Archives for : acting

5 THINGS EVERY ACTOR SHOULD KNOW ABOUT 2016’s PILOT SEASON

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLETT! Pilot Season started earlier than ever this year and is moving like lightening. Don’t get lefPilot-Season-Logot behind, find out what you need to know here. 

1. WHAT IS A PILOT? The Pilot itself is a stand-alone episode of a series that is used to sell the series and will usually run as the first episode of the series, if picked up.

Over the summer the major networks all received short pitches for new shows from writers and producers. Then in the fall, each network requested scripts from about seventy of those pitches.

By January, the network has chosen twenty of those scripts from which to make pilots. Pilot season is the annual high-pressure race to the finish line. The race generally happens between January andApril, culminating at The Upfronts in May.

With more and more cable networks producing original content the start and end times of pilot season as blurred. This year pilots began casting as early as NOVEMBER! Whaaat? Yes. True.

During the coming months studios battle it out to cast, produce, and test the best new series.

Once they have been produced, those pilots are presented to studio and network executives (and sometimes to test audiences). Each network then chooses between 4 and 8 pilots to present at The Upfronts where they are added to network schedules for the following season.

2. HOW ARE PILOTS CAST? Most pilots have about 6 weeks to cast anywhere from 5-25 roles. In the TV world where you have 2 days to cast 12 roles, 6 weeks is A LOT of time, meaning A LOT of actors can get seen. However, because producers want to sell their idea, they usually jam pack that pilot with well known actors if they can.

First, lists are made up of first choice actors – the A-List – then second choice – the B list- (hence the term A-List, B-List etc.) Later in the season casting will pull from agent submissions. Often actors on the aforementioned lists will opt out of auditions for already-established TV programs during this time. The reasoning behind this strategy is that most actors (and their agents) would rather bet on booking a pilot that gets picked up, where they sign a multiple year contract, than take a week’s worth of work on a current show. Lessmoney upfront, but it could pay off with more money and work in the future if the pilot goes to series.

3. HOW CAN AN ACTOR PREPARE? If you have representation, follow up with them now and figure out a game plan.

This should include your own marketing plan of drop-offs, postcards and networking. Consider doing Casting Director Workshops with new casting offices, but also re-meets of people who like you (they have called you in before or booked you).

Additionally, don’t focus solely on pilots. Even with great training, reps, some credits and business relationships, you might not get any pilot auditions.  Keep in mind, pilot season is also the second half of 2014/2015 episodic season. REMEMBER all those actors who are opting out? They leave a chasm for YOU to fill. Also, shows that have a full season pick-up order are still very, very active in casting!!

+ Make sure that you are audition-ready no matter what stage you are at! Luck + preparation = opportunity!

+ If you do not have representation, you REALLY need to make sure you have a marketing plan in place for drop-offs, postcards, other updates (Mail Chimp anyone?) and networking. Actors without reps should not rely on pilot auditions. Most of the time casting goes to their industry list and then agent submissions.

+ If you are non-union, your first priority should be getting at least SAG/AFTRA-Eligible. No matter the season, your focus should be on commercials, films and a very, few, specific tv casting directors who are open to seeing non-union actors. Here is my post on EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET SAG-AFTRA. No excuses!

4. HOW ARE THINGS CHANGING?

Now that Amazon and Netflix are in the game, the landscape is more and more crowded. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m always telling actors to create their own work, weather it’s a webseries or a short film or stand up comedy.

This year’s trends include a lot of pilots based on webseries or even podcasts. Yes. Podcasts. Also there are a lot of the tried and true procedurals, medical dramas and crime dramas. See more here from the Hollywood Reporter on development trends. 

Fellow consultant, Mackenzie Marsh auditioned for lead roles in 9 pilots and tested on 3 last year, this year she has ALREADY tested for one and it’s only January.

Likewise Act Now consultant LJ Salerno had this to say:

“This was the first year I went in for series regulars on pilots since the first year I moved out here 12 years ago. I went in for two comedies. Both were in November and December.   And for a series regular on “Good Girls Revolt” in April-ish?..right after my guest star on the Middle aired. That was a Netflix series. “

5. WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?

TVLine writes super informational articles about each season, but it’s released late Janurary.

 Variety has a list of up-to-the-minute series and pilot orders.

 Deadline Hollywood is another great resource.

There is also The Hollywood Reporter. As things get moving and shaking, www.thefutoncritic.com and www.castingabout.com. are great ways to keep up with developments in addition to who the casting office is attached to each project.

