Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to Pick an Agent

Tales of the Myspace Blog!
So I have about 3 years of acting blogs languishing on MySpace, boring 17 year olds (or is it 47 year-olds now? Myspace should join with the AARP). So every once in a while, rather than repeat myself, I'll simply let my genius renew itself. Enjoy

December 25th, 2006

New Agency, Nice Office

Here's my guide for young actors on what they should be looking for when meeting a new agent.
impressive client list? nope.
compatible personality? no.
Promise of getting you work. never.

Ready? Here it is.

How nice is their office.

As soon as your eyes have returned from their obligatory rolling I tell you that this is a backed up, strong technique. This theory has results.

In fact, I mentioned this question as I was taking a meeting with Ellis Talent Agency the other day. we had a wonderful hour and a half long meeting. The two agents and I were really clicking, laughing, agreeing smiling. It was a perfect first date that would end in a kiss if we weren't all married.

But let's go back a step further. My manager pitched me to this agency a while ago (you might remember my video from a previous blog) and after the predictable lag time they finally got around to watching my demo reel. The word came back that they absolutely loved it and that they wanted to meet me.

This is fair-to-pretty-good news. It means that you've reached a stage in your career that merits this agency's attention. They are car buyers and they've already done their internet homework on you and now they want to kick the tires. You usually stop by toward the end of the day, meet all the agents, chat about stupid stuff for the first 30 minutes before they grill you about your career and what you think about your potential. They let you awkwardly sell yourself (at least I do) until you run out of platitudes, credits or steam. When you're exhausted they make themselves feel good with a history of the agency and it's (perceived) successes. At the end they ask if you have any questions. You may or may not muster up some softball question to toss them just to show them that you've paid attention. After that, everyone shakes hands and agrees to contact each other at a later date.

these meeting are by no means a guarantee that they'll take you on. I've met with several agencies (including one in the same building as Ellis) that seemed to go well (or not) and end up with the agency passing. Most of the time it's pretty obvious that one or more of the agents didn't like you. At a now defunct agency called The Syndicate (dumb name), 5 out of 6 agents loved me. The 6th agent was of course the head of the agency. Guess how that turned out? Generally, you'll get a call from the agent that liked you explaining that one of the agents just didn't see how to market you, but we'll keep you on file and..........

The ones that like you will also call, generally sooner than later. Many will tell you right there that they'd like to sign you. It's flattering. In a town that doesn't want you unless you're symmetrical and young, when someone does want to take you to the dance you almost always want to say yes.

But I knew to fight that urge. It's the old axiom that you'd never date some one that actually LIKES you. In acting, there's actually validity to it, but more importantly, you need to do some of your own tire-kicking.

Such was the case with Ellis. They had tipped their hand pretty early in the courting process by telling my manager that they really, really loved my demo reel. I knew going in that as long as I didn't threaten them with bodily harm, they would offer to sign me. So now it was up to me to decide if I wanted to sign with them.

And so we're back to my agent criteria.

It's pretty simple, actually. If an agency is doing well, they'll have a nice office. Remember, they're only making 10 percent of the actor's paycheck so they need either quantity or quality. If they have neither, it shows in the decor, the computers, the location of the office. I had interviewed with those agents before and I still impulsively feel the urge to shower. You feel like you're in a haunted house and that these people are the dealers of the dead (careers). It seems like you could come back the next day and they'd be gone or the building would.

But the good agents have paid themselves, their assistants, their accountants, bought their clients holiday gifts (iPods..always ipods) and had plenty left over to carve out a temple of luxury in Beverly hills. If you ever have the time, stop by William Morris, ICM or CAA's offices. You'll see what I mean.

So at the end of the meeting the two agents looked at me. They are very nice women who I believe will work hard for me and understand my humor and acting potential. They paused for a moment before asking if I had any questions.

I shrugged looked around and replied "Well, I like your office." And that was it. they didn't know it, but I was unofficially their client. Their office was not opulent, but it was not a dive either. It was homey and in a nice building. there were new computers and a sense of decor stability (meaning that things had been there awhile). To merge my competing metaphors, I had agreed to buy the Honda Accord to take Miss Personality to the dance.

