How To Be An Actor - What is your "X to 1?" - Beverly Hills Playhouse

X to 1

I’ve been chatting in class a fair amount recently about administration, which is BHP-speak for the actions actors are taking to move their career forward. The good news part is that these discussions are coming about because I’m seeing a lot of very talented actors doing very talented work and are swell personalities to boot. The bad news part is that too many of these talented actors are “not working as much as they’d like to be,” as the euphemism goes.

So this begs the question: What’s going on with your admin? Answer: Some clever version of “not much.” Followup question: Why? Followup answer: Well….  They talk about confidence, they talk about “branding,” they talk about ineffective agents, they talk about how CD workshops don’t yield results, they talk about the alignment of the sun, moon, and stars, they talk about personal problems and relationship troubles and karmic injustice. But what most are not talking about is simply a diligent, consistent outflow of high quality communication and promotion regarding the product.

Outflow equals inflow, folks. And there is an X-to-1 relationship there. There is some number X of outflowing communication/promotion that will yield a unit 1 inflow. If you send out 100 letters and get one in response, then you’re a 100-to-1 person. So keep sending out 100 units of outflow. You don’t have to believe in it, you just have to do it.  Some people have the admin gods on their side, it’s effortless, and it seems that if they merely think about Steven Spielberg, the next day they get the call for an audition for Jaws 10. The best possible ratio would be 1-to-1 – every single letter or call or what-have-you yields a positive response. That’s a fantasy, but it’s here just to make the point. Everyone has an X to 1, but very few people are solving for X.

If, like many actors, you’re sending out 5 random postcards or half-hearted notes each month when the mood strikes you, when you’re feeling “confident” or “inspired” or whatever, and you have nothing coming back to you – then you haven’t hit X yet. Your X is higher than 5.

Another dubious phenomenon is the one whereby  Joe Actor sends out 100 letters and gets his unit 1 comeback – a single audition. Instead of realizing the 100-to-1 equation, Joe thinks the 100 will now yield many more auditions that have simply had the poor taste not to appear yet. The promotion and admin activity stops, as does, of course, any return flow. Back to base camp and we start climbing again.

It’s simple math, daily hard work, and not a complex association of psychology, misapplied corporate branding techniques, chakras alignment or other head game that feel cathartic to chat about in support groups, makes money for those who purport to sell the Magic Pill that will unleash careers, while actually, factually, statistically, doing nothing to change the condition. Outflow. Outflow. It’s about consistent outflow. It should be quality outflow for sure, specific for sure, targeted for sure,  and read the bonus thought below for more on whom you should target.  But don’t kid yourself that you need to take six months to develop a “quality” piece of promo, while doing zero admin during that time. A hyper-concern for “Quality” can become an excuse for doing nothing, and wraps itself nicely with a perfection syndrome so that nothing ever goes out because nothing is ever “good enough” to go out.

Bonus Thought #1: My experience is that whatever your X is, only about 20% of that should be random impersonal postcards, casting workshops or breakdown submissions. My guess is that for most actors, that number is distressingly close to 80% of their output. But look:  Casting directors are hired by the producers to do a job for them – before a casting person is hired, a script has been written, believed in by a lot of people, financed, etc. So when you focus your admin on casting directors and the breakdowns they put out, you’re hitting only the last 20% (at most) of the entire process that brings a story to life. You need to hit the 80% or more of the iceberg that is underwater: Writers, Directors and Producers. If you’re in the headspace of those folks as they create a script and move it towards production, the casting person will be calling you without your even knowing who they are.  This does NOT mean you back off the current admin you unleash on CDs, but DOES mean that you have to put out multiples of that number targeting the story creators and movers. (Or becoming the story creator yourself – see my early post on this blog: Build Your Own Door and Walk Through It.)

Bonus Thought #2: My recent conversations regarding admin have revealed in general a woeful rate of good followup. Refer to earlier post – Good Followup – It Matters. Part of this equation should the the logging of every person you meet in this business, with consistent 4-6 communications a year going to each of those people. Every audition you have should add 3-4 people to that list: The CD, plus the writer, director and producer of the project – regardless of whether you met all of them personally. And don’t underestimate the value of handwritten notes.

X to 1. Everyone has their own personal X, so solve for it. And whatever quantitative effort you’re putting into casting workshops and breakdowns, another 4 times that amount should be the effort to communicate with writers, directors and producers. For those who might actually have read other entries here and say, “Wait a minute – in Reel Thoughts you stress the quality of our promo, in Do The Admin You Like you say we should blow off random mass admin that we don’t believe in, and now in X to 1 you’re saying it’s about solving for X on a quantitative basis – WTF?!” Well – owning your own business is hard work. So yeah, I’m asking you to develop quality promotion and communication skills, target specifically to people you want to work for as well as the broader marketplace, and do this on a consistent basis, solving for your own X to 1. Hard work.

2 thoughts on “X to 1

  1. The Other AB

    I love this. Especially since it appeals to my math hungry Indian brain. I will add another percentage to this for people to ponder. If your agents make 10% of your pay, how about you consider doing 90% of the work, too?

    Reply
  2. business mover

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