Why You Must Stop Rolling The Dice With Your Training

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Casting directors have a tough job, one that takes talent, patience, and stamina. They are some of the most gifted and under-praised members of our industry. Through their wisdom and shrewd instincts, they have shaped some of our most beloved films and television shows.

But while casting directors are integral to the process of making great works of film or TV, they do not make final casting decisions. That is the job of the producers, writers, and directors. A fallacy that has so deeply infiltrated itself into the collective consciousness of the actor is that pleasing CDs is the magic pill for launching an acting career. This couldn’t be more untrue.

I blame CD-run workshops/classes—fundamentally flawed gatherings in that they paint the casting director as superior to the actor—for propagating the myth. But this couldn’t be further from reality when it comes to how things actually work in the industry.

When a professional actor wants to meet and build a new relationship with a casting director, they schedule a general meeting. They don’t do casting director workshops or classes. Yes, “generals” with casting directors (and producers, writers, directors) are still alive and well and happen regularly throughout the industry—they’re how actors can actually compete for many major film/TV roles before they even go to casting.

A general meeting is a scheduled meeting between actor and casting director where both parties are on level ground. First and foremost, it’s really an exciting opportunity to meet and connect as human beings. Generals offer a more respectful (to the actor) and professional way of meeting and building lasting relationships with these industry professionals.

While I don’t care to comment on the credibility, experience, or real love of the craft that these casting-director-cum-teachers may or may not have, they are able to readily pull students from a pool of actors who will simply study with them in hopes of getting cast. Taking an acting class or workshop with a CD because you think he/she is going to launch your career or actually cast you is like spending your hard earned money at a casino. The golden rule in Las Vegas also applies here: no matter how big the promise of riches, the house always wins and you’re only paying to play. 

I’ve even noticed a trend of some agents and managers sending their clients to “study” acting with casting directors. This is a prime example of agents and managers doing a massive disservice to their clients. Rather than studying at a reputable school that can actually help them hone the craft and achieve meaningful, regular breakthroughs, these industry reps send them off with the hopes that they’ll win a lottery that will always be stacked against them and that’s never winnable. 

The biggest problem with these CD-run classes and workshops is that there are often ulterior motives that poison the well. Most actors in these classes want something from their casting director-teacher. They want to be called in for a role and they want to book that role. They believe that the casting director-teacher has the power to make that happen and can grant or withhold such a desire at will. Thus, all craft development gets cast aside and the entire class experience revolves around pleasing the teacher. This is a major red flag. Being a part of any acting class where the primary goal is to please the teacher is like signing up for stunted development.

Instead of spending hard-earned money, time, and patience on industry professionals who ultimately can’t advance your career, why not reach out to directors, writers, and producers and maintain relationships with them? Not only do professionals, like writers, not receive enough recognition, they are also likely to be more open to meeting actors and building relationships with them, as they’re not so besieged by actors trying to get their attention all the time. The same goes for indie directors. Making an effort to meet indie directors whose careers are on an upward trajectory is a wise idea: they want to meet new faces and they won’t have the hang-ups and barriers present that other industry players may have.

Casting directors are an important alliance but they’re not the jackpot they may seem to be. Using your common sense, not checking your power at the door, and finding off-the-beaten-track methods for opening industry doors are definitely the best way to get ahead in this business.

This article was originally posted on Backstage.

Launch Your Career Faster By Rejecting These Two Toxic Myths

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For years, I’ve had a passion for helping actors stand up for themselves and achieve badass results, often without the help of reps. And doing so requires the ruthless debunking of many toxic industry myths that can stunt an actor’s development and end a career. Below are two of the biggest, most harmful myths that need busting, and how to do it. 

Myth #1
One of the most chronic delusions I see actors falling victim to is the belief that an agent or manager is a magic pill. That once found they will solve your existential dilemma and deliver an acting career to you on a silver platter. It never happens.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, 99 percent of the industry’s agents and managers do not know how to—or deliberately choose not to—use a phone to pitch their clients to production offices and casting directors for major film and TV auditions. They think they’re “not supposed to that.” They’re afraid someone will get mad at them. I’ve heard this a lot: “So-and-so casting director will ‘have my head’ if I call.” Instead, they choose to “obediently” submit their clients online via “breakdown services.”

