Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Choosing an Agent

In Professional Advice on August 30, 2010 at 3:22 am

So, you’ve decided to get an agent.  You’ve read our previous Blog about what an agent does and the process of how to get an agent.  See the link first before reading ahead…   Now, how do you choose one? Who is the best agent to sign up with?  There is some significant preparation involved before you even pick up the phone.

Ari Gold: Agent Extraordinaire from TV show "Entourage"

Once you’ve found out what each Agent’s application process is (by looking at their website), you want to try and get a meeting with them all.  Some Agents will have full books and won’t be in a position to take on new actors but may give you a time frame for when they are, or what they are looking for from you to do before they are ready to take you on. Meaning, they may want you to have more experience or more training. If you really want to be with that particular agent, or even be considered, you need to get from them what specifically they want from you before they would consider working with you. This will not be the case with all agents. Some agents will be prepared to work with you at whatever level of experience you are at.

As mentioned in the previous Blog on Getting An Agent, most agents will have an online directory attached to their website. Look at the list and profile of the other actors in your age range, gender, and type. If there is a lot of competition in your category and many of the other actors have more experience and/or training (you’ll be able to tell this by looking at their resumes), then you’ll need to take this into account when making the final decision about which agent you sign up with.  

While many actors will assume that it’s better to be with the biggest and most reputable agent in their location, the two main criteria for choosing and sticking with an agent are:

  1. Do you feel a personal connection with the agent? Do you feel comfortable enough that you are going to be able to regularly call, email, or arrange an appointment to discuss advancements you have made in developing your craft and career, or questions you have in regard to opportunities available to you.
  2. Do you get a sense from that agent that they are excited about representing you, or at the very least that they get who you are and that they are positive about how to sell you to casting directors, directors and producers?

Before you meet with all the agents that you can get a meeting with, you should write down a list of criteria that you want your prospective agent to meet. That list should include:

  1. Do I feel a personal connection with this agent? Do I feel comfortable to have regular communication with them?
  2. Do I get a sense from this agent that they are excited, or at least positive about representing me?
  3. Do they know how many other people on their books that are in my age range, gender and type? Can they tell me how much competition I have from other actors on their books? (You should also be investigating this on your own, and have done this homework before you meet with them.)
  4. Can they communicate to me honestly about what I need to do in order to improve my opportunities for auditioning and landing roles? Meaning, can they give me clear and specific advice about what I can tangibly do?
  5. Do they have a plan for how they will market and promote me?  When asking this question, what you are really trying to get from them is an understanding of how they see you and how they are going to sell you. More than just putting your profile and resume on their online directory.  In order for them to do this and get a better idea of who you are, you need to have answered the questions in our previous Blog  and told them this information.

If there are any other issues that are important to you as an actor and a creative professional, then you need to add these to your list. You can see by reading over this information there is a lot of homework and preparation that needs to be done before you pick up the phone, email, or fill out any agent’s online application. You need to be very clear about who you are, what you want to do and what you want from an agent. The clearer you are about this information the easier it will be for you to find and nurture this professional relationship that is so pivotal for you and your chances as an actor.

Once you have an agent, you should regularly update him or her with ‘news’. Whether it is a class you’re taking, a role you auditioned for that you organised yourself or a part you got. Regular contact with your agent is the best way to keep you top of their mind.   See the link for a list of agents in Wellington…

For more information on developing and nurturing your relationship with your agent, so you get put forward for more and more opportunities, see the next Blog on

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to


The Ten Thousand Hour Rule

In Development Advice on August 17, 2010 at 3:43 am

Malcolm Gladwell - investagates what actually makes people successful

Practice Really Does Make Perfect

           “The idea of excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimal level of  practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”   

            Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

What Gladwell is saying in this quote from his book Outliers: The Story of Success and throughout the book is that one: practice makes perfect, and two: what that requires in any given field is ten thousand hours.

Opportunity and support is what gives people success. No one is successful by themselves. We do not grow or work in isolation. The one thing that is in your control is the amount of practice you start to invest in the development of your talent. This removes the mysterious component of who is talented and therefore ready for opportunities when they appear and who is not. Any given person will have strengths and weaknesses in their chosen discipline. For an actor, the greatest strength you can possess is that of persistence.

The ever persistant Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks was famously asked once by an aspiring actor what it took to make it. His response to that was persistence. The act of trying, trying, trying again, doing it over and over and over is in fact the lesson from any successful person, in any given field. 

A guitarist will sit in their bedroom for hours strumming away, learning to master new chords, and then years in a garage/mocked-up studio/grungy bars rocking out with their band to perfect their craft, performance cohesion and stage presence. A dancer does years of the same simple repetitive movement to train the muscles to move in specific ways. A pianist will practice hours of scales before any good teacher will let them go near a song.

