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Secret Agent Man

5 Pieces of Damn Good Advice

5 Pieces of Damn Good Advice
Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Last week, one of you posted a challenge on the Backstage message board. You thanked me for the insightful advice this column provides about the basics of an acting career, like getting the right headshots, finding representation, being prepared for auditions, that sort of thing. But then you challenged me to go deeper. You asked me to get into the real nitty-gritty, the kind of guidance that can help an actor survive on a day-to-day basis.

Well, challenging me is like tugging on Superman’s cape, but hey, why not? It’s an intriguing request. So after much thought and several drinks, I came up with the following five decrees:

1. Everyone is out for themselves.
That’s the golden rule. Anyone who helps you is doing so because there’s something in it for them. Agents sign actors because they believe they’ll make money off of them. Casting directors hire you because finding the right person for the role makes them a winner in the eyes of those who employ them. And that sure-fire class or seminar or service that’s guaranteed to help you get ahead? The only real guarantee is that someone wants to get paid.

2. Watch what you say and who you say it to.
I recently met with an actor who went out of his way to trash his former agent, a “bitch who did absolutely nothing for [him].” Well, guess what? That bitch happened to be someone I had dated. So I called her up and she explained they had worked together for a year, and during that time, the guy had gone out on 40 auditions and had returned with no bookings. He was the kind of person who blamed everyone for his shortcomings and no opportunity was good enough. So she dropped him. And I moved on.

READ: How to Get an Acting Agent

3. Always think long-term.
Part of being a good performer is learning to be in the moment. But from a business perspective, you need to think on a larger scale. So create a plan for your career that extends five years into the future. Then set up smaller milestones you can hit along the way. Doing this will help you understand that short-term setbacks aren’t the end of the world.

4. Don’t let rejection get you down.
About 10 years ago, one of my clients tried to kill herself. Her self-worth had dropped to an all-time low after a series of close calls that didn’t go her way. This is an extreme example that illustrates how important it is for you to accept failure as a permanent part of your life. The audition won’t go your way. Your movie will tank. The Oscar will go to someone else. That’s just the way it is. So make failure your friend. Take long walks together. Play board games. Learn to co-exist.

5. Trust your gut—especially about people.
Human beings are creatures of instinct, and our lives would be so much better if we could learn to trust those instincts. For example, how do you choose when two agents of equal size offer to sign you? Or what if you’re trying to decide if you should accept a tour that will take you on the road for six months? Nine out of 10 times, your initial response will be the correct one.

Ready to put these tips to the test? Check out our Los Angeles audition listings!

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