Audition Tips & Notes From A Top Commercial Agent. Our interview with Stephany Burns, the Head Commercial Agent at Avalon Artists Group is full of great advice for actors of all levels.  You can also watch this live interview here on our IGTV. 

Raquel: Actors come on and all!

Today we’re going to do a live interview with my commercial agent Stephanie Burns from Avalon Artists Group. She is the head of all commercial talent at Avalon and she’s been there for a long time. They are an amazing commercial agency and they are incredibly talented when it comes to booking commercials. Stephany is fabulous. She’s amazing. I love her. She’s booked every brand you can think of, from Geico to Verizon, Coca Cola, Snickers, Coors Light to every car company, every restaurant every fast food, McDonald’s, Burger King, I could go on!

She’s smart and she’s always working closely with all the casting directors, creating relationships and she’s been in the trenches, even during COVID.
Today, we’re going to talk about how commercials have changed and about what’s going on in the commercial industry.

Raquel:
Hi!! How are you today!

Stephany:
I’m like crazy today. Today’s really amazingly busy. Of course, right?

Raquel:
I know! I got that audition!

Stephany:
I was just going to say of course I sent you an audition notice like right before this! So today it’s been really busy. I have my computer actually next to me and we are rocking and rolling. I mean well that’s great, it’s jammin’.

Raquel:
Haha, ok, so give everybody just a brief background on your experience in the commercial industry.

Stephany:
Okay, so I did commercials when I was a little kid, I was there and in know what it’s like to be on your side. And now I’ve been a commercial agent 11 years now. I’ve been at Avalon for 8 years. Oh, wow. I have about 300 clients. I do commercial, print, voiceover, union, non-union, adults, humans. dogs. aliens, robots, whatever.

Raquel:
So what’s going on? How have you been feeling during this whole quarantine?

Stephany:
As a human or as an employee! As a human, as an agent? As a human, man rollercoaster, I mean, I have good days I have bad days, like everyone else. I’ll even have good half days, and then the rest of the day will suck or vice versa. It’s just been rough. I’m not going to lie. I mean, you know.

I think now we’re just trying to dig ourselves out . When there was no breakdowns and no bookings, and no shoots and no money, obviously that really contributed to depression. But now that we have breakdowns again, I feel like I have hope. And I’m excited and I’m happy and I’m, you know, I’m negotiating again and so, thank God, it’s coming back. Thank God.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE COMMERCIAL BUSINESS CURRENTLY?

Raquel:
So what has shifted?

Stephany:
It’s everything, I mean, I don’t even know where to begin, quite honestly.

Raquel:
So what was it like before the quarantine for you, like as far as your day to day.

Stephany:
Okay, so before the pandemic, it was 50 auditions a day at least and it was in person, and it gets you out. I remember even talking to you one day, you had three auditions in one day and you’re trying to beg borrow and steal, to get from point A to point B. The valley to downtown LA! It was a normal crazy day.

People would come into my office face to face. So I saw everybody’s faces all the time, signing new clients. You know, not all the time but I you know, I do sign new clients. I take new client meetings during the week. And I go to events I go to showcases, I do workshops, etc. I used to go see stand up shows and now COVID hits. Everything shut down.

Raquel:
So what’s so what changed? When did the industry start to come back to normalcy, I mean at least start back up again. When did that start?

Stephany:
I remember the months of March, April, and May. Nothing, nothing,

Then the middle towards the end of May, when normally it shuts down, that’s when you know, the season used to end. Everybody would go on vacation for hiatus.

Raquel:
There was a there was a period of time in those three months I was getting re-negotiations. Some, but not as much as I hoped. I really thought that was going to be a lot.

Stephany:
Me too. Me too. I thought. Yeah, I thought that when COVID hit it was going to be all renegotiation. Yeah. Which is great, right sound money, but it wasn’t happening because there was a lot of commercials with crowded scenes, and they couldn’t show crowded scenes. Even a scene in a restaurant with three people, they couldn’t show! Unbelievable. So the renewals actually weren’t happening as much as we hoped and thought.

Then at the end of May, I get little things here and there, not breakdowns, but emails from casting directors that knew me, commercial directors that knew me and producers that knew me and said, “Hey, do you think your actor would feel comfortable doing this? “ So it kind of started wit this little thing. June and July was kind of that as well.

July has been actually been really great. I have to say, I’ve probably had I don’t 14 bookings last month. Which is actually not bad considering the situation. Today, there’s a ton of breakdowns. I mean, really, really good ones.

Raquel:
I was telling my memberships actors that what they see on Casting Network, Casting Frontier and Actors Access is not what you see as an agent. Correct? That’s a public board and yours is a completely private board.

SO WHY DO I SIGN WITH AN AGENT IF I CAN GET THE BREAKDOWNS MYSELF?

 

Stephany:
You sign with an agent because the breakdowns the actors get themselves are going to be for roles that are only for specialty people. If you can spit fire or ride a unicycle, sometimes real families, things like that. I’m going to get the breakdown for the spokesperson on Verizon, you are not.

