"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Your Friends Can Manage You

Struggling Actors and Actresses have to constantly reevaluate their skills and acting level and figure out what the next step is. Is it marketing? Taking new classes? Getting a new image?

You know what's hard? Going into ourselves and figuring all that stuff out. You know what's super easy? Asking your actor friends what you should do next. Shatera wrote me a very long backstory that all came down to two questions that I underlined below:
I’m kind of stuck in the “My career doesn’t have a 1, 2, 3 step path and I’m confused” mode. I lose focus because I don’t know where to go or what to do and in which beneficial order to do it. 
Here is my plan thus far:

-Find out what my type is, my brand, how to work my business which is me (I’m considering buying “The Savvy Actors Career Manual”, any advice/reviews on that?)
[Everyone is welcome to use the Google Search Bar I installed on the right sidebar. I HAVE written about The Savvy Actors Career Manual. -Lira]
-Get headshots that reflect my type
-Submit, submit, submit (I’m submitting to both tv/film and theatre opps, I want my union cards!)
-Take acting classes to grow and network
-Get a job that allows me the flexibility to audition while still working and saving (SCORE! But it wasn’t easy)

Last December I started freelancing with an agent in NY (I live in DC btw) and have auditioned for one feature film and I’m sure she’s submitting me (I trust her) I just haven’t been auditioning a lot through her or booking. Though I have an agent, I know that at the end of the day I AM MY OWN AGENT until my career gets to the level where I don't need to be. So I have gotten a lot of auditions on my own but I am very thankful for the agent in NY also working on my behalf.
My goal once I moved back from LA last year (long story short, it wasn’t my time to be there just yet) was to make a name for myself here in DC (stay here no longer than 1.5 years) then make the move to NY with the credits and experience (oh and money) I build.
I’m a singer actress with major film and tv dreams and NY is a better market for me and my type right now (I’m African American female, mezzo soprano belt, big curly natural hair, average height, curvy but thin build). My problem is that I’ve been auditioning but I haven’t booked. I’m still doing theatre because I once watched a forum where Denzel Washington was speaking and his advice to actors who want to be film stars was “Do theatre. Theatre will lead you into film. Do theatre.” Literally.
I figure since I have a theatre background (BFA Theatre Performance) and I am usually cast in theatre shows here in DC, I should work what I’m good at and perfect what I want to do (film, tv, commercial auditioning) by taking classes and auditioning for them when they come my way. I am pleased with how far I’ve come and the connections I’ve made since my move back from LA, I know it was the right choice for me in my journey thus far, I just wanted to ask you, from the information given, does my plan seem realistic? Is there anything else I could be and/or should be doing?
The only thing I can think of doing that I'm not doing enough of is taking classes. I’m a good writer but I’m not really interested in writing or doing anything outside of performing. It’s what makes me happiest, everything else always just feels like busy work…

[Everyone, please check out Shatera's website and see if you agree with me. If you can think of other things she can also do, please comment and let her know!]

Oh, Shatera, How I feel you! How Everyone feels you! You're right, there is no 1, 2, 3 step path and the worst part of it is: There will never be one. You will never get to follow any steps in any order that makes sense because it all varies from person to person.

I went to your website, and although you describe yourself as having big, curly natural hair (hey girl!) the headshot on your home page is you with your hair straight. Go ahead and nix that one. It's not you.

I'm not a fan of most of your headshots, and I don't blame you; I blame the photographer. It's pretty clear s/he is not a competitive LA headshot photographer and your photog didn't know how to pose you or frame a good shot. Also, you need to wear makeup so we can see the dimensions in your face. Your natural lip color doesn't pop against your skin. Hire a makeup artist next time. I think your pictures are definitely the reason why you're not getting more work through your agent. They're not competitive with the NY market. I googled Best NYC headshot photographers and look at what I got. Do you see the difference between the photos that pop there and how yours don't grab one's attention? Get new ones.

Women our age only really have two types to choose from for film/tv: Leading Lady or Best Friend. You have unconventional beauty, so you're the best friend. Easy, right? Half your work is already done for you. For the stage, though, you are everything you think you can play! (God, I miss the stage.)

And Shatera, don't do theatre because Denzel said you should. Do theatre because you effing love it. I know you know this. Still.

