Where Focus Goes...

An old saying that always rings true to me is “where focus goes, energy flows”.  This can be applied to many aspects of your acting career.  Are you keeping aware of the projects currently casting?  Are you attending film festivals and other networking events? Do you know which casting directors are working on each film and series you are targeting?

Increasing the degree to which you have your finger on the pulse of the industry has long been known to help manifest jobs, coincidental meetings, and unexpected opportunities.  The consistent success of vision boards is a perfect example of this. 

Though, I’m sure you’ve already heard all that jazz…  it’s pretty common knowledge.

Now, I’d like to introduce the possibility that the PEOPLE you are interacting with in the industry are a direct result of your focus.  What I mean is, if you feel the film industry is filled with a certain type of person – sleazy, closed off, rude, snobby, ego driven, scammy – it is because that is what YOU are choosing to focus on when out and about in the industry.

I would guess that for every one egotistical actor you meet, you’re also likely meeting ten really cool ones who just love their craft and love what they do.  For every one sleazy director you meet, I’m sure you also meet twenty who just want to make great movies.

Yet some actors choose to focus on the tiny minority of negative people they meet, as opposed to the vast majority who are actually pretty awesome.   It’s like they’re deciding in advance that ‘everyone’ is a certain way, then finding proof of their ‘story’ at every opportunity, ignoring any evidence that contradicts it.

Take a moment to think of how you perceive the industry and your fellow industry members.   Is it negative, or positive?  Do you feel filmmakers are open to new talent, or not?  Do you feel successful actors are supportive of each other, or not?  Does it feel open, or closed off?  I guarantee, whatever you are finding, is exactly what you are choosing to see. 

With this in mind, I’d like to ask you to try a little exercise and write down the following:

  • Seven filmmakers or CDs who have been nice to you or been open to watching your demo
  • Ten times an actor helped you with something you needed a hand on
  • Twelve times someone in the industry supported you, helped you or complimented you

Really take the time to think about this and write the list.  As I’m sure you know, law of attraction will bring to you more of what you focus on.  By finding and focusing on the great things, more great things will come to you.

Now that you have this list, wouldn’t it be nice to shoot a little note to each of them?  Not asking if they have any projects casting or whether they’re working on anything and not bragging about your recent work.  Just asking how they are, as a fellow human and perhaps thanking them for that time they did something above and beyond that made your journey a little easier.  Maybe you could even ask if there’s anything you could help them with too? 

A thank you is a wonderful way to reach out to a person you may have lost touch with, and reciprocation is so important in an industry like ours. 

I’m going to leave it at that… I think you get the idea.  Lets work to see the industry community as being filled with more love than we imagined.  Then lets do a little something like this… just to make sure it is.

Sending love from the madness of pilot season in Hollywood ;)

- Kym Jackson (IMDB)

Learn how to succeed in your acting career today at: HollywoodsGuide.com

Remember To Live Your Life

Today I was writing my list of New Year goals.  What I want to do in the next twelve months.  I started writing the typical actor list: “book a series regular role on TV”, “take another six weeks of groundlings classes”, “finish the new book website” “save x amount of money”.

I had around eight things on my list when I realized my upcoming year sounded about as interesting as sorting beige buttons into matching shade piles.

Acting is such an amazing and wonderful thing to be passionate about (read: obsessed with), and we are so often laughing off the idea of a nine to five job as boring, uncreative, and soul destroying.  The funny thing is though, without a 5pm to ‘knock off’ at, or a Friday to look forward to, my creative friends often neglect to find time to switch off from their career.  Ironically, those same people who are so afraid of working an eight hour day, frequently end up working a sortof half assed twelve hour day each day instead… and for six or seven days a week.

How interesting is an actor to watch who has done nothing but acting classes and networking events for the past year or so?  What life can we bring to a character if we’ve forgotten how to live our lives?

This also applies to networking… When you meet someone and ask what they’ve been up to lately, would you rather hear how many auditions they’ve just had and of the five scenes they did in some film… or about the amazing whale shark they saw scuba diving last weekend, or a story about their crazy tandem partner on their holiday skydiving in Hawaii?

On your New Years list this year… why not add some fun stuff?  Add some big life goals alongside those career goals.  Things you’ve always wanted to do – surfing lessons, seeing China, or India, or Iceland, visiting the Grand Canyon, volunteering for a charity, or horseback riding naked on the beach. 

It’s a fine line to walk between work and fun but it is so important that you live your life while you chase your dreams, not afterwards. 

If money is a problem, take a weekend holiday.  Switch off and book a cheap Air BNB in a city close enough to drive to.  Then find something awesome to do there!  LA is just a few hours drive from Joshua Tree (camping), Palm Springs (day spas), Vegas (hangovers), San Diego (scuba diving), Santa Barbara (skydiving), Big Bear (snowboarding) … even Mexico (margaaaaaritas!) and San Francisco (Alcatraz)!  Take 48 hours away from your ‘craft’, reset yourself, and just be YOU.

