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Secret Agent Man

Developing Talent Part 3: From Start to Finish

Developing Talent Part 3: From Start to Finish
Welcome to the third installment of my development trilogy. Last week's column ended with me signing a young actor named Holly who had just moved to L.A. with almost no experience. Now I'd like to take you through the entire process of getting someone like her started on the road to becoming a professional actor.

The day Holly came in to sign her contract, I made two things crystal clear: First, I explained that patience is a virtue. Nothing was going to happen overnight. Second, I wanted us to have a steady stream of communication, by phone and by email. From now on nothing would happen in her professional life without me knowing about it. Holly agreed.

The first thing we did was review our tools. Luckily, her headshots were fine. She'd had them taken a month after moving to L.A., and the photographer did a nice job. So that was one less thing to worry about.

Then I watched Holly's reel again. My reaction was different this time. Yes, it was good enough for me to sign her, but I didn't think the reel would work as a selling tool. So I asked Holly to gather up all the student films she had done back home. Then we took that material to an editor friend, who shaped it into a solid three-minute reel I could show to casting directors. (Every agent knows a talented editor can weave gold from dental floss.)

Now that Holly's tools were in place, I needed to make sure she was ready to start auditioning. Casting directors have a long memory, and I didn't want her burning bridges so early in her career. So my first move was to get her into a good audition class, one where I could trust the teacher to give me feedback behind Holly's back.

While she was taking this class, I started getting her auditions for small co-star roles as a way of testing the water. Holly didn't book any, but the feedback was promising, and she even got a few callbacks. This helped boost her confidence.

Holly's first professional booking came about five months into our relationship. It was a co-star part on a hit network drama. She got to cry and scream for two whole days. Even better, she was now eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild—which she did a few weeks later when she landed her second co-star role.

At this point, her résumé was starting to take shape. It had two professional credits and the name of a respected acting teacher on it. I decided it was time to raise our game.

I asked Holly to meet me for coffee—or, as I call it, mother's milk. We talked about how much fun she had working on those shows. And then I dropped the bomb. I explained that I didn't want her auditioning for those small parts anymore.

Holly didn't understand. She was happy going out for co-stars. Why did she have to stop? I told her she was too good for them. The bookings had served their purpose. It was time to move on. To her credit, Holly trusted me, and we decided to hold out for guest stars.

At this point, I knew I was taking a risk. The competition is much harder for those roles, and she could easily fail. So I decided to hedge my bet by introducing her to one of my favorite coaches, someone who could work with her right before a big audition.

A few months later, lightning struck, and Holly landed a huge guest-star part on a hit cable show. The last time I checked, it looks like the character will recur in a future episode. The development phase of her career is now officially over, just in time for a little something I call pilot season!

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