Marketing Yourself

Bloomsbury at Surviving Actors

Last week Bloomsbury were once again at the excellent Surviving Actors convention. The seminar’s main focus was on how actors can effectively market themselves while not stepping on their agent’s toes and potentially damaging that relationship.

The panel was chaired by Lloyd Trott, editor of the Actors and Performers Yearbook. I joined Lloyd, alongside agent Matt Chopping from Waring & McKenna and BBC Drama casting director Derek Barnes. Here are the main points from a great session.

Actors need to take care of business

Once an actor signs they can easily neglect important aspects of their career, leaving responsibility for their marketing in their agent’s hands. Sometimes the opposite problem occurs; actors want to market themselves but feel frustrated because their agent has tried to restrict them. Or perhaps they feel the relationship with their agent is unstable and are uncomfortable discussing submissions or suggesting roles they would like to be seen for.

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Don't do it

I write in my book From Stage to Screen, and in another blog (‘stop thinking, start feeling’), about the emphasis in our education system on analytical skills and a kind of thinking that is unhelpful to actors.

However if I were to suggest that going to school and gaining qualifications is a bad idea for an aspiring actor, I would be doing younger readers a huge disservice.  Those of you still trying to figure out if this is the right career for you will already know the acting profession is wildly overcrowded and you’ve probably heard many times the advice to do something else with your life.  I’m sorry to have to do this, but I’m going to add my voice to the chorus of others who are saying the same thing: acting is a fantastically hard business and you will almost certainly have a happier life if you decide to do something else.

Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize-winning behavioural economist, observes that people who …

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Entrances and Beginnings

Beginning anything is complicated. Deciding the best way to start a new endeavor before the actual first step makes my heart beat a little faster, whether in fear or excitement, I couldn’t say. This is my first blog post and I want to get it right. It is an entrance onto a new stage, a new scene, and unless I put my foot forward in just the right way, I may fail.

When I was very young, I was privileged to begin my study as an actress with Miss Mary Virginia Rodigan, a teacher of an advanced age who had actually known George Bernard Shaw. She had studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, even though, she like me, was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of all places! (I am proud to say that Mark Rylance is also a Milwaukeean). Miss Rodigan taught what she had learned and while it may seem hopelessly out of date now, what she gave helped to form my ways of approaching the stage. 

Her instructions on the best way to enter were:

1. Never enter a scene without …

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Writing and Emailing Opportunities: When You’re Out of Work

Use the ‘just been in work’ grace period

Even if you’ve been out of work for several months you can still use your most recent job as a selling-point. ‘I was recently working at … ’ or ‘I was recently working with …’ are especially useful if your last job is relatable in some way to the person you are writing to e.g. you ‘recently’ did a laugh-out-loud play and are writing to a casting director specialising in comedy.

Send out new promotional material

Being out of work doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening and if your new showreel or voicereel has finally been put together, the telly-job you filmed 18 months ago is about to air or your new photos have just been printed then you have something to advertise. Use the ‘Quick Update’ subject-heading (described in my last blog) and you’ve got yourself a mail-out.

Follow up on what you’ve seen and loved

Write to directors and casting directors, tell them that how much you liked their work and that you would like …

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Writing and Emailing Opportunities: When You’re In Work

If you are thinking about doing more self-promotion through writing and emailing but struggling to find opportunities to use the tips from last week’s blog then have a look at this list of ideas taken from interviews with actors, directors, agents and casting directors from across the industry.

When You’ve Got a Theatre Job

Invite directors, casting directors, writers, producers, agents, etc; those you’ve worked with, those you’ve auditioned for or met for whatever reason, and those you want to work with in the future but haven’t met. If you are working in regional theatre then target casting departments at nearby theatres.

Offer press night tickets to your agent and ask them to bring and invite people throughout the run (let them know if there is anyone specific).

As the run goes on send a quick ‘nice-to-meet-you’ follow-up email if you meet industry people after the show in the theatre bar etc. and once the show’s finished talk to your colleagues and the box office to …

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