A good friend once said to me, “What is for you will not go by you.” I deeply believe this to be true, but also realize the opportunities you need to develop your career won’t just fall into your lap—you must actively, aggressively, and strategically seek them out! For actors, this means you must build relationships with casting offices in a smart and sustainable way.
A question I often ask my students and clients is, “Are you competing for every role you’re right for?” The answer is often, “No.”
2013 is proving the busiest year for actors I can remember in regards to work and auditions. Of my 70+ clients booking major film and television work in the last year one third of those actors did it on their own, without the help of an agent or manager.
How can that be?! These actors rejected the mythology that they needed representation to get themselves work.
Why do certain actors compete for every role they’re right for with 40+ major auditions per year while other actors, in the same category, only go out for 0-6 top tier auditions? The 40+ audition-per-year actor is being actively pitched for roles they’re right for, via phone, by their agent or manager directly to casting.
When an actor is truly right for a role, a well-thought-out, well-timed “appropriate pitch” can make all the difference in that actor getting the opportunity to compete for the role.
The vast majority of actors are not being pitched by their representation, they’re being “submitted”—online through Breakdown Services—often times with 600-1200 other actors competing for the same role. If you’re serious about a career in film and television, these Las Vegas slot machine odds are unacceptable. You need to find a way to load the dice in your favor or change the game. This starts by rejecting the "herd mentality" and forging your own path to success.
A very common tale of woe is, “I finally got signed by such and such agent/manager…it’s been 6 months…they’re not getting me out for anything.”
Less than one percent of agents and managers directly pitch their clients to casting. The reason? They don’t have the clout or relationships with major casting directors to feel confident in picking up the phone to pitch their clients for the roles their right for. Other factors come into play, such as uncertainty as to how “right” their client is for a role.
Success in this industry depends on how visible you are. And getting in the room often depends on relationships with casting directors, producers, directors, and anyone else who can give you a shot at a role. Either your reps have those relationships or you must build and maintain them.
So here are your options:
1. Create your own material! All of my clients who have achieved “celebrity” status ignited their careers by creating their own material. Some examples include: Producing your own play, doing stand-up comedy, singing/songwriting, creating a web series, making YouTube videos, etc. All of these actors achieved acting success by creating a strong platform for themselves in another arena.
2. Send out a newsletter. Create a database of all your industry contacts (directors, producers, actors, casting directors, etc.) and send out a newsletter every few months featuring your recent bookings, personal highlights, and other industry-related accomplishments. This is a unique way to build and maintain your important relationships.
3. Pitch yourself. If an actor is perfect for a role, a casting director wants to see him/her. There’s a “right way” and a “wrong way” to directly pitch yourself for a role, you’re right for. This is often one of the scariest options for actors, as many actors feel like they don’t have a “right” to use the phone in this manner.
It’s a very small industry. If you (or your reps for that matter) pitch for a role that you are simply not right for, that is the equivalent of wasting the office’s time. There’s a strong chance the office won’t bring you back in, if that is the case.
Make darn sure you’re actually right for that role before pitching yourself.
Your confidence and ability to be “pleasantly persistent” in standing up for yourself is directly related to your success as an actor. In this industry, waiting around for anything to magically fall into your lap is a losing proposition.
Sometimes in being proactive and essentially sticking your neck out for yourself you might burn your hand. But if your career is worth it to you, you have to be willing to do this.
Joseph Pearlman is a private and on-set coach for Hollywood’s top actors, musicians, and comedians. He works with clients like Zooey Deschanel, and also coaches presenters for all the major award ceremonies including the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys. Joseph Pearlman Coaching was voted Best Acting Studio in Los Angeles by Backstage’s 2011 and 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards. Joseph Pearlman Coaching is also located in New York. Joseph Pearlman Coaching offers private coaching and classes from beginner to working professional.