Initially, I got an email from a young actor who recently graduated from a Theater Conservatory program.
1st email. He wrote- "I read the marketing tip you wrote and I think it was very wise. I appreciate your reaching out to young actors. As for me, I’m a talented and highly trained actor who recently toured with our school’s Shakespearian production. I won the graduating senior award for outstanding character development. I look forward to applying my craft and talent to obtain a highly successful career in New York where I’ll be re-locating next month."
My response : Great! Good luck.
A few months later I sent him an email with a marketing tip. Have you moved to NYC? Are you thriving? How's it going?
2nd email. His belated answer three months later- "I’m here…barely and not thriving at all. To be honest, I'm struggling - paying for rent and keeping a full time bar job and taking classes and trying like heck to find the time to audition or even get auditions. How and WHERE do you find them? It’s not what I expected. I'm not acting at all -it's depressing..."
My response. Hang in there...they call it “paying your dues” -What’s your plan?
3rd email. His response 2 months later- "I don’t have one. SURVIVE- I've been here almost a year and it's not working…my parents think I should go to grad school- Yale, Julliard or NYU. Which is better? What should I do? I'm ready to give up - this life sucks!"
My response. Sorry about that. It's about the long haul. You do need to make a plan to change things- just like when you planned getting into drama school or college. You can tell your parents the following-
Grad school is an excellent idea for many reasons (especially if parents can pay for it). If you want to teach later at the college level you’ll need at the very least an MFA and a PHD. And it’s more good training especially if you’re a character actor who will hit his stride a little later in life- like 10-20 years later. Then years of schooling, teaching or working in another career is not a bad idea. You’ll “grow” into your type while you’re making a living. You’ll also make good connections that will help to get work in all medias. Several classmates of mine from Carnegie-Mellon/Yale became successful and a lot of us got roles from knowing them. That’s the GOOD NEWS.
TIME LOST: If you want to work in TV and Film your market is here and now- it’s a youth market and always has been- you can work at any age but there are so many more roles for younger actors. But if you wait 3-4 years from now, you’ll be in the biggest demographic of actors –those in their late 20’s- 30’s-very competitive. It’s
not impossible just more challenging then. The sooner you get your career started, the sooner you’ll become established. Natalie Portman, Tom Hanks, James Spader, Jodie Foster- all good examples of the benefits of starting a career very young.
It takes on average from 3-5 years JUST to start working somewhat regularly (no guarantees) and 10 years to be at the top of your game.
HANDICAP OF DEBT INCURRED: The average debt incurred for Graduate School is about $100,000.00+ which even with steady work can take you a decade or more to pay off. Unless your parents are fortunate enough to afford this, why put enormous stress on yourself having to pay an overwhelming debt? It might cause you to accept jobs you may not want- that cruise ship comedy show, the children’s theater tour in high schools for a year or a horror film that is horrible- all for the money! Nothing wrong with those jobs but is that your goal? Or is your goal to have a full time office job/other career for a decade that prohibits you from accepting the auditions for roles you want just to pay off a debt? If you aren’t available for the audition you aren’t going to get the job.
THE AGENT DELUSION: Agents don’t sign you because you have a MFA. It doesn’t hurt to impress them that you worked hard, studied longer but that’s not the only criteria. Neither is talent. It’s the “whole package” –personality, charm, talent, training, will power, marketing savvy, audition skills, marketing tools, book-ability, cast-ability. If they can see that you can or are BOOKING jobs immediately, they’ll be more interested in SIGNING YOU!
GETTING HIRED: Producers of TV, Theater or Film do not hire you because you have an MFA- not even close. The teenager with the dark hair who looks like Liev Schreiber’s son on Ray Donovan, the actor who has studied martial arts so he can play an action-adventure hero or the guy who resembles a drug dealer/criminal is the actor who gets hired for that specific role. The girl who is “hot”, the funky sidekick or the exotic Asian princess is hired because they are seeking exactly that. The MFA? “Oh really ? She has one? That’s nice!”
THE WISEST ALTERNATIVE is to invest in the highest level of Training and Marketing Tools- Excellent Lifestyle photos, Sizzle reel and website. Find a Mentor or Marketing Coach. Then make a Marketing Plan to market yourself consistently. That means building a HUGE network of Industry Pro’s who really know you and your work. Implement the plan. Get a personal referral to a top Theater agent, a Personal Manager and when the first sizeable role appears, hire a Publicist to promote you. Total cost? A few thousand dollars$$ -very small investment to start a career that could establish you. (Why not request a Quick Consult with me or sign up to interview to be a Coaching Client- your parents would be thrilled to save thousands of dollars and worry!).
Every actor is unique and every a path is different. And all “types” are marketable- you can start a career at any time- but by getting excellent training and tools, creating a Marketing Plan and finding a Mentor you will save years of struggle, tons of money and get your career where you want it sooner rather than later or not at all. Your choice.
P.S. If you’re ready to take your career to the NEXT LEVEL or you want to work with a Top Marketing Coach, check out my One-on-One Coaching programs, downloadable “LAUNCH YOUR ACTING CAREER” training CD’s and Winning Marketing Strategies (CD’s)…plus a FREE gift! check it out here..