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In Defense of Your Agent

Conventional wisdom suggests that you need an agent and/or manager to make your acting dreams come true. They sign you, introduce you to casting directors who introduce you to the decision-makers and the result is champagne and red carpets. Well, conventional wisdom is all kinds of wrong. Agents are human beings with human limitations who require some understanding. Whether you’re looking for an agent and manger, or looking to better manage the ones you have, here are five things to know about your representative:

1. Your agent (and from here on we also mean manger) is in business. So, you’re an artist who’s in it for the art. Fine. But Bill Shakespeare and every other artist before and since has had to balance art with finance. Each informs the other and each is necessary. Your agent is no different. Vilifying her because she’s trying to make money and put her kids through private school gets you nowhere. It doesn’t make you more of an artist or get you closer to working with great artists. You need to accept the fact that your agent is trying to make money. And if you’re not a commodity she can sell, it’s not personal; It’s business. Your job is to make yourself easy to sell; to be the actor who has the undeniable force of a flourishing artist. Once that happens you will become that “got-to-have” commodity.

2. Your agent is not here to save you. Actors can suffer from Knight-In-Shining-Armor Syndrome. The notion is it that it’s the agent’s job to dust you off, polish you to a brilliant shine, and escort you to the promise land. The belieA Knight In Shining Armorf is that the agent does all the work. Inherent in this thinking is that there’s someone or something outside of yourself that has the power to make all your dreams come true with little effort or output from you, and once you find that person, you’ll be rich and famous. This is insanity. These days getting an agent doesn’t mean you’ll ever have an audition and it certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t have to do most of the work in the relationship. Spending one minute of your time waiting for your agent to call is time wasted. You have to be in classes, write/shoot/produce/direct your own material, put up a play and put yourself out there. These days you have to work harder than your agent. Training in class consistently, creating your own material constantly, and doing whatever you can to engage with other artists constantly is essential to your craft and your career. You have to give your agent the tools to sell you. Relying upon anyone other than yourself is career suicide. Giving up your artistic and professional responsibility to an agent is a grave error that too many actors make. Do the work and make your agent catch up with you.

3. Your ageAri-Gold-ari-gold-1848533-300-400nt is cheating on you and that’s OK. Yes, your agent has other clients. Deal with it. Your agent would go hungry if he only had you as a client. He has to widen the swath in order to give himself the best shot at making a living. Moreover, part of the charm for him is that he has a dynamic group of unique actors with unique needs and talents who allow him to explore different parts of the industry. So when your phone call isn’t returned right away, know that there are 20 other actors who are also demanding feedback. Checking your phone every 10 minutes is like waiting for the guy you went on a date with last week to call. It never pans out. Rather than stew about it, talk yourself into a paranoid delusion and wallow in the slimy ooze of desperation, go write a scene and shoot it. Go to class. Address your artistry.

4. Your agent doesn’t speak your language. Chances are your agent isn’t in a weekly acting class. No, she spends her evenings trolling the computer till midnight, hounding casting directors, trying to get you in the room. While many agents have great instincts about actors, they may not speak a language that suggests that they understand your process. So, don’t expect them to. When they offer a note about performance that might seem insensitive, don’t take it personally. Translate it into language that helps you grow as an artist. And if it’s not helpful, chalk it up to a subjective opinion. Also keep in mind that agents spend 10 hours a day on the phone trying to turn a “no” into a “yes”. They’re doing and saying anything they can to get you in the room. When you call to talk to them in the middle of all that, don’t expect them be able to pull down the walls and relate to you like the vulnerable artist that you are.

5. Your agent has feelings too. Remember how crushed you were when you tested for that pilot, were the Network’s first choice, but lost the part to that name actor at the last minute? So crushed. Well your agent was crushed, too. And that was the fourth time that same thing happened to one of his clients that pilot season. He talked each of his other clients off the ledge, just like he did for you, while at the same time closing deals for his clients who did book pilots, and selling his development level clients to Studios who were inundated with pitches. He’s holding it together, but he’s ready to crack. Cut him some slack and know that he’s probably doing his best.

Your agent is a person. She has emotional and financial needs that inform how she conducts herself. She believes in you but she’s not responsible for your happiness or your success. Her greatest thrill is when you book a job. Her greatest disappointment is when you don’t. But believing that she lives to make your dreams come true shirks your responsibility to work tirelessly on your craft and, what’s worse, gives up your power. Choose to believe that it’s all got to come from you – the work, the marketing, the mindset. It’s when you stop chasing your agent (any agent) and take control of your work and your career, that the agent starts chasing you.

