For our first anniversary, my husband and I went to an amazing spa/resort place with his precious son (my precious stepson). (Don’t worry. It was located near a really cool amusement park, and the boys had multi-day passes while I got wrapped in goo and rubbed and pampered for hours on end, each day bookended by family meals and activities.) When we checked in, we were made aware that our neighbors in the bungalow we’d rented were NFL players. More specifically, they were seasoned NFL players brought in to do talks and sessions during a week of “Rookie Orientation.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d never heard of Rookie Orientation, and the idea of some NFL hero next door to us for a few days was endlessly amusing to me. Turns out, after players are recruited to NFL teams, they go through an intense process of being groomed for the non-field parts of their lives as pro ballplayers.

What a great idea! Before experiencing the first game of your first pro season, you train physically, of course. You study the playbooks. You learn about everything that will impact your time on the field. But before you do press, before you begin fielding offers from throngs of sponsors wanting to have you endorse their products, before you find yourself faced with adoring fans who have no limits to how much they’d like to express their worship for you, you have Rookie Orientation. I love it! Now, how can we create such a thing for the future pros in showbiz? And what should that Rookie Orientation include?

How To Handle the Press

Okay, so you’ve booked the super-cool gig and there’s this nice, fancy opening. You are gonna walk the red carpet (and you’ve set your Google Alert to HIGH, bookmarked WireImage.com and Getty Images, told your family to be on the lookout during that day’s ET back home. How do you dress? How do you walk? What do you say when they thrust a mic at you?

Hopefully, you’ll have hired a publicist to help you take advantage of this opportunity. It’s not often that actors get to walk the red carpet, so it becomes really important that you get it right, the very first time you are invited to do so. Yeah, it’s a couple of grand per month, but it’s totally worth it, if it gets you on best dressed lists, gets you buzzed about, gets you invited back.

How to prep, ’til the time is right to hire a professional? Watch interviews. Read the rags. Watch (*gulp*) TMZ. But don’t do these things in the way that a consumer would. Do them as a potential subject of these entertainment outlets. When you’re busy thinking about how this is all a dream come true, remember that there will be — between the questions of, “How does it feel to be nominated?” and “Who are you wearing?” — the ones like, “Do you have any advice for Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears?” or “How do you feel about Ellen DeGeneres and Carson Daly crossing picket lines?” or “Is it true you were once suspended from high school for smoking pot?”

Oh, a tip on all of the above, always be gracious and professional. Talk about what a joy it is to work with such amazing people. Definitely credit the designer behind the free duds you have on. Try not to opine on issues of indiscretion regarding your costars or people you’ve never met. Even if you are certain your words can’t be taken out of context, believe me, they can be (and they will be, if it can be spun to make a better story). A publicist will train you to say, “Oh, I’m so glad the AMPTP and WGA are back at the table, negotiating an end to this strike,” rather than, “Carson Daly is a jay-hole,” which would keep you off the late-night talkshow circuit down the line.

Oh, and as for your past personal demons, I am a big fan of being out about those early on, as that prevents anything from being discovered and revealed about you at the most crucial career moment. Certainly, we are living in a time when things that would’ve been major career killers a few years ago aren’t as damaging, but you can bet that if there’s anything that might cause your three-picture deal to die, it’s a secret that the press gets ‘hold of before you can do spin control.

If you’re the type of person who loves to pick your nose, suck your teeth, or pluck ear hairs with your fingernails with reckless abandon, get those habits in check, and fast. It’s not just about paparazzi anymore. Everyone with a cell phone is selling photos to magazines and websites. And if you’re caught snorting cocaine off an illegal underage hooker at your favorite no-tell motel, you’d better believe that mess is gonna lead the next day’s news. Pick your wedgie out in the privacy of your own home. Tape your revealing dress to your nipples. Practice getting in and out of cars in various states of underwear before someone is snapping pictures of you know who-who.

How To Handle Doing Junkets

Eesh. These things must be exhausting. You meet dozens of journalists from big- and small-town media outlets, all of whom have been wooed by the studio (for the price of a lavish trip, a stocked gift bag, and the promise of entire minutes of sit-down time with glamorous stars). There is so little time that these reporters’ questions come fast and with very little ramp-up or foreplay of niceties. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, these junket reporters are the ones who love, love, love every movie they ever see, ever. Because the studios won’t invite them back to do press junkets on the studios’ tab if their reviews stink.)

