Putting in the 90%
"Agents get 10% because they do 10% of the work. The other 90% is your job."
You hear this saying in the industry all the time, but if you're new to acting it's hard to fully understand what it means.
What do you mean? My whole existence as an actor depends on them getting me auditions. I can't get myself auditions. I don't see the breakdowns, only agents do!
I'm here to help you understand what your 90% entails. The first, I've mentioned in quite a few posts.
1. Join an acting class
There's a reason I preach this one so often. I know many actors that believe you just need a good technique under your belt, and you're good to go. After you find a technique that works for you (and it may be a combination of techniques, as I use) you should look into a scene study class. Dissecting and really understanding the different underlying emotions and circumstances in a scene will change your performance of the written words. You are a vast well of emotions and personal experiences that you may not even realize yet. You need to have range as an actor. -- If you are at a place in your life where you can't financially afford to continue your training, find a group of actor friends and meet up once a week. Treat it like a class. Tell everyone to bring in a scene they'd like to work on, and you all can give educated notes on your performances if requested.
If you are meeting with an agent and you have no credits they will ask you if you are in a class. If you aren't, they aren't going to take you seriously. You aren't working and you aren't training, are you sure you want to be an actor?
If you do have an agent they want to trust that you have the ability to do the work. They don't want to babysit you or tell you to get coaching on an audition. They got you the audition, it's your job to be able to execute it.
Now you should already have headshots if you have an agent. If you don't, I don't know what either of you are doing :)
It's your job to know your type. Get headshots for roles you are likely to go out for. Watch TV/movies/commercials and make notes of people that are your type and age range. Get a wardrobe to match these types. Find a photographer that understands what casting directors are looking for. Casting directors are not imaginative people when looking at headshots, they'll tell you this themselves. You either look the part or you don't. So make sure your looks are specific to the roles you're pursuing. You can read about my photographer recommendations in my previous blog post here.
While we're on the subject of getting a wardrobe for your type: Have a range of wardrobe options. Upscale, blue collared, athletic, etc. Have wardrobe options that match certain character types. Don't buy costumes, but buy clothes that hint at certain characters; nurses, doctors, police officers, military. Wear a solid colored v-neck with a solid colored long sleeve underneath to hint at wearing scrubs. You can actually buy scrubs too though, that's not considered a costume. Don't buy a police uniform, wear a navy long sleeved button up with a collar. For military, wear that shade of green or tan. Hint at what the character is. Buy khaki pants. There are so many auditions that you'll wish you had them for if you don't.
Sometimes you have to network. I know, I hate it too. It's all so schmoozy and superficial. But you do it for a reason. I recently got an audition from going to a networking event. Feldstein/Paris in Atlanta (Stranger Things, Ozark, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.) does a thing called "Twitter Lunches" They announce same day, usually with a 2 hour notice, that they will be at a certain location, and to stop by. You get there and there are a hundred people circling them like vultures while they do a Q&A and eat their lunch. Find a way to get in front of them and ask a question. I've been to two of these, I've asked questions both times. This last time I had my agent email them to say I was at the lunch, which in return, they requested I audition for this project they were casting. You can get yourself auditions. You have to be resourceful, and persistent. You have to ignore the fear of rejection and put yourself out there.
Another necessary evil. Twitter has become the new networking platform. You have to join it, I'm sorry. Find out who casts the shows you either want to be on, or are fit to be on. Follow them on twitter, turn on their tweet notifications. Interact with them on twitter. Don't be annoying, or over the top. I choose to only interact with tweets that actually speak to me. If I have nothing of actual value to say, I will just "like" their tweet.
Make sure your profile picture is your main headshot. This way, when your agent submits you for a project they're casting, they'll recognize your face. They may not even connect what they recognize you from, but that doesn't matter. The point is to be seen and be brought in for an audition.
If it's self tape, and less than 5 pages, try to get it in within 24 hours. More than 5 pages, 48 hours. I know this can be difficult with work, life, and memorizing. Here's the thing, the casting director doesn't expect you to be word perfect. (If it's comedy, be word perfect.) You should do your best to be off book and word perfect, but if it's multiple pages, and you're turning it around in that 24 hour window, they'll cut you some slack. Memorize to the best of your ability, and understand the character. I personally like to learn the words first then dive into character work. Everyone works differently.
The reason I give this timeline is:
1. Your agent may ask you to do a retake. Maybe you did something wrong technically, maybe they don't like your take on the character. It happens.
2. Casting may give you notes and ask for a retake. This happens as well, which means you get a second shot and more screen time. This only happens if you get it in early.
3. What happens if you put off taping until the deadline, and you get another audition that has to be in right away? Now you've given yourself the stress to do both on the same day, and your performance will be lacking in preparation.
4. Technical problems. You don't want to be the one that misses the deadline because your eco cast isn't uploading. If you didn't wait until the last minute, that wouldn't be an issue.
In person auditions: Be early. They have you scheduled for a specific slot because they are busy people and are seeing 100 of you today. Being early is being on time. Don't shake hands, don't attempt small talk unless they start the small talk first. Every casting director is different and you have to have the social awareness to know who is in the mood to socialize and be friendly, and who is not. Some are all business and want you in and out. Don't take this personally.
Have two takes prepared in case they request you do it again in a different way. Be able to take notes and redirection. Be prepared for a monotonous reader. When you are practicing beforehand, ask your reading partner to read it different ways, and do one with them reading monotonous so that it doesn't throw you off in the live audition. This has been a pitfall for me many times. I've went completely blank and forgotten all of my lines by a monotonous reader. That's my fault, not theirs. I'm the actor, not them.
Does this seem excessive? I have more. I won't make you read a 20 minute blog post though so I'll spread it out a bit.
Being an actor is a full time job that you have to fit into your schedule. This is your career after all. If your day job is 9-5, your acting career is 6pm-midnight. Do you work 5-1am? Your acting career is 8am-4pm then. You have to put the work in if you want to find success in this business. You can do this.
Work hard, success will find you.