Wendy Alane Wright is a Hollywood Talent Manager with WAW Entertainment. Her clients have appeared in numerous national commercials, movies, webisodes, short films, and on television networks such as ABC, NBC, Comedy Central, BIO, Lifetime, plus many more. Previous to being a Manager and a Talent Agent at Burn Down Entertainment, she assisted many high profile Managers, Agents and Publicists in the careers of Neil Patrick Harris, Johnny Galecki, Sarah Michelle Geller, The Four Tops, The Bee Gees, Meatloaf, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Guttenberg, The Cranberries Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, and Neil Diamond. Wendy is also a Recording Artist, Actress, Author and Music Producer all giving her a 360-degree perspective of the industry.
One of the hardest things managers deal with is getting actors to follow direction. Nine out of ten times, beginning actors think they know better than their representatives. It is very annoying. In my company when I give direction I expect it to be followed. It is my way or the highway, because I know what I am doing. I am helping actors build a career and an understanding of how the business works. New actors are only thinking about how to get a job. Anytime you watch television you can see an actor who had a job, but do they have a career? There is a big difference. I am not trying to get my actors jobs, that is what their agent is for. I am building careers that last.
Agents have this problem as well. Los Angeles Talent Agent Stephanie Allensworth says, "I can't tell you how impatient most talent are and they feel like we aren't doing enough because they are not getting out. Sometimes...no matter how many calls I make or submissions I do....some just don't get called. It's then when they need to re-invent themselves. If they choose not to...no one can help them because they don't listen."
Recently, an actress named Melissa came to me with her demo reel. At the beginning of the reel is a montage of all the scenes I am going to see in the reel. This is a big no-no. I am a busy woman and I have just enough time to watch the scenes once. So after the repetitive preamble, we get to the scenes and they are interesting. I go to her LA Casting Profile to read her resume and click on the various clips she has next to the credits. I see the same scenes I just watched on her demo reel, which is irritating. Especially since I am clicking on credits that were not on her demo reel to see what else she can do. So I saw the same clips in the Montage, on the reel, and now next to other project titles. By this time she has irritated me and so have the scenes. She also brought in a headshot that was lousy, and had far better shots on her online casting profiles.
The first step for me if I was managing her would have been to remove the montage from the demo reel, make sure that each credit has the correct clip, and pick a different headshot to make into 8x10's. Simple stuff. But this actress says loves the headshot as it is, wants to keep the montage and feels its better if the casting director sees her clip over and over so she won't forget it. Ay, Yi, Yi! Melissa did not become a client of mine. She revealed her difficult personality in one meeting.
Beginning actors typically have no idea about how the industry works, the casting process, what ticks off casting directors, how to maintain communication with them professionally, how they should dress for auditions, what they should say in agent interviews, what is their type and why that is so important.
In fact, I hear beginning actors say 'I can play anything.' That is the sign of an amateur because in this business we play to type. You must know your type because you will be cast by it. Producers, Directors and Casting Directors want to hire a professional actor who can handle the pressure of the work but is also closest to the type they are casting. Being type cast is okay. Remember the second part of that word is CAST and that is what you want to be.
Sometimes I get so frustrated working with newcomers who don't take direction, that I lose interest in working with them. It's saddens me because I hate to see their potential go to waste behind self sabotage. But if they think they know more than me they need to get the hell out of my office because they don't. There are 50 actors right behind you waiting for the opportunity to work with me.
I met an actress named Shannon on a film set. When she found out I was a manager she asked me to rep her. I watched her performance that day and she was funny and talented so I was interested. In the first week she wanted to know which casting directors I was going to call on her behalf. I didn't even know her yet, her training, her marketing materials anything. She called 3-4 times a day giving me instructions and asking who I was going to introduce her to. My gosh. She was so annoying I can't imagine ever introducing this pushy, aggressive actress onto anyone I know. And I didn't. These experiences with actors can be draining if you let them. Thank goodness I have a good meditation program!
Typically, I represent about 10-15 really talented actors, most of whom are following my direction very closely. The ones that don't take my direction are never on my roster for longer than 1 year. I have one actress on a network series, another just shot a Pilot, one booked a national commercial, two are starring in Webisodes and the rest are doing films and theatre as they build their resume, experience, auditioning chops, and casting director relationships. I am really proud of them. But even still, I was stunned to see how many of them did not send a Christmas card or gift to their agent or manager! I don't say that because I want all of my clients to shower me with gifts, (although some of them do and I appreciate them for it) I say that because, if an actor doesn't send a holiday card to the people working for them, then they have no idea how to build and nourish relationships. And this business is based completely on relationships.
