When summer swelter has settled in and you haven’t a share at Fire Island and/or no plans for swinging your sword at Shakespeare-on-the-Skillet (an outdoor dinner theater where ‘drama is served hot.’) You’re under-employed and frustrated that your career is as stagnant as Mitt Romney’s mud wrestling aspirations. Industry folk, if not project engaged, are off to the beach and/or mountains with their i-Whatevers. From June until late July the U.S. entertainment industry’s focus on new ventures is about as engaged as Kim Kardashian is in visiting a library. What’s an actor to do?
Work, damn it. While others sit shore-side and slither through Fifty Shades of Grey you advance. Regroup. Review. Plan a rebirth for your career goals. Get ready for the industry kick-start to the late summer / early fall casting.
Below are considerations to mull followed near the end by resource recommendations to assist you in your goals for success.
Review Your Actor Marketing –
Can your sales tools survive the intense scrutiny of Simon Cowell, CAA, Stephen Spielberg, Bernard Telsey, Marci Phillips or Paul Russell? Would we review your envelope, branding, cover letter, headshot and resume then exclaim, “This actor is fantastic! They have their shit together on paper which usually means the actor’s talent is just as impressive.”
Or would we roll our eyes after peering over your blah, Staples, manila envelope which you poorly scrawled our name and address upon? Your ho-hum mailer is a clone of the 98% of the actor mail received: never opened and trashed.
Is your headshot five years or older? (Psst… you’re not Dorian Gray.) Is your puss on paper CAA, ICM or WMEndvr quality or is it barely worthy of a cinder-block wall heralding your local K-mart manager? Or horror of horrors did your photographer pose you stiffly in a beauty shot destined for Toddlers & Tiaras? (Oh, the tragedy.)
Are your resume credits appropriately formatted to the industry standard? Is your resume bloated with superfluous Special Skills? Have you piled in non-skill “assets” like ‘running’, ‘acting’, ‘biking’, ‘passport’ and ‘good with kids and creatures’ resume lint? When actors landfill their Special Skills portion of their principal resume with basic garbage that nearly any breathing primate can achieve we (principal casting) interpret this as the actor being overly insecure while bolstering what the actor believes to be a weak resume. Less is more. Let the resume lint like, ‘drives stick and standard’ patter a dust-bunny life on your Extras / Low-budget features resume.
Would your marketing materials excel – in style and presentation – in a civilian job-seeking market? Is the overall professionalism worthy of the attention of a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet? If you’re confused or argue that you would never send your actor marketing to Bill Gates; I didn’t suggest such. I propose that your overall presentation (cover letter on textured white linen or cotton paper, a pristine layout, business formatting, in-your-own-voice writing style) be the sum of perfection. Your actor marketing for employment and seeking representation must equal — if not be better — the pinnacle of quality of a civilian’s job-search marketing for seeking employ at a Fortune 500 company.
Some actors become belligerent arguing actor marketing does not have to equate the quality standards of the civilian world. Bullshit. Take this nudge of success below from an ACTING: Make It Your Business reader:
I wanted to compliment you and thank you on your methods and strategies re: ACTING Make It Your Business. I just got offered the role of Joe in “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival this fall. I have you and your book/class to thank. After the Resident Director of NCShakes saw my Off-Broadway show in February, I immediately sent him a follow-up letter (complete with laser-missile intentions and bolded name dropping) to introduce myself and ask to be kept in mind for future auditions. Had I not sent that letter, I believe my chances would have been diminished for even being called in in the first place. So thanks!
The simplest truth to selling is that the sharper the marketing; slick without pretension, crisp and clean with professional lines– the better the buyer will respond to the seller. What’s on paper represents your work ethic, talent and professionalism. ‘Professional’ partly means that your marketing should resemble the sleek styling efficiency of an Apple Store or the sophisticated simplicity of a Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice Class ship.
And most importantly; you must ‘speak’ in your own voice on paper. As if you’re writing a cover letter to your best friend. Avoid what you think others demand of your ‘professional voice.’ Just be you. No gimmicks. No savvy-actor bullshit. You’re not a clone. You’re an individual.
