" Quality...Innovation...Education." Late Spring  2003   




TIPS FOR THE WORKING ACTOR
Written by Annie Kidwell
Reprinted with permission from FAB Florida The Actors/Models Book


TALENT'S TOOLS

Headshots: The standard is the 8x10, glossy, matte, litho prints or photo prints (used in NY more than other markets), borderless or with border. Headshots should never be a glamorous shot, but look like the real you. What sells a picture is lotís of energy and a friendly open look. Attitude or things like beards, glasses, hairstyle variations, etc. can be saved for postcards or a composite card. Also, the dark, moody look can be used for a film headshot, i.e. tough guy, gangster, straight, non-smiling with an air of authority, etc. 

Resumť: Neat, honest, professionally typed, sized and printed on, stapled or glued to picture. Separate resumes by Print, Commercials, Theatre; may be required if there are enough credits to warrant it. Although the resumť may share these credits the focus should be on what you are marketing yourself to.

Composites, ĎComp Cardí: Character looks, fashion, lifestyle, glamour, commercial; color and black and white.

Demo Video Tapes / Audition Tapes:  These are used mostly by SAG actors with established feature or TV credits. Do not stand in front of a backdrop and do monologues or pay someone to create your tape while you do readings. They must be clips from work you have done in film, TV, industrials or commercials.

Demo Audio Tapes / Voice-Over Tapes: Write only your Name and phone number  (with Area Code) and the words: VOICE-OVER DEMO on the tape. Donít forget or theyíll be tossed out.  Any paperwork you may send with it will probably get separatedand you can bet the producer or caster will not listen to the tape just for this information!

Postcards: Great for all those thank you notes after a shoot or to let your agent know what youíve been doing on stage, or what classes youíve been taking, etc.

Appointment/Calendar Book for daily records, calls, mileage, expenses, bookings, etc. Expense records may be kept separate from the appointment book. 

Voice Mail service, Answering Machine, Beeper, Cell Phone: Whatever it takes for you to stay in touch and for others to be able to reach you. This is so important!. Casting calls are done in a hurry, usually shortly before the shooting so you must be available and able to respond on short notice. Itís just the way it is. And please keep pen and pencil right by your phone(s). Itís a good idea to Ďtrainí your family on how to quickly and accurately take messages for you, without excuses that you arenít around or they donít know...etc. Quick and professional responses increase your availability to work. Try to avoid being overly creative in your greetings Ė music, family moments, characters, famous voices, and so on. They get old real quick and people who are calling for castings and auditions just arenít interested in you entertaining them in this fashion. Your greeting is part of your professional toolbox, too.

FAB: Your most up-to-date marketing resource! Stay connected and keep working! And, donít forget the valuable resource of The Florida Blue Sheet. Add to that,  Focus-In, a monthly newspaper published in Orlando, to keep you informed about industry happenings. Trade publications are so essential to learning about the business structure, letting you know whatís going on, and providing additional resources. These publications are your most important tools, because you use them to put these other tools to work for you. 


SET YOUR STANDARDS...Working Towards Professionalism

Be reliable.  Get an answering machine, voice mail, a pager, an answering service! Be available.  If an agent cannot leave a message or you donít return pages, they wonít call you back and you will not work. 

Develop a journal. Keep a notebook or log of agent calls and contacts. Check out and learn the requirements for your Federal Tax Return Schedule C and the available deductions. Keep accurate records of mileage, expenses, etc. Record all those trips to classes, auditions, photo sessions, anything you arenít being paid to do and see if itís a deduction. Check with your accountant or tax preparation expert. If they arenít familiar with deduction for entertainers, find a source that is. Itís to your advantage.

Learn your trade. Read books, trade publications, etc. Understand that you need to network, train, and market yourself to get work. Talent is not the magic key. You have a lot of competition and the more you prepare yourself to meet it the faster you will realize success. You must find the most effective way to market yourself, get yourself known, develop your skills because your job-hunting doesnít stop with your first shoot. You will always be looking for a job and every person you meet is an interview. 

Treat this as a business. Check out your options as you proceed and invest accordingly. 

Always take your headshots to an audition. Always have them with you, in your car, your briefcase, at your job. Your headshots are your most valuable marketing tool so carry extra. It is not uncommon to hear that talent still show up to auditions without a picture!  The pictures your agent keeps are for her (his) submissions. The agent does NOT supply the casting director with the picture for your audition. You do that. 

Be early to the audition. Fifteen minutes minimum. You need time to prepare and shake off the Ďtraffic tensioní.

Never call a casting director. Besides not getting pictures at an audition, this is the number one casting director complaint. Do send a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) when you submit your headshot. It is a courtesy that just may be put to use. Casting Directors prefer not to foot the bill for the postage to correspond with you, like requesting you come in for a file-tape interview.

Check-in with your agent(s) often.  Find out when is the best time to call in, when their calling volume may be low and when theyíll most likely welcome your call. Or, they may have a regular time set aside that talent can use for calls or drop-in visits. Find out from your agent if they prefer weekly check-in calls or cards mailed to them. Also, do they object to drop in visits?  When itís busy, calls tie up the lines and leave them no time to talk to casting and production people.  When itís not busy, youíll most likely hear ďNothing now.Ē 

Postcards: Agents love them, producers love them, casting directors love them. Postcards are simply the best way to keep in touch versus calling in every week. Setup a mailing/marketing schedule for the upcoming year. Postcards put your face on their desk and also enhance your professional image by showing a higher level of commitment to working in the business.  Use the cards to market yourself, get your name and face out there, and bring people up to date on your activities and training. Namely ďI just completed...Ē, ďJust finished...Ē, ďTaking a class with...Ē, ďWill soon be opening in...Ē, etc. Use old pictures as large postcards. You have more room to write more and youíve already paid for them. This is not advised if they just donít look like you at all anymore.

Listen to any directions given to you in an audition and follow them. It could be a test!

Get training!  When not working, the actor is expected to be training, either in a workshop or on stage. You should be training as long as you are in the business. Training is still the best networking venue. Work in a location state, like Florida, is usually uneven and training keeps you involved and motivated. Itís your responsibility to keep the instrument fine-tuned and ready to work.

Attitude is everything! Are you helpful, willing to learn, cooperative, friendly, and easy to talk to?

Prepare for your audition. Preparation is the key to successful acting. Take three outfits with you. Anticipate different character needs. Put your imagination to work!

Learn to play the game! Itís a business! Learn marketing and business techniques and develop professional standards and accurate record keeping.

It is suggested that you do not FAX your headshots. The quality is terrible and a professional package should be mailed, not a quick fax. Leave the fax to business communications between casting and production. Besides, Iíve been told it really turns them off and will alienate you. Unless you are specifically requested to fax a picture, do a mailing and donít forget to include your agentís name/address.

FAB hopes these tips and suggestions help you work more and smarter!

Annie Kidwell, publisher Florida Actors/Models Book
www.fabactor.com


NOTE: The views expressed in this article are only those of the author, who is solely responsible for the content. Creative WorkShops does not necessarily endorse these views, and is not to be held responsible for any of the content provided in the article.
 





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