I was brainstorming column ideas and decided to ask my Facebook friends to help out. And help out they did! Wow! Loads of suggestions for topics. Now, some are issues I’ve covered previously, and maybe those topics are in need of updating. So, let me ask you fine folks to take a look at Reality TV, Promotion on the Cheap, Going Fi-Core, and CD Workshops. Any tips you’d like to share about current trends in any of these areas, just shoot me an email at the address below. You can remain “off the record” if you just say so in your email. I know especially on the issues of Fi-Core and CD Workshops, there is controversy, so I’ll respect your wishes to remain anonymous, as long as you do identify yourself in your email to me (so I know your information is legitimate and that I’m not spreading the rantings of a disgruntled former workshop employee or SAG rep planting a political angle).

So, what’s up for this week, now that I’ve asked for your help for future weeks’ content? Well, last week’s column on The Quest seems to have struck a chord with many of you. (Thank you for your emails!) And now that we’re all reminded that — for our sanity’s sake — it’s gotta be more about the journey than the destination, let’s look at the ways in which we can get “the edge.”

What’s the edge? You know. We all want it. We want to be certain we’re doing that one extra thing that makes the difference between our quest and the quest others are on. We want to be dang sure, if we do fall short, it’s not because we didn’t try everything we possibly could try.

Ah, well, see, that’s a problem too. There are salespeople out there counting on the fact that you’ll do whatever it takes to get the edge, and they’ll work hard to convince you that whatever it is they’re selling is what you need, right now. And right now, what everyone needs is to economize. Sure, there are essential expenses that come with The Costs of Acting. I’m not saying that you need to drop out of acting class, scrimp on headshots, or drop your online submission memberships. But I am advising that you do your research, spend wisely, and make sure you get the most out of every little investment you make as an actor.

You know I love the idea of self-producing. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, I know. What I really love about self-producing is that an actor can join forces with other actors, aspiring filmmakers, crew looking to build reel footage, writers on the rise, and all can leave the experience with a phenomenal little something that only cost a few hundy to put together. Put aside the empowerment and educational value of this. You’ll actually end up with tape — and do you know that for sure, when you do a student film or copy/credit/meals deal?

Okay, so not to harp on what I believe is the single most important thing you can do — and you can afford to do, when it comes right down to it — for your career, what else can help you get the edge?

Casting director workshops? Sure. But you have to do your homework. Which CDs actually call actors in after workshops? Which ones don’t? And that’s not enough. Your research is meaningless unless you go one step beyond. I mean, so what if so-and-so CD actually does call in actors after workshop experiences if that CD never casts actors of your type? Targeting casting directors is very important. There’s no point in hoping that all 600 CDs in Los Angeles will call you in when the better focus is on knowing which ten consistently cast your type in projects on which you absolutely should have a shot (credits-wise, age-wise, looks-wise). Then find a way to get in front of their team. Point is, you could go to workshops all over town with people who do call in actors. But if the actors they consistently call in aren’t of your type, age, looks, or credits level, you’re wasting your money while you’re wasting their time. Get the edge on doing CD workshops by doing your research. In two directions. Who will call you in? And who will cast you?

Showcases? Yeah. Great way to be seen, by the folks who go. But not all showcases attract the same industry pros. And again, do you know who to expect in the audience? Do your research. Who are these people and do they take the step beyond being aware of your work at the showcase and actually call you in? And, again, the one step beyond that: Do they call in, represent, cast your type? Consistently? Because being in a showcase that is well-attended by industry pros who never call in actors of your type is a waste of your money and your time just as much as being in a showcase that no one attends would be. Get the edge on doing showcases by doing your research. In two directions. Who attends the showcases? And will they cast you or represent you?

Plays? Awesome idea. Except that theatre is notoriously under-supported in Los Angeles. Until a play is a hit. And then everyone climbs all over themselves to get tickets. How can you know, going in, that the play you want to do is going to be a hit? That’s tougher. There’s working with a team who consistently puts together hits. That’s a good bet. There’s working on innovative material that hasn’t been done to death in every little blackbox theatre in town. That’s gonna help. And there’s doing the play in a space that has notoriously good attendance. Guess what that means. Yup. More research. Get the edge on doing plays by doing your research. In three directions. Is the team a hit-generating team? Is the play unique in the current theatre landscape? And what is the venue’s reputation?

Agent mailings? Okay. They can sometimes lead to a meeting. Sometimes. But actors tend to spend a bunch of money on printing up headshots, resumés, cover letters, and then on envelopes and postage after that. And all without doing that most basic level of — you guessed it — research! Have you checked IMDb Pro for the client list of the agent or manager you’re targeting? Have you compared your Star Meter ranking and level of credits with those you’re hoping to join? It’s generally not a good idea to be an agent’s biggest client, nor his smallest. Make sure you’re aiming at the right level. Also, does the agent or manager rep too many clients? You don’t want to have competition from within the roster! Getting signed so that you don’t cut into an agent’s current top earner (something they can keep an eye on, by having you on the roster too) won’t help you one bit. Have you asked current and former clients about their experiences? No, you won’t be assured the same results as anyone else, but you can at least add this to the research you’re already doing. Every couple of days or so, someone posts at Hollywood Happy Hour to ask about a particular agent or manager. Google. Search the archives. Read. Ask. Do research. It always amazes me how actors will score a meeting with an agent and then do research. Are you kidding me? You shouldn’t even do a mailing to someone unless your research has shown that you absolutely would want to take a meeting and then sign with that person, were you given the opportunity. Get the edge on agency mailings by doing tons of research.

Seeing a pattern yet?

I know, I know. You’re sure you already do plenty of research. I can promise you that most of you do not do nearly enough. Hey, reading this column each week is a great start (and thank you for that), but what do you do after that? Read the trades? Visit Nikki Finke’s blog? Check for pick-ups at The Futon Critic? Look up new production listings? Update your hit list at CastingAbout? Take a mentor out for lunch to get a fresh perspective on your short-term and long-term goals? Visit the library at The Actors’ Network? Dust off an acting book you read a couple of years ago to see what tips you might have forgotten? Audit a new class? Write another five pages on your screenplay?

Exhausting list? Good. That means someone else is getting the edge. Oops. Oh, you wanted the edge? Then get to work! There’s plenty to do.

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/000992.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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