Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top 10 Pieces of Bad Advice for Networking

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One of the things actors are most scared about is (gasp) NETWORKING! The sheer idea of walking up to someone - who might have something you want - is enough to bring waves of dizziness and sweaty palms to even those most composed of actors. Therapists often say that in order to face your fears, you need to deal with the worst case scenarios, the “what if”s. So, here are the Top 10 Worst Pieces of Advice for Networking (or, TTWTTCHWN):

10) Find a casting director and ask them how many actors they rep
9) Networking events are the perfect time to wear that hot pair of shoes that you can’t walk or stand in
8) Introduce yourself with your IMDB URL and tell people to click so you can raise your Starmeter
7) Avoid researching the guest(s) of honor at an event- it keeps things lively and intriguing!
6) When there is an awkward silence, start doing your monologue. Especially useful if it is Shakespeare.
5) Always ALWAYS talk up your background work as being “featured.” For theater folks, just say that play was “Off-Broadway.” No one will ever know.
4) Two words: Garlic. GAAARRRRLLLIIIIIICCCCC.
3) Ask everyone you meet to “type” you, especially if you have never met them before (they know best, right?)
2) People don’t like being looked right in the eye, so try to avoid a direct glance as much as possible.

And finally, the ultimate faux-pax with networking:

1) When someone offers a compliment, show your humility by telling them they are wrong!


Ok, so obviously you can see this is all in good fun, and that for the most part you shouldn’t do any of the things listed above. But, you would be surprised. As a career coach I hear lots and lots of stories, and as a producer of a monthly networking event, I see networking faux-pas firsthand. So, I am here to make the process a little easier.

A relationship is defined as: “a state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection)” or “a state involving mutual dealings between people or parties.” Our industry is a business of relationships, and I believe that relationships are built on two things: communication and trust. You earn trust by being forthright and authentic. You succeed at communication when there is an even exchange of ideas among the parties. So, to achieve this- here are some basic rules of thumb when networking:

1- Start your conversation with something that everyone has as a shared experience.
Are you both at a play? A networking mixer? The play (or mixer) is a shared experience, and it is an easy way to get the ball rolling. Ask the person what they thought of the play, or if they came to see someone in particular. As k them how they know the host, or what brings them that evening. (This is why everyone talks about the weather and pop culture- they are things that most people share.)

2 - Do your research. (And if you haven’t, be honest.)
It is always a good idea to do your research before attending an event. Who might be there? What have they contributed to the industry? But sometimes, you can’t anticipate who you might meet. If you meet someone for the first time, don’t lie about knowing them, or their work! This is a great opportunity to do item #3, which is...

3 - Make the conversation about them.
This means that you ask a lot of questions and let THEM do the talking. In sales, it is often said that the first person who speaks, loses. So, ask good questions and be an active listener, building your subsequent questions off of their answers.

4 - BE YOURSELF
You are enough.

5 - Ask for future communication.
If you have a great conversation, ask for a way to continue it. Offer a business card and ask them to add you to their mailing list. Set up a business lunch so that you can find ways to help each other.

6 - KEEP IT BRIEF
No one wants to be monopolized at a party (even the Parker Bros) (ha!)

Most importantly- practice makes (almost) perfect. You can’t benefit from the fruits of networking unless you get out there, sow some seeds, and harvest! It can be really fun, once you get the hang of 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.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Who is TAE, and What Exactly is Career Coaching?


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Many of you have been reading this blog faithfully year after year, gathering little nuggets of knowledge about this wild business of acting. And most of you know that I write these blogs based on my experiences as a professional actor and a business/career coach for actors. But have you ever wondered what career coaching actually looks like? What do I do at The Actors’ Enterprise?

Well, look no further! Thanks to Andrew Poretz, from Ingenuity Coaching, I just completed a fun, conversational interview that explores concept of career coaching for actors. We talk about my acting career and early corporate career, and how they blend together when I am coaching actors on marketing, PR, organization, time management, and audition/interview technique. We share stories about coaching, and even come up with an idea of creating a “Koaches Karaoke” event!

