Today, the return of one of my favorite 32’ers, Bobby Reed.
Bobby’s first guest post for Stage 32 (link below) was a huge hit, and he was kind enough to write another enthusiastic, motivational, no holds barred piece for the community to chew on.
With nearly 70 credits to his name, including a staggering 30+ over the last three years alone, Bobby is as driven, motivated, and energetic as they come. You know how they say you gotta outwork the next guy? Well, Bobby has them all outworked before the sun rises. Excuses aren’t his bag, baby. Results are all that matters.
My thanks to Bobby for (once again) sharing his vast knowledge and experience with the community.
The professional performer has to learn so much, so fast. Nimble doesn't begin to describe how we have to move through our entire careers. You better be fast. It's why they pay us the big bucks when we do get those very precious network TV jobs or feature films or commercials. I got paid a disproportionate day rate for a network comedy in 2012, and I just got the same bloated check again in 2013, because it aired on the network again in prime time. Double pay for doing nothing. I just be myself and they find it funny. I don't tell them I hate comedy. And still they laugh. Whatever.
No wonder so many people want to be actors. I think we get the gravy because we are on duty, 24/7, in the education of ourselves as artists (20%) and corporate CEOs (80%). That 80/20 thing is what I've always felt my own career was like. From a very young age, it was easy for me to get on the stage and sing and dance and entertain the troops (family, neighbors, the dog, myself). Of course, I've refined my act slightly in the 50+ years I've been doing it, but it really came easily. And it still does. Second nature right from the start.
But to learn the business of advertising, promotion, continual marketing day in and day out. That's a different part of the brain, I think. I know from experience that the promo part does not come naturally to some performers. But it's really the bulk of the job before us. It's not like we go for a brush-up course every couple of years; it's every day. We reinvent ourselves, morph into the next age range or character type (and must do it without the mention of time passing). Easy as breathing. Professionals make it look easy. You must, too. Never let em see you sweat, as the deodorant commercial used to say. And it's all on you, the learning thing. The reading alone would wilt anyone's stamina. I get up in the morning and read all the trades (some mornings more thoroughly than others, and NO, not every word), but that's where I get my leads for sending cards to people about their projects, promotions - any reason to send a little note to someone in the business who may not know my act. And there are a lot of trades these days - used to be just Variety and Hollywood Reporter, not anymore.
All that reading is the tip of the iceberg toward more daily information, more learning, more contacts, more energy into the performing career that auditions and bookings alone cannot supply. The business part should take up the bulk of your day. You better love it, or it will certainly be a struggle, and you may end up being that sad, powerless actor who claims their agent never sends them out. Pathetic. Just my opinion. I think all the arts take that sort of scary laser devotion; you can't just casually be a professional ballet dancer, etc. Or composer, or painter. All the arts take a level of focus and skill that, frankly, I don't think the average person has. We are very special creatures, we artists.
The reading and writing and schmoozing, and coffee with new friends to talk shop, and the auditions for anyone and anything, that's the full-time education we put ourselves through, and it doesn't end until they put your cold, dead body away forever. Until the final curtain comes down, we are on duty to discover ways to hone our art. That's our job.
I was just watching a bunch of commercials while eating dinner, keeping my eye on the acting and the voiceover tones being used for different spots. Have you educated yourself about the ever-expanding world of audio books? They use lots of actors, and I know some friends of mine here in Hollywood who have tapped into that market. Some of these folks have a tough time in the MP/TV market, but they're blowing up in audio books. Go figure.
Here are some educational tricks I've used for years, that you might consider trying:
And please remember, this little article is only about the business side of show business. I'm not talking at all about acting classes and scene coaching. That's a different article. That would include going to as many plays as you can, watching every movie on YouTube (there must be millions so that should keep you busy). I'm in my British noir period now, and the choices of B flicks that never got much play in their day (1940s, 50s, 60s) are dazzling. And they're being watched in Hollywood. By me. Noir B Acting 101. Like going to school if you're going to play a 1935 gangster from Liverpool. You never know. And be an expert on every show on network and cable television. That's a very tall order, I realize. But there it is. Better learn how. Uncle Miltie to Don Draper. Get busy, please.
I like to learn by doing. It's always been my style, and still is. The results are on my IMDb page.
In the age of Google, the old “I don't know” excuse no longer cuts it. Forget that. Hogwash. You better know how. Or know, very quickly, how to find out. If you don't know something, squeeze your learning curve like the bottom of a tube of toothpaste. Become an expert at the whole process. Your learning curve better curve upward. It's worth it. You'll see.
Bobby Reed is an actor, director, writer, producer, editor and the author of SuperMarketing for Actors (Vols. I & II), and has taught the companion course at AFTRA Los Angeles. Bobby's editing work is on Vimeo, his acting work is on his YouTube Channel, and all the juicy details and contact info are at bobbyreed.com.
Bobby’s first guest post for Stage 32, Decide, can be read here.
Bobby is available for remarks and to answer any questions you may have in the comments section below.