***OK, so I WISH had written this post myself, but I did not…although everything here is EXACTLY what I would say to you if I had.  Acknowledgement goes out to a West Coast actor, coach and business consultant Steve Braun and I repeat it here for you because its important that you GET this!  Check out Steve’s site and subscribe to his blog and also give me your thoughts and comments about “art vs. business” and agents and how you operate around them.  Would love to hear from you!  Lisa

5 Reasons Networking Isn’t Working for You

Networking

You hear and read repeatedly that networking is one of the best ways to grow your acting business not only from me but, well, everyone! It’s true and I have created many such networking opportunities/events over the years for actors to practice this essential skill.

However, sometimes even when you try, the time you spend on it doesn’t lead anywhere. Makes you wonder if everyone is lying (not me, of course!) or you’re doing something terribly wrong (hummm?). Networking IS a great way to grow your show BUSINESS, if you do it right. In my last post I gave out my top 10 tips on proper networking. So check out some reasons why what you’ve been doing may not be working for you, so you can make a change that will likely make a big difference.

You Don’t Talk to Enough People

Networking events are about meeting as many people as possible. I’ve often said to go with a number in mind.  How many people will you meet as your goal? You shouldn’t stay with one person too long because that will take away the time you have to meet other people that could lead to great opportunities. Make a connection, hand a business card to the person or collect their contact info, and then move on to the next person.  Don’t stay in a conversation with your friends instead of meeting the new folks you came to meet.

You’re Talking Too Much About Yourself

This is big one and I’ve seen way to many actors make this mistake. There’s a unique exchange of information that happens at networking events. The key is to LISTEN more than you SPEAK. This is how people find out if they can help each other. When you focus on yourself too much, you won’t be able to help people because you won’t know anything about them. By helping people I mean being the solution to their problem…a role that needs to be cast or an agent looking for new clients.  Sometimes it’s a fellow actor looking for a great acting teacher. The more you help, the more people want to help you.

You Don’t Do Your Research Before an Event

I usually put out a “scheduled to appear” list for my events. Why? So you can do your research!  Many actors who don’t find the Research ladyvalue in networking will say that they never meet anyone who is worth pursuing after an event. This is probably true because they didn’t do adequate research either before or after meeting people. You must find networking events that cater to the audience that you’re part of. If you’re also a writer, go to writing networking events.  Want to produce a film? There are a ton of filmmaker events.  And if you’re an actor, go to them all, but beware of ones that promise HUGE industry professionals as guests, without an entrance fee, free food and booze.  In a world where everything costs something, I smell a rat.  Get referrals and attend trusted events with good reputations.

You Don’t Reach Out After the Event

This is my biggest pet peeve. Just going to a networking event isn’t enough to grow your business as an actor. Showing up is one thing but following up is the key to the Kingdom. You need to make contact with people afterwards. This is your chance to get to know your contacts much better, and figure out how you can work together.  Staying connected is essential.  You might not work together for years, but if you have been building rapport with folks you met via networking, over time it’s amazing how much fruit your biz will bear.

You Don’t Go to Enough of Them

Going to one networking event won’t boost your business to the level you want it to be at. I used to run my parties monthly until I became bi-coastal and now run them only as special events when time permits.  Don’t wait for my party to come back to your neck of the woods (currently NY and LA). Those successful at using networking to grow their acting business will attend a few events a month.  They are much more common now then when I started producing them over a decade ago. The more you go to, the more opportunities are available. Before you say that networking isn’t working for you, make sure you are going to enough of them to make that judgment.

It’s time to make some changes in how you approach networking. Get out there, meet as many people as possible, help them, research the events you go to, reach out to people afterwards, and keep going to events until you start to see results. It can seem like a lot of work, but believe me, it’s worth it!

Let me hear from you in the comments section below about any results, relationships and other magical manifestations you’ve created from growing your network!

A Personal Note to Women who ACT

Today I am writing you a very personal note because I have a lot of appreciation for all you do as a woman in the acting business. I don’t know the many roles you have played on stage, film or TV, but I know that being a woman in life carries many roles in itself when you are also a spouse, a mom, a daughter, a friend, etc. It’s sometimes exhausting.

Did you see the news report that came out today about women being smarter than men and scoring higher on IQ tests?  It seems to be because of all the “roles” we play, the things we juggle, and the people we take care of, including ourselves.

I want to share with you that I’ve been struggling for a few months now with the Superwoman Syndrome.

I didn’t realize that although I had done years of personal development work in my life, there were still limiting beliefs I held in place that kept showing up that told me that “to be successful means hard work”, “you have to just keep pushing through and don’t show any weakness”, “this is what you have to do for your family, your actor community, and all the others who depend on you”, “you have to be an example for everyone”…and on and on.

