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Secret Agent Man

Specifics on Generals

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Specifics on Generals
I recently had the pleasure of signing a young actor named Emily who just moved here from Australia. We were introduced by her immigration attorney, a guy I've known for years. He had already secured an O-1 visa, so she was ready to start working. I decided to meet her for lunch, and the two of us really hit it off. Emily was pretty in a quiet way. Her accent was charming. Even the waiter fell in love, and he was gay. So I decided to sign her. Despite being 26, Emily already had an impressive résumé, having starred on two hit shows in Sydney. I felt confident she could have a great career here too.

My first move was to set up some generals. When I called Emily to say she had one at NBC, I heard nothing from the other end of the phone. It took me a moment to realize that she had no idea what I was talking about. That made me wonder how many of you are familiar with generals. They're not for everyone, but in the right situation a good general can make a big difference in your career.

So what's a general? It's a sit-down, get-to-know-each-other kind of meeting between an actor and someone who works in casting. There's no audition, because you're not there to read for a specific project. This is just a chance for casting directors to become familiar with you so they can use you in the future.

Now, here's the thing: Not all casting directors take generals. The ones who work on a series don't usually have time; they'd rather meet actors when they come in to audition. The real generals, the ones that count, are usually with casting executives at the studio and network level. These are the people who oversee the casting directors who work on individual projects for that company.

For example, Leslie Litt is the casting director on the CBS show "Rules of Engagement." At the network level, Peter Golden is the casting exec who oversees every single show on CBS. So if you connect on a general, Peter will introduce you to all the casting directors who work for him. That's a lot of bang for your buck.

You should also know that generals are usually set up for a reason. There has to be some kind of heat. Maybe your stage show or Web series or whatever has become a huge hit. Maybe you're coming off a hot pilot season. Or maybe you just moved here from Down Under. There has to be something going on for an agent to request a general. They don't just get handed out like candy on Halloween night.

Once you're in the room, the casting director will usually take the lead. But let's be clear: It's on you to make an impression. The best generals are the ones that start off with a chat about your career and then evolve into a more personal conversation. The key is to be remembered, not just as an actor but as a human being.

It's been my experience that generals aren't right for everyone. Not all actors can sit in a room and make small talk for 20 minutes, but some shine in that kind of environment. So I tend to be picky about which client gets a general. I wouldn't want to do more harm than good.

A successful acting career is all about getting face time with the right people. So if you have decent representation and something noteworthy has just happened, it might be time to start bugging your agent about setting up some generals. Those little meetings might just take you to the next level—and then power players will start asking for generals with you!

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