I learned from a top acting teacher that an aspiring actor must take a minimum of 3 actions per day, every day, to advance his or her career. It could be emailing 3 pictures and resumes. It could be making 3 cold calls. It could be setting up 3 auditions. If you don’t take at least 3 critical actions per day to help yourself as an actor, you are severely undermining your career.
Not everyone is born Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn’s daughter, who hit big-screen stardom at a very early age.
Other young screen stars today – Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Nikki Reed, Amanda Seyfried, and Ellen Page – are more the rarity than the norm.
So, you’ve got to work your career. If you don’t have an agent or manager, if you’re not in SAG or Actors’ Equity, you mustn’t let a day go by without aggressively tackling these obstacles.
In Hollywood, success is often based on who you know. So, if you can get a personal referral to an agent or manager, that’s a great way to get a meeting and get signed. I recently spoke with an agent who said that when an actor is referred to him by a reputable source, he doesn’t require the actor to audition. Based on the referral, the agent takes it on face value that the actor is talented. That, of course, is an actor’s ideal situation.
But if you don’t have any contacts and must solely rely on your own resourcefulness and creativity, then go to the Samuel French Bookstore in Hollywood (7623 W Sunset Blvd, 323-876-0570) or Studio City
(11963 Ventura Blvd, 818-762-0535) or online at www.samuelfrench.com. Samuel French is a terrific resource for books on all aspects of show business. Buy a directory that lists all the Hollywood agents by name, company, and contact information. A good one is CallSheet by BACKSTAGE, which also includes casting directors. You can also get a directory of personal managers.
Start making cold calls to small and mid-size agents and managers. Avoid the top agents and managers for the moment because unless you’re quite young and staggeringly beautiful or handsome, chances are that the top agents and managers won’t give you the time of day. Set your sights on the agents and managers who are generally more receptive to new talent.
Start calling agencies and management companies and, appearing as professional as possible, ask for email addresses to submit your picture and resume electronically. If you can’t get the email addresses for individual agents and managers, ask for the general company email address. The CallSheet BACKSTAGE agent directory lists many agency email addresses, but always call the agency and confirm that the email address is still current. Also confirm that an agent or manager you find in a directory is still with a particular company and hasn’t moved.
Speak with credibility, confidence, intelligence, authority and authenticity. You’re an actor, so act like you know what you’re doing. You’re in the business. Don’t act like a neophyte who has just hopped off the bus.
Many agents and managers claim that they don’t accept unsolicited submissions, which is the general industry rule. There are strong barriers to keep people out in this business, so it’s your job to get past those barriers. You are OUTSIDE, and your goal is to get INSIDE.
If you’re submitting hard copies of your picture and resume, be sure that they’re stapled together. The industry standard is an 8 x 10 color headshot with your resume stapled face-up to the back with one staple in each of the 4 corners. If you don’t yet have a resume, type your name and contact information on a plain, white piece of paper and staple that face-up to the back of the picture. If you have some acting training, include that. If you have attended any showcases with agents or casting directors, include that. It’s acting experience.
Some agents won’t open up email submissions from actors, so sending out submissions via the postal mail is certainly a viable option, but it can also be prohibitively expensive if you’re submitting to dozens of people. Some agents and managers open all pictures and resumes that cross their desks. Some will have their assistants open all their mail, but you hope that the assistant will forward your material to their boss.
Another way to submit to agents and managers is to drop off your picture and resume. Many companies discourage or prohibit that, but again, you’ve got to get on the inside without appearing totally unprofessional or bothersome. You can simply drop off your picture and resume in an 8 x 10 envelope with the agent or manager’s name written on it. Just drop it off at the front desk and politely leave. Show biz companies have messengers coming in and out all day, so it’s if you’re a messenger dropping off an envelope. Professionally get it inside.
If you’re appearing in a play, TV show, a film, or maybe doing stand-up comedy at a club, send out a photo postcard in which you invite agents and managers to watch your performance. Give out comp tickets to your play. If you have a reel, email an agent or manager with a link to it on www.actorsaccess.com. If you don’t have a reel because you’re not in SAG and have no TV or film experience, audition for student films at the American Institute. If you get in a student film, that becomes your reel. Many top filmmakers have come out of the American Film Institute such as Amy Heckerling and Mimi Leder.
So, these are just some of the ways that you can resourcefully, intelligently, and professionally get your face in front of agents and managers.
In the next blog, we’ll tackle casting agents and becoming a union actor.
Good luck, and SEE YOU IN THE SPOTLIGHT!
LINDA STUART is the author of GETTING YOUR SCRIPT THROUGH THE HOLLYWOOD MAZE. She lectured for 7 years at the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Linda Stuart also hosts top actor events in Los Angeles with major casting directors, agents, and managers. You can email Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.