I’m always amazed by how actors love to throw away their money, especially when they have so little of it. Granted, there are certain expenses you can’t avoid. A strong headshot is an essential tool. Studying with respected teachers is extremely important. Dropping a few hundred on your first Web series could be a smart move. Those are all legitimate costs, but there are many other ways actors spend money that can be easily avoided.
Let’s start with submissions. If you’re sending me your picture and résumé, there’s no need to waste money on a hard-copy submission. It’s perfectly fine to email your material, and it’s also 100 percent free.
When I was just starting out, hard-copy submissions would come in by the dozens, day after day, growling for attention like the zombies outside Rick’s prison. Those poor actors used to spend a fortune on postage, envelopes, and headshots. Sadly, most of them ended up in the trash.
These days, it seems quaint when a submission arrives by snail mail. And when one does come in, the young assistants usually just stare at it, confused, wondering what the package could possibly mean.
Sometimes hard-copy submissions are delivered to our office by messenger. Talk about an unnecessary expense! And to make matters worse, actors often attach gifts to those packages, as if that will make any difference.
Speaking of submissions, I’ve noticed there are companies out there that charge actors a fee for doing a massive mailing on their behalf. They promise a package from them will be taken more seriously by agents.
I am telling you right now, as God is my witness, I have never paid extra attention to a submission just because it came from one of these companies. If anything, I tend to ignore them because they reek of larceny. So please don’t pay a stranger to do something that you can do for yourself.
Now let’s talk about the material you hand agents when you’re attending a workshop. I’m here to tell you that a picture and résumé is enough. It always surprises me when an actor presents me with a fancy folder stuffed with information I don’t need. Those packages are a waste of money, and they all get tossed. I just don’t have the time or desire to wade through pictures, résumés, bios, reviews, business cards, postcards, play announcements, letters of recommendation, and who knows what.
The same logic applies to your website. When you’re hiring a designer, there’s no need to pay extra for choppy animations that take forever to load. Please trust me on this. Less is more. It’s also cheaper.
Another way actors throw away their money is by signing up for seminars that are questionable at best. I’ve seen pilot season classes taught by casting directors who don’t work on pilots and career advancement workshops run by people who could use a cup of their own medicine. Worst of all, I recently saw an ad for a “How to Get an Agent” seminar. Those always get my attention. After digging a little deeper, I discovered the teacher was an actor with dubious representation.
Actors sign up for these money pits because they’re desperate. They think there’s a magic bullet out there that will solve all their problems. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing.
Casting director workshops are a more effective choice, but you have to be careful about whom you’re paying to meet. Reading for someone who is an active casting director is a smart move. Reading for an assistant who answers phones for a living isn’t.
Remember, you can’t advance your career by throwing money at it. Success as an actor is borne from talent, hard work, and perseverance.