As Patton Oswalt said at his blog (after having done his first ever press junket, for Ratatouille), “How do actual movie stars do it? Will Ferrell puts out 27 major studio movies a year, and he promotes each and every one of them like a champ. How has he not been reduced to bludgeoning stewbums at railroad yards to release the tensions?”

Right. So, you’ll need endurance, extra pressed powder and lipgloss, a bunch of bottled water, and your best sense of humor and patience with banality. And even then, you can expect to be misquoted, photographed at your worst moment, taped when you’re told cameras aren’t rolling and plastered all over YouTube for the world to enjoy. Yippee. (Oh, and you’re usually contractually obligated to do these junkets, as a part of starring in this film.)

Again, by now you should hope to have a publicist to help you navigate this world, but the prep you can do now includes knowing how “in charge” your publicist is going to be (like, if you’re misinformed about a topic, if you’re late for an interview, if you’re on a phoner to a radio station whose DJ has been stalking you) and how, in the end, the proverbial buck does stop with you.

Think about David Beckham and the recent uproar over his having whizzed by a group of toddlers with cancer. Perhaps his handlers never mentioned, “Hey, when we arrive, there’s gonna be a group of kids you’ll need to stop to say hello to. We’ll do a few photos, sign autographs, and then duck inside.” In fact, it may have been a handler who said, “Oh wow, too many autograph-seekers. Let’s just duck in without stopping.” But in the end, it was Beckham who had to apologize to the masses. Never more is the “whose career this is” issue clearer.

How To Handle Paparazzi

So, we’ve already looked at various ways you can get into trouble with photographers of all level of professionalism in this town. The part you might not be prepared for is how very ready for you the paparazzi will be. Why? There are informants at every major hot spot in town who know they can earn a C-Note by making a quick phone call to their favorite photographer (even more money, if they promise it’s an “exclusive” call), just to say, “Clooney’s here.”

Sure, the finer locales will fire someone in a heartbeat for trading on this sort of information, but there are actually rose-sellers, valets, and even the actors’ own publicists who want to churn up buzz on their clients, all willing to make a quick call to get photographers on the scene. And they’ll run redlights to get there if the stars are big enough.

Be prepared to be photographed no matter when, no matter where. And if you don’t want to be snapped, be prepared to be mocked for choices like wrapping yourself in blankets or fending off photographers with umbrellas. This is where it gets into the whole “you asked for fame” thing. Yeah, you may have only chosen to pursue acting because you love the craft, but if you found success in Los Angeles or New York, you can expect the “we own you” bonus that comes with it.

Fielding Offers

Designers will want you to wear their fashions. You’ll be asked to do endorsements of products and services. Direct casting offers will come your way (that’s right, no auditions). And you’ll certainly get loads of meetings out of your new level of notoriety. Hopefully, you’ll have a team in place to advise you on which deals to take (the movie with Denzel) and on which ones you should pass (the personal lubricant spokesperson gig in Japan).

There will also be entirely “too good to be true” offers to watch out for. Scams are big for aspiring actors (and you already know that), but they’re even bigger business for recognizable actors. Just like winners of the lottery, new-money celebs get targeted by scam artists, offering wonderful investment opportunities. There’s always some long-lost family member just hankerin’ to connect with you after all these years, once you’re “somebody.” Perhaps worse, you put your business affairs in the hands of someone you trust and he runs off with all the wealth you’ve worked so hard to build. Eesh. This is another of those times when checks and balances will be your best friend.

Let’s not forget the offers of sex, drugs, guns, whatever you might want! There’s gonna be someone able to get you whatever you crave, and it’s going to seem mighty tempting sometimes. Well, here’s what I have to say about that. Finding balance in your life before you’re a name actor is going to be vitally important. Balance now means more likely balance then. What you struggled with before fame, you’ll continue to struggle with after (and that struggle will probably be magnified, depending on what it is).

This is where NFL Rookie Orientation has it right. Experts on stress management, anger management, drug and alcohol abuse, and money management speak to the rookies and even family member support groups take focus. What a bonus to have even your spouse prepared for what to expect with the changes you’re about to experience!

The Importance of Your Team

Obviously, I’ve already mentioned a publicist several times. Financial advisors too. There’s also the personal manager, who will be vitally important as you face many of these issues. Remember, here, the guideline about Friends vs. Colleagues. There will be times that you really want to believe your own hype. If you surround yourself with yes-men, that’s going to be easy to do (and the fall from divadom can be harsh). Therefore, it’s going to be more essential now than ever that you’re able to detect the difference between the two. A good team can keep you centered, grounded, focused. A fractured team can exacerbate issues already tough for an actor to face.

