You can hammer a nail with a rock. Hammers and the right supplies sure do come in handy, though.
Send a casting director a photo with postage due and don't be surprised if he refuses more than your mail. If you're uncertain about the postage, wallow in glorious excess.
You'll be using these to mail your resume and photo(s). Choose sturdy ones. (Cardboard adds protection for the photos. It also adds more glorious excess in postage.)
THE ACADEMY PLAYERS DIRECTORY
"Next to your agent, it's your best agent," says theatrical agent Vikki Bandlow when talking about this powerful opportunity-getter. Published every four months, it's referred to as "the Book" or "the Directory," and is a sort of visual telephone directory of actors: a book of faces with a little information on those faces.
To be listed in the Directory you must pay the fee, be a member of at least one union, or be represented by a franchised agent (who will probably demand you be in it).
Choose your best picture and bring it to the Academy of Arts and Sciences building. You'll then select your category: YOUNG LEADING MAN/LADY, LEADING MAN/LADY, CHARACTERS & COMEDIANS/IENNES, and CHILDREN. The Directory will put your name and photo under that category along with: your union(s), agency(cies) and/or personal manager, and their phone numbers. If you don't have an agent or manager, you may list your own phone number.
If you fall, say, between a leading man and a character actor, give thought to listing under both categories. (Of course, it'll double the cost.)
Naturally, the Directory has a deadline for each edition. They send out notices, but don't hold your breath. Check. (Some agencies call clients to remind them about Directory deadlines - think this isn't important?) If you just miss a deadline, ask your agent to take your picture and check to the Directory, as his deadline is about a week later than yours. He won't fall madly in love with you for asking, but he'll probably do it, because he knows, as producer William Kayden puts it, "It is the Bible." Also, put the Directory on your "To be notified" list if you change agents.
Finally, if you're not convinced about the importance of "the Book," just look through it. Mixed in with "unknowns," you'll see shots of top stars. Time and again, actors get auditions directly firom their Directory listing. Theatrical casting director Bob Harbin sums it up: "If you're serious, you should be in there."
Periodically, other services listing actors pop up, some even using computers. As it stands, though, the only one you really must be in is the APD, and, perhaps, the similar New York Players Guide.
A rare case of our choosing machines over people. You pay monthly for a service; you shell out once for an answering machine. Today, with features like touch-tone message recall - you can listen to your messages from another phone - the only way to miss a message (barring mechanical or electrical failure) is to fail to check your machine. At least you'll know who deserves the kick in the pants. With a service, finding out who missed your message is like trying to find out who shot Cock Robin.
One plea: keep your message short and identity yourself by your first name. Actors, with their wonderful creativity, try to make those machines less obnoxious by using everything from cartoon voices to Beethoven's Fifth - thus making them even more obnoxious. Long, cutesy messages are annoying to people who make 100 calls a day. And it's a serious irk to leave a message for "nameless," wondering if you've reached the right machine. Try, "Hi, this is Mike. I'll be checking for messages shortly, so at the tone please leave your name, number and approximate time of your call."
Like your photos, the better your stationery looks, the more responses you'll get.
Sending these every time you get an audition, interview, part or shake of the hand, is not only courteous, it's smart. Puts your name in front of the person one more time.
Now, we've seen the glaze over actors' eyes when we talk about thank-you's, so stop yawning and pay attention: An actress attended a seminar at which one of the speakers was a world-famous producer. She sent him a thank-you and, a little while later, received a letter from him. (He's so well known a friend suggested she frame the letter.) It began: "I just read your note and I want to tell you I was very touched that you took the time to write to me." [Italics ours.]
Dr. Watson, that first sentence tells us three elementary things:
- Yes, he read her note.
- He (unfortunately, like everyone else in this industry) isn't exactly inundated with thank-you notes.
- He won't say "Who?" if she ever auditions for him.
You'll need this list of SAG-franchised agents when it's time for the Great Agent Hunt. You can use ours in the back of this book or pick one up at SAG.
If you're starting out, you'll find it hard to believe anyone can forget an appointment with a casting director. If you've been at it a while, you know it's possible - especially if you're going out a lot. An appointment book will prevent this dire event from crossing your karma. You'll also see later how vital an appointment book can be come April 15.
By the way, SAG puts out a wonderful datebook which also includes excellent reference material on union rules and regulations in regard to payments, work, etc. It usually comes out in November-December. Order it right away - they go fast.
THEATRE, SHOWCASES AND CLASSES
What you spend on these depends entirely on you, but you will need to be doing all three.
Important, but wait until you get a commercial agent.
A typical call to a working actor:
Agent: Have you ever met Slicke Deale, the producer?
Actor: Uhm . . .
Keep a file on every person you meet, the where and why of the encounter, perhaps even your feelings about how it all went.
Also, you don't have to leave information-gathering to the CIA. If, in an article in Drama-Logue (see below), a casting director says he likes actors to stand up for a reading, or if an agent at a seminar rails on about actors calling him in the morning, make - and keep - notes. You'd be surprised at the information you can put together. The more you know about preferences and, yes, quirks, the better. Actor/teacher Mike Muscat says, "I have a five-star system for casting directors: If I've met them, they get one star; if they brought me in, they get two; if they gave me a job, they get three; if they bring me in on a regular basis, they get four; and if they've become a friend, they get five."
You can walk out of Los Angeles' several drama bookstores with armloads of material on everything from acting teachers to which agents accept photos from new actors. We're hesitant to name titles here because these directories tend to come and go with the tides, and they change prices faster than you turn pages.
But here are a few highly-regarded ones that have been around for awhile: The Hollywood Reporter Studio Blu-Book Directory (similar to The Working Actors Guide, see below, but more geared to producers), Breakdown Services C/D Guide (helps you find casting directors), Film Directors - A Complete Guide, Pacific Coast Studio Directory (a quarterly similar to the Blu-Book) and Ross Reports Television (a monthly, lists Los Angeles and New York productions and personnel).
So go browse. But be sure to pick up…