“Do They Come When You Call Them?”

Dear Michael -

You ask what to do when "conversations" with an agent about "seeing the actor as...changing types" is met with resistance. In a similar vein, you ask "How does an actor get casting directors to see them beyond the type they have always been...?" and how to "get seen for more than what your resume says?" in terms of crossing over from theatre to film and television. I put these concerns together because the solution to all of them rests on a common foundation.

It is normal and understandable for an agent to submit you for the kind of things you've succeeded in booking in the past. No one, no matter what their field of endeavor, is likely to "fix" something if it ain't broke. This is as true for casting directors as it is for agents. And no amount of "conversations" will change how they see you. They'll only see you as right for different parts when you develop and show them different parts of you.

Here's how:

What we're shooting for is the "I didn't know the kid could do that" reaction. A student of mine was stuck in a certain "type" box by his agency. He'd always done well for them as this type: the "good guy," the "best friend," but never as the tough, edgy-with-an- attitude bad boy/leading man. No amount of meetings and talking were able to change how they saw him...until we did a show. You're right, Michael: the conversations of this nature will "go in one ear and out the other" because that's all they're geared towards: the ears. Talk, after all, is cheap. When this actor came out on stage in the middle of the play, bare-chested and covered in bling, and did a nasty, rough gangsta rap, his agents were stunned. They literally told me afterwards, "We didn't know he could do that." Until they saw it, they had a hard time believing it. One picture was, indeed, worth a thousand words. Needless to say, they expanded the way they submitted him

So: decide how you want your agents to perceive you. Choose monologues that insist on evoking those sides of you, and march in and perform them so they can see what you're talking about, not just hear. Seeing is believing. Similarly, choose scenes that require the same things; work on them with actors who'll challenge and support you (I'll help) and then invest some money in hiring someone to film the scenes really well, so you can convince not only agents but casting directors that you know how to work on camera
and that you pop. Mail the DVD's of your work to casting directors, urge your agents to do the same.

Whether you want to change from a certain age-range (which I gather you do) or a certain character type, this is the way to go, Michael. Why should anyone believe what you say? Remember, somewhere in Macbeth there's this exchange, which I'll paraphrase very loosely, where one person says something like "I can call spirits from the briney deep," and the other says "And so can I, and so can any man. BUT DO THEY COME WHEN YOU CALL THEM?"

Summon your different spirits, Michael. Their actions will speak louder than any words.
Anthony Abeson