Multimarket Acting: Getting Layered

I’m finalizing my schedule for my first-ever trip to London (*****squeeeeeee***** I am SO excited!) and that means I’m talking with a lot of my clients who are based out of Europe lately. More correctly, I’m talking with actors who travel between Europe and the States for coaching with me when they’re in town (and via Skype when they’re not) and that means my mind is on the multimarket actor.

We used to say “bicoastal,” because to be a working actor in any market other than Los Angeles, you pretty much had to pop between Hollywood and Manhattan. Then we started saying “bimarket,” because more and more actors were building thriving careers between LA and Chicago, LA and Toronto, Vancouver and New York, Atlanta and New Orleans, London and Los Angeles, and so on.

These days, it’s the multimarket actor I’m working with, more and more. Actually, it’s the multimarket hyphenate! Actor-slash-writer-slash-producer based out of London-slash-New York-slash-Los Angeles. What a great time to be a creative!

With so much self-taping and so many virtual auditions, and with so many projects casting in one city yet shooting in another, we’re experiencing loads of growth in the multimarket realm. But for those who are just starting out, there’s the question of exactly HOW to build toward a multimarket career. Here’s how: Layering!

The process of navigating from one tier to the next is something you can replicate, market to market. You just can’t do it simultaneously. You can, however, do it gradually and methodically. So let’s lay out the plan for doing that.

Say you currently live in a minor market but know you want to work in a larger market someday soon. Great. You’ve already established relationships in your current market, you’re regularly in the rooms that count, and you’re making good progress through the tiers that exist there. Whatever you do, don’t stop working out where you are! Don’t stop watering those contacts. Don’t ignore your current momentum because you’re so focused on where you want to be next. That’s career suicide. You’ve gotta get really good at tending to lots of pots and pans on the stove at once, with this.

Start researching your next market. Don’t reach ahead to all the markets you want to inhabit simultaneously. That’s crazymaking and it’ll split your focus more than it already will be due to maintaining momentum in your current market while keeping an eye on where you’re headed. So with just one larger market in mind — ideally one where you can work as a local hire, one you can get to easily, and one with which you have some industry-level familiarity — start your ninja research.

Find the shows that are actively shooting there. Use CastingAbout and search the city out. Even if the show is casting in LA or NY, if it’s shooting elsewhere, CastingAbout will tell you that detail. You can also use local film commission websites or hotlines to get some basic information. IMDb will help you out if the show has been in production for a while (use the location sidebar to refine the search). Of course, use all these same resources to find feature film production happening (although it takes a little more digging to get good info about what’s what EARLY enough for it to make a difference sometimes), and add iSpot.tv and the tactics I mapped out here to get up to speed on commercial production personnel you can target in this new market.

Start building your new market show bible and map out all these folks, their connections, and YOUR potential connections to them through other folks with whom you may be able to meet earlier. Use the agent targeting method to determine who reps those who are booking at your tier or just above. Don’t get overly ambitious here and shoot for the highest-tier agency in this new market. That doesn’t mean you can’t do research on them, but be realistic about what it means to be an actor that is new to a market before you decide CAA is your best first shot at representation in Los Angeles, for example. (In general, avoiding The Bigs is a good idea. They’ll let you know when it’s time for you to take a meeting with them.)

Next, set up those Google Alerts, just like always. Keep an eye on your targets regularly. Don’t get lazy about your Google Alerts’ upkeep. Just because something is set up and headed into your inbox does not mean you automatically benefit. You have to budget time for digging in, mapping out the patterns you’re tracking, and making contact with those folks you’re looking to build relationships with.

Let them teach you how they’d like to be contacted — social media, snail mail, drop-offs, self-submissions, via agent pitch only, etc. — and then set up a schedule for getting (and staying) on their radar using their preferred method on a timeline you can maintain. Over time (read that again: OVER TIME — seriously, don’t try to get married on a first date, y’all), let them know you’re *also* working in their market. Make them aware you’re a sometimes-local actor there. Keep them apprised of your visits. TIME those visits to intersect with events they have happening in that market so it’s easy for you to connect in person and elevate that relationship a bit more with each visit.

Layer it in.

And when you’re established in two markets and want to add in a third, you do exactly what you’ve done to get that second one going. Again, without compromising the momentum you’ve got going in your existing markets. Again, with doing loads of research from afar. Again, with deference to how your research shows they would prefer to be contacted. Again, without rushing to close the deal. Again, with time and patience and consistency.

Now, you ARE going to have to spend money going from market to market. I actually restructured my budget a few years back to reclassify travel expenses as ADVERTISING. I’ve never bought ad space, I’ve never campaigned for “best of” polls, I’ve never spent money to get my book positioned somewhere inorganically. But I looooove to travel. And travel is not cheap. A trip to a new city is my advertising expense for Self-Management for Actors. It’s my opportunity to meet with college professors who teach business of acting courses. And then they put my book on the required reading list and hire me to come back and speak to their classes! It’s my chance to do Q&A events. It’s my chance to work with clients on their turf for a change. And it’s an investment in the marketability of my book and my coaching work for YEARS beyond the first trip.

So, if you’re serious about going multimarket, begin to contribute to a savings account that’s dedicated to the trips you WILL have to make. This is an investment. Don’t resent having to spend money to get to your chosen NEXT market; the whole point is that you want to build up to the tier at which you have work in EACH of the markets you call “home” so that you’re able to finance this jet-setting lifestyle with money made from the bookings you’ve picked up in each place.

Sometimes, your bookings in one city will pay for your trips to another, and sometimes it’ll even be your survival job that’s financing everything, but eventually, momentum does take over and you’re finding the trips are more affordable for the money you’re making as an actor in multiple markets, you’ll find you’re never bored because there’s always something happening elsewhere that needs your attention, and you’re perceived as higher tier in EACH market because you’re a working actor beyond that one city. You’re in demand!

Downside (other than financial investment): You *do* have to communicate clearly with everyone that you may be in another market when you’re needed locally. The good news is, with so much self-taping happening, even that’s not a deal-breaker. And more and more agencies have offices in multiple cities — or work to cover actors in multiple cities despite only having a single office — so it’s not the end of the world for you to be on the go. In fact, some agents will love this about you! The more markets to which they can submit you, the better!

If you’re looking to layer in a multimarket career, start out as if you’re learning how to juggle. Start with one ball. Get good at that. Add a second. Get good at that. Add in a third ball. Get good at that. If you can get great at three balls, you could add a fourth or even a flaming chainsaw at some point because now you have the muscle for how it’s done and each new addition is actually EASIER. But at first, it’s ONE. And even if that’s where you are now, you can start your plan for what it will be like to add in the second market and the third and so on by getting realistic about this whole thing now, and layering in progressively, methodically, and patiently.

See you ’round the globe, y’all!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

(Visited 90 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *