Archive for the ‘booking jobs’ Category

How Are You The Solution to Someone’s Problem?

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

I just recently coached my one month intensive Jump Start™, and something came up throughout the weekend that feels worthy of a blog.  It’s the idea of being the solution to someone’s problem.

Problem-Solution-ResultSo, let me back up for a moment and give this idea some context. Because, often in this business, we are highly driven and focused. This is not a bad thing, but it can have a downside. That downside is that in our drive and focus, we only think about ourselves.

And what that looks like day-to-day is a “me, me, me” attitude. We are only looking for the solution to our own problem—the person we need to meet, the thing we think they can do for us when we meet them, and so on. This can lead us to becoming that very thing we most loathe, desperate.


What to do if you feel nervous before auditions, big meetings & performances

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

By Paul Cuneo


I’m going to assume that, if you’re reading this article, it’s because you deal with nerves before auditions, meetings or performances, especially in those last moments before you go into the room. I’m like you in that way. I go through the same thing. But I imagine that unlike you, it doesn’t bother me that I’m nervous. I don’t care.

In 2013 I booked four national commercials, I believe in large part because of the new attitude toward nerves I developed about three years ago. It started in an audition waiting room. I remember I was nervous and performing exercises I had read about that were supposed to eliminate, or at least mitigate, nerves. I was holding my breath, and then, when that didn’t work, I was focusing on my breathing. I was pressing my feet hard into the floor, sometimes pinching myself for extended periods of time. I was tensing my whole body, then releasing. I wasn’t imagining everyone in the room naked, as I had tried that before and it never worked for me. (My gosh, the number of things I had tried: thinking about nature, counting backwards by threes from 100, talking myself up, talking myself down. You name it, I had tried it.)

But that day, in that audition waiting room, something opened up in my consciousness, and I realized three things that radically and irrevocably changed my auditions for the better. I realized

1. that I was paying way too much attention to my nerves.

2. that I was judging myself for feeling nervous and anxious, and it was actually this judgment that was exponentially intensifying my anxiety.

3. that nerves could exist in me, along with everything else I was feeling in that moment, and not prevent me from doing what I came to do that day.

With those realizations, I made an immediate change to how I prepared for auditions while in the waiting room. That change took the form of four steps I’ll walk you through right now. I hope they help to free you as much as they helped to free me.

Step One: Make a gentle commitment not to judge yourself for how you feel.

You’ve been judged for how you feel for much of your life. “Why are you so sad? It’s a beautiful day outside.” “How can you be hungry? You ate 15 minutes ago.” “Why are you so upset? I was just joking.”

You may have adopted this tendency to judge yourself for how you feel, but you can disown it. Whatever your role is in the industry, TV, film, theater, internet and radio are all about connecting to an audience emotionally. Emotion is the lifeblood of your work, and judgment of yourself for how you feel is the clot in that lifeblood. Judgment makes you second-guess yourself where you would be spontaneous. It makes you fearful where you would be present. It turns you inward where you would shine outward.

Worst of all, it compounds your anxiety by multiples. Judgment is an attack against yourself by a very worthy opponent: you. Stop judging yourself for feeling nervous and you will head off the heaping on of anxiety that comes from being under attack. You will feel a new sense of freedom, and you will realize it was never your nerves that caused you so much stress but your judgment of your self for feeling nervous. You’ll stop feeling bad about feeling nervous; you’ll stop feeling bad about feeling anything, and you’ll create a space for feeling good.

Step Two: Acknowledge how you feel. Say to yourself, “I’m nervous.” Just as a fact. Without judgment. Just to give your feelings a place. Nothing around it. Just to give yourself permission to be exactly who and what you are in that moment. It feels so good. SO GOOD.


When I was a kid, I found a little bug in the corner of our living room. To study it, I went and got our family’s large magnifying glass. I put the glass over the bug, and it moved. Scared the living daylights out of me because I saw this giant bug move in front of me.

Your judgment and all the attention you pay to your nerves while in the waiting room are like that magnifying glass. Your nerves are just these little emotions you’re feeling, but you pay all this attention to them in the form of judgment and analysis and in all the ways you try to get rid of them. The more you judge, analyze and try to get rid of your nerves the larger they appear. Take your attention off of them and they remain the little, harmless bugs in the giant living room of your consciousness.

