In the last several months, and with his permission, I’ve re-printed a number of articles written by Bob Fraser on acting and business. I received a very interesting email today from Bob in which he offers the following comments about the writer’s strike. I asked his permission to post them here, because I think there’s much of value for us who are and who hire voice talent.
Word around town is that the companies have no intention of settling the strike before mid-December and that the recent meetings were an attempt to ‘soften up’ the guild.
My take on the situation is that this may turn out to be one of the longest strikes we’ve ever seen in LaLaLand – because what the writers are asking for is a piece of the fast-growing internet pie – and a fair share of the DVD profits. The current contract is not very fair – as I said at the meetings of the Guild, during the ’88 strike.
Now, as a member of six entertainment unions, I’ve gone on strike many times in my career. I’ve been there, done that, and gotten the free t-shirts — and I know that for many actors this current strike causes large worries about work, career progress, and how long the financial stresses are going to last.
While there is little I (or anyone) can do to relieve your natural anxiety about the situation – I do have a few suggestions about how to spend your time more effectively … for as long as this first strike goes on. (I’m pretty sure the Screen Actors Guild is going to have to engage in a work stoppage as well, when their
contract is up in June, to get a fair share of the DVD and internet monies.)
Anyway – how to make the best use of this ‘down’ time:
First, make a commitment to use this time to work at improving your business. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is a good time to relax or chill. There are several elements involved in the process of improving your business, including product research and development, strategic planning, marketing improvements and further education.
Product research and development is essentially about sitting down and doing an assessment of precisely what it is that you are trying to sell to the industry. As I have mentioned more than once, selling a generic product is a very bad tactic in a business where brand names and recognizable faces bring in the big bucks.
A good place to start making specific changes is by going over my Unique Character Presentation idea. The UCP is a way of starting to brand your acting business with your own personality. But it’s only a start. There is a lot of work to do, in order to really separate yourself from the great mass of actors.
(You’ll find Bob’s UCP idea detailed in an earlier post on this blog called Actor’s Tool-Kit #15.)
Once you have decided on a unique brand, that is both consistent and congruent with the sort of actor you are, your next step is developing a strategy for marketing this specific product to the buyers (producers) and the buyers representatives (casting directors).
This, naturally, starts with your headshot.
Now, a lot of people will tell you that your headshot is your business card and although it seems ‘right’ – I just don’t happen to agree with the analogy. Your headshot is much more like those pizza shop door hangers we all find on our front doors, almost every day.
Joe, the pizza shop owner, knows perfectly well that most of us will toss his expensive cardboard advertising in the trash. But he also knows that on that day when you have a yen for pizza, his regular and consistent advertising will be there — to remind you to buy from him.
Of course, the slicker and more appetizing the picture of the pizza happens to be, the more likely you are to salivate a little.
This is precisely the goal of your headshots, postcards, zedcards, business cards and now, your website – to be on their ‘front door’ when they are looking for your kind of product – and make sure your advertising is designed to get the buyers’ juices going.
So, use this ‘break’ to assess and replace (if necessary) your marketing tools. Yeah, I’m suggesting that you get new headshots, postcards, etc … and do a ‘make-over’ of your website. What’s that you say? You don’t have your own website.
Then that’s a project you must get started on immediately. I hope it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that this is 2007 and a website is a necessity for every actor. The best thing about a website is that it’s an excellent place to do some actual selling.
A well thought out site can communicate volumes more about your brand, your commitment, your professionalism and your ‘rightness’ – than your headshot could ever do … and at about the same yearly cost.
Don’t know anything about getting a website up and running? Then it’s time for more research and development.
If stars are convinced that they need a website – then you probably need one too.
You’ve probably realized by now that all of this ‘work’ implies a great deal of planning – and if you’re anything like me, the idea of sitting down and writing out a plan is about as appetizing as a mimeographed pizza flyer.
But planning your business is the only way to improve your business – and putting up with the drudgery and labor of making that plan is the price you must pay to get it done. There’s just no question about it … a plan makes life (and career) so much more rewarding.
“Even a bad plan, vigorously executed, is better than no plan at all.” ~ Patton (The general, not the actor.)
So, stop kvetching about the strike and use your ‘free’ time to really get down to planning your business – and executing your plan.
A few months from now you may find that this strike is the best thing that ever happened to your acting career. Or, you could let it slide – and look into the thrilling possibilities of delivering pizzas for Joe. He’s got more business than he can handle – and he never goes on strike.
Now, if you don’t do on camera work, a headshot isn’t going to be part of your package. But, the same advice Bob’s given here applies to your voice demos.
For more about Bob Fraser, get a free subscription to his Show Biz How To, check out ACTION! The Professional Actor’s Workbook and Planner, as well as You Must Act! The #1 Virtual Acting CAREER Course.