In fact, an actor should send a holiday card with their picture on it to every casting director who auditioned them that year, every CD they took workshops with, every agent or manager they met, every teacher they have, and their current representation. And if you are too lazy to do that, go do something else! This industry is called "show business," not show. You will do 90% business and 10% show... if you are lucky.
WEEDING PEOPLE OUT
Every time I go to a Manager showcase for actors, I see a lot of hopefuls that come in with their scenes and sides, often not really showcasing their type or their best work. They all have the same story..."I want to be a star", or "I want to be on TV or in films." Then starts the process of weeding them out...the ones who don't really mean it. The majority of actors say it, the minority of actors mean it by the actions they take. All reps hear the lip service. This is the hard part for us because we want you all to succeed, but we can't want it more than you. We want you all to be well trained and ready for any audition, but we can do that FOR you. All we can do is guide and direct you. The ones who take direction and make progress rise to the top of our client list, and the ones who are confused, don't take direction and make poor choices are weeded out.
I was approached by an actor named Kerry who had written and produced two films that he starred in. His goal was to start doing television. Very doable. His edge had him perfectly cast type to play a cop, detective, gangster, biker, supporting roles and roles with meat. I was thrilled! But there was no honeymoon for us. Everything with Kerry was fight. He knew better. He did not want to work through the ranks to get known by casting directors, he had lousy headshots, he didn't have a website. But he had a HUGE attitude. He felt he should be able to walk into any casting directors office ahead of everyone else and get the part because he had made 2 movies (which weren't very good by the way) I would say he was a C actor. Very average. But intention and drive can make anything happen. Unfortunately, he was impossible to work with. I dropped him within 1 month. He was livid. He threatened me, contacted a handful of my other clients and bad mouthed me. I was disappointed I wouldn't be able to help build his career and watch him do those roles. (I love a good movie or cop show like anyone else) Yet, it was so clear why he produced his own films. He was a control freak and taking direction from other directors and producers was going to be very hard for him. When I look at his IMDB now, years later he still hasn't done a TV Guest Star or Co-Star. In fact, his most recent credit was stunt work. So I guess I am not the only one he pisses off.
Melissa, Shannon and Kerry are people we have to give up on quickly because they waste time, money and energy. What actors don't know is Agents and Managers are constantly weeding people like this out so we don't waste any of our contacts on them. That's a big part of our job and Casting Directors and Producers expect us to do it. If we send them someone it has to be cream of the crop.
It is very rare to find that special combination of talent, drive, ability to take direction, charisma and never ending work ethic. It is what Movie Stars are made of. When we find them, we know it. Those are the clients agents and managers dream of. We hope everyone we rep turns out to be a star or a working actor who get opportunities to share their gifts in every possible way. But they all don't. The rest simply vary in degree. We expect that. Our job is to try and increase their odds and at least get them working. It takes time and in the beginning we do it for free because we believe in them, but our charity only lasts for so long because after all...this is a business. If our clients aren't booking, taking direction, making adjustments, and learning this business so we can make money, we have to cut them loose.
Here is an example of a client that takes direction:
AN ACTUAL EMAIL FROM A CLIENT
Wendy, So I am assuming with in the next couple of weeks things will start to pick up. Right now, things are very slow for my type ( nothing is really being posted on the casting sites). Now I want to know is there anything special that I should be doing on my end? All of my marketing tools are together, I’m back into acting classes, and I have a couple of CD workshops lined up. Is there anything else, you can think of, that would help. I am trying to make my first pilot season as productive/successful as possible. Because in April when it is all over, regardless of if I book or not, I want to be able to say "Me and my team tried our hardest, and we did everything we could possibly think of. Thanks, Tanya
MY RESPONSE TO TANYA
Dear Tanya, Thank you for your questions about Pilot Season. I understand completely. I love your proactive attitude Few things. Your wonderful agent will be diligently submitting you. Make sure Susan and her partner know what kinds of roles you want to play, what you are capable of, and continue to send her video of everything you do. The more she knows your talent and ability, the easier it is to pitch you. F.y.i."Pilot season" isn't Jan -May anymore, as pilots are being made all year round these days. There are some, but it isn't what it used to be. Things have changed with so many more networks which means more work for actors!. Keep doing your Casting Director Workshops off your Target List. Let your agents know which casting directors you have taken workshops with this year to help them pitch you. Read the Trades (Hollywood Reporter/Daily Variety) and see if you find a project that isn't in the breakdowns yet. Try to get to know the producer. Check Backstage.com Casting notices. Network, Go to LA Casting Mixers, Industry parties. Do some theater. And most importantly have fun! This career is a lifestyle. It takes time. Just enjoy it. :)
THE EMAIL TANYA SENT TO HER AGENT: Hello Susan, I just want to start off by saying Happy New Years, and I am very excited for this pilot season. I have a couple of things attached to this email, that I hope will help you when submitting me. I have attached my Casting Director list of CD’s I have taken workshops with this year. The second attached list consist of 7 CD's that mainly cast teen shows that I think I would be a perfect fit for (age, look, etc fit me to a tee) I hope these lists will help you.