Raquel:
Is it a good time to try to get an agent right now?

Stephany:
I would say actually, yes. By the way, my timeline is all over the place I might be off on my timeline. But the last four months, I wasn’t signing anybody I was just banking their emails into a folder. Because I have to see these people in person.

I need to know your personality and who you are as a person and a human and not being able to meet in person is obviously wasn’t happening. So now, I’m kind of feeling that I’m okay with not meeting with people if they’re okay with it.

Raquel:
Yeah. And you meet at a coffee place or outside where you have outdoor space.

Stephany:
Yes. And even house calls with my actors.

Raquel:
Yeah, but I mean this is what we have to adapt to right now. Yeah, you want to keep the ball rolling, right? Keep some normalcy in your life so that you don’t start to feel the effects of that, right.

Stephany:
The only reason why I wasn’t actually dying to find new people is because of the 300 people that I represent that have been dying for work for months now. I need to get them out. I’ve got to focus on them right now because they have been so good to me, so loyal to me that instead of just signing a bunch of new people, I need to really rock and roll with the people that I rep.

Raquel:
I honestly cannot complain during this quarantine. I mean, thank God for The Actors, Mark, and our Members Lounge. It has been a godsend for me. It’s really allowed me to get my bearings and really focus on the good, and be able to reach out to some of the people like Backstage and different platforms that I’ve been wanting to make relationships with, but I just haven’t had the time. It really offered me that opportunity, which was fantastic.

Stephany:
You’re right when you said that you are on autopilot before and now it’s like you’re reteaching your brain. You’re totally right. I did the same thing with casting directors, because I was on autopilot with the casting directors that I already knew. I took this time to either rekindle relationships or make new friendships. I’ve been making personal friendships.

Raquel:
That’s awesome.

Stephany:
You want to know what’s interesting, I made a personal friendship with a casting director on Instagram, about our vacations and I have booked two jobs with him since then, what?

Raquel:
Yeah, but see, that’s the way it is. It’s like, but that’s the way it is in the whole industry.

Stephany:
It really is.

BOOK THE JOB OR BOOK THE ROOM?

Raquel:
I tell all my students, you’re not going in there to book the job. You’re going in there to book the room. Create a relationship with that person. If you don’t get the job. That’s okay. Go in there wanting to get to know them. Know them, know what they’ve done before, and know their work. Comment on something that they did.

Stephany:
Yeah, I mean, I’m telling you, I did the same thing as an agent. I literally saw this commercial casting director on a trip. I commented, I started up a conversation. I have to do that too. Just like actors. I’ve been taking this time to, to make better stronger relationships with casting directors, and it’s been going really well because I’m not a quitter. And you know, I want to get back out there.

Raquel:
The industry, it’s always going to be here. It’s just we have to change with the times as the times are flowing. We have to go with that and trust that as long as we’re staying present.

Stephany:
A big pivot!

AGENT SUBMISSION VS. SELF SUBMISSION FOR AUDITIONS

Raquel:
Let’s talk about how you determine how you submit your clients, because there are things like conflicts involved. I tell actors all the time. Be careful when you do self-submissions for commercials.

Stephany:
I’m really hesitant about actors self-submitting on commercials that are posted online. Odds are they’re non-union. And odds are they want global use in perpetuity.

Raquel:
A lot of actors don’t know to not agree to that. And it’s a red flag. People don’t even know what in perpetuity is. Can you explain in perpetuity?

Stephany:
It’s forever. Years ago, one of my actors did a show, maybe a Schick shaving thing. It was around 500 bucks. It was in perpetuity, global, whatever. 10 years later, it’s on a billboard. He reaches out says, “You got to get them to take this down”. I’m like, okay, calm down, and find me the contract. I will totally fight this and I will win this. He hands me the contract, and it’s like, in perpetuity, and his name is signed. I’m like, dude, you just screwed yourself.

Raquel:
Putting anything in writing is a very important thing. If there’s no email chain of changes or contract changes or addendum, then??

So with that being said, like, when actors are just starting out, and they want to do get into commercials and they don’t have an agent yet, is self submitting a good thing for them to do? Or should they actually just focus on getting a commercial agent?

Stephany:
I think they can self submit on jobs as long as they’re smart about looking at the terms. As long as they know if it is, you know it pays $500, and it’s Internet only, there’s no conflict and it’s for a year, do it. It adds to your resume.

So, you know, the business side of this career is honestly, you know, you think it’s 50% talent and 50% business, but it’s actually not unfortunately. I’ve seen a lot of, not my actors, obviously, but I’ve seen actors that are not the most talented people, but have the business savvy mind. They are rocking it and they are going out and they are booking, booking, booking. I also have super, super talented people that don’t have the business side of it. It’s so frustrating. It’s sad, I feel bad and in this business, you just really have to know the show business side?

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MAKE MY AGENT SO I CAN GET SENT OUT MORE?

Raquel:
So what could you say with this opportunity right now to all actors that are watching? Because it’s so hard to reach out to all actors and get them to read the emails. I’m sure that’s so frustrating on your part, but not me. I read all your emails! haha

For the actors that are saying, I want to work Stephany, yet they’re not doing what they should. What can they do to help you with your job?

