concerned about your resume looking too sparse, make sure that you are getting plenty of training. Good training can make up for a lack of experience, so you will want to focus on becoming as specific and focused on your craft as you can, and good training will really help.

And... be sure to leave your background credits off your resume. In the next few days I’ll be posting an article going over the exact reasons why!


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.



Sunday, June 14, 2009

Take me with you

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It recently occurred to me that not all of my readers are necessarily computer savvy, so I wanted to write a quick post to tell you about an easy way to follow this blog without having to log in every day. There are links on the left side of this page, but you can also subscribe to this blog and receive my post in your inbox (click here) or RSS reader (click here.)

You can also follow us on Facebook (where I have an interactive message board and just started a video blog) and Delicious, where I frequently save interesting articles and helpful websites for actors.

And, as usual, if you like what you see or have any questions, please consider logging on and leaving a comment. Your comments often spark interesting conversation, and I love answering questions from readers!

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, June 11, 2009

Films in Production in NYC

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Just got a question from a student and I thought I would share my answer here:
        
“Besides The Hollywood Reporter, does you have of a list of films pre-production shooting in NYC?”

Hi, there! Backstage.com seems to have a pretty reliable list of films in pre-production (as does their print edition): http://www.backstage.com/bso/production-listings/ny.jsp


If you are a SAG member, you can also check out SAG's website for official production listings, organized by state: http://www.sag.org/content/production-listings


Finally, the NYC Mayor's Office has a website set aside specific for Film, Theatre and Broadcasting: http://www.nyc.gov/html/film/html/index/index.shtml. They only have a "sample" list of current productions- here is the link to that page: http://www.nyc.gov/html/film/html/locations/current_nyc_productions.shtml

I am sure there are other resources, but these are the three I rely on most heavily. Good luck!

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.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Proposed SAG Contract

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I just had a reader ask me to post a copy of the proposed SAG contract, so here are two links of interest:

Summary of the 2009 Tentative Agreement

Full 2009 TV/Theatrical Tentative Agreement

The ballots are due by mail June 9, so unless you are in the Northwest it may be too late to get the ballot in. But, while I have you, below is a brief email I sent to my students regarding the industry’s views on the contract.


Those of you who are SAG members have likely received phone calls, emails and mailing about why you should vote YES on the proposed contract. I have found reading materials on BOTH side of the issue to be very useful in my own determination, so I thought I would pass along some resources to do some research of your own:

Message Boards with Actor Opinions

http://more.showfax.com/bbs2/viewforum.php?f=8

http://bbs.backstage.com/eve/forums/a/frm/f/9131061


Videos by Actors (both Pros and Cons)

http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/video-ed-harris-explains-vote-no-position/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8_U0GSXPu0

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sag+contract+yes

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sag+contract+no


I would prefer that people do NOT use this blog (or its comments) to voice their opinions on this topic, because it can get pretty heated. But please do pass along info in the comments section if you have something that was helpful in leading you to your decision.

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.

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