But there is no way to make a significant living as an agent or manager without using the phone to pitch clients. Actors who are submitted solely online by their reps stand a lottery’s chance (at best) of ever getting into an audition room. Submitting actors online only is the equivalent of throwing a handful of bubblegum on the wall in the hope that something sticks. Furthermore, if that rep miraculously gets their client an audition from that online submission, the chances of that actor’s performance making it to a producer is nil.  

Laziness, an irrational fear of rejection, and not knowing how to sell clients are the primary factors for reps not using the phone as their primary method of attack. But using the telephone to pitch separates the doers from the dreamers. In the entertainment industry, it’s critical for separating the mega-successes from the failures.

How to fix it: The good news is that there is a right way (and a wrong way) for actors to directly pitch themselves for every role they’re right for while building game-changing relationships with major producers, directors, writers, and casting directors.

Myth #2
Although casting directors whittle down the masses to a few actors, they don’t actually cast actors. Writers, directors, and producers make all the final casting decisions. This myth causes a great deal of F.U.D. (fear, uncertainty, doubt) among actors who think it’s their duty to spend emotional energy toadying up to and trying to please casting directors.

How to fix it: You need to know how you’re going to sell yourself when you—or your team—get on the phone with production and casting. When you pick up the phone to pitch, you have seconds to communicate who you are, where you fit in the industry, and what your value is to the production. Once crafted, this concise and impactful pitch is something that cannot be ignored. 

A value proposition is a succinct statement that gets straight to the point. It hits home with what you’re offering, why it’s beneficial, and why you are the answer to their quandary. It’s the DNA of all of your marketing, social media, email/phone pitches, etc. Unfortunately, most actors neglect to lay this strong foundation before they dive in and invest huge amounts of time, money, and energy in their career and all the collateral that goes with it: reels, pictures, websites, social media, stylists, PR, etc. 

By strapping accountability onto your own shoulders—where it belongs—there will never be anyone else to hold you back from achieving your wildest dreams. The result is that you get to launch your career faster and on your own terms.

This article was originally posted on Backstage.

What Happens Behind The Scenes At Award Shows Will Shock You

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The environment backstage at an award show feels like a SWAT team has infiltrated the Olympic Games with the cast of Toddlers and Tiaras wandering around. If you’re a presenter, it can feel like walking the plank and plunging into an unforgiving ocean. When the assistant director barks that you take your position, step onstage and hit your mark in 5-4-3-2-1—if you hesitate, he will push you out, and it’s sink or swim. Presenting at an award show can be exhilarating or terrifying, depending on your perspective and preparation.

I empower my clients to thrive under this unnatural pressure. In addition to helping actors launch careers and reach Oscar potential, I’ve been coaching a range of industry players to present at all the major televised award shows. Even though these clients have received multiple award nominations and wins, they all express the same sentiment at the prospect of presenting: cold terror.

Trotting out in heels and restrictive designer clothing on a sometimes slippery stage before a live audience while the show broadcasts to over 65 million viewers worldwide is dizzying. Any misstep, gaffe, sniffle, etc. can be turned into a meme or gif and live eternally on the Internet.

Here are some guidelines to load the dice in your favor.

Cover Your Basics
Request your lines beforehand and memorize them. Do not depend exclusively on the teleprompter as they can fail—as we saw with Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie at the Golden Globes in 2014. Memorizing your lines frees you from the human error of the teleprompter operator.

Make sure with utter certainty that you can correctly pronounce all names and titles. Repeat your lines so that your tongue knows the movements it needs to make to smoothly recite each word, so you don’t trip over them. Andrew Garfield (Golden Globes 2011) fumbled the word “inspiringly,” something a few rudimentary rehearsals would have prevented.

Bring Your Personality to the Lines
Pinpoint your hook and let it launch you onstage, allowing your personality to shine through. A hook is a feeling, word, or internal battle cry that is specific to you, and instantly lights you up—it prevents you from looking over-rehearsed and lets your authentic self shine through.

Practice Walking in Your Shoes
You don’t want to be the road-kill of the award show that trips and is gossiped about later. Sure, Jennifer Lawrence has done this at both the 2013 and 2014 Oscars, but she is in a special category of celebrity who actually benefits from such actions, as they add to her authenticity and likeability. Most actors will just look drunk, silly, or clumsy.