Stephany:
The one thing I do in my job, I believe is give clear direction. That is something when I was an actor, I was not given. I had agents that never gave me the tools or the clear direction. So what I do is give them clear direction. I tell actors, if they need headshots, if it’s classes, if it’s social media presence, if it’s creating content, if it’s making videos of your special skills.

I have been very, very clear with people about what they can do. And some people choose to do it, and some people don’t. And if they don’t, I kind of lose interest. Right? And I think to myself, didn’t we talk about headshots like a year ago? Now, they don’t care that I don’t care, because they’re not getting auditions because they have old headshots and I told him to get new ones and they didn’t. And they don’t care and they’re not bugging me. It is what it is.

Raquel:
I’m not going to lie, my headshots are terribly old.

Stephany:
Well, you and I are going to have a conversation after this!

There are a lot of photographers right now; I’ll be completely honest with you that are offering very good deals. In fact, some are saying I’ll do a freebie session. Good photographers that are saying we know you guys are going through hardships. I’ve had quite a few actually reach out, it’s really nice.

Raquel:
I know, this whole quarantine has brought out so much giving. People are giving; people are willing to help the community. Let me help you. Yeah, like even just you know this, this is our time. You know, this is not we’re not getting paid to do this. This is our time.

HOW DO I SUBMIT MATERIALS TO AN AGENT FOR REPRESENTATION?

Raquel:
So back to headshots, there’s a huge question that I wanted to ask you and it kind of has a bunch of different smaller questions.
How do you like actors to submit to you?

Stephany:
An email with their website or headshot, resume, an reel. Nothing I have to download! Nobody wants to download anything.

Raquel:
Don’t even send it or your emails going to go right in the trash.

Stephany:
I want your headshot in the body of the email. like a little thumbnail.

Say, I put together a pitch package for a casting director and they say send me your best females for this infomercial. What I’ll do is little thumbnails of your headshot, and then I’ll do a hyperlink that they can click on with your name that goes right to your resume.

So this is what we need to have the conversation about. People need to learn technology right now and I’m included. So figure it out.

Raquel:
So somebody submits to you with an email, you prefer that they give you a thumbnail headshot, with a link to websites, resumes, and any online profiles. What if they don’t have a reel?

Stephany:
Anything. I just need to see their ability. There were a couple people that I did sign, but I saw them in a show. They didn’t have reels. So I’m not going to sign you if you don’t have a real and I didn’t see you in a show. And you didn’t do a cold read for me. You have to do something. I’m an actor’s agent and I can’t sign you if I don’t know your ability.

I DON’T HAVE A REEL, WHAT CAN I SUBMIT?

Raquel:
I’ve told some actors that right now that have been training and are ready to get an agent, but they don’t have materials. I tell them to do a really good scene and self-tape it like a like an audition is that sufficient for you to see?

Stephany:
Now, yes. Before No. Especially with singing, that was a big thing too, because we would represent a lot of people on national tours and Broadway and they would send us their singing, you know, them doing a live show of them singing if we can’t go to their show, right.

Raquel:
Well, that’s good to know. So at least they can get in front of you guys.

Stephany:
Like I said, they could do a self-tape of a commercial read and send it to me, but I am a person that feeds off of energy and vibes and if I can’t feel your energy, I struggle with our relationship. So just an online relationship might still be tough for me to sign you.

Raquel:
Can you talk about that for a minute because people don’t realize that that’s very important when you’re signing with an agency of your caliber. There are a lot of tiny agencies out there. They’re not to say they’re bad. They’re just really boutique and they aren’t getting the opportunities that an agent like Avalon Artists would get. You have been around for a really long time. You know, Craig has brought in everybody that’s relevant in the industry and had been working in the industry for a long time. What’s that like to be one of his agents?

Stephany:
Well, Craig came from New York, and he’s been open for 15 years. And just to be a talent agency that’s been open 15 years in LA is a success is you know, success.

WHAT SHOULD MY ACTORS ONLINE PROFILES INCLUDE?

Raquel:
So what do you like to see in actor’s profiles? Give me a kind of a rundown and what should be on their profile as far as their headshots, all the pictures, resumes, skills, and all that stuff.

Stephany:
Okay, so my favorite people that that tend to get more opportunities than others are going to have about six headshots of different looks and types. They need to have a few activity type things if they’re sports, or if you do yoga, do like a crazy attention getting yoga pose. Let’s say if you play sports, I want to see a photo of you in something that you would play golf in or tennis in, photo should be waist up hands on the hips and you look like you’re on a golf course.

Raquel:
Now is it better to have them actually in the action of doing the sport for a headshot?

Stephany:
I’ve seen a semi pro golf guy and he has a really great swing shot There’s no rules anymore. Commercials are so specific these days, that just a broad headshot isn’t working anymore, unless you have a million credits and you know, everybody. Yeah, you need to have some sort of a niche or something that kind of gets you at or look or a type, you know, a stereotype.

