Ah... single life in NYC. Strangely, it’s a lot like you see on “Sex and the City” -- except without the huge apartments and amazing shoes. Being single in the city means that there’s an opportunity for connection around every corner. Even a trip to the grocery store or laundromat is pressure-laden, requiring clean clothes and sparkling wit.
It occurred to me the other day just how much building a promising acting career is like trying to find a relationship. (Stay with me. The analogy will hold up, I promise.) I mean, look at the paragraph above. Pull out the word single and insert actor, and we’re dealing with the same thing. So, I theorize that the success of both dating and an acting career hinge on this unspoken golden rule: Leave ‘em wanting more.
Don’t believe me? Think of the dating rules. You don’t want to tell your whole life story. You don’t want to rehash past relationships or open up old wounds. You want to engage your listener and make them so enraptured that they can’t think of anyone but you. You want to leave ‘em wanting more so that they are inspired to call you again for that second date.
So, here’s four ways to leave ‘em wanting more in your meetings and auditions.
1. Choose Your Objective. To start, make sure you’re clear on the objective of the encounter. You might think that when you have that first meeting with an agent that the objective is to be signed. However, unless the agent is a one-person operation, getting signed that day will most likely be impossible. The objective for this encounter should be (drum roll please...): To get to the next encounter! For agency meetings, your goal should be to get to the next meeting. At a first audition, your objective should be to get a callback. By keeping your eye on the step that’s right in front of you, rather than five steps ahead, you’ll have an easier time creating an experience that makes them want to see more.
2. Relax (aka Don’t Try So Hard!) So, if we agree that the best way to approach an encounter is to think only one step ahead, this should go a long way in helping you achieve step 2 -- RELAX. You don’t have to win someone over completely in that first meeting. You simply have to wow them enough that they want to see you again. By relaxing, you allow the other person to relax too.
Imagine this: You’re on a first date, and your date asks, “So, tell me a little bit about yourself.” And you say:
“I’ve been dating since I was 16 years old (including 4 years of intense dating in college), so I really know what I’m doing in the dating world. In fact, I think you might say that I’m one of the best undiscovered daters in the city, if only someone would take a chance on me. I don’t have much money right now to build a home life, but I know I’ll be able to make tons more money in the future if I could just find a stable partner. All I want is to be a good spouse and parent. I mean, is that so wrong?”
You cringe, but this is what actors do every day in agency/CD offices around the country. In an effort to show how much they WANT this, they spew up every last little detail about their desires and expound positive traits, leaving the agent/CD to clean up after the spill.
“Well, I’ve been acting my whole life but I’ve never been able to find an agent. I’m really good at comedy and drama and want to be able to do TV and film and theater and musicals and commercials and print. Oh, and voiceover -- my Aunt says I have a really good voice for radio...”
You see my point? Relax! If you wouldn’t do that on a first date, you really shouldn’t do it in a meeting or audition. Just withhold... a little. Keep something of yourself close to the vest, while still remaining open. It’s difficult, but definitely a skill you should cultivate.
3. Take control and make it about them. The more you take control over a meeting and make it about the other person, the better mystique you’ll create about yourself. Face it. We all have egos, and people like talking about themselves, especially when someone is genuinely interested. So, take every opportunity to inquire about the other person. In addition, if you think of your meetings and auditions as business exchanges, it will help you think of yourself as an equal who is there with a service to provide.
Also, consider than with the amount of anxiety that actors naturally feel, agents and casting directors tend to have to take care of actors a lot. Imagine how enticing it would be to have you take care of THEM for a change? The more control you have in the meeting, the easier it will be for them to relax in YOUR hands.
4. Leave “while the iron is hot!” One of my favorite jokes about ending an encounter has been, “I want to go out on top, like 'Seinfeld.' ” "Seinfeld" was at the top of its game when the series was ended. This made the buzz and desire for the show hotter than ever. One key component of leaving folks wanting more is ending the encounter before things get stale, before you both run out of things to say. I’m convinced that some wonderful first dates don’t become second dates because date 1 lasted too long. If you spend a large amount of time with someone, you may be thwarting your attempt to get a second meeting. So honestly, don’t worry that you only have five minutes in that audition room. That’s plenty of time to intrigue someone. Make them call you back to see the rest of your goods.
Above all, you want to make sure you’re bringing your most confident, prepared, and genuine person to every encounter. You have something of value to bring to the table. Now let them see it!
Erin Cronican is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, TV, plays and musical. (NYC, LA, regionally.) She is the founder & coach with The Actors' Enterprise, one-on-one coaching service that provides affordable career coaching to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. She helps actors set goals, design their materials, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level -- with an emphasis on feeling empowered and working smarter, not harder. First consultation is free. Follow her on Twitter @ErinCronican and like her on Facebook.