Presenting at an Award Show is a Privilege
You must never forget this and behave accordingly, even if you have to recite schlocky or trite words. Never make fun of the dialogue with eye-rolling, or condescending asides, as it makes you look petty.

It’s Open Season, and Everyone is a Target
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a nasty joke, you need to smile, laugh and show how unbothered you are. Ellen took at swing Liza Minnelli sitting in the audience of the 2014 Oscars: "Hello to the best Liza Minnelli impersonator I've ever seen… Good job, sir." Minnelli, by appearing offended, only made herself look fragile.

Being in attendance at an award show means that you are in a tense room with some of the most talented and narcissistic people in entertainment. Be kind to everyone, infusing all your interactions with grace and humor, and you will be able to handle the unexpected with remarkable ease.

This article was originally published on Backstage.
 

The #1 Reason You Won’t Book The Role + How To Fix It

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For years, I’ve helped actors hone the ability to walk on set, enter the audition room or agent meeting with unshakable charismatic confidence and guarantee one of these three winning results:

1. Booking the Role/Getting Signed
You delivered a fantastic performance, took risks, entered emotionally full and you landed the role. Likewise, the agent or manager has offered you a spot on their roster. Three cheers.

2. Getting Called Back/Additional Meetings
You have done your job as an actor and have received a callback, producer’s session, or chemistry read; you are in definite competition for the role. Similarly, in a meeting with potential reps, they’ve asked to see you again or asked for more materials—additional clips, reels or pictures, because you are still under consideration. Nice.

Just because you don’t book or don’t get called back doesn’t mean you haven’t succeeded. There’s a final scenario that’s just as awesome.

3. Booking the Room
This is when you’ve walked into the audition room or meeting with captivating self-assurance, delivered a fantastic performance, but you’re just not the right fit to proceed further—for reasons beyond your control. Maybe they wanted someone “weird like Zooey Deschanel” and you’re more “weird like Ellen Page.” Maybe they wanted “nerdy like Thomas Middleditch” and you’re more “nerdy like Matthew Gray Gubler.” When you book the room, your performance is so damn good, you stay in the heads of casting or the producers long after you’re gone. This can result in your reps getting great feedback, or later on they decide to bring you back for another role. Likewise, in meetings with reps, they might already have clients who already have your look or vibe. In this case, these reps are being responsible by not over-crowding their client lists. But agency rosters change with the ebb and flow of the tides, so definitely follow up in six months, as there might be an opening.

However, if you’re not consistently reaping one of these three scenarios every single time you audition or take a meeting, you may be sabotaging yourself by projecting some form of desperation, perhaps subliminally. Desperation is life’s cyanide. It will poison and downright undermine everything you want to achieve—from getting the job to getting a date. Desperation is toxic and so repellant to people because it means you’re acting from places of weakness—lack of confidence in yourself, your abilities, and the future. In Hollywood, many can sniff out even the faintest whiff of desperation and no one wants to get near it.

Here are three simple time-tested ways to instantly burn through the fog of desperation every time you walk into a room.

Get over yourself
Desperation actually does come from a place of ego, and an unhealthy scrutiny of oneself. Getting over yourself means taking the “I” out of the scenario. It starts by owning the attitude, "It ain't about me; it's about how I can better serve this project/opportunity/company." Releasing yourself from the notion that you are the main event can be liberating, as it forces you to focus on the great film, episode, or play that all involved parties are trying to create. This also frees you from any notion of personal rejection.

Don't get attached to the outcome
Not being consumed by the desired outcome of any scenario eliminates self-consciousness. You will rarely be disappointed if you stop getting attached to an idea of "how it should go" according to you. When you let go of your expectations about how a specific scenario is going to play out, you instantly free yourself from its outcome. This liberating freedom lays the groundwork for you to radiate infectious charismatic confidence that will consistently trigger an enthusiastic "WOW!" from production and casting.

Getting "wrapped up" in the potential success or failure of any endeavor is when desperation will often shut you down, and out of contention, within seconds.

