Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column offers some advice for actors who desperately want agents already!, explores some resume options, and gives tips for great cold readings. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!
I have been in New York for almost five years now and I feel like I have opened most of the doors I can for myself. But it is time for some help. I have done 14 showcases, tons of extra work on films (17 at last count), a season regular on the now defunct New York News (with Mary Tyler Moore) and two commercials. AND I STILL CAN'T GET AN AGENT. How do you get people to come out and see your work? Most agents do not respond to mailings, they don't want you to call their offices and they don't want you to visit! What can be done?
SAG actor New York
I bet your waiting for me to tell you that secret agent trick that you haven't yet heard of: Blair's special Agent-Getting Formula that wasn't included in the previous "How to Get an Agent" columns. . .
No such luck. Mark, there are basically two kinds of actors in the world. Those who complain about not having an agent, and those who complain about having one.
Now that's a joke and not entirely true -- yes, there are actors who have great agents and wonderful relationships with them. I use it to make a point: basically actors (and most artists, for that matter) are addicted to struggle. I see it all the time. At first you think, if I just have the money to get headshots, I'll be on my way. Then you finally get your headshots, and you think they stink. You have a reshoot, and soon you think that getting an agent will be the answer to not doing these "lame" shows you keep doing. You get an agent, and he barely sends you out, except on "lame" auditions that (by the time his cut is taken out) pay little more then the lame shows you got on your own without him. He claims that the big casting agents don't yet know your name so these are the auditions you can get. . . It is a very challenging profession and I don't want to diminish the frustrations that come along with it. And I hear that you would like help in making the next step in your career. But why be so focused on the agent as the solution? I am so impressed with all the wonderful work you report to have gotten on your own. Surely you have made connections with prominent directors and other actors and producers. These people can lead you all sorts of places -- I'm sure some have already. Focus on the work you are getting and doing the best you can every time you show up at a job. Cut the cycle of struggle.
And stop looking for an agent.
Did I actually say that? I did, and I think you'll have a much better time doing what you love if you do. Of course, if you are in a show, and you want to, invite some agents in a mailing. Have your friends who have agents help you out if they will, by inviting their agent to come see you. But do not drain your great creative energy by believing the out-of-reach agent will be the savior of your career.
Furthermore, I believe the frenzy around needing to find an agent and all the activity to get one, actually creates an energy-barrier between you and the very thing you desire. If you take your focus off getting an agent and put it into being the best actor you possibly can be, which is your real work, I bet you will feel much more relaxed, and very possibly the right agent will come knocking on your door at the perfect time.
And I always suggest, that if you are truly fed up with the type of work you keep getting, find a way to put on your own. If you do choose to stop focusing so much on agents, you just might have a lot of creative time to play with.
When it comes to resumes, what would you suggest is the best way to format them? Should you have a separate resume for TV/film and one for theater? Or should you incorporate a little of both on one resume? Thanks for your great column and any help you may suggest.
I know of actors who have three resumes; one for film, one for theatre and one for both. I think this is unnecessary, or at least until you get to a certain level and your agent or manager suggests it. I recommend having one resume that reflects the highlights of both your film/TV career and your theatre career, including some of your training and special skills. If you are more proud of your film work, list it before theatre, and vice versa.
What things can you suggest to help me with cold readings? Wanda
There are three major things to consider in the cold reading: 1) Bringing yourself to it; 2) making strong choices; and 3) committing to the choices you make.
In a cold reading, you are usually presented with a section of a script called a side. Sometimes you barely finish glancing at the side before they call you to read it in the audition. Some actors like to ask if they can have more time to sit with the script and make some choices. Others just go for it.
Can you really make choices about the character and what he or she wants in so little time? This is a great challenge that requires the ability to rely on your instincts and impulses. If you really trust yourself, reading a script you barely know can be an exhilarating experience. Many people freak out and get scared. They think, "I haven't read the script, I don't know anything, I'll never do it right."
One of the keys to a successful cold audition is to forget about right and wrong. Think instead about playing. That's what it really is, right? You can use your nervous energy to support you in discovering the reality of the scene right there in the audition, without having planned it all out it before. When you let yourself just get on stage, follow your impulses and react, it can result in very rich and freeing work.
Here are some cold reading tips:
- Then, if you have them, take a few moments to summarize, to the best of your ability, what is happening in the scene.Clarify the circumstances: Who the characters are, where they are, why they're there, what they are doing.Mentally put yourself in the position of the character. What do you feel? How do you feel about the other characters in the scene? Once you find the answers, just let them go.
- Make one strong choice: I suggest in a cold reading you always focus on what the character is doing in the scene. This can be gleaned from what the character wants from the other character(s). Examples of simple objectives are: teasing, flirting, begging, listening, etc. Commit to your objective.
- If you still have time, freely think about the character you are playing. Let thoughts, colors, flavors and images float through your mind without trying to clamp down and fixate on any of them.
Take some slow deep breaths. THE READING
- Breathe. Don't give in to the feeling that you have to rush. This is your time. Have fun
- Listen to your partner(s), even if he's a poor actor or bland hired reader, hear the words he is saying and allow your response.
- Trust yourself. Hear your impulses and follow through on them--they will guide you to exactly where the character is supposed to be.
- If you feel self-conscious, focus on the person reading with you and connect with them visually, when your eyes are not on the page. Reconnect to your action.
If you get lost from the page and can't find your next line, don't drop the character, or apologize, just stay with the scene as best you can, use your partner for support, until you find the words on the page--or you can improvise the line. It's best not to be over-prepared for a cold audition. Let the reading lead you. The spontaneity and aliveness is what makes an actor so attractive. A good director will see this and, even if the actor has not given the character interpretation the director desires, he will know the actor can act. Then, if you're lucky, he'll ask you to read again, giving you direction. And that should be a piece of cake.
When you get the script, avoid trying to figure everything out at once. Instead, simply read the lines of the scene and assess the situation. If you catch yourself trying to figure the character and the scene out, just go back to simply focusing on the words. .