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You’ve Landed an Agent/Manager…Now Get Back to Work!

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Jessica SonnebornMany years ago I landed my first Hollywood agent. As I drove home from my meeting with her, I was so excited and frankly terrified, by all of the work I thought she was going to get me. Well friends, if I had waited for her to get me work; I’d still be sitting home on the couch, with no credits.

I’ve learned after many years in the business, that if sit home and wait is your motto; you’re most likely going to be sitting around waiting, like, forever. Most of the work I get is from referral, or by working with the same production companies because they trust and like me. Once you start booking you’ll have more auditions and opportunities coming to you, but to get things started, you have to be your own advocate, and help get your face out there. So instead of sitting there and waiting for your agent or manager to call, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Put your best face forward!

You need to have an awesome headshot and some footage of yourself acting, the best quality possible. This is what casting directors are looking at, so if your material isn’t that great, they are going to skip over you. If your manager or agent is suggesting a photographer, check out their website. Ask to see photos that are working with other clients by this photographer before agreeing to shoot with them. Ask your actor friends who are auditioning actively, who took their headshots, and try to shoot with those photographers. The headshot is SO important, it’s the difference between a casting director clicking on your photo to see more, or passing right over you. Remember, they are seeing thousands of photos a day… if yours isn’t that great, forget about it. If they do click on your acting profile, you need to have some footage of yourself acting. If you don’t have any, I would recommend paying someone or asking a friend to help you put down a few scenes. There are places that do this professionally. If you’re an actor, you need a reel, tape, scenes, something… so get the best quality, best acting you can, put it together and get it up there.

  1. Join the casting sites, and start submitting yourself to projects that your agent or manager might not be submitting you for.

On that note, make sure you are on the same page with your rep’ on what they are and are not submitting you for. Depending on your representation, they may not be submitting you for lower budget projects, because they figure it’s not worth their time, because they are making their money based on how much you’re making. For newer actors, who are looking to create contacts and develop their reels, student, short, and low budget movies may be the best opportunity for getting that break into the business.

  1. Find a reputable acting class.

I have a lot of friends that have had much success in their classes. Ask around and make sure you find a class that fits your needs, helps you get exposure and doesn’t break the bank. FYI, most classes will let you audit before signing up. There are TONS of classes out there, so make sure you find one that is highly recommended, reputable and has students who work!

  1. Workshops.

While some people don’t agree with workshops and think that casting directors shouldn’t get paid, that’s not what I’m touching upon in this article… Workshops are one way to get you in front of casting directors and hopefully into casting offices.  I would ask around before spending money on any workshop, and make sure that the ones you attend have reputable casting offices attending. Make sure that you follow up with your agent and manager and let them know what workshops you’ve attended and the feedback you got, so that they can follow up with the casting director. Again, I have mixed feelings about the pay and play of CD workshops and I know a lot of controversy surrounds them, I’m just putting it out there that this is one idea to get exposure.

  1. Once you book work, stay in touch with the producers and directors of those projects.

Be supportive, even when they’re not using you in a current project. We can’t be in every project, and I assure you, if you’re a great actor and easy to work with on set… those directors and producers are going to want to hire you again. Stay in touch, and when the right role comes up, they will be more likely to think of you.

  1. Make your own product!

This is my favorite bullet point, because this is what I did. I began writing my own material and acting in it, after not feeling fulfilled with the roles I was being offered. I’ve since produced three features and am starting production on a fourth. You don’t have to go out and make a feature film to gain experience and build credibility; you just have to be ambitious and creative. I have one actress friend that wrote her own scenes, both comedic and dramatic and produced them so she would have a wide variety for her reel.

Jess on set of her movie, Alice D.  With Kane Hodder and Al Snow.

Jess on set of her movie, Alice D. With Kane Hodder and Al Snow.

These are just six basic ideas to help you get yourself out there, and hopefully help get work! Make sure you keep that open line of dialogue going with your representation, check out what they’re pitching and submitting for, while having an active hand in getting yourself out there, too. In my ten years in Los Angeles, I find I am constantly learning new things… so if you have any more suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Break A Leg out there!

P.S. Two Photographers that I have recently shot with, that I would recommend highly: Timberwolf West and Carl Kalamon.

Jessica Sonneborn

About Jessica Sonneborn

Jessica Sonneborn grew up in Connecticut and earned a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and a graduate teaching degree from Lesley University, Cambridge, MA. After teaching in Boston for a couple of years she turned her attention to acting in Independent movies, eventually deciding to make a serious try in the film industry by moving to Los Angeles in 2005. Jessica has had leads in a variety of genres from thrillers: "Lure", which she also wrote and produced, Sci-Fi: "The Witches of Oz" (Christopher Lloyd, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin), comedy: Kevin Smith’s Movie Club presents: "Money Shot" (Jason Mewes), which she also wrote and produced, Horror: "Alice D." (Kane Hodder, Al Snow), which she also wrote and directed, "Bloody Bloody Bible Camp" (Reggie Bannister and Tim Sullivan) and just released: Leigh Scott's, "Piranha Sharks" (Kevin Sorbo). She is in numerous other independent productions including: "American Girls" (Bai Ling), "Rabid Love", "Alpha House", "Never Open the Door", "Red Sleep", "Love Squared" and also had guest stars on Stephen Merchants', "Hello Ladies", Diablo Cody's, "United States of Tara", and Charles Shyers, "Him and Us" (pilot). Most recently she plays the lead in dramatic thrillers, "Silence", written and directed by Nelson Reis and produced by Carlyne Fournier, and "The House Across the Street", surrounded by Eric Roberts, Alex Rocco, Ethan Embry, and Courtney Gains, directed by Arthur Luhn and in the up coming Leigh Scott comedy, "Extra Curricular Activities". Jessica has several movies lined up for 2014 and early 2015, including the horror remake: Psycho a Go Go, mutant horror, Contaminated, and was just cast in the military drama, based on a true story: "Light Wounds" and horror: "One Night of Fear".