There is an excellent Facebook Group for British-based actors called the ‘British Actors Network’ (BAN), set up by Actor ForbesKB (Black Loren in Game of Thrones -Series 2). The Group has grown in stature as well as numbers and tackles all sorts of issues Actors may and do come across. Advice is offered by contributors on anything from one’s Showreel to one’s Headshots. No problem is too big or too small to be discussed on BAN. Before I go any further, credit should also be given to Helen Raw (Actress, Writer and Film Maker,) who is administrator for BAN on the Scottish side of the Group. Good solid Professional People.
A subject came up on BAN a couple of weeks ago about contacting Casting Directors specifically. This goes a little way off what I wanted to discuss and showcase via Dallas Travers’ ‘Gatekeeper’ but is still relevant as Casting Directors are one of the Gatekeepers and important Gatekeepers at that. The debate/question was whether an actor should contact a Casting Director directly or go through their agent – Assuming they have representation of course? There were no definitive answers as some people who had no representation contacted a casting director directly, arranged a meeting/audition and got cast in a production. In the UK this is very rare and people advised against doing this. My own contribution to the debate was: After writing endless letters to agents and casting directors early in my career, I stopped doing so due to the lack of response/no replies that came my way or rather didn’t come my way – especially from casting directors. Instead, I focussed on getting work, doing anything that would get me a list of credits. Once that happened, I was able to get my first agent. Once that happens an actor may change agents a few or many times in their career but as ‘Dame Helen Mirren’ said in her Oscar Acceptance Speech “It is all about the work” and for me this is key. Better credits lead to better opportunities. As I said in the debate, you won’t get through Nina Gold’s door and get to work on ‘Game of Thrones’ unless you have credits that say you are good enough to work on that kind of a show.
I have worked on major films, low-budget films, no-budget films, theatre, television, web-based productions, computing game productions where I developed Green Screen Acting Techniques, not to mention many other skills and credits along the way. And yet, I have not been able to get my foot inside Nina Gold’s door or that of any top UK Casting Director. Had a conversation with Dan Hubbard of Hubbard Casting on Twitter once and that is as close as I came to connecting with one of the Gatekeepers. In Dan’s case, one of the Top Gatekeepers.
So how does one get in with the Gatekeeper(s)? Still a good question and still one not easy to answer but I will let Priscilla, Dallas’ very own Gatekeeper give you her outlook and answer from her perspective as a Gatekeeper:-
Priscilla here, Dallas’ Program Coordinator and one of her gatekeepers. Gatekeepers aren’t trolls under the bridge waiting to stop you from getting where you want to go. We’re better looking and no where near as scary.
In fact, my job is to help you.
But my job is also to make the boss’s life a whole lot easier at the same time.
I’m sure you can imagine that casting directors, agents, managers, filmmakers and coaches receive a lot of calls, e-mails and requests each day for their time and attention. In order to coordinate that efficiently, every business has a system for you to best communicate with them.
These steps are not designed to make it hard for you to get your question answered; they’re to make sure you get help in the most efficient way possible, and the gatekeepers can still finish their work and keep everyone happy.
Here are five tips to start you off on the right foot with gatekeepers so your next question moves through the pipeline at lightning speed.
1. Always Identify Yourself.
This is number one for a reason. You would be astonished at how many phone calls and e-mails we receive without any indication as to who is reaching out. Before a gatekeeper can even start helping you, they need to know your name. When you miss this step, it wastes valuable time that could be allotted toward a solution to your problem or important advice.
You also miss out on a chance to connect to someone who wants to help you, not just now but in the future too. Think of gatekeepers as your future in-the-know buddy, not just a means to an end or an obstacle in your path.
2. Ask the Real Question.
Dallas often says, “Ask the real question” when reaching out to casting directors, agents and filmmakers, and the same is true for gatekeepers. Our jobs are just as busy, so the clearer you can be about what you’re looking for, the faster we can provide an answer.
3. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.
We’ve all been there… hitting the panic button when technology fails us. Maybe you haven’t gotten your sides for tomorrow’s audition. Maybe you can’t log in to Actors Access. Or maybe, you’re still waiting to hear back on that message you left.
Before you send that frantic e-mail at 2:00am – and then another 15 minutes later – pause to make sure there isn’t something you can do on your end to fix the problem.
Don’t let a sense of urgency overtake your common sense. Before freaking out, ask yourself, “How can I solve this problem on my own first?” Check your SPAM filter. Reread those instructions. Double-check the schedule. Refresh the web page. Once you’ve exhausted all options, go ahead and calmly reach out, applying Tip #2.
Believe me, I know it’s hard. I once publicly flipped out because a woman cut me off entering a parking lot. Horn honking and explicatives to boot. Once I realized how silly I looked, I tried to apologize, and she ran away from me. And why wouldn’t she? Crazy behavior just makes you look crazy.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve got my favorites… and they’re my favorites because they treat me like they would want to be treated. They are friendly and clear, and they take an interest in me as a person.
That’s right, gatekeepers are people too.
The opposite is also true. I can easily list the names of people who were rude or dismissive and when. And I’m less likely to go out of my way for them next time. If you don’t respect my position and time, why would I risk upsetting my boss and jeopardizing my job for you?
In the words of T. Harv Eker, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” How you treat a gatekeeper reflects how you treat everyone. Don’t assume your behavior isn’t being noted or that the boss isn’t going to hear about it.
I’ve thrown up the Gatekeeper bat signal, and this applies across the board to all offices.
5. Trust Me.
I always appreciate someone who is willing to ask for what they ideally want, so if it’s possible, I will make it happen. Really, I am on your side. So, if I say no, I mean no. More specifically, I mean that I’ve checked with company policy and my boss before just telling you no.
The entertainment industry is not like Verizon. If you don’t like what one representative has to say, you cannot just hang up and dial again. The entertainment industry is small, so you’re going to interact with the same people again and again. You have to approach the situation differently, almost like we’re co-workers and not ships passing in the night. Don’t assume we’ll never run into each other again.
In our office, our intention is to always have your back, but it’s not the same situation everywhere. Respect the boundaries a gatekeepers sets, and you will earn their respect. Building those relationships can prove to be just as powerful as any with big-time filmmakers and high-profile CDs.
I love the idea of us being allies. It’s my favorite part of my job, supporting creative people fulfilling their dreams and sharing their talents. So if we’re going to be friends, just remember to say hello, keep it short and sweet, and come from a place of respect and trust. I’ll meet you in the middle.
Courtesy of Dallas Travers (http://www.dallastravers.com)
Thank you Priscilla, and on that note I would be interested in hearing views and experiences you may have had with a gatekeeper? Please respond and let me know. Many thanks.