Book More Acting Work by Thinking "Outside the Industry"
"Martin, what's the matter with you?"
I looked at my wife for a long moment, and then turned towards my three vegan friends sitting across the table. Everyone was staring at me.
We were at Harry's Bar & Grill, a steakhouse I'd reserved for our annual company holiday party.
I suddenly realized my mistake.
"I don't know. I wasn't thinking."
My wife shook her head, and everyone except me proceeded to order the only vegan options on the menu - a caesar salad without dressing & cheese, or the $12 baked potato (with the sour cream, cheese, and bacon removed).
If only I'd planned better.
Ever since that embarrassing night, I've always made an extra effort to think 2 or 3 steps ahead in everything I do, especially when it comes to dinner reservations!
But what about when it comes to our careers? I actually never used to think ahead until just recently!
I'd often come up with a great idea (or someone would suggest I try something) and then I'd start to take action. But after a few weeks or months, I'd realize it wasn't even the right idea in the first place because nothing changed and I was still exactly where I was before!
This cycle of trying something new, getting all excited, and then getting frustrated when nothing changed literally went on and on for years. Sound familiar?
Well, that's exactly why I've written my new book Get Cast.
So many actors tell me about feeling stuck - about how they're not getting into the kinds of projects they want or booking work that fulfills them even though they keep taking new classes, networking, and investing their hard-earned money into headshots and reels. Why is it that no matter what you do, nothing works?
Well, I've included an excerpt below from one of the opening chapters of Get Cast. It explains the pivotal reason so many actors get stuck in this cycle and exactly how to break free. I think you'll find it eye-opening and extremely valuable!
Scroll down to read the excerpt.
Why So Many Actors Get Stuck
Some actors sit around and wait for opportunities to be handed to them from their agents, managers, or by being discovered in a showcase. Others work hard day in and day out, auditioning and hoping to slowly book bigger and bigger roles over time (but doing relatively the same thing over and over again).
Still others do everything they can each day and get so inundated with work, ideas, and possibilities that they get burned out or too overwhelmed to accomplish anything.
If you’re in the first group (the ones that sit around waiting), you probably aren’t reading this book. If you’re in the second, you’re probably feeling frustrated that you’ve spent years of your life training, building your resume, and making connections, yet you’re still being called in for the same small roles over and over again. Even though you’re asking your agent or manager to submit you for bigger roles, it feels like casting directors just won’t bring you in for them.
And if you’re in that third group, you have what’s called Shiny Object Syndrome - and it’s the exact issue that kept me stuck in my business for years. It’s telling yourself, “Oh, if I just had that, everything would change.” And then once you get that, nothing changes, so you suddenly realize you actually need something else.
Scroll down to continue reading.
We’ve all been there at some point. Just take a look at the following quotes:
- “I need a new, more expensive and better headshot.”
- “I need a professional demo reel (or I need to update my reel).”
- “I really need to put myself out there more on social media.”
- “If I just knew what casting directors wanted, I could give it to them. But how am I supposed to give them what they want if they won’t tell me what they’re looking for?”
- “I need to work on my technique to start booking those higher-level roles.”
- “I really need to join the union.”
- “I gotta get an agent (or I need to find a new one).”
- “I wish I had more experience and better credits on my resume.”
- “I need more motivation and energy to deal with the rejection. I need someone to support me and keep me going.”
- “I need to get better at following up with people.”
I could go on and on, but the truth is, anyone who has those thoughts is most likely focused on fixing a symptom instead of the underlying cause. They’re looking at tactics instead of strategy.
- Tactic: A “to do” or “idea” that we think will help us move forward or reach a goal.
- Strategy: A high-level plan that organizes a series of tactics in a specific way to achieve an end goal.
Think of a tactic as an ingredient, and a strategy as a recipe designed to make a great meal. You don’t want to bake a cake by putting a pile of chocolate, flour, and egg onto a baking sheet and sliding it into the oven, right?
If you go around thinking things like, “I need to update my reel,” without first asking whether you’re ready for it and if it’s the actual best move, you’re focused on tactics. You’re exhibiting symptoms of Shiny Object Syndrome, and you’re bound to stay stuck.
Most people won’t talk about Strategy because it’s not fun or exciting. Strategy is about thinking, and thinking is boring. It feels like you’re not actually accomplishing anything!
It’s way more interesting to learn about “The Number 1 Way to Land an Agent,” or “The Top 5 Ways Actors Can Use Instagram to Connect with Casting Directors.”
