Actors new to the industry seldom seek advice about how to be more effective as performers. Their goals are misplaced and detached from what is actually relevant to their vocation, that of being competent and professional performers. Instead, they become obsessed with the business side of the profession, how to get an agent, getting into the union, and obtaining job interviews. In addition, fantasy aspirations take them away from the realities of the business.
Let’s look at some examples that illustrate goal-setting strategies:
Supplement teachings. However, acting classes by themselves will not prepare you for a professional career. To do that, you’d be taking classes and workshops for years. One needs to supplement classroom teachings with more in-depth explorations into the many facets of acting. These can be found by reading plays, acting manuals, and by attending panel discussions and teaser workshops. You can also gain more insights into this craft by analyzing the performances of award-winning and highly acclaimed actors. Other resources include the many websites that have articles and videos detailing specific techniques. For instance, the YouTube video series, “Inside the Actors Studio” offers candid insights by acclaimed actors.
Retention. In goal setting for actors, retention is a huge factor. It is not enough to reach high performance levels. One must also be able to replicate these levels repeatedly. Many acclaimed actors continue to study and take workshops to maintain the skills they have acquired. Without practice, skills like timing and memorization diminish. Likewise, the ability to internalize thoughts and feelings requires a good amount of exercise. Thus, in your goal setting plan, set aside time to maintain the skills you’ve attained.
Promotion. While being highly skilled is a primary goal, one must also package ones talents so they can be properly promoted. Many young actors misfire in this area producing materials rather than connections. One can spend enormous sums on pictures, resumes, calling cards, postcards, postage, and demo reels. Yet the return on this investment is minimal. Instead, your goal should be to convince decisions-makers that you have the experience and training to do a professional job.
Student and Calling Card Filmmakers. These people provide entry-level job experience and clips for your demo reel. Later on, these people will do bigger projects and by being connected, you stay in the loop. Colleges have yearly screenings of student films and these are good places to connect with these young filmmakers. Film festivals and film organizations are a good place to meet calling card filmmakers. Some colleges have industry speakers for events open to the public, which are frequently attended by film students. Sites such as Craig’s list and Backstage have casting listings. Bigger colleges have a casting department or even a casting agent. Their casting files are purged periodically every six months to a year.
Instructors and Coaches. Respected industry trainers carry some weight with the upper tier agents, managers and casting directors. These instructors are well aware of your acting capabilities and have a vested interest in seeing their brighter students succeed. Their recommendations can open doors provided you inform them of your goals.
Respected Actors. Actors, especially those well-known by agents, managers, and casting directors, can be of immense help in providing support and referrals. Inviting them to your showcase, play, or sending them your demo is one way of obtaining their recommendation. Such actors may belong to industry organizations or charity groups, and connecting with them on a social level may ensure their help. One can also obtain contact information via fee-based IMDbPro.com. Another fee-based subscription service, StudioSystem.com has a wider range of industry information.
Agents and Managers. These people represent clients and submit them for various jobs. While the roles of these representatives overlap, legally an agent can get you work, but a manager can only guide your career. Each takes a percentage of your earnings. Updated listings of these representatives can be found online or at Samuel French Bookstores. Industry panel discussions and actor expos are good for face-to-face meetings, but the best way is to be introduced by respected industry personal such as an established actor, instructor, director, or casting director. Once you connect, your objective should be to nurture the relationship, stay in touch, and update them with your career progress. Agents and managers like people who are moving up the ladder and such progress means bigger earnings, for the both of you.
Casting Directors. These are the people who in collaboration with the director and/or producer pick the talent or actors who will appear onscreen. These include the stars, leads, and supporting players. On larger pictures, a casting director for extras or background players may also be assigned. Directories of casting directors are available through Samuel French Bookstores. Some casting directors offer workshops and these are a great place to meet up with them and learn a little more about this side of the business. Actor expos, actor fests, and industry panel discussions also offer connection opportunities. Inviting them to your showcases is another way of getting seen, though few will attend. The best way to be seen is by coming in with a recommendation from a highly respected coach, actor, or representative.
Directors. This person has the ultimate say in who is cast in the picture. Directors are often overlooked as networking prospects, yet many actors have campaigned for a role by going directly to this person. Directors are a little more difficult to contact as most have agents or managers. There is a directory available through the Directors Guild of America that will help in this regard. Directors often speak about their film following a festival screening and this is an opportunity meet them.
Producers and Production Companies. These people purchase and develop the script. They hire the director and production heads. They also obtain funding and distribution for the film. In that regard, they sign bankable stars for the leading roles. While normally detached from the run-of-the-mill casting decisions, they do hold the clout to get you an interview. On limited-budget films, they are more involved in casting. For this category, industry directories are available online or at industry bookstores.
Others. Just about anyone can be a conduit to success. Producers, cinematographers, writers, and crew members have knowledge of upcoming projects. They also know the particulars; what’s it about, the roles available, and who will be casting the project. As such, keep on the lookout for anyone working in the industry that might provide entry into a project. Networking opportunities are available at industry expos, festivals, panel discussions, special screenings and industry mixers. Classmates in acting classes and workshops can also provide helpful information about what is out there.
Networking Skills. Another goal you should pursue is sharpening your networking skills. Are you prepared with engaging stories that depict your career, your job experience, and the obstacles you faced? Do you have the tools to stay in touch, things such as calling cards, an online promotional site, and follow-up strategies? Let’s say you are doing a showcase. Postcards would be an ideal way to connect when networking and help demonstrate your commitment to your craft. By planning, you can take advantage of these networking opportunities and effectively move your career forward.
Getting Help. You will likely find career planning and goal setting a befuddling challenge. That’s because it difficult to seek answers when you don’t know the questions. You’re not aware of what you don’t know. This article should open doors into the basic considerations. However, for a more in-depth analysis you may want to seek help from a career coach, one specializing in actors. A coach is someone who can get you unstuck and acts as a powerful catalyst moving you forward in a more dynamic and productive way. They also have the tools and experience to identify problems and help you set relevant goals, organize your efforts, and create a plan of action to take you to the next level.
In conclusion, goal setting for actors is a multi-facet challenge, one that demands a multiple of skills and strategies. Be specific by setting relevant and reachable goals. Create meaningful milestones that measure your progress and motivate completion. Identify the obstacles and overcome them by acquiring the skills, attitudes, and strategies that will lead you to success. Be relevant and seek goals that are realistic and beneficial. If you fail, re-aim and acquire the essentials to make it happen. Set deadlines and commit to a timeframe that pushes you toward success.
You are the master of your own destiny. Your success and happiness is an inside job.
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