The Other Big “A” Word – Agents!

Agents. Everybody wants one, but how do you get one? At the risk of repeating myself yet again… preparation is key. What does that mean?

First off, that means get some training. I think a solid theatrical foundation is invaluable. Maybe if you’re college age, you can look into a great undergraduate theatre program. Or perhaps you might want to start weekly lessons with an acting or singing coach. ( I continued to study voice for 20 years, taking a lesson once a week without fail!) There are also lots of great classes that offer package deals for ongoing study. I always recommend one-day or weekend workshops with casting directors. These get you in front of professionals whose job it is to remember actors, and their insight is priceless. Whatever form you choose, please, please study!

Along with training you need to start building a resume by gaining experience. Try out for a community theatre show, and if you’re under 18 check out the local youth theatre in your area. Contact colleges to find young directors who need talent for their student films. You might sign up for extra work. While you don’t necessarily want to make a career out of it, it is experience and it puts you in a setting where you can make contacts. There are also industry sites (and publications) like backstage.com, showbusinessweekly.com or playbill.com that list castings. If you’re in a city such as San Francisco, check out sites like bayareacasting.com, or sign up to be in a local casting director’s database. I used to tell young actors to get a list of local production companies and send them a photo and resume. You are responsible for the career you want to have, so you have to do your homework.

No training or experience yet? Make sure you have a fabulous headshot that shows your personality. A great photo can often get you in the door (young kids can submit snapshots). Sometimes an agency needs a specific “look” for print work and commercials. Often they are short on a “type,” and if your photo crosses their desk, you’re in luck! A headshot is your calling card, so get the best professional photo possible. You’ll want to attach your resume to the back of your photo when you’re ready to submit.

Follow each agency’s submission guidelines. Standard procedure is usually to mail a photo and resume along with a short cover letter that tells them a little something about you and your experience (now’s a good time to mention if you just got cast in something or have a film coming out). Some agencies accept submissions online.

If an agency is interested in you, then they will call you in for an interview. Be prepared to do a cold reading and have a monologue ready in case they ask for either. Having been on both sides of an agency meeting myself, I want to stress the importance of bringing the real “you” to the interview. Be a real person who can carry on a real conversation. I always tell the story of the time I landed a general interview with a top NYC casting director and we never discussed me or my resume the entire time I was in his office. I mean, wasn’t it all about me? We wound up chatting about a painting hanging above his desk and various other things which I can’t remember now! But when the conversation turns to you and your resume, be very clear about who you are and where you fit into the business. As an agent I was very impressed with actors who had confidence and a clear sense of who they were and what they could bring to the partnership.

And after all this, you can still walk into a party and coincidentally meet a talent agent who expresses interest in you. But I would just say this: make sure you can deliver the goods when you get the opportunity to interview. Know your stuff.

Oh! And one last thing. You do not get an agent by signing up for thousands of dollars worth of classes and photographs with a company/school that promises you representation. Nothing wrong with paying for training and headshots; that’s always your choice. But a legitimate agency will never ask you for money up front for any reason. A legitimate agency gets paid a commission only when you work. So, please, don’t fall for we’ll make you a star if you just pay X amount of dollars.

So there you have it. Be prepared, be persistent, know who you are, keep a good attitude, and you’ll get there!

Fundraiser Auction Entertainment Ideas – Portrait Photos and Boothomatic

Three of my auction fundraisers this past year have had professional portraits offered on-site. The photo offers guests a remembrance of your benefit auction. Portrait photography works especially well for charity auctions which tend to have co-workers attending, such as corporate and hospital foundations. Guests look spiffy, so the photos show employees in their best light (all the better, considering those photos may show up on the company intranet).

This auction idea works for four reasons:

– The activity allows company departments and smaller teams of co-workers to have their photo taken together, which is a nice touch.

– A photo with a traditional background seems more professional with your co-workers than, for instance, a backdrop of Las Vegas.

– The photos allow for more flexibility later, such as if the company’s foundation wanted to include a photo of the work team in an issue of the company newsletter, or even in a proposal for a prospective client.

– When individuals have a portrait taken, the finished headshot can be used for business cards or on the external company website.

Near the entrance to the silent auction is usually the best location for the photography station. The photographer will show guests where to stand and offer basic instructions to capture the best angle and shot. For group photos, the photographer often takes a hands-on approach to ensuring everyone is in the photograph. Guests are given a photo, often housed in a cardstock black frame.

The developed photos are displayed on a table near the check-out area so guests can take their photo as they leave. Photos with groups of people are developed multiple times so each person in the photo can take a copy home.

In short, this is a good activity for fundraising auctions. The big perk is that you can use those photos in a multi-purpose way long after the event is finished.

A second photo option for charity auctions

I read an article from BizBash’s newsletter entitled “The Photo Booth That Can Capture the Whole Party.” http://www.bizbash.com/newyork/content/editorial/16574_a_photo_booth_that_can_capture_the_whole_party.php It talks about a new portable photo-booth AKA, the Boothomatic which rolls around the party, enabling guests to take photos wherever they might be.

After reading the short article and checking out the photo, here are my immediate thoughts as to whether the Boothomatic would work in a benefit auction environment.

My immediate thought is that this is something for a younger crowd. I can see as where Generation Y or Generation Z would totally get into this! But I don’t envision most of the guests at my benefit auction (age 40+) comfortably jumping in front of the booth without encouragement from an outgoing photographer.

I’m still unclear after reading the article as to whether a photographer supervises the booth. If he does and if that photographer is a gregarious type who can comfortably corral guests for photos this would work. But if the booth is not supervised, my crowds would ignore it.

In many hotels, the Boothmatic would work fine. But if the auction is to be held in an unusual facility such as a historic home or even an outdoor garden, I’d consider alternative forms of entertainment. You’ll want a venue (and a floor!) that allows the booth to roll unencumbered.

I love that photographs of the event are available for download from a website! They also offer customized packages. My only concern is that once again some of my less savvy older guests won’t understand how to download photos from a site. Those same guests *would* take home a photo of themselves if it’s printed onsite, but they would be less likely to check a website in the days following the gala.

The price in New York is apparently $2500 for a 4-hour rental. I don’t know NYC rates well enough to gauge if this is in-line with other forms of photo entertainment or not. But given that there are no printed photographs available to guests onsite, I would hope that the Boothomatic would be less in price than something, say, like portrait photography.

Copyright (c) 2010 Red Apple Auctions LLC