How To Land a Series Lead This Pilot Season

Pilot season is coming—it’s really almost a year-long event—and when you’re ready for it, it has the potential to be one of the most fruitful times to be an actor in Los Angeles.

New projects like pilots generally cast a wider talent net and the casting process is often less elitist and more accessible to a greater number of actors. 

Instead of being empowered by this fact, I hear a lot of complaints from actors about how hard it is to get auditions, even during a busy pilot season, and how few pilots they go out for. 

Many actors have false hopes and expectations that their reps are going to get them in for every role they’re right for. As my readers well know, reps who rely on submissions only, and who do not pitch their clients via phone, will not generate more than 0-6 major film/TV auditions per year. And, if the slot machine odds of scoring that submission based audition weren’t cutthroat enough, those that get the opportunity to compete, enter into a significantly more competitive secondary lottery that their audition will even reach the eyes of producers, directors, etc.

Only 1% of reps are picking up a telephone and, armed with their clients’ best selling points, are actively pitching them for every role they’re right for. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t book a series lead this pilot season. The key is to strap personal responsibility back on your own shoulders.

At our studio, we've helped nine clients book starring roles in major TV series this past year, all without the help of representation. The answer to having a winning pilot season is not about running around frantically trying to get better reps, sending out postcards, trying to find your “niche” or your “type,” it’s about using your ingenuity to develop a more effective strategy to get your foot in the door—a high-end strategy that’s reflective of the Oscar and Emmy-worthy career you aspire to. 

This starts by fearlessly rejecting the herd mentality. Most actors tell the same story: they waste their time looking for reps, get signed, stay on their roster for a year, only see 0-6 major film/TV auditions, and wring their hands in annoyance. 

I’ve Already Made It as Me
Show business is an industry where success depends on unshakeable confidence. I advise my clients to adopt the attitude that they’ve already made it—that they already have a reputable career, the respect of their peers, and a full body of quality work behind them that they can feel proud of. 

This level of success is partially achieved by saying no to as many projects as you say yes to.

Don’t walk around with your tail tucked between your legs, by acting like one who feels lucky to be seen, lucky to get an audition, and so fortunate to be cast. You are being generous by sharing your time and your talents with production, while also being a solution to their problem. Realize that everyone’s in the same boat! This is the attitude you need to move your career forward, on your terms.   

Furthermore, don’t try to adjust your persona into the preconceived ‘niches’ or ‘types’ that already exist in entertainment—they only serve to box you in and limit the things that really make you sellable and singular.

Many successful actors figured this out from the beginning: this is perhaps why Cate Blanchett embraced her crooked nose and nurtured her elegant yet dangerous image. Or perhaps why Paul Giamatti never lost weight or got a hair transplant, or tried to tone down any of his charming neuroses. You being you—that’s interesting. If you try to be what they want, you lose.

Pitch Yourself
Identify the film and TV projects that you want to be a part of this year. 

Draft a short list of the directors, writers, and producers whose projects truly thrill you. 

There’s a right way and a wrong way to build and maintain game-changing relationships with these influencers.

And, from the strength of these relationships, not only will you supercharge your audition rate, you can be more certain that those performances will actually be seen by a member of production team. 

I help my career clients make getting in the room the easy part—by directly pitching themselves for every project for which they’re right, they compete for the role not the audition.

It’s a small industry. Actors competing for many top tier roles will see a significant number of the industry’s top casting directors in any given year. If you’re not at your Olympic-best with regards to your acting, you risk closing far more doors than you open.

Once that door is open, you now have the awesome opportunity to do the real work of making those brave, fun, and dangerous choices to confidently go into the room and book the role—the choices that most actors are too afraid to make. 

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s advice is the best: “If you leave the room...and you’ve acted as well as you can, there’s no way that the people who have watched you will forget it...Something will transpire ultimately.”

This article was originally posted on Backstage