Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses the issues of waiting for the next job, and provides tips on networking and information about websites with lots of audition information. 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!
Hello. I live in Portland, OR and am gearing up to head out for auditions in New York and/or Los Angeles for Non-Equity Tours and Summer Stock in musical theater. . .Anyway, I was told I could order an Auditions publication called "Backstage West/East" through Playbill but I couldn't find it anywhere on your Website. Is this publication available and is it a good source for what I am looking for?
Also.. since I am Non-Equity. . . how does one manage to get into an Equity show/tour? Does it mean that my audition would just be on a time-allowing basis after all the Equity folks have been seen? They have done away with the "Equity Eligibility" -- right?
John M. Brown
I'm glad you wrote me with the Backstage question. Backstage Online is a good source for what you are looking for, and I just want to say for the record- -since many people have been writing me asking for audition information, and to send them audition information--that although I am not an agent, audition information service, or an advertiser for audition publications, I do want to help actors by making them aware of the following:
Backstage Online, which has up-to-the-minute audition listings on both coasts, can be accessed at: www.backstagecasting.com.
You can find national audition listings in the "Casting Call" section of Playbill On-Line, and there is another great service I want to alert everyone to for audition listings. It is called The Callboard. The URL is www.thecallboard.com. You are correct; "Equity Eligibility" has basically been done away with. As far as getting cast in an Equity show, sometimes they hold non-union auditions for Equity shows. That's one way to get in. The rest is through connections and luck and, if you're really lucky, they will let you audition after all the Equity members are through, but I wouldn't count on the latter.
Break a leg on your auditions!
My son Bill is a talented actor who is in his senior year in high school this year. He has been in many different roles through the high school drama department as well as a good many community theatre projects. I support his interest in acting but now he wants to forego college and study acting in Hollywood immediately upon graduation. I would like to see Bill attend a college where drama is a strong department, but where he can also get a formal education to back him up in life. Bill tells me that there's no substitute for professional training with some of the coaches in Hollywood, and that film and television acting, and teaching, is quite different from theatre acting and teaching. What would you suggest? We live in Southern California.
I like to think of acting as a language, and stage and film and television are just different dialects. There are basic elements of acting technique that apply to all forms of acting. Whether you are in a sitcom or a Shakespearean drama, you need to be able to make choices, isolate your objective and take action. These things can be learned, and a good university theatre program is one great place to learn them.
Bill is right about there being some great film and television coaches in Los Angeles. I always root for the college experience because going to college gave me so many things: a chance to work with and learn from great professors who were doing big things in the world, great contacts, working with wonderful young actors and meeting classmates who became dear friends, a chance to grow up without the pressures of being completely on my own, a chance to have exposure to the professional world while still having my school curriculum to fall back on when the show ended, a rounded education, a feeling of accomplishment and more.
It's a question of what is important to Bill. If he is at all interested in a college experience then I believe there can be compromise. He could go to college and seek work professionally at the same time--or go to school in Los Angeles and have a coach or study privately with some film teachers. There are some good schools in your area. If college just does not interest him at this time, he can always decide to go back to school later on if it becomes important to him.
I am a new actor in the business who has just made his stage debut in a leading role. The show was good, and I got critical acclaim, but now the show is over and I am once again a "resting" or, quite bluntly, unemployed actor. The show closed about one week ago from the writing of this letter. I find the whole prospect of waiting for work horrific, yet this is the 'glorious' aspect of being an actor. How can one maintain consistent work, and how can you network with people without appearing to be "on the make"?
I am keeping busy writing as a journalist in the meanwhile.
I would appreciate your advice.
new in the business
Dear new in the business,
Thanks for your e-mail, new. I did try to reply to you personally but your e-mail address did not work.
Congrats on your debut and your "resting" period. I also really want to commend you for keeping busy as a journalist in this time. I think that's an exciting and lucrative choice.
Anyway, I think the answer to your questions "how can one maintain consistent work," and "how can you network with people without appearing to be 'on the make'?" in both cases, is "You can't".
In this business, there is no guarantee of maintaining consistent acting work. Even on soaps, which almost never get canceled or go off the air- the writers can kill your character. The only way you can come close to setting up constant work is by creating your own company or writing one-person shows or performance art pieces. This way, you have better chances of working whenever you want. You'll still need to come up with money and other things if you want to perform your work professionally.