I heard you sing: Amazing voice. I think you should have a commercial jingles demo reel so you can also make money that way. http://www.edgestudio.com/archive/jingles-and-singing-how-do-i-get

But your main question: does your plan seem realistic? I don't know. I don't know the NY/DC market. I don't know anything there. The only thing I can do is offer suggestions. Suggestions from a fellow struggling actress! Ah, life.

The better question: Is there anything else you can be doing? Always!

Yes to taking classes. But not just acting/singing/dance classes. Take any and all classes. That's right, Shatera, TAKE ALL THE CLASSES! You'll get to meet fun, new people and once you make more friends, your world will open up. Someone in your vegan cooking class could have an aunt who's a talent manager looking for a legit actress with an amazing range. Plus, now you know how to cook a bunch of vegan things.

Keep uploading singing videos, but in ALL singing genres. Find a new song you love, buy the karaoke version and upload it. Make musician friends. Take a Justin Bieber pop song and turn it into a sultry jazz cover. Build Youtube followers and fans. Keep stretching yourself as a musical artist. Singing is your thing. SING. EVERY DAY. Do a new video once a week.

Learn accents. I love love love your look. Learn Jamaican, learn Dominican, learn Senegalese. You have a good ear for music and accents are just spoken music, right? I bet you'll pick them up super fast.

You say all the other stuff outside of performing feels like busy work. That's because IT IS. Are you postcarding and emaling and updating your website? You need to be. Get on people's radars.

And finally, if you're in a rut, ask your friends what else you can be doing. They will always have an answer.

Good luck!


PS: Have you thought of dropping your last name? Shatera is badass. Maybe your singing persona is just 'Shatera'? Ask your friends their opinion. 


  1. Thanks so much Lira! Advice taken! :)
    To answer your questions:
    -The head shot I have on the homepage is from one of the NY photographers you googled (Rod Goodman)and so far I've been getting more work in NY/DC with my hair straight :/ As much as I love my naturally curly hair, I've been keeping it straight lately for audition purposes. I put the others up just so that I can have more photos for my "gallery" page but if taking them down will help then I'll do that as well :) -Singing is definitely my first love and the fact that you saw right through to that is more of a confirmation to me to keep that route alive and going strong & thank you for your compliments. And yes, as a musical artist I go as "Shatera", however as an actress I go as "Shatera Hillyer". I include my last name on my YouTube as a way for people to find me as there are other Shatera's on Youtube.
    Ah! Just THANK YOU! And anyone else that comments with advice, THANK YOU as well! Have a blessed day all! :)

    1. Oh! We'll that's a clear indication that I don't know the NY/DC market! Natural hair has been big in LA both in shows and commercials here for the last three years. I had a friend who took a bunch of headshots with her hair straight and her agent made her retake them with her hair big and natural.

      I'm glad you found my advice helpful. Good luck!! :)

  2. I am an agent in Shatera's market on the East coast, and I couldn't agree more. Headshots, headshots, headshots.

  3. Thank you! Two questions, if you don't mind:
    Do you like the homepage headshot (straight hair)?
    In our market, would you suggest I also get headshots with curly hair or continue with the straight?


    1. I doubt you'll get the anonymous agent to comment again, but what we're both saying is clear: your current headshots are not good and you should get new ones.

      I love the natural hair and it's very big in LA. Ask some NYC headshot photographers what hair trends they're noticing. Find a few casting cds on Twitter and ask them what hair trends they notice.

      But yes to new headshots. With a professional makeup artist and retouching. They will get you in the door.


  4. I spent three years in the Baltimore/DC/Philly market. #1 recommendation for Shatera: take a class with Brenna McDonough at http://oncameratraining.com/. She was my favourite instructor (I took her on-camera commercial class and teleprompter workshop), and she loves helping out students with advice. She can recommend photographers or agents, and her on-camera classes will be great for someone looking to get into TV/film.

    I also recommend submitting to the files of Betsy Royall Casting (CD) and Taylor Royall (agent) in Baltimore, as they often cast commercials and film/TV work in the area. (Plus, they're really nice people - Scott Goodhue, the agent at Taylor Royall, is also an improv actor for fun.) I worked through them a few times when I lived in Baltimore.


Play nice.