Any pilot season stories to tell? Comment below and help your fellow actors!

 

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10 BEST RESOURCES ONLINE FOR ACTORS

What are the best websites for actors?

There are so many out there!

You’ve got auditions and scene study and casting workshops and Zumba to get to, who has time to waste on the internet?

Here is your cheat sheet for the 10 BEST RESOURCES ONLINE FOR ACTORS!

1. WWW.IMDB.COM Yes you must get the Pro membership. This is the number one most-consulted database of actors worldwide. If you don’t already have credits, you can upload a resume. You can upload a reel, several photos, links. And if you want to find email addresses for just about anybody (agents, managers, producers), this is the best public resource.

2. WWW.CASTINGABOUT.COM is the best place to research TV and Film Casting directors so that you know what they are casting, when they are casting it, and you can send mail to the correct, current address.

3. WWW.THEWORKSHOPGURU.COM Lists all the workshops in LA and NY. You can search by category (format), casting director, studio, etc. And find what works best for your schedule. They also have some free resources.

4. WWW.WORKSHOPWIZARD.COM is a great way to keep track of your workshops (without having to create your own spreadsheet) and to add information on whom you’ve met and when, what your feedback was, etc. That is then available to your representation (and searchable!) so that they can make the most of the relationships YOU’VE created!

5. WWW.LACASTING.COM you MUST have a profile at the Casting Network (in LA or NY) if you want to audition for commercials. Have your headshot, clips (instead of or in addition to a reel), and resume, all posted and updated. If you don’t have representation you can self submit to casting calls here.

6. WWW.ACTORSACCESS.COM Another MUST, this is the actor-friendly portion of Breakdown Express, the website used by all Casting professionals to put out a casting call for film and TV theatrical productions, and where all agents and managers go to submit you. SOME but not all of these breakdowns are made available to actors for self submissions. Clearly a must no matter what level you are at.

7. WWW.BACKSTAGE.COM More open calls and casting notices esp. for non union projects for those just starting out. Plus, lots of news, resources, and information about what is going on in your world.


8. WWW.MASTERCLASS.COM is a new site with classes on everything from Tennis (taught by Serena Williams) to, you guessed it, acting (taught by Dustin Hoffman). I like it. Why not?

9. WWW.AMYJOBERMAN.COM I just love what she has to say about almost everything–webinars on everything from self taping to social media for actors.

10. WWW.ACTORSEQUITY.ORG if you want to do equity theatre, “casting call” is where you can find breakdowns and everything you need to know to join.

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HOW TO GET AND KEEP THE RIGHT AGENT: DO’S AND DON’TS

imagesThe RIGHT agent and/or manager can make a world of difference in your career. But how do you find the right representative(s) and keep them?

First of all the RIGHT representative is one that is excited to work with you.

It’s kind of like dating, you don’t want someone who doesn’t want you, or whom you have to chase around all the time, who doesn’t call you back. Make sense?

So you know what you DON’T want, but what DO you want?

You want a representative who has great relationships with casting professionals and who has a positive reputation in the industry. You can research agents and managers on IMDB Pro (which you should have a membership to anyway so that you can have a more complete profile on IMDB). Look at who is on their roster: do they have anyone like you? Are their clients working? How many clients do they have?

If you have an agent do you need a manager?

That depends. If you agent is getting you out, you may still want a manager if you can find the kind of manager who will really add something to your team–someone who is doing MORE than just submitting, who is getting you general meetings with casting, who is helping you mold your brand, who is looking for projects for you. If you are meeting with a manger you want to be sure and ask them about this also, how do they work? How are they different from an agent? Do they know your agent already?

If you already have a manager, do you need an agent?

Possibly, it depends on the manager, again. Many managers work the same way agents do these days. If you have a manager like the one described above, yes, you do want an agent so that your manager can focus on these other developmental aspects of your career. And if you are just starting out, non union, very young, and are what is called a “developmental” actor, then the manager can help by setting up meetings with agents as well.

If you do a mailing to agents or managers…

Do your research first so you are not submitting blindly. Submit to agents that work with actors in your age range and whose actors (you can see their roster on IMDB Pro) are working. Mail to 3 at a time. The cover letter should be short and sweet, it is not likely to be read unless they really like the headshot, and even then it may not get read. What matters is the headshot and resume. Follow up by email after 3 days. If a number is listed, call after 5 days DURING OFF HOURS when you know you can just leave a message. 7 days after your first mailing, drop off another copy of the headshot and resume with a sticky note: “seeking reps” for the SPECIFIC agent you are targeting. After 7 days, move on to the next 3 until you have meetings set up.

