Friday, June 27, 2014

What does it take to get represented by a major agency?

I'm guessing most actors would like to sign with one of the big agencies, like CAA, WME, ICM, etc. The problem is that those are the kind of agencies that usually only take on performers (or writers and directors) who have something going for them. Let's take a look at some of the things that can get you in to a major agency (or at least get you a meeting at the agency), if you're not already a big star.

You've just gotten your first starring role in a major feature film, or gotten a regular role on a TV show, and you're looking to leave your small or mid-sized agency. I say that because you're probably already with some agency if you've gotten that kind of a role.

You know somebody who is already represented by the agency and they recommend you to their agent.

You're the lead in a very popular web series or your own video blog (and by very popular we mean that you have over a hundred thousand subscribers, have won a streamy, been written up in magazine articles, etc. People are talking about you!

You've been nominated or won a major theatre award. (This generally means either a Tony or an Obie.)

You're a famous personality like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian (although people like that usually go with a personal manager and a publicity agent).

You've starred in a low-budget indie feature film that has really taken off and gotten attention (and made some money).

Even if a big agency doesn't sign you, these things will get you a very good agent at a good smaller agency.

Obviously, if you're just starting out, the truth is you're not going to sign with one of the biggies. And even if you know somebody who can get you in, those agencies have a very low threshold for you getting work – if you don't book a good role within 6 months, they're going to let you go. A smaller agency will usually stick with you for a year without booking (especially if you're getting callbacks).

Next week we'll discuss getting into a smaller agency and why that can be a great thing.



Saturday, June 21, 2014

What else do I do?

I often get asked about what I do when I'm not acting or auditioning. Well, besides doing some private coaching and making an occasional video sketch, I have a business that uses improvisational games and exercises to increase mental acuity and cognitive skills. The main business is called Spontaneous Solutions and is for businesses who want to become more creative. They can use our workshops to work on ad campaigns, or new product development, that kind of stuff.

The other part of my business is called Gymnasium For The Mind, and we hold workshops for older people who want to keep their brains working at a high level of creativity. Although we get paid for doing workshops for businesses as Spontaneous Solutions, we often do workshops for seniors at a discounted price or for free through Gymnasium For The Mind.

Part of being creative is to give something you've created to the world even if that means not always getting paid for it.

Yeah, I know – we all have to pay the rent and buy food and all that, but I believe we also need to share our creativity when we can. This not only can keep us working and learning during the times we're not earning money in our profession, but it helps us make new contacts and contributes something cool to the world (which needs all the cool things it can get!).

Not to get all metaphysical here, but the love you give when you share your creativity, will return to you in unexpected ways. You may meet people you would not have met, and have the chance to get better at being a creative person.

So, take as many opportunities as you can to work – whether you're getting paid a fortune, or just being told how much someone appreciates what you did.

And if you'd like to know more about my other businesses – here's the link:



Friday, June 13, 2014

If I move to Los Angeles or New York, how long should I give it in order to “make it”?

I was at an audition today for a commercial and got to talking to a young actor after we had auditioned together. He was talking about the fact that he had moved here (Los Angeles) over two years ago and was wondering if he should move back home, to the Midwest, because he still hadn't "made it." On my drive home I got to thinking about what we talked about.

I usually advise actors to answer some other questions in order to arrive at the answer to this one. These questions include:

What does “make it” mean to you? How important is the craft of acting to you (versus fame and fortune)? What do you expect to get out of living and pursuing work in LA or NY? What have you done to prepare for furthering your career in one of these cities? Have you exhausted all the resources where you live now? How much time and work will you put into your craft? Are you prepared to spend most of your money (after basic expenses) on classes, seminars, headshots, acting and resource books, website expenses, etc., or will the desire for a new car and a nice apartment become your goal? Will doing theatre and student films take up most of your extra time, or will it be spent socializing with new friends?

Ultimately, only you can answer these questions, and your answers will go a long way to determining how long you should pursue your career goal. But I will say this: To move to one of these cities and expect to become a working actor within six months is unrealistic.

Even if everybody in your hometown says that you should be a star, remember that their opinion is a relative one: You are being compared to other actors in your local area, not to well-trained professional actors in LA or NY.

What about giving it two years or even five years? If you truly love to act, would you be willing to turn your back on acting at the end of that time? Many well-known actors spent ten years or more struggling before making a full-time living at their craft.

No matter where you live, pursing a creative life can be a demanding roller coaster of ups and downs. So, love the journey and remember - acting is a wonderful choice. Find your own joy in it, and you will be rich.



Friday, June 6, 2014

Today's audition was sucky - how to get out of your head.

Hi all -

Had an audition today for a supporting role in a major new film. The audition went fine, although I had to completely change my choice for the character after my first read. It was like this: I audition using a choice I had come up with. Then the casting director (a major CD - and she's nice!), goes - okay, that was interesting, but try it the exact opposite of what you just did.

This is when it pays to have training, including lots of improv training and performing, because I had to completely switch my character right then - no going off in the hallway and working on it for half an hour - it had to be an instant change.

But that's not why the audition was sucky. There was a huge amount of construction going on near the casting building and I literally had to walk a mile and a half there and back from my car! So I arrive at the audition hot, tired, late, and pissed off.

I knew I had to take control and get out of that frame of mind. Fortunately, in this case, being a little late was not a problem as they were running a bit behind. So, what I did was this: after finding the office, I didn't sign-in right away. I went down the hall, sat down, closed my eyes, and took some deep breaths. Then I drank some water to re-hydrate. When I had calmed down and let go of being pissed, I pulled out my copy of the sides and looked them over, allowing myself to be drawn into the role. And then I went and signed-in. About 15 minutes later the casting director called me into the room to read.

The point is - if I had signed-in and tried to audition as soon as I got there, I would have been influenced by all the crap I was feeling at that moment. Of course, if the character was supposed to be feeling hot, tired, and pissed off it might have helped. The problem is that that can backfire and get in the way of your performance. I was not happy that the casting office had not told my agent about the distance the actors would have to walk, and without taking the time to get my shit together, I might have gone off on the people at the casting office - which would not be a good move.

We really do have to let go (at least for the moment) all or most of what is happening in our real lives and just get into the role. All our personal crap will still be waiting for us when we're done with the acting, but we have to put that out of our minds while we do our job. If I had been thinking about the loooong walk I would have back to my car, that would definitely have gotten in the way of my audition.

Write me with any of your audition stories, or ways you have gotten out of your "real" world and into the world of your character.