Just as you watch the leaves turn crisp and know it’s fall, or awake one morning to the first snow dusting that informs you it’s winter, you know when pilot season is in the air. That oh-so-special time of year is, for many actors, wrought with both excitement and insuppressible anxiety.
We can’t guarantee your pilot season will be fruitful, but we can help with some useful tips and tools to ensure at the very least you remain levelheaded and focused on the work. Straight from our knowledgeable Backstage Experts, below is the advice, answers, and some potentially hard truths about the reality that is pilot season.
1. Endurance and dedication will get you through it.
“In order to have a successful pilot season you need to do your part and put the time in. You need to have regular attendance in an acting class that challenges you, be able to recite which office casts which show like a human Google search, and have a backbone of steel. Since hitting pilot season hard means giving it all you’ve got, you need to have a support structure in place—such as a mentor who inspires you, or a group of like-minded and savvy actors to cheer one another on. Pilot season is only for the strong.” —Joseph Pearlman
2. Don’t neglect the basics.
“Get sleep. Eat healthily. Take your vitamins. Always have backup toner for your printer. Have a couple of go-to audition outfits and make sure at least two of them are always clean. Print out directions just in case. I know this stuff sounds obvious, but as you get to that uphill, running into the wind on the 13th mile of the marathon—aka that day in mid-February when you have four appointments spread out over town and you worked a double shift the night before—you won’t have time to think about anything.” —Mele Nagler
3. Yeah, you need an agent.
“A lot of actors believe that pilot season is a magical time when the castle gates swing open, allowing actors with no experience a chance to audition for the most important roles in television. It’s a nice image, but nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, getting in the room becomes much harder because the competition is so fierce. And if you don’t have a decent agent to speak on your behalf, then the odds of getting a shot at those high-paying, series regular roles just went from bad to nonexistent.” —Secret Agent Man
4. Cherish said agent.
“Know that your agents want this as much as you do. They, too, are on a roller coaster and get beat down at times. They are not trying to keep you from auditioning, but busting their asses to get you in rooms. Drop off a basket of fruit or teas and vitamins to thank them for all that they do. Trust that they are working for you.” —Sara Mornell
5. Do not let your nerves overtake the work.
“Relax and be yourself. In each pilot the characters are blueprints, and they are waiting for the right actor to come in and show them who the character is. The only way to do that is to be relaxed, original, and authentic, without worrying what ‘they’ might want.” —Matt Newton
6. Make sure all of your materials are up to date.
“Update your pictures on the casting sites. Do you know that when I look at a talent’s picture, I can see the date that the photo was uploaded? Do you know how disheartening it is to see that your pictures haven’t been updated for over a year, or two years, or sometimes even three? Have you taken any new classes or done anything to further your craft since last year? Is your résumé up to date? You may not have added any new credits to your résumé since last year, but I pray that you have added new classes and furthered your training.” —Jackie Reid
7. When all is said and done, let it go.
“Losing yourself in a world of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘when I make it big I wills...’ assures that you will never achieve the success you want. If after watching the awards you spent the next weeks dreaming about the gown, the interviews, the speech, and the statue, you’re no closer to making any of that happen. If, however, you watched the show and were inspired to write that second draft of your script, call about theater space for your one-woman show, draw up a production schedule for your short, get back into class, or do anything else that doubles your commitment to your art, you are taking steps that inch you closer to success. You had the dream, were inspired by it, and then let it lead you to action. You’re not dreaming. You’re doing. And that’s what all those award winners did.... The actors who book pilots and win Oscars are doing.” —Risa Bramon Garcia and Steve Braun
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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.