“You can’t compare yourself to your friends as every actor is different. Every role is different. With that being said, you need to brand yourself.”
Reddit “Ask Me Anything” threads can be a fountain of information (or craziness, depending on the subject). Earlier this week, a “former Hollywood agent” took the opportunity to participate in one and gave frank answers to questions from aspiring actors. Below are some of the highlights.
When one commentator mentioned he hadn’t been booking as many roles as his friends who are also actors, the former agent pointed out that measuring yourself against your peers isn’t always an effective way to judge oneself:
You can’t compare yourself to your friends as every actor is different. Every role is different. With that being said, you need to brand yourself. There is only so much your manager/agent can do for you. What is your IMDB rank? I had a client that was in the same situation as you, I started doing publicity for her and getting name in the news, that increased her ranking by about 500 points in just a day. She began booking right after because IMDB showed her as on the rise. That is not all there is to it but make yourself available on social media, interviews, red carpet events any and every opportunity to get your name spread by other people will increase your chances of getting casted for a major role.
The former agent also pointed out what actors should be doing beyond putting together a strong reel, including why face time with agents at workshops is so important:
Having a great reel is not enough. Agents have to submit you to casting agents and most of them do not want reel footage. Having a co-star/under 5 credit would open more doors for you and get you in the door to see a smaller agent. I liked meeting people at workshops. 1. It game me the chance to meet people in person. 2. I got the chance to see your face and movements in person. 3. It gave me the chance to check to see if you would present any “problems” in the future. The biggest thing that will get you banned in Hollywood the fastest is having an attitude. Hollywood is a very small place. If you have been here you will find that you meet people from other shoots, workshops, etc all the time. It is the same for agents, most of us have done business together. So having an attitude will get you to a place where no one wants to work with you. Headshots get thrown in the trash more often then not unless it is just amazing. I used to get hundreds every week. I would suggest go to casting workshops, join reputable acting school and get in their showcase, and when you do meet an agent you want to represent you, be very humble cause you are a dime a dozen. If we don’t like you, we won’t represent you. We are after people who will make us money, troublemakers don’t make money, they get kicked off sets and give our agency a bad reputation. My number 1 bit of advice is be nice to everyone!!! I once booked a client for a music video for a major pop star but on a different set she was rude to the girl she felt was just “make-up.” The girl turned out to to be the cousin of the pop star. Guess who got fired. You never know who is related to who. Send me a message if you want more advice.
One commentator who has no acting experience but is interested in becoming an actor asked the former agent what he/she should do once getting an offer of representation. The former agent instead gave him a list of what he needs to accomplish before that even happens:
You will def need to take classes, get headshots, and start out in smaller roles just so you can get some credits on the back of that headshot picture. The worst thing you can do it start submitting to roles with a blank resume.
Following up on that, the former agent pointed out that the most important thing for an actor to do is to gain experience to put on a resume:
If you have SAG-AFTRA eligibility, you are golden. With that even if you only have a few credits, we can start to submit you for higher paying but smaller roles to build your credits. If you are not don’t have eligibility, then you need to have at least enough information to fill up the majority of the back of your headshot. Meaning enough credits, classes, and talents to fill in that information. We could get an amazing headshot but turn it over and the back is blank, then we don’t see any dollars signs if you couldn’t even get a web series. And your demo reel better be filled with actual footage of you acting not just of you filming yourself in a scene. That does nothing for us, and casting agents don’t like it because often times it isn’t well filmed. So there really isn’t a right answer as to when to get an agent but for me, i didn’t sign clients unless they had good headshots, a decent resume, and actual footage.
Later, the former agent when more in-depth on the importance of having the proper type of credits on one’s resume:
Stage acting and film acting are two very different animals. If I get a resume from two different people who are exactly the same in every way except one has only student film credits and the other has small roles in plays, I’m more likely to bring in the student [with] film credit because at least they have been in front of a camera. The type of acting required for film is also different from stage acting. The two are not the same and are not looked at as the same.
