An Agent on How Actors Need to See Beyond Themselves

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In this excerpt from my new book, “Ask an Agent: Brutally Answered Questions for Actors of All Stages,” I attempt to entice actors to see beyond themselves and acknowledge a secret power that comes with being realistic. If they could start to think like a talent agent, or better yet, a company owner, I truly believe they’d get further in the business. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the creative process or excitement of the industry, but try boarding a train to “money town.” If that’s an actor’s true destination, this journey will have many valuable stops along the ride. 

“What else can I be doing?”
Great question. Aside from auditioning with patience, persistence, and positivity, there’s a lot you can be doing. Create your own content. You can be acting anytime, anywhere you want with today’s modern digital technology. Learn to write. Learn to edit. Collaborate with other actors and filmmakers. Go to film festivals. Network. Watch every show that shoots in your market. Read, a lot. Start a vlog or blog. Journal your creative journey. Make a vision board. Take tons of classes. Start your own classes. Start your own, small, weekly meetup of actors and talk about your struggles and successes. Go see plays. Go see movies. Go see improv. Be in the community and enjoy every second of it. You entered this industry for a reason, so never forget the excitement it can bring while doing things that make you smile and inspire you to grow. 

“Is this role too small to audition for?”
Are you making more than $32k/year consistently and receiving the best health insurance plan the union provides? If not, I’d consider still auditioning for most roles. I get it if ya don’t wanna do unnamed one-liners after you’ve had some bigger parts, but there are still a ton of great opportunities out there to do day player roles directed by Clint Eastwood or Ava DuVernay, or play opposite Sam Rockwell, or be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a career with unpredictability, instability, and ups and downs in terms of opportunities thrown your direction. As Chase Paris says (Emmy Award–winning casting director of “Stranger Things” and “Ozark”): “Take what’s in front of you.” I tend to agree with him. If there’s a realistic opportunity for you to get paid to act, and you like being paid to act, take the work. Saying no gets you nowhere, but saying yes opens doors and could lead to future opportunities with bigger roles and more money down the road. If a job is gonna completely crush your ego, then don’t do it, but I suggest finding ways to limit the ego-bruising and focus more on the bank account building and network expansion. I don’t think it’s “who you know,” but rather “who knows you.” The more sets you’re on, the more you’re known. And residuals can be a beautiful thing, even if it’s just from a single day of work on a major studio movie.

“Can I audition for jobs in other markets?”
Of course, and you can even get reps in other cities. But if you’re not booking at least once a month in your current market, I think your focus is in the wrong place. Focus on the most realistic opportunities. Do something and do it well. Conquer your market, then spread your wings. Every time I see an Atlanta actor obsessing about looking for work in L.A. or NY, they suddenly stop booking in ATL. Wish it wasn’t true, but I have numerous stories to back it up. Too many to be coincidence. Take pride in your local market, whatever it may be. Build relationships there, strong ones, a solid support system. That’s how you grow, kick-ass, and eventually, become a legend.

You can find more information about the book here.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Jason Lockhart
Jason Lockhart is a talent agent from Los Angeles who relocated to the southeast market in 2017 as the head of TV and film at one of the most prestigious agencies in Atlanta. He is also an accomplished filmmaker and recently became a best selling author for his book “Ask an Agent: Brutally Answered Questions for Actors of All Stages.”
See full bio and articles here!

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