Favorite actors get cast by production teams over an over again. They do. How do you become a producer’s favorite actor? Great question. I can tell you. I’m a producer and I have favorites. I have worked with actors over and over and I have worked with actors only once (and vowed that it’ll be the last time). I have also worked with actors that are too valuable as charactery additions to my projects that I will hire them again JUST for their talent and what they bring to the screen. But let’s pretend that everyone in a film is equally talented and has the ‘spark’ that audiences adore, what makes an actor a ‘favorite’ actor??
There are many types of producers, but you may know which type of producer I’m talking about. Your ‘point’ producer, your customer service operator, the producer that texts or emails you the most. This is the producer that does all the updates for production and takes the brunt of all actor issues on an indie film level.
Disclaimer: I have not wanted to write about this for years because some of my actors may read my thoughts and think that ‘they’ are the actor I am talking about. But after speaking with a fellow producer having the same actor-y issues as me, I thought that I should risk it and talk about actors even though an actor I know may have their feelings hurt. But, some of these instances didn’t actually knock any actors out of my favorites category individually, they are probably in my favorites despite these issues…. For the record, I’m not complaining about actors, I am writing TO actors from the perspective of the producer so that actors may get an idea of what it takes to become the favorite.
What can you do to become the favorite? What can you do to become the one your producer ‘pitches’ to your director when they are in development on a new project? The one your producer pitches to star in the next film because this actor will learn a skill or train for XYZ because they are a team player and flexible. What can you do to become the actor that ‘sees’ your producer and gets seen in return??
- Stay Engaged. Play the long game. Once a project is over, just continue to either return emails, return texts, or just seem like the producer (who is your primary contact for the rest of your career involving this film/team/company) is not a bother to you. I have encountered unanswered texts/emails in perpetuity from actors with whom I felt we had a great relationship. They seem to be fine with contacting me about their reel footage, their fundraising campaigns, and their upcoming releases, but I noticed that when I asked them for a ‘bio’ to finish our EPK to go out to the press, they never responded. Make it a priority to respond, forever. Producers will continue to engage with you if you stay engaged with them.
- Get excited. or feign excitement in between excited things. I KNOW that some of my films have taken up to 9 years from script to release, you don’t have to pretend to actually be as excited as me and my team when you receive glacial updates, buuuuuuut when I do have release info (even if I’m wrong), feign excitement. Or better yet, just be supportive. Try texting back, “That’s Exciting, keep me updated, I’ll want to be there.” What you don’t know is that your Director/post team/fellow producers have this convo over and over again where they try to figure out what is or isn’t official info that we should finally tell the actors. Your producer has been your advocate every step of the way and once your producer is able to share with you (excitedly), only a few actors actually respond. If at all. And we notice. It is a lonely job being the sole voice for production and the customer service person to which our actors seem indifferent. But I have a few actors that never let me down. I have a few actors that make sure to respond AND follow up with questions AND be vocally extra supportive no matter the info I’m giving them. They make me feel seen and they don’t make me feel bad about things outside of my control. It’s not a matter of fame level or desperation level, it is a courtesy for me to give actors any updates and they (the favorites) treat it as such.
- Share online. When you have an update involving a poster, trailer, film branded social media page creation, premiere announcement, tickets link, release announcement, release link, rates/reviews link, … from your producer, share it online at one of your preferred places (and TAG your producer) where your fans and/or friends/family can see the film that took a chance on you. That’s right, we took a chance on YOU. Actors are amazing, but we use their likeness all over the place in marketing the release, if they aren’t sharing this info with anyone, I sure hope their agent/manager/or publicist is doing so. If NO ONE is sharing it anywhere, we notice. You don’t HAVE to be on social media or even internet savvy to share, text or email people directly or ask your agent to support the release. We don’t need to USE you for your social media following, but we notice if you ever post about projects and if ours is missing from that list. And we also notice that most actors aren’t as excited to share anything until there is a trailer. I get it. I do. I’m an actor first. But I notice the difference in multiple texts/emails unanswered for months getting returned SUDDENLY when there is a trailer. Most actors take a sharp 180 turn around of excitement online once they see their face and how good our movies are going to be. It IS exciting. But see number 2 above, feign it til we give you a trailer.
- Stop asking for footage. Until the film is released. This one hurts. I know it does. I ask for my footage CONSTANTLY. But I’m also aware that asking once is cool, maybe twice. but asking over and over and not receiving it means that you won’t receive it until the film is released and you have no reason to expect it until then anyway (unless it was written into your deal memo/contract, which we have done before). I don’t want to update actors whose only response will be, “ok, when can I get that footage??” It happens a lot. I stop writing them altogether.
