3 Business Tips for Actors Who are Ready to Create Their Own Work by Jenn Lederer

Jenn Lederer is an accredited talent manager and President/co-owner and talent manager of Merging Artists Management. Since technology has made it easier for performers to create and produce their own work, we asked her for tips on how actors can use this trend to increase their opportunities to perform in NYC.

filmclapperI’ve been seeing a trend in the entertainment industry that could be doing more harm than good for a lot of performers out there: looking to expand their opportunities to perform in NYC.  Artists are jumping on board of this trend with the best of intentions, but lack of preparation, research, and commitment often leave them in worse conditions than when they began.

What is this trend?  Producing + Creating your own work.

This is such an exciting time in the industry for creative artists of all kinds, because it has never been so “easy” to create + produce your own work.  With platforms like IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, FundAnything, CrowdRise, etc, more projects have a chance of getting the funding they need to finally get off the ground.

More actors are getting the chance to put themselves in the kind of projects they WANT to do + really showcase their talent(s)..but at what price?

If you’re thinking of Producing some of your own projects, congrats!  Just make sure you’ve got your sh*t together first…

DISCLAIMER: I am a HUGE FAN of actors taking control of their career by creating their own projects…but I’m NOT a fan of watching people spread themselves so thin that they can barely remember why they started the project in the first place.

When you start a project that requires you to take on any (or sometimes all) of these roles: Producer, line-producer, Writer, co-writer, director, actor, accountant, etc…basically, if YOU are running the show…you better have an incredibly clear idea of exactly how you plan to COMPLETE the project successfully.

I see a lot of great projects START off wonderfully…but often times it seems like no one has taken the time or energy to really think about + plan what it’s going to require to see this project all the way through to the end.  Not to mention what is going to have to go by the way-side while you give this project your all.

(I’m sure you’ve been involved with your share of projects that never see the light of day because it falls apart in post…the last thing you want is for YOUR passion project to become one of these horror stories).

The point I’m getting at here is this: Something’s gotta give.

You have to be honest with yourself going in as to what you will need to give up in order to make this project happen, successfully.

  • How much time every week will you truly need to give this project for it to be a success?
  • SCHEDULE the time in your week + stick to it.  The time won’t just magically appear in your schedule.
  • Will you honestly be able to keep up with auditions, callbacks, performances, and other filming schedules on top of what you need to get done?
  • Do you have ALL of the information you need to make this happen successfully…or does more research need to be done?
  • What can you honestly handle on your own and what should you be seeking assistance with?
Spreading yourself too thin is only going to leave you feeling even more frustrated than when you began…and this whole thing started as a way to BOOST your career, not kill your energy!
Want to know if you are ready to take on your passion project?

Here are my 3 Business Tips for Actors Who are Ready to Create Their Own Work: 

Step 1: RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH

  • Do you know someone who recently completed a similar project to the one you are about to start? Reach out to them and ask if you can take them out to lunch + ask them some questions about their experience! (HINT: prepare your questions before hand so you don’t waste their time + get as much out of it as possible :)
  • Think of EVERYTHING that you will be doing and research everything you can about each role.
  • Do you know how to put together an analytics package for your investors?
  • Do you have a crew lined up that is committed to making this happen?
  • Do you have a clear schedule laid out for the ENTIRE project (with rain dates & other options if your cast isn’t avail)?
  • Are you familiar with how to secure locations?

If you can name it…You research it.

Step 2:  BE HONEST + prepared

  • Again, you’ve gotta be honest with exactly how much time, effort & research needs to go into this in order to make it happen successfully.
  • There will always be unforeseen obstacles that come about once the project gets underway…but the more prepared and supported you feel going in, the better you will be able to deal with those hiccups as they happen.

Step 3: Know Your Team + Get It In Writing!

I’ve seen projects implode from the inside, and it ain’t pretty.

Whether you are teaming up with friends or simply getting together with other creative minds that you know & respect, it’s important that everyone is crystal clear on their roles & responsibilities.  You’ve gotta get it in writing, because when the going gets tough…it’s amazing how fast no one can “remember” what they agreed to get done.

  • This will become SO helpful when things are stressful and no one feels like taking the wrap for what didn’t get done.  You don’t want to start playing the blame game, and a written agreement made up at the beginning of the project will help you avoid this.
  • Also, if someone simply isn’t delivering on their end of the deal, you have written proof as to why they are no longer welcome on your team.  It’s nothing personal, it’s business…and that was made clear at the beginning. (phew.)

 

As I mentioned before, there are always going to be unforeseen challenges that come up…but the more you know before you start, the better off you will be in every way.

Protect yourself, protect your project, protect your vision, and create the project that you always knew it could be.

Jenn Lederer 2Jenn Lederer is the President/co-owner and talent manager of Merging Artists Management, and is an accredited TMA talent manager.  Merging Artists’ actors have been seen on The Blacklist, L&O SVU, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, Louie, The Good Wife, Royal Pains, Tower Heist, The Smurf’s, All My Children, and many other projects including independent films & National commercials.

Top 5 Things You Should NEVER Say in a Meeting with an Agent or Manager by Jenn Lederer

Jenn Lederer is an accredited New York casting talent manager. We asked about which questions tick off agents or managers the most and should never be asked.

