The same is true for us agent types. We submit our clients on the breakdowns released by casting directors, but the job doesn't end there. A good agent has to get on the phone and pitch. It's the most effective way to get an actor in the room. This goes double when we're pushing new talent. Casting directors are inundated with submissions, and since time is short, they tend to call in the faces they know. So if I want to score an audition for a client who's just starting out, I have to go the extra mile and pitch.
The key to a good pitch is having a relationship with the person you're pitching to. I go out of my way to keep notes on everyone, and that includes casting associates and assistants. So if someone mentions that they like chocolate doughnuts, I'm going to reference that the next time I call.
An agent also has to know a casting director's taste. Not everyone responds to the same kind of actor. One person will be impressed by stage credits; the next one couldn't care less. It's my job to keep track of this information so I can use it to my advantage.
My favorite pitch is the piggy-back pitch. That's when casting calls to set up a client and I pitch hard to get a second actor in for the same part. It's just like doubling down in Vegas.
The hardest pitch in the world is a cold call. In those situations, I have to do my homework. Let's say I'm reaching out to a producer I've never met. The first step is to study his credits to see if we have a connection. Who knows? Maybe one of my clients worked with him six years ago. That's perfect, because I can use it as an icebreaker. The trick is to find anything that will make the producer think I'm not a complete stranger who wants something from him. And if that doesn't work, I'll lie.
During my freshman year as an agent, I was assigned one of the most experienced casting directors in the business. This woman had a reputation for eating new agents alive. I knew she'd be a tough nut to crack, and I had never spoken to her, so I came up with the perfect lie. When I finally got her on the phone, she was cold as ice. And then I made my move. "You probably don't remember me, but I used to work on Susan Johnson's desk at Gersh. Everyone treated me like dirt because I was an assistant, but you were always nice to me. So thanks for being so great, and if it's okay, I'd love to cover you." Her tone softened immediately. She pretended to remember me, and she was touched by my gratitude. Suddenly, we were best friends. Mission accomplished.
If you think any less of me for doing this, you have no future in this industry. I'm not advocating lying as a career strategy, but in this case it was a minor fib that made the casting director feel good and helped me accomplish my goal. So where's the harm?
Everyone needs an advocate. If you're arrested, you hire a lawyer to speak on your behalf. It would be foolish to defend yourself. The same holds true for actors. You can't pitch yourself to casting directors. That's my job. Remember, success in this business is often based on who's willing to speak on your behalf.