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The Working Actor

AA Meeting, Extra Help

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AA Meeting, Extra Help
DEAR MICHAEL:

So, I took a commercial class and got called in by a very big, well-respected agency: Abrams Artists. I met with them, and they seemed to like me. The next day, I got sent out on an audition, and the next day another. I haven't booked or been called back for either of the auditions.

It's been three weeks since then and I haven't heard from them at all. I sent thank-you cards right after our meeting, but what do I do now? They never said to "call and keep in touch" or anything like it. Do I call to book out and tell them about something I've booked, so they hear my name? Do I send a postcard or find their email address on IMDb.com and send a follow-up? I would think that's a bad idea: Since they didn't give it, I shouldn't have it. But what the heck do I do? How do I keep in touch?

—What to Do Now?
New York City



DEAR WHAT TO DO NOW?:

Okay, I fully understand the situation. Here's what you do: Take a deep breath.

Commercials are a volume business, and no one expects you to book every one you audition for. Not for a moment. Established commercial agencies—and Abrams is certainly established—know that rather than evaluating clients based on their first appointments, they have to just keep sending them out. They're also in the business of remembering who's who on their client lists.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything to help them, but it does mean you shouldn't worry that after two auditions they've forgotten you altogether. There probably just hasn't been anything you were right for. That happens.

Are you allowed to stay in touch without a personal invitation to do so? Of course. How should you communicate? Well, postcards are fine. Email is also fine. (By the way, I wouldn't worry that tracking down an agent's email address is bad form. It's not as if the information is a highly guarded secret; it's on his or her business card.) I also know actors who swear that periodically dropping by the office for a visit is the most effective form of contact and that they always seem to get auditions right after that. Some bring sweets or gifts. I'm really not a fan of those practices. My feeling is that if I'm in a professional partnership with an agency, I shouldn't have to seduce them into working with me. So I eschew all that schmoozing. Still, I've heard it's effective.

Yes, you should always book out when you have conflicts or professional engagements that render you unavailable. Not only does it help the agency; it also shows that you're a responsible professional actor and, even better, a busy one.

But more than anything, if you're really concerned about your relationship with an agent, I'm a fan of simply making a phone call. If you can approach the conversation as a partner, collaborator, and equal, you won't be annoying. In your case there's nothing wrong with getting on the phone and saying, "Listen, we never really established how you prefer I stay in touch. I know we're both busy, but if it helps you, I can drop a postcard or an email from time to time. What works for you?"

The trick is always this: How do you stay on the radar without coming across as desperate and nagging or as if you're suggesting they're not doing their job? That can be tricky.

By a lucky coincidence, I happen to be represented by Abrams commercially in New York. So before wrapping up this column, I ran your question, and my answer, by the agency's Tracey Goldblum. Here's her response:

"The occasional postcard with relevant information is best—I do read all my mail. I get far fewer postcards than emails these days, so email is not as effective as a general way to keep in touch, but it is useful if time is of the essence. Your answer is exactly right on all points. The fact that this person hasn't been sent out in three weeks does not mean we are not submitting him or her. The casting directors might not be selecting this talent from our lists, probably because they aren't familiar with his or her work yet. But we will keep pushing. We certainly don't give up on talent, old or new, because they have not booked or been called back."

So there you have it, straight from the source. (I love being right.)

Colleagues, we actors have a tendency to get worked up. We have to monitor that. And we have to stop thinking of ourselves as beggars who happened to slip into the house while the back door was open and no one was looking. Agencies like Abrams know what they're doing. And if they've decided to work with you, they see you as a legitimate candidate for ongoing professional work. So don't be a crazy actor. Work with agencies as if you belong there. They believe you do.

DEAR MICHAEL:

I am an actor in Los Angeles, and I have an acting coach who is very supportive. He has given me a deadline to get Screen Actors Guild vouchers and my SAG card. My frustration is the same as those who have written to you before. Whom do you ask for SAG vouchers, and when is a good time to ask? It's a mystery, and some of those who have vouchers make it seem like it's easy. I could use some extra help.

—Frustrated About SAG Vouchers
Los Angeles

Dear FASV:

We've talked about this a lot on our Back Stage message board (bbs.backstage.com), and the posters there who do background work have mostly said that it's better not to ask at all. The folks on the set are busy with their first priority: making a film or television show. They usually view these requests as inconveniences. Your assistant directors know that most background actors want to get their SAG cards, so it's a given that you're interested in vouchers. Asking for one may not help you get one.

I know this is going to be very hard advice to take, but it's good advice nonetheless: Be patient. If you can't get your SAG card right away, use the time to train to become a better actor, learn how things are done, get to know people, and do whatever projects you can do as a nonunion performer.

Unfortunately,a there's no express train on this track. You might as well enjoy the journey.

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