Jenn Lederer 2DISCLAIMER – I completely understand why actors might think these Top 5 Topics are completely justifiable to discuss in a meeting…but I’m going to tell you why that simply isn’t the case.

Before you speak, always as yourself 2 questions:

~ How is this going to make me look?

~ How is this going to make the other person feel?

 

If the answer is at all negative…or even has the chance of being negative…skip it.

Here are some of the most common self-sabotaging comments & questions that you should avoid…

Top 5:

Things You Should NEVER Say in a Meeting w/ an Agent + Manager

1.       “Listen, I’m here to make both of us money.”

What ‘they’ are thinking – I’m sorry, have we  given you the impression that our company is dying to find another actor to make us money?  We’re doing just fine, thanks.

Why you shouldn’t say this

~ This is a case where you want to let your resume & brand speak for itself.  If you really are an actor who can make money… the agent or manager will be able to see that.

~ Saying this is going to make them get defensive right off the bat…don’t do that.  The last thing you want to do is make someone get defensive, when you’re trying to get something from them.

~ I know where you are going with this…but trust me, it never gets the reaction you were going for.  It will only make them wonder exactly how much you really understand about this industry.  ~ When you are in development, it can take a long time before an agent or manager truly starts making money (let alone a living) off of your work.  (Remember, 10% of an $800 day is barely enough to pay for a week of Starbucks…so unless you’re there to sell them a Starbucks card, avoid this sentence like the plague.)

~  Always check your ego at the door.  It’s OK to be confident…but find the balance.

2.       So, what kinds of connections do you have with what New York Casting Directors?”

What ‘they’ are thinking –  Last time I checked, you reached out to me.  If you haven’t done your research on my company…then why the hell are you here? 

Why you shouldn’t say this –

~ This shows lack of research on your part & insults the agent or manager at the same time.   (Insults are generally something you want to avoid while making a first impression.  Just sayin’)

~ This is going to put them on the defense once again, and make them wonder why you are interviewing them…when it should be the other way around.

 3.       “How many other actors on your roster are similar to my type?”

What ‘they’ are thinking –  If there are a few others like you…are you not confident enough in your skill sets, headshots, reels, and resume credits to go up against them?

Why you shouldn’t say this –

~ As a general rule, it’s best to keep the focus on YOU in the meeting.  Most of the time your time is very limited…don’t waste a second of it bringing their focus off of you.

~   Most agents & managers have their roster on IMDb…do your research and check it out.

~   Agents & Managers simply don’t like to talk about their actors behind their back, it’s just not good form.  There is a trust that actors have with their representation…don’t put them in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.

4.       “I’m ready to get to that next level of my career.”

What ‘they’ are thinking –  OK great, so you want me to take it from here and do all of the work for you.  BTW…what level are you on right now?

Why you shouldn’t say this –

~  For the love of all things holy…if you are going to tell someone that you are ready for the NEXT level, then you damn well better be able to CLEARLY explain what level you are currently, why you feel you are ready to make the shift, and how you plan to bring yourself further (with or without representation).

~ Don’t let yourself look naïve to the industry.  If you have a resume filled with indie work, extra parts, and some theater…don’t try to sell yourself as a Series Regular.

**Always show them that you understand the industry & are ready to put in the work required to get you where you want to go.**

Yes, it COULD happen.  You COULD be at the right place, at the right time, and get the “Ashton Kutcher” break after 1 audition…but I’m not going to bank on that (and I bet most other reps won’t either). 

 5.       “I want to go out for everything!   I don’t see myself as a specific ‘type’ per say.”

What ‘they’ are thinking – I think our time here is done.  You just don’t get it, and I don’t have time to teach you.

Why you shouldn’t say this –

~ Again, you’re making yourself look like you have no clue about how the industry makes $$$.  We get it, you don’t WANT to be put in a box…but guess what…the actors in a box make LOTS of $$$.  (and didn’t you say that’s why you were here?  To make ‘us’ lots of money?)

~ It’s best to give them a clear idea of the types that you play…and the ‘brand’ that you are, while being able to convey your willingness to hear other options.  (because hey…you might see yourself as a Brad Pitt, when you’ve been rockin’ the Steve Buscemi all along…and no one had the heart to tell ya.)

 

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE:

~ If you are being courted by an agency or management company (i.e. they reach out to YOU & clearly want you on their roster) then this gives you a bit more playing power.

You can normally get away with a bit more than the actor who is actively pursuing representation.

BUT (there is always a but)

I still suggest doing your research & always presenting yourself as prepared, open-minded, flexible, and easy-going.

NO ONE likes to work with drama…so don’t be a diva.

OK….So Now What?

I know, I know.  You’re thinking: “Thanks a bunch Jenn…now I know what NOT to say…but what SHOULD I say?!”

Great question!

Stay tuned for another blog post comin’ your way with the Top 5 ways to get those questions answered…without pushing any buttons!

I’ve got ya covered.

~ Jenn

Jenn Lederer is the President/co-owner and talent manager of Merging Artists Management, and is an accredited TMA talent manager.   Merging Artists’ actors have been seen on The Blacklist, L&O SVU, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie, Louie, The Good Wife, Royal Pains, Tower Heist, The Smurf’s, All My Children, and many other projects including independent films & National commercials.   Merging Artists Management represents leading, character, comedic and strong improv actors and writers in studio and independent feature film, television and theater. 

www.JennLederer.com