2) If You Have Representation, Constantly Call Them and Ask Silly or Demeaning Questions. I just had a conversation with an agent last week about this very thing. The structure of a healthy agent/actor relationship is simple. You the actor, are the CEO of your corporation. Your business is selling “you.” In order to sell yourself better you need to subcontract out for the right sales people (agents) to sell your product. Their job is to mingle with the deal makers (most likely people you don’t know yet) and pitch and sell you as best they can. Then, your job is to book the roles and excel when you work. As in any healthy work environment the key factor is teamwork and communication. Even though you’re the CEO you have to trust the people you’ve subcontracted to sell you. There is a fine balance between heathy conversation within a company and pestering someone to do their job. When a CEO is demanding, pestering or demeaning eventually the employees/subcontractors will rebel and eventually care less about you. And let’s be honest, subcontractors don’t actually work just for you, they work for a lot of other people. They run their own business. So, practice being a good CEO. Hire the best and fire those who don’t work for you. Keep business practices and communication positive when you work with your subcontractors. Encourage healthy teamwork. Do your job and let them do their job. Don’t call them up every day or two and ask questions like, “Anything going on today?” Refrain from making demeaning statements like, “How you expect me to book jobs if I don’t have additions?” That kind of talk can get old really fast. Have a good reason to talk to your agent. When you do talk to them tell them what you’re doing for the company and then see if there is some way you can help each other. Keep the conversation moving in a positive direction by focusing on the teamwork aspect. If you agent won’t talk to you then there is a real problem. If that’s the case then I say it is time to find a new subcontractor. Either way, make sure you’re doing your job and trust them to do theirs. You should focus on ensuring that your “product” is the best it can be. Keep the communication to a minimum but keep it healthy.
3) Learn To Be Content With the Idea That You Will Never Measure Up or Be As Good As Casting Directors, Agents and Directors Expect You To Be. Let’s face it, Hollywood is the land of misfit toys. And this kind of thinking is more common than anyone wants to admit. Most actors come to Hollywood because they have screwed up parents and dysfunctional families and they think that if they just get famous maybe then they will get the love they deserve. Maybe then people will finally see them for who they really are, someone important. As a result, a lot of us out here have been raised to automatically think less highly of ourselves. It’s a habit we learned a long time ago. Or, we go to the other extreme and think too highly of ourselves. Either way, our habitual way of thinking can easily destroy us and our chance of success. Think about the way you talk to yourself. Are your thoughts about you true? Don’t forget to give yourself a break, most of the people around you think similar thoughts. We’re in the land of misfit toys. Ironically, that need for attention and need to express ourselves also makes us great actors! So, the negative can actually be a positive! You are no worse than anyone else in Hollywood. In fact, you just as good, unique and interesting as everyone else out here (and Casting Directors, Agents and Directors know that and expect that from you). You have a unique story and we would love to hear it. So, the next time you feel you’re not good enough, acknowledge that thought, remind yourself that all actors have those kinds of thoughts and then go out there and have fun telling us your story anyway. I do a lot of woodwork as a hobby and this thought came to my mind the other day... “Sometimes the more knotty the wood, the more beautiful the furniture. So, show us your knots.”
4) Don’t Waste Your Time Socializing and Going Out, Instead Stay at Home, Read Every Acting Book, Blog and Website You Can. I’m not telling you shouldn’t read books about acting or look up resources on the Internet, you absolutely should do that. What I’m telling you is, like any business, the Entertainment Industry is primarily about who you know. Friends help friends get work. One of the worst things about LA is that it is a very lonely town. Many people isolate themselves here. The drive hours by themselves in their car. They often stay at home instead of socializing. And, since the city is so spread out it’s tough to get around and meet up with people. In a city like New York or Chicago everything is easily accessible and you are surrounded by people almost all the time. Don’t let solitude happen to you. Get out and rub elbows. I read a fascinating survey once about successful salespeople. The company who did the survey wanted to find out what the top salespeople in the country had in common. The number one thing they had in common was they were social drinkers. Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to be an alcoholic in order to be successful as an actor, heavens no, but the social experience of drinking together is often what helps the sellers bond with the buyers. One of the best things you can do for your acting career is to hang out and bond with people in the business. Embrace the social scene, these are the people you hope to be working with.
5) Focus On Nothing But Acting. Make it the Center of Your Whole Life. I know I’ll get people to disagree with me on this one but they’re wrong. One of the things that we must do as artist is to live life to the fullest. If we don’t we limit our art and what we can share with the rest of the world. Actors often make the mistake of thinking they need to put 100% of their focus on one single thing, their career, if they want to be successful at it. The concept seems to make sense but actually it limits what we’re capable of artistically experiencing and expressing. If we only focus on acting then all we will be capable of showing the world is how to be an actor. But most of the world cares very little about the actual technique and career tactics of an actor. What they want to see is something they can relate to. They love seeing ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Have you been in extraordinary circumstances? If not, you might struggle to show us what that looks and feels like. Get out of your little bubble. Live a full life. Experience things. Stretch yourself. Be daring. If you’ve never read Richard Boleslavsky’s brilliant book, “Acting: The First Six Lessons,” then you really must. I’m fascinated by this book because most of his lessons have little to do with the actual technical aspects of acting but rather they focus on living and experiencing life to the fullest. In it Boleslavsky gives his student exercises that force her to observe and experience life. We need to do the same. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated and focused solely on acting. Get out and live. It will show in your work. It also makes “rejection” a little easier to manage since acting’s not the whole of your life. Give yourself permission to live crazily, joyfully and to the fullest. You and the rest of us will be glad you did.
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Mark Atteberry is an award winning actor, teacher and photographer. As an actor his work includes features like Miranda July’s "The Future” and Ang Lee’s "The Hulk.” His recent TV work includes “Luck,” "House M.D.," “Justified,” "The Closer," “The Mentalist,” "Dexter," “Criminal Minds,” and "24." Mark is internationally known for his advertising, documentary and headshot photography. His clients include NBC, CBS, A&E, Bravo, CAA, ICM, WME, and Big Lots. Mark regularly teaches and lectures on the topics of "Branding, Marketing and Type" and "How to Succeed in the Entertainment Industry." He has authored or co-authored several books on the business of acting including the best selling, "Working Actor's Guide to LA." For more of Mark’s acting credits go to: www.imdb.com/name/nm0040992. For Mark’s headshot photography go to: www.idyllicphotography.com. And, for Mark’s classes go to: www.beaworkingactor.com