A good example of someone who has successfully done this is Spalding Gray. He is a monologist who writes and performs his work between movie and theatre stints. Tim Robbins' maintained his role as the artistic director of his own theatre company throughout much of his career, up until a short while ago. Of course, once one gets to the stage that Robbins has achieved in his career, there is not much worry about working between jobs -- but still there is no guarantee.
As for networking, each actor must go through the process of discovering how to "be on the make" with grace. However, to me the only thing more obvious and repellant than an actor who is "on the make" is an actor trying to cover up being on the make. I find that covering up being on the make takes a lot of energy and therefore ends up making you less appealing than you want to be. It is also very likely you will not get what you want, because you're so busy being nice and unobtrusive.
Networking brings with it an opportunity to get in touch with your business self, and do some acting, play a role--the role of a businessperson. It is helpful to decide how you want to present yourself physically and personally, what your limits are with interactions (i.e. "I don't sleep with people for roles"), etc. I am not suggesting you be "fake"; it's all YOU. Naturally be friendly and charming, but remain in role with people who you feel can help you, keeping that professional edge, so as not to confuse the relationship. Without creating a role, people tend to be paralyzed by their fear of making contacts and don't go for what they want out of fear. Actors easily lose their power in their desire to impress and their belief that their careers are at the mercy of the machine.
I believe the best way to network is to be simply and unaggressively upfront about it. There is nothing wrong or secret about the fact that actors need all the help they can get, and that part of being an actor means making connections and getting work through connections. Find a way to be comfortable with the fact that you would like some help to give your career a jump start, like a businessman looking into advertising. Actors may feel shy or uncomfortable with being "out" about needing help at first. But in my experience, people were more likely to help me when I was honest. And it felt a lot better then having to manage hidden agendas. When I began to view networking as a way of taking care of my professional self, the people I interacted with responded with respect.
I do not suggest walking right up to a director at a party and spouting your sob story about how hard life is. Be a professional. If you are at a party where people don't want to be talking business, I highly recommend avoiding making friends when you really want to be making business contacts. Set up lunches or coffees with people for another time, and be clear that it's partially a business thing. Always bring with you cards, photocards, etc..
I have gotten great results from calling people I've met, or people I have somehow been connected to through others, and letting them know my current situation and asking them if they have any advice or can offer help.
I sincerely hope this helps. I bet you'll be very well "rested" and will soon have the opportunity to work again.
I've been working up in Canada as a professional actor (ACTRA union) and really want to compete with my L.A. associates for roles. You just don't get the chance to read for the supporting or leads on pilot season up here in Vancouver.
My question is can a Canadian actor get an agent in Los Angeles to represent him if he doesn't have "papers" to work in the U.S. Every agent I talk to tells me unless I have "papers" I can forget representation in the U.S. Lawyers say "no parents or wife in the U.S., forget working there!" Is this true or will agents,in fact, take on Canadian clients if they believe in them without "papers". I understand if a job is offered to me, I can get a work visa for at least the duration of my employment.
I want to move to the next level in my career but feel this is creating the proverbial "glass ceiling" effect" for me. Please burst my bubble or inspire me with your advice from associates! Thanks!
Most of the following answer is credited to my "associate" Beatrice Boepple. Bea began her acting career in Vancouver, where she eventually starred in the films, Quarantine and Matinee. She made her way to the states, playing supporting roles in films such as Stake Out (opposite Emilio Estevez) and Nightmare on Elm Street, before she decided to switch careers.
Bea informed me that if you can somehow get cast in an American production first, that's the best way to get representation. She said,"People (Canadians) have been signed on [with American agents] without papers. . . it's not legal, so it shouldn't be advised."
The other way to go is to sign with a large Canadian agency that has affiliations with agencies in Los Angeles, such as Characters Talent Agency or Lucas Talent. The way it generally works is that two agencies cooperate on getting the actor work. If an L.A. agency books a Canadian actor work, the actor has to pay the L.A. agency 10 percent and the Vancouver agent 5 percent of the income from the job.
Bea says, "In terms of getting leads in America, American productions are generally pre-cast and that is no reflection on him [the Canadian actor]. . .I also notice that of the television shows filmed in Vancouver (like "The X-Files"), 90 percent of the cast is Canadian, with Americans cast in the leads--so Vancouver is a good place to get your feet wet."
Thanks, Bea! And good luck, Kevin.