Little “Workshops” Of Horror
So you’ll hear about these hundreds of studios doing thousands of workshops with billions of industry guests. (Ok, maybe a slight use of hyperbole there. But that’s how overwhelming it feels sometimes.)I was so excited when I first heard about this, I mean how hard is going to be to find good representation when all you have to do is pay over your dollars, go to a few of these industry events, audition by doing a scene, monologue or cold read and await the phone call for a meeting! Seriously what is everyone complaining about? Hollywood basically offers you an audition for these people every week!
So basically here’s the actual story. There are loads of studios offering this very service around town. I read not so long ago they were trying to stop the workshops and showcases altogether.
Before you attend a workshop: Check who the guest is. I personally don’t do Agent nights anymore. The reason being is I personally believe you need a good manager first who can help you find the right agent for you. To get a good agent, I think you need a strong referral. There is very little chance of the Agents at these things signing you, as most of the time they have to go back and convince their whole office in their weekly meeting, who haven’t seen you, to bring you in. Most of the time, they are doing the workshops to make their extra money for the weekend, showing face and feigning interest. I say this because I’ve had Agents sitting in front of me and looking at my headshot and resume (yes not CV) throughout my entire scene. Or texting on their cellphone and not even do me the common courtesy of making eye contact with me in the room, never mind watching the scene I have prepared for them. I started noticing a pattern at various studios. There was a group of 5 agents, the same reps from the same office, attending the same Agent Night Showcase at the same studio roughly the same time each month. Now, you’re not telling me they are always looking for new talent every month. No, this forms part of the “I guess we should do our bit and attend a workshop.”
I also get annoyed when I follow up on my $35 -$250 “investment” with an email or phone call and get treated like I am some sort of irritation and “we’ll call you if we are interested.’ Well fair enough, but as I am managing my own business, that business being me, and I am currently in the business of seeking representation and I have paid you to see my work, I feel I deserve to be able to follow up on this without being made to feel like I need to apologise for doing what I can to be pro active in this mad city. Dear Agents and Managers, with respect, please don’t do the workshops if you don’t want actors to follow up. It’s what we should do! It’s what we have a responsibility to do. Otherwise what is the point? If you feel we are not right for your agency, please allow us to ask why, and expect some feedback regarding how we can change this for next time. You can’t expect us to get any better by giving us a general “no” and then withhold the information and tools we need to improve. Personally I just don’t think there is a real reason half the time. It’s luck mixed with a little bullshit.
I actually did a workshop once for a manager whom I became somewhat friendly with afterwards. On one particular coffee date I asked her why she didn’t sign me after giving me such excellent feedback. Her response was that if it was up to her, she’d sign me today, but it wasn’t her name on the door, and she had been told to go and “show her face” at a workshop, even though the company wasn’t actually taking on anyone over 18 at that time. All the actors at that particular workshop were ALL over 18. You decide….
That said, I do believe people do get picked up from these workshops from time to time. It’s the luck of the draw. As I’m writing this I feel like I sound bitter. I’m frustrated yes, and have spent too much money on these events. So either I am very unlucky or not very good.
If you are going to attend a single or group agent/manager/casting director evening, I ‘d like to share this with you. Through my own mistakes I have learnt: Don’t put your reel, voice reel, 25 referral letters, resume and head shot in a nicely sealed envelope and hand it to them. No. This is bad and embarrassing. Especially the noise they make ripping open your envelopes in an quiet room. Just a nice headshot with resume either stapled it printed on the back will suffice. They don’t want to know, nor do they care about your childhood, blood type or the fact you love sailing.
Secondly know what you are looking for. You are looking for THEATRICAL representation. Yes, you can see where this is going…
So there Jo sits in her very first workshop, which happens to be a class format where we perform in front of the other actors as well as the industry guests. Each person before me gets up, says their name and states they are seeking THEATRICAL representation. After about the 8th person, I’m thinking “I thought LA wasn’t big on theatre, but it seems like lots of people are seeking agents for theatre jobs.”
Up I get with my neatly sealed envelopes, containing my life story, and proceed to inform them I am looking representation for Television and Film. Now, my readers, I shall take on all this embarrassment so you don’t have to. “THEATRICAL” MEANS TELEVISION AND FILM HERE. Of course it makes no sense. I don’t understand it, to me Theatrical is Theatre. But there you go. It’s LA, it’s their rules. What can I tell you? They still send cheques in the post! And they spell it checks. Don’t argue, you’ve bought the ticket…
After my interesting start, I proceeded to do a comedic monologue, which I had written for my very first workshop in LA. Let's just say that again, a COMEDIC MONOLOGUE, which I had WRITTEN for my FIRST workshop.
