WITH LONDON AGENT GEORGE MONKLAND - 42MP
It's been a busy few months in all sectors to date and I'm very happy to be reporting a lot of advice and discoveries I've made over that recent period of time so thanks for reading in advance!
As you all know from my first post, I work as a freelance casting assistant part time around my acting and filmmaking. I can't say anything more than it’s quite a gift to be in that position as it provides greater knowledge in understanding how the industry really works here in the UK on the daily!
What I want to talk about most right now is how we can all be more business savvy as actors because, let's not forget, this is a business and we ourselves are unique, independent products selling to the business that we call show! This post will closely look at the London market of course, but I also believe this content applies to all markets across the world. I’ve also been lucky enough to have a top London agent answer some marketing-related questions: her name is George Monkland from the agency 42mp, a very well-respected agent and agency here, so I am over the moon to have her join me on this blog.
General meetings with Casting Directors are a part of the big reason this all came to my attention. For those who may not be aware, 'generals' are a meeting between a casting director (usually in their office) and yourself. These tend to be arranged through your agent, however there are still ways of getting generals if you are agent-less, given you have a connection or have perhaps emailed that casting office at the right time with the right set of skills, look and experience that match a project they are currently working on.
So! I've experienced many a general inside a casting office and it's very easy to see the difference between an actor who really understands how to sell themselves well and one who doesn't. What's the difference? Well an actor who really knows their own essence, how to pitch themselves whether they've got huge credits or not (and if they don't have huge credits that they don't downplay them!!! DON'T DO THAT!), presents a CV (resume) that looks well put together/thought about and has a through-line meaning all those credits/roles are a good representation of themselves, they show they have range but there's a core essence within that range that runs through them which stays true to themselves...that's the gold, every time we hear 'just be you!' in acting class, we MUST listen to that and apply it to our marketing; that's all that people are interested in.
Talking of CVs, we get to choose what jobs we have on them. We can still accept a job that we may decide we don't want to appear on our CV and be cool with that-- you may have taken that job for personal purposes/wants (perhaps a collaborative passion project with friends for example). Always ask yourself if it adds value to your CV before adding it; it's important, all these things have impact. The don'ts are the obvious opposites of the above: a CV that comes full of quantity over quality, the quantity comes across erratic and produces an air of uncertainty about who you are and what you’re about, and a showreel to the same effect. Putting everything you’ve ever done (including your college shows) on your reel is something you should look at closely and dare to make a hard go at trimming the fat so you have a nice quality marketing tool to push around-- it’s about quality not quantity!
"Always keep your CV up to date. You don't need to have everything on there it should be concise but always relevant"
Showreels sit in the same camp, find that core value of who you are and ensure it runs as a theme throughout your reel as well as your CV.
"Showreels are vital. Less is more (i.e. 10 minutes is too long, 5 minutes it's about right). Some agents/casting directors are opposed to the montage, personally i'm a fan. Also, you don't need to cram everything on to a reel. It's good to have a range and important to be selective."
The headshot is also a key marketing tool for us, in fact it’s our calling card. They key into achieving the best headshot for yourself is finding a photographer who absolutely must have an eye but most importantly, an understanding of what you are trying to achieve. In my personal opinion if you find a photographer who understands the craft of acting or who maybe also is an actor who runs a professional photography business then you’re going to get the headshot that is a best representation of you rather than ‘the photographer’s brand’. Don’t be afraid to call up a headshot photographer to get a feel for them, have a discussion about what you like and then decide if you will use them or not. You are paying them to deliver a headshot that represents you not to deliver a photograph to you that best represents their work.
"I prefer headshots that look more like portraits. Some photographers do the same set up for each actor. There are a handful who capture the essence of a person and I think that's important. There's no formula it's just about having a shot that looks stylish and is reflective of the individual and their character"
The next note I will comment on is going to be fairly obvious to all of you, BUT it is the most important when meeting anyone industry related: CONFIDENCE. As soon as the nerves walk through the door it’s already over and I’ve seen it so many times. If we all really own who we are, are confident and have interesting stories ready to tell then that’s buyable! As actors we have to prove that we are good people, possess the goods, have great set/stage etiquette/discipline and are not crazy!
There was a French actor who was in over from Paris for the day doing a day of generals around London at many a casting office, I happened to be working that day and he arrived in the office I was working in. The reason why he sticks solidly in mine and the CDs mind over many more generals that have happened of late is not because of his body of work, but because of the way he held himself. The French actor was so relaxed, comfortable with himself, he had many a story to tell about his life as well as some industry-related stories. He was just great to be around, a great friendly guy, and that’s what really counts! So the moral of the story here is simple: work with what you’ve got and work it well, own it and be nice, compassionate, all of those things-- after all people are people! Off the back of that, he has recently been put down on an 'ideas list' for the producer and director of a huge studio film so he can be considered for a certain role...the proof is in the pudding ;)
There’s another question that arises in the industry that I see tends to throw us off the mark at times, and that question is: ‘What kind of roles do you gravitate towards and what do you want to do?’. I’ve seen these types of questions make actors crumble in general meetings because they’re so unsure of what they’re wanting to do to move forward with their career-- and I get it, I really do, we all want to be just working, I’m right there with ya! But this is where being more business savvy can save your bacon. Research your shows, casting directors, producers, directors you want to work with, be in the know that their kind of work matches your through-line, start there, then make a higher ground list too so that you are working towards that higher ground once you’re past your through-line stage. Be strategic. Be more ninja as Casting Director and acting coach Bonnie Gillespie says! This all sprouts from a book of Bonnie's I have read also called Self Management For Actors-- I highly, highly recommend you read it and take on board what she talks about; all of it is key to what I’m talking about here. She’s coming from the American side of the world so you’ll see references to things such as Actors Access (the American Spotlight) but it’s all universal in this book AND helps you look at being more of an international actor over a domestic one.
To round off, I’d like to leave you with a few more questions and answers with the awesomeness that is George Monkland:
When you have an actor approach you for representation who you already know is talented, what is the next thing you look at before considering taking them on and why?
"You have to consider if you can do a good job for that person. Do they conflict with someone else on your list. What can you offer that they don't already have. Do you get on (it's a non romantic professional dating relationship so liking each other is important)”
Do you consider potential clients who may work internationally eg someone who lives in the states or Europe and wants to do more work here in London? If so how do you/would you like to work with these kinds of clients?
"Yes half my list are international, that's important to me. I work with them in the same way, it's about finding opportunities for them outside their own country that they feel excited about and they will normally have an agent in place so it's important that the agents get on with each other in that set up”
Do you work internationally as an agent with your current client list? For example keep an eye out for projects in the states or other countries and pitch them there?
Yes, you can't just rely on work from the UK that's not how it works anymore. I try and keep on top of as much as possible from the US and across Europe.
So... WHEN DO YOU SLEEP?!?
So is there a huge difference for you pitching your clients to other countries over pitching them here in London? If so, What elements create those differences?
"Not really a huge difference, pitching for american work can be easier because you're not asking the casting director to sit down with a client, they're going off a photo and reel and can self tape”
What's the best piece of advice you can give any actor looking to further their career right now?
"Don't lose track of who you are. Remember to be outward looking, see each audition as an opportunity to meet new people and try to enjoy them as much as possible. Do something every day that helps you (read shakespeare, watch as many films as possible) and stay focused and remind yourself why you're doing it.”
A massive shout out and huge thanks to George for contributing from myself and the whole actors gone global team!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading!