Thursday, November 10, 2011

This is My Career

There are varying opinions on pretty much every decision you can make about your career.  You can have completely opposite advice come from two (more or less) reputable sources.  You will have people tell you to get in a commercial class, get in a scene study class.  You need an agent, you don't need an agent.  Move to LA, don't move to LA.  New headshots, your headshots are fabulous.  Less cleavage, more cleavage.  You need to be union, avoid the union as long as you can.  Emailing casting directors is okay, under no circumstances should you email a casting director.

You will waste your life (and career) away trying to follow every bit of advice people give you.  You might even get dizzy from all that flip-flopping.  Ultimately, it really comes down to what you feel is the right choice for your career.  Because it is yours.  It's not your agent's (or even the agent you would kill to have).  It's not the casting director's; it's not your acting coach's; it's not even your mother's.  Think about that.  This is your career and you make the decisions.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was in a showcase and attracted the attention of a big-time manager.  As a fresh transplant with absolutely zero credits to my name, he helped me get my feet under me and take my first steps.  He was invaluable those first few months as a manager, fan and a friend.  He even fronted the $65 for my first subscription to Actors Access and allowed me to pay him back with the money from my first two acting gigs.  He got me meetings with four great agents in town -- one (the biggest) passed, three offered.  Any would have been good, two would have been great, and I went back to my manager with the one I wanted.

"Wait just a little longer, I'm trying to get you in to see so-and-so," he said.  Well, after a few weeks had passed and no fifth meeting, I finally got the courage to speak up.  I wanted to accept one of the offers because my instincts were saying they could lose interest and disappear.  He apologized that he got caught up in something else and promised to make the phone calls that day, which he did.

Yeah, we missed it.  We waited too long and I lost all three offers.  All three.  Ouch.

There were a few other instances where my manager, who I genuinely like as a person, unintentionally hurt my career.  (And in all fairness, I made mistakes too.)  But I was frustrated because my instincts had been triggered in each situation, but I had always deferred to my manager's decision, assigning very little value to my own opinion.  I shouldn't have taken a backseat in the decision-making in my career because I later realized that those instincts were spot on.

My manager did end up getting me signed with an agent, but she immediately moved to a smaller agency, and then left the business entirely within 6 months.  Over the course of the next year, that smaller agency replaced every agent in the office twice and I ended up getting lost in the shuffle.  (This was right about the time my frustration level reached burn out.)  Since I'd made the agency a little money, I was still on their books, but none of the agents really knew me (that's my mistake) so they were basically only sending me out on mass cattle calls.

Then that manager dropped me.  Double ouch.

Well, I've done a lot of growing up since then.  Granted, you're not always right and it's very important to listen to the advice and counsel your agent and/or manager gives, but I no longer trust it as career gospel.  It's important for me to understand why he/she thinks this move is a good move for my career... and if I'm ultimately not convinced, I go with the decision that instinctually feels right to me.  Because it's my career.  Yes, decisions need to be well informed and strategic.  You need to know exactly where you want to take your career and how this decision will get you there.  (And if you find yourself in a position where there's constant disparity between your opinion and that of your representation... you're probably with the wrong team.)

Needless to say, I don't believe having a manager is the answer or key to a successful career.  But it does have it's benefits.  And now that my career is much further along than when my ex-manager and I parted ways, I am finally open to the idea of adding one to my team again.  November is usually a time when agents and managers evaluate their roster in preparation for the upcoming pilot season.  I think I may send out some materials to see if I get any bites.  I'm not determined to hire one, but if there's some interest and I like what they have to say, it may be a good time.

More on that to come.

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