So a day later I agreed in principle to sign with the Ellis Talent Agency. My manager (no office, but works out of a nice condo)was thrilled at this lateral move for me and possible vertical opportunities for her other clients. I was happy to be done with "The Hassle" and start auditioning in January. I really hope this policy continues to work. If I'm right , then eventually my house will look 90% better than the best agency in town. If I'm not, then I'll be working at home depot, consulting agents on bathroom fixtures.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Best Acting Advice Evar!

Okay, here it is.

Blog number two in the third age of Mike-Blog-Utopia and I'm gonna give away the biggest, best tip on acting ever. After this, I can just close up shop and build a strip mall here. It's that awesome, that important.

And it's not even mine. I heard it when I was an undergraduate taking a special acting class to prepare us for the 'real world'. It was taught buy an alumnus named Dennis Cockrum, an actor who's big claim to fame was a role in the movie "Uncle Buck", followed by a lead in the TV series of the same name. Big stuff to a 20 year-old who was screwing around in Ypsilanti, Michigan in a lackluster acting program in the middle of the Midwest. Dennis was the closest thing I'd ever seen to a movie star. His words were gold.

And yet, when he told me the greatest tip to new actors ever uttered, I hated him. What he said was stupid...beyond stupid, irresponsible. I wondered if he could be kicked out right then and there. He was corrupting the youth of America with this nonsense and some one had to stop the message.

The message that went like this:

"If there is anything in this world that you like to do more than acting, if there is anything you're even remotely better at doing than it."

WTF? FTW? (Author's note: those initialization were not in public usage at the time. Colloquial expressions utilized to appear 'hip')

And like I said, it pissed me off. How dare this old guy (who I am now of that 'old' age) walk into MY school - not his - and tell me to quit acting. Who the Hell is he anyway?

Then it hit me: he wasn't trying to discourage us, he was trying to warn us.

I looked at his face and saw the years of rejection. Each wrinkle was graph of a failure, each crevice was a hole where hope once was. The Business beat the crap outta this guy...this guy who was successful, and yet he still looked like he lost every battle.

I looked around at the 9 or 10 of us in the class and instantly started to see what he meant. These were the best and brightest of my acting program. At least for this year. And yet, suddenly I could see the tough lives ahead of each of them, the loss the sorrow, the pain if they kept up the dream of being an actor. We were 'good', but many other would be 'great'. Before we graduated, before we left that room...before we even considered being an actor, the odds were stacked against us.

And you know what, years later, his words still proved true. Out of those 9 or 10, I think I'm the only one out in Hollywood pursuing the dream. My friend Tony is an Artistic Director in Michigan (and a damn good one) and the rest...well, they sooner or later followed Dennis's advice. Even I sit here typing away, focused on my next audition and wondering if there's still time to go into teaching. Acting is that hard.

Of course, the greatest irony about this advice is that about zero percent of the people told this will follow it immediately. Everyone envisions themselves as special, different, talented. They launch themselves at Hollywood, New York, Chicago or some lesser city with the grandest of schemes. They struggle against the truth that sits them down for coffee after each failed audition, each painful rejection and tells them that maybe another career is warranted. They clog the system, creating white noise that those who may honestly have a chance, must work twice as hard to break though. It's not their fault of course; like Bruce Willis in 'The Sixth Sense', they're already dead, they just don't know it yet (And no, it's not a spoiler anymore. I give movies 18 months before I start spilling secrets. BTW, rosebud = sled).

And so I take the torch from Dennis and bestow this nugget of wisdom to you. Be a doctor, lawyer or rocket scientist if you think you might like it a bit more than acting. Hell, even if you don't like those occupations, keep them on deck just in case. If money and stability makes you happy, don't be an actor.

As for Dennis, well he's still acting. He's done a lot of roles. Not great ones, but ones that keep the dream alive, ones that prove that he's still made the right choice. I saw him about 3 years ago while one of us was driving and the other was in a grocery store parking lot (I forget which). I called him out and we chatted the length of the guy in the car behind the one of us in the car's patience. He got married, I had a kid...good bye. I didn't have time to tell him thanks for the advice, but I guess I didn't need to. I was still here and so was he. We loved acting more than anything else, and that what it's all about.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What I Expect From You

What I Expect From You.