When my niece looked at me this past weekend in Las Vegas with an odd expression (we were there for her 4 day volleyball clinic at UNLV) she noticed how utterly exhausted I was and said, “Auntie Lisa, we don’t need all of the stuff you give me and mom, we just want to be with YOU and we want you to be happy.” I love that kid and I heard it loud and clear.  She really got me thinking about that. Why did I feel like I had to do everything perfectly?…why did I put so much pressure on myself to perform? Who says it has to be this way?  Why do I make up these deadlines I create that have me missing some of the most precious moments in life?  Are they really out there WAITING to hear from Lisa Gold?

The answers came through the questions that I asked, and the questions that my mentors asked.  It’s ALL made up!  And I can accomplish everything I say I want to with grace and ease…

But I have some work to do myself and I can’t teach what I haven’t learned.  Sometimes it’s not easy but I do realize it serves me in so many ways to play in this “gap” and become more and more aware of each moment of my precious and fabulous life.

I felt the need to plant a seed and share this with women in particular (hey, I know you GUYS have your moments too, but I’m not a guy!)…and share the pathway that I travel to start living my life on MY TERMS and with so much joy in my heart.  To live my purpose is always my goal.

I have a vision for the “New Superwoman”, the woman who embraces life on her own terms, redefining what is important and doing what nurtures her, tapping into her own femininity, inner passions and designing a life that fulfills that. It includes having peace of mind, a playful heart and a prosperous experience.  Always.

I invite you on the journey.

I’d love to hear from women just like you on how you overcome self-sabotage, limiting beliefs, and tap into your feminine energy to create a balance of peace, playfulness and prosperity in you life, and your show BUSINESS, while juggling all that YOU do.

Please take the time to comment so that other gals out there who read them can draw on your experiences.  You can’t teach what you haven’t learned.  Time to share with our wonderful community!

I look forward to reading what you have to say and wish you all peace, passion and purpose!  Love, Lisa

9 Qualities of Remarkable Entertainers/Actors

What separates the best in show biz from everyone else? (Hint: It’s not about the money.)

Good entertainers make money.

Great entertainers make us smile and make serious money for themselves in the process.

Remarkable entertainers do more than make us smile and make money. They are the few who possess qualities that don’t appear only in bank account balances, but do make a significant impact on the lives of their audiences, inner circles, and communities.

Here are nine qualities of remarkable entertainers:

1. They find happiness in the success of others.

Great sports teams win because their most talented players are willing to sacrifice ego and acknowledgment to make others look great. Great theater productions, TV series and notable films are made up of actors who help each other, know their roles, set aside personal “perks”, and value co-operative success over everything else. Where does that attitude come from? You. Every great entertainer answers the question, “Can you make the choice that your happiness will come from the success of others?” with a resounding “Yes!”

2. They relentlessly seek new experiences.

Novelty seeking—getting bored easily and throwing yourself into new pursuits or activities – is often linked to gambling, drug abuse, and attention deficit disorder. But according to some leading doctors, novelty seeking is one of the traits that keeps you healthy and happy and fosters personality growth as you age… if you combine adventurousness and curiosity with persistence and a sense that it’s not all about you, then you get the creativity that benefits society as a whole, and THAT translates to creativity in show biz. To succeed, you want to be able to regulate your impulses (don’t take that gig that isn’t quite right just to have one!) while also having the imagination to see what the future would be like if you tried something new.

Check out this “something new” I tried on my birthday a few years back.  Definitely a novelty.  So go ahead – embrace your inner novelty seeker. You’ll be healthier, you’ll have more friends, and you’ll be generally more satisfied with life.

3. They don’t think work/life balance; they just think life.

When you have burning passion for this career, work-life boundaries are almost impossible to maintain. Why? You are your business. Your business is your life, just like your life is your business – which is also true for family, friends, and interests—so there is no separation, because all those things make you who you are.

Remarkable entertainers find ways to include family instead of ways to exclude work. They find ways to include interests, hobbies, passions, and personal values in their daily business lives.  Ever notice the “big boys” working with the same people (sometimes friends and family) over and over again?  It’s because they have become a part of each other’s lives.  So hire your parents, kids and friends for you latest webisode or cabaret act, student film or full length feature.  Network like crazy and bring in to your creative path the people you like and enjoy in your LIFE.  If you can’t, you’re not living—you’re just working.

4. They’re incredibly empathetic.

Unless you create something entirely new on your own—which I encourage as an actorpreneur, but is very hard to do—your business is based on fulfilling an existing need or solving a problem.

