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As an actor, you might assume you live in your right brain. It’s true that actors, like other artists, are often right-brain thinkers but that doesn’t mean you solely rely on creativity to create success for yourself. In fact, effective decision-making as an actor demands a lot of left-brain thinking. Let’s take a look at how that works.

One of the most common complaints I hear from actors is about agents not doing enough to represent them. They say they’re not getting enough auditions or not booking enough jobs. The first instinct is to question the integrity and value of the agent. They ask which agents are “better” and that pretty much ends the analysis of the situation. It’s terribly premature to stop the process there.

Asking more effective questions than force you to look at breadth and depth of the problem puts the responsibility back on you. When you’re ready to stop blaming your agent, it’s helpful to consider a more effective approach to finding solutions. I found one in a book I discovered last week.

The inspiration comes from BRAINSTEERING, which offers an approach to developing breakthrough ideas by first searching for the right questions to ask yourself. Kevin Coyne and Shawnn Coyne created a helpful way for anyone, including actors, to examine and understand a problem situation. For most actors, the problem may be related to not getting enough auditions so let’s look at 5 questions to ask yourself as you search for solutions.

1. What acting jobs are most commonly available in the market? 

Answering this question (and the others) requires research. Ask fellow actors, other peers, or your agent if you have one. Look at each category of on camera work and what that category consists of.

  • Commercials: Union, Non-Union, Buyouts, Unpaid
  • Industrials: Limited Use, Buyouts
  • Short films: Paid, Unpaid, Deferred Pay

You may feel a little jealousy when you see a colleague often posting about acting roles on Facebook. But keep in mind, you’re probably not the same “type” and many of those roles could be the low-pay or no-pay variety.

2. Which casting directors ask for me and why?

If you don’t have a list of casting directors in your market, make one. Then, note which ones have asked for you and include the type of project it involved. If you’re getting asked by a certain CD to audition for industrials and commercials but not films and episodics, it could lead a breakthrough about how to get seen for every type of project. Also, consider part of the “why” could be because you actually say yes to the audition invitation. You’d be surprised how many actors decline auditions regularly and wonder why they don’t audition often.

3. Which casting directors have not ever or do not routinely ask for me and why?

Naming names might happen quickly but answering the why could take more time. We don’t always know why we’re not on the short list of a casting director so try to come up with some possible reasons. Perhaps you had a very bad audition (e.g., poor acting choices or technically flawed) a year ago. If you have not yet been invited to audition, you might not be acting at a high enough level to get the attention of that casting director.

4. What are the most successful actors in the market doing than I’m not?

No matter where you live, there are undoubtedly a handful of actors who are working a whole lot more than the average person in the market. Reach out to them to find out what they’re doing daily and weekly to either market themselves or improve what they have to offer. In this business, we certainly see a lot of people devoting chunks of time to marketing efforts but we can assume many of them spend only a fraction of that time actually enhancing and expanding their auditioning and acting skills. If the busiest actors in town won’t talk to you, consider other ways to obtain the same information.

5. If money wasn’t an issue, what could I be doing differently to get more auditions?

The financial world of an actor can be fragile and unpredictable, especially when acting is your only revenue stream. Even full-time employees I know who act on the side complain about not having enough money to update headshots or take workshops. Oddly enough, they expect to see progress, essentially by getting lucky. While luck is part of the equation, it should not be a large part of your approach to creating success. Earn and save for essential purchases and use an analytic approach to determining where every dollar invested in acting is best spent. For some, it may be updating headshots. For others, it may be attending a cold read workshop to improve that particular audition skill.

There is no perfect world for an actor. Each one of us have a unique set of blessings and burdens. Rather than waiting for a lucky break, spending time blending your special brand of creativity with an insightful business analysis could lead to greater success (more quickly) as you apply energy to the right areas of your career, unless you simply enjoy complaining too much. It’s your choice!