ActorIntro Exclusive Interview with Lisa Gold, President of Act Outside the Box, “Enlightened Business Training for Actors Committed to an Extraordinary Career,” and Partner of Actors Connection, “NYC’s #1 Networking/Educational studio for Professional Actors.”
After being a professional actress for over 30 years and having a relationship with hundreds and hundreds of casting directors and agents through her businesses, Lisa Gold‘s background on both sides of the biz makes her an expert in the area of marketing for actors.
For Act Outside the Box, Lisa leads several seminars, weekend workshops, and industry networking social events, all created to further the proactive actor’s career. Known throughout New York for her free seminar “How to Get and Keep an Agent,” she can help you understand the marketplace, the money, where your talent fits in, and how to “promote” what you uniquely have to offer.
Lisa tells us that 97% of actors entering the show business marketplace leave within the first 3 years because they couldn’t figure it out on their own! Don’t be a statistic… here Lisa gives us the truth about the business.
ActorIntro: What does it really mean to understand the Business side of acting?
Lisa Gold: Understanding the business side of acting is the same as understanding the business side of being a plumber or having your own law practice. What I mean by that it that BUSINESS is generic and the SPECIFICITY is in what the business provides. Most actors only deal with the “show”… meaning you’ve got a great talent (the product), look (the package), and the business side would be getting someone to BUY it. That’s where marketing comes in.
How can actors benefit from understanding marketing?
Understanding marketing is essential, particularly in a field with an over-abundance of supply and not enough demand. Yes, in our business we need a few fresh faces every year, but compared to the multitudes of actors coming in to the marketplace each and every year, the chances of getting in the door to show your talent are slim. Unless you’re going to hundreds of open calls where signing up or standing in line is all it takes, then what will get you in the door is MARKETING. Statistically, it’s a numbers game and you have to make yourself visible, your face and your name known and your skill set touted as a “must see” with not only your marketing materials but also with consistency in your marketing campaign.
What’s more important, talent or business?
For an actor they are equal. With an over-abundance of actors in comparison to other creative jobs in the industry, you have to realize that just being talented is not enough. The more you know about the business, YOUR business, and everyone else involved in the process, the more respected you are by folks from the “other side of the table”.
Do people really get discovered?
Yes, and they ruin it for every actor among us who thinks it will also happen to them! Hey, I buy lottery tickets every so often and am shocked and amazed when I don’t win. I mean, intellectually I know the odds are against me, but I always HOPE and FEEL as if I deserve it and some day it’s gonna happen (or else I wouldn’t waste my money on the ticket, right?). Because people DO win the lottery, so why not me? And that’s the problem in the acting community. Because some people (.00000000000001%) get “discovered”, we all HOPE and FEEL it can happen to us. We’ve got that mentality and it stops us from doing the very things needed to actually be in control of our own forward action in our careers.
What’s the best strategy for becoming a working actor?
First of all, the term working actor means every actor who is “working” on, or toward, getting gainful, paid employment. I’m not just speaking about auditioning. I mean reading monologues, mailing headshots, researching agents, taking classes, learning names of folks in the industry, learning what projects are being produced in New York, picking up the dry cleaning, working out… and the list goes on. Meaning the work is everything there is to do BEFORE you get the job.
As far as strategy… and I love that word… my best advice it to treat your career as the business it is. Go read regular business and marketing books. Learn who the other folks are in the industry, other than actors. Hey, you all want them to know your name – they deserve the same (and are very impressed when you know ANY thing about them and what they do). You should also have a working database of contacts with whom you communicate REGULARLY, not just after an audition or meeting one time, then expect them to remember you.
What’s the most common mistake that aspiring actors make?
First, I don’t really like the word aspiring. If you’re looking for a boyfriend, are you an aspiring girlfriend? If you are studying to be a doctor, are you an aspiring doctor? It seems to me to make you “less”. What I mean is that you either ARE or you AREN’T. I know plenty of really fine actors out there who have a long list of credits and they are actors. I also know folks in summer intensives who haven’t set foot on a stage in front of a real audience yet and they are also actors. So I’d have to answer the question by saying a big mistake is to not have the confidence about yourself that you ARE an actor. Wear that distinction with honor. Don’t hide it. Confidence and charisma is 50% of this biz. We want our actors to not only be interesting and entertaining in their roles, but also as themselves.
What do you mean by “be unique but don’t be original”?
Remembering that ALL business is designed to make money, a profit, huge buckaroos… those producers, casting directors, et al, don’t want to take a “risk” on something unproven. Original is a risk. Notice that most of the shows on Broadway have either been done in the past (proven) or have known talent to market with (proven) or are produced or directed by someone who’s won a Tony (proven)… getting it? Tons of movies are remakes. Popular TV shows were done in other countries first. No, we want something that’s LIKE something that we can relate to, but different. How about the Breakdowns that advertise as looking for an older Michael Cera type, or a younger Julia Roberts type that sings… relateable, but with a twist.
Why? It all comes back to marketing and what the producers or marketers think will sell the best. Not too many folks out there willing to take on something “completely original, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before”, which I hear from several actors out there. Better to tout your skills and attributes by referencing something/someone they HAVE heard of before but with YOUR unique spin on it.
In the end my wish for all actors is to be able to practice their passion and earn a great living. But it takes work in an area that most were never taught was necessary. Learning your craft (the show) is essential, but please don’t leave out the marketing and networking (the business) which is equally essential. To your success!