Aside from the coincidental meetings that happen at the “right time, right place”, many networking situations now require actors to pay to participate (ie, classes, events). This has totally changed the actor hiring landscape in the past 5-10 years. And you do want to take advantage of it, but thoughtfully.
It is only worth it to do these events/classes if you are prepared and maximizing your opportunity.
You, the actor, must be wondering how do I make these (paid) moments lead to WORK? I want to point to an often overlooked aspect of any networking situation: The Art of Being Yourself.
When I am in auditions (as director or casting director)…I am in the mode of “I have all these people to meet in this amount of time, let’s move through it!” So this means that anyone in the audition room, on the other side of the table, is paying attention to not only finding the right talent but also conscious of time management.
Typically, you, the actor, end up feeling rushed and feeling like they don’t really get to know you, to fall in love with you and truly get familiar with your talents. Am I right?
Start looking at the whole of the audition – how you can make every moment count in that room, and keep it real.
Step 1: Slow down the room. Take them away from their worries by being truly present with the people in the room. Don’t buy into their anxieties of moving fast. It’s your time! (“They” may not agree with me, but it is the time and space for the actor to claim it and do your thang and you can’t fully do that when you are also watching the clock.) Again, slow down the room: say hello, don’t rush your scene, say thank you at the end, and if they ask you questions take it as an opportunity to get to know each other. Often, the questions that you are asked are just a test to see if you will open up and share your personality with them! (If the casting directors and agents/managers spot at least one thing that they like, they will look to see if there is anything else that they missed that wasn’t shown in your scene.)
Step 2: Bring your personality to the room. There is no right way to “BE” in an audition. The wrong way is to not be YOU. For example, if they ask you where you went to school or did training, share the information and a little bit more. “I went to Carnegie Mellon and what an intense conservatory that was!” Then, they will want to know more. “What was so intense about it?” And now you are having a conversation.
Step 3: Dress GOOD. Dress contemporary. Look handsome or attractive. Let them know that you took this meeting seriously and care about how people perceive you. This lets the agents, in particular, know that you will be working hard to make a good sell for them. Very very very few actors can dress sloppy “like they just don’t care” and only rely on their talent. I can name two. (But not here:) Put forth your best looking self, and self-confidence will follow.
Step 4: Pick scenes to show at networking meetings that will show your Authentic Self, with consideration about your Marketability. Selling your marketability is not limited to selling stereotypes – it mostly means getting honest about who you are and presenting that. This takes work and really hearing outside perspectives on you. What are the qualities that you are selling, that people are attracted to about you? Don’t put yourself in a “marketing” box by your scene selections. Especially if you play ethnic, don’t just pick stereotypical ethnic character scenes. As a teacher, I am always pushing for everyone to see yourselves as more than stereotypes, so work with me and present a real human character and not a stereotype. Find scenes that are well-written, with a clear arc and range. 2 pages max is all you need. (Leaves time for conversation too!) Pick an appropriate age range for television/film. Generally speaking, it is a 5-7 year range. If you are over 50, the range widens.
Bonus tip: custom select a scene in a marketable range for the casting director that you are meeting. Ie, if you are meeting the casting director of The Mentalist, pick an interrogation scene or victim type scene from another crime type show.
Step 5: Get your scene coached. Don’t pay the money for networking classes and then wing it. Rehearse the scene with a coach or your mother. Anyone who will sit opposite of you and at least read lines. The competition is so high in every single audition, whether it is one you paid for or are called in for, and the most important thing is that you come in prepared and giving it your full focus. If you are not prepared, we intuit that you are not really ready for the competitive sport of auditioning. Preparation will actually invite your authentic self to be present
Step 6: Pat yourself on the back. Now that you have taken care of your visual presentation, selected a scene that represents your marketability and authentic self, and prepared your material, you are now ready to have fun! This audition/meeting is not your last one. This is not the only chance that you have. This is a step in the direction of you taking charge of your acting career. Stand up for yourself in the midst of a process that may feel so superficial – stay true to what you love about acting by simply giving yourself the opportunities. Every audition is a gift that you are giving yourself.
Step 7: Have great follow up. Have a website that is clearly marked on your resume. They will go there to watch Reels or find out more about you. It is also a super place to have other acting demos – scenes from a camera class or self-taping can be posted there to show other versions of your acting self. Mail a postcard or headshot with a thank you and reminder of where you met and which scene you did, about 2 weeks later.