This is a guest post by Gywn Gilliss
Often an actor will ask me, “I’ve got an agent but I haven’t heard from them for 3 months (or more)…what’s wrong with THEM? Do I need a stronger agent that can get me in for major auditions?”
Sometimes, it’s not about your agent but about WHO you know in the industry.
How many Casting Directors know you, like you, trust you- to call you in for a high paying contract role on a series or a starring role in a film? Oops! First of all, You don’t have a relationship with someone if you haven’t heard from them in 3 months. If you were dating someone and didn’t hear from them in 3 months, would that be OK? No. Not acceptable. You may have perceived that they were your agent or they vaguely said…leave some pictures, we’ll send you out or let’s “free-lance” to start…but there was no commitment and follow through or you would have heard from them-
1- asking you for more pictures if they’re doing paper submissions
2- with an appt. for an interview
3. with an audition
What’s wrong with this picture??
Often, an agent will take you on in a “free-lance” relationship, submit you for roles to see if you book. But if no casting director gives them an appointment to see you, slowly they realize that you are not very well established (or not a very good actor!). It’s too much work selling you so they lose interest. Agents only make their 10% when you work. If they can’t get you an appointment for an audition, you’re not going to book the job so they make…nothing.
Instead of blaming the agent for the lack of response, look at your own marketing kit and marketing efforts. Do you know many industry folks? Have you made an effort to get to be “known”? If you knew the casting director(s) they were submitting you to and your work was excellent most likely the CD would respond with, “Oh! I know that actress…send her over! This part is perfect for her!” Then, the result would be: Happy Agent, Happy YOU! Possible booking!
So, most of the time if you haven’t heard from your “agent” it’s because no one (i.e. Casting Directors) will see you. Their efforts to submit you for a role fell flat. That’s because the CD’s don’t know you. And they don’t have the time to pre-screen and then audition you. Casting calls happen pretty fast. If there are only 3 slots available for an audition, guess who the agent will send? Their 3 top “bookers”- those actors who are pro-active, book all the time and know most of the industry. You might be at the bottom of the list.
Sitting back and waiting for your agent to do 90% of the work is a guarantee of failure. You have to do 90% of marketing YOU- selling you- getting the industry- EVERYBODY- to know you. (and love you=requesting you!)
If you know 5 people in the industry you’ll probably get an audition once a year. If you know 50, you’ll get an audition once every 6 months. If you know 500, you’ll be working EVERY WEEK!
So, once you have fabulous marketing tools- a head shot or Lifestyle photos to die for, a compelling personal website with your photos and film/video clips and a sizzle reel (demo) that is unique and excellent…
(of course, you can always stand against a white wall in a studio and do a monologue or have a “friend with a camera” videotape you in a scene with an off-stage voice replying, but will that be competitive? No, it won’t. It may show your work but it looks like a beginner or amateur. And once you put it out there, it’s floating around on the internet forever showing you in not the best light. Invest in a real REEL- don’t be cheap on your marketing tools. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if you skimp on what’s essential.)
So, once you have fabulous marketing tools, you need to engage in the BACKDOOR STRATEGY.
Instead of looking for an agent and marching in the FRONT DOOR, get to know the Casting Directors FIRST. Plot and scheme – make a list of every major CD who casts every show you want to work on and knock the list off weekly. Meet them in “pay-to-meets” (they’re all over town – several companies who do this), take a 1 day seminar or workshop, show great work and FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP. This is how you build your network. If you don’t follow up you’ve wasted time and money. If you do follow up- it’s a matter of time before you get called, do a great audition and BOOK!
It’s not about spending all your time to get an AGENT, it’s about spending your time to get WORK!
Then, when you go to meet an agent and the first thing they say is,
“What are you doing now?“
You answer, “Marketing myself, meeting the industry and working!“
“Who do you know“? they ask.
Hand them a list of 30, 50, 100 Casting Directors, Producers, Head writers to the top shows- all the people you’ve met, worked with, studied with, developed as friends- you’ll get a very positive response.” This will be an easy sell!” they think. You’ve done the 90%. They will more than likely want to sign you, because the relationship will work, literally – because YOU will work. That means an agent makes his 10% income.
Complaints from an actor:
“I’m not good at networking…I don’t know how to do this…I don’t like selling myself!”
Learn! It’s part of the reality of being an actor. It’s not about your audition or your “craft” – the cliché that we hear all the time from acting teachers. It’s about building relationships with people who KNOW YOU, LIKE YOU and TRUST YOU. THEY are the ones who will hire you. If you work frequently, Agents will FIND you!
Your agent is there for the formality of submitting you and “upping the ante” (asking for more money$$) WHEN you get an offer. It isn’t their job to take you by the hand and introduce you to the industry. That’s YOUR JOB!
So, try the BACKDOOR Strategy and build your network of “friends” who will hire you not strangers who won’t see you. It works!
Gwyn Gilliss is the Founder and Executive Director of TAM, The Actor’s Market, a marketing firm for actors. They provide monthly FREE seminars/teleseminars, FREE weekly marketing tips as well as access to top photographers, graphic artists and videographers who provide every marketing tool an actor needs. Gwyn’s acting career spans several decades during which time she appeared on and off-Broadway, in classical roles in American Repertory companies in over 18 contract and recurring roles in Daytime/Prime time TV, Films and dozens of network commercials/V.O.’s. As the foremost Marketing/Career Coach she is available to work One-on-One with ready-to-succeed actors.