Step Four: Feel, then fill, the beautiful space.

After you perform steps one through three, you’ll feel an expansion and a clearing in your consciousness. Just thinking about it makes me feel good. You’ll be tempted to analyze that space: “Are my nerves gone? Did the steps get rid of my anxiety? Was I successful? Did I do it right?”

Let it go. Release it. You’re back to judgment, analysis and a desire to get rid of your nerves. Just feel the space, enjoy it. Experience the flood of beneficial thoughts and feelings that rush in, now that you’ve emptied yourself of judgment. And then keep filling that space with things you love to do, like working on your sides or going over your pitch or admiring the shag carpet under your feet. You’ll feel yourself snap from focusing inward to focusing outward, and you’ll be present to your space, your partner, your world, regardless of whether or not you’re nervous.

I gotta be honest—I actually hope you are nervous! I hope you get the opportunity to practice these four steps and to experience the rush of good feelings that come with implementing them. In short, I hope you get the opportunity to go from being your own worst enemy to being your own best friend; I hope you get the opportunity to move from judgment to love.

Paul Cuneo is an actor and acting coach specializing in revealing and eliminating blind spots in actors’ performance technique. He taught movement at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting for seven years and has been a grateful client of Shawn Tolleson’s for over six years. His national commercials include Taco Bell, Starburst, Infiniti, USAA, Pace Salsa, Real California Milk and Ford. Television and film include Franklin & Bash, Disney’s Imagination Movers and Breathless, opposite Ray Liotta. To learn more about Paul’s coaching, please visit and click on Blind Spot.

Create 2014: Design this Year to Be Everything You Desire

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Now that it’s the dawn of 2014, your mind is probably racing ahead to the days, the goals, the good times you want to see unfold.  You might still be relaxing (I hope you are!), but you’re starting to get antsy.  You might have thought of a few new year’s resolutions already.  But this time around, you want it to be different.  You want to really accomplish them!  Not just make them and then halfway accomplish them or give up on them.

If you haven’t yet done the Complete 2013 series of exercises from my previous blog, I highly recommend that you do them before starting the work below.  You can read all about them here.  It’s not too late to do them.  In fact, I normally do the completion exercises over the first weekend of the new year.  It just seems to work out that way.

Following, you’ll find Part 2 of the two-part structure, Create 2014.  As with Part 1, it will take a bit of time.  But, I promise that the reward of doing these two exercises will surprise you.  I do them every year and I love sharing this work with you all each year, to remind and inspired you.


Unlock the Power of Mentorship

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

This month we have a guest blog from longtime client Michelle Cuneo. She knew that mentorship would be a good thing, but had a hard time actually getting into action on getting a mentor!

So, with the idea that she would write about it and help others, she took it on, and, wow, did having a mentor rock her world. Read about it below and then go get one yourself!  Let me know how it goes in the comment section below!

Love and Success,



 My Coffee with Catherine

by Michelle Cuneo

Learning about mentors…

Why get a mentor? ‘Cause mentors rock! The most effective mentors are those who help you see what you didn’t know you didn’t know. Yes, you read that correctly. We don’t know what we don’t know. Getting to the next step in your career seems easy once you’re there, but what about trying to get there!? We have no idea what the right action is or if it will work.

My career coach Shawn Tolleson, does a mentor workshop in Jump Start™ and in her Audio Course How To Open Doors. I took the class a few times and thought, What a great idea! I had heard the success stories, even helped my accountability partner, now husband, land a great mentor. Getting from great idea to actually reaching out to be rejected–or worse, having someone say, “yes I’ll mentor you!”–was keeping me from fully taking all the steps necessary to intentionally and fully make this happen.

I was so glad I had someone to coach me through the process. Shawn has a whole workshop dedicated to ways to reach out, how to write the most effective request letter and the rules of the game, such as paying for coffee/lunch, protecting their time and never ever asking anything from your mentor besides advice.

With Shawn’s tools and coaching, I felt ready to reach out to my potential mentor: Catherine Dent.

Why her?

I had met Catherine Dent (series regular on FX’s The Shield, currently with a nice arc on The Mentalist, plus 50-odd other great film and TV credits!) at an event. Immediately, I recognized her career path as one I would like to emulate, so I felt like she could be the perfect mentor. I reached out right away, but meekly; it took two more years to make it happen. In that two years, I felt I did everything I could to further my own career and realized, if I was going to reach goals, I was going to need to talk to someone with a different vantage point on my career, someone who could remember what it was like to be where I was and then share the steps she took to get to where she is now. I needed a mentor. I turned to Shawn again for coaching and to forward my letter on to Catherine. I then followed up.