If you do a showcase with agents or managers…

You must first of all be prepared to keep the contact information they provide. Don’t expect to be able to look it up later. Although if you find yourself in a bind most agent and manager emails are listed on IMDB Pro. They may give a private email in the workshop and the facility is most likely not permitted to repeat that information. If they ask to see a reel, send them a link (NOT an attachment) to the email address they have given. Most prefer this method. And most prefer an email to a phone call. If they specified another method to follow up with them, follow their instructions.
If they say “keep in touch” for possible future representation, follow up within 2-3 days with a postcard and/or email. Keep it brief. Just a reminder of who you are and that you are interested in meeting with them, and that you are following up “AS PER YOUR REQUEST.” Most reputable workshop companies will be doing these showcases in May and November when agents are looking. Then in the following weeks agents and managers are updating their roster and weeding out actors they no longer want to represent which leaves room for new ones. Do continue to stay on their radar!

If they say they would like to meet with you, follow up right away, in the fashion they indicated in the showcase. Always keep communications brief, positive, and professional.

I will say, I myself did 6 of these when I was looking for an agent about 10 years ago. At the time I had 1 co-star on my resume. I was 35 but I still looked late 20’s. I play white collar professionals, moms, basically I’m cut out for a series regular in a 1 hr. drama. I’m not a bombshell a la Pamela Anderson, but I’m not a character actor either. And I’m brunette. So there’s a lot of me. That means it’s not going to be so easy to get me auditions.

What I heard from agents at the time was a lot of this:
Send me your reel (and then they’d never get back to me)
Great job (but I have someone like you with better credits)
Check with me for future representation (when you have better credits)

BUT eventually the (very small boutique) agent I was with at the time moved to one of the (bigger, better) agencies I had showcased for. Because I had already seen the head of the agency she was allowed to take me with her and I ended up with a pretty good agent until the strike in 2007 closed them down. So, my point is that you never know how this is going to pan out for you, and it may not look the way you expect it to. Also, you are just starting out, so you might want to look for an agent who is too, or look to smaller more approachable agencies. But also, that you have to meet a lot of agents before you find the right one.

When you get a meeting with an agent what should you ask in a meeting?

Do you need to know thier favorite color? (no).
Do you want to ask some questions? (yes)
What do you need to know?

Here are a few of the questions you should be prepared to ask and answer.

Again, this is a lot like dating. Your job is to show them a good time. And your job is also to find out what you need to know to determine if this person is a good match for you. 

 

WHEN YOU HAVE A MEETING WITH A REPRESENTATIVE

– Do ask questions before you sign.

1. Are you union franchised?

2. Which Casting Directors do you know best?

3. What does the ideal actor/rep relationship look like to you? (In other words what are you doing for them and what are they doing for you – this is about expectations, be clear!).

– Do be prepared in an interview for what the Agent May Ask YOU!

1. Are you SAG-AFTRA? or eligible?

2. Which Casting Directors do you know best?

3. What do you hope to achieve through this relationship? (again this is about expectations, if you haven’t already asked they may ask this).

Of course they may not ask anything at all. Which to me is a red flag unless you’ve already answered all of their questions. You also want to just notice in the meeting if this person appears professional, ie: do they have an office, do they dress professionally, do they behave and speak like a business person, do they seem knowledgable about the industry?

Remember this is your REPRESENTATIVE and they must represent you in a way that is in alignment with your own values and in a way that helps you rather than hurts you.

At the end of the meeting be sure to ask how they would prefer you follow up with them, by phone? By email? And how much time they need to think it over IF they do not offer you representation right there on the spot.

 

ONCE YOU HAVE A REPRESENTATIVE

Once you have the right representative you must know the Do’s and Don’ts of etiquette in order to keep them.

 

DON’T

– Don’t go out of town without telling them in advance. If you go out of town- June and late December are your options, especially if you are not a well known actor yet.

– Don’t be unprofessional in auditions. For example, showing up late. Not cool.

– Don’t call your agent to complain about not getting any auditions. Do something to help them out or find a new agent.

– Don’t disappear. If they never hear from you they may forget you exist.

– Don’t take forever to respond to requests for new headshots, etc.

– Don’t ask for a different time for your audition, make it happen unless it is something huge and rare. Changing times makes your agent annoyed and can make everyone look bad. Make it happen, or someone else will!!

– Don’t take more than 30 minutes to respond to texts/emails/calls from them. They need to confirm quickly for auditions.

