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A Great Actor
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 Article by Martin Traz | @ReelAcademy  
THE ANATOMY OF A GREAT FILM & TV PERFORMER (AN AGENT'S CONFESSION)
There is a short list of traits that differentiates all the average performers from the GREAT performers (the ones that are always booked).
I have a confession to make…

I DO believe that there is such a thing as a GREAT performer.

A GREAT performer is one that is respected by their agent, by casting, by the on-set departments, and by his or her fellow colleagues.

They are respected because: 
  •  They are reliable,
  •  They show up 100% prepared to their bookings,  
  •  They are knowledgeable about their craft,  
  •  They are professional,  
  •  They take direction well,  
  •  They are easy to work with, and  
  •  They are proactive about continuing personal development.  
That (to me) is a GREAT performer.

That is the kind of performer, whether they work background, foreground, or anything in between; is the kind of performer that I want to submit for bookings, and the kind of performer that casting and on-set departments want on their sets.

That’s the kind of performer I wish I had found every time I signed someone to an agency roster…although that isn’t what I’ve always found.

There is also the not-so-great performer.

The not-so-great performer is:
  •  Difficult to reach,
  •  Untrustworthy, 
  •  Shows up to bookings unprepared, 
  •  Lacks knowledge on their craft, 
  •  Lacks basic set etiquette, 
  •  Has a negative view on anything they are asked to do, 
  •  Annoys the on-set departments, and 
  •  Lacking the vision for continuous self-improvement.
In short, the not-so-great performer is difficult to respect.

And if they are difficult to respect, they are difficult to book.

I have met several of these no-so-great performers over my years in this business.

I have also met several GREAT performers.

The good news is that the number of really bad performers is few and far between. They will be ignored by casting, and eventually fall off the agency rosters that won’t let them go (due to some misguided sense of  loyalty), and they will go the way of the Dodo Bird.

The bad news is that the number of GREAT performers is few and far between as well. Most of the industry falls in the spectrum somewhere in between not-so-great and GREAT.

However, I believe that with a little bit of knowledge, resources and guidance, MANY of those in the middle of the spectrum have the potential to become GREAT performers.

You game if I help you make that move to ‘GREAT’?

I hope so...

Because if you want to garner the respect of a performer that is worthy of more bookings, higher value bookings, and longevity in this business…then it’s time to strive for something slightly above mediocre. Maybe it doesn’t end up with ‘great’. But I believe that just by the action of striving for this target, you'll set yourself apart from 90% of performers in this industry.

It really doesn’t take much, as you’ll soon see.

What follows next is the anatomy of a GREAT film industry performer.

One that garners respect.

One that every agent wants to sign, and every set wants to hire. 

One that you can easily model for yourself.
If we’re going to dissect the ideal performer, we need to start at the top. Let’s start with the most important item that governs all else...

Let’s start with the brain.

What does the brain of a GREAT performer look like?

Well first, I hope it goes without saying, great performers need to be smart. I’m not talking about the level of the IQ. I’m talking about having a foundation of set savvyness, and a thorough understanding of your specialized craft – whether that be as a background performer, a stand-in, or a principle actor.

To be a GREAT performer you need to be is a continuous learner. You need to have the humility that you don’t know everything, and that you can always improve your knowledge bank (your brain).
  •  If you’re a performer and you’re not continually researching and acquiring new knowledge about the ever changing filming environment, it’s going to be header for you.
  •  If you’re a performer, in any category (background, principle, stand-in, model), that jumped into this business without any formal training, you’re dangerous.
It is important that as a performer you put a high value and priority on education – not just at the beginning, but also at every stage of your journey in this business.
A Great Actor Brain
So what does a GREAT performer need to do to develop this type of brain? The first step is to build up a personal library of knowledge. This can include:
  •  Foundational performer knowledge* (Including: Fundamentals, set etiquette, the booking process, on-set procedures, set safety, and payroll to name a few.)
  •  Craft-specific knowledge (Example: Principle acting for Film & TV, standing-in, modeling, background acting, stunt acting, etc.)
  •  Self-Promotion (Including: Optimizing your online performer profiles, creating demo reels, using social media to connect to the industry network, etc.)
  •  Research intelligence (Knowing how to use production lists to optimize your bookings, knowing how to find the right agents and talent pools for you, etc.) 
[*Reel Academy’s Set Ready™ Performer Knowledge Hub has you covered here. Or you can check out just the first of the 7 knowledge Reels to get started with the fundamentals HERE. I’ve helped curate this knowledge hub by interviewing 30+ industry professionals from every department, and every filming region in Canada to bring performers the most current and accurate performer knowledge for the present filming environment.]