She accepted!

Now what?

I felt intuitively that Catherine would be a great a mentor, but what would she mentor me in? I needed to get clearer about what my long and short-term goals were. What did I most want? I ultimately want to be a series regular on a Showtime or HBO series. THAT’S WHY MY INTUITION WAS POINTING ME TOWARD CATHERINE DENT: with her experience as a series regular on a hit cable show, she’d be perfect!

Now that I knew my long-term goal, what was my short-term goal? It seems like the journey for many actors is booking costars, guest stars, recurring roles, and then the coveted series regular roles. I had booked a juicy costar on the Season One finale of United States of Tara, but I hadn’t had a co-star audition since then. Choosing a short-term goal of three co-star auditions and one booking over the course of three months felt good because it was in line with my big goal, and it met Shawn’s criteria for goals: not impossible, not predictable, but the sweet spot in the middle, a breakthrough.

Preparing for our meetings:

I developed a very clear, three-month plan to reach my goal of getting three co-star auditions and one booking. I asked Catherine to meet me three times over those three months, 30 minutes per meeting. I prepared questions and refined them to make sure I was getting the most I could from our meetings. I also employed Shawn’s suggestion about meeting structure to help focus our time together. Her suggestion was to make the 1st meeting about the mentor, the 2nd about me and the 3rd for whatever is left unanswered.

So this is my journey and the changes my mentor inspired me to make…

Meeting #1

For our first meeting, we met at a cool coffee shop in Silver Lake. I was a little nervous; it felt more like an interview. I had my list of questions focused on her, her life, career, steps up the ladder and even family life. Catherine was open and honest and inspiring. She said, “an unwritten goal is just a wish.” She spoke of “No regrets.” and waking up in the morning to know “I have possibilities in my life.” But she also spoke to the possibility of never working again. Sound horrible? It actually felt very freeing. It’s a possibility. There are lots of possibilities, and just speaking to the fear seemed to dissipate its power.

I loved how she spoke about the work, about being fully committed, commanding the room and showing them, “this is how I would like to do the role.” With my being focused on an eventual series regular, I really wanted to know what that felt like. Catherine said, “Yes, it is game changer. You feel very special, very lucky, but it IS NOT LIFE CHANGING. No job is life changing.” This was important for me to hear because I’ve gone into every audition hoping it would CHANGE MY LIFE! Again, freeing–auditions don’t “change your life” and I could just let that go.

I learned how important it is to work with a team. She acknowledged that it takes a big chunk of your income but that you need to “have as many people as possible waving your flag.”

She also encouraged me to take advantage of every opportunity. She told a story about Paul Newman on the set of Nobody’s Fool inviting her over to the house for a BBQ. An afternoon with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward! She didn’t go and wishes that she had, but the lesson has been take all open doors, walk through even if you’re terrified. “Yeah,” I said, “But you must be really confident…all the series…all these jobs”. “No, everybody’s terrified,” she said. Could this be true!? We talked about confidence and how the greatest minds of the world struggle with this. “You’ve got to walk through fire, you’re more alert and aware then.”

I left our first meeting really starting to understand how valuable a mentor can be. Catherine was amazing. Having her as a mentor was not only inspiring, it made me feel I was on the right track but with a new perspective. She was someone I could relate to, which made me feel like a series regular role on HBO or Showtime was attainable!

Meeting #2

Our second meeting was more relaxed and casual. By this time, my husband and I had been wanting to start a family, and Catherine gave me great personal advice and good books to read. I hadn’t expected this in a career mentor.

Following Shawn’s structure, our second meeting was more focused on me, and how Catherine would advise my moving forward. I asked if she could look at my materials to see where she thought I could use some work. She was really impressed and thought everything was there and looked good. She said, “We just need to crack this code” to get auditions and therefore opportunities to do what I love. This made it feel like an adventure. She was so encouraging, telling me there were tons of roles per week on TV for Moms and Teachers that I would be perfect for. YES, I can do this!