A new blog. Outstanding. Exactly what the world needs.

I’m slowly moving out of my parent’s basement (MySpace blog) and setting up shop in a new apartment complex. I tried Tumblr, which has a nice clean interface and easy controls. It also has no indigenous comment system (I installed one, click the title to see the crappy version), so plan 'B' stands for We'll sleep on google's couch until I can come up with a nicer pad.

Now, on to what this is all about.

Greetings. I am an actor by trade, a sci-fi geek by choice and a jackass by default. I’ve shuffled off my Sci-fi rants to a website called Slice of Scifi and they seem to be doing a good job of pissing off people. The personal life stuff will probably remain on Myspace, since it’s where my friends and my Mom tend to read them. That just leaves the acting stuff.

For a while I’ve fancied myself as a good actor. Recently I’ve also considered myself not only a good actor but a good blogger when it comes to acting. I recount my exploits and follies with humility and (possible) humor; all the while trying to actually impart what I’ve learned to those brave enough to follow me down this winding and whiny path. I dream of someday being an elder statesman of acting, lording above a young crop of attractive and talentless noobs, tugging at my pant leg for wisdom that I’ve dispensed for years via the Internet, then books and DVDs. it’s a power play for the later years in life, a golden parachute if the real dream of fame and fortune slips away.

And it’s humble beginnings are found here.

So, before I begin, let me tell you, gentle reader, what I expect of you.

FTW? What you expect of me, Mike! Outrageous! Overbearing! Bad form! Blogs are free and I have no obligation to you.

Nonsense. I’m not writing this blog entirely for my benefit. If I was, I’d take it off line, and you’d never know just how I really felt about the acting style of Mark Wahlberg (emoticon hint: :( ). In fact, this blog is built as a honeypot, a device to draw you in, get you to like me and eventually propel me to a successful acting career. Can you believe I’m telling you all this, upfront? How can you like me now?

Because I offer offer simultaenously the most valuable and worthless asset on the web: a truthful opinion. I have better things to do in my life than write gloss pieces about actors I like and movies that rock. Leave that to the bloggers that get paid under the table to whore themselves out (and they do).

Instead, I offer blow by blow recounts of blown auditions. I share the joy of booking a job. I peek under my hood to expose my acting process, or lack thereof. I give honest viewpoints about screenplays, directors and actors…some of whom I may be working for or with. In short, I put my intellectual property online and my career on the line and live to tell you about it.

So I want something back.

Here’s the deal, you can read these blogs for free right now. That’s right, you pay nothing. In exchange, all you have to do is this: Make me famous.

That should be my job, right? I’m the God-damned actor, find the jobs myself, right.


Still, the deal is this: make me famous.

How do you do it?

Don’t know. At least not completely. I suspect that the best thing you can do now is read my blog and when you like something about it, email it to a friend. If they do the same and so on, some day I might have a lot of people following this blog. When that happens, then the “Creatives” (directors, writers, ad agencies) start to take notice. Always eager to jump on the bandwagon, they could - and I emphasize the word ‘could’ - help me do what I’ve set out to do: be famous.

At least that’s the initial plan. but here’s the exciting second part of reading this blog: you get to be a part of the process. See, if this was a diary that I’d written and you stumbled across it 100 years from now, you’d be a passive reader. This would either be worth a lot of money because I single-handed became famous, or it would be the worthless ramblings of a fool. But we’re in the present and you’re on the web, which means that you can interact with me. I’m all for that. I’m giving you stock in the company of me and as a shareholder, you can make suggestions. I offer my career to you in exchange for your occasional attention. Not a bad deal.

So if you’ve made it to this point in the blog, you’re either with me, or you’ve skimmed. Huzzah, to you, friend. Click the RSS feed and get your notifications when I cast my brilliance upon this fertile web plot. Shaudenfreude or success, either way it will be a fun ride.