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Secret Agent Man

Pilot Season Madness

Pilot Season Madness
Pilot season always starts the same way. I come back from my holiday break feeling like a million bucks. And then, without warning, I'm thrown into the fray. Breakdowns begin to pour in, clients start begging for auditions, and the madness begins.

Between January and April, my primary mission in life is convincing casting directors to see my clients for those high-paying series-regular roles that can turn unknowns into stars. The process involves a ton of submissions, phone calls, emails—whatever it takes to get the job done.

As you can imagine, my stress level is pretty high these days, and the last thing I need is a client making my life harder. But guess what? It happens every day. To prove my point, here are a few recent examples that made my blood pressure spike.

Last week a client walked in and announced that he had just taken new headshots. The disk he handed me had more than 800 choices. While the phones were going crazy in the background, I explained that I didn't have enough time to focus on his pictures. So he left disappointed. I guess he felt the world revolved around him, not the sun.

This is not the time of year to surprise your agent with new headshots. The smart move is to take them in the fall, so they'll be ready for pilot season.

Now let's check out the flip side. These days the only people busier than I am are casting directors. They're being swamped by hundreds of calls from agents and managers begging to get their clients in for auditions. Casting directors are also dealing with producers, writers, directors, and network executives. The hours are long and the work is hard, so I consider it a miracle when one of them returns my call.

Just the other day I finally got a casting friend on the phone after bombarding her with several messages and one death threat. She listened to my pitch and agreed to meet my client if she liked his reel. Excited, I started to email her the link, but then I realized that the actor, despite several requests, had never posted his reel.

In this example, the casting director presented me with an opportunity, and in return I wasted her time. Why? Because my client failed to provide me with the tools I needed to do my job.

Now here's something you might not know: A pilot-season week is usually six days long. This allows casting directors to have pre-reads on Saturdays, when the phones aren't ringing and there's less stress in the room.

I mention the six-day week because one of my clients recently passed on a weekend audition. Instead, she was going up north with her musician boyfriend, a guy who will probably be dead from a drug overdose in about six months. I told her to cancel, because this was too big an opportunity to pass up. And let me stress that because of her unique ethnicity, my client was 100 percent right for this part. If she could do a halfway decent job at the pre-read, I had no doubt that the casting director would bring her back for a producer session. But you guessed it. The skirt refused to change her plans, and she missed out on a pilot she could easily book.

If you want to be a successful actor, you have to be available, especially during pilot season. It's just that simple.

I often get asked if after all these years I still like actors. The answer is yes. I just don't like the things they do to get in their own way and prevent me from making a living. So get smart about how you behave during this crazy time of year. Who knows? Maybe we'll all catch a break when the smoke clears.

And now, once more into the fray….

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