 But often, actors assume that all they really need to do is to learn their lines and believe they are ready to tread the boards or jump in front of a camera. They then wonder why they don’t land auditions or secure more acting roles. Acting, like any other profession, artistic or otherwise, requires time invested.

This week, look at your schedule of everything you have planned, and make sure that you have a significant amount of hours dedicated to the practice of the art form you wish to be successful in. A few more hours checked off that ten thousand hour goal will bring you closer to the career of your dreams. Let that journey begin now.

For a peak inside Malcolm Galdwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success on what it exactly takes to be success, check out the link here at…

Or buy the book at…

For more information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio check out

The Nature of Creativity

In Development Advice on August 17, 2010 at 1:59 am

What is the nature of creativity? It’s hard to describe; to say how you find it; how you generate it. Creativity is indefinable, un-teachable, intangible and hard to get a grasp on what exactly it is and how you make it, or where creativity and creative ideas come from.

As an actor, either in rehearsal, exercises in an acting class, or in the creation of any kind of performance, it is your responsibility to understand and use yourself as an instrument. For example, a musician’s instrument is separate from them but as an actor, your instrument is yourself, and you need to know how that instrument operates.

If you want to find the triggers that are meaningful to you ask yourself, “If it was my last day on earth tomorrow who would I want to see and what would I want to say?” This crystallizes meaningful relationships and unresolved issues that could be used to generate a genuine response within yourself for a truthfully emotional performance.

When you have a creative problem, say for instance, trying to find meaningful reasons for doing an exercise or scene, then patience is really a virtue. Let me be specific about that: ask yourself a question and rather than shutting down or preventing an answer from coming through, don’t accept the mind’s first response of “I just don’t know” or “I can’t think of anything.”

We live in a fast paced world, and even with our own thought processes, if the answer doesn’t come to us immediately, we incorrectly think that we either don’t know or that the answer isn’t within us, and hence, give up. Instead, the key is to ask the question and then stay present and listening, allowing time for the answer to bubble up.

The answer to your creative question or problem is in you, but it either needs time to simmer and boil into your waking consciousness, or it needs outside stimulus for you to recognize it as a possible solution. There are two things you can do to help this:

First, ask yourself the question, but remain open and listening, being patient and trusting that the answer will appear at some random moment, a few minutes, hours or days later. This flash of inspiration may in fact be a quiet voice that comes to you when you are in the shower, walking, driving to work, or sitting on the bus, etc. It happens when you least expect it, and more often when you are doing something mindless and automatic.

Second, the creative aptitudes of your mind need stimuli. Like a well of fish, you cannot keep plundering it expecting it to always be full of ideas, without refilling it on a regular basis. So, find the things that please your artistic fancy. These activities or stimuli are personal and unique to you, only you can know what these things are.

They could include anything from setting aside an hour to do nothing but listen to your favourite album; dancing around the room to one of those CDs or cassette tapes from the 80’s that you would never want to admit to anyone else that you’ve got, but that is joyously indulgent; a trip to an art exhibition; visiting a favourite café that you haven’t been to in ages, by yourself, just so that you can people watch; a DVD marathon of favourite movies from your childhood; a walk along the beachfront, through native bush, or a collection of pretty streets in your (or someone else’s) neighbourhood; wandering through an art supply store or even The $2 Shop, and picking up every second or third item and asking yourself “What could I do with this?” not with the intention to buy, but simply the intention to be inspired; an African dance class; treating yourself to a bag of your favourite freshly ground coffee beans, fresh berries or flowers from the supermarket that are not prearranged but which you have to arrange yourself; literally fishing; getting out all of your shoes and trying them on; a bath with oils; pyjama day watching chick flick movies; home-made pizza in front of an unapologetic testosterone filled action movie; the list goes on, fill in the blanks yourself.

By feeding your creative appetite regularly with beauty, fun, and play it will give your creative muscle fuel to fire your next performance, scene, or exercise.

Julie Cameron's - The Artists Way

For more information on developing your artistic instrument check out the seminal book on creativity by Julia Cameron, The Artists Way…

Or buy the book at

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to

Getting an Agent

In Professional Advice on August 10, 2010 at 12:18 am

While acting is a form of art and expression, it is also a business. In order to succeed, build your resume, experience and provide for yourself financially through this profession, you’ll need to approach acting as a business. A fundamental key to any good business is marketing or promotion. And what you are marketing as an actor is yourself.

