A Talent Manager on Navigating Work in the New COVID-19 Landscape

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Photo Source: Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

We’re finally starting to get back to business. For all of us whether actor, manager, agent, director, production assistant, or anyone else connected with the craft of acting, a return to work is going to require patience, adaptability, and focus. We’re not going back to what we all knew as normal. The work-in-progress new normal comes with many great opportunities along with several creative challenges for all of us to maneuver through, but we can do it.

In my office, a lot of time during these past months was spent reviewing and upgrading client support materials for our use in future audition submissions. We reviewed client profiles on all of the go-to industry casting services and got rid of old headshot images as well as tossed out older video clips that were no longer servicing any of our needs. We changed out most of the headshot images we had been using pre-hiatus and, rather than ask clients to incur the expense of new headshot sessions, went back for another look at the proofs from their most recent sessions for new images that’ll serve to advance the agenda. If you’re represented and have not been contacted by your agent or manager about such updates, it’s time to be proactive, reach out, and address this immediately. If you’re currently not repped, this becomes an even more important must-do project for you.

In a new landscape where in the room first auditions are now pretty much a thing of the past in favor of first-look self-tape auditions, there has been a lot of conversation these past few months about what makes a great self-tape and I trust that you are up to speed on that. But let’s address something that hasn’t been discussed before regarding self-tapes. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We who represent you always have done so with the conviction that you’ll always be as great, if not greater, in the audition room than we claim you will be in our submission pitches. But the truth is we went on a combination of gut instinct and personal experience. We never really knew because we’ve never been there in the room with you for any of your auditions. Until now. 

For the first time, we’re actually able to experience how you audition before the casting director sees you. For the first time, we’re able to see, first-hand, how you prep, how you present, and how you deliver in an audition situation. It also gives us the opportunity to talk with you about both the technical and the artistic aspects of your self-tape, which is a win-win for all of us. 

Most of the time, we leave the character interpretation and creation of a role to you and, most of the time, you ace it. There are those occasions though when we’re happy to have the opportunity to work with you about your choices. Certainly, if there are technical issues with your self-tape we’re going to want you to fix those so that there isn’t any barrier for a casting director in assessing if you’re the right actor for the role. When giving clients the details of their self-tape request, I now shave 24 hours off of the deadline given to us. This affords us the extra bit of time we need to review, assess, and have you reshoot if necessary. 

I’ll let you in on another little secret. Nine times out of 10, I’m truly blown away by the work submitted and, in the process, reminded why I’m in business with the client. I love that.

After you’ve booked the job, be ready to experience big changes that are in place to secure your safety on a set and the surrounding environment. Gone will be the crafts services shared snack and beverage tables. Come to work prepared with everything you’ll need or might need to fill all of your needs for a long day on a set including bottled water, a thermos of coffee, lunch, snacks, sanitizing wipes, whatever it might be. Don’t expect to be provided with even the simplest of perks that once were readily available.

Bring a mask with you. You’ll be required to wear it throughout the workday other than when the camera is rolling on a scene that you’re in. Also, be prepared to have your forehead scanned regularly to check your temperature.

Take care of yourself, take care of your product (which is you!) and work at remaining calm, patient, and staying as positive as you can as we all venture forward into the new business of acting together. Always be a smart actor in the choices you make about staying safe at work and out in the world.

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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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Brad Lemack
Brad Lemack is a Los Angeles-based talent manager, educator, career coach, and author. He established Lemack & Company Talent Management in 1982. The company specializes in the career development of new and emerging artists and the brand maintenance and career enhancement of legacy artists and working actors. He also teaches The Business of Acting at the Emerson College Los Angeles Campus. His latest book is The New Business of Acting: The Next Edition.
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