How To Survive Pilot Season
Ahhh it’s that time of the year again, Pilot season. Blessed be the fruit.
Pilot season begins in January, and ends somewhere in April. Putting it lightly, it’s a busy time of year for Agents, Casting Director’s, Producers, Networks, Actors – The Industry. Casting director’s are looking for the next big thing to carry a TV series, your Agent is trying to convince them you’re the next big thing and the Networks want a return on their investment. Whilst it’s important to acknowledge all these things are at play, as actors, we also need to focus on what we do best – which is the craft. Here’s our guide on not only how to survive this pilot season, but also make it your best one yet.
You are your own business.
So first things first, you’ve got to get your Actor’s toolkit in order.
An actor’s headshot is the first point of contact. It’s the first thing any agent, casting director, director, producer and network will see – so it’s important to get this one right. A great headshot should be relaxed, natural and bring out the best in the actor. Speak to your agent and have an honest discussion about your headshot. Is it really showing you in your best light? Have you changed your look? Is it time for an update? Book in for another session.
A showreel is another essential tool in any actor’s toolkit. Casting Directors and Agents sift through endless lists of submissions, and without one, you will be placed at the bottom of the pile.
A great showreel showcases your voice, physicality and personality in an authentic way. It is easy to watch, no longer than 4 minutes, and includes a variety of scenes. It is not about acting your pants off, looking super attractive and having the highest of production values. Your showreel is there to represent you in your most genuine, peak performance, to advertise what is essentially your product. The aesthetics of the footage should complement your performance, and not detract from it. This is your chance to show a casting director or agent that you can do the job they are hiring you to do. If you don’t have one, now is the time to put one together. If you do have one, is it time for an update?
A fresh showreel, and a fresh headshot – we’re looking good so far..
On a budget? Read: Showreel Alternatives
CV & Online profile
Most auditions begin with someone scrolling past your face on a laptop. Whether you’ve been submitted by your agent, or you’ve been found from an advanced search on Casting Networks, your online casting profiles are vital to landing more roles. Other than your agent, your online casting profile is ultimately what represents you as an artist. If it’s not up to date, honest and professional, you won’t be doing yourself any favours.
It’s time to check in with your agent. Wish them a Happy New Year and have a chat about the year ahead. Talk about your goals, brainstorm strategy, and go through your fresh material. Now is more important than ever to get on the same page with your agent, to work together and book dem roles.
If you don’t have an Agent, it’s time to get one. It’s a new year, do a fresh send out or follow up emails. Pilot season is going to be that much harder if you can’t get in the room to begin with.
Knowledge is power
And here’s where I direct you to iMDB pro. Do your research, find out everything you can about each project and who’s already attached. Here is your permission to be a stalker, all information is useful and will inform your performance in the room/on tape. See if you can get the full script, and then read it 10 times. Study the breakdowns of all the characters and research anything you don’t understand or are curious about. Also subscribe to Hollywood Reporter, they post daily news about Film, TV and the business. If you can keep up to date with the big players in the industry, you won’t be thrown when you find yourself auditioning for them.
Stay in the work. Acting is not like riding a bicycle, I don’t think it’s something you can just pick up after having 6 months off and spontaneously ride to work one day. Actors that train and work on their craft every day end up nailing auditions because they feel more comfortable, they’re ‘warmed up’ and already in work mode. Now is a great time to do weekly classes, workshops, play readings with friends, voice warm ups, text work – anything that works your acting muscles and keeps you on your toes. In fact, do this all year round, not just during Pilot Season.
Sometimes I’ve had 4 hours to film a self tape and send it to my agent. It happens. Have your self-tape set up ready to go at a moments notice, ink in the printer, highlighters on hand and a friend nearby who can read for you. By having everything else organised, you’ll have more time to work on the character and the scene.
Read: Self Taping Equipment Guide (Everything you need to film a great self tape)
Stress & Anxiety
I cannot, cannot, cannot relax unless I know I’m totally prepared. So do whatever you have to do to prepare for your audition. Whether it’s working out a parking strategy, what you’re going to eat before you go in, script analysis, character breakdown, rehearsals, filming it on your phone and watching it back, research etc.
Stress and anxiety are a part of life, just like joy and happiness. The only way you’ll be able to focus on the work, is if you clear all of those other unhelpful thoughts from your mind. Meditation, music, mantras – whatever works for you. Everyone loves to watch people who are focused, calm and disciplined in their work, it excites us and we want to get behind them. And then you’ve just got to let it go. There’s no one size fits all approach to this one, but something along the lines of trusting yourself, trusting the work you’ve done, and remembering to have fun.
The last thing I’ll say is, forget about the nerves. Let them be there. Use them, accept them, appreciate them. They’re nothing but signs letting you know that this is important to you, and you care about it. As soon as you’re comfortable with being nervous, you won’t be.
Note: during pilot season take time to destress. Hiking, reading, hanging out with friends, whatever works for you.
It’s a busy time of year, and it’s easy to get lost in the work and neglect your health and wellbeing. Eat well, exercise, get plenty of rest and make sure you take time to relax and reflect. Your work will only suffer from being overworked, overtired and hangry. Give yourself the best chance of success and take care.
That was kind of a joke heading, but I’ll bring it back around I swear.
Remember who you are. What do you stand for? What do you have to offer this story? What do you believe in? Being more in touch with yourself will serve you in your life, and therefore your acting career. This is an opportunity to do what you love, so go in there and do it for you, not for the casting director, producer, network, writer and most importantly, not for the money.
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