Some of you are probably too young to remember darkrooms. No, I’m not talking about the place you go to cry when an agent drops you. A darkroom is just another name for the lab where photographers used to develop 35mm film before digital technology consumed the world. I used to be an amateur photographer and there were two things I loved about taking pictures: One was the sound my camera’s shutter made when I captured the perfect image. And the other was seeing that image come to life in a darkroom. Here’s how the process worked. The enlarger, an optical gizmo that looks like a slide projector, would project the image from the negative down to a sheet of photographic paper. That sheet would then be immersed in a tray full of liquid developer. At this point, all you could see was a blank piece of paper floating in murky darkness. But as the seconds ticked by, an image would gradually start to form and voilà! The finished print would emerge. That was always my favorite part of the process—there was something magical about watching a finished product appear from nothing. And in a funny kind of way I’m still enjoying that process, because developing talent is very similar. Every agent you meet will claim they love to develop talent, but the truth is most of them don’t know how. I’ve seen a lot of promising young actors sign with agents who submit and pitch them on every single project out there, hoping to score some quick credits and a commission. That’s not developing talent. That’s throwing clients to the wolves. And when those actors don’t book, they get dropped after a year and then they’re back to square one. I’ve never been that kind of agent. I’m old-fashioned. I think developing talent is fun. But it has to be done carefully. When I’m working with a client who’s just starting out, the first thing I do is get that actor into an audition class. The teacher is always someone I trust who will give me honest feedback. Studying audition technique is crucial because despite their level of ability, new actors don’t have much experience reading for mainstream casting directors, and I need to make sure they’re ready. When the teacher gives me a green light, I start setting up auditions—but I’m very selective about my choices. There are some casting directors out there who can smell fear and will rip a new actor to shreds. So I try to focus on my friends, casting directors with a gentle touch who are open to new talent. During this process, an image starts to emerge. The strengths and weaknesses of my clients are discovered. For example, are they funny? Do they need an improv class? Or would it make more sense to focus on straight drama? Casting directors also often enlighten me about a new actor’s age range. I once signed a young woman who I pitched as mid- to late 20s until a casting friend told me I was nuts. He explained the actor couldn’t play any older than early 20s. And once I made that adjustment, she started booking work on a regular basis. As those initial bookings start to come in, I widen the net, challenging my client with larger and better roles. And at that point, the actor is no longer developmental. Now they’re just another pain-in-the-ass actor looking for their break. Gee, maybe it’s time to learn more about digital photography. That might be my ticket to an actor-free life!
Written By: Secret Agent Man Via Backstage