Advice From An Acting Coach During Hollywood Contraction: Don’t Fall For Programs Promising “Secrets” On How To Book Roles – Guest Column

Editor’s note: As part of Deadline’s ongoing coverage of the contraction going on in Hollywood, we asked Sam Stiglitz — a former casting director who now coaches by professional referral only — to weigh in on the lack of roles and how actors should protect themselves.

Are actors in trouble?

More from Deadline

I hear the worry from agents at the big three companies, and I hear the worry from developmental actors fighting to book their first television co-star.

That worry is simple but omnipresent: Where are the jobs?

When the SAG/AFTRA strike ended, I tried to caution my clients against believing that the world of jobs would reopen, and auditions would flood in. But even with managed expectations, no one foresaw this current landscape.

As a result of the pandemic and last year’s SAG/AFTRA strike, Hollywood has slowed to a crawl. In pilot seasons past, we saw over 100 pilots ordered. This year, the number of pilots was down to double digits.

Additionally, the wild growth of streaming and over the top networks has caused instability. Customers routinely add and cancel subscriptions, resulting in networks cutting content and tightening belts.

Do the math, fewer shows = fewer jobs.

Additionally, the threat of an upcoming IATSE strike has the industry on edge.

We’ve also seen a trickle-down effect when it comes to “name” actors and their willingness to star on television.  As movie stars transfer into television, the “offer only” actors are now reading for roles. Those actors who were once reading are now hoping for auditions. And the one line co-star actors? Well….it’s not pretty.

What does all this mean?

Auditions have always been hard to come by, and they should be. Acting is a skill. A casting director’s job is to vet actors for the director and producers of a project. If everyone were allowed to audition, the cost would be prohibitive, and chaos would ensue.

For actors, the current system is no longer functioning properly. Auditions and jobs have been slashed. We can reminisce about pilot seasons past when actors had four auditions a day; now the working actor would jump for joy over four auditions a week. Jobs are minimal. The “working” actor no longer seamlessly moves from series to series.

Those “booked and busy” actors you see on the internet? Smoke and mirrors.

Actors are desperate to find their way into the system.

Enter the programs.

For every actor out there, there exists numerous coaches, membership organizations and classes that claim to hold the “secret” and “solution” to breaking into this industry. Each claim to help new actors book that elusive first co-star or move from co-star to guest star.

I see the operators of these programs on social media claiming that it’s not a bad time in the industry:

“Why just yesterday I had two auditions. If you only you had taken my course…”

“My clients book more than anyone. I have the cheat code, the hack, the FastTrack”

“If only you pay $500, $1000, $5000, $10,000, you’ll succeed.”

These programs prey on new actors by promising success.

Problematically for these “experts” or their clients, there are still some undeniable truths:

The industry is in a dark place. It’s harder than ever to break in. There are no secrets, no cheat codes, and no FastTrack answers. Every job, every role, every actor is different. There is no one way an actor books a job.

Take, for, example a one-line network co-star. With up to 7,000 submissions from agents and managers, a casting director could see hundreds of tapes, and then the chosen actor still needs to be approved by the producers, the studio, and the network. If this is the process for choosing who gets to say one line on television, imagine the in-depth audition and approval process for a larger role. Who can credibly claim that they have a secret hack or formula for that? No one can. Actors need to open their eyes to this reality.

So, what are actors to do to avoid these programs and hold on to their hard-earned money?

Fundamentally, actors need to understand and stay current with the industry to stay afloat. In order to do this, every actor must read the trades. How can an actor expect to know the industry without staying current with industry news?

Also, actors need to vet all “experts.” With social media, anyone can give out advice with no credentials. Look everyone up on IMDBpro.

Additionally, actors need to join a reputable acting class so they are as sharp and competitive as possible when those auditions do come in. This also helps to create a network of actors and creatives, which is as important as a support system. Include writers, directors, and people from all walks of the industry in your support network.

And finally, actors must avoid all fast track, solution-based classes. They particularly prey on those with little to no knowledge of the industry. Be mindful. 

Success in this industry sometimes requires a combination of luck and timing over which there may not be in control. But success can also be the product of courage, talent, and passion — which can be controlled. Be smart, be thorough, be mindful. Keep your eyes open.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.