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO PUT ON MY RESUME?

Raquel:
Okay, and so what about your resume, what is something that is an absolute on the resume?

Stephany:
Well obviously any film or TV credits that are relevant, if you if you’ve been on a show that we’ve heard of, that’s going to be first and foremost, then your training is going to be a really, really big deal. Then your special skills.

You know, the thing that’s a bummer about Casting Networks is that they give you the option of beginner, intermediate and advanced. It just shows up on your resume. So unless I do a search for expert, if I just look you up and it says surfing, I don’t know how amazing you at surfing.

So here’s what you do at the bottom under “other experience”. That’s where you brag. Tell me about your medals and awards you’ve won. Tell me that you paddleboard every day with your dog on your paddleboard or, you know, you are a real baker. Today I got a break down and I need people that are amazing bakers.

So this is where I utilize Facebook. This is where Facebook comes in handy for my clients where I put out things that are specific such as, who drives a Honda, things like that. But you have to be quick to the gun, man! Right now people are actually answering me about the baking thing. And when I get off of this call, I’m going to take all these people and I’m going to submit them and I’m going to hit send!

The Breakdown specifically says must be able to seriously bake and is very passionate about it. Okay, so then that person that is a baker. It would behoove them to have a photo on Casting Networks and Casting Frontier and all the other online profiles of them baking something in a bakers or chef’s outfit.

I have a few actors, I have a girl. She gets great auditions. I don’t know if Diane, if you’re on here, she always gets to get an audition for real. Like if it says like real chefs, real cooks, you know, she actually has a picture in a white chef’s coat. Some agents are more about this some agents are against this. She gets an audition ticket every time there’s a breakdown for a chef.

HOW TO STAND OUT TO CASTING DIRECTORS

Raquel:
And why do you think that is?

Stephany:
I think that there’s a lot of rush. I think there’s not a lot of time for the casting directors to really analyze and sometimes they’ll pick half the people that they know. And then they’ll pick half the people that just fit that type immediately. Right. And I mean, they’re going to read resumes, but It’s just a quick thing, you know, army if you’re in the military if you have a military photo. That’s a great one.

If theatrically you go out for a police officer all the time. You don’t have to wear a police officer outfit, but wear something very business-y. Pull your hair back. Don’t wear a lot of makeup. Have a serious look on your face. Yeah, you know, it’s magic.

Raquel:
Yeah, so they can be imaginative and say, Oh, she’s got a black t-shirt on, her hair’s pulled back with a black pair of pants and a belt. You could see she could be a detective. She could be a police officer; she could be something like that.

Stephany:
But only if that’s your vibe. I’ve seen people try to do that. And that’s not who they are. That is so important.

Your essence All right, your essence is everything. And so when people say, well, what headshots should I get, what looks should I get? That’s, when you tell me I can’t be a baker, etc.

Raquel:
This is what I do a lot of goal coaching. You know, I with actors, and I sit down with them and I do an hour and a half session where I run through all of their online profiles, and I go coach them as to who they are trying to be.

Who do you want to be like, what kind of work do you want to get? Because I always say the industry isn’t going to define you. You have to define yourself for the industry. Yeah, afraid to say that’s not for me. The problem actors get so fearful. They’re like, Oh, I can’t turn that down. But you can, you can have a conversation with your agent.

CAN I TURN DOWN AUDITIONS FROM MY AGENT?

Stephany:
Yeah, although right now I wouldn’t turn anything down.

Raquel:
No, no, absolutely not. I mean, if you’re a vegetarian don’t take a Carl’s Jr. audition because it’s going to make you the agent look bad.

Stephany:
Well, although having said that I did have a girl who was a vegetarian book a Carl’s Jr. and made 30 grand off of it and just had a spit bucket. But that’s you, you tell me.

So if you’re willing to tell me you’ll do it, right. Right. But if you get the audition notice and you say, you know, that’s against my beliefs. I can’t force you to go out for it.

Raquel:
No, but does that hurt them in your eyes?

Stephany:
No. If they do that for every single product, or if they find a reason to pass on everything, or ask for a time change on everything, or for a later thing on everything. If there’s always something then it’s not going to work out.

All I want to hear is I’m on it. If I don’t hear you’re on it and I get this email, my face just drops. And I now go, okay, that now they just took it off of them and put it back on me.

I worked hard for them. Then you go do your thing. And then I negotiate the booking. But if I get you the audition, and then you’re trying to change things, you’re giving me more work again.

How do I say this in a nice way? Sometimes I’ll have a lot of auditions, and actors oftentimes think they’re the only one that’s got all the work. Sometimes I’ll get 10 auditions for somebody and that’s a big thing right now.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DELIVER MY SELF-TAPES?

Going back to the technology thing, people are super stressed out, and giving me their self-tape at the 11th hour and saying, I don’t know how to submit this. It isn’t working. I don’t know how to do it. Um, can you please submit this for me? I get that actually pretty quite often right now. And so you just took the stress off of you and put it on to me. Yeah. And I might be in the middle of working.