So, check out the interview on BlogTalkRadio: Coaches Corner. You can listen online, or you can download it for free through iTunes.



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, January 19, 2010

Committing to Overcoming Obstacles

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One day I was taking an absurdly long subway ride home from an audition, and I was scrolling through my New York Times iPhone app to pass the time. After a few swipes of the screen, I landed upon the article title, "That Hobby Looks Like A Lot Of Work."

(Ha! Tell me about it.)

Written by Alex Williams, it is a fascinating look at folks who have given up their day jobs to follow their dream of being a professional artist. The article features the online store called "Etsy" (a sort of eBay for artisans and crafts-people) and looks at the sacrifices and rewards experienced by those who give everything they have to do what they love. What an easy parallel to what we deal with as actors!

For me, this article conjures up one of the more popular motivational concepts for anyone pursuing a dream- people who are successful in their chosen field can only be so after becoming an expert, which is commonly reached after 10,000 hours of work (as described in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success. Similarly, this article talks about the amount of hours that artists put into their businesses, and the strain it often puts on their lives. Consider this blurb about artist Yokoo Gibran:

She would seem to be living the Etsy dream: running a one-woman knitwear operation, Yokoo, from her home and earning more than $140,000 a year, more than many law associates. Jealous? How could you not be? Her hobby is her job. But consider this before you quit your day job: at the pace she's working, she might as well be a law associate.

"I have to wake up around 8, get coffee or tea, and knit for hours and hours and hours and hours... like an old lady in a chair, catching up on podcasts, watching old Hitchcock shows. I will do it for 13 hours a day. And even after all those hours knitting, she is constantly sketching new designs or trading e-mail messages with 50 or more customers a day.

And this, about artist Caroline Colom Vasquez:

Working from home, people think it's so easy and great [but] there's nobody there to tell you to take a break, or take a vacation. This year, she expects her business to have $250,000 in sales, but she will have to divide that with the three employees she just hired because Ms. Vasquez, who has a young daughter, could no longer handle the strain.

I physically could just not do it in 24 hours, she said. My husband and I used to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning before the baby, then stay up till 1 or 2, stamping boxes, making shipping labels.

As you read these quotes, calculate for yourself - How many hours per day do each of these artists spend on their businesses? 8 hours? 12 hours? More? Let's be conservative and suggest that these folks average about 8 hours per day focusing on their business. Now, take a moment and count up how many hours per day YOU spend on your acting career.

Wow, that was fast. My guess? Far less than 8.

Why do we, as actors, think that anything less than full commitment will somehow be enough? And why do we often stuff the hours we DO dedicate in between all of the other things on our lives (rather than planning for acting first and bending all others to fit?) Perhaps it's because we were told somewhere along the line that we needed to "think more seriously about our future." Perhaps we get too frustrated with the lack of tangible results in our career. Perhaps we just don't believe in our talent, or we are too scared of success? Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.

As we move forward into 2010, let's re-commit ourselves and address this issue. To get started, consider 3 things:

1) How do you define success? (Meaning, what needs to happen in your career that will lead you to say, "NOW I am successful!"

2) To achieve this success, how many hours per day/week/month will you need to work?

3) (And this is the hard part): Make it happen.

If there is anything standing in your way, work through it. Remember that people make this career happen every day, even those with children, student loans, unsupportive parents, temporary housing, etc etc tec. Don't let your circumstances define who you are or where you'll end up.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr day, and in remembrance, I bring you this quote:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King, Lr.


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, January 16, 2010

Researching Managers

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I received an email from a concerned parent about whether to take a meeting with a manager who had mixed reviews on some of the industry message boards:

Hello! I have been reading your messages on Backstage.com and the whole thing about JTG/Midwest.