I get it… sometimes there really is no time to switch off… sometimes there’s just too much work.  But, that doesn’t mean you have to hide at home and avoid the world for two months at a time. 

Much of our work is a laptop lifestyle.  There’s no reason you can’t get out of your comfy Hollywood apartment and drive to a nice hotel lobby or cafe by the beach, order a coffee, and spend the day by the water, working.  Next time you have a script or two to read, pack a picnic, hike to a beautiful view, and read it somewhere fun.  Maybe you can learn those forty pages of lines for your next film on a beach  instead of pacing in your bedroom.

Adding big goals to your list means even if you fall short, you will be more likely to find little adventures along the way. They big ones may seem out of reach now, but what if you just ignore the potential limitations and add them anyway?  Why not plan as though you will have the money this year?  That you will make the time?  You never know what this next year has in store for you, so whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do, big or small, add it to your list, today. 

If you don’t, another year might slip by waiting for enough money, or the right time, or your big break… and then another year… and then all of a sudden you’re one of those old actors who forgot to live a real life on the side. 

If you do make your list awesome, you might not do everything you plan.  You might not make it to Everest this year but maybe you’ll camp in Joshua tree instead... You might not skydive in Hawaii but Santa Barbara has a nice drop… you might not make Iceland before Easter… but then again…

Then again…

Oh, just think how much fun will it be if you do! ;)  

By Kym Jackson

Creating Your Own Content

I recently worked with a phenomenal comedic actor who had been faced with a problem. A couple of years ago, Rob Schneider was the star of the CBS sitcom ‘Rob’. For any other network, 10-13 million viewers per episode would be huge, but CBS has high expectations of their sitcoms, and they pulled the show after one season due to ‘low ratings’.

After having a TV show cancelled, almost every other lead actor in the history of television has simply walked away and waited for the next job. It would be easy for Rob to have justified doing just this, or becoming a victim, or even, as many do, falling into a ‘woe is me’ depression.

As an actor, it’s easy to fall into the victim mentality with your career. “they’re only hiring names”, “my agent isn’t getting me out” “we shouldn’t have to pay to meet casting directors”. Many actors talk as though the industry is against them and often refer to how ‘unfair’ it all is.

And those actors are completely correct. The film and TV industry IS unfair! Yes, producers will often hire a bankable name if it will make them more money than hiring you. Yes, your agent could probably be doing more for you. And yes, it does suck that most actors have to spend thousands of dollars a year to meet casting directors.

So, now we’ve cleared that up, you have two choices:

1. Sit around with your actor friends and complain about it, validating your plight with evidence and examples of why you aren’t being given a fair go.


2. Accept it, and fight your way forward anyway.

Your complaints are 100% valid. The question is: how are you going to make sure you succeed in spite of all these challenges?

When faced with the challenge of having his show cancelled, Rob Schneider gathered his strength, gathered his friends, gathered the finance, and put everything he had into creating and producing his own newer, funnier, better ‘Rob’-centric sitcom than the CBS show.

Not producing the show with a big TV network meant more freedom with dirty, silly jokes and inappropriate references that could make the show even more hilarious. Creating it himself meant cutting huge costs because he was the most expensive line item in the budget. It meant he could ask his actor friends to help out with their time, and his industry friends to connect him to myriad other resources.

Rob Schneiders’ new show ‘Real Rob’ premiered on Netflix worldwide December 1st, and it is hilarious (I personally mimed some things no person should ever mime). He took what could have been a career blow, and turned it into a massive accomplishment and himself into a TV show creator.

It sounds scary, taking things into your own hands… You’re not a filmmaker (yet), how could you possibly make a web series, or write a TV show, or create a film? Well, I have some news for you…

You are a storyteller. We all are. Our job is to make people laugh… to perform for them… to enhance the human experience by allowing the viewer to live vicariously through our tales, our characters, our life lessons we feel compelled to share.

You are an entrepreneur. You are already running (producing) your own business. You know dialogue and character, which can come in handy when writing a screenplay. Think of how many cast and crew you already know who can guide you, help out, and introduce you to any number of the right people along the way.

You already have the resources and basic skills to write a killer script and to gather a team to create something imperfectly beautiful. It doesn’t have to be perfect… A funny or die skit, a short film, a series of vine videos, or even a new web series!

You have it in you to take your career into your own hands and create your own work. So, do something right now… the second you finish reading this post. Pick up a pen, take out your laptop, send that email or make a phone call and get started creating your own project – this minute. Don’t think fifty steps ahead to how you’ll end up making it… those answers will come in time. Just start now.

