Landing a role in a television pilot could change your life. Pilot season is a time for anyone who is serious about an acting career to hunker down and really focus because it has the potential to set you up for life.
In the past it started in mid-January and ran through mid-May—and the majority of them are still shot then—but now pilots are shot year round. As an actor, it is important to make sure you get to audition for television pilots.
If you book a pilot and it gets picked up by a network, it could become a series. If that series is a hit, you could go on to shoot 100 to 200 episodes and have it sell around the world, like Friends, Two and a Half Men, Cheers, and many others. That means you could collect residuals for the rest of your life and beyond! Literally! You could also develop the bankability to get opportunities to do films. Think of Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry.
All of it starts by you booking a pilot. If you’re ready to go for it, here are 5 tactics – a mix of standard and guerilla marketing tactics – to boost up your opportunities to land a pilot.
1. Get an agent or manager who will submit you for television pilots and keep on top of them about it.
If you don’t yet have an agent or manager, get one as quickly as possible. Even though agents and managers are busier during pilot season than at other times of year, DO NOT miss out on these premium casting months. Get representation ASAP and make sure they are submitting you for TV pilots.
Meanwhile, use other tactics to get auditions through your own efforts.
2. Every 21 days during pilot season, submit a postcard to all of the TV casting directors, otherwise submit every 4 to 6 weeks to stay on their radar.
With or without an agent, if you don’t have dozens of people in your Rolodex who call you for auditions on a regular basis, then submit your headshot or postcards to the casting directors every 3 or 4 weeks during pilot season.
Although casting directors may tell you not to submit that often, go ahead and do it.
Think of it this way: You would rather not see commercials on TV, so why do the advertisers run them anyway? Because they are effective. They would not waste millions of dollars if they weren’t.
Your submission to audition for casting directors is simply your commercial. It actually makes it possible for them to call you. Without knowing who you are and having a way to contact you, you have no chance whatsoever.
Create your opportunity to be cast by keeping in touch with casting directors regularly and giving them your current phone number or your agent contact.
3. Take paid casting director workshops to meet them in person, even if it is with the assistant.
Some actors hate the idea of doing paid casting director workshops, but the fact is that you get to meet and audition for the casting director in person. That person could potentially move you up the food chain by casting you, so go for it.
If you can’t afford them, you might try to assist and work at one of the workshop places for free. Then once you meet the CD, put them on your 21-day contact list mentioned above.
4. Guerilla Marketing Tactic: Scope the breakdowns to find people you know.
“The Breakdowns” (which actors aren’t supposed to see) are a 30-40 page daily report that tells agents all the film and television roles being cast that day. However, sometimes these Breakdowns magically end up in the hands of actors underground (that’s why this is Guerilla Marketing) and sometimes agents let their clients see them.
If you have access to them, look carefully at each project you could be right for and see if you know anyone involved or if you can think of someone else you know that might know the people listed.
If you do know someone, pick up the phone, call them, and make powerful requests of people. Ask them to let you read for a role or to make a call on your behalf. Don’t hold back. You have to be very assertive in this business if you want to rise to the top.
5. Every year during pilot season, make your plan to contact everyone you’ve ever known who has anything to do with producing or casting television shows.
Make sure they think of you for their project if they have one. If they have a project, ask if there are any roles you might be right for and if you could read for it. Be aggressive. Be confident. They would love to get their projects cast and move to the next phase. If you’re right for the roles, you’re doing them a favor.
Here’s the bottomline of it all:
During pilot season, there are two critical elements. The first is getting the information about what is being cast and who is casting it, and the second is taking massive action to get auditions for the roles you could be right for.
When you find something you might be right for, put yourself on the line, don’t hold back. Take massive action, and if you mess up, so what? Nothing was happening when you didn’t take action. But if you take action, maybe all those acting classes will pay off.
Make sure the active casting directors know you exist by checking that your agent is submitting you, and if you need to get an agent (or a new one), then take the action to get one. Or even consider getting a talent manager or adding one to your team.
Submit to the casting directors with your photo (headshot or postcard) every three or four weeks to stay on their minds.
Don’t let another pilot season go by without a breakthrough in your career. Give yourself the opportunity to be cast in a pilot or a TV show that may help you become “set for life!”