My daughter is 16 years old and has submitted to Midwest NYC with a video, resume, and headshot, and now [they have] invited us to the office this coming Saturday saying she would like to sign my daughter. My daughter is working with an agency, but a very small one and we feel as if a manager could really help take things to the next level. After reading all the posts and opinions on Midwest on Backstage, I am confused? Should we go ahead and take my daughter in to there office just to see what happens? Or should we stay away?

What would be your best advice? If you could help me out that would be great. Thanks!

Hi, there. Thank you so much for your email, and I want to applaud you for doing your research. I think it couldn't hurt to see what happens. This management company seems to be legitimate, though they are brand new to the NYC market as of late 2008 or 2009. My concern is that a new management company may not have the contacts/reputation to make the impact you are looking for.

Keep in mind, managers advise and coach clients on their careers, and introduce their clients to other folks in the industry (agents, casting directors, producers.) But legitimate managers do NOT schedule auditions, not do they negotiate contracts when an actor books a role. According to the Talent Managers Association,

"A manager, by nature, does not seek employment for a client, but rather council, market and network on their behalf making it easier for the agent to secure employment. A client, manager and agent should function as a team."

Often, new management companies get clients by promising that the manager will "get actors work." But since this is not the manager's job, you'll want to take a look at what exactly it is that you want from a relationship with a manager before you sign any contracts. 

Again, there is no harm in going to the meeting and seeing what they are all about. Just don't sign anything on the premises- take the paperwork home before signing. If you have any friends or colleagues in the industry, I would also suggest showing them the contract and getting their feedback. You could also run it by a contract or entertainment attorney.

Hope this helps- good luck with the meeting!


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, January 5, 2010

Top 10 Things To Do With Old Headshots

Featured Article: Backstage Experts!

Every actor has gone through this: You’re excited about getting new headshots - You book the session, do the shoot, choose your photos, order prints, and as you bring the package home, it dawns on you: You have a crapload of old headshots that cost you a small fortune - and you can’t bring yourself to throw them away! Here are 10 things you could do with them:

10) Instant dustpan - economy sized for the actor’s apartment.
9) Cut them up into pieces and use them as confetti at your next party. Make a joke about throwing yourself at people. Then apologize.
8) Fantasize that you are super famous and practice signing them for fans.
7) Send them to your relatives.
6) Send them to the bullies from 7th grade. With love.
5) Offer them to the kosher delis to place on their walls. Insist on being placed next to that guy from the local news.
4) Get them slightly damp so they stick together, then use this brick as a bookend. Or a paperweight. Or a hammer.
3) Hand them out on street corners, asking, “Hey, do you like comedy?”
2) Make them into a balloon and try to get on a reality show (like this guy)

And finally, the #1 thing to do with old headshots:

1) Commission a designer to fashion them into an outfit for your first big awards show. If American Express can do it, so can you.

Seriously - if you have extra headshots left over, there are a couple of things you can do with them. 1) Bring them as your “hard copy” to any audition where the casting director already has your new headshot on file, or those who know and love your work. 2) Use your old headshots when you audition for things for which you are overqualified. For example, I have done several TV shows and major feature films, so when I audition for student projects, I feel comfortable giving them an old headshot - I feel my resume and old headshot are a strong enough combo. (Plus, it is rare for a student filmmaker to keep headshots on file, so giving them an old one is not a big deal.) 3) When you get ready to do a mass mailing, send the old shots to folks you wouldn’t normally consider mailing too (for example, anyone whose office is too big, or too small, or you aren’t sure you’re interested.) Or, offer it as a 2nd look in your submission packet. Keep in mind, in most cases your old photos are still perfectly good - the new ones are simply BETTER. So there is no fear in using them in these isolated cases.

However, you do want to start using your new ones right away- don’t let them gather dust because you are concerned about wasting the old ones. Realize that keeping the new ones to yourself actually costs you money too - FUTURE money that you could be earning.

And this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway - Upload your new headshots to the casting websites ASAP -- even if it costs you money to add them. You’ll find that these new shots invigorate your submission process, and you’ll likely see a bump in your call-in rate.

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.


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