Filichia Features: For Those Who Want to Go Pro

Filichia Features: For Those Who Want to Go Pro

By Peter Filichia on November 11, 2016

High school theater is a blast, college theater is great fun and community theater is wonderful, too. The experiences, the friends, the memories make the hard work worth it.

And yet, you may be a performer who views school and amateur productions as training for what you really want to do in life: act for a living, perform for a lifetime.

You don’t need me to tell you that this won’t be easy. But Philip Carlson in his excellent book Breaking and Entering (meaning into show business, not private homes) will be mighty helpful. It is easily one of the finest books of its kind.

Carson is a longtime agent who’s represented Liev Schreiber, Claire Danes, Viola Davis and Brian Dennehy among others. In 336 fascinating and readable pages from Opus Books, you’ll feel as if he’s across the table from you at a nice dinner. He’ll whet your artistic appetite by teaching you the do’s and don’ts that will help you get ahead.

Here are a few samples:

“Always accompany friends to auditions if they ask; you might get noticed.”

“A return to acting class is not a defeat. It’s an awakening.”

“Great actors are freaks. Divine freaks.”

(So, as Shrek taught us, “Let your freak flag fly.”)

“Rules for your monologue: no screaming, no props, no Shakespeare.”

“Read reputedly good but little-performed plays. Why ‘little-performed’? Because that way, no one – neither you nor the people you will be auditioning for -- has a pre-formed picture on how these characters ought to be portrayed.”

“Know the history of the work you perform for auditions to know the range of takes on the role.”

“‘Acting is living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.’ – Sanford Meisner”

“You don’t want to be typecast. But you should be so lucky to be typecast because that would mean you are getting cast.”

“Philip Seymour Hoffman never broke the cardinal rule: he never gave up.”

“When some twerp on American Idol opens his mouth to sing, you are ready to put him on the Top Ten or send him packing by the time he has sung the first lines of his song. This is how people respond to each other. Get used to it.”

“The ‘girl next door’ is frequently boring. It’s up to you to make her interesting.”

“Why not start your own company? Because it’s a helluva lot of work and most companies don’t make it. You were trained to act, not run a company.”

“Be pleasant, for God’s sake. It won’t kill you.”

“You think you may be a genius? Then put down this book immediately.”

“How many great actors have we got? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? So there’s room for you.”

“They’re always looking. Steven Spielberg watches soaps.”

“If you get something good and do not do well, no one is going to shrug and say ‘Come back in a year.’ You will be written off.”

“Bad teachers do not prevail in the end. Talent does.”

“I know an agent who says to actors ‘Just do something on stage – we will find you.’ There is wisdom there.”

“When people tell you that you need more seasoning, go out and get more seasoning. Succeed at something. Better yet, fail at something.”

“On resumes, work you’ve done in school is helpful. It lets me know the kinds of roles you’ve played – leads, nerds – but don’t include aged characters because you won’t get those roles in the real world for decades. This business will never cast you outside your age range unless you are Dustin Hoffman and you are not.”

“On your headshot, don’t list your height, weight and hair color. That information should be obvious from your picture.”

“A great picture of you looks exactly like you on a good day. Not a great day. It is not flattering. It is accurate. You must be exactly the person in that photo. (Color of course.) The people who audition you will be relieved that you and your 8-by-10 are one and the same.”

“When you get contact sheets from the photographer, his or her own choices will be marked. Do not choose any shots the photographer didn’t choose.”

“There are skills that have nothing to do with acting but they have everything to do with getting an acting job that are essential to know.”

Let Carlson tell you how. And these quotations come from only the first 201 pages. After that, there’s quite a bit on agents, managers and awards. But one step at a time, right?

Read more Filichia Features. 

You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at His book, The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at