Another great recommendation is for performers to join private social groups that are full of like-minded, GREAT performers – to exchange ideas and knowledge. (Just a word of caution: I’ve seen a lot of industry social groups online that are full of negative, energy draining time wasters. You’ll want to join a few groups to start, get a feel for the vibe, then pick one that feels the best for you – and grow your network there. Don’t bother trying to be everywhere, it’s not as effective as being more present in few spots.)

Alright, so we talked about the brain, now let’s move to the eyes.

GREAT performers see what’s in front of them. They watch the trends, see the data, and take purposeful action based on the next few steps ahead of them.

I’m not saying you need to be able to predict the future, in fact I’d advise against trying to predict anything if you’re not a data analyst – or to become one for that matter. Rather you should simply be constantly aware of what’s happening right now, and ideally what’s also around just the next corner.

A GREAT performer has both eyes wide open...one eye on the current filming environment, and the other eye on the next few steps ahead. This will keep you well ahead of your colleagues.  
Great Performer Eyes
Here’s some actionable ideas for fine tuning your GREAT performer eyes:
  •  Stay in the know of current productions* by reviewing monthly productions lists. Then use that data to optimize your online profiles so that the eyes of casting see you as the perfect fit for what’s shooting now.
  •  Preview next month’s production stats* so that you know how busy you’ll be, and which shooting format (movies, series, pilots, etc.) will be most in demand so you can take appropriate action.
  •  Review industry trends so that you have an idea of the seasonal trends in shooting. This will allow you to properly juggle on-set days with auditions and continuing education. This article will help you with that.
So don’t try to manufacture your expectations (that’s a trait of a not-so-good performer). Instead understand what’s shooting now, what’s likely shooting next month, as well as the general industry trends – and you’ll be taking useful, purposeful action with eyes wide open (like a GREAT performer)!

So we have the brain, we have the eyes, now we need the mouth.

First of all, you’ll notice that the mouth of the performer is big. That’s because most performers never stop talking…in holding…in the shuttle…at craft services….on set. You know who you are! HA! 
Great Performer Mouth
But seriously, the mouth is important because it represents your words.

I’m not talking about speaking on camera here.

I’m talking about words.

The words you choose to use when you’re speaking to your colleagues. The words you choose to use when you’re talking to on-set departments. Same goes with casting and with your agent.

Somewhere along the line this industry blew up with negativity, criticism, even outright verbal abuse. I’m not saying performers are the only ones to point a figure at here - far from it. However this article is titled the “Anatomy of a GREAT Film & TV Performer”, so I’m speaking about performers here. Okay?

If this industry is to tackle verbal abuse, negativity and criticism on our film sets, then it’s up to each and every one of us to police our mouths.

A GREAT performer is ready and willing to set an example: 
  •  To call out verbal abuse when they witness it (and report it, whether it’s a performer on an on-set crew member, or anyone else),
  •  To always be the positive voice of encouragement to colleagues,
  •  To not give any negative not-so-good performers any attention/time, and
  •  To greet everyone, be polite, and treat each other as equals.
Bottom line, use your words to be a force for good.

This alone made the difference for me when I was choosing between two equally skilled performers, with the same look, as to whom should get submitted/booked - and who shouldn’t.

So that’s the head of the GREAT performer, now we get to the body…starting with the hands.
Great Performer Hands
You’ll notice in the image that the hands of the performer are both holding something in them.

They are holding a cell phone and a bag.

I can’t overstate how important both of these items are.

First of all, the cell phone represents communication. Specifically it represents that the GREAT performer is easily reachable. I’ve long ago lost count how many times a good performer lost an incredible booking opportunity because they were unreachable for hours.

Yes, I just said hours (as in, that’s too long). Those performers who like to get back to their agents the next day (even dayS later) and wonder why they never get booked…well there’s a light bulb moment.

Know this…this industry has exponentially increased in the speed of communication.

There was a time when agents submitted binders of headshots to casting and confirmed bookings with landlines and fax machines - and the process took at time many hours, if not days.

Well those times are dead.

Today, a casting request is fired out to the internet, and in less than a second it’s available for submissions. Then, the agents that can act the quickest often have the greatest increase in odds of getting more talent considered for the parts.

So if the agent needs to reach you to ask you a question, or to book your audition or day on set, you need to be reachable – in the moment (as much as possible).

A GREAT performer is always reachable.

Okay, now let’s address the mystery bag the performer in the image is holding.

This thing is super important.

