The other day, I received an email from a parent of a young actor, eager to bring the kiddo out to Los Angeles for pilot season. This parent was certain that his work in his smaller market — a short film, an industrial, a couple of print jobs, and two student films — was enough heat to make an expensive stay in Hollywood during the craziest casting season of the year a smart move.
I get emails like this all the time and it always hurts my heart a little bit. I was a kid actor and I was fortunate enough not to have stars in my eyes (nor parents with stars in their eyes on my behalf) about “the Hollywood thing.” I was perfectly happy working my butt off in Atlanta, and I knew that LA would happen when it was meant to, for me.
Of course, there are young actors in pilots every year, so it’s a good thing that families *do* uproot their lives to give it a go, here, but I’d like to sprinkle a bit of realism onto the pilot season dreams so many folks — kids, parents, adult actors too — seem to have.
Pilot season is filled with opportunities for actors of all ages to be seen for series regular roles that — if the pilots are picked up — could lead to years of work in a single television series. Of course, many pilots are shot and never picked up by the networks. And the majority of the actors who are cast in pilots (whether those pilots GO or not) are actors who already have decent on-screen careers in Los Angeles.
Why is that? Well, think about it. Who’s a higher risk, when it comes to casting a series regular on a pilot? An actor who has been a recurring character on an existing episodic, who has been in front of the LA-based casting directors many times over the years, and who has a team of representation who have relationships with these casting directors and who are pitching the actor consistently on these new shows? Or, an actor who is fresh off the bus, with a string of out-of-market credits, no series experience beyond possibly one small co-star role in a show shot outside of LA, no track record in front of pilot casting directors, and no well-connected Hollywood representation?
There are just too many “what ifs” in the latter situation. And even if you move to LA with heat a level above what I listed, there, do you have enough heat to be perceived as low-risk as an actor who has that level of heat *and* the advantage of having been in LA, working in LA, working with the casting directors in LA?
As I’ve said before, the true pilot season opportunities for most actors are at the tiers below pilots. Those ongoing episodics. Those indie films. Why? Because actors who have traction in ongoing episodics and indie films are now being considered for pilots. They’re using that momentum from work in the past years to get seen on pilots, finally. That leaves room for casting newer actors (or new-to-LA actors) in those ongoing episodics and indie films for which pilot-ready actors are being held aside. Since the bigger opportunities for the pilot-ready actors *are* the pilots, their agents will have them decline offers on the other bookings they may have taken a few months ago. Enter: YOU.
Now, one of the things that happens in these emails I receive is I’m argued with, because I just don’t understand how special the young actor is. How talented the actor is. How much she wants it. How famous he *will be* once he’s given the chance. How sure the family is that this “invitation” they’ve received to pilot season is overflowing with opportunities.
Let’s talk about that last one: the pilot season “invitation.” Usually this comes from a “scout” who works for a company that offers classes in pilot season readiness. Or from a non-legit “manager” who is absolutely incapable of putting you in front of any pilot casting directors (and you’d be able to figure this out, if you had spent time on IMDb-Pro, tracking how many of his existing “clients” booked pilots last season). Sometimes this opportunity comes from a “producer” who is (shocker) not even on IMDb. He’ll explain that that’s due to a snag with his profile, and he’ll point you to his website, filled with unverifiable credits and claims of working “behind the scenes.” (You know how humble producers are. They never want credit for all their hard work.)
These folks won’t just cost you money, they’ll steal your “dream points.” They’ll make you think you have a chance and that you then failed because of something you did wrong, rather than realizing that they had no business “inviting” you to experience pilot season, and that you were set up to fail because their motives were never to help you get your first network test, despite all the things they said.
Here’s what I want you to do, before you decide to make it a go of pilot season for the first time — no matter what age you are. Spend hours on CastingAbout. Spend even more hours at The Futon Critic’s DEVWATCH pages. Spend follow-up hours at IMDb-Pro. Track everyone. Map out their relationships. Be *certain* you see where your career trajectory intersects with the buyers for the pilots you’re researching.
Don’t see an intersection? Maybe it’s too soon for you. A pilot season trip to LA is smart when you have a ton of money saved up, a ton of traction in your existing market, and a ton of time spent *visiting* LA in seasons before, to begin building relationships with the buyers HERE. That intersection needs to be on the map before you start driving toward it.
“Ugh,” you may be saying. “That seems like so much work — and so much TIME before I get to take my chances with pilot season.” Yup. But wouldn’t you prefer to come out for pilot season in 2015 or even 2016 or beyond and actually get seen for pilots, maybe even get cast in a pilot, than rush to LA for pilot season 2014 and spend the whole time wondering why you’re not getting anywhere?
If you’re still thinking, “Eh. I’ll take my chances. My situation is *that* special. I’ll be the one who beats all the odds,” I’d like to ask you — no matter what your age — to visit this page at the BizParentz website for a look at the realities of pilot season, by the numbers. Now, if you’re an adult actor, expand the math to numbers far greater (and odds just about as poor for “making it”).
“Gosh, Bon. Why all the negativity?” Nope. I’m not being negative. I’m trying to help you have the best possible experience when you make the decision to do the LA thing. I want Hollywood to *work* for you, when you get here. And as a former kid actor myself, I am passionate about making sure that young actors are protected, as they pursue their dreams. We’re all sure that our children are talented, brilliant, and special (and that’s a wonderful thing to believe about your young one, right?!?) but there are people who prey on that willingness on the part of the parent to do ANYTHING to help the child make it, as an actor.
The truth is, pilot season success is built on years of groundwork, and there’s a lot you can do to get started on that road, now. It’s boring. It’s tedious. It’s not at all glamorous. But since it leads, potentially, to one of the most glamorous jobs of your life, it’s worth putting in the time and effort to have your best possible pilot season… some other year.
Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!
Let’s DO this!
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/001763.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.