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"Actors" vs. Actors

By: Jess Canty

I was on a panel of Agents/Managers at an actor's showcase recently and the first question we were asked, after watching everyone's scene, was... "what do you look for in a new client?"

As we went around and answered this question I started to notice one through-line that was lurking beneath all of the normal answers (i.e. talent, drive, passion, marketability, dedication etc...).

So when it came to me my answer was: "I think what everyone is saying is that we look for clients for whom their #1 priority is this career."

And something I didn't expect came out of what I thought was a pretty obvious / innocuous answer.

This sparked off a 10 minute discussion on the panel where each agent / manager revealed how they had been burned - more than once - by someone who they thought was in it to win it, but when push came to shove, wasn't.

One agent talked about how he booked a client on a role, but the guy turned it down because he had to help a friend with their destination wedding and would be out of town for 3 weeks. (Agent dropped this client).

Another talked about how terrible it is to work so hard to develop a client and finally get them an audition and know that they are 1 out of 4 or 5000 submissions and have the client turn it down. (Agent dropped this client).

Another talked about how when a client who was on avail for something ultimately turned the job down it negatively impacted their relationship with the Casting Director for a few months - and had to spend time mending that relationship they had built over years. (Manager dropped that client).

And I am bringing this up because I need y'all to understand that EVERY. SINGLE. REP. in this town has this story.

They are the walking wounded. They have been burned. MULTIPLE TIMES - by actors that they have invested in. That they have worked for. That they have cajoled meetings for only to have them show that they aren't really willing to make the sacrifices that this business demands.

They have post traumatic "actor" syndrome.

And these "actors" are who you are competing with here. They are clogging up the pipeline. And they are giving your potential agent or your current agent reason to be jaded, and closed off, and protective of their hearts AND their time.

Imagine you are an agent.

You spot someone with a spark of talent and a great look. You spend a couple of years developing them. Pushing them out into the market place, using your hard-earned contacts with casting and production and classes to make introductions and in-roads for them and it works.

Finally! You get them a great opportunity - and you just might be able to make back some money on your investment when they book it. And right at the 11th hour, that "actor" has to leave town for their best friend's baby shower?!?!?!?!?

So, my question for you is... are you an actor or are you an "actor?"

Will you miss weddings? Funerals? Your parent's anniversary? Will you miss birthday parties? Will you miss your niece's graduation?

One of the few guarantees in this business is that the minute you make plans, the minute you pay for that ticket to Europe - THAT's when you'll get that callback. The minute you promise your best friend from high school that you'll be their baby's godmother that's when you'll book your first co-star.

So take some time to really think about this - because if the answer is no to any of the above, then this ain't the career for you.

And that is ok. You can absolutely live a happy, successful life doing something else where you get to go to your grandmother's 90th birthday.

But to make it here? Against the other 1000 people in your category that you are competing with - this has to be the priority. THE PRIORITY. T-H-E P-R-I-O-R-I-T-Y. Over your friends. Your family. Your wife. Your child. Your very handsome one-eared cat.

You think Leo wanted a mountain-man beard for 18 months when they decided to shoot The Revenant in only natural light? You think Alicia Vikander was allowed to eat cheese when she was prepping for Tomb Raider?

If you want to make the big money you have to make the big sacrifices. And you have to prove to your agent beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the case. Because if it isn't, they can smell it a mile away.

They are so touchy about this subject and so attuned to rooting it out, they WILL seek to find any example possible that you are an "actor" and not an actor - just to protect themselves.

I gave them the smallest of openings today - unknowingly - to vent their frustration on this subject and it took up 10 minutes of the 15 minute panel discussion.

So if you have a new agent - remember your job right now is to show them that this is the case. If you have agency meetings set up - your job is to convince them that you aren't a big fat air-quotes actor.

And if you've had an agent for a while, think about where your relationship is with them in this regard. Did you turn something down recently? Were you late to an audition? Did you book out for something personal during pilot season? If so - do you need to spend some time this summer doing a little fence mending? Do you need to thank them? Take them to lunch? Re-set?

If you want to be an actor, then acting comes first.

And you can quote me.

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