Actor E-mail Marketing –
Have your past e-mail campaigns faltered? Do you even have an organized digital address book with casting, representation and producer contacts? Do you know the basics for how to create effective, slick, professional, html e-mails like the ones you receive in your in-box which display fantastically formatted layouts with images, colored background cells, elegant font, hyperlinks without the underlines, etc…? You need not know computer gobbly-gook script to create for yourself an e-mail marketing campaign. A select group of actors are jumping on this effective electronic trend at advertising themselves to creatives who hire and represent. (Many are my Access to Agents students.) And those actors are 4G-ing ahead of chained-to-the-post office thespians.
Actor Headshots –
To ensure that casting personnel, directors, producers and talent reps respond with an, “Oh my God, I love this picture and the look of this actor,” you must have a headshot that pops!
To be noticed an actor’s headshot must excel in quality beyond the 150 plus headshots which daily, six days a week, land on my desk and the desks of my behind-the-audition table casting / representation colleagues. Be just a passable picture lost among your competition and you’re wasting your money. Sadder is, you’re not leveraging your optimal best during your short-existence upon this spinning ball of dirt.
The headshots below stand well against the typical trashed headshots. They are industry exceptional and respected. Some headshots below are utilized by actors represented by leading talent agencies.
If Your Actor Marketing Matches Excellence –
Great! But do you have strategies and organized marketing campaigns? What kind of campaigns? Are you sending your materials to industry on a regular basis when your targets are at their most receptive?
At the very minimal you – marketing yourself as an actor – should target the following:
- Offices for Indie Films: target the in-house casting person and/or producer
- Regional Theatres: target directly to the in-house casting person (often an artistic associate) and seek an audition at that theater. For a guide and assist refer to the Answers for Actors post “Getting Stage Work Before Others (Parts 1 & 2)”
- Casting directors
- Theater companies in your city / region
- Agents & Managers (if unrepresented). During summer talent reps clean house and seek new clients. And when targeting, don’t hit everyone in the office at once. Spread out your mailings so that the assistant or intern opening the mail doesn’t trash your bulk mailing (Interns – who mostly get the open-mail assignment — recognize envelopes coming from the same address. And thus when actors send several individual mailings at once to an office, often only one envelope is opened as the rest are trashed.)
Actors Seeking / Needing (new) Representation –
Summer is the perfect time to grab a talent reps’ attention. With the industry in sweltering hibernation they’re dumping old clients for fresh faces. Go directly to the talent reps at agent seminars.
Actor Renewal Resources —
If you need to correct, adjust, or remake yourself, your marketing materials and/or goals I recommend the following resources:
All the above headshot examples came from the photographer that ABC Primetime Casting Director, Marci Phillips heralds as:
“I see a lot of headshots and by far, Jack Menashe’s photography is the best of the best. Jack is dedicated to presenting actors at their best and he succeeds above all others.”
– Marci Phillips, casting director, ABC Primetime Television
I too highly recommend Jack Menashe. I trusted Jack with my book-jacket headshot. An industry insider who for two decades led Independent Artists Agency. Details and his portfolio are at http://www.JackMenashe.com.
And if Marci Phillips’ word and mine are not enough; take a look at Jack’s work and the praise he’s received from clients and industry at http://www.JackMenashe.com.
Actor Resource on a Marketing Makeover, How to Find & Keep an Agent, Audition Technique, Acting Career Advice Directly from Agents and Actors of Broadway and Hollywood:
Grab a copy of what’s been hailed as:
“The actor’s roadmap… humorous and witty.”
Bernard Telsey, casting director / Broadway & Major Motion Pictures
Bernie, along with many actors and industry pros, has recommended the Random House book ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes & Achieve Success as a Working Actor.
Resource for putting yourself directly in front of agents:
Yes, the four week program that covers Finding & Keeping an Agent, Actor Marketing, Audition Technique, Interview Skills all of which climaxes with rehearsed, individual, auditions before an agent panel; Access to Agents (led by Paul Russell Casting).
Whatever device(s) you utilize for improvement is your choice. What’s most vital is that you leverage this period of inactivity to be active. Growing a career is tantamount to battle. If you judiciously plan your attack your odds rise for a successful campaign. Charge at your targets without an organized strategy, or be a summer slouch, and you’re bound to perish.
Be smart this summer. Be engaged. Renew.
– Jack Menashe Photography: http://www.JackMenashe.com
– ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Achieve Success and Avoid Mistakes as a Working Actor: http://www.ActingMakeItYourBusiness.com
– Access to Agents: http://paulrussell.net/classes.html
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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.
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