I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Anthony Smith, Actor & Acting Coach. He has recently launched the Acting Career Quick Start Home-Study Program. It is an in-depth course that helps actors to start, as well as how to advance in their careers. Anthony is a very interesting guy. He has got to be one of the most knowledgeable people that I know when it comes to acting and how to start an acting career. During our interview, he provided a lot of great tips and advice for actors of all levels. Check out the interview for yourself.
1. Francine: How long have you been an actor?
Anthony: I have been acting on and off for five years now.
2. Francine: How did you get started as an actor?
Anthony: My story is not typical though. I’m an ex-corporate guy who quit after a very successful career (national sales director for Nike in Italy and country managing director of Levi’s Italian subsidiary). I studied acting for three years in New York (Meisner technique at the Ward Acting Studio), then spent several months actively pursing work.
3. Francine: What movies and television shows have you appeared in?
Anthony: Here are some of the highlights. More than anything else, I’ve done lots of industrials, which is why you don’t see a lot on my IMDB profile. As an ex-corporate guy, that’s what I love the most, speaking to customers on-camera or being a spokesperson, hosting live events in front of sometimes hundreds of people, conducting interviews on-camera for my customers. I also did a few educational DVD series that were sold nationally. I did a sitcom for a cruise line, which was a blast! For that I had to take four two-week cruises for the shoot. I loved it! Industrials are an area that many actors overlook.
I have also done a couple of short films that were televised in Italy "The Silver Rope" and "Afterville". There’s a horror film in there and appearances on "Law and Order" and a series called "Kidnapped."
4. Francine: You have launched the Acting Career Quick Start Home-Study Program. Can you tell me more about it?
Anthony: When I went back to New York for the first time after completing my conservatory acting training program at Ward, I was on a mission. I gave myself a few months to start auditioning regularly and to build relationships with industry professionals and of course to start booking work. I subleted a room in an apartment with two other actors and I told them what my goal was. They were very polite and wished me luck, but I could see from there expressions that they didn’t believe that I could do it.
In just ten weeks I had already had two agents working for me, I had either submitted for or had been submitted myself for some two hundred projects, I got thirty-seven auditions, booked ten acting jobs and made close to four thousand dollars. While to some that might not seem like a lot, anyone who has been struggling to get acting work knows that there are a lot of people who would love to have those kind of results.
I know why I was able to do that and create the base for being able to continue to get regular auditions and regular acting work, earn money regularly, and set myself up for my “acting business” to grow. It’s because of four things basically:
a. I took the time to learn “the business of acting.”
b. I was facilitated by my business experience in the corporate world. The market is different than athletic shoes and jeans, but the concepts to be successful are the same. You just have to adapt to them.
c. I had a well-articulated plan that I executed with great discipline.
d. I went to learn from people who were already doing what I wanted to do and I found another actor who was willing to dedicate some time for me to learn from him.
This last point was something that I already knew but had really hit me once while I was waiting my turn for an audition. I was in the waiting room and overheard an actor being questioned by another. Basically he was asked, “How do you get so many auditions and work so much?” His answer was, “I found a mentor to help me.”
That’s what The Acting Career Quick Start Home-Study Course is all about. It’s a mentorship program that takes actors through the entire process of starting an acting career from A-Z step-by-step with me and other acting industry professionals. It’s very hands-on and practical. I not only talk to you about what to do, I show you how to do it literally and then make time for you to get it done. That’s right, participants have homework. The course is designed for participants to have contacts, an agent or two, be getting regular auditions and start to get regular acting work by the time the course is finished. The best thing of all is that they learn a method that they can replicate to take their careers to the next level.
5. Francine: What else can you tell me about this home study course for actors?
Anthony: I decided to share all of my experiences with the many actors out there who I know are struggling to just get auditions, much less work. Many I know are going about it in the wrong way, will never be successful and the sad thing is that they don’t even realize that they are going down a path that will take them nowhere.