 

DO

– Do be on top of YOUR business. Give them the tools they need to get you in doors, aka have a reel AND clips up on your online profiles. Have updated headshots with different looks, update your resume constantly.

– Do Always “book out” if you are leaving town or otherwise engaged so your agent is not submitting you for work you can’t do!

– Do be ready to put something on tape should something perfect come along while you are out of town. You can use your phone’s video cam for this, no excuses!

– Do respond to any requests they make.

– Do reply quickly to their calls.

– Do be sure to keep them updated on casting directors you are meeting in workshops, how your audition went, if you are doing any live performance (stand up, plays, etc.) or your own projects (web series, one woman show, etc.) If you are planning to get new headshots, or print postcards, talk to your agent about it beforehand for suggestions, or at the very least let them know you are on top of it.

– Do create a connection. You want to have a relationship with this person, the better they know you, the better they will be at submitting you. Do you share a love of animals? Fitness? Cupcakes? Ryan Gosling?

 

Feel free to post follow up questions for me in the comments if I’ve left any of your questions unanswered.

 

 

 

 

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HOW TO GET YOUR SAG-AFTRA UNION CARD

imagesI remember when I arrived in LA and an agent told me “If you’ve been here for more than a year and you don’t have your SAG card you’re not doing your job.” Ouch. And yet… yeah. It’s not that hard, you just have to know what to do, and then do it.

There are several routes which I’ll outline below

The route that works best for you will depend on the resources you already have in place. That said, choose one and make it happen.

Before you can audition for any network TV (for the most part) you will need to at least be eligible. That is because the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union will fine a television production for hiring a non union actor if the union feels that the production could just as well have hired someone already in the union.

So, unless you are a Vietnamese little person with trapeze skills who can speak Spanish with a German accent (an extreme example but you get my point ) or someone equally as rare, you are unlikely to be called in to audition for or Taft-Hartleyed by Prime Time Network Television. Taft-Hartley is the name of the law by which an actor is drafted into SAG-AFTRA. This is due to budget constraints. A production such as this does not have it in their budget to pay such fines.

However, a commercial production may. If a commercial is going to hire 1 or 2 actors for a 1 million dollar shoot that lasts 3 days and they can get all the ad executives and all the producers and the director to agree on one actor, who cares if they spend $2,000 on a Taft-Hartley? As compared to say, a 1 hr. drama that hires 20-25 co-stars and 6-8 guest stars PER EPISODE and has a budget of, say $35,000 per episode. Make sense?

For this reason many actors are Taft-Hartleyed on commercials or even films, which likewise have fewer budget constraints than TV. Occasionally on a network or cable TV show if the actor does have a special skill or an unusual attribute which makes them hard to find, (or if they just REALLY REALLY want a certain actor) a production will risk the fine and Taft-Hartley that actor.

Once you are ELIGIBLE for the union you may work several jobs without having to pay the full dues and join.

It’s wise to ride that fence for a while so that you can build credits and make money on both union and non-union jobs until the union tells you its time, you’re then called a “must join,” which is self-explanatory, no? You then must FOLLOW THE STEPS to join on the next union job you book.

You can find out more about all of this online at www.sagaftra.org or at the Los Angeles office:

National Headquarters

5757 Wilshire Blvd., 7th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3600
Switchboard: (323) 954-1600
Toll free: (855) SAG-AFTRA / (855) 724-2387

 

HERE ARE THE TOP 4 WAYS AN ACTOR CAN BECOME ELIGIBLE: 

1. Book a union commercial, film, or (rarely) a part in a TV show and get Taft-Hartleyed. If you’re not sure if a production is union or not you can ask or check with SAG. Usually it will be in the breakdown.

2. Work 3 days as a background actor on a union production. You will be expected to provide proof of employment (such as a pay stub), so keep good records!

3. “Sister in” through an affiliated performers’ union (ACTRA, AEA, AGMA or AGVA). You must be a paid-up member in good standing for a period of one year and must have worked and been paid at least once as a principal performer in that union’s jurisdiction.

4. Produce and perform in your own New Media production and Taft-Hartley yourself. You must have existing union members in your production. You can find out more information at the SAG Website on how to become a signatory.

HINT: I strongly advocate for route #4 because it puts YOU in control and you end up with a piece of material for your reel, a new credit, and the satisfaction of knowing YOU made it happen for YOURSELF! For more on this read my FOLLOW UP POST ON EXACTLY HOW TO DO THAT! 

 

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