Getting started as an Actor
So you want to be an actor?
How exciting !!! All power to you. Below are some tips on getting started in show business.
Disclaimer - everything in the following post is based on my personal experience in the performing arts industry since I was in middle school to today. There is no specific order to what I recommend, and no particular outline, these are simply some recommendations based on what has worked for me.
First and foremost, it's called show BUSINESS. Extra emphasis on business. If you really want to do this, you have to be prepared to make investments in your career. I'll touch on a few of those in this post.
First Investment: CLASSES
Whether you're just starting out, or you've been an actor for over 10 years, taking classes is imperative to continuously hone your craft.
There are a number of different types of classes to take such as improvisation, scene-study, audition technique and so on.
Some classes are single drop-in classes, others last a few weeks. Some are with acting coaches, others with casting directors.
Not all classes and teachers are right for everyone, so don't feel down if you try a class and didn't like it, try another!
Classes are also a fantastic place to network, something that is very important in this small industry.
Second Investment: HEADSHOTS
So you've taken a few classes and you know this is definitely something you want to get more serious about. Next up: Headshots.
This isn't optional, as an actor you need headshots.
Headshots can be pricey, so if you're just starting out you can have a photographer friend take some photos of you, but remember these are only temporary. You should absolutely invest in a professional headshot photographer. Emphasis on HEADSHOT. The best landscape photographer from the National Geographic may not understand how to take a great actor headshot.
Be sure you (and your photographer if he/she isn't a headshot photographer) do lots of research online as to what an actor headshot should look like.
A few pointers on headshots:
It should absolutely look like you.
This sounds silly and obvious, but you'll be surprised how often casting directors complain about actors not looking like their headshots.
Don't overdo the hair and make up, if you get a call or email that you need to be at a casting in 30min, your headshot should resemble you put together in 30min. So don't take photos with your hair straightened if it's normally curly, and don't take photos with 6 lbs of make-up on.
There are 2 main type of headshots: Commercial and Theatrical
Commercial headshots are fun and lively, often with a big smile and always with bright eyes. You're selling a product and the client generally wants someone who's exciting and happy. Here are some of my commercial headshots:
Theatrical headshots are much more serious. There should be a story being told through your eyes. Here are some examples of my theatrical headshots:
Los Angeles is a different market than Miami. In Miami you normally only need 1 commercial and 1 theatrical headshot. But Los Angeles is a photo town, agents and casting directors want to see all sorts of different characters in your headshots.
When you're just starting out, focus on getting 2-3 good shots.
When you decide to be an actor, you have to think twice about changing your look because of your headshot.
If you have long hair and decide you now want a pixie cut, you'll need new headshots.
If you're a brunette and want to go blonde, you'll need new headshots.
This is non-negotiable: if your look changes, your headshot must follow suit.
Third Investment: ONLINE CASTING PROFILES
There are 2 main websites where casting directors post projects:
Once you have your headshots, create an account and profile on both of these websites. It will cost money to upload your photos, as well as submitting for projects.
But what is an audition submission anyways?
Well here's the general CASTING PROCESS:
A new project emerges, and the casting director (CD) needs to hire an actor. He or she will post a "breakdown" on one of these sites. The breakdowns will show each character that the CD is looking for. It will also state the names of the directors & producers, the audition date, the date & place the project will be taking place in, and of course, the rate.
If there is a character you feel you're a great fit for, you will then apply to audition for the role.
You will then be notified if the casting director would like you to audition for the role. Sometimes in person, sometimes as a self-tape (separate blog on self-tapes auditions coming soon).
Some casting processes will have a call-back, which is the equivalent of a "2nd interview".
Then if everyone likes you and if you fit the role (and many other 'if's' that are often completely out of your control), you'll notified that you BOOKED THE ROLE.
Repeat submission process a million times.
Great, now that you understand the process, let's go back to submitting for projects:
You should be submitting yourself recklessly, everyday. HOWEVER, only for roles that you fit.
Don't apply for a role that calls for a man if you're a woman.
Don't apply for a role seeking people 5'7 and above if you're 5 feet tall.
Don't apply for a role seeking a British accent unless you can absolutely do a British accent.
People will remember you in this industry so it's important that you keep your reputation pristine.
Actor's Access charges $2 per submission, however, they have a GREAT deal of $68/yr for unlimited submission. This is VERY much worth the investment.
For Casting Network, if you don't have representation yet you can create a basic profile for $25/year.
GETTING AN AGENT
While you can definitely continue submitting yourself for projects, your goal should be to sign with an agent, who can submit you for projects that the everyday actor doesn't have access to.
There are a few ways to achieve this, but I definitely recommend doing everything that precedes "GETTING AN AGENT" in this blog first. (Get headshots, take classes, submit and book some projects.) Some actors will jump straight into getting an agent so that the agent can recommend headshot looks and to get the Casting Network access through their agency code without having to pay the yearly fee. While this is possible in Miami, in Los Angeles it's much too competitive to get an agent without doing any of the previous steps stated above.
Sidenote - I have gotten new headshots, then months later signed with a commercial agent who asked me for new headshots, then a month later signed with a theatrical agent who also asked me for new headshots. Be ready to invest in new headshots when you sign with a new agent.
Agents want to know that you're serious. They don't get paid unless you get paid so their time is precious. Showing them that you've been your own agent and are now ready to sign is important.
On that note, if an agent charges some sort of yearly fee/monthly fee etc, DON'T SIGN. No matter what. Agents get paid by commission on the work that they get for you.
The agent you sign with should be SAG-AFTRA (actor's union) franchised.
You can go to the SAG website and find a list of franchised agents in your city. The list is long so it'll help to ask the actors you've met in class - and maybe even on set - who they're signed with and what they think about them.
In Miami, the agents will generally have a tab on their website where you can apply to be represented by them.
But don't just apply on their website. Send them an email and say something like:
"Hey! I just applied via your website. I would love the opportunity to meet you and the team in person. I'm available this day this day and this day, let me know if any of those dates work for you."
If they don't answer, call. Be persistent, it's a good quality to have as an actor.
In Los Angeles the playing field is much more competitive, and submitting either online or by mail may not get you noticed.
Showcases are a great opportunity to get in front of agents that may actually be scouting for new talent. This is another investment that is very important.
THE JOURNEY AHEAD
So you got an agent that is now submitting you recklessly, but your job doesn't end there.
It's imperative that you continue to take classes.
If you don't have a demo reel yet, submit to work on high quality student films or low-budget short films that will pay you in footage.
If money is tight, learn how to do basic editing so that you can edit your own demo reel (demo reel blog post coming soon).
Attend screenings and film festivals.
Ask Casting Directors if they need readers for their auditions.
Do what you have to do to stay active in your film/tv/theatre community.
The journey is long, but boy is it worth the sweat and tears.
Hope this helps. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out!