If you have already graduated and have an agent, I’d skip straight to Breaking the Bubble Wrap in Section 2. But if you have yet to exit the system, I am sure that like me and every other actor who’s busted their gut in long-term study, you’re stressing over two sizeable challenges on the horizon:
- Showcase, and/or
- Finding representation (IE: an agent).
If that’s the case, this next bit is especially for you.
As part of this project, I interviewed many great agents from some of the most respected agencies in Australia. It’s taken quite a while (they’re damn busy people), but I deployed my secret weapons of Krispy Kremes, quality coffee and (whoodathunkit) wine. Thusly, I acquired the so-called ‘secrets of showcase success’ and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
99.99% of agents all had the same thing to say. In fact, it was said so many times I lost count:
“Showcase is not the be all and end all of your career, so stop worrying. We’re here to watch you do your thing. There’s no need to ‘please’ us.”
In drama school we are used to the constant scrutiny of our teachers. But now, contrary to what you may have heard, we can ease off the gas a bit. Agents are waaaaaaaaay more chilled. They’ve seen it all, so don’t try to ‘stand out’, ‘be different’ or get them to ‘like’ you. They know that you will not be showcasing ‘everything’ you do and , yes, they do realise that you’re aspiring actors looking for representation. They’re not readying themselves for Oscar-worthy performances! All they want to see is a genuine actor doing their thing and how the person behind the lines is influencing those words. In short:
It ain’t so much what the person is saying, but the person themselves.
So given that we’ve taken care of that
immediate issue (which is more of a beat-up than a genuine problem), what’s
actually left for you to do? Something very much within your control: just do
the scene as well as you can. No more, no less. What luck! This just happens to
be the very thing you were trained to do! Treat the scene as you would over any
rehearsal period and a lot of the tension and pressure surrounding showcase
will begin to fizzle out.
That is probably the biggest point surrounding showcase season, but there are a few other bits and pieces that have the capacity to save you quite a bit of heartache.
LONG HAUL LIFE SAVERS:
- Make sure that you are happy with your showcase scene.
Make a mature and reflective assessment of the scene you’re in. Don’t be the actor who runs away in to safe territory just because the scene throws up something you haven’t tackled before. But don’t feel as if you have no right to speak up if the scene does not serve you. By now you should be getting a pretty good handle on what you (the actor) can bring to a scene. So if you feel like you can’t make the scene truly ‘pop’ with your flavour, speak up and bring it to the attention of your director or teacher. As always, be polite and respectful.
- If time permits, get
away and engage with non-actors.
So many actors I have talked to have extolled the benefits of getting away from the ‘actor-iness’ of showcase and just catching up with family, friends or, in some cases, randoms on park benches (not recommended without thorough background checks). Removing yourself from the cliquey nature of showcase environments and the pressure surrounding scene work is a guaranteed refresher for body and soul. Remember, ALWAYS throw yourself into the work but NEVER let it define you. You are a human being first and an artist second. Head out to the beach and fly a kite you bought from a discount store, go for a run or a reflective walk, have a damn good coffee with a mate you haven’t seen for a while, talk to your Dad about his top secret jaffle recipe. Head in the opposite direction of anything that reeks of showcase and guiltlessly bathe in the warm fuzzies of good ol’ everyday life.
- Don’t forget you’re all in the same boat.
If your ensemble is tight and hard-working, the showcase will always be strong. Trust us, even though it sounds trite, you are stronger TOGETHER and it shows. Many of us who come back to watch these showcases have witnessed the whole thing scuttled by an ensemble that had obviously disintegrated into cliques of ultra-competitiveness behind the scenes. The strength and warmth of the scenes of a strong ensemble is undeniable and make the entire showcase greater than the sum of it’s parts. That is something agents enjoy.
- Don’t share a house with more than 2 or 3 actors from showcase.
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be happy with the results of showcase. Some people may get a bucket-load of meetings and offers. Other may get some meetings and an offer or two. Hardest of all, some may get NOTHING (if this is you, see the section called Not Getting An Agent). Now imagine all the emotions and interactions associated with these situations playing out in an actor-packed share house environment. Yup. Delightful, huh? Remember that the results of showcase will be the elephant in the room in every conversation you have with your drama school mates. Some of you will be over the moon and others will be completely heart broken. Even banning showcase topics from conversation only reinforces the distance between the ‘haves’ and ‘the have-nots’. My recommendation? Share a place with 2 or 3 close mates max and make sure that they are the kind of people you want around in a time of increased stress.