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What’s your Window?
By Gwyn Gilliss

First of all, What is a WINDOW?
A Window is usually defined as :

the time frame for an actor to achieve a respectable body of work or at least a few major credits to establish them as a viable product in the entertainment industry”.

A time frame could be 5-7 years or up to 10 years. Windows are larger for guys. An actor may have a window between 20-35 especially if they might be a “character” guy in the making- think Gene Hackman or Robert Duval who didn’t really start to have major careers until well into their 40’s. But for girls/gals the window is mercilessly smaller from ages between 18 – 25 or 26. 29 or 30 is definitely a cut off. That doesn’t mean your chronological age but your physical appearance age. I have clients who are 34 and look 16 and some who are 22 and look 30.

Whew! A lot of actors think they have a lot of time- a long career- years to “bounce up” and become a “star”- starring on Broadway (THEATER), starring on their own Prime Time Series,(TV) or starring in a movIe (FILM). They don’t. It’s over all too soon. You can still work but it’s a struggle to – get an agent and get anything other than bit parts, smaller supporting parts and a lot of hassle to make a living.

Although at an early stage in an acting career performing in non- professional work ( that means non-paying)- showcases, student films and low budget Indie films- is an absolute necessity (you have to start somewhere) You HAVE TO MOVE ON…QUICKLY!

Whether this is discussed with you or not ALL TOP Agents and major players-Film Producers, VP’s of programming, Network Exec’s judge an actor not so much on their talent but on their “credibility”. A multi-million dollar TV series or film can not hinge on an unknown without credits. They simply won’t do it. If they hired you, they would lose their job or their “shirt”. So they won’t cast YOU if you lack major credits. There’s always a dozen finalists for any role. Networks or producers might screentest 6 or more actors –maybe just 3. It’s always narrowed down to those actors who are:

Exceptional, beautiful or very attractive, amazingly talented and EXPERIENCED.

Perfect Example? Sarah Shahi who “really DID blow them away..in her screen test for “FAIRLY LEGAL” (USA EMMY Nominated series)...she did the absolute OPPOSITE of every other actress and WON!

Those who are offered the starring role HAVE to have had at least one guest starring role, several featured or co-starring roles or even a contract role (regular) on a previous series under their belt. That’s how the biz works.

So the concept of-
    1- I just need an agent to submit me
    2- Once in the door, I’ll blow them away with my great talent and audition
    3- I’ll book a major role...
Just doesn’t work- IT’S A DELUSION. So, how DOES IT WORK?

As an actor you need to get those first few major credits BEFORE your window closes and BEFORE you can get a top agent.

Soaps- Daytime Dramas used to provide credibility and be great springboards for a lot of young actors especially if they had contract roles but soaps slowly died a quiet death- there are none left in NY and only a handful in LA.

Most Indie films DO NOT provide credibility- everyone knows they are low/no budget, too artsy for the REAL industry, often don’t show an actor’s true talent or marketability and let’s face it- there are too many at too many festivals at a very low level. Most are in genres that don’t exist in prime time...too many sci fi, horror, “heavy drama” and unattractive milieus- violent, ghetto, slum, depressing. The directors are trying too hard to be taken seriously. But, the exception? Those films that are clever, witty or comedic and well done ALWAYS bounce up and win –even Academy Awards.(Little Miss Sunshine for example).

Commercials provide credibility- if an actor books a major market or network spot the income is staggering- $50,000 or more, there is great “visibility” and both agents and producers take note. If you’re booking and making money, you’re credible.

Doing quality work on Broadway in a new play -in the day- the old days- would provide credibility ...but with increasing costs for production all those “used to be newbie roles” now go to TV/movie stars-the demands of Box Office Appeal. No potential audience member will pay $165+ ( that’s a discount price) for an orchestra seat of a Broadway show (add parking, dinner, babysitter) for someone they don’t recognize from their favorite TV show or in blockbuster films. It’s just economics. And Star power.

So HOW do you bounce up? HOW do you get credits before your “window” shuts?

1- TV credits- Develop Casting Directors and stalk (not really but the intention is there) all writers, producers, exec’s and creators of series so they will think of you, ask for you and book you on their pet project or even write you in.

2- Film credits – Don’t keep accepting junky roles on sci-fi, student, horror or badly produced indie films…research and aim for at least a tiny part in an A list film. Find out the “below the line” crew- from Assistant Director, writer, associate producer…network…find out who works on specific projects and connect at organizations like the Director's or Writer’s Guild. Track down the writer from a previous film you LOVED and write to him/her… there are more ways than auditions to get jobs. People always hire those they know, like and trust…build your network of people who like you.

3. Your own project- this could be :
     Standup Comedy
     Sketch Comedy
     Web-i-sode series
     Your own film- even a “short”. Make it really excellent and get it to Film Festivals Promote, promote, promote!

 Four of my current clients did just that- write their own film. Three of them NOW have top agents sending them out and the 4th is currently in France after attending the Cannes Film Festival...she’s meeting the crème de la crème of the American (Hollywood) and European Film Industries…She’s already got film offers for the next year!!!

Although we all train in theater- cut our chops on it- it rarely provides the vehicle or the springboard. So ADJUST.

Study and develop your technique in theater so you’re really accomplished and then use marketing /networking tactics to make it happen. I call it the “Backdoor Strategy”- working TV and Film in order to get major roles in theater on Broadway.

4- Hire a coach . Create a project. Have your coach call a TOP Agent. Do the NY or LA Marathon - (3 of my top A list working actor-clients got their Agents and TV/Film roles there.) Next LA Marathon August 18th…auditions in NY and LA in JULY. (for upcomings visit www.theactorsmarket.com)

Tooting my own horn?
Yep I am. It works for my clients and anyone who wants to get there!

About Gwyn Gilliss
Founder and Creator of the Actor's Market, Gwyn is the foremost Marketing Coach for Actors. As a successful actor herself working in all medias, she was an Emmy Award nominated Soap Opera Star with over a dozen contract and recurring roles, starred in Primetime pilots and series, appeared on and off Broadway and in classsical Repertory theater. She was also in demand as a corporate spokeswoman for dozens of network commercials and voice-overs. With clients on both coasts and internationally working in all medias she is the premier role model with winning Strategies and first-hand knowledge of the TV,Film and Theater Industries which she willing shares to help new actors succeed.
You can find more info at TAM, The Actor's Market   www.theactorsmarket.com

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