A few years ago I overheard a fellow actor say that she doesn’t self-submit for projects. “That’s why I have an agent,” she declared, triumphantly. I wanted to scream out, “But you never want to leave your career completely in someone else’s hands!” I didn’t say anything, however, because I didn’t know her (and because I have manners).
I’m no expert on the acting industry, but I do know this: No one wants you to succeed more than you do (except maybe your mom), and no one is thinking about the possibility of you playing every role on the breakdowns, except for you.
Yes, your agent (and manager if you have one) believes in you, but you are not his/her only client. They aren’t thinking about you all of the time. When they see a breakdown, sometimes they think about you, and sometimes they don’t. And sometimes, even when they do think of you, they may think that someone else is stronger / better suited and submit that actor instead.
But you know who always thinks of you, and always submits you? You.
Why? Because it’s your dream. And because mathematically, 90% is more incentivizing than 10%. You are your only sure shot.
When you realize this, you are never willing to let the strength of an agent’s submissions and pitches alone determine your success. You get out there and pitch yourself. You get on LA Casting and Actors Access and set up your own accounts, even though your agent already has one set up to pitch you. You get on Casting Frontier, Mandy, Backstage, SAG-AFTRA’s website—and if you’re desperate enough Craigslist—to see what else is out there.
You know what else you do? You submit for the showcase auditions that networks like NBC and CBS host. When there’s an open call—for Coca Cola looking for a group of real life friends, or the Wiz looking for Dorothy—you go, and stand in line (like a number) and you go for it! Why? Because you believe in yourself, and nobody is going to fight harder for you than you.
You know what else you do? You join groups on Facebook (and any other social media) for creatives to connect with like-minded people. I belong to eleven Facebook groups connected to the arts.
In the last 30 days alone I have auditioned for four commercials (including 2 SAG National commercials), a popular web series, a TV show and an improv show. And every single one of these auditions came from self-submissions, including submitting through the aforementioned Facebook groups. Of these, I got a callback for the TV show, and I booked the improv show and one of the SAG nationals.
Now, typically I get most of my auditions through my agents (cause they work really hard for me), but during this same time period, I got only one audition through my agency, which resulted in an Avail (yay!), but no booking.
If I hadn’t been my own agent just in the last thirty days, I’d have nothing to show for January: no commercial booking, no experience performing improv with a group of amazingly talented improvisers, no newfound connections with directors and artists. I’d be sitting around, waiting for my agents to get me in the room, and crying over the Avail that I lost.
There are so many more ways to be your own agent that I haven’t mentioned here—from building relationships with casting and doing showcases—to advertising your work to industry contacts). What approach you take isn’t as important as taking responsibility for your career, instead of delegating it to someone else.
Be your own agent. It’s your only sure shot.
Chanté Griffin is an actor, writer and TV personality. She has starred in numerous commercial campaigns and has appeared on TV shows From G’s to Gents and Here’s the Deal as a public speaking coach. She’s written for Ebony.com, theGrio, the Huffington Post, and Short & Sweet L.A. She is a graduate of the Joanne Baron / D.W. Brown Studio and is currently producing and starring in 14 Days of Funny. You can learn more at www.yougochante.com & follow her on the twitter:@yougochante