Tina Fey did it, Ed Burns did it, Rob Schneider did it, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck did it… they were all just like you. Sure they weren’t ready… scared to get started… scared to write that first word or show their script to anyone.

The only difference is they did it anyway…

And I promise, my creative, amazing, actor friend…

I promise you can too.

By Kym Jackson



How To Create a TV Series Pitch Package

When a writer comes up with an amazing idea for a TV show and wants to pitch it to a network, a ‘Show Bible’ is created, which includes the following materials:

•     Overview of the show
•     Target demographic
•     Style of show
•     Intended network
•     Intended timeslot
•     Intended number of episodes per season
•     Intended budget per episode
•     Series lead character breakdown
•     Series regular character breakdown
•     Intended cast or character prototypes using existing celebrities
•     Full ‘treatment’ for each of the episodes in the first season
•     Pilot script for the show
•     Marketing plan
•     Financial figures from comparative shows in the genre or style
•     Full scripts for additional episodes are occasionally added

These items are combined with a few additions that may be specific to the project. The writer’s agent, manager, or producer (or anyone who knows the right people) sets up a ‘pitch session’ with executives from each of the TV networks for which the show may be appropriate. The writer and/or producer attend each meeting, show bible in hand, and pitch their concept.

Each major network only has enough time slots for a certain number of new shows each season, but will finance several times that number of pilots. For example, a network might finance fifteen TV pilots for a given season. Those fifteen pilots are cast, filmed, edited and viewed by network executives and test audiences. Of the fifteen, the network may only select three or four shows to ‘pick up’.

A TV show being picked up means the network agrees to finance additional episodes of the show (usually in blocks of 12 for network TV and 13 for cable), and allocates a time slot for it to be aired. The creator(s) of the concept and the writer(s) who wrote the pilot episode almost always become executive producers or consulting producers of the series. Modifications are made to the show according to the results of test audience screenings and network input. Storylines are changed (if necessary), and some characters may be removed, added, or re-cast.

Unfortunately, pilots that don’t get picked up are rarely ‘saved’ for another season. This is partly because the cast and crew move on to their next projects. With a different cast and crew, the existing pilot episode would no longer be an accurate ‘sample’ of what the show could be like. Sometimes, however, a show will sell a TV series to another network after not picking the show up themselves.

When a TV show airs, the ‘ratings’ (number of viewers) it gets on American TV determine whether it stays on the air. The ratings are called ‘Nielsen Ratings’ (named after Arthur Nielsen). Shows can be taken off the air after as few as one episode, or after many seasons, depending on how the show is rating at the time.

The pilots that are ‘picked up’ are announced in May each year. A week later, the ‘upfronts’ (meetings where many TV commercial timeslots are pre-sold) take place. ABC and NBC each shoot an average of 20–25 pilots and pick up around ten. CBS, FOX, and CW each shoot between ten and twenty, and usually pick up around five. 

Preparing For LA

If you can’t get to LA yet, there are many things you can be doing right now to prepare:

•    SAVE AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE. Think of every fifty dollars you don’t spend as one more day you can survive in LA.
•    STUDY YOUR CRAFT. Take the best acting classes you can find as often as you’re able.
•    Learn a PERFECT standard American accent.
•    GET ON STAGE. I can tell whether an actor has a substantial theatre background within moments of watching them perform. It will add tangible depth and layers to your work. Do community theatre, school plays, whatever you can get your hands on.
•    Learn how to do as many accents as you can. This skill will aid you for the rest of your career.
•    Girls should learn how to do hair and makeup to suit different roles.
•    Fix your teeth. Make sure they’re straight and white, unless your type is ‘creepy homeless guy’. This is more important than you’d think for lead roles in LA.
•    Fix your skin. Eat less sugar, drink more water, eat well, exercise, cleanse, tone, and moisturize your face twice a day … and if that doesn’t work, see a specialist. Clear skin is a must for American TV and film.
•    EXERCISE! You need high energy and great stamina to stay alert on a film or TV set for twelve hours a day. If you want to play lead roles, get your body looking healthy and toned for your body type. Do not simply try to ‘get skinny’.
•    Find two great two-person scenes from films. One comedic and one dramatic. Memorize and prepare. These will be your showcase scenes.
•    Find two great monologues: one comedic and one dramatic. Memorize and prepare. You will use these in the rare instances a director asks you to audition with a “monologue of your choice”.
•    Film yourself performing scenes as often as possible.
•    Go to AS MANY AUDITIONS AS YOU CAN. Think of every audition as a free class on audition techniques.
•    Do LOTS of short films and indie features to gain on-set experience.
•    Read scripts of great films online at Scriptapolooza.com or InkTip.com to become familiar with what a good script looks like.
•    Watch every single one of the ‘top 250 movies’ listed on IMDBpro and observe who cast and directed them.
•    Select a top director and watch a selection of their films. Become familiar with the top directors in the industry.
•    Watch every movie that has ever won best picture, actor or actress at the academy awards.
•    Watch American hit TV shows and learn the CD and actor’s names.
•    Join every casting website in your area.
•    Improve your cold reading skills by reading dialogue into a mirror for fifteen minutes a day.
•    Get some friends together and shoot a web series for FunnyOrDie.com or YouTube.com.
•    Get your resume, headshot and demo up to a professional standard.
•    Practice memorization. Memorize one page of a character’s dialogue from a two-person scene every day. Aim to be off-book in ten minutes.
•    Go to every film festival close enough for you to get to.
•    Try writing a film or scene. Writing helps you understand more about what goes into creating characters and stories.
•    ‘Follow the top filmmakers and actors on Twitter and Facebook. Watch how they market themselves and interact with their fan base.
•    Write a business plan for your acting career. Write one for the next 1 year, 2 years and 5 years.

