by Casting Director, Terry Berland
Actors, as all of us running our own business, have to decide where and how to invest their money in themselves (their business). Two definites are online submission services and headshots; and then there are a whole array of other investments.
The most popular breakdown services that are used in Los Angeles, which is the most online oriented city in our industry, did not become popular in a haphazard manner. There is great consideration to trusting a breakdown service. On the casting end of things, the service has to be extremely user friendly and meet the ever-changing demands of those of us who use it. With receiving 4000 submissions on one service, “why do I need another service?” Personally, I find I have to use two services to meet my needs of obtaining the right submissions, as viewing videos are very important to me. Unless it’s just a look, I choose the actors that I don’t know by viewing a demo reel. An actor is in the dark ages who does not have something moving on their main online commercial resume. It would be much less complicated to use one service. With the use of two services, there is merging that has to go on to keep schedules straight.
On the agent’s end of things, they need to be on the services that most casting directors are using to receive all of the breakdowns. There is a silent dance of balance and agreement that evolves between agents and casting directors in regards to which service surfaces as the most widely used. In other words everyone does not get together at a big meeting to vote and decide; it evolves. A very important consideration is, “how much is this going to cost the actor?” There were many, many commercial breakdown services that were pitched to casting directors and agents before Casting Networks became the right one at the right time. As with everything else in business life, every once in a while competition rears its head and another new service may appear.. and “make it” or not. When this new service appears, as is happening right now, the actor is asked by their agent to join the new service. That of course, means another payment for you. Talents’ natural reaction is, “Oh no, another way to spend my money.” Evolution will go on, and so will your conundrum of how to best spend your money.
I turned to a member of our community, Christina Shipp, Career Coach with The Savvy Actor, who specializes in brand & marketing strategy, to see what she has to say.
“Terry is right: there are so many places an actor can spend his/her money. So how do you know which investment is right for you?
I know a lot of actors who say they flat out HATE the business side of the industry, because they think of themselves as artists, as craftsmen. Instead of learning new business skills, identifying their product and happily sharing it with the world, these actors do themselves a disservice and disengage from marketing concepts, and networking only to find themselves unable to move forward or see positive change. In this day and age, and in the current market, we have to act and operate like the CEO, the CFO, the Head of Marketing & Sales, AND the Manager of our businesses. And it is up to you to invest in your business, and that means knowing exactly what you want from it, identifying your position in the market and strategicallyplacing yourself there. Acting is a business like any other, and in any business, you gotta pay to play.
So first, ask yourself: Where are you spending your time and your $$?
Do you see a return on the investment? Ask yourself honestly: what is this costing me? Is the return measurable? Is there a strategy attached to your decisions or are you simply throwing darts against the wind?
Now ask yourself: With both your time and your money, where do you wish to see a return?
Your priorities define your goals. What are yours? Notice when your passion blazes. For example, when you burn to be on an edgy, dark & thrilling prime-time political drama, why are you spending your time and money on a class at UCB? Of course it’s fun, and when you have a higher budget to work from you will absolutely take those improv classes to keep your chops and technique sharp. For now however, you must do what’s best for your business and invest your time and money where you’ll see the most return based on what your goals are.
Spend the money to take a workshop or intensive with the (targeted) casting director whose show/film is a perfect fit for you. Spend the energy putting a great audition on tape for a specific brand-centric project and submit. Decide how to market and package your product in a remarkable way that’s unique and authentic to you.
Knowing where to invest your time and money is easy when you know your strategy. No business succeeds without it. Spend the time to slow down and ORGANIZE. Do you have tools to support your Project Manager? That’s the part of you with all the nuts and bolts, the one who brainstorms out priority projects and scratches the to-do’s off the compartmentalized lists. Don’t spread yourself too thin and over-commit, often at the expense of your own balance and peace of mind—not to mention your wallet[s]. Focus your energy on deciding where your career (and life!) priorities are, and develop a strategy to achieve them. You’ll never second-guess your investments again.”
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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”