She reiterated that it’s ALL ABOUT THE WORK. BE PREPARED. BE REALLY GOOD. And then something happened for me that was one of those light-bulb moments. We’ve all heard from acting teachers and coaches that we need to be present in the audition room, and to fully commit. We’re told to do the role how you see it, how you would do it. But at one point, Catherine talked about letting go in the room, be in the emotional state at the beginning but don’t do anything you’ve planned to do just because you planned to do it. She said, “Just connect to the reader and let happen whatever is going to happen. Do the work and let it go.” I suddenly heard that in a way I had never heard it before. She told me that, if you’re supposed to sob on a line, and it’s not there? LAUGH. Do whatever is real in the moment, wholly connected to the other person. Create the space for ANTYTHING to happen. There was something so different about hearing this from an actor’s mouth and the most inspiring part of my journey with my mentor.

It was also one of the most important things for me to hear because, like many of us, I was brought up to be a good girl and do everything “right.” Despite my efforts to get my auditions right, I ended up frustrated. Catherine described what an artist is not: “You can’t care how they want it–otherwise, you’re just a puppet.” So now I strive to just connect and be present. Not even concerned with booking the job but being free and bold enough to DO whatever comes up, giving myself more and more permission each time to trust my instincts and the “crazy” ideas that come to me in the moment.

So there we were trying to “crack the code”–looking at the vast number of co-stars each week and figuring out how to get me seen for them. As I mentioned earlier, Shawn had stressed with us in class that a mentor meeting is for advice only. If you go in wanting anything else, it ruins the relationship because you’re no longer operating from a place of integrity. I’ve found that when you approach someone not needing anything, there is freedom. I was really conscious of this, so it blew me away when, after our second meeting, Catherine offered to help me connect with a manager! This manager is now submitting me, and I’m so grateful. This was a gap I had in my master plan, a gap that my mentor saw and helped me to fill in.

Meeting #3

When it was time for our third and final meeting I was so happy to have a manager submitting me and thrilled with all I was learning, but still struggling to get auditions for the good stuff.

The week before, however, I realized I had resistance to being in front of casting directors because I saw them as gatekeepers trying to keep me out. I felt great on set, but in auditions I felt a lot of resistance. I worked with Shawn on revoking these old beliefs and, shortly thereafter, I was having lunch with a CD friend and then auditioning for his film! Amazing that, when you can heal something, space is opens up.

It was so great to be able to have one more meeting with Catherine, so I could get her take on this, too. She encouraged me to know that CDs are my advocates; there’s nothing I need to prove to them. They need me and need me to be good. I make them look good.

In a new place

So here we are now, I’m taking these inspiring ideas from a working actor to every audition. I have learned so much, I am being submitted, have a whole new way of relating to CDs, and I can call Catherine Dent my friend. I had a pin in me for a Guest Star on a Showtime show, I’ve booked some nice Mom and teacher roles, and my husband and I just welcomed a newborn baby girl at the end of last year.

I still have the goals of increasing my auditions and bookings. But because of my three-month mentorship with Catherine, I feel closer to reaching my goals. I’m clearer about my next steps, more confident, and I have two more people rooting for me: Catherine, a true believer and someone to go to for advice, and my new manager. It’s invaluable to have someone with more experience and the kind of success you aspire to have take you under their wing and look at your career from their vantage point.

I encourage you to go get your own mentor!

Your Map of Relationships and Hitlist: what they are and why you need them

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

You’ve all heard the phrase “in Hollywood, it’s who you know.”  It’s said so much that it’s almost lost meaning, right?

Well, what it means is that the quality of your relationships, as well as the type of relationships you have, has a great deal of influence on your success.

So, how do you put this to work for you?

To start, first you need to know who you know.  I like to call this your Map of Relationships.  It’s great to make a list, or better yet put something on the wall, showing who you know and what they do.  Having categories like producers, directors, casting directors, production managers, actors, etc. can be very instructive.

When you do this you can see who you actually know.  If you’re an actor and you know mostly other actors and one or two casting directors, this can be a problem.  Directors and producers are the people who will hire you, so you need to know more of them!


Specificity Wins: The Key to Getting What You Want

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Specific:  free from ambiguity

If you’re an actor, you know that vague, muddy choices do not make for compelling acting.  If you’re a writer, you know that a generic character is not someone the audience will root for.  In all things in life, the more specific you are, the more likely you are to clearly communicate and get what you want.  If you want to paint your house but you just say “brown,” well, there’s a lot of room for interpretation.