It’s a performer Set Kit.
INTRODUCING:
101 | Set Ready™ Fundamentals
All the fundamental performer knowledge AND resources (like our Ultimate Set Kit builder) you need to absolutely rock it from day 1 in this biz; as well as advanced tips that will have you out-booking & out-earning other performers (even as a novice).
Film & TV Performer Set Kit
A GREAT performer is always 100% prepared for their bookings, including all the unexpected things that can fly at them once they get to set…
  •  Proper sign-in documentation,
  •  Personal beauty products (men and women)
  •  Personal wardrobe
  •  Preparation for extreme weather,
  •  Creature comforts during LONG days in holding,
  •  Reference materials to do your best work,
  •  And MORE...
The best way to be prepared, is to have built a great performer Set Kit that accompanies you to all your bookings like a trusted sidekick. A well thought-out Set Kit has been the secret to almost perfect set days for both myself, my colleagues, and my performers.

If you want to build the ULTIMATE performer Set Kit (one worthy of a GREAT performer)...

...then use our signature Ultimate Set Kit builder in our Reel 101 Set Ready Fundamentals training. 

Don’t go out onto another set without one!

It will be the single greatest tool for you to have stress-free, enjoyable days on set EVERY TIME (and eliminate avoidable conflict with on-set departments).

Okay next let’s talk about the feet.

The feet of a GREAT performer are agile. Not because you’re running from an out of control T-Rex robot (although that would be pretty cool), but because you need to be constantly moving forward… and laterally.

What you don’t want to be doing is standing still…

…that’s performer career death. 
Great Performer Feet
You always want to be moving forward whenever you can. 

That means if you’re not lined up to work on set next week, then you’re auditioning next week. If you’re not auditioning, then you’re at least being submitted for stuff, or you're acquiring new knowledge.

The GREAT performer is always doing whatever they can to keep momentum.

But what if they can’t? What if they’re a principle performer and all the acting slots are filled for all the presently filming productions? What if they are a stand-in and there’s no stand-in gigs currently available?

What do you do?

You move laterally.

Go do something else in this business. If you’re a principle actor go find some stand-in work. If you’re a stand-in go find some commercials to audition for. If you’re a motion picture model go find some print work to do. If there's nothing then learn something new!

A GREAT performer is always moving forward (or laterally).

Whatever you do, just don’t stand still.

Okay, we can’t talk about anatomy without talking about skin.
Great Actor Skin
The first thing you should know about the skin of a GREAT performer is thick. And the reason it’s thick is because performers are regularly criticized, and a GREAT performer doesn’t let that criticism sink it. It stays on the surface level. A GREAT performer interprets the criticism as suggestions for improvement, and then he/she wicks of the criticism.

In short, a GREAT performer has zero ego.

Yes, have confidence; but don’t have an ego.

Don’t ever develop the attitude that you’re better than those around you, because the truth is that nobody got to where they are now without the help of others…

…which bring me to the final point...

A GREAT performer has a GREAT big heart
Great Actor Heart
GREAT performers love other people.

They genuinely, sincerely care about other people.

GREAT performers respect other people.

They connect with other people, get on their level, help them...

...and are a force for good in this industry. They are the 'Reel Heroes' (pun intended). 

And my hopes for this industry...is to see less of the not-so-good performers plaguing our film sets, and to see a lot more of the GREAT performers...the Reel Heroes...lifting up the attitude and standards of our film community.

If this performer dissection only achieved helping transform ONE more performer into a Reel Hero, then I confess that I have been fulfilled in my purpose here writing this article. 

It always starts with one...

...and that one begins to show other people the way.

I hope that YOU'RE the one to take the next step.

Start with just following the tips provided in this article:
  •  Expand your brain,
  •  Open & focus your eyes,
  •  Be careful and purposeful with your words,
  •  Be easy to reach out to,
  •  Always show up prepared (with a Set Kit worthy of a GREAT performer),
  •  Always move forward (or laterally),
  •  Tame the ego, and most importantly...
  •  Have a GREAT big heart.
If you follow these 8 simple tips, you're not only going to be ready to deliver a GREAT performance on set when your moment arrives..

...you'll also continually earn the respect of all those around you.

And that’s something GREAT to aspire to. 

- M

INTRODUCING:
101 | Set Ready™ Fundamentals
All the fundamental performer knowledge AND resources (like our Ultimate Set Kit builder) you need to absolutely rock it from day 1 in this biz; as well as advanced tips that will have you out-booking & out-earning other performers (even as a novice).
Film & TV Performer Set Kit
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About Martin Traz

Martin Traz is the founder and director of ReelAcademy.com

Since being inspired by the magic of movie making as a performer, Martin has shared this experience with principal performers, models, stand-ins, and background actors. He has booked thousands of performer set days across films, TV shows, pilots, and commercials. Today, Martin focuses on curating knowledge and developing tools for the Canadian film industry so that everyone can do their best work. Connect with Martin on Facebook.
Martin Traz
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