That’d be all of the items I’ve already mentioned in this column, plus oddities like fans, stalkers, haters. Should you sign autographs? Or create a policy about not doing so from the beginning and then sticking to it? How do you know when a fan is just a fan… or when that fan has crossed the line into stalkerdom? And what about those strange people who love to bash successful people? Whatever you do, ignore the chatter, the wannabes, the people who come out of the woodwork to tear you down. The more public you are, the more of those you’ll have to face.

Certainly, you have to believe you’re pretty dang special to some extent, or else you could never really navigate the ridiculous parts of showbiz in order to get to this career level. But be careful that you don’t isolate yourself to such a degree that you lose touch with reality. (And not “showbiz reality.” I mean “real reality.”) And whatever you do, don’t complain about how hard it is, once you’re at the top. These are quality problems you’re hoping to have.

So, how best to prepare yourself for all of this now? Observe, observe, observe. Read interviews. Watch Inside the Actors Studio. Make lists of how you do and don’t want things to be when you’re where you’ve always fantasized you’ll someday be. Put yourself in situations where you can hear your future peers talking about what it’s like to live their lives, now. Take it all in. Don’t be distracted by the glitz and the glamour and watching their publicists fuss over them. Hear them. What are they saying about what’s relevant to this life of theirs, day to day? That’s what you should take home with you — and put into your Rookie Orientation handbook.

What’s in your Rookie Orientation handbook? Are you practicing “lurk then lead” in your life? Are you ready for your next tier jump, because you’ve been prepping yourself for that big moment before it comes? Let’s talk about this! Pop your thoughts in the comments section, below. I’d love to know how you’re prepping for your future greatness.


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 at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000800.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Scott J. Smith August 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Bon,

    Thank you for being a constant beacon for those of us who choose to traverse these turbulent tides!

    Thank you for providing links to past articles through your BonBlasts! I had to share with you an article a friend of mine shared with me this past week. One of those “divine moments” (or coincidence, whichever).

    “[Steve] Shenbaum is the man who will save us all from boring athlete interviews. “In sports, you hear so many clichรฉ answers,” said San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, a Shenbaum client. “So many guys just regurgitate the same stuff.”

    …As an added bonus, the athletes would learn how to speak to team executives in pre-draft interviews in ways that would enhance their stock instead of send it plummeting. Also, heeding Shenbaum’s teachings might someday save an athlete from a sneaker-in-mouth moment that could cost millions in endorsements and destroy hard-earned goodwill.”

    At the Five-Star Challenge, Shenbaum’s course appeared on the schedule as “media training,” but his classes reach far beyond handling questions from reporters. When Shenbaum started 15 years ago, he was an actor a few years from landing his biggest role — band camp counselor in American Pie 2 — who did media training on the side. Since, he has evolved into a full-fledged communication coach. Through his company, game on Nation, Shenbaum teaches athletes at all levels how to use body language, words and laughter to master interviews, pre-draft meetings, public appearances and negotiations. If those lessons also help Shenbaum’s pupils on dates, even better.

    For example, the Expert Speaker game is designed specifically to help athletes handle interviews, but it can be applied in almost any conversation. After Shenbaum finished interviewing Mitchell about aliens, Shenbaum explained that each of the players in attendance should feel like experts in every interview. Why? Because they are experts on the two subjects usually covered: football and themselves.”

    Anyway, the whole thing is a great read. Not only does it relate to your football “Rookie Orientation” comparison, but it also shows great benefits acting, especially improvisation, provides us all in other areas of our lives (you mean we have other areas of our lives?).

    At the risk of my comment being quarantined for including a URL, simply search for “Shenbaum” on Sports Illustrated’s website. Results will include such articles:

    “Meet the man who will save us from the boring athlete interview” (This is the article quoted above)

    “Team-building guru Shenbaum helped U.S. women gear up for gold”

    “The Bonus: A grueling four days at NBA boot camp”

    “Laughing All the Way to the Bank”

    “Behind the scenes of the NBA draft”

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  2. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie August 16, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    How AWESOME, Scott. Thank you! Feel free to include links. ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re on the safe commenter list, so it shouldn’t flag the spam thingy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you for this. I love it! As you can tell by my columns, I do love to draw comparisons to sports and acting, so this is great stuff, for me. Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜€ Love it!

    Reply

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