Updated: Jul 9, 2018
By: Jess Canty
So going to divert from the creative side of things for today because I have a little homework for everyone that is going to help you ace meetings with agents, producers and yes, even regular old day-job interviews.
Part of your job as an actor is to prove to everyone you are a storyteller. But this can be daunting when you are forced to think of something on the spot - especially if you're nervous. I promise that this exercise will help you not only the next time you are at some kind of event but also when you are on The Daily Show someday sitting opposite Trevor Noah.
What is this magical exercise that is going to teach me how to tell a quick, succinct story with a beginning, middle and end AND get someone to picture me as I want them to (i.e. as a client on their roster, or a movie set where something funny happened).
S.T.A.R. (appropos no?)
STAR stands for Situation, Tasks, Action & Results
Situation: Think of a situation similar to what the interviewer is asking you about that had a successful outcome. It doesn’t necessarily have to be work related as long as it’s relevant. Remember to include the who, what, where, when and how.
Task: Describe the task you were responsible for in that situation. Keep it specific but concise. Make sure to highlight any specific challenges you faced.
Action: This is the part where you describe exactly what you did. How did you complete the task you were assigned? Remember to focus on what you did and highlight traits (qualities) that a hiring manager will find desirable (initiative, teamwork, leadership, dedication, etc.)
Result: This is where you get to be introspective. Share what the outcome of the situation was and how you specifically contributed to that outcome. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What were the results of your actions?
But Jess, what does this have to do with my acting?
Here's a little example: You are about to go into a meeting with a prospective new agent. You have done your STAR exercise beforehand and you are ready with your anecdotes.
You are talking with the Agent and they ask something like "what got you into acting?" And you can either ramble on about how you love it so much and it is just what you are really passionate about yada yada (like EVERYONE ELSE SAYS)
You say the following:
"Well, I think the moment I realized I wanted to do this professionally (SITUATION) was when a few years ago I got a really big audition opportunity (TASK) and I had never worked harder on a piece of material or felt more prepared going in the room (ACTION) and I know I nailed it - because even though I didn't get the role, the CD reached out with really great feedback and has consistently brought me back in (RESULT) and there is nothing better than the feeling of winning over a new office - and that's why I know this is the career for me."
Why does this work?
1. It is succinct. It has a clear beginning, middle and end. 2. It gets whoever you are talking to imagining you doing all of these things - and in this example getting an agent to imagine you auditioning, getting good feedback, being called back into an office multiple times means they ARE going to make the mental leap to say "I bet they can do that on MY roster." 3. It allows you to control the conversation AND pivot when necessary. Here's another example...
POTENTIAL AGENT: "Why are you looking for new representation?"
YOU: When I first signed with my current agent I admit that I didn't know exactly what kind of actor I was (situation) and so we didn't really have a clear strategy together (task) But, I have spent the last two years taking every comedy class I can, and now I am a MainStage performer at the Groundlings (action) and I have communicated that I only want to do comedy and unfortunately my current agent's roster is made up of mostly dramatic actors and so we decided it was best to part ways so I could find a partner that was more aligned with my career goals.
Now, the nice thing about this one is that you have done three very important things. 1. You stayed positive though a very hard question. 2. You didn't throw your current/old agent under the bus. 3. You now make the potential agent SELL YOU on why they are aligned with your career goals.
#2 is the big one here because the agent is asking that question to see what you would do if you should ever need to part ways with THEM in the future. Agents live and die by their reputations and this is a VERY small town. And people talk. So being able to show them that you keep things friendly is HUGE. But again - succinctly, with a beginning, middle and end.
Now, granted this post wasn't succinct but I am going to wrap it up with this year's #SummerHomework. You can download the worksheet (from the documents section of Cinterra's website) that I would like each of you to print out and sit down and complete by the end of June (if you have agency meetings set up before then I would recommend doing it before those meetings).
You will need to think of 10 situations - 7 of them in the industry and 3 from any job/school/class/family life etc... that you want to run through this exercise.
Hand-write in this chart. There is no substitute for doing this by hand - I promise!!! When you are finished please scan and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I GUARANTEE from personal experience that you will never walk into an agency meeting or job interview again without feeling completely on top of it. This exercise will completely change the way you see these interactions - and may just even help you next time you are in an audition and the CD throws you an open-ended question!