Get lit up!
I help actors figure out what is uniquely fun and exciting to THEM about what they're preparing for—what lights their inner fire. My clients learn how to energize real and heightened emotional attitudes within their bodies which translates to an infectious confidence and commitment—regardless of whether they are staring down a casting director or new agent. The result is passion and confidence so compelling that they book more roles and launch their careers faster. Best of all, I show them how to activate and deploy this awesome ability within seconds, whenever they need it.

With the stakes as high as they are in show business, it’s only natural to feel desperate at times. The key is to be proactive in strategically annihilating it from impacting your auditions and meetings, even on the most subliminal level.

This article was originally published on Backstage

4 Ways To Crush The Busiest Pilot Season Ever

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The sexual harassment scandals of late have done more than just knock venerated men from their perches of privilege and create a long overdue watershed moment for gender equality. With each established player that faces their public reckoning, a spot opens up for a new face and a new program.

These tsunamis of scandals are about forging equality in every sense of the word, and not just in the representation of women on sets and in production, but also, equality and diversity in the types of stories told.

People are demanding change and networks are scrambling to create new
programming. This demand for change is in addition to the fact that the content wars were already in full swing, with so many companies trying to imitate the success of Netflix and Hulu by creating their own shows and original material.

With many of the industry’s major production companies throwing billions of dollars into creating new content and, in some cases, tripling their rosters from last year, it’s creating a perfect storm to be the busiest pilot year in history.

This buzzing environment sets the strategic actor up to win.

Below are four actionable things you can do today to launch your career and have the best pilot season ever.

1. Have a solid game plan
Get your game on now. Now is the time to get a solid strategy in place to stake what’s yours this year, and to compete for every role you’re right for. You must reject the “herd mentality” and not do what every other actor is doing: waiting for auditions by praying someone else (agent or manager) gets them one. Aside from obvious laziness, this is a losing strategy.

Most actors are stuck in a rinse-repeat, catch-22 cycle of—wait for audition, get audition, and hope you get cast. Alternatively, you need to build and maintain game-changing relationships with working producers, writers, and directors, so you know when they’re gearing up for production on a project before a casting director receives a single role to cast.

This town rests on a foundation of relationships, with friends and acquaintances exchanging work-related favors. Thus, to build a career, you need to create and foster those types of associations. At our studio, we help actors build and maintain these game-changing relationships, and start to develop a network of friendships with great writers, producers, and directors right now. Thus enabling one to emerge from the limiting cocoon of just knowing other actors—most actors in this town just have a
collection of other actors that they know.

2. Stop looking for representation
The notion that an agent or manager is going to open doors for you is one of the most damaging myths for the up-and- coming actor. Actively seeking representation is often a black hole of emptiness for actors, as 99% of agents and managers will do nothing for you when signed. It can create a very damaging cycle, where actors spend months anxiously trying to secure new reps and then when they finally get this new agent or
manager, they are profoundly disappointed when they don’t receive more auditions (or sometimes any auditions). Proactive managers and agents know that it takes making hundreds of phone calls for their clients with the knowledge that one in twenty of those calls will get the audition, and maybe one in a hundred of those auditions will result in a booking. Most agents or managers who have hung their shingle out are not willing to do
this kind of work. In this case, it’s up to you to get yourself in the door.

Twelve of our career clients landed Series Lead roles in major network and cable TV shows this year alone—through our work together, they learned how to build career- launching relationships with major producers, directors, and writers on the phone, in under sixty seconds.

The ability to use the phone efficiently separates the doers from the dreamers.

3. Know how to sell yourself

One of the reasons most agents and managers are ineffective for their clients is that they have no idea how to sell them should they pick up the phone to speak with casting or production. Ineffective reps only submit actors through breakdowns because they are too afraid, or unmotivated, to use the phone.

Great agents and managers pitch their clients to production and casting over the phone using all the right branding buzz words to secure that audition. Remember, it’s your responsibility to arm your reps with these singular branding selling points.

Knowing how to sell yourself when you get on the phone means your branding is clear and concise—it has nothing to do with the horrific racket of companies and individuals trying to sell you on finding your “niche” or your “type.”

4. Stop listening to other actors
There is no one-size- fits-all approach to success. Stop watering yourself down with everyone else’s opinions. Much of the ‘advice’ that travels from actor to actor can, unfortunately, bear the taint of other actor’s fears, uncertainties, and doubts. For the most part, it markedly lacks courage, and therefore will do more to hurt you than advance you. Shake off those narrow mindsets that shackle your game plan and start honing your strategy to get more bookings, more auditions, more meetings and a more
empowered perspective on your chosen path.

