Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You Ask, I Answer

Today's post is a collaboration!  A fair amount of you email me with specific questions that relate to your personal hustle.  I try to respond to every message, but I've started thinking why not let everyone benefit from the answers.  So here goes...

Hey Anony,
I just want to start off by letting you know that your blogs are inspiring and have motivated me as an actor. I've recently been in that place of being overwhelmed and wondering if I should give up, but your inspirational writing has really picked me back up.  I'm not sure if you'd be willing to share such information, but would you be able to tip me on where or how you find the workshops you attend? 

Hope to see you out there some day.


First of all, as I told D.C. individually, it is always so wonderful to hear that the nonsense I scribble down here actually helps you out there.  It is incredibly fulfilling to know that you're reading what I'm writing and that it's actually inspiring you to keep chasing your own dreams. What an incredible honor.

Okay, gush sesh over.  So let's talk about workshops.  

CD workshops are kind of a polarizing topic here in ol' tinsel town.  For those of you who don't already know, there are a number of different studios around Los Angeles that offer actors a chance to "workshop" a 2-minute audition scene with real, working casting directors and their associates... for a nominal fee, of course.  At $30-$60 bucks a pop, you can bring in your scene and run it once, maybe twice, for the head casting director of a major television show or film while she looks at her very own copy of your headshot and resume.  There is no way around it, this is my blog and I am calling a spade a spade.... it is paying to audition.  (Which, technically is illegal.)  To skirt around the law, these studios market this practice as "strictly for the purposes of learning" and "is in no way a guarantee of work or auditions."  The CDs are in on the charade because they get financially compensated for the evening -- quite well, I might add.  

There are some actors who poo-poo on these workshops for exploiting the newer/non-working actor's difficulty in getting inside a decent casting office.  (Which is about 80% of this town's population of those claiming to be actors, myself included.)  And it is.  There is no way I can sugar-coat it.  Sorry if I'm crushing your little fantasy, but I kid no one... I ain't going there to ask about anyone's pet peeves.  I am, in fact, paying to see and be seen by someone who has legitimate casting power.  Some actors have an ethical problem with this and choose to abstain.  Good.  Stay home.  While you keep your little moral high ground, I'm out there networking and getting a leg up any way money can buy.  Obviously there are definitely things I wouldn't do to get a role, but shelling out $45 to guarantee ten minutes to perform a strong guest star scene in front the head-honcho who cast this year's pilot?  Yeah.  I'll drop the cash every time.  

So, to answer D.C.'s question specifically, there are a lot of resources that will list some of the better workshop houses in town.  Google it, check out the Backstage Message Board, ask other actors you know.  I don't want to pimp any individual one specifically, that's not really why I'm here.  I'm more going to share how you can use workshops to push your career forward.  Here are a few key do's and don'ts:

Don't go to ask silly newbie questions.  If you are planning to ask the CD "what they look for in an actor" don't start doing workshops yet.  Take more classes, read more books, work on more student films.  When you're ready to walk into that room as if it were just a normal audition -- because that is what it is, legal or not -- only then should you slap down last week's tips and sign up.

Don't go to a workshop just because it's Thursday night, you're free and the CD works on your favorite show.  Know who they are, what they cast and if they will likely need your type in the near future.  This takes a bit of research and forethought on your part.  Don't waste your money going to see the CD for Mad Men if you're more Sons of Anarchy.

Do come fully prepared with a scene that highlights you, your type and your talent but that is somehow similar to the type of projects the CD casts.  Is their show a comedy?  A drama?  Muli-cam?  A procedural?  Know the differences and select a scene that is relevant to their work.  Show them how easy it would be to cast you in their next episode.

Do keep in touch.  It doesn't end with the audition.  Send thank yous, booking notices, updates.  Even if you don't hear from them right away, keep trying to build a relationship.  Remember, this is a long-term game.  CDs see a huge volume of actors each and every day, and out of sight truly is out of mind.  The harder you work to keep your face in their brain, the better your money will be spent.  Also, if you get really strong feedback from a CD, make a special point to retake their "workshop" every few months.  Bonus points if each time you see them, you have a new story to tell about the amazing project you just shot.

And trust me, it does work.  Last week, after a workshop I mentioned to you in passing, I was called in for a co-star on a prime-time show.  I didn't end up getting it, but I went straight to producers in an office I'd never been in before.  That was $50 well spent.

Thanks for the question, D.C.  I hope to see all of you out there someday!

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