“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” It has been said many times.
Without forward planning we are truly and gloriously in the moment, but sometimes we can only look back at events in our life and wish that we’d done something different to better capitalize on our efforts.
If you like to live by the seat of your pants, then keep going. It may just work for you. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Your casual and unsystematic way of traveling through life may be exactly what you desire, but to many, lack of planning and time management is exactly what prevents them from moving forward in their chosen career.
Below are the what, when, who, how, and why of planning to move forward. If it works for you, great, and if not, may the universe bestow you with success regardless.
What are you about to do? Do you have a performance coming up in a month that you’d like the industry to know about? What is it going to be? A stage show, a co-star role, a lead in a Web series, or an informative podcast you’ve produced about surviving in this tough industry? What exactly is it that you want people to know about. The general excitement you feel about your impending brilliant public offering means little if your audience doesn’t know exactly what you are asking them to read/watch/attend.
When is it going to happen? Be aware that the best chance you have of securing an RSVP from a casting director for your graduating showcase or screening is to have them put it in their calendar well in advance. Though it may be a long shot in the first place, their attendance will be less and less likely the closer time gets to opening night. If you are having a launch party for your independent production company, don’t invite people only a week beforehand. Pimp your crowdfunding campaign for “Web Series XYZ” and guest role on “NCIS: Poughkeepsie” well in advance to maximize the likelihood that your intended supporters and industry folk will have it in their minds. Don’t forget to remind them and offer them incentives greater than “I’ll be awesome.”
Who needs to know? Don’t waste your energy spraying your promotional material all over the place. A targeted campaign will be infinitely more effective. Define whom you need to target and target them. Though it’s nice to have your friends and family supporting your efforts, too frequently they are the only people at your graduation showcase, premiere, or festival screening. Are you aiming for top Hollywood directors, top indie film directors and producers, or “Star Wars” fans in particular? Start at the top of your dream list and work your way down. One successful and connected individual will be more useful to your career than your entire extended Italian family (unless of course they’re the Coppolas).
How are you going to alert them? Knowing how to contact people is just as important as who to contact. What’s the best way to get in touch? Realize that different projects and mediums may require different approaches. Don’t overlook the effectiveness of handwritten letters and personal phone calls over the scattergun effect of general social media blasts and untargeted mailings. Research all the possible methods well in advance and create a timeline of when is the most effective date, mode of contact, and even time of day to reach out and follow up. First thing on a Monday morning when they’re buried in emails or last thing on a Friday night when they’re drowning in wine from an extended lunch, for instance, may not be the best time to invite them to your experimental one-woman performance piece about the inherent sexism and systemic corruption of Wall Street bankers in the ’80s.
Why will they be interested? Ay, there’s the rub. To elicit even the vaguest interest from people (usually not direct contacts of yours), you must highlight the very reason whythey need to see this show or Web series, or read your article and contribute to your campaign. It takes little coercing to encourage people to see the importance of donating to “save the dolphins” or “beat children’s cancer,” and “ban the ivory trade.” Your short film about a guy torturing a woman in a shed in the forest though? Think long and hard about why anyone needs to—or would even want to—see it. If it is a brilliant and innovative twist on the genre though, you may just have the hook you need in order to reel in the fish. And the bigger the hook, the bigger the fish.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.