An Acting Agent's Tips for Staying Productive During Slow Periods

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

I would love to spend this entire column venting about the current work stoppage, but my editor says that would be too self-indulgent. So in an attempt to stay positive, I’m going to offer up some advice on how you can be productive during this strike—or any other period of slow activity. Trust me: Staying busy is the best way to cope during stressful times.

1. Update those marketing materials

Let’s start with your headshots. Are they current? Have they been effective? Are your actor friends jealous because their pictures suck compared to yours? If the answer to any of those questions is no, it’s time to get new ones. The good news is that prices are negotiable during slow periods, so you might be able to get a discount. 

What about your reels? Are they up to date? Is the technical quality good? Are the clips labeled clearly? On the artistic side, do they show a range of characters, or are they all scenes of you playing the same type of role?

You should also reexamine your website. Do this with an anal-retentive friend who might spot issues you’re missing. I can’t believe how often I’ve visited an actor’s webpage and had trouble finding a reel that plays correctly. I’ve also come across links that go nowhere and bios that are longer than Winston Churchill’s biography.   

2. Work on your self-tape skills 

Once you’re done fine-tuning your marketing tools, it’s time to optimize your self-taping system. Consider sound and image quality, frame composition, and the choice of background. You should also put together an elite team of actor friends that will help each other self-tape at a moment’s notice. Use this downtime together to practice, practice, practice; a client recently asked me for a bunch of sides so she could do just that. Man, I love proactive actors!

Remember: Knowing how to self-tape is one of the most important skills an actor needs to have today. It cracks me up when older clients stumble into my office and ask when in-person auditions will start up again. I tell them it’ll be right after VHS tapes come back.

3. Add to your acting education

By the way, are you still in class? I hope the answer is yes, because a strike isn’t a valid reason to stop studying. Now is the perfect time to audit new teachers, especially if you’ve been with the same person for over a year. 

4. Keep in contact with your reps

If you have representation, it’s crucial that you stay in touch with your agents and managers. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you. They’re probably busy getting drunk and shaking their fists at the sky, so you’re the one who has to do it. But don’t just send an email or text—give them a call so you can have an actual conversation. The thing to remember here is that you don’t want to initiate a mutual bitch session about the state of the industry; there’s too much of that these days. Try to stay positive, and make sure your reps enjoy talking to you. 

History shows that strikes are always followed by periods of hyperactivity—so be smart and be ready, because the worm will turn. It always does. 

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 10 issue of Backstage Magazine.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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