When it comes to teen shows... I LOVE the teen dramas, and I lean more towards them then teen sitcoms BUT I do like sitcoms as well. My acting ability is both strong in comedy and drama... so feel free to submit me for any and everything. When I auditioned for you, you saw my dramatic ability, but not so much my comedy. On my website my reel is up (which has some comedic piece), but also there is a link to the comedic webseries I did. I hope all of this information/videos help you to better pitch me. Also, I recently re -did my website, so you can find the link below... I hope you enjoy it! I was wondering if there is anything you need from me to better help you during the pilot season. I have my website, my new headshots, I am signed up for CD workshops, and I am continuing my acting training. If there is anything else I can do that will help, Let me know! Thank you! Tanya
Her agent sent me an email saying, "Thanks Wendy. I wish you managed all of my talent." - Susan.
According to Talent Agent Stephanie Allensworth, "The formula here is simple; Actors should be available, be professional, be considerate of other peoples time, study constantly and have good marketing materials to network themselves. If something happens to throw them off schedule for an audition, they should CALL their agent. Don't text or email, because we may not get it in time to do anything about it. Then we all look bad to the Casting Director and this is a position I never want to be put into."
READING INDUSTRY BOOKS
I highly recommend a book called "Self Management For Actors" by Bonnie Gillespie. Even if you have an agent or manager you should read and understand this book inside and out. The things your manager is trying to tell you may make sense to you once you have read 10 pages of WHY you are supposed to be doing the things we suggest, backed up by statements from casting directors and producers saying the same thing. Some actors have such huge egos, that sometimes they need to hear it 10 times from different sources. That is the tiring part about being a manager.
I tell my clients to read everything they can get their hands because it is crucial. Some actors don't think it is. All they care about is getting an acting job. They complain, we aren't we pitching them to casting directors? Why on earth would we pitch an actor who doesn't understand the business to casting directors? Our reputation is on the line every time we talk to a casting director. I don't contact them for pushy actors, with egos who are in a rush and don't understand who gets the jobs and why. I contact casting directors when I am 100% convinced that my client is ready to go to producers. When I believe they are professional, respectful, confident and have trained their skills at the top level. Casting Directors want to look good to producers by sending them quality talent. Agents and Managers want to look good for Casting Directors by sending them talent that can impress producers and who know what they are doing and who they are as artists. We know when our clients have reached that level and we know when they haven't. Believe me we don't risk our reputation until you are there. So I stress learning about this business to all of my clients. I send articles, links, books, and inform them of seminars that can help them understand. If they don't do these things I will likely not be working with them after 1 year. They are weeding themselves out.
Obviously, if you have read 10 books on this industry cover to cover, you are going to hear much of the same thing so you should have a deeper understanding of how the business works. Don't think you are going to come out of college drama programs, or take a few seminars, and book jobs in this industry. The chances of that are the same as being struck by lightening, twice. People work with people they know. Casting Directors typically hire people they know. Producers who are casting Series Regular roles usually want to see actors who have already been series regulars. Breaking into this business takes time. It takes persistent auditioning at your top skill level to begin to make a memorable impression on casting directors and helps you stand out from the 50,000 other actors they see every year.
YOUR MARKETING MATERIALS MUST BE YOUR BEST
You do not walk into this business and simply "make it." There is a reason for the term "paying your dues." It is how you gain experience which shows people you can handle the pressures of the job. It is how you meet people who refer you to producers, managers, agents and casting directors. It is how you show the industry that you are here, here to stay and your are damn good. You can only make this statement over time. Newcomers, there are people here before you who have already put in their time and are likely going to be hired before you. Now it is your turn to put in your time.
Talent Agent Stephanie Allensworth, "Success means hard work and knowing that they have to pay their dues by starting with the smaller parts and less attractive roles. The first thing a casting director or producer wants to see is their attitude. Impatience and bad attitudes are killers. Unrealistic expectations is also a problem. They may get a really good role or commercial but not get another role for a solid year or more. There is no easy street in this business and the odds are against them. To get even to the middle [and stay there] means consistent work, patience and possessing a very thick skin."
