Your name, your face are your brand. Make sure that everything in your marketing material reminds me, a Director, Casting Director who you are. For example, Director's & CD's see a minimum of 10,000 actors per year. They receive a minimum of 10,000 emails/mailings per year that most don't ever see because their interns file them because the mailings are not focused or they come from actors who have not formed a relationship with that CD. So when do you make an impression? When you enter the room and they look at your picture, your clear, uncluttered, resume and clear contact info. You have a professional photo that tells me who you are and what your emotional playground looks like (strong, funny, sweet and vulnerable, underdog that wins, etc). You name is clear across the top, your email address (THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT) is your name. Not numbers, not what you want to be (workingactress@gmail or authorjohndoe). Your email address should be the same as your website: one consistent message. You remember Coca-Cola and that red & white banner. Their website is coco-cola (superdietdrink.com), but Coca-Cola. Sounds simple, but you have no idea how many actors' email address get typed in incorrectly because they have a clever email address like (supadupafly@gmail or Jane_Doe234@nyc.rr). Not using your professional name as your email address is a missed opportunity for me to remember who you are. As a film producer, playwright and actor, each time I cast a play or movie, I see a minimum of 20 people for each role. Most of the time, it's the first time I'm ever meeting you. Their email addresses are almost always different from their actual names or even worse, they have no website or ImDB page or any online presence whatsoever. As an Indie film producer, we often cast from reels. I saw a brillant actor in a play in Jersey a few weeks back, I mean stunningly brillant. I have a role for him, ready to make an offer. He has no representation, no website, nothing. I have no way to contact him and offer him a job. If I'm on set, and the director and I are casting from watching reels on our Iphones, the actor with a reel on their site, or imdb or FB page that's is clear, accessible from a mobile device and has a clear contact email or agent, is the one who's going to get the offer because that level of professionalism tells me that this artist is ready to move their careers to the next level. If I can't find you online to offer a job, you don't really want to work.
2. **Somebody's getting paid and if it ain't you**_, you need to find out why and remedy the situation instead of pursuing a life long career in which you work for free or less than unemployment.If you cannot listen, read and then follow directions to the letter, then you can certainly be an actor, just not a very successful one. Acting is a business. Though there is an very personal, laid back atmosphere to the workplace, it is still a workplace. I strongly advise actors who have never held a job outside of the acting world, to make it a part of their actor training to get a job in the business world. Even if it's for a summer. An internship, a long-term temp job (3-6 months) in the corporate sector and commit to being successful at this job. It will give you a sense of working under pressure where decisions are based solely on the financial bottom line. Because even if artists never see it, this is what is happening on the other side of your acting work be it theatre/tv/film, there are folks working to meet that bottom line and decisions are being made that have nothing at all to do with talent or merit, but rather the bottom line. This experience will
1.) Help you value your artistic work.
2.) Teach you the importance of high stakes, professionalism and it will depersonalize moments when you went in and did your best work and didn't get the job.
3.) It will teach you to have everything that is within your control covered from showing up in the right suit, to working out, memorizing 10 pages of lines in 10 mins, to having your own production company producing or optioning work for you.
It will make you smart and ultimately an artist who works more and on increasingly high profile projects.
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson