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How to Get a Mentor – Part 2

What a Mentor Can Provide

In my first article on “How to Get a Mentor” I touched on a) What is a mentor? b) Why we should have a mentor and c) Who makes a good mentor. In this article my focus is on a) How do we approach mentors, b) What you can expect from your mentor, and c) The importance of being prepared when you get on the phone or in a meeting with your mentor.
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How to Get a Mentor – Part 1

In all my years in the entertainment industry, I’ve come to believe that having mentors is one of the single most important things you can do to help speed up your career and ensure your success.

There are so many aspects to this topic that I’m going to break this into three separate articles and in each article I’ll address different issues. For now, my focus will cover these areas: A) Why should we have a mentor? B) What is a mentor? C) Who makes a good mentor?

Firstly, why have a mentor? Well if you haven’t noticed there are 7 billion of us on the planet. And chances are there are tons of people who have done what you are planning to do. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and I think in the entertainment industry we often feel like we’re a Lone Ranger. And you don’t have to be. The one thing that all human beings have in common is that we love to contribute, so please allow people to contribute to you. It will help you avoid a ton of mistakes and open up doors that can save you years moving forward in your career.

What is a mentor? A mentor is someone you respect and who is in a position to advise you on your project goals, your strategic plan, your target list… even help you finesse your pitch. You can also request guidance on areas where you’re stuck. A mentor, in a sense, is an advisor. What they are not however, is a coach. So please don’t expect them to be. A coach is someone whose job is to kick your butt and push you outside your comfort zone. Like a coach in sports or a career coach. So with a coach, if you are making promises to make five phone calls today or send out twenty headshots or write five pages of a script, they will hold you accountable to that. That is what a coach does. That’s their job. That is not the job of a mentor. A mentor is more of an advisor.

Who makes a good mentor? Once again, it will be someone who you respect who can advise you. And it is not necessarily someone who does what you do (although it certainly can be). For example, a mentor for a writer who wants to sell his screenplay, may be a director of development, or a reader or a producer. For an actor, it may not be an agent or senior actor, it may be the supervising producer of that TV series you love, or a director you respect. Also, a good mentor is not necessarily the biggest name. Often the big names are too busy to give you the time and attention, so I always suggest that you have an A list and a B list. Write down the names of four or five people that are the big names and four or five people that are the more “gettable” names.

When I was shooting my “10 Tips” YouTube series on this topic, I had the pleasure of interviewing writer/director/producer, Heather Hale, who has had a number of mentors in her career and has been a mentor herself. We discussed the question, who makes a good mentor? Here is what she had to say.
“I would encourage people to make a hit list of ten people who wear different hats. Shoot for the pie in the sky person, but don’t have a list of ten pie in the sky names.” One of the things that helps Heather create her list is looking at her all-time favorite films. “Make a list of your top ten movies,” she says. “Who worked on those films? Who is it that shares your value system, shares your sensibility? Look at who would you be honored to work with and go after them as a mentor.”

As I mentioned I will be writing two more articles on this topic and in the next one I’ll focus on how to approach the mentor you want. I’ll look at how to best use their time and I’ll address the importance of being prepared. Then in my last article I will go over the necessity of mentor etiquette and look at all the do’s and don’ts. However, in the meantime, work on your A and B list. And if you decide to move forward and start approaching possible mentors, it is essential that you treat it like a business arrangement and also make it easy for them to say yes by keeping the time requirement brief. In the Flash Forward workshops I led over the years I suggested three ten-minute conversations over a four week period, or a half hour coffee meeting or a one hour lunch meeting for example. Something that makes it easy and doable for them.

How to Make Requests

THE LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS

by Suzanne Lyons

This is one of the hardest things for people in the entertainment industry to do. In other businesses it’s the normal language of business. Making requests is common practice. Here, in the entertainment world, we tend to feel like we are interrupting, interfering or over stepping our bounds, and instead of making request we end up asking for favors. Favors don’t work in business. Requests work in business. It’s the language of business. We tend to ask in a tone of voice that is more like a favor.

In a meeting where the person has shown an interest in your script, you say “I’m really happy you want to read my script, thanks so much for doing this, I really hope you like it.” And it’s the tone that implies a favor… like they are doing you a favor if they read it. I have tons of unread screenplays that have been collecting dust in my office for years that came to me as a favor. A request has power in it and it keeps the power in your court. It would be more like, “thanks so much for agreeing to read my script. I am certain it’s a perfect fit for your company, and can I call you in two weeks to get your response.” They may counter offer and say no, call me in three weeks, but at least it’s in your court.

One of the actors I coached years ago was amazing at doing all the necessary steps needed to get her name out there. She was great at creating relationships, setting goals, getting her head shots and demo reels out, doing follow up, etc. She just couldn’t figure out why nothing was happening. When I asked her if she was actually making requests she was silent. I said, did you say, for example, “here is my demo reel that you asked for… can I call you by the end of the week and get your response?” I could see the light bulb go on in her head when I asked about making this request. She said it had never even occurred to her. And by not being aware of this simple (yet important!) business tool, she’d missed some great opportunities. So she committed to me on the spot that she would go back and make all the calls again, but this time she would add this new tool… she would make requests! The results were unbelievable. By the time my month of working with her was over she was up to five auditions a weeks, getting call backs and roles!

EXERCISE: Okay, now I want you to take your Map of Relationships (your data base of relationships) and call everyone (yes, I said everyone!) on your map and make a request. Get back into relationship and then, tell them what you’re up to and make a request. Maybe it’s asking for a referral to someone on your Target List. Always, end those calls with “and is there anything I can do for you?”

Producer Suzanne Lyons – An Inspiring Force!

If you ever have the opportunity to sit down with Suzanne Lyons, you will quickly realize that you are in the company of a powerhouse. She is as passionate about producing feature films as she is life, and she has the essential ability to bring the most joy to both. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her for my acting class recently and was honored that she opened up and shared about her illness as a child. Despite countless surgeries and losing the sight in one eye, she has gone on to produce nine movies with more on the way. Suzanne Lyons accomplishes because of her positive attitude, fearlessness, and business savvy.

Why I chose to highlight Suzanne Lyons in the Actors section of Master Talent Teachers is because much of life is about overcoming. Her story of triumph against all odds is what life is made of when you go after something that matters deeply to you. Actors must be passionate about the study of being human and what motivates and drives us on. All great acting touches on the parts of us that make us who we are.

Videos from Suzanne Lyons on Career can be found on the career page of http://www.mastertalentteachers.com/category/careers/.

Filmmaking is very much about overcoming odds. It’s a miracle productions get completed, especially small films.

My Experience Directing and Casting

Recently the film I directed, Reign, won the New York International Film Festival. After winning both the Best Short Award and The Audience Award I was asked what I look for in actors. So I thought I would take a moment here and share with you my experience.

When I direct a project, be it film or theatre, there are always roles that are open that need to be cast, and my producing partners and I hold auditions. I love actors who are passionate about the role and bring a perspective that is fresh. I love the collaboration process. I want the shaping of the character to live under the skin of the actor. Often that shaping is about the depth of the life of the character.

Reign can be viewed at http://indieflix.com/film/reign-34365/#festivals-tab

In Reign, I cast a wonderful actress, Sheetal Sheth in the role of Fadwa, an Iraqi woman, who loses her family during a firefight in the middle of the desert. Sheetal and I had many discussions regarding her character and the direness of her situation. What attracted me to cast her was her passion for the role, her experience and training. I knew that Reign was going to be a rigorous shoot. We shot the film 52 miles North East of Palm Springs outside of 29 Palms, in a desolate desert terrain. The conditions were pretty tough. The women had to take a 15-minute ride down to base camp just to go to the bathroom and all the women were such team players, none of them ever complained. It was in February, extremely cold without the sun and hot with it, the wind was harsh and constantly blowing the dry desert sand. Now, I write all of this with a smile because I love directing so much, I was far too involved in the gig to concern myself with any of these challenges.

We had an A-list crew (for our budget) so we were cutting corners anywhere we could. I knew that anyone I cast would have to know how to concentrate and deliver a depth of emotion regardless of the pressure of filmmaking and the challenges of the conditions. It truly was a passion project for myself as well as everyone involved.

We shot Reign on 35 mm film, which is beautiful but expensive. I knew I would have to get all of my performances in one or at the most, two takes. I had a lot of faith in Sheetal. Her process was flawless and her preparation served her in the field. I’ve worked with both non-actors and trained actors. I feel that it is more advantageous to work with the trained actor because they have invested in their skill and understand the process. But the most important part of working with an actor is that we both feel a positive connection and both care about the project. I think my favorite aspects of a great actor is their passion, skill, and desire for perfection within themselves to bring their best to the work. I think all great artists have that.

Kimberly Jentzen

Reign has gone on to win “Best Direction” and “Best Casting Director” from the Actors Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the Louisville International Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the New York International Film Festival, “The Audience Award” from both the Louisville International Film Festival and the New York International Film Festival and the “Award of Merit” at the Best Shorts Competition.

Videos from Kimberly Jentzen on Acting can be found in the archives of Actors

Kimberly Jentzen has been teaching actors for more than 20 years, she has won the Backstage “Best Acting Coach Award” and “Favorite Teacher Award” multiple times, and is regarded as one of the top acting coaches and teachers in Los Angeles.

Original Flower Technique: How to Deal with Stress in the Entertainment Industry with Dr. Joan Pastor – Part 2

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Suzanne Lyons Career Networking

Networking and Creating Relationships in the Entertainment Industry – Part II

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