In order to identify a need or a problem you must have the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, particularly the casting director and creative team of the “place” you want to work; that’s the mark of a successful entertainer. But remarkable entertainers go a step farther, regularly putting themselves in the shoes of their audience. Success isn’t a line trending upwards. Success is a circle. No matter how high your profile—and your ego—soars, success still comes back to your audience.

5. They have something to prove – to themselves.

Many actors have a burning desire to prove other people wrong.  You know who I’m talking about –  that acting teacher from long ago that didn’t see your true talent; the family member who still thinks you’re crazy for choosing this career; the gal that beat you out of the perfect role in your 5th grade play…you’ll show them! These are great motivators. Remarkable entertainers are driven by something deeper and more personal. True drive, commitment, and dedication springs from a desire to prove something to the most important person of all.  You.

6. They ignore the 40-hour workweek hype.

Studies show that working more than 40 hours a week decreases productivity. Whatever. Successful business owners (uh huh, that’s YOU) work smarter, sure, but they also outwork their competition. I personally don’t know a SINGLE soul who works more than I do (outside of Tracy Costa of course!)  There will always be people who are smarter and more talented than you. Remarkable entertainers want it more. They’re ruthless—especially with themselves.  Remarkable entertainers simply work harder. That’s the real secret of their success.

7. They see money as a responsibility, not a reward.

Many successful actor cautionary tales involve buying 17 cars, loading up on pricey antiques, flying to and from private islands in private planes, importing Christmas trees, and spending $40,000 a year for a personal masseuse.  Wait—maybe that’s just Oprah! But being a remarkable entertainer includes not seeing money solely as a personal reward; they see money as a way to grow their business/profile and give back to the community… in short, not just to make their own lives better but to impact the lives of other people too.  Ultimately Oprah, Brad and Angelina, Bono and more, are just as well known for spending their money improving the lives of others as for the fun trinkets and toys they can afford.

8. They don’t think they’re remarkable.

In a world of social media everyone can be their own PR agent. It’s incredibly easy for anyone to blow their own horn and bask in the glow of their insight and accomplishments.  Remarkable entertainers still have to do all of that self-promotion but also accept their success is based on ambition, persistence, and execution… and they also recognize that key mentors, and a huge dose of luck also played a part.  Remarkable entertainers reap the rewards of humility, asking questions, seeking advice, recognizing and praising others…

9. They know that success is fleeting, but dignity and respect last forever.

The most important thing remarkable entertainers provide audiences, other actors they work with, agents and other creative industry professionals- everyone they meet – is dignity and respect.

And so should you, because when you do, everything else follows.

This article was re-written/re-purposed from something I read in Inc. magazine on Remarkable Entrepreneurs.  I think it fits perfectly, don’t you?   Lisa

Are You Committed? Hesitation is a Career Killer.

I first read this quote on “Commitment” when it was given to me in a seminar over 30 years ago!  It got my attention and has been something I live from every day…when I’m faced with even the smallest choice or decision.

In our acting community, I find indecision one of the reasons we don’t have what we say we want in our careers.  Why “choose” when it seems better to leave so many options open?

  • Indecision brings delays – and you want it FAST, don’t you?
  • Regrets usually come from what you DIDN’T do, not what you did do.
  • When you are busy deciding, someone else already did, and now has an opportunity that you do not.

Much of what is taught at Act Outside the Box is around taking action and choosing.  I see a lot of actors doing just the opposite, thinking that if they leave the doors open, someone will invite them through and show them the proper or best pathway.  It really just doesn’t work that way.

Read this quote by Goethe and see if it resonates with you like it did with me.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

I invite you to take action and make a commitment to yourself and your career RIGHT NOW in any area that you’ve been thinking…”hhhuuuumm, someday I’ll do that”.  Be BOLD (says GOLD!)

Box Office Friday – When Art Imitates Life

I began Box Office Fridays earlier this year, intending to update this blog EVERY Friday with wit and wisdom surrounding a subject that would be screening at theater near you.  If you look back, you’ll see my “habit” hasn’t fully developed yet, so please bear with me by reading and keeping me accountable!

In any case I’m not sure if Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz as a foul-mouthed, inappropriate, drinking, ruthless teacher who can’t wait to give up her bogus day job to marry rich, is quite my cup of tea.  I mean I LOVE Cameron, and director Jake Kasdan, son of Oscar winner Lawrence Kasdan, is amazing in his own right.  But do I really want to see a “humorous” portrayal of what is indeed a real problem in some of our schools?

I must admit I’m not totally up on the whole “get rid of tenure” or fire all the “bad teachers” in the system…because lets face it, GOOD and BAD are interpretations.  Just like some folks will think this movie is good and some will think it’s bad, it’s all a point of view. Read more