Originally posted on Myspace
I've been promising to post this blog FOREVER. And after I saw the wonderful detailed blog my friend Tanjareen posted about "breaking in" I decided that it was time for me to make good on my promise. If you'd like to see how Tanj broke it down, the link to her blog is: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=59041313&blogID=96943963
And here's my take on it all:
1) RESEARCH is key!!! God bless the child who has his own and all that. Find out about this business for yourself. Information is everywhere. And not just in the brains of folks who are where you want to be. Other folks in the business can be a wealth of information. But you should want to "learn to fish" for yourself. Researching the answer from various sources is how you learn to feed yourself. Other folks should only be used to confirm what you already found out through your own research. Trust me, you'll appreciate what you learn more. And to that end...
2) READ everything you can on the business. Make amazon.com your BEST friend. There are books in print on every aspect of the business... acting, directing, producing, modeling, writing. You name it. It's there. If you live in Los Angeles, there's a great bookstore out here called: Samuel French. There's one on Ventura Blvd. in the Valley and another on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. Do a google search to get the addresses. Samuel French is a wonderful place. I would spend HOURS in there when I first started out. Shoot, from time to time, I still do! And the bonus is that Sam French expects entertainment folks to "browse"... they even provide chairs for your browsing comfort. Their only rule is that you can't copy stuff out of the books. Which I think is fair. :) If you can't get to Samuel French or you're a little low on funds. Might I suggest your local bookstore (they have comfy chairs for reading too,) your local library or the Internet. There is SO much information out there. There is simply NO excuse not to research the basics for yourself.
3) BE WARY. If it sounds too good to be true... it is! Steer clear of the "modeling" agencies that promise you work. I won't mention them by name, but you know the places I'm talking about. They usually advertise in papers and hold huge cattle calls and miraculously EVERYONE who shows up is perfect for their "agency" and destined for stardom. And all it costs is $1000 for classes and pictures. Um, one word: RUN! Also steer clear of anyone who calls YOU that you haven't submitted to. No reputable agency is going to cold call an actor. They get too many submissions to ever need to do that. And if an agency is in the market for actors to the extent that they are calling you, they are either not a real player in the industry or are scam-a-licious. Simply put... agents and managers make money when YOU do. Not a second before. Anyone who wants you to pay them to represent you is a scam. Anyone who will represent you if, and only if, you go to their photographer or take their classes is a scam. Reputable agents may suggest a list (the operative word is LIST) of approved photographers. But they will never insist you go to one in particular. Same for any acting teachers or managers they recommend. Be wary of such foolishness.
4) STUDY your craft. Take classes. If you wanted to be a doctor you would study medicine. This is your career. Be professional about it. Now don't get me wrong, some folks are "born" with the gift. But even they may someday need the help of a teacher or coach to get them to the next level or through a difficult audition that requires a different skill set than they have naturally. So classes are helpful. Plus, when you're starting out, classes are a great way to meet and be around other actors... who happen to be a wealth of information when it comes to headshot photographers and agents... you know, should you have a question about the ones you've already researched? :) The actors you meet in class will also prove to be invaluable friends as you navigate your way through the business. Some of my best friends to this day are folks I met in the acting class at my church YEARS ago. We still support each other and applaud each other's successes. You will need those friends in this business. Friends who "knew you when" are the best kind! :)
5) SMILE for the camera! Or scowl, if that's your thing. (Gosh, this blog is getting cheesier and cheesier!) Ignore my cheese, heed my advice... This is of course all about headshots. Headshots are your calling card. Make sure you get great ones that look like you. You on your best day. But still, YOU! Glamour shots or ones that are retouched within an inch of their lives will not serve you when you get in the room with a casting director. You are cast from that shot. They want to meet THAT person. Not that person AFTER the 12 hours of hair and makeup it took to look like that person... um, did you follow that? :) Now, if you wear a FULL face of makeup every day and are prepared to recreate that look for EVERY audition. By all means, take that shot. But I don't know if there are lots of roles for folks like that. Most of the folk on TV look naturally beautiful/handsome. You wanna be in that number. Moving on. Pick your photographer carefully. Interview them first. And to get to the picking and interviewing part, look at lots of headshot galleries. There are lots online and sidebar: in LA and NY there is a place called Reproductions that does great duplication work once you get your final pics. But more importantly, they also have a headshot gallery in their stores... and even online, I believe. It's a great place to start when trying to pick a photographer. Other actors are a great resource in this area as well. If you're out and you see someone with a great headshot, ask them who took it. And then interview with that photographer. Expect to pay about $150 on the low end and up to $600 on the high end for photos. Although with the advent of digital photography, anything over $250 is really highway robbery. Anything more than that will probably produce a pic worthy of the cover of Essence or InStyle and again, you don't want that look for your basic headshot. There is a lot more detailed info available in regards to headshots... so refer back to my advice in item 1 and get to it! :)