Take classes with the best. If you can't afford it get another job. No excuses. Get a job that allows you to audition. If you can't leave your day job to audition you have the wrong day job. Get your headshot taken with the best. If you can't afford it, save longer and then get them. Poor headshots won't get you anywhere. All you will do is show the industry that you just don't get it. And Producers do not hire actors that don't get it. Get your demo reel edited by a professional. You have got to get over the mentality that something is better than nothing. It isn't.
The actors who work consistently have great headshots, a fabulous demo reel, have trained with Hollywood's best, are well educated about how the industry works, show up on time, are professional and humble and grateful for every opportunity. The attitude," Don't they know who I think I am?" just doesn't work here. It turns people off at the door.
Newcomers forget that although they are unique as people, their attitudes are not. We have seen thousands of newcomers every year with bad attitudes, or who show up late, unprepared, have a sense of entitlement and yet they don't have the audition chops, or even know how to break down a scene in 10 seconds for a commercial audition. These type of actors are useless to all of us.
If you are serious about making a strong impression on the artistic and business geniouses who run this industry, I highly suggest you follow these steps and make sure your resume reflects it. Once again I am sharing my Talent Management Secrets, it is up to you to do something with it:
Train with the best for Commercials: Terry Berland, Francine Selkirk, Carolyne Barry and Killian.
Train with the best acting teachers: Playhouse West, Margie Haber, Stella Adler, Howard Fine.
Beef up your comedy chops: Groundlings or Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB)
Have an incredible coach like Judy Kerr or Gwyn Gillis.
Have your headshots done by the best: Michael Helms or Kevyn Major Howard.
Have your Demo Reel edited by the best Robert Campbell at Quick Nickel or Daniel Scherl at Group 8 Productions.
Take every show business seminar you can. Knowledge is power and it will set you miles apart from those who "already know it all," or the lazy or arrogant actors who think they are just going to be handed a job if they simply "show up" in the audition room. You would be surprised at how many of these there are. That is one of many reasons they think they can skimp on all their marketing materials. They are just too good to need them. Wrong.
Read these books:
"Acting Is Everything" by Judy Kerr
"Self Management for Actors" by Bonnie Gillespie
"How To Book Acting Jobs In TV & Film" by Cathy Reinking, CSA
"Everything An Actor Needs To Know To Get The Part" by Michael Shurtleff
"Audition and Book It" by Helen McReady, CSA
"Breaking Into Commercials" by Terry Berland and Deborah Ouellettev
"An Agent Tells All" by Tony Martinez
"The Low Down Dirty Truth About Hollywood Agenting" by Rima Greer
It is also important to communicate with your manager about everything; when you go out of town, when you can't figure out how to upload your video to actors access, when you meet with your agent, when you are taking another CD Workshop, if you have finished a book they recommended, everything you book yourself on, keep bringing them clips of your work so they can continue to see your range and ability, invite them to shows you are in. Stay in the front of your manager's mind. Building your relationship with your manager is part of your responsibility. I have a client who sends me helpful tools to pass on to my other clients. If she finds a website that helps schedule casting director workshops easier she send that info on. If she finds out a teacher needs an intern in exchange for free classes, she passes that info on, and I pass it on to my other clients. She is just great. She is a team player. I value her. We managers have favorites too and believe me, we go to bat for our favorites.
And lastly remember, like my friend Mariko Ballentine, CSA says, "This business is a life style. Find your way of feeding yourself on the journey." I agree, you must learn how to create a fulfilled life here while working hard at your goals. Take care of yourself spiritually, physically and emotionally, have fun, play, relax, exercise, travel, hang with friends and enjoy the ride. A happy person who is fulfilled in all the other areas of their life is very interesting in the audition room. In fact, they are a pleasure to work with. People not only hire people they know, they hire people they like. People like happy people.
When are you ready for an Agent or Manager? When you are ready to listen, leave your ego at the door and take direction.
Several times a year I offer a workshop called, “The Winner's Circle" for brand new actors which will help you begin to understand the business and start to develop a plan of action for your success. I teach it along with several important industry friends of mine including a top Theatrical Agent, Commercial Agent, Casting Director, Headshot Photographer, Working Actor and including Reel Producer. You will learn so much information in this workshop from top people in the business who are all committed to your success! I have been coaching actors for years, and I know new actors need a mentor and professional guidance, so if you are new to this business I highly recommend this workshop. It will give you the "inside" information you need and it will put you miles ahead of the hundreds of other newcomers that arrive in L.A. every year. At the end of this 4-hour seminar with us you will have a game plan for success. The cost is $179 and it's worth every penny. Visit my website and sign up today for dates to the next workshop. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
If you liked this information and found it helpful leave a comment! I love to hear from new people.
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Wendy Alane Wright Smith