And if they say, can you submit this for me, but it’s due right now, I could be totally involved in a good negotiation that I’m in the middle of. So my suggestion for that is work on your technology skills before you get the audition, so you don’t have to freak out at the 11th hour.

I personally know what it’s like. Because my daughter is auditioning, I’m learning it too. We Transfer, Dropbox, self-tapes, ring lights, backdrops, I’m doing it all myself for my family. I get it I’ve been put in stressful situations.

Raquel:
They’re going to go with the flow or you got to get off the boat.

Stephany:
Yeah, I just I can’t help people sometimes. They want me to do it for them. I can’t hold their hand the whole way right now. It’s just this technology thing.

Raquel:
So if you want to maximize your potential ability to get out and to create a stronger relationship with your actors or with your agents, it is very strongly suggested from a very, very influential agent in this commercial industry, to get a handle and educate yourself on how you need to deliver yourself-tapes. Learn how how to film your self-tapes, make sure you read all the information in your breakdowns. When you’re given your audition. Make sure to check in with your agent, if she’s asking you for something specific. And make sure that you do all that stuff.

Stephany:
Yeah. Yeah, and my actors who are on right now, do a test run, I’m okay with that. Do a test, do a test self-tape, send it to me and see if I can open it on a random day. We’re not in a hurry. And we’re not rushed, where you don’t need an answer right away.

Raquel:
And you can’t just do it on your phone and just send it in!

Stephany:
You can’t. You can’t self-tape on your phone, three minutes and email it to me. A lot of actors don’t know that. I mean, we’re literally starting at square one. Oh, there are a lot of actors out there that never self-taped before. Okay, or they would go somewhere and pay for it. That’s what we used to do. I would always go and pay to get my family self-tape with coaching. Now I don’t have that. And I’m figuring it out myself too. But I’m doing it and I’m figuring it out.

One thing that’s really important for actors to know right now is, if you send something via Dropbox.  Don’t send it by just hitting the share button and emailing it to me to forward to casting because sometimes they have to download it.

And again, nobody has time. Nobody wants to download anything on their computers, so they can skip it. They can miss it. You took all this time and energy and they never even opened it.

Now fortunately, I’ve had casting directors, thankfully go through stuff; send it to me where I don’t have to download. Again, I’m an agent that does in person auditions. I’m not used to self-tapes. So I had to learn. It was a learning curve for me too.

Actually there’s a button at the bottom of your Dropbox, where you can share it without downloading it. I’ve been finding we transfer better lately.

Raquel:
You can also do unlisted on YouTube.

Stephany:
Vimeo, YouTube, but they’re all very specific. Each casting director says send it to me this way. Now. I wish that had Eco Cast where you guys can all upload it. And then I could watch it or you send it to me and I upload it that way. It’s so much easier. This system right now is all over the place.

I Just need everybody to breathe and be patient. And don’t stress about the self-tapes. I mean, we want it to look good. But castings being very patient and being pretty, you know, forgiving. But also, don’t send something at the 11th hour.

Raquel:
I want to talk about the self-tape for a second because I’ve had some doozies in the last year where I’ve had to swim and backstroke and sidestroke, Oh my gosh.

Stephany:
Let me tell you, they are making us make movies right now. I had one for my kids and my husband and they wanted 4 scenes, getting out in and out of the care, in our kitchen, in the living room, pretending to watch a game. And then, you know, obviously the slates the body shot, and then I have to edit it all together, and I’m using my iPhone and then I’m using video shop to edit it. And then I’m sending and I’m using my MacBook to airdrop it. And I mean, it’s like I’m doing it too!

Raquel:
I’m so glad that you said that and not me. I know casting you know me I have really great relationships with my directors and I adore them all and I’m not going to say no.

Stephany:
And I don’t want to say no either. But it’s a lot some days. It’s a lot and when you’re an actor you know, working maybe another job. Your theatrical actor as well and you’ve got all those self-tapes going on. How do you how do you streamline what they’re asking you to do? So that it’s you don’t feel overwhelmed like you have to make this beautiful perfect thing.

You know, honestly I all I want to hear is, “I’m on it I’ve got it and I’m doing it” and I know it’s a lot, but it is what it is. There are people that are willing to drop everything and go film it and sometimes it’s not perfect and you know what sometimes the non perfect take is the one that casting likes.

Raquel:
Yeah, you know if you can you can just do your best

Stephany:
Well, I mean, they all want, you know, the close up shot, they want the good lighting, and they want the good sound. They want a body shot. You know, obviously they all want it shot like this not like we’re on Instagram right now. Video has to be horizontal. Do not do vertical self-tapes. Yeah. And they do want to see your house right now. They do want to see whom you’re living with. I mean, let’s be honest, right now. 90% of my bookings are real families, real couples, real roommates, and real friends. Those are all the breakdowns right now. It’s all real.

It’s what they want right now that they are they’re wanting people that mother and son. I did get a break down yesterday, for the first time actually that said, looking for somebody willing to be in close proximity with another actor without a mask. That was the first time I saw that was yesterday. Otherwise, it is only people that are quarantining together.