6) REPRESENTATION. Ya gotta have it. No doubt about it. But don't get wrapped up in the size of your agency. Especially when you're starting out. The goal in the beginning and throughout your career is to have someone representing you who believes in you. Someone who thinks you are the BUSINESS! That one person believing in you wholeheartedly can get you into any door in this town. Remember that. So as you interview with agents. If they are lukewarm about you, keep on looking. You'll eventually find the one who "gets" you and is dying to work with and for you. That's the agent you want. As for basic submission etiquette. A nice cover letter... addressed to an actual person, none of that "to whom it may concern" or "dear sir or madam" nonsense... along with your headshot and resume will do the trick. Make the cover letter uniquely you whatever that is. Quirky, fun, cerebral. You, glorious you! Mention all the good things you've read or heard about their agency. And you should have heard good things otherwise why are you submitting to them? As for who to submit to, your research will lead you to the ones that are a good match. You can find agency lists online. And Samuel French has a booklet called "The Agencies" that breaks down each agency, as well. A magazine called The Ross Report also lists agencies and what they're looking for each month. There's also a great set of industry books by a writer/actress named K.Callan. She has a couple on Agent searches in LA and NYC. In the back she lists all the reputable agencies... well, and a few who aren't. But if you read between the lines you'll be able to figure out which is which. I would suggest submitting to about 7 or so at a time. You're not trying to blanket the city. It's about quality, not quantity. The next step is a meeting... which THEY will request. Don't drop by the office or call excessively asking if they've made a decision about you. As in romance, if they want you, you will know. At the meeting, be yourself... as long as you are bubbly and fun. :) The interview is really a test to see if you're someone they'd like to send out into the world with their name attached. Are you personable? Fun? Interesting? Intelligent? Well groomed? Articulate? These are all things they will be sizing up about you. There are long days on set. No one wants to spend 14 hours with a jerk. Don't be the jerk. And as a sidebar, you can be serious about your acting career and still be fun in an interview. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Find your smile and take it with you in the room!
7) DEMO REELS. Don't panic. No one is expecting you to have hours of film of you and Meryl Streep. They really just want to see what you look like on film. Just put together what you have and if you don't have anything...
8) INDEPENDENT AND GRAD SCHOOL PROJECTS. These will be invaluable in the beginning of your career. Take part in as many as you can. Consider projects for the Internet, creating content for youtube (but keep it classy folks, you don't want something going viral that you will regret later, there IS such a thing as bad publicity, I don't care what anybody says,) Independent films. Do whatever you can. Create whatever you can that will present you professionally and get you some tape for your reel.
9) FAITH. I'm a Christian. Most of you reading this already know that. So, you already know that I feel that faith, in some form, will be invaluable as you pursue a career in this business. But that said, I'm not trying to force my beliefs on anyone... though my beliefs are pretty cool. HA! What I'm speaking about most of all is "keeping the faith". Believing in yourself and your abilities. Positivity. Good juju and all that. This business is full of folks who list all the reasons you can't and won't make it. Your job is to not listen to them. Granted, not everyone who wants to have a career in TV and film will have one. But I do believe that everyone who wants to act will have the chance to act. Eventually everyone gets a turn. It may not be at the level they're expecting or when they expect it. But it will be a turn. Hang in there for yours and protect your spirit until it comes. Oh, one more thing... Haters suck! :)
10) UNIONS. To be a professional actor, you need to be in one or more of the professional actors unions. But join too soon, at your own peril. Once you are union you can no longer work non-union. That may sound like a "Duh!" to you, but I don't know if most folk really think about it. You will get most of your early experience from non-union projects. The pay is low... okay, non-existent... and the set will be perk-free. But you will get to see first-hand what it's like to be on a set. And acting, well the technical part of it... is really something you learn by doing. It's not as easy as you think to hit a mark and remember lines. I know it all seems ridiculously simple. But when your adrenaline starts pumping and you are star-struck by your co-star and your line comes in after a long tracking shot, you will be surprised how quickly your line shoots right out of your head and at how you can't seem to stop by the coffee table where the director told you to. It's muscle memory really. The more you get used to talking and walking and stopping and starting while under pressure, the better. And non-union projects allow LOTS of opportunities to do that. And demo reel tape at that! :) And lastly... at least for now, I may add more to this if I realize I forgot something...
11) EXTRA, EXTRA!!! Wow, that was corny. And I think it's called "background work" now. So I was corny AND politically incorrect. But you know what this one is about. I think background work is a great way to get experience on a set without any of the pressure being on you. I highly recommend it. No, you won't make a lot of money. And yes, you may be treated like a herd of cattle. But the food is usually good and you get to see first-hand what a set is like. And you may even get bumped up and get a line. Hey, it could happen! Hope springs eternal!!!
Okay, those are my tips for now. I will update if I feel that something is missing. Please feel free to comment and chime in with your tips on breaking in... those of you who have broken in... and those of you who are working on breaking in, feel free to share what you've learned in all your research and reading!
May God bless you guys in your careers!!!~yvette nicole :)