Miles Fisher on Building a Modern Acting Career

Miles Fisher is an LA-based actor and musician who, in addition to taking on roles in films and TV shows, experiments with online content. His filmography includes TV shows such as Psych, The Single Life, and Mad Men and movies including J. Edgar and Final Destination 5. His first widely-viewed online music video, a take on David Byrne’s “This Must Be The Place,” parodies Christian Bale in American Psycho. A subsequently-released music video parodying ’90s high school sitcoms has over 1,000,000 views on YouTube.

Below, Miles shares insights on getting started in the industry, the work that went into his online video ventures, the importance of building a robust network, providing a proof of concept as an artist, and finding success through ingenuity and self reliance.

What advice would you give to aspiring actors about publicists and agents?

Miles Fisher“Aspiring” actors should not worry about either. In the first chapter of one’s career, it’s on you to create product and show the world that you are worth watching. The barrier to entry to create and distribute content has never been lower. If you can’t captivate and build an audience on your own, no one else should help you. Agents, managers, and publicists only help once you’ve begun proving that you’re “worth watching.”

What sort of planning went into the American Psycho and New Romance music videos, and how many people helped you produce them?

I made those videos because I made the music first. A great many people helped in the production of the videos, but it really began with two other people – the director and a producer. We all spent a good deal of time thinking about the concepts and building a creative partnership before implementing on the actual production. When you’re starting a career, it’s important to focus on building a team. Creative trust is not gained overnight, but through common experience. I worked with the same team for both projects.

To what extent have your independently-made online videos helped you land roles in television shows and movies?

Those videos helped demonstrate that I have a voice and a creative point a view. That’s worth its weight in gold. Having a “viral hit” once can easily be dismissed as a fluke, but making a handful of them demonstrates that you are providing the market with something of value, that you know what the market wants and that you can provide value reliably. The stats that rack up on the bottom of the right hand screen of a YouTube video are your “proof of concept”.

Do you have many colleagues who cultivate independent music or film ventures online while also seeking roles in the traditional entertainment industry, or is it more common to just pursue one avenue or the other?

There is no right approach. As a story teller, I want to be as dynamic as possible. Each platform has its own advantage. Putting on a play for three months is very different from shooting a film for three months. Performing in a television show is a different serial relationship with a a character than 10 5-minute webseries episodes online. Creativity and technology have always gone hand in hand. It’s important to focus on how the consumer is absorbing content and to always take creative risks on each platform.

There is a growing expectation from publishers that authors worth taking on already have existing fan bases- is this something people pay attention to in the acting world, too?

Who care what publishers think? Build your audience on your own using tools that are available to everyone. Be consistent with your output. Once you put yourself in a position where people can’t afford to ignore you, they won’t. But always remember, it takes time. Nothing happens overnight. Morgan Freeman didn’t make his first major film until he was over 50 years old.

The hardest part about entering the world of acting stems from the craft’s nature of collaboration. You can’t just shoot something on your own, and making a large scale film or TV show is a massive effort. To that extent, you’re depending on others to enable your career. People think they need others to cast them or help them book a gig. I’ve always approached ideas with a self-enabling mentality. Once I started getting noticed without people’s help, others wanted to start helping. So first help yourself. The cool freshmen never suck up to upperclassmen, but rather stay true to their own colleagues. By the time they become seniors, they’ve got a real team.