The facts are grim for those hoping to break into showbiz. It was while I was on a panel called “Building Your Empire” for the SAG/AFTRA Conservatory that I found out ONLY 10% of actors who are in the union are working. Wait, I’m not done. Only 10% of those who are working are ABOVE THE POVERTY LEVEL. That’s good to know before you quit your day job. Afterwards they provided food. It must have been a nice change for the participants not to be serving it.
Fledgling actors in the audience were asking, “How do I get an agent?”
Well, if you’re just getting over the fact that getting into the SAG/AFTRA union wasn’t your ticket to buying a condo in Brentwood, wait until you see what happens when you sign with an agent. I’ve been represented by ICM, William Morris Agency, Gersh Agency, 5 different commercial agents, 3 different managers, and have worked with over 15 speakers bureaus. I once named my dog “Bernie,” after my agent Bernie, because when I called either of them, they didn’t do anything. An actor friend told me he came off stage one night and was approached by a commercial agent, who said, “I’d like to handle you.” That would have been flattering except the guy WAS his agent.
This year has been one of my most successful yet. I've shot 2 television pilots, my screenplay is being read by producers, I have regular speaking engagements, and I do not have ANY exclusive representation except for my lovely literary agent and a few speaker bureaus.
If you’re like me, you might make the mistake of thinking because you’ve signed with an agent, you can slack off. That’s their job; they often slack off once you’ve signed the agency agreement.
Here’s my plan for BOOSTING YOUR CAREER and BUILDING YOUR OWN EMPIRE:
1) Create a database. (CRM – Customer Relationship Management) When I was an 8 year-old magician performing at birthday parties, I kept every client’s name on an index card in a recipe box. I’ve moved up from a recipe box to a computer, where I file away everyone who has ever contacted me. Just like in Game of Thrones, the power is in the hands of how many people are in your army. Now, your power is in the number of followers you have in your database, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on YouTube. I use SugarCRM. You can use MailChimp, or here is a list of reviews http://www.reviews.com/crm-software/.
2) Provide your followers with value. They want to hear how you can help them. Give your fans something other than, “Come see my show!” Email them about things THEY are interested in (don’t assume it’s you). Think of yourself as a first responder for THEIR needs.
3) Network by supporting other people. After your day job, get out of the house, stay off the 405 and other roads that don’t move so you can talk to other comics, actors, writers, and participate in the community. If you come to other people’s events, they just might come to yours (it’s not true for funerals).
4) Become a YOUTUBE STAR. DIY your own projects on YouTube. Build your team to create your own projects and internet content. Join together with actors, writers, and directors to show what you can do. YouTube sensation Jenna Marbles has over 13 million subscribers and makes millions. GloZell turned herself into a star with her zany characters on YouTube. YouTube is the stage you want to be on.
5) Change your thinking. Getting a call and being cast in a network show is as unlikely as getting hit by lightning. Oh, wait, that just happened in Venice Beach! But, until I find a new metaphor, I’m holding onto it as it’s the best way to say you shouldn’t think that waiting to be discovered is a productive step. Be pro-active. DISCOVER YOURSELF. Network TV is yesterday. Think about YouTube, Netflix, Google TV, where new stars are being discovered online. The internet is the new casting couch – where you’ll get hits, instead of being hit on.