The first way a professional actor promotes him or herself is through an actor’s agent. An agent works for YOU! They put you forward for potential acting jobs and negotiate the best fee and conditions for jobs you land. In exchange for this representation, an agent will take a percentage of any TV, film or commercial work that you do. Traditionally, an agent will take between 10 and 20 percent of your total fee.

The only other expenses you should expect to pay for when signing up to an agency are photos and membership to an online directory. This includes the costs for getting photos shot and printed every few years (so they are updated as you mature). Most agents have some sort of online directory which you pay an annual membership fee for. This fee should be anywhere between 80 and 130 per year, depending on the agent and the cost of the directory website that agency is using. The directory profiles your experience and training that casting directors, directors and producers will look at when considering you for a role.

Meeting An Agent:

If an agent hasn’t approached you, it is up to you to contact them. Before you do so, you should be prepared to answer the following questions the agent may ask you:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What is it that you want to do as an actor?
  • Do you already have any experience or training?
  • What are your goals? What kind of work are you interested in?
  • Are you intending to study professionally later on, or is your main aim to get a juicy role on Shortland Street?           

Most of this information would be included in a resume, but some of it you’ll need to know when being interviewed by prospective agents. Your answers should be clear and direct, beginning with the most relevant and helpful information. An agent will want to know how to promote you.

Some contact details for agents in the Wellington area are below.  These should help you get started:

Kirsty Bunny at Kirsty Bunny Management            

Sharon Power at Sharon Power Management         

Jude Lane at Red Rocket Actors                                      

Tim Gordon at The Pro Actors                              

Nicole Kircher at Possum Talent Management

Lynne Breed at The Human Agency                      

Each agency has a different policy on how they want you to contact them initially. Some want you to apply through their online application form, which will be on their website.  Others are happy for you to contact them directly via telephone or email. So go to their website to find what the process is for each individual agency. 

The agent you sign up with is the one you feel you have a personal connection with, that you feel comfortable with, and the one you get the sense from that they are excited about representing you. You should try and get an interview with every agent before making a decision about which one you go with. This is the common mistake most actors make. They go with the first agent that says yes, instead of doing their homework of investigating all possibilities.                                                             

Once you have an agent, you should regularly update him or her with ‘news’. Whether it is a class you’re taking, a role you auditioned for that you organised yourself or a part you got. Regular contact with your agent is the best way to keep you top of their mind. 

Stay tuned for more information on developing and nurturing your relationship with your agent, so you get put forward for more and more opportunities.

For information on how to choose an agent, see our new blog…

And then on how to develop that agent relationship, see…

Barbara Woods

The Wellington Actors Studio

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to

Stage and Screen Presence

In Development Advice on August 3, 2010 at 4:15 am
The intangible X factor some actors possess does have, to a certain degree, to do with good looks. However, that special something, the X factor, is really about presence. Screen or stage presence is an actor’s innate ability to be present fully in each new moment. These actors are fully present sitting inside what the character is experiencing.  They are living truthfully under the given imaginary circumstances of the play or screenplay.
Regardless of ones training or experience, this concept is relatively easy to agree on. But if you are not one of the lucky few to be born with this innate quality, or nurtured in a family that understands and encourages its development, how can you cultivate screen or stage presence?

Within the question is the answer. Presence onstage or screen is determined by one’s ability to be fully in the moment. But what does this mean, to be fully in the moment, to be present? What are you doing when you are just being? It is not a passive endeavour. It is, in fact, the conscious act of listening.  

Listening, really listening! Not just hearing sounds and other actors talk. But listening with all of your senses and paying attention to everything you are receiving onstage or in front of the camera.  

Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood... No Stranger to Screen Presence.

One of this generation’s most beloved actors and renowned directors, Clint Eastwood, says that “a good actor will absorb their surroundings, their situation, and respond accordingly.” Absorb is just another word for listening.     

This week, turn the sound off on the TV and see if you can “listen” to what the actors are saying without actually hearing the words. Or watch strangers in a café; what is their body language saying? And what does their behaviour and the way they interact tell you about what they mean to each other?  

Finally, become aware of how your friends and family are speaking to you; listening to the tone and intonation of their voice. Does the meaning of their tone match the meaning of their words? For instance, can you hear in their response to “how are you?” that, in fact, they are not “fine.” What else can you hear in the tone of how others respond to you that is different to the meaning of the words they speak?    

These simple exercises are the beginning of your ability to really listen, to really pay attention, and to be truly present.    

We each have a responsibility to tune in, not only to our surroundings but to the subtle difference between observing what is going on and judging others. The point is not to find fault, blame, or ridicule in others, but rather to honestly work off “what is”.   

Visit The Wellington Actors Studio at for more information on classes, workshops and coaching for actors.