But that doesn’t work. If you want true success, you need to step back from the tactics. It’s time to get out of the metaphorical corn maze you’re trapped in. I’m going to help you cut down some of those corn stalks, tie them together, and build a really tall ladder for yourself so you can climb it and look down at the maze from above. Only then will you be able to figure out where you are and how to get to where you want to be.
Scroll down to continue reading.
Success is not about great ideas or sudden moments of inspiration. It’s not about getting lucky or waiting for an opportunity to be handed to you. It’s about stepping back for a bit, thinking hard, coming up with a clear strategy, and then implementing it slowly and methodically over the course of years, iterating as you go. Boring, I know, but extremely effective.
This is why I urge you to not jump ahead. Read the book in full. Knowing how to make a great actor website for free is going to be a complete waste of your time if you’re not ready for it. Shooting a highly professional headshot is not going not help you if you’re constantly sending it out to auditions you’re not suited for. And knowing how to find an agent quickly and easily will not help if you sign with the wrong one.
I personally built up my own headshot business from zero to over 150 clients a month with a crappy, unprofessional website and no social media presence. Why? Because I strategized.
One of my clients booked a role on Broadway without an Instagram following and a website that was just as basic as mine. Why? Because he strategized.
So what does it really take to get booked on Broadway or land recurring roles on television? Well, there are only six steps, and here they are:
- First, you’ll reshape the way you think. Without a complete mindset shift, you’re going to have a hard time breaking out of your cycle and booking bigger and better roles.
- Next, you’ll find your U.S.P. U.S.P. stands for unique selling proposition, or in other words the qualities that make you different and/or better than other actors out there. Knowing who you are at your core and what you bring to the table makes it infinitely easier to start booking consistent work.
- Third, you'll set specific goals and start strategizing. Here, you’ll hyper-target your focus to exactly what you want and set yourself up for success. There’s no point wasting your time and energy applying to roles (and memorizing scripts) you aren’t right for. We’ll also focus on money here because being financially secure will make focusing on your acting work much easier.
- Fourth, you'll create (or update) your basic marketing materials. I call these "basic" because they are the most simple things you'll need to be able to market yourself. Even brand new actors starting out need them: A great headshot and a professionally formatted resume, plus some simple footage of yourself on camera. Without them you won’t be called in for much of anything.
- Fifth, you’ll start connecting with people and submitting to auditions. Networking with successful actors, agents, managers, casting directors, filmmakers, and even teachers & professors is crucial if you want to position yourself for success. At this point, you’ll actually start submitting and auditioning for the roles you want to start building your resume.
- Finally, you’ll create your advanced marketing materials and start moving up. A high-quality demo reel and a clean and professional website are important to cement people’s perception of you as a seasoned, professional actor. Once these are created, you’ll start strategizing to determine where you want to go next, including getting an agent and/or manager and focusing on booking larger roles.
Most people are surprised when they see the order of these steps. Why am I recommending that you get your headshots so late in the game? And why shouldn’t you get a reel together until the last step of the process? Well, it might sound out-of-the-industry and a bit weird, but that’s why it’s effective.
Thinking and strategizing should always come before taking action steps and investing time or money.
So as you read through this book, you’ll see that it’s broken into seven parts, with the first six corresponding to the steps outlined above. You’ll start by shifting your mindset, you’ll then find your brand and strategize on what you really want. Finally, you’ll move into putting your marketing materials together, networking, and submitting to projects. Part seven will help you stand out even more by showing you how to be the best you can possibly be.
And don’t worry - if you’re a seasoned actor thinking that some of this sounds a bit too basic for you, I assure you you’ll find tons of value in this book. Things as simple as “finding your brand” will take on a whole new meaning as you read.
Want to read the rest of the book?
Many of the actors we've shot headshots for have told us the book was extremely helpful for them in preparing for their shoot - especially the chapter on branding.
The 207-page book is for sale on Amazon - you can order a hard copy or get the Kindle version if you're interested.
Here's a link to order a copy.
And if you're not sure about the book yet, you can sign up for my weekly strategy emails. I send out an email every week (usually on Mondays) to help actors move their careers forward.
No random tactics or quick tips like "Start a social media page!" or "Start networking with casting directors in workshops!" Those random tactics won't change your career. What really matters is strategy and high-level thinking – the specific order in which you implement each tactic.
Check out my free email tips here.