Sunday, March 10, 2013

How Bad Do You Want A Career in Show Business?

Wendy Alane Wright

Wendy Alane Wright is a Hollywood talent manager and the president of WAW Entertainment. Her clients have appeared on television networks such as ABC, NBC, TNT, CBS, Comedy Central, BIO, Lifetime, and more. They have booked TV shows including “Modern Family,” “Blackish,” “Extant,” “The Colony,” “Animal Kingdom,” “My Haunted House,” and “Henry Danger,” as well as hundreds of commercials for major spots including Shutterfly, Mercedes, Visa, Taco Bell, Honda, Legos, Hot Wheels, and many more. Prior to being a manager and a talent agent at Burn Down Entertainment, Wright assisted many high profile managers, agents, and publicists. For 20 years she was a recording artist, actor, and music producer, and is now the author of five books called, “Secrets of a Hollywood Talent Manager.” Wright teaches the business of acting all over the country and is on the faculty of the New York Studio for Stage and Screen in North Carolina. For years she has appeared in numerous magazines, and on radio shows and talk shows including “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

 Actors, it is so important to see yourself realistically. Recently, I had an actor come to me for representation. He turned out to be a nightmare. He didn't have a reel yet, although he had some footage. He knew 1 casting director in soaps and he directed 2 shorts, one was a music video. So not much going on yet, but I loved his passion. I also liked him personally, his interest in India and helping starving children we shared that cause. I wanted to see him be successful and share his talent at a much greater level. So I took him on. He lasted 4 weeks on my roster. As soon as I started giving him direction, he started bucking my suggestions. His ego came out and the know-it-all attitude was strong. He saw himself as much further along than he was. And sadly, he could not see himself realistically.

I saw him as a beginning actor with no TV credits, no casting director relationships, no reel, average headshots (all things I can change) and 2 shorts under his belt. Shorts no one has ever heard of. Granted, I love that people create shorts and are making an effort to express their creativity in independent projects. I really like that way of working in Hollywood. Not waiting for the opportunities to come to you, but rather forge your own. But, the problem with this actor was, this small bit of work he did made him believe he was Steven Spielberg. (Mr. Speielberg wouldn't act like this fool did ha!)

So this actor got angry when I gave him suggestions, said he didn't need to learn about the business, that he was "a player, a doer and an og." (I don't know what that means.) He was above taking direction, above learning about the business and went on my facebook page criticizing the business end of this business and demanded I get him agent right now. When I told him he wasn't ready for me to take him to any agent, that he wasn't seeing himself realistically - he began swearing at me, and calling me filthy names, even the "C" word. Of course I terminated him from my roster immediately.

Actors it is important that you see yourself accurately in this business. You are a unique and individual commodity. Your job is to learn your brand and figure out how to sell it, better than anyone else. If you haven't put hundreds of hours into your marketing, forget it. You won't be able to compete. You also need to stay humble and work hard because there are thousands upon thousands of other actors trying to get work in this town. There are over 165,000 members of SAG-AFTRA, 49,000 members of Actors Equity, and a few hundred thousand non-union actors all trying to work their way up. You have to be humble. Nothing is owed you. You have to prove to talent buyers that you can do what you say you can do. No one is going to take you at your word.

Making a living in this business is a gift. It comes to a handful of very lucky, well trained and hardworking people. Bulldozing over people with a big ego, demands, entitlement issues and not much to show for it isn't going to get you anywhere. Actors need to be in acting class training all the time. It's one of the biggest mistake new actors make all the time. They are not in class. Agents don't take actors who are not in class seriously. You need to have incredible audition skills in order to beat out the thousands of people you are always competing with. You cannot walk into an audition room and think just based on who you are that you can compete at a professional level with people who have trained and studied and know what they are doing in an audition room. I can't stress this enough. New actors whine about not having an agent, or their agent isn't getting them out enough...they just want to get into the room and audition. But without impeccable audition skills you are not going to get the callback, and you are not going to get the role. And if you are not ready, you won't be called in again by that Casting Director, maybe for years. You need to understand this business and your place in it realistically. If you don't have an agent who cares? Use this time to become a better actor, do theater, get your audition skills to their highest level. Because even if you get an agent, it's so temporary. If you don't have great audition skills and you don't book, they are going to drop you, CD's wont call you in and agents will stop sending you out.

