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Secret Agent Man

The 10-Part Guide to Running Your Own Career

The 10-Part Guide to Running Your Own Career
Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Advice for actors doesn’t have to be so complicated. Sometimes, the best guidance can be boiled down to a few sentences. And as a change of pace, that’s exactly what I’m going to offer up in this week’s column.

I now present you with “The Quick Guide to Your Career.”

How to choose a class.
Get referrals from your actor friends. Ask your professional contacts. Make a list. Narrow it down to three choices based on price and industry clout. Audit those three. Get a feel for the teacher and students, then sign up for the class that feels the most challenging.

How to find a headshot photographer.
Check out the pictures your successful actor friends are using. Find out who took the ones you like. Check out their websites. Taking cost into consideration, narrow it down to your top three choices. Then meet and interview the photographers in person so you can figure out which one makes you the most comfortable. (Never have your pictures taken by someone you’ve never met. That’s a recipe for disaster!)

READ: 1 Way to Calm Your Nerves Before a Headshot Shoot

How to get a meeting with an agent.
You need a referral. Build a circle of people who admire your work and can make a call on your behalf. This group should consist of working actors, teachers, directors, casting assistants—anyone with a direct line to someone like me.

How to prepare for a meeting with an agent.
Do your homework. Research the company and person you’re meeting. Be familiar with their client list. Anticipate any concerns the agent might have so you can prepare your responses in advance. Why haven’t you booked anything in six months? Because you took time off to study hard and hone your craft.

How to behave in a meeting with an agent.
Be prepared to talk in a comfortable manner that doesn’t betray any nerves. Steer the meeting in a direction that allows me to get to know the real you. Focus on the personal without ignoring the professional. It’s a tricky balance, but you can do it.

How to change agents.
If you’re out in the ocean and you decide to jump ship, you will land in the water and drown. So make sure you have another ship in place before you leap.

How to fire an agent.
Pick up the phone and call. Explain your reasons. Try to part on good terms. If you’re a coward, you could send an email, but you’ll look like a spineless chicken.

How to self-tape an audition.
Bring together a group of like-minded actors. Pool your resources to buy a decent camera, some lights, a microphone, and a backdrop. Now experiment. Shoot the same audition from different angles. Does the performance work better if the camera is closer or farther back? What if the camera is lower or higher? These are all important decisions. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Do this at least once a week.

READ: 13 Self-Tape Mistakes That Sabotage Your Chances

How to book a job.
It’s not just about skill and having the right look. According to my casting friends, if they read 10 actors for a part, nine of the 10 will make the same choice. The person who is different, the actor who makes surprising choices, is the one who gets hired.

How to be the smartest actor in every room.
Keep reading this column.

Ready to find an agent? Browse Backstage’s Call Sheet talent agency listings!

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