By: Jess Canty
THE PARETO PRINCIPLE EXPLAINED
(check out this article before reading this post)
The Pareto Principle is a concept that suggests two out of ten items, on any general to-do list, will turn out to be worth more than the other eight items put together.
So how do you apply this to your acting career?
We talk a lot about being focused in your career, and tackling one mountain at a time. The truth is, you can easily spin your wheels focusing on the 80% of shit that is NOT GOING TO HELP your career - while ignoring the 20% that is. Why?
Because that 20% is probably scary. That 20% is confronting - because for most people, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties - you are actually more afraid of success than you are at failure. So you focus on the 80% that keeps you busy, but gets you nowhere.
You often see people who appear to be busy all day long but seem to accomplish very little. This is almost always because they are busy working on tasks that are of low value while they are procrastinating on the one or two activities that could make a real difference to their companies and to their careers.
The most valuable tasks you can do each day are often the hardest and most complex, but the payoff and rewards for completing them can be tremendous.
Before you begin work, always ask yourself, “Is this task in the top 20 percent of my activities or in the bottom 80 percent?”
The rule for this is: resist the temptation to clear up small things first.
If you choose to start your day working on low-value tasks, you will soon develop the habit of always starting and working on low-value tasks.
What low-value tasks are you focusing on in your acting career when you should be focusing on a high-value task?
Let's say you want to be represented by one of the top 15 agencies in town. I would argue that this is a valuable and complex goal. What are you doing to make that happen? What if you were singularly focused on making this happen (outside of going to auditions, of course)? How would this change your day-to-day? Can you name the top 15 LA agencies without going to IMDb to look them up? (for a start). Backing up lofty goals with expertise and knowledge is paramount. Who do you know there? If you don't know anyone at any of them, how do you get to know someone there?
If you want to marry a doctor - you should probably put on your best suit and hang out in the main atrium at Cedars so she will notice you, right? Where do these agents hang out? Eat lunch? Go to drinks? Are you following them on social media? Do you have google alerts set for them? Do they have volunteer opportunities? Do they have events you can attend? If you do know someone, have you asked us to pitch?
If we've pitched you and you've gotten a response back (usually that you need to have more bookings to be considered) then are you going into each audition with the singular focus that booking this guest-star will then allow us to go back to that agent and update them with your progress?
Obviously this is just one example and may not be relevant to where you are. But at each stage of this game, you need to have your own personal 80/20 worked out.
Do you have too many big goals listed to try to accomplish at once? Perhaps your list looks like this:
Be Repped by CAA
Make $500K from acting next year.
Get an endorsement deal.
Start a charity.
Buy an island
Become an EGOT.
Obviously each of these are huge complex goals that nobody can set out to accomplish all at one time - yes thinking big is key - but thinking too big can be just as detrimental to accomplishing your goals as focusing on tasks that are too small.
I went to College with Mikey Day (SNL) and I remember back then that he wanted to be on SNL. Did you know he was a writer for the show for years LONG before he ever appeared on camera? I would bet that if you asked him he would agree that he was singularly focused on being on SNL for most of his post-collegiate career. And now we have David S. Pumpkins. But it was a long, singularly-focused road to David S. Pumpkins.
And please don't get us wrong - once you knock one of the "20% goals" off your list - you can't simply sit back. That 80/20 list needs to keep changing. You need to keep challenging yourself with new "20% goals" after you have gotten to a new level.
Let's say your goal a couple of years ago was to have an agent and a manager - and now you do. That DOES NOT mean that you get to sit back and say "well, I'm good, I accomplished that hard "20% task" of getting both an agent and a manager now I shall hang out and wait for my career to happen."
When I look across Cinterra bookings over the past year - you know what I see?
I see bookings that are based on repeat business with casting offices (i.e. you have a fan and they keep bringing you back).
I see bookings from friendships - yep that's right. We may have submitted you because you told us your friend works on the show - and guess what, you get called in and book the role. We help with the legitimacy of the submission - but it is YOUR relationship that is making this happen.
I see bookings from the fact that you happened to have worked with the director, or the producer before. I see bookings where a friend tells you about a project.
Of course I see bookings that are coming from your agents and Cinterra directly, but this is not the whole picture for you of where your work will be initiated - nor should it be.
Because don't forget the other 80/20 rule here. If you are paying 20% out to your reps collectively, then 80% of the rest of the work needs to be coming from you.
One last story - as I also went to college with Marielle Heller (sorry for the double-name drops today). You know how she ended up working with Tom Hanks on her forthcoming film? She was friendly with Colin Hanks, and was at his kid's birthday party and initially met Tom there (a few years ago) and they had kept up a correspondence. When her producers expressed that he was their #1 choice for the film - a role he had already turned down - she gave it her best pitch. She did not "have her people call his people."
Is having a team important? Of course - we only expand your reach in terms of the awareness of projects and guidance we can give you. When it comes to contracts and negotiations you absolutely need agents and managers and lawyers. Once Tom had agreed to be in the film, obviously agents and managers and lawyers were involved. But it was Mari's personal pitch to Tom that convinced him to do the movie. And all because they had met at a birthday party and she had enough chutzpah back then to introduce herself.
This is and always has been a business built on relationships.
**HINT** - every business is, we are primates after all.
Who are you cultivating outside of your reps?
Who are you meeting?
And then, after meeting them, what are you doing with that relationship? It isn't worth anything to know a lot of people and not ultimately use these connections.
So as we are winding down this year - and thinking about next. Let's start thinking in terms of the Pareto Principle.
What are the TWO BIG THINGS you want to accomplish by this time next year?
For some it may be getting your first agent. If so, do you know who that is? What if you were singularly focused on working with one specific agency because you think they are the best for you. How can you make that happen?
For others it may be getting that first TV Guest Star. Let's say you've booked a bunch of co-stars. What if you were singularly focused on booking that role that is going to put you in this next level in casting's minds? What if this was your ONLY goal? Who do you need to meet? What class do you need? What friend can you ask for help?
Perhaps it is quitting your day-job. That is a big and complex goal. To be making enough money from acting that you don't need a side gig. What does this look like? What are all the things that would need to happen to make this a reality? How do you start that climb to accomplish this big goal? What if your entire next year were singularly focused on making this a reality? What other things would fall into place in service of this goal?
For others it may be becoming offer-only. How does this work? How do you need to change the relationship with your agents in order to get here? How can your team help you achieve this level of success? Does this effect the projects you are going after? The people you are working with? Accomplishing these big goals - as this article states - requires clarity, competence and concentration.
“When your goals are clear, you will come up with exactly the right answer at exactly the right time”
The real goal, clearly from all I have written here, being "work with Tom Hanks."