Raquel:
And you’re starting to see the shift right now.

Stephany:
It was the first one I saw. The first one. At some point we’re going to have to get back to normalcy somewhere sometime and be as safe as we can.

Well, one thing I know is self-tapes are not going away. They are doing it, where you wait in your car and you get a text, and then you go in and so they’re only bringing in half the people that they would normally call in.

They’re doing zoom auditions, which again, here’s another moment to be patient.

Oftentimes, casting directors are just trying to figure it out themselves. And they’re way behind. And I’ve had casting directors not give the zoom info for the audition until the time of their audition, and I have panicking, total panic. And then right at the audition time, they get the zoom thing and it’s all fine. Or I’ve had people in zoom waiting rooms for an hour. Everybody is figuring this all out and we’re all learning.

Raquel:
Okay. Okay, so one person says it has a question. Do you work with international actors?

Stephany:
Are they living in the US? I’ve had that question sent to me from actors outside the country. How can I get representation in the US And I always tell them only if you have a visa. There are some managers that will pay to get you a visa. There are some managers that will pay to get your visa. Avalon does not do that.

Raquel:
So just for you international actors out there that are watching, you know, yes, you can work in the country, and they will sign international actors, but only if you have a visa to work here and only if you’re already here.

Stephany:
I do actually rep a lot of people from other countries, but they live here and have a visa and are working here. You have to be here. I mean, it was always in person auditions.

Raquel:
Are the criteria different for national commercials as opposed to local commercials?

Stephany:
Yeah. Yeah. Because, of course, it’s all going to be different. The SAG national network commercial is going to be very different than your, you know, non-union. local restaurant.

Raquel:
Another question, I booked a commercial but I only have a theatrical agent. We are shooting for 4 days and I haven’t gotten a contract. What do I need to know to protect myself?

Can you just talk quickly about union and non-union commercials because we’ve got a bunch of questions coming in right now.

Stephany:
Well, things are about to really change. I mean, we could that’s such another conversation because you’re talking FiCore, you’re talking to actors that are eligible. Do you encourage them to join SAG? Do you encourage them to stay non-union? Because there’s so much non-union commercial work right now.

Right now the break down today, I would say it’s 50/50. I mean during COVID, it was only non-union. Now, we’re seeing a lot more SAG breakdowns again. And they all send their SAG COVID guidelines and the safety; a lot of them have to get a COVID test before they shoot.

Non-union jobs, we have to make sure we protect ourselves with their safety guidelines, you know, and protecting Avalon. With the union, though, you know, it’s such a hard question to ask agents, because it is an actor’s union. It’s not an agents union. By the way, a guild. It’s not even a union. A guild is that they’re there to protect the actors, not the agent.

I cannot give anybody advice about this right now? I can’t I you know, for years, it was not if you were going to join it was when you were going to join. It was totally the thing.

I have somebody that’s perfect for a non-union job. But they, you know, they’re not going to not do a non-union job and I don’t want to get in trouble either. So is there any way look at this person? They’re amazing.

Raquel:
Which is, that’s a very, very rare moment. So okay, so right now with the industry is with actors, when you do rarely sign a new actor or when you reconnect with actors that are in your agency, maybe that had been on a hiatus.

Are there any pieces of advice that you can give actors? Right now and even actors that are watching that will help them better their odds of getting a callback, getting in an avail and booking.

The first part of that question would be, what does it mean to get a callback in a video You know, in a booking, because I don’t even know what that is.

Stephany:
Yeah, well and right now it’s like zoom callbacks, right? It’s so right now it’s self-tape for the first audition. You know, they used to bring in 150 actors. Now it’s a lot less. The callbacks, they’re doing via zooms or possible in person. Then the avails, it used to be one or two people, you know, and then it became 10 people.

They started availing like 10 people, where it used to be two, and then there’s the booking.

Casting will tell me a lot of times, we like your person, they are the front-runners, if they don’t, and they just send me an avail. You’re like, Okay, well, how many other people are on avail, it’s between five people. And the shoots right now, I would say are mostly in Utah.

A lot of them are in Utah. And in fact, I was just asking Jody Sonnenberg about that I’m like, what’s the deal? Is that there is no COVID in Utah? I know I was like, is it their COVID guidelines are different is it that more places are open to shoot?

Raquel:
Is it cheaper to shoot there? What’s going on?

Stephany:
Yeah, because I’m interested as the majority of my bookings are not shooting in LA.  They’re paying for everything they’re paying for, you know, if you want to drive, they’ll pay your gas. If you want to fly, they’ll pay for your flight. You know, hotels, they’re booking in nice hotels.

I had one booking where they self isolated and got him a VRBO for two weeks. Once they were self isolated for two weeks, they shot in close proximity in Palm Desert, and then self isolated again and they paid him for that. And they paid him for the two weeks, and it was non-union. And it paid really well.

Raquel:
Wow, I want one of those jobs.