If you are serious about making a living as an actor. Get into an exceptional acting class with a great teacher. Take more cold reading and audition classes that you think you possibly can. Figure out your type and learn how to market it. Your headshots, your demo reel should show your type and how you want to be cast. If they don't it will be ineffective. If your strong suit is to play a "take no shit, cut throat criminal" your demo reel should not be student films, shorts and features of you playing a teacher, or a basketball player with a bad knee. You need footage of you being a cut throat bad ass. And the footage needs to be great.

If you are play a woman raped, or a drug addict and gravitate to really meaty roles that require depth of emotional, your demo reel can not be scenes of you playing the girl next door, or the happy friend who lost her dog. Your demo reel needs to have footage that shows you can get gritty, dirty, emotional. Your media is not supposed to be a compilation of every practice role you have taken on while getting experience and credits. There is a process to building a career. You do the student films and shorts to get experience and use that to convince indie directors you have enough experience to take on more. Then you do some stronger roles that reflect your type and keep taking on more of those types of roles. You graduate in a sense from just doing anything you can get, to doing roles that show what you do best. Then you take THAT footage and begin a reel. Until you have that footage to show an agent, you are just another wannabe actor who says they can play anything, blah, blah, blah.

Your media has to be clear and concise because in this day of technology, companies that create great demo footage, actors who produce their own high quality projects, one click and I can see someone else's great reel - other actors are presenting strong media to talent buyers that simply blow you out of the water. You walk in with your student film footage of you chasing a dog and you will not be taken seriously. This nightmare actor I mentioned above said his strong type was "tough guys" but none of his footage had him playing a tough guy. He also said he payed the sensitive boyfriend yet, he had no footage of him playing a boyfriend at all. But he wants me to get him a good agent today. Yikes. With what? The wrong media, nothing to show for and an egotistical, rude and lousy attitude? Oh vey.

It's a good thing I have a roster filled with humble, loving, hardworking and talented people who make me remember why I love this business so much. I always look forward to achieving great things with them.

Actors this is not a business you just "wing it" in. You really have to understand how it all works if you want to be a Series Regular, or if you want to be a Movie Star, even if you want to be employed and earn your living as an actor and not need a day job to pay the bills. I hear actors complain all the time, I don't have enough money for headshots, so they shoot with their friends at school for free. Crap. One of my amazingly talented and incredible clients Ron, lived in his car for a year so he could afford to attend the New York Film Academy and get outstanding shots. I love him. He has shot 19 films in the last 2 years and played the lead in half of them. He reminds me of James Dean who said he would rather act than eat, and he went without eating often. I even fed Ron when he came to my office last week. Some actors today are just lazy. They think things are going to be handed to them. They think mediocre headshots are better than nothing or I went to college for acting, why do I need more classes? Wake up! This business is going to go on with, or without you. And most likely without you unless you learn how to play the game. If you don't you are never going to be noticed.

Get into a type class and find out how others really see you. Take many hours of actors marketing classes to learn how to present yourself professionally and correct to type. Your media has to be great in this day and age. Get outstanding headshots. Create a powerful, strong demo reel. Follow a target list of casting directors and make sure they get to know you and what you can do. Do scenes in agent showcases and casting workshops that reflect your type and the type of role you want to be cast in. Understand you are a beginner and always learning. Lose the ego. Get grateful for every bit of help you get along the way. Work harder than every other actor you know. Don't burn bridges. Realize you have a long way to make the journey fun and help others along the way. And if you get real lucky, you just may make a living at this incredible profession that you are lucky enough to have been born with the talent to do.

As always follow your dreams. God gave you talent so you could use and share it with the world. Don't get in your own way.

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Wendy Alane Smith
Talent Manager
WAW Entertainment


 Wendy Alane Wright is a Hollywood Talent Manager and the president of WAW Entertainment. Her clients have appeared on television networ...