The realization that you’re the one that needs to be swinging the machete in this industry can be a hard pill to swallow, but if you want to have your best booking year ever, then you must be willing to do it.

This article was originally posted on Backstage

Creating A Badass Reel Just Got A Whole Lot Easier

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A telltale sign of an actor who rarely makes it in this industry is an unhealthy obsession and preoccupation with their reel. 

One of the biggest excuses I hear from actors procrastinating their careers, is that they don’t have a reel, or their reel needs updating, editing, etc. 

Excuses are a career ender. I have seen far too many actors allow excuses to stop them dead in their tracks. This is the number one reason why many actors end up giving up on their dream.

Not having a demo reel is an incredibly lame excuse to delay your career, because it signifies an unhealthy obsession with something that fundamentally doesn’t matter.

This obsession conveys a fear of hard work, under the guise of a fear of failure. 

And understandably so, as one of the things that can be so overwhelming when thinking about a reel is the sheer amount of time, effort, energy and planning it can take to create or add to a reel.

The Old Reel

Although not having a reel won’t ruin your career, sending out a terrible one might.

If you really want to create an A-level reel, it must be exceptional. Every top tier industry expert agrees that it’s vital to have footage of you at your best, doing the best acting that you can possibly do.

These basic guidelines have traditionally made for a great reel: No longer than 1.5 minutes, incorporating your best footage at the beginning.

The problem with the typical segmented actor reel it that it offers up too much information.

The Future Of The Reel

Your reel should be an opportunity to not only show you at your Olympic best, but also to feature work that directly relates to the style of the projects you're in competition for, while delivering production relevant material.

If you’re strategizing with your team to pitch yourself for a series regular role in an exciting new cable single camera comedy pilot, why on earth would you want to also include the dramatic footage from that network procedural you worked on last season?

Sometime early this year, a thrilling groundswell shift started taking place in the industry. A large percentage of the high-level agents and managers I collaborate with on a regular basis, started to request a new kind of reel from their clients—one that no longer follows the traditional style of segmented clips of past booked work, but one that instead delivers production relevant material.

Why This Is Awesome For Actors

Actors no longer need to obsess about not having booked enough major roles to create an awesome reel that will have impact with production teams, and get them the job.

Nor do actors have to employ the services of the multitude of shady companies that create ‘original’ reel footage for them—these awkward reels often do more to shut you out of contention for a role.

Whenever my clients tell me that they want to work with a reel company to create footage, my advice is always the same: “You’re better than that.”

Companies that help you to create scenes that mimic major film & TV work, will often end up costing you more jobs than you book.

‘Reels’ like these stand out like a sore thumb as they don’t look professional, and scream “homemade.”

These companies typically sell actors on the promise that they’re going to create original material for them and produce it into something that looks like they booked some top tier film and television.

In reality, the footage always ends up reeking of amateur hour, and always elicits a puzzled look on the faces of production teams as they try to figure out what project it’s from—it distracts them from actually watching your work.

The New Reel

My clients are creating a new style of reel and getting thrilling results in the form of booked roles and launched careers.

While many actors are shutting themselves out of contention by submitting reels containing footage that is so far removed (in style) from the project they are competing for, we are creating “modular reels” for our clients, by shooting 5-12 currently casting major film and TV auditions, and editing them into brief and impactful clips. We get our client’s absolute best booked-role-potential performance on tape, and send 2-5 scenes to production and casting that is directly related (in style and tone) to the project being cast.

This is exactly what the top reps in the industry are advising their clients to do right now, and we’re thrilled to be helping these actors launch their careers faster, and go straight to producers with these new modular reels that we’re producing in-house.

This is, in effect, the great equalizer as actors of any level can now create a reel with less effort, that looks and feels exactly like what celebrity actors are creating.

I can’t stress enough that as the industry evolves, it is imperative for actors to adapt to these changes in order to stay ahead of their competition.

Next time you submit your reel for a project, ask yourself if it includes production relevant material, and if it truly features you at your absolute best. Because doing so will amplify your ability to supercharge your audition rate, book more roles, and launch your career.

This article was originally posted on Backstage