Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my Blog!
I created it so that I could share acting tips with you; things I've learned over the years, working on set, teaching classes, coaching actors, auditioning actors, etc.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Actor Marketing 101: Postcards

As the former creative director for a top Honolulu advertising agency, I’ve learned a few things about advertising and marketing.  One of my favorite marketing “tricks” for actors is the use of a postcard.  It also happens to be one of the most effective marketing tools an actor can use.  If you want to increase the number of auditions you get...read on!
By postcard I mean a postcard size mailer that has one or more picture of you, room to address and jot a sentence or two about anything you want to write. Pictures should be recognizable and varied.  Usually one or two will suffice although some nice postcards have another small picture on the back.  Make sure you have your agent's contact info!  Here's a sample:

Professional actress (and daughter) Kanani Rogers' postcard, front & back views

You use postcards as thank you notes for auditions you went on and jobs you’ve done, updates on you and your recent work (“Watch for me on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 on April 25th!”), and any other excuse you can think of (“Just got new headshots – will be sending them soon!”).
Postcards fulfill a number of important marketing principles.  First, unlike a phone call, they don’t take a casting director or agent away from what they are working on. Second they create repeat “impressions”.  An impression is a fundamental advertising principle.  In fact, impressions are how media companies determine the price (value) of an advertisement on radio, television, or in print. Impressions are how many different people see your message and how many times they see it. The more times people see your message, the better they remember it.
When you send a picture and resume to a casting director for example, it goes immediately into one of two places; the file drawer or the circular file. So it’s either gone or it’s hidden until they go looking for it.
When you send a postcard it usually has what I call a “desk-life” of three to five days. It gets covered up with papers, buried and unburied until it is finally discarded.  But you see the key point is that every time it is uncovered your picture is viewed again by that casting director, resulting in another impression. I would estimate that a typical postcard is good for five or more impressions. That’s pretty darn good for something that costs so little to print and send!
Postcards are an ideal way to place yourself in the front of the casting director's brain—

--and  that’s exactly where you want to be when they learn they have a role that you would be right for. While I recommend getting new headshots every year or so (unless you’re over 40—then you can wait a little longer), I recommend keeping your postcard the same for at least three years.  You see, as soon as you change the picture on the postcard it’s almost like starting over with regard to impressions.
As for what other kinds of notes you can write on a postcard I’ll say this: it need not be strictly business related.  Agents, casting directors, producers, and directors are human beings. One or two sentences that are of interest are all that matter. Besides recent work and thank you notes some topics could include – “I just took a trip to Nepal”, “I just got a new hair color”, “I just started (or completed) my Lifeguard Training (or horseback riding or motorcycle license, or surfing lessons, or skydiving, or got my Black Belt, or anything else that could be a marketable skill for an actor!) 
I can't tell you how many actors tell me how they got a call shortly after they sent a postcard. Postcards really work!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Increasing Importance of Monologues

I have always thought it important for actors to work on monologues.  In fact, I've often said in class that all actors should have four monologues - ready to perform - at all times:
  1. a classical comedy
  2. a classical drama
  3. a contemporary comedy, and
  4. a contemporary drama
However, in the last year or two, having a monologue has become much more important for actors.

Here's why: Nearly every time one of my clients books a network TV show or major motion picture (and this happens pretty regularly) they go through several steps.  After their call-back the director and producers decide to cast them.  This does NOT mean that they are cast.  The next step is to get the "OK" from the Studio or Network.  This essentially means that before the decision of the director and producers (usually these are working professionals that spend thousands of hours on set) is final, their choice of actor is sent to "Network/Studio" (aka the 29 year-old suit that has never spent an hour working on set in his life, but passed the Bar exam so must know about acting!).  The Suit then wants to know if there is "anything else" they can see of this actor besides their audition tape. 

This brings up the subject of an actor's "reel".  Now let me be perfectly clear about what an actor's reel is. Contrary to popular belief it is NOT just a collection of odd acting jobs you have done.  An actor's reel is more than that.  Much more.  Your reel is a collection of clips from projects you were hired to do, that SHOWS WHAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF AS AN ACTOR.  If it just shows different clips of you pointing and saying "they went that-a-way" it isn't going to convince ANYONE that you are the actor they want in a given role.

So, if you have several scenes from network TV shows and/or major motion pictures, in which you have large roles that show you off well, then you may not need to have monologues on tape. Right now.  Although in a few years, if you don't keep booking good jobs, you may need some then.

For the rest of you, doesn't it make sense to have one or two monologues (in which you ROCK!) available online for industry peeps to see, when they are thinking about casting you in a project?!  Of course it does.  When that studio Suit is wanting to see some tape on you in order to decide whether or not to cast you (and I've seen them say "No" many times after the director and producers have made their choice) you want them to see you acting in a role that shows your true potential, not a series of one and two line appearances.

And here's another consideration.  More and more casting is being done through online video submissions and the same thing applies.  After seeing your audition, it helps those casting to be able to see you acting in something else.  Something easily accessible that shows what you are capable of.  So what are you waiting for?!  Put a monologue on tape and upload it to your website (or YouTube or Hulu).

But one thing before you do.  And I know you'll think this is obvious but, judging from what I've seen, it's not.  Please make sure it's GOOD!  Never upload video of yourself acting unless it's really good. Really good.  First do your monologue in class or hire a coach to make it as good as it can possibly be.  Then shoot it in a medium close shot with a decent camera (iPhones are ok to shoot a video audition on, in a pinch, but not for a monologue that is going to live online indefinitely) and keep shooting until you get a take you are really happy with.  And remember, this is meant to be a monologue not "reel".  So don't use costumes, sets, or props that aren't absolutely necessary.  You are not trying to make this look like it's Reel.  You won't fool anyone.  Have neutral clothing that suggests the character and a neutral background (no unmade beds or messy closets in the background!)  So I ask you again, What are you waiting for?! Go choose your monologue and get it up online. 

Oh, and I'm available to do Skype coaching, if you need it... ;)