By Jesse Daley
With the holidays and the New Year fast-approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded that “pilot season” is right around the corner! Are you ready and prepared for it this year?! It’s extremely important to do as much as you can today in order to be as equipped as possible for pilot season.
Give yourself the best possible chance at lots of success this year!
I’ve included a list of some of the most important things that you can do to be prepared for pilot season success.
What is “Pilot Season”?
I’m sure that most of you know what pilot season is, but for those of you who are new to the business, “pilot season” is the time of year when many new television series begin casting, typically for the release of a new show in the fall. Pilots are being developed and casting throughout the year, but the primary time of pilot season is generally January through April.
There are many new pilots every year, which means that you have a big opportunity to book work!
As I wrote in my article about actor headshots, your headshot is very important in terms of obtaining auditions. If you haven’t had your headshots updated recently, it’s a good time to start planning to have new photos taken. Headshots should be updated at least once a year (ideally more often, if you can afford it). Remember, you don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on headshots, either! Having a good photo that looks like you and allows a casting director to get a feel of your personality is all that you need. Also, remember to not go over-board with re-touching photos!
My current agent explained that she didn’t want my photos to be overly-retouched, because she still wants the photos to look like me. As always, simply be YOU.
It’s always great to be enrolled in an acting class year-round, but I feel that it is essential to be a part of a good class during pilot season.
You’re going to be going on auditions with many other seasoned actors, and class will help you to be the best that you can possibly be. Additionally, consider taking a good audition technique class. Even if you are an amazing actor (which I know that all of you are!) you won’t have much luck getting on set if your audition skills are not up to par. As I’ve previously mentioned on my page, I have found much success through classes that I’ve taken with Carolyne Barry, Christinna Chauncey, and Billy Hufsey.
Additionally, signing up for casting director workshops (if you enjoy them) and networking (including social-media networking) will help you to make connections. This is always important, and during pilot season you just never know when one of your connections will call you in for an audition!
Agents and Managers
Speaking of auditions, we actors are always able to obtain auditions without the help of a talent agent. However, for certain auditions, the casting notice (breakdown) will only be released to talent agents and managers. Hence having a good agent or manager is obviously helpful. If you don’t have a good agent or manager at the moment, now is a good time to take meetings. You can learn all about how to find a talent agent here.
If you’re an actor who is currently with an agency who is just not doing much to help your career, you should consider taking other meetings, too. It should be noted that many agencies will not take meetings or sign new talent to their rosters during pilot season as things can get extremely busy!
Set Your Goals for Pilot Season
Knowing what you want to achieve is always the first step in reaching your goals. Although pilot season is still a couple of months away, I suggest taking some time now to plan out what you would like to accomplish during the upcoming pilot season – and year! Read as much as you can about what is casting, and which new shows are set to film during 2015. You can find lots of this information in publications such as “Backstage,” “Variety,” and “Deadline.”
In addition to setting your goals for the upcoming year and pilot season, set time aside to work on your personal life, too. I find that working in the entertainment industry, while extremely exciting, can become very stressful at times, and we actors need to be good to ourselves! As many of my readers are well aware, I am a fan of Dr. Wayne Dyer, and learning about how we have the power to do anything that we set our minds to.
If you follow the above mentioned steps now, you’ll be in good shape for pilot season! I’m confident that you will have a successful 2015 year, my friends!
""""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