Stephany:
I know, it’s what everybody’s worried about, you don’t want to be liable. And so people are like, Oh, just do union because you’re protected. Trust me. The non-union jobs that I’m booking are not random backyard, “Come on over”. I mean, they’re doing tests there. The actor’s safety is my stress.

So we’ve been very fortunate with every shoot. I had a girl shoot a national network. This is a SAG job and she said it could not have gone smoother. There were six people on set. There’s no more ad agency there anymore. They’re not there. They’re all on zoom or they’re on FaceTime, even in wardrobe or nobody’s there.

Remember how you would go to wardrobe at a booking and you’d have 20 people staring at you. You know, it is not that anymore. Nobody’s going to the fittings anymore. They’re taking pictures sending it. It’s very small sets.

There’s been shoots where people have sent equipment to the actor’s house and then they spend a day, figuring out how to plug everything in. Then spend another day on hair and makeup with either their own closet or with what they are sent. They are teaching them how to do makeup and they’re getting paid for it.

We’re putting together pitch packages of families in their house of pictures of rooms and sending that to casting. And that’s the pivot. It’s the big pivot.

SAY I BOOKED MY FIRST COMMERCIAL NOW WHAT ARE THE TOP THINGS I NEED TO ASK FOR?

Raquel:
Wow, ok. We have a bunch of questions. Say I booked my first commercial now what are the top things I need to ask for?

Stephany:
You shouldn’t be asking for anything, you let your agent do that. Are you signed with a commercial with an agent?

Raquel:
So basically, you should have a commercial agent who should be doing all that stuff for you. But if somebody doesn’t have an agent, and they book a commercial on their own, right, what are some of the things that they should know?

Stephany:
If it’s a union job and you don’t have an agent, there are a lot of things you’re not going to know to ask for. You just say yes to a union commercial booking, right? This is where the union is like, Yay. If it’s non-union booking, you want to check the length of terms, there’s an end date. You want to make sure that it’s specific area and platforms and the rate.

So you’re going to negotiate the rate and the usage and the length of usage. With SAG jobs, you don’t get that it’s a 21-month contract.

Or if it’s a social media, those are different things now, but there are only a few things we can negotiate with SAG jobs, but an actor without an agent isn’t going to negotiate edits.

I JUST BOOKED A COMMERCIAL, CAN I APPROACH AN AGENT TO REPRESENT ME AND TAKE THE COMMERCIAL TO THEM?

 

Raquel:
Now, do you think that it’s wise for an actor who just booked a commercial to approach an agent to represent him and take the commercial to them?

Stephany:
Yeah, I mean, that’d be great. First of all, I don’t think you should be out there unrepresented. But I get, it if actors are just starting out, but this is your edge to get an agent, because if you can take a booking to an agency, right?

Well, and not only that, but we were talking earlier about if you have a theatrical agent, but not a commercial agent, and you get a booking, you give that to your theatrical agent and say, do you have a commercial department? And can they can they handle this booking. If I rep, a commercial person that gets a theatrical booking and doesn’t have a theatrical agent, Craig will absolutely help out.

Raquel:
And that’s good to know.

Stephany:
Yeah. Now if they don’t have an agent at all, yeah, I mean, I would definitely reach out to me with a booking.

Raquel:
Where would they reach out? Where would they find you?

Stephany:
They can email me at stephany@avalonartists.com. They can forward me the booking from casting and I’m not talking about non-union $500 jobs, I’m talking about a SAG national network commercial, not as an extra, as an on camera principle. If they want to add print, if there’s edits, if there’s things that I can help close, if there’s something I can negotiate. I guess they don’t have to get an agent, but it sure helps to get an agent!

Raquel:
Are you kidding? I can’t even imagine my world without an agent. I can’t. I don’t like negotiating. I can’t imagine trying to do all that stuff on my own.  You’re so valuable.

You should email Stephanie immediately if you want an agent. I’m telling you that when it comes to contracts, you have to have somebody that knows what they’re doing, looking over those contracts, knowing the terms, knowing the usage, knowing what to ask for and conflicts. You know, all that stuff.

Stephany:
Well, and especially if by the way, if you book with your roommate, let’s say right now real roommates, right, and you’re with me, but your roommate doesn’t have an agent. Yeah, you can add her.

I had a husband and wife just book and the husband doesn’t have rep. I will help them both and do both. I’ll take everybody in the group that doesn’t have an agent. If they have an agent, I just gave them their agent a booking. If not, I’ll help them.

It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to immediately sign them. But I will at least help them handle that booking. And then we’ll go from there.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BEGINNER ACTORS, ACTORS WHO HAVE NEVER BOOKED ANYTHING AND ARE JUST STARTING OUT?

Raquel:
What advice would you give to beginner actors, actors who have never booked anything and are just starting out?

Stephany:
CLASS!! 100% 100%.

Raquel:
I tell my students and maybe you can elaborate on this, how important improvisation class is.

Stephany:
Oh, it’s everything. It is everything. And right now, commercial casting directors are teaching one day workshops on how to self-tape, how to do the zoom for callbacks what they’re looking for.

