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An Actor’s Guide to Preparing for Pilot Season

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The holidays are over, and it is a new year. Hopefully you had a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday, and you’re ready to dive back in.

We’re coming up on one of the craziest times in the industry – Pilot Season. Although pilots are now being produced all year round, this is still the busiest time of the year for most actors. Pilot Season traditionally runs from the 3rd week of January (or Sundance) to the end of April. That is a LONG time to be plowing ahead full steam. Are you ready for it?

Here are some ways you can make sure you’re prepared for Pilot Season 2016:

Tools
These are things you absolutely can control, and you might want to take some time to make sure they’re in tiptop shape. I’m talking about your:

  • Headshots – Do they still represent what you look like and the types of roles you go out for? Do you need new ones? Get that taken care of NOW – Casting Directors expect to see the person from your headshot appear before them for auditions. Are your headshots uploaded onto all of the casting sites? Are you using them as your avatar on major social media platforms where you may interact with industry folks? Take some time to make sure everything is in order.
  • Clips – The trend in LA is to break up your reel into much shorter, more specifically-labeled clips. If someone is looking at you for a comedy, they would much rather watch a 20 second comedy clip than a 3 minute reel that happens to have one comedic scene in it. If you haven’t already, take the time to separate out your clips on your website and casting sites. In the craziness that is pilot season, time is very valuable!
  • Trades – Make sure you stay up to date regarding the new shows that are being developed. Who is casting them? (I usually use castingabout.com to check!) Who is the creator/showrunner? What can you learn from their previous work about the style of show or the themes they usually incorporate? Knowing these things can help you when you get a last minute audition. The tricky thing about pilots is that there is no clip of aired footage to watch in order to get the tone of the show – you need to deduct that from other clues, and it could be what separates your read from other auditions.

Health
I’m sure you’ve been told that your career is a marathon, not a sprint…but pilot season is definitely sprint-like, and like any athlete, your health needs to be your top priority.

  • Mental – Hopefully, you’re already feeling great from a wonderful holiday season. But you’re going to need to keep up your mental health through the next several months, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Maybe that means meditating every day, or taking yourself on a walk each morning. Perhaps you do the NY Times crossword to keep your brain sharp, or really need some time to read every day. Whatever it is that keeps your sanity in check, make sure to carve out some time for it.
  • Physical – As an actor, your body is your instrument. As such, it is important to keep it in peak condition. This includes getting enough sleep, eating well, and of course, exercising. My current favorite ways to get my body moving are yoga and hiking.
  • Emotional – Pilot season can be grueling. You may have several auditions a day in different parts of the city with little time to prepare, or you may have periods where you’re waiting around while seemingly every other actor in town is going out for juicy roles. You may make it to producers and then the network for a huge part, only to get beat out at the last minute. Being able to be completely invested while you’re in the room and then let it go once the audition is over is an important skill for an actor to hone. We are in the business of dreams, and literally ONE role could change our entire lives. It is great to keep that as a motivator, but it is also important to remember that if you didn’t get it, there will always be another.

Training
As the smart, professional actor you are, you already know that ongoing training in one form or another is important. During pilot season it is especially important for a few reasons:

  • Keeping your skills sharp – Having new material to work on every week, or an improv class to go to, will help you keep your acting muscles in shape. This is especially useful on weeks when you have less going on. Of course, you may get too busy to attend class, but it is still a good idea to be enrolled in one!
  • Having a community – Actors all over this city are experiencing the same craziness that is pilot season, and one of the best ways to get through it is to have a community of folks you can bounce ideas, frustrations, and experiences off of. Because of the vulnerable nature of the work done in acting classes, you tend to bond more quickly and easily with folks in your class. Hearing about others’ experiences and sharing your own will help you get through some of the crazier parts of pilot season.
  • Having acting coaches you can call – More than once, you will likely get a last minute audition that leaves you very little time to prepare. In those moments, it is especially important to have one (or a few, in case some aren’t available!) acting coaches whose work and methods you trust to help polish your audition and bring you to the next level. Having that focused, experienced, outside eye is essential when you’re on your 10th audition for the week.

Hopefully these tips will help you have a productive pilot season while also taking care of yourself. I’m rooting for you! And if you have any exciting news to share, hit me up on twitter @sarahjeagen. I’d love to help you celebrate your victories!

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Sarah J Eagen

About Sarah J Eagen

Sarah is a Writer, Actor, and Choreographer who believes in the power of positivity. After earning degrees in Theatre and Neuroscience and studying at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, Ireland, she was in the midst of earning her Ph.D. in Genetics when she decided to follow her passion of working in the entertainment industry. Sarah wrote, produced, and starred in the webseries "Magic for Muggles" based on Harry Potter. She was a finalist for the Women in Film/Blacklist Episodic lab in the fall of 2017 and is working towards writing for TV full-time. One of her scripts was performed live by the Parsec award-nominated podcast Once Upon a Wine and another will be featured in the 2018 Fun Size Horror anthology. Sarah played helpful paralegal Carol in CBS's action comedy Rush Hour, based on the films. She also Guest Starred on Lifetime's scripted series "My Crazy Ex".