By Maria Aparo
The year I decided to take on representation as an actor was exciting and a real investment in my business. If you’re reading this and wondering, “What business? You’re an actor! You mean show business?” I’ll politely remind and/or educate you that most actors are actually entrepreneurs who do contract work on a project-to-project basis. Anyone can be creative or be an artist, but to make a living at it means taking your craft as seriously as any other business. The best part is you’re the CEO.
So I found myself bringing on my first “commissioned sales rep”: my manager. The exciting thing is now I have two people looking for work, two sets of eyes checking contracts…. and two people to pay. My manager doesn’t get paid unless I get paid, so if I’m not bringing home the tofu bacon, no one’s eating. Naturally, as the CEO of Maria Aparo, Inc., I wanted to pull my weight, and I was also eager to quantify my new investment. After all, it’s not sound business if I’m now paying more for the same opportunities.
I knew that to really quantify the relationship I’d need to collect performance data. So I decided that for one year I would keep a log of every audition I went on, who got it for me, the casting details, and any pertinent info that I discovered. What I found was astonishing. Most importantly, I would have never learned this information or had the opportunities I did if I had relied solely on my feelings or my memory of the year. Here are my biggest takeaways:
Dispelling the actor myth “Once I signed with my rep, my auditions declined”
I had heard this from a number of people. I can only speak to my own experience, and this was not the case for me. In fact it was the opposite. But what I can tell you is that I changed nothing about my own job hustle. Meaning: once I knew someone was helping me, I didn’t stop helping myself. At the end of the year, according to my log, I had more auditions than ever before, averaging 1-2 a week for the year, and a booking rate of about 25%. The ratio of who set up the auditions? 50/50. My manager was working just as I was, and my investment was paying off.
Your relationship game should be ON POINT
Because I was tracking the casting directors and directors I was auditioning for as well as notes from the auditions, I started to see patterns. I tracked thank-you cards and emails and built a list of the casting directors who were repeatedly calling me in and giving good feedback. I made sure to pay them extra attention to them and learn about what they were doing and keep them up to date on what I was doing . Real relationships are a two-way street of communication. I also let my rep know to send me in any time she could for these people. Those turned into bookings pretty quickly; all because I was paying attention to who was in my corner and who liked my work.
What you track grows. What you seek you find.
There is a golden rule of the universe: Law of attraction, like attracts like, whatever you choose to call it. This experiment proved it, in my opinion . If you want to see hard work produce results, track it. Data tells you immediately if you’re going toward your goals. For actors it can be easy after a lag in bookings to get caught up in the mindset of “Oh my god, what am I doing with my life? This isn’t going to plan! Maybe I should just quit and work at Subway.” But then you pull up your log and see your progress right in front of you, getting better every day you put energy toward it. It gives you a reality check. It also tells you really fast if you actually ARE putting in the work.
Not repeating what didn’t work and cultivating what does.
Based on my notes and patterns, I began to see where my efforts were best placed and where I was getting the most traction at this point in my career. It became increasingly obvious to me that commercial and TV was dominating my auditions and bookings, so then why would I be hustling to shake down every play reading that offered a $100 stipend? That was clearly not serving me at this juncture. Instead, I took that data and decided to take some on-camera commercial workshops. I beefed up my voice-over reel and made sure my contact with those casting directors was outstanding. In the meantime, if a play came along that really excited me creatively, I could pursue it with ample resources and energy.
By simply tracking the basic nuts and bolts of my acting business I was able to make substantial and strategic moves within a relatively short period of time. It also brought a new level of discipline to my craft. I can’t recommend this method enough to actors who may be feeling like they’re not gaining traction in any one place, or maybe feel they need just that little extra push to take their career to the next level. You really have nothing to lose and so much to gain!