Creating Your Acting Website

An actor’s website is rarely used in the professional casting process. Your profile pages on IMDB.com and BreakdownExpress.com (via ActorsAccess.com) give a filmmaker or CD all the tools needed to consider auditioning you for a role.

While a personalized acting website may not make or break your career, it is a great tool to show industry professionals all of your marketing materials in one place. It enables you to guide people towards otherwise hard to find press, like theatre reviews and red carpet photos.

If you do have a website, ensure that it is professional, current, functional, and well maintained. There are many companies online that build websites for actors. Others (like Wix.com) allow you to build a site by easily dropping elements and information into pre-designed pages.

An actor’s website should be utilized as an online ‘press kit’ (see ‘press and publicity’ section), referring the user to reviews, articles, film trailers, and other press. The site must be easy to navigate and all pages must completely download in less than ten seconds. It is unlikely that a CD will wait twenty seconds for your headshot to display, so if needed, reduce the photo file size. Don’t give her a reason to move to the next actor on the list.

A quality actor website will have the following tabs:

•    Home
•    Resume
•    Demo
•    Press
•    Contact
•    Photos

Home Page
Display your name and main theatrical headshot. Perhaps write a bio on yourself and a few career highlights with a small paragraph or two about your recent gigs and upcoming releases. Embed trailers for any current upcoming releases. Include links to your IMDb, Twitter and Facebook.

Under the resume tab, list the following links at the top of the page then display your full resume on the page below them.

•    IMDb profile
•    Breakdown profile
•    Download .pdf
•    Print

Your downloadable resume should be in an un-editable .pdf format.

Demo Reel
Your demo can be displayed via a link to a professional site (like ActorsAccess.com or NowCasting.com), or by embedding a high quality video into your site. If you are using YouTube.com or Vimeo.com for hosting, embed the file into the webpage rather than re-directing users to a public site. Ensure the resolution is high, the file size is small (for fast buffering), and that the picture isn’t too big or small (640 × 480 is standard).

Include links to any positive or neutral press written by an independent media source (i.e. NOT a production or management company website). These sources include newspapers, magazines, online publications, critic’s reviews, and red carpet sites. Scan and upload hardcopy press in .pdf format.

As your press kit grows, separate this section into more specific categories, such as ‘articles’, ‘reviews’ and ‘interviews’.

Display contact information for your representation and include their logo for branding. If you have more than one agent, specify the field in which they represent you. Provide your direct email for those rare last minute bookings that may occur the night before or morning of a shoot.

Your website is not an appropriate forum for the twenty different headshots you took in one session, or for headshots that have become outdated. If you are a model, having a modeling tab is great, but make sure that none of your shots are too revealing. Other than your main theatrical and red carpet images, include alternative looks and character shots

If you have several shots, use thumbnail photos that show a full size version of the shot when rolled over or clicked on. A great example of this is the photo section of your ActorsAccess.com profile. Make sure the larger versions of the photos are easily downloadable and printable (72dpi is a fine minimum resolution), with a print size between 4” × 6” and 8” × 10”.

Red Carpet Photos
One option is to put direct links to your personal search results page on WireImage.com or GettyImages.com. To do this, search your name then copy the url in the browser window above your search results.

Another option is to show a selection of red carpet photos on your website in the same thumbnail format used for headshot photos. Don’t worry about the watermarks: they help legitimize the image and prevent you from breaching any copyrights.

Production Stills
Production stills are taken on set during a shoot. Great production stills show crew and camera equipment in the background, the director instructing you, or the other actors dressed in wardrobe on set. Photos of you in character, acting, are also great (these look like someone has pressed pause on a movie).

Production stills taken with a cheap camera or bad lighting give the impression that the production was cheap. Your production stills should look  as good as stills from bigger budget films, implying that you are a professional, working actor. If you don’t have great stills, don’t resort to using bad ones. Having no production stills is better than having bad ones.