More specifically, the actor should focus on gaining experience in the type of acting he or she wants to pursue:
Training depends on what kind of actor you are trying to be. If you are going for comedy, we want to see showcases, comedy shows, UCB classes, or classes for any legit comedy collective/school as comedy is all about timing. For all others, that is great if you went to Julliard/Yale but those school tend to classically train students and proper training can sometimes be too proper. I had two clients that went to Julliard. One was amazing but we still had to send her to local classes in order to get her to loosen up a little. Film acting is different from classical training and it can be hard for students to make the adjustment. If you look around, you will find classes from local studios that offer workshops, showcases, etc. Most of them get a reputation for being good or bad. Attend classes at the good ones. If you don’t have credits, we want to see where you attend those classes and at least an effort to get acting roles on your own. Meaning, web series, student films, indie films, etc. Those don’t offer pay, but will get you great footage that can be used to get casting agents to look and see what you can do. So short answer, if you don’t have credits footage is the next best thing. Where you take classes doesn’t really matter as long as you are taking them.
The former agent was a bit more vague on what makes a good headshot, but did share some key advice:
Headshots are tricky. We are looking for something that pops out. I know that isn’t the best answer but its the only one I can give. There is no right answer. If you are wearing too much make-up it is a turn off as we don’t know what your natural face looks like. The background shouldn’t make you blend into it or over shadow you. Profile pics are usually not good as we are looking to see your face. Your face should be unobstructed and the best advice I can give you is don’t get super creative on the pose. Go with what has worked. When we submit your headshot to a casting agent, they get a very little thumbnail of your image and thousands of others. The people who get called in for the auditions are the ones who had headshots that made them stand out from the rest. A good headshot makes you “pop” not blend. If you have headshots, send me a pic and I’ll let you know. Also, the best headshots are not always the most expensive. We used to send people to this photographer that only changed $75 bucks. Soon after getting them, they always booked. She was amazing at getting the best “look.” The other thing is that when you take a headshot, know what your type cast is. The object is to get your foot in the door and get work, so dress and look the part you would most likely get cast for. If a casting agent can see you as that character, then they will cast you as such.
Also, the former agent touched upon what many young actors are doing today — creating their own content:
If you are going into comedy, I want to see a great comedy sketch that is going to make me laugh. If you are going a different way, a web series that gets a lot of views is marketable to me. Where I used to work, if we got a comedian that came in and hit all his comedic beats, did a scene in different way and made us laugh, they were in. We have taken people just by youtube videos they submitted because they were just so good. If we laughed, chances are casting directors will too. On the other hand, dramatic actors can’t always do sitcom work well so it took a little bit more to empress through a dramatic youtube video. I would suggest creating something that is a little bit of both. Every agency is different so that’s the best advice I can give.
The question of whether or not actors should submit themselves for roles in which they don’t fit the gender or racial requirements for the part. The former agent answered:
Unless you are a name actor, you should never submit yourself to a role that doesn’t match your gender or race. If you have an agent, ask them for a submission report. We all have one. It will give you a list of what roles they submitted you for. The problem may be that they are not submitting you for the right roles not that they aren’t any that you are right for. It used to be that there were not roles for black females but that tide is changing on that. Pilot season is starting soon and I happen to know there are many roles available and not all of them are looking for name actors to fill them. Get a submission report, talk to your agent about your “type” cast, and then get headshots and footage that match the upcoming roles that you might be right for. Another thing is to make sure you know which roles are upcoming and available so that you can make sure your agent is submitting you for them. Send me a message if you want more personal advice. I would love to help.
Again, the former agent kept stressing how important gaining experience is before landing an agent:
If you are really good, you may get an agent but most likely you are going to need to get credits first. I would suggest attending a non-school based acting school. They often have “showcases” that agents come to in order to pick up fresh talent. I signed a few clients from those. Otherwise, make sure you sign up for the gig sights and submit yourself for smaller roles in order to get some credits. Casting workshops are also great places to meet people and network. Also, consider doing a webseries. Most of the time, those don’t pay very well but if you find the right now, you can get SAG elg. out of it. The most important thing is to make sure you have the right headshot. Even though it might look good to you, I used to get hundreds in the mail every week. We do not read the resumes until the picture jumps out at us first. If you have a bad headshot, you will get nowhere. Have a professional look it over before you miss out on something that could have been great for you.
Lastly, the former agent pointed out that acting is a field that is open to all types of people:
I think anyone can be an actor. Every type is always needed in the entertainment industry. Some type may get more work than other but that doesn’t mean that looks will keep you from making a lucrative career. When I’m looking through headshots, the first thing I notice is looks but not “beauty”. I’m looking to see if you look different from everyone else. What makes you stand out. Whatever that feature is, that is what should be featured in your headshot and that is what will make agents and casting directors take notice. I had one client that booked many many roles simply because she wasn’t classically pretty.