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Advice for Actors Living in a Post-Covid World

Valorie Hubbard

This has been an exciting year for me. Ten years into my business, I’ve built a new studio and revamped my programs. My clients are booking big projects, like the new James Bond movie, the show about Bill Clinton, “Impeachment,” the new Batman movie, an upcoming movie produced by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, and New Amsterdam. I also have three clients that booked “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” this year. All this, during a pandemic! My clients are getting booked because they have learned how to work smart in a post-Covid world.

For years, I’ve been coaching actors how to “break the rules,” and get noticed quickly by decision makers in the industry. I’ve stressed the importance of building direct, personal, face-to-face relationships. However, Covid-19 has caused a monumental shift in our culture in every facet of life. What was possible to do before the pandemic is no longer viable. From social relationships to business ventures, Covid has changed everything. Life is just not going to return to how it was for a very long time, if at all. As a result, actors need to rethink how we do business. Networking is still every bit as important as it ever was, it’s just that how we network must change.

In my Actor Pro Expo speech, “Acting in the New Age: How to Navigate the Business Post Covid,” I will share how to get business in a post-Covid world. Also, in “Actor’s Pitch: How to pitch directly to Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and HBO,” I’ll talk about the elements of video pitch that will get you the attention of major producers, directors, and writers from your favorite shows and films. We’ll also go over ways to get your videos directly to those decision makers. Both sessions are directly linked to learning how to successfully navigate the post-Covid social and economic landscape.

The following is a list of things I believe have changed that actors need to be aware of in this post-Covid world:

  • More than ever, we must think of ourselves as actors globally. Global relationships are key. One of the things that Covid did was make the industry virtual and global. In addition to communication over Zoom, this means that everything is self-taping. If you want to be on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” now you don’t have to live in New York to do it. You can tape your audition in Los Angeles because everything is self-taped.
  • Selling to bigger buyers – directors, producers, and writers, is now more important than ever. The reason that this has become imperative is because casting directors have all but made themselves obsolete during Covid. They could have used Zoom for auditions but instead, went exclusively to self-tape, essentially making themselves unnecessary. In other words, if I’m a producer and it costs me $40,000 to hire a casting director, then why am I going to pay someone $40,000 to watch a bunch of self-tapes when I can pay Joe Schmo student down the hall to do the same thing for $1,000 and save myself $39,000 on my budget?

    I think that was happening before Covid because numerous millennials became agents and casting directors, and they preferred emails to phone calls. So, what would happen is when the agent phoned the casting director, which is what the agent was taught to do to pitch their client, the casting director would say repeatedly, “just email me.” Well, any sales marketing or sales book in the world will tell you that on the phone or in-person sales works better than email sales. It just does. So, this forced a whole group of people to change their behavior. Agents don’t pick up the phone to call casting directors anymore, but actors are still paying them the same thing, 10-20% commission for just pushing a button to submit us. It is an algorithm, in fact, that assigns us. In this way, casting directors have done a terrible job of putting themselves out of business. Now, things are being cast right and left without a casting director.

    So, if you really want to succeed and are waiting for your agent to submit your tape along with thousands of other sub-tapes that decision makers have no way to watch, then you are taking the “slow boat to China.” You must get on the phone and start pitching yourself. Or get on LinkedIn or Video Pitch or whatever you do to get noticed virtually. But you must start pitching yourself to the bigger customer; the actual decision-maker.

  • Self-tape now. Self-taping and editing are skills-sets that are more important now than ever. Actors were able to get away with not doing that before Covid, but now they must because a lot of the self-taping studios closed. I had to learn self-tape. I was still going into the city to put my auditions on tape, paying $50 an audition, but Covid forced me to learn how to self-tape, edit, and compress and everything else you must learn as an actor. That is a big, necessary change.
  • More than ever, now you must learn money and how to negotiate. For example, during Covid my client booked a commercial. They sent her all the equipment, they cast her daughter and her husband, they made her rearrange all her furniture, light it and they paid her the same exact amount as she would have been paid otherwise. That is unacceptable. We must negotiate for ourselves or spend the money to get a great attorney.
  • Create original content. During Covid, this took off! Now, more than ever, is the time to create your own content. You can make money doing it. As humans, during the pandemic, we all absorbed enormous content at an accelerated rate. Now there is a big-ass lack of content and a million platforms that content can survive on. It used to be that I had a group of clients that had agents and got auditions that way and a group of clients that were creating their own content. Now they do both.
  • Social media is a must. You can’t say, “maybe I’ll do it.” No. You must. This is post-Covid, and rules/everything has changed.
  • The one area of our business that did not die and continued to make money when we couldn’t film stuff was voice-over. Having a voice over setup is a really good idea now.
  • More now than ever, you must know your brand and how to sell yourself. The next best thing is three-minute episodes. Tik Tok is going up to three minutes and Reels on Instagram is going up to three minutes. So, now they going to parcel out because that’s what people are doing for entertainment – they’re watching Tik Tok. (I even do that, and I’m old, hah!) When I’ve watched everything on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or Disney and think “I have nothing to watch now” or “tomorrow’s when my show is released on Amazon,” what do I do? I look at Tik Tok. Why? There’s no politics on Tik Tok. It has recipes and other fun things – and it is entertaining “brain candy.” Recently, I went to a restaurant that I found out about from a woman I discovered on Tik Tok. Her handle is “It’s my cheat day, don’t go there!” When my British client was shooting a film in New York, I took her to the restaurant and ordered everything the Tik Tok woman told us to order.
  • You are the boss. Develop a business mindset and stand in your value. I’ve always emphasized that, but in the post-Covid virtual world, it is even more imperative. As an actor who has a clearly defined brand, you are offering something unique to decision makers. You are the product they need for the success of their project. Stand tall in that knowledge.

I’ll see you at the Actors Pro Expo, February 12, 2022, in London, England.

Valorie Hubbard owns the company Actor’s Fast Track, where she consults with working actors about their career paths. Having navigated her own career, she knows the pitfalls and successes of the path, and how to avoid the former and create the latter. She gives actors the tools they need to get recognized. In her book, RULE BREAKERS: Changing the Way Actors Do Business, she shows professional actors how to create and operate their acting career as a successful business – and how to move from being “stuck” into the limelight. Credits include roles on Castle, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D; How I Met Your Mother; Glee; American Horror Story; Workaholics; True Blood; 90210; ER; Desperate Housewives; The Middle; Zeke and Luther; Good Luck Charlie; I’m in the Band; a recurring role on Kickin’ It and General Hospital; HUGE; The Job; Missing Persons; Comedy Central’s American Body Shop; and Chocolate News. She also plays the “hot” Rhonda in the recent release of the video game, Dead Rising. Valorie lives in Irvington, New Jersey, with her husband, chef Gill Boyd, and dog, Gracie.