It really is sad when I hear people say for example and in the same breath, “I want to become an actor” and then say, “How can I get an agent?” or “Where can I find auditions?”
It’s equally sad when I see people who have been beating their heads against the wall trying to make something happen in their careers and the only thing they can get is an occasional audition. Many actors get auditions, but don’t get called back much and don’t know why? Many don’t realize the value of building relationships with industry professionals.
One of the biggest and most important things I found that people in all these groups need to think about changing their attitude and approach. They need to learn “the business” and the second thing is that in many (not all) cases, they need to stop thinking about what people are going to give them (auditions and acting work, introductions to casting directors, directors, producers, agents, etc.) and start thinking about and approaching things from a “What do I have to offer?” “What am I going to give people?” point of view.
In the Home-Study Course we cover all that and more. My approach is kind of in line with the Chinese proverb. “You can feed a man fish or you can teach him to fish so that he can feed himself.” I don’t introduce actors to industry professionals and I don’t get them auditions and acting work. I teach them how to be able to do all that for themselves.
6. Francine: What kind of topics do you cover in your home study course?
Anthony: Some of the things I have already covered in this interview. Wow. There’s so much. Let me try and sum it up. Take into consideration that there are twenty-four modules each that last an average of one hour and a quarter, with downloadable materials, mp3 audio files, monthly 20-minute coaching calls with me on skype and a headshot, type and marketing evaluation complete with a storyline.
With regard to topics, the modules in the first month are all about knowing what you are getting yourself into and starting to REALLY understand the profession you have chosen, the traits successful actors and successful people have in common, four things you can’t get away from if you want to pursue an acting career, the four stages to an acting career and why most never make it past the second stage and more. What a typical day looks like in the life of an aspiring actor who is utilizing her time properly and efficiently to make something happen even before she starts getting work regularly. Even actors who have been at it for a while find this part enlightening.
Then we move on to the business side of acting, how to run your acting business, who you need to be on your team, all the different ways there are to use your acting skills to gain experience, get work and make money, how much money you need, how to make extra money in a way that allows you to focus on your career as much as possible, marketing yourself, whew! There’s so much!
Then we move onto how to create your USP, your unique selling proposition, branding, HOW to make contact with the right industry professionals, how often, what to communicate and how to communicate effectively. We look at things from the perspective of the casting director and the agent for example, so it’s clear to participants what they want from actors. Additionally, we look at how to get an agent and keep one! What to do if your agent doesn’t send you out much. How to analyze your results and get back on track if you aren’t getting called back. How to create your strategy. Promotional materials and how to use them effectively.
Then we move into auditions and audition tips and techniques. We talk about how to conduct yourself in an audition, cold reading, mistakes to avoid, how to ensure that your audition is the best it can be and how to increase your booking and callback rates.
Planning methods, goal achievement techniques, more on making money residually, staying on track. It’s a very complete program as you have read.
7. Francine: What are the best ways to get started as an actor?
Anthony: If you want to start any career, the first thing you have to do is study the industry and start to understand what it really means to do that job. I have seen so many people think that because they have taken a couple of classes, that they are ready for the big roles. They’re just alluding themselves. You have to be prepared. That means:
• Study the industry.
• Learn the craft.
• Learn the business.
For many, this takes too long so they try and take short cuts. However, 99.9% of the time, the short cuts don’t work.
