You wonder how casting directors are going to find you. Of course you do! Whether you have an agent or not, you’re out there ready to go to work and you want casting folks to know how great you are. You send postcards, you email newsletters, you follow them on Facebook, you self-submit, you even send along Starbucks gift cards around our birthdays. You go to casting director workshops and wait 2 hours for your 5 minutes in the room with them. But nothing happens… Why is that? It’s disheartening. It’s frustrating. What more can you do?
First of all, don’t despair. Know that we very well may acknowledge your efforts without you realizing it. If we’ve seen you do great work somewhere, you are very likely in our “favorite actors” files. There may not be a job or a role right this minute. We may not even be working on something at the moment. But your talent is deeply appreciated.
That said, don’t wait around till we open that file. And don’t only rely on those mailings. If we know how wonderful you are, remind us with the consistency of great work. And if we don’t have a clue, produce wonderful work that we’ll discover. What’s going to get our attention is the strong work you’re doing all over the place. You’re bringing the house down on stage. You’re in class working out consistently. You’re creating content and making your own short films, videos, webisodes. You’re writing scripts, blogs, and articles. You’re putting up a comedy sketch show every week. You’re doing exceptional work when you attend workshops. You’re out there doing the best work of your life. Casting directors, directors, writers, and producers will hear about it. We’ll see you. We’ll support you. We’ll bring you in for a role. Hell, the stars might align and we’ll be able to cast you.
There’s still the fable in LA (and other towns) that you’re meant to showcase your work on the stage primarily to get hired in film and television. While the LA theatre scene has evolved tremendously over the past several years, some still believe that stage work is a vehicle for getting screen work. Getting a job this way may be a byproduct of doing excellent work on stage. But you must be doing your best work in a theatre production, in class, in a workshop because you love to act and you’re compelled to be in and of the work all the time. Not because your goal is to book a guest star on a show. You have to wake up and fall asleep craving the artistry of it. You have to love it for its own reward. You’ll be doing better work. You’ll be happier. And those people who can hire you for a show or film will be drawn to your talent. Audiences, professional ones alike, are desperate to experience extraordinary work, to celebrate it, and to ultimately reward it.
We truly are one large (and sometimes not-so-large) community of artists and professionals. We track down the fantastic work you’ve created, we get excited about it, we write about it, tweet about it, hire it. We want to be a part of it; it’s an affirmation of the work we are trying to create ourselves.
A couple of years ago I went to see John Pollono in the incredible play he wrote and starred in, SMALL ENGINE REPAIR. The play had some buzz around it, Jon Bernthal was in it, and it was my kind of theatre. So I trekked to Pico from the Valley, hopeful that I wouldn’t be disappointed. John’s work, the play, and the production were extraordinary. I was blown away. I instantly engaged in a steadfast working relationship with John and have cast him (in MASTERS OF SEX, 2 years later) and championed him and his plays (SMALL ENGINE REPAIR and LOST GIRLS subsequently produced in NY at MCC.)
John works hard. He’s incredibly talented, but for him it’s about doing his best work whenever he can. And finally he’s getting the accolades he deserves. He’s recently had a couple of screenplays picked up and in production. What’s really interesting is that he just wants to continue creating dynamic, spirited work. He cares most about doing personally rewarding, challenging theatre. That’s why he’s succeeding.
Not everybody appreciates that rolling up your sleeves and getting down to the hard work daily is imperative. Don’t wait for permission. You’re an actor. It’s your calling. Accept that with every fiber of your being.
If you’re willing to engage in the work with passion and conviction, you’ll be dancing triumphantly atop the Rocky steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And the people who need to find you will find you. After all, who else is jumping up and down at the top of those steps in the freezing cold every morning at dawn?!
Strengthen your talent. Don’t stop working. Enroll now.
John Pollono and Jon Bernthal. From SMALL ENGINE REPAIR.