William Mapother

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Generals and Generals and Generals, oh my!

Posted on: January 7th, 2012 by wmapother No Comments

I’m often asked by younger actors about how to handle generals, i.e, introduction meetings with casting directors. 

In my opinion, they’re absolutely worthwhile taking.  I’ve heard some agents and actors say they’d rather wait until the actor can audition, but given how competitive this business is, who knows when/if that’ll ever happen?  Plus, in generals the c.d. can see a side of you that your reel and headshot don’t show, which can result in opportunities you might not have had if you’d waited.

For example, while I was in NYC in the summer of 2009, I had my manager set up a general meeting with the c.d.’s James Calleri and Paul Davis.  It was rather brief, but at least long enough that they saw something in me other than a scary guy from the jungle, because two weeks later I was offered my role in Another Earth.

Some general tips

1. Be grateful for the opportunity.  The c.d. isn’t getting paid.

2. The goal isn’t just to meet the c.d.; it’s to make yourself memorable.  So think of the meeting as an audition, but instead of playing a character, you’re playing yourself.  Prepare it as a scene, eg, with an intention, a means of achieving it, etc.  Decide how you want the c.d. remember you, then choose acocrdingly some funny and interesting anecdotes, your appearance and your attitude.  Rehearse your anecdotes.  Be able to discuss intelligently the films and actors you like, and why.  Yes, you’re being yourself, but the best part of yourself.

3. Research the c.d.  Find projects of theirs you can compliment genuinely, and ask about casting choices you found interesting.  Learn about them and their interests (many have interviews and articles online), and be able to discuss them.

4. Before the meeting, do whatever’s necessary to be energized but relaxed.  Work out.  Meditate.  Private time with your partner.  (Okay, tmi.)

5. In the meeting, generating the conversational momentum is your responsibility, not his/hers.  Don’t make it their responsibility. Focus on them just as much as on yourself.  Without being nosy, you might find things around their office to talk about.  In being interested, you make yourself interesting.  Discuss things which distinguish you from other actors, eg, skills, accomplishments, interests, etc.  (Yes, of course this is sounding like a date.  What did you expect?)

6. Although you may (or definitely?) find your thoughts oscillating wildly between “I’m the answer to your casting prayers” and “I’m such a lowly turd,” I suggest you strive for an attitude somewhere roughly between them.

7. Expect the meeting to last about 20 minutes.  The first time you sense they’re getting restless, offer to end the meeting so they can get back to work.  Without forcing it, try to leave on a positive or funny note.

8. Right after the apppointment, make notes on what you learned about them (family life, hometown and alma mater, interests, etc.).  Best is to put it into your mobile, so you’ll be able to review it just prior to the next time you see them.  (On the iPhone, the Notes section for each contact is perfect for this.)

9. Be grateful again.  Send the c.d. a brief, funny thank-you note for their time and try to mention one or two things you discussed during the meeting.  If you’re able to send them info (eg, a URL) about one of their interests, all the better.  Make yourself memorable.

10. Report back to and thank the person who set up the meeting.  Let them know how it went.  If it wasn’t an agent or manager, a small gift wouldn’t be out of line.  (You want to make them want to help you again!)

Good luck!

[This is another in a continuing series of potentially helpful, hopefully practical posts to actors on practicing their craft or surviving the trying.  I bear no responsibility for how this or any of my posts might ruin your life, lead you to law school, or make your parents sick with worry.  For more of the same, click the ‘Info to Actors’ category at left.]

Posted in Acting Tips & Info, Recs

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