How Actors Can Have The Best Pilot Season Ever Without Representation

Pilot season is just around the corner and you’re still an actor without theatrical representation. Don’t worry! Take a deep breath and relax—you’re going to be fine.

The most contagious disease effecting actors is the belief that signing with an agent or manager guarantees you’ll compete for every role you’re right for. My private clients are divided among actors who compete for 0-6 major auditions per year v.s. actors who compete for 30-40 top-tier auditions per year—that’s a staggering 3-6 auditions per week during peak seasons.

What’s the difference? The actors with the 30-40 auditions are being pitched via telephone followed by a personal email to the casting office. Those only going out for 0-6 per year are only being submitted online via “breakdown services” by their reps. Also, some agents have long-standing relationships with certain casting offices, and the CD will bring in literally whomever that agent submits. 

Fact: less than one percent of agents and managers actively pitch their clients, either via phone or personal email. The reason most reps don’t pitch is because they simply don’t have the relationships or clout with casting directors, or they’re terrified of losing face should they misjudge an actor’s “rightness” for a role. Ask any great agent or manager and they’ll tell you that a rep who isn’t pitching clients should get out of the business. 

Your success in launching your acting career is directly related to how visible you make yourself and to your ability to build and maintain relationships with industry professionals: directors, producers, writers, actors, casting directors, etc. Your results depend on how you build those relationships. 

“I’ve already made it.”

Adopting the attitude “I’ve already made it” instantly tunes you to the level of confidence needed to stand up for yourself and build those crucial industry connections.

It’s important to reject the herd mentality—what every other actor is doing—every step of the way. Sending a press release-style email is miles more effective than a mass postcard or headshot mailing, as it instantly separates you from the herd and gives the illusion that you’ve already made it. People in this business respond to that sort of confidence. If you’ve never written a press release and have no idea what you would put in yours, a quick Google search will give you more than enough guidance. 

Stop waiting for permission to market yourself.

Get in the habit of rejecting the archaic concepts of “niche” and “type” as they only serve to box you in and stifle your originality. Start owning all those awesome things that embody your personality—the crazier and more out there the better! You’ll soon start to define your own type, which transcends any of the “types” already out there. Steve Buscemi is an actor who embraced his unique flavor of quirkiness to create his own tailor-made type. Zooey Deschanel has immortalized Jess on “New Girl” as the charmingly clueless, singing neurotic roommate with the big blue eyes and sexy hair. Who knows if they would have had the success that they’ve had if they had spent years trying to stuff their uniqueness into the box of some preconceived type that the business had already dictated?

This means that for the next audition you get, stop trying to think of how you can cram all your glorious oddities and neuroses into the narrow confines of what you think they want. Instead, give yourself permission to let the bizarreness, ugliness, sexiness, or disarming qualities of you come through, imprinting the character with something priceless. Such courage is indeed worth the effort. 

Before the huge successes of “New Girl” and “(500) Days of Summer” Zooey Deschanel showed up to one of our coaching sessions with a deeply ironic casting breakdown. The breakdown was looking for a “Zooey Deschanel type.” Zooey was between acting jobs and we both laughed at the absurdity of it all. For me, that moment solidified the fact the she had officially made it.

In my career coaching work with actors, I help my clients to reject the lottery mind-set—to see acting success as commensurate with the amount of focused work they put in, rather than just a series of lucky events.

This article was originally posted on Backstage