So, why is it that so often you are ambiguous or generic with your goals?  I often hear that someone wants to be a “working actor.”  Not to be crass, but that could mean that you’re working in porn or in my home video for which I bought you a cup of coffee.

In all seriousness, the lack of specificity is one of the main reasons—perhaps the main reason—why you do not accomplish your goals.  It is the main culprit in your requests not being answered and your efforts not paying off.  It is the main source of your frustration and overwhelm, the reason that you look over your to do list and wonder what to do first.

If you are so intent on achieving your goals, why do you leave them ambiguous or back-pedal when you describe them?  For most people, the reason is that you are afraid.  If you commit to something and then fail to achieve it, you might feel like a failure!

Leaving your goals vague is safe.  It gives you wiggle room.  But it also prevents you from working to your full capacity and enrolling those around you to help achieve your goals.  In the end, though, leaving your goals vague makes it nearly impossible to achieve them.  The irony is that the very thing that makes you feel safe—keeping things non-specific—dooms you to failure before you even start.

So, what can you do?  Read on for some ground rules on bringing specificity to your goals.

1. Be as detailed as possible when you articulate your goal while still being concise.

This can be very challenging, but remember, as you articulate your goal, so you will accomplish it.  If you’re a director you might think you want to direct anything and everything, but you don’t.  What do you really want to direct.  Say it loud and proud!  You’ll be a lot more likely to direct it.

Your specificity will also dictate which avenues are most important to pursue.  For example, the people who cast commercials, theatre, music videos and television are all different.  You can’t know all of them, so figure out what you want to do, and then the list of people you need to cultivate relationships with will become clear and manageable.  It’s still challenging to meet and build relationships with these powerful individuals, but at least it’s possible.  It’s not possible to know everyone in Hollywood, so narrow it down.  Narrowing it down starts with the specificity of your goal.

2. Check your language for non-committal words and phrases.

Look for words like “try” and “hope.”  Once you find them, cross them out!  Replace them with a declarative statement, as in “By (DATE) I will (YOUR GOAL.)”  Your commitment starts with your speaking.  If you aren’t fully committed, how can you expect anyone else to commit to supporting you?

3. Eliminate milestones and to do list items from your goal.

Your goal is not your to do list.  It’s not the milestones you must cross on your way to your goal.  Your goal is your goal, the end result.

So, take “clean up my office” and “get new representation” out of your goal.  Cleaning up your office is an item on your to do list.  It might feel like a goal because your office is a mess, but it’s not.  Take it out of your goal, get some help to get it done, and then cross it off your to do list.

Getting a new agent is also not your goal.  It’s a milestone.  It’s something that is challenging, that you’ll need to accomplish on the way to your breakthrough.  Think about it, though, did you come to LA or NYC to get an agent?  Do you face rejection everyday to get an agent?  No!  You came here and you sacrificed because there is a kind of work that you are committed to doing.  You’re committed to making movies, performing live, or working as a series regular on TV, not to getting an agent.  So, keep the articulation of the goal to the kind of work you are committed to doing, and you’ll be more inspired and motivated to do what it takes to accomplish it.

4. Make sure your goal has a clear timeline.

This is where we often hedge our bets.  Don’t.  Give your goal a date and then see if what you want to accomplish is possible in that timeline.  It might be hard, sure, but it needs to be possible.  You might find that you have to rework your timeline once you’ve broken down the steps you must take to accomplish your goal.  Without a timeline, however, your path for accomplishing your goal is unclear, and, say it with me, non-specific.

5. Make adjustments when and if necessary.

The point of being specific is to create a structure for accomplishment.  Do everything in your power to maintain the goals you have declared.  If that is impossible or if you do not achieve it as declared, take stock, understand the issues and set a new, specific goal.

In summation, as you articulate your goals, so you accomplish them.  As you are able to share your goals specifically and powerfully, people will understand them and see ways to support you.  Clear and specific steps will emerge.  Behaviors that have been hindering us will become obvious.  Obstacles that were overwhelming will become manageable.

With all of this to gain, is it any wonder that specificity wins?

Shawn Tolleson is a career coach with her company Strategy Coaching™.

Empowering you to accomplish the career of your dreams: Strategy. Action. Breakthrough.