They’re the ones who unintentionally choose to work harder instead of smarter. The ones who let everyone else make all the decisions. The ones who’ve submitted their off-brand headshot to every agent within in a twenty mile radius because four people in their acting class said they should. These are the actors who refuse to be typecast because heaven forbid they make money being known as the go-to-actor for portraying a specific role that comes effortless to them. They submit to every role that matches their gender and cease to acknowledge that casting directors really do have an imagination and dressing up in full character with props can cause more of a distraction than help you book the room or the role.
Here are 10 avoidable mistakes that most newbie actor makes and tips on how to fix it.
# 1: They define success as seeing their name in lights while walking the red carpet with other A-list actors
Don’t get me wrong. I know every actor, if given the opportunity, would love to be in this position. However, if you choose to only acknowledge that success is defined by cashing a million dollar paycheck, then you will miss the opportunity to appreciate the journey; and you will burn out and grow bitter in the process. Instead shift your gratitude in realizing there is success in everything around you. You got an audition, fantastic! Did you know hundreds to thousands of actors submit for a role and only a handful get chosen? So regardless if you book the role or not, celebrate the success in getting an audition, that’s huge. Maybe you had a breakthrough in your acting class, you networked with a key person on your target list or you signed with a great agent. Celebrate those amazing milestone moments and realize that success is in the journey. The end result is the added bonus for doing what you love.
# 2: They cease to understand that acting is a business
As much as I’d like to tell you that acting is all about finding a great acting class, taking a killer headshot and a finding a stellar agent, I’d be lying to you. Those are only a snip-it of what an actor needs to have in their arsenal. Understanding the business is sometimes more important than acting. Think about it, you can be the next Meryl Streep and all those countless hours you’ve spent fine tuning your craft in your acting class will stay there if you don’t know how to properly market your brand and find the right team to help get you in front of your target list.
Oh, you don’t have a target list of industry professionals? Then, you better get working on your business.
# 3: They don’t understand their brand
I know it’s hard to believe, but when you chose to become an actor you now have to think like a brand. Every actor needs to understand their unique characteristics that define them and separates them from every other actor out there. Actors need to understand how to position themselves so that they stay true and consistent to whom they authentically are. Just like Apple, Disney, Nike and so on. Each of those brands stand for something, what do you stand for? When you want to “Experience the Magic”, which one of those brands do you think of? What about “Think Differently” or “Just Do It”, you get the picture. When you can define what and who you stand for as an actor, you can better position your brand in Hollywood. Less confusion can lead to more bookings, I’m just saying.
# 4: They don’t budget correctly
Having a successful career in Hollywood can be very expensive. You can easily blow a few thousand in one year just on acting classes alone. Not to mention you still need money for headshots, printing, marketing, postage, online casting websites and so on. So instead of blowing your hard earned money on everything you hear that will help make you a star, do your research and don’t fall victim to scams. When you build a plan first, you can find ways to study your craft without going broke.
# 5: They seek out representation too soon
I know how excited an actor can be when they get to Hollywood. They are ready to get started and build their team right away. Guys, there is no rush! Remember, this is a marathon and not a race. Seeking representation before you’re ready won’t help you. Sure there will always be an agent or manager willing to work with new talent, but don’t choose your team by their willingness to take on fresh green talent. Instead chose them by their ability to help you tier jump, because they are a fit for where you are in your career and because they get you. Remember that an agent or manager can only help you if you help them. Get experience, get a reel, create a buzz about your work and build relationships so when you are ready for representation, they have something to continue your momentum with. You can book work without representation, so don’t ever let that be your road block.
# 6: They don’t understand their type
I think it’s safe to say that everyone has a main, second and possibly third type of character they can play effortlessly. As much as you think (and possibly can) play various roles, not everyone is going to be a good character actor. When you first start, figure out your main type, embrace it and run with it. Get good at it, make money from it and grow industry fans. Once Hollywood begins to trust your abilities and you start making a name for yourself, then you can start spreading your wings.
# 7: They don’t make a target list
Let’s be honest, your type won’t excite everyone and not every casting director is going to be casting rolls you will fit. So instead of trying to impress everyone, find your target list of industry professionals (producers, writers, casting directors, agents, managers etc.) whose radar you want to get on, and make those people the key individuals you cater your marketing materials to on a consistent basis. When you’re thinking of self-producing or getting new headshots etc., keep your target audience in mind, is it something that would intrigue them?
# 8: They network randomly
You can’t just spaghetti sling it when it comes to marketing. You want a casting director to know something about you, get creative and remember everything you do must have purpose. Don’t just send a postcard saying you got new headshots. So what? So did a thousand other actors. What’s going to make your “Hey, I got a new headshot” postcard stand out? Why not use these new postcards to congratulate your target casting director on something they did? Remember it’s a give and take industry. You have to also be of value. Industry professionals are so use to being asked for favors, instead be the person who adds value rather than takes it. But remember, be consistent and have purpose.
# 9: They talk to industry professionals too soon
With social media, it’s easy to reach out to casting directors and say “cast me please”; which by the way is never a good thing to say. Just because you can reach out to an industry professional, doesn’t mean you should; unless you are ready. First impressions are important so you never want to come off as that creepy desperate actor. Remember that industry professionals are people too, so just be yourself, be short and proceed with purpose.
# 10: They compare themselves to everyone else
Don’t do this to yourself, ever! No two actor paths will ever be the same, no matter how similar you may look like another actor. What works for someone else, may not be a hit for you and vice versa. Don’t ever make a sole decision based on someone else’s good or bad experience. One of my favorite mentors Dallas Travers told me, “Georgina, you need to eat the fish and spit out the bones”. I laughed when she said it, and it’s remained with me ever since. Take in everything people are willing to share with you, but understand that its sole purpose is to enlighten you, educate you and make you more aware. You are the only one who can build your own road map.
In the end realize that building a successful career in show business takes time, patience and perseverance, with a dash of luck. Celebrate the small moments so you can truly appreciate the big ones that will undoubtedly come your way.
Good luck. Don’t forget to reach out and share your tips on how actors can avoid career traps.