- Put the ego aside. If you GET included in marketing conversations, your ego can’t come to those conversations. You won’t like the way you look in the poster. You won’t like the way you look in the marketing materials online. You won’t like the way you look in some scenes of the movie. You just won’t. I can’t help you with that. But I can tell you that some actors get over it faster than others and it matters how fast. Do you know who makes the marketing decisions? the distributor. The producer and sometimes the director have very little say over such things. If you have a double chin and want it touched up, ask if ‘touching up’ is something you can request for the key art. Or better yet, put it in your deal memo/contract that you’d like final approval over all your images in primary key art. Buuuuuuut when the movie is coming out and you don’t like the social media art I send to you for use however you’d like, it is a courtesy and it may be too late to do anything about it. You can ask for a different image to be used, but only ask once. I had an actress scrub through an entire movie with me to find images of herself that she liked (I’m a team player all the way, I pride myself in taking care of my actresses). I showed her 9 images, she rejected every single one. Once I know you dislike all our best images, I try not to use it, but do you know what that ends up meaning in practice?? I stop sharing images of you AT ALL in ALL marketing materials. That’s right, it is easier to use other images instead of ones with your face on it. Not out of spite, but out of respect. I don’t want to share an image that an actor doesn’t like, so I respect them and lay all their marketing efforts to rest. And I remember that they could never be a leading character in my next movie because I couldn’t subject my team to an actor that hated all versions of the key art we’d be posting everywhere. If she wouldn’t share it, then we couldn’t cast her… ya see what I’m saying here? Marketing matters a lot. A lot of money is riding on a film doing well, a key actor not participating in a film release only because of ego issues becomes a cliché. Also, you should know that this actor is STILL one of my favorites. I understand that some actors cannot watch their work comfortably, I completely understand that perspective, but I’m referring to a different type of issue. Anything you need as an actor, we can definitely accommodate and respect. All actors are different, just talk to me about it so my feelings don’t get hurt.
- Watch the movie. So… I made a movie with really talented friends and half of them ended up quitting acting and leaving town before the film was released. This keeps happening. Talented people just up and leave all the time because the film industry sucks in a lot of ways and job security is not applicable. I know it may happen. What I have learned is that people who watch movies and people that want to be in movies should overlap at least a little. When those friends left Los Angeles and the film industry, they stopped being interested in supporting their film releases. There should be more than a curiosity to an actor watching their own film. This isn’t about success in this town, this is about becoming a producer’s favorite actor: watch the darn movie as soon as it comes out (or at its premiere film fest if you can!). I had an actor post about watching this movie that we made together and he LOVED it! He posted pictures about it and told everyone to watch it. This was over a year after our film had released. It took him over a year to watch it? While I appreciate that he enjoyed the film, I was so upset to discover that my emails, texts, trailer links, social media posts, and tagging him, didn’t matter at all to him. He was never going to watch the movie because it was out, he is not a fan of watching movies enough to set aside the time. I cannot go into all the reasons I wouldn’t want to work with someone who wasn’t even the slightest fan of films in general. If you don’t wanna watch any films, then don’t audition for my films. Some actors don’t consume the media they make, it is not who they are as an artist, I understand and respect all personal decisions, but just tell me this earlier on so my feelings don’t get hurt.
- Be consistent. Answer emails and texts. Read scripts. Send in auditions. Show up. Do a good job. Get the reputation for being an ‘actor’ that does the basics on the regular. You’d be surprised how much this is an issue. We have people in our lives that we consider to be good actors and we have sent them auditions/video submission requests, less than half of the people from which we have requested video audition submissions (that have previously expressed interest in working with us) have ever responded or sent in an audition. You cannot ever be a favorite if you cannot do the bare minimum of audition. You can also let me know that you don’t want to audition for any reason you’d like, just talk to me so my feelings don’t get hurt.
- Ask me about me. Yeah, just ask a few questions throughout production and then remember the answers. My favorite actors are not necessarily my friends, my favorite actors are here to stay in the industry and are interested in a little more connection with me not just because of what I do FOR them, but because we are both good people in a hard place. A deep personal conversation isn’t necessary, really, but keeping our relationship purely professional while still taking an interest in me only professionally is fine. That’s probably how I feel about you. Stuff like “how did you start working with this team?” or “Do you prefer this genre of film?” are enough.
- Produce content. Yeah, I like actors that create content. You don’t have to create a LOT or be good at it, I just like seeing actors put out their branding and their choice projects so I can see what they offer. I don’t always write/cast/provide your perfect casting, so show me what your perfect casting is. Show me what I’m missing about you. Show me your skills to write into my next project. Your past resume is what you’ve done, make things that show me what you should be doing moving forward and tag me.
- Be honest. Always be honest. I do not like a liar. I do not like a spin artist. I do not surround myself with the pretense and insecurity of the people that curate too much of themselves. If you lie, even once, I am done working with you. I cannot trust you. You will never be a favorite. Be messy, be late, be unabashedly rude, be forgetful, be disrespectful, be anything else but a person that lies. I can overcome and pick favorites despite all these issues, but lying – even once – takes you off my list of people I would work alongside again.
I feel like this would be a good time to describe my favorite actors: people that know my job is hard and make it easier, people that have empathy for my position as customer service operator that delivers bad news as well as the good, people that understand how the film industry works, and people that tell the truth. A film is a team sport, my favorite actors are team players. They can always ask for what they need and communicate what makes them most comfortable and happy to do their job well, but also balancing and recognizing that acting is one part of a puzzle. I see myself as an actor first and always will, I do not stand for actor-bashing or calling us ‘talking props.’ I am an advocate. Producers wish to be seen as your advocate, your partner. I want my favorite actors to be people with which I can see and grow a relationship over a few decades.
Go through your phone and email back or text back your point-producers from all your films. Just say “Thanks for keeping me up to date on everything” or “I was just thinking about -(past project)- what are you developing next?” or “I saw you’re doing -(project)- online, hope it’s going well, keep me in mind for the next one, would love to get the chance to work with you again.” Thanks. We like being seen.