It didn’t go well.
Personally, I would advise against doing a monologue, ever… Being a TV/Film town, scenes are a better way to showcase yourself. I ‘d save the monologues for the stage or if they specifically request one. The funniest piece of advice I got (and didn’t listen to) was not to make eye contact with them when you performed. Perform over their heads, find a spot on the wall, do it looking at the “audience,” look under the chairs if you have to, but don’t…look….them….in…the…eye!!!! (cue danger music.) I thought this was ridiculous! (In my best Noel Coward-esque voice) I’m a performer, and one with a lot of stage experience. This is my audience! I will act for them! What nonsense! No Jo, listen to the people who have been here and worked this town a lot longer than you. I shouldn’t have looked them in the eye. The sheer panic and uncomfortable vibes that emanated from these agents was palpable. They HATED me for looking at them. It truly was the weirdest way I have ever lost an audience. By involving and encouraging them to watch me work, I isolated and exposed them. Obviously this is why they deal with film and TV. It’s safe behind the screen where the audience can’t be seen or heard as they sit in the dark commenting and chomping on popcorn. Sometime those audience members come to the theatre. Then we have to remind them that we aren’t moving pictures, and can hear them chatting on their cell phones to their teenage daughter. I’m learning that human interaction is not “big” here in Hollywood.
I do think these workshops are great for CD’s or Casting Directors. It is a good way to introduce yourself to them and show them your work. Try and aim for ones where the ACTUAL CD will be present and not just an Associate. Yes, the Associate will grow into and actual CD one day, but probably not this Pilot Season. Do your homework. Find a scene that relates to the show the CD casts. There is no point in doing an Aaron Sorkin piece for Jeff Greenberg who casts Modern Family is there? (If you don’t know who Sorkin is, we can’t be friends.)
IMDb Pro is your best friend. This is your first bit of online advice I’m telling you about. My next blog will deal with this in more detail.
Get onto IMDb and IMDb Pro. This is your industry “Google search engine.” You can find out all you need to know about any actor, director, agency, manager, movie, TV series, industry news etc. etc. This will give you a better idea of which people to do workshops for. You do have to pay an annual fee for access to IMDb Pro. But I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s been my Bible since I came here. You should not only have an account for research, but to manage your own IMDb profile properly. You must have an IMDb page!!
Finally, look up the shows that suit you and that you feel you’d be right for. You know yourself better than anyone and you know whether you are Gloria in” Modern Family” or “Skylar White” in Breaking Bad. I’m not saying you couldn’t do both, but let’s remember, Hollywood can’t even imagine you with a different look without that exact head shot in front of them, so lets make it easy. Pick something you could be type cast in for a bit, and then once you’re more established, break out the versatility with champagne and streamers in it’s very own cabaret of talent.
Look up the Casting Directors on IMDb. I would target 5 you really want to see. Then find out where they are doing workshops and let the stalking begin. It’s only really stalking if you get caught. After midnight. In the bushes of their home.
Seriously, I would then try and get to regular workshops with these CD’s so you are in the forefront of their minds when they’re casting their shows. Find out which is the best way to stay in touch with them, some like email, some like FB groups, some like mail, whatever. Then do that. Send them links when you have shot something new, done new headshots, booked a new job etc. Don’t just contact them to say “hi.” That’s just irritating.
Truthfully I think Hollywood is in a bit of a panic. No one really knows what advice to give you anymore. Go to this photographer. No she’s not hot anymore, try him. Study with Groundlings. No, UCB…. Lay out you resume like this. No like that. You MUST have rep. What! You don’t need rep – build your credits first. DON’T cold call or send an unsolicited submission. Call and blag – it shows balls and passion. It’s all about networking. Get a manager, he’ll help you find an agent. No get an agent. You don’t need both. You should have both, that means more people batting in your corner. Go to workshops. Don’t do workshops!! They’re all a scam and prey on the poor and hopeful. SERIOUSLY!!!!
Basically I think longevity, staying power and patience are rewarded. It comes down to how long you want to fight and when it becomes tiresome and unhappiness sets in. My mother says to me “do it if it still makes you happy, you’ll know when you’ve had enough and then come home.” She’s right. I will. But not today.