Many start their journey into acting with burning passion and some are even skilled artists already. However, few start their journey with much knowledge about the industry itself.
In the media, the profession of acting is often portrayed as glamorous. We watch actors on talk shows telling stories of their friendships with other actors, and the magic moments they experience on set. Although being a working actor on set can be a very exciting job, most actors spend most of their time not working.
…they spend most of their time looking for work!
A great deal of effort and time must be put into this side of the acting profession. Recently I read the book The New Business of Acting: How to Build a Career in a Changing Landscape by talent manager, Brad Lemack. I was inspired to write this article based on the principles of his book, and my own journey into the world of film.
“I am convinced that it is the smart student and not the most talented student who has the greatest chance of success” Brad Lemack
Be a smart student!
It is crucial that you have an understanding of the industry you are going into. Your ability to actively look for work, make connections, and get hired is a skill; a skill you must develop, just as much as your raw talent as an actor.
Some of the most important tools you need in order to get representation and work as an actor is a series of good head shots, a well-crafted resume, and a concise, effective showreel.
A headshot is a portrait that presents you and your casting potential in an honest, straightforward way. It is about YOU, not what you are wearing, or a specific feature of yours, but what you are like as a person, and what you have to offer.
Before meeting an agent, manager or casting director, they will already have formed an impression of you based on your head shot. This is your chance to give a genuine first impression.
Seek out professional photographers and look at their previous work. It is not so much about choosing a photographer that is the most expensive, but more about choosing one you feel comfortable with. You must be able to relax and be yourself during the shoot.
Before you meet an agent they will want to see a resume along with your headshot.
“There is nothing that makes more of a statement about what kind of actor you are now and what kind of actor you have the potential to become than a smartly crafted, well-worded, truthful resume” Brad Lemack
Make your resume short and concise, highlighting your most recent / high prolific work and training. Include personal details and specific skills, such as dancing, horseback-riding, martial arts, specific sports etc as these skills may help you land a role. Your resume should have a logical and easy-to-read layout, so that people can get an idea of who you are and what you are capable of by glancing at it (you may only get a glance…!).
And one more thing… DON’T LIE!
Do not spice up your resume by claiming you have skills you don’t have, or that you are taller than you actually are, or that you were a lead in a film you were actually a supporting character etc. Your reputation and integrity as an artist and professional is on the line. Reputation is EVERYTHING in this business.
A headshot and resume are great to grab the attention of an agent or casting director. However. a showreel will truly give them an idea of what you are capable of.
A showreel, or demo reel, is a short video compilation of clips from your work as an actor. Your showreel displays your unique qualities in a concise and exciting manner. It is a video that highlights your strengths and your diversity, and presents it in a focused and logical manner.
You have about 30 seconds to capture the attention of a casting director or agent. If they are not captivated or drawn in by your performance within that time span, then they will just move on.
So put your best work first.
This is your chance to really show off what you can do, and leave them wanting more!
It would be advantageous to learn to edit it yourself, so you don’t have to hire an editor. However, if you don’t have the tools or skills and you need to hire an editor, ask them to show you other reels they have edited to see if they follow the guidelines mentioned above.
Even if you haven’t been in any major productions, see if you can get ahold of footage from short films, scene work, student projects etc. to include in your showreel.
Now that you know a little more about the tools you need to get started, you must start researching your local industry. Your research should include (but not limited to):
- Talent agencies and talent management opportunities.
- Acting workshops: to hone your craft.
- Casting/Audition workshops.
- Level of activity/kind of film related projects in your area.
Learn which agencies are interested in fresh talent and which ones only take in established talent. After that, set up meetings with agents from agencies that may be interested.
Attending weekly acting/casting workshops is crucial in building your skill set as an actor. If you train with a renowned teacher this will also look good on your resume, and can help you book a job or an agent.
Sign up for a casting website
Depending on what country you are from and where you live, there are different casting websites that you can sign up for even before you have any representation. Although you may be able to find a few bigger projects, these sites are mostly a great place to look for smaller projects like short films, web series, music videos. At the early stages of your career, small projects are a great way to gain experience and confidence that you can build your career on.
Since there are a wealth of sites out there, I encourage you to research which ones are the most reputable in your area. In Australia, some of the most frequently used sites are: Starnow.com.au and Showcast.com.au
It is a long journey
It is a good idea to become a big fish in a small pond instead of tiny fish in the ocean. Start your journey away from big entertainment centres like NY and LA and then as you build you career elsewhere, an opportunity may open for you to move there.
There are many steps to take and things to do to become a working actor. Although this is by no means an exhaustive piece, I hope this blog will at least give you some idea of how you can start your journey. If you are serious about pursuing a profession in acting, I urge you to study the business side of acting. The craft is personal, but the business is not. It is a slow journey, a marathon and not a sprint, so pace yourself!
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