8. Francine: What are the secrets to being a successful actor?
Anthony: In my years of studying acting, actors and doing what I do to help actors, I have narrowed it down to seven things:
a. Successful actors know themselves very well. They know they’re strengths and weaknesses, what they’re good at and what they need to work on, what they want and what they don’t want. As well, they choose, not to be everything to everyone. They focus on where they can and want to make the biggest contribution to their careers and they focus on that.
b. They are creative. You don’t often find people who are successful, but who are in a slump say things like, “I tried everything. Believe me. It’s not possible.” They are creative and find solutions. This brings to mind actors who have been trying in vein to get an agent, to meet and build relationships with casting directors, to get regular and good-quality auditions and get acting work. There are many like that who have been trying for years and still can’t figure it out. If you’re creative, you’ll figure it out.
c. They know what they want out of their careers. As I said before, they don’t try to be everything to everyone. They know exactly what kind of acting career they want and they focus all their efforts, marketing and otherwise on that.
d. They are good, disciplined planners. Once they know what they want, they have a plan and a method to keep them on track and they stick to it.
e. They are motivated, which is another thing that keeps them on track, but perhaps the most important thing is about where the motivation comes from. In large part, strong motivation comes from the reason why you are doing what you are doing. Actors who have decided to pursue this career, because they simply love acting and can’t think of doing anything else in life, who don’t care if they ever walk the red carpet, who are just happy to get up in the morning and walk on a set, stage or whatever and ‘do their thing’ are people who are more likely to be extremely motivated. Unfortunately, there are so many people who decide to pursue acting careers for all the wrong reasons: fame, glory, and money. Many who have those as their primary motivations aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to get their careers to take off and keep them going. They end up fizzling out if they even get started at all. They lose interest.
f. They know the business. They understand that their acting career is a business and they treat it as such. They know who their customers are, what they want and how to give it to them. They know the value of a good product and they realize that the product they “sell” is themselves. They keep it sharp. They are good PR people, good at networking and promoting their business and their product. They know about branding and why that is so important to getting recognized in an overly-saturated market. They are the CEO’s of their own little companies.
g.They have a good hold on their finances. They have figured out that the struggling actor syndrome is nothing more than a myth and that it doesn’t have to be that way. Many of these successful actors have figured out how to make money in such a way at the beginning of their careers that allows them to focus as much time as possible on marketing and promotion of their acting businesses. Many have figured out how to make residual income. They’re good at budgeting. They are smart with their money.
9. Francine: How can an actor get more auditions, as well as more jobs?
Anthony: I would say that after all that I have said, the answer to this question is between all the lines I have spoken. There’s no quick answer. It takes time to set things up. You have to be extremely motivated and disciplined. It’s easy to look somewhere on the Internet to find an audition. It’s easy to find out the name of a casting director who casts the types of projects you are interested in pursuing. It’s another thing to create a system in which casting directors call you when they need you and because they know who you are and that helps you to get auditions and acting work regularly. Learn the business and learn a method. That’s the answer.
10. Francine: Do you have any final comments or advice?
Anthony: Yes and I’ll address them to the actor who has been trying for a long time to make something happen in his/her career, but can’t seem to get it to take off. If that is your situation, I’d like to make you an offer to be your mentor.
At the same time, I have no choice but to leave it up to you to decide to study with me in The Acting Career Quick Start Home-Study Course or not. I am perfectly aware that not everyone will want me as a mentor. I accept and respect that.
But I will leave you with this thought. If you are struggling to get your acting career off the ground, you have two choices. You can either continue to do the things you are and have been doing to try and get auditions and acting work that you know are not getting you anywhere or you can make a change. One option, the best option I know of is for you to find a mentor. If you don’t want that mentor to be Anthony Smith, then please, for your own sake, choose a mentor who has the following five characteristics:.
a) Someone who has already done what you are trying to do, get regular auditions and regular acting work.
b) Someone who is very knowledgeable about the acting industry and about the business of acting.
c) Someone who is able to teach you what you need to know in such a way that you don’t have to figure things out for yourself, but who explains thing in such a way that you know exactly what you need to do.
d) Someone who is willing to teach you and take you under their wing to make sure you not only learn, but that you actually DO. This cannot be someone who will stop and talk to you for five minutes and share some tips, but rather someone who takes a genuine interest in your success.
e) Someone you can trust.
I wish you all the best in your acting career endeavors!