I would take from a commercial casting director, not an ongoing class but like a one day workshop.  Laurie Records is always good.

Raquel:
She’s great.

Stephany:
I know that there’s a bunch out there. Yeah. And they’re teaching how to pivot. And even though my actors that take acting classes all the time, they don’t know the technology part of it.
This would be helpful for actors that just need to learn how to have the right setup. And how to submit correctly. If they’ve never done anything at all ever.

My suggestion is to start with acting beginning acting classes. I mean, that would just be auditioning techniques. Okay?

AUDITiON TIPS

Raquel:
All my actors that are on here watching that have heard me over and over and over again, say, if you are new to this industry, the first thing you should do is study. You’re hearing this from my agent.  Let me tell you something. I was just telling my girlfriend that it wasn’t until maybe five years ago that I stopped being nervous on auditions. I’ve been in this industry since I was a kid. You know, but seriously doing it since I was like, 17. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I could walk into a room and it didn’t even bother me.

Stephany:
You know, there’s definitely a difference between a deer in headlights and the little jitters and that’s normal. It’s normal to have those little kind of excited jitters. I mean, that’s our bodies, right? But if you are literally a deer in headlights when you walk into an audition, that’s a problem.

Raquel:
100%. The one thing I always tell my actors when I get an audition, the first thing I do is Google that brand. I say this, because I’m sure you’ve got some people watching that are really good. And a lot of your actors, I’m sure are doing this, but there’s some that don’t know to do this.

I Google the colors of the brand. I Google all the commercials that the brand has done in the past. I look at what their coloring is and their wardrobes. All the commercials have a certain style in the way that they speak because some people are more flamboyant in their commercials, and some people are a little subtler. So I like to look into that.

I will do the same thing from an actor’s perspective. And from an agent’s perspective, if I see a let’s just say Nike. I’m going to do some research on what kind of what direction they look like they’re going in, what’s their trends, people that are calling in a lot, you know, so, branding, you know, yeah, yeah.

Stephany:
Let’s say like, you’re a huge animal person and you have two dogs, you say, listen, I want to represent Blue Buffalo so bad. What do we do to do to get representation or to get it on a commercial for Blue Buffalo.

I’m just using Blue Buffalo as an example. Let’s say you said I’m an animal person. I love animals, and Blue Buffalo is the brand we use. Let’s try to get me in one of those spots, right? Well, the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to look up, who’s the casting director that does these jobs.

So that way I know we need to connect you guys. The second thing is, they’re all non-union. Blue Buffalo only does non-union jobs. So if you’re a SAG actor that wants to do Blue Buffalo, where you need to think of something different because Blue buffalo is only non-union,

You might need to go to Purina instead.

As an agent. You have to be neutral. I can’t trash companies. I can’t trash anything, especially on social media. And neither should you or any actors for that matter. If you’re going to trash a brand or a company or, you know. Just don’t do it.

IS NOW A GOOD TIME TO TRY TO GET AN AGENT?

Raquel:
We’ve got a bunch more questions. Is now a good time to try to get an agent?

Stephany:
I’m saying yes, if you’re trying to get an agent, you have a theater degree, but don’t have any experience and you’re just fresh out of college. And you have that look, that tends to work and people tend to get that. If you are over 55, and you’re, you know, just deciding that this is your second act.

If you are between the ages I mean, I hate to say this, but if you’re in the age 30 to 40 have a theater degree, and no experience and no reel, it is really hard to get representation. Really hard unless you are friends with an agent and they’re hooking you up.

You have to have experience or a reel or something, unless you’re super, super young, or you’re you know, in the over 55-65 range, but that middle range you need to have experience and a reel.

If you’ve been doing this for 10 years? Why don’t you have a reel if you’re 30 right? If you play 30s and you’ve been doing this for 10 years, and you don’t have a reel the question is why?

DO YOU THINK IT’S SMART TO MOVE TO NEW YORK RIGHT NOW?

Raquel:
Yeah. Okay, next one. Do you think it’s smart to move to New York right now? Or is it okay to keep auditioning at home? Keep auditioning here.

Stephany:
There’s plenty of work here. Okay. We got to get back to a normal life. Okay. It’s getting busy again. And we’re rockin’ and rollin’.

Raquel:
Thank you Stephany! Wow,  I mean, that was like a full class you guys. I hope everybody gets a chance to, to really watch this and take this to heart because that is she’s a super reputable agent in this industry and she is telling you firsthand what is going on.

So you really need to listen to this advice. Don’t forget, as you guys are leaving, do not forget that we have the Actors Mark Members Lounge Private Facebook Group.

We give you two classes a month, access to all my resources and more. I highly recommend you guys go on the website, The Actors Mark and click the membership lounge and check it out because it is an amazing opportunity and you get to meet people like Stephanie and Camryn and all our fun casting directors!

We are also doing like a monologue critiques on Instagram with our members and an Old Hollywood Challenge.

Keep checking us out and as always, stay creative!

Email us info@TheActorsMark.com,

DM us on Instagram. Send a pigeon message. We don’t care. Okay, see you guys soon.