So one of my New Years Resolutions for this year was to try to get back in to acting. As I sat down and tried to figure out my game plan I thought about all the lessons I have learned from my own mistakes, classes, workshops, books and other actors. I decided this information could benefit others so I decided to write a basic list of what an actor would need to do to not just become an actor but a working one.
Very few of us are born with great talent and even those who are need to familarize themselves various facets of their craft.
If you're still in school sign up for drama class or join the drama club. If you're no longer in school consider taking soome theater classes at a local community college.
There are also acting schools that offer year long study. Many of them are very good, but very expensive. I reccomend taking classes at communiy college or local theater before investing thousands of dollars in to going to a conservetory.
You can also find acting coaches many of whom are working actors. If you can find who is reasonably priced and whose teaching style is suited to your learning style this can be a great option. Many acting coaches are themselves working actors. Finding a coach who is still getting a good amount of roles is a sure fire way to get advice that is still relevant.
Talent scout companies are for the most part just trying to part you from your money. Avoid them. Also avoid any agent that wants money up fron to represent you, wants you to take classes from them, or get your headshots taken by their photographers. An agent gets paid when you do. The only exception in background agencies. They are quite a few casting agencies that speialize in casting movie extras that charge a small registration fee. Casting Networks is an example of a good agency that primarily deals with extras that charges a small fee. I have gotten work with them before. Do your research and don't take anyone's word. Sadly if someone has a dream , it means there is someone else out there looking to make a profit off of it.
Check your local paper for auditions. Locate and contact any community theaters and see when they will be holding auditions. Community theater doesn't pay but it can be very rewarding in other ways. I have worked with lots of really talented actors performing in community theater and I have always been able to learn something new from everyone I have performed with.
Also pay special attention to what roles you get. You will probably notice a pattern. When you are an actor, you're your own business and your product is you. Your look, the sound of your voice, your features, height and other features will determine how casting directors percieve you. You want to figure out weither you'll do best as a character actor, leading man/woman, comic side kick, villian, or any whatever niche. I have been frewuently cast as authority figure, usually a cop. I have been a immigration officer, FBI agent, and a lawyer. I have sincere eyebrows or so I have been told and a fairly strong jawline. I also have peircing eyes and authorative sound to my voice. So this is important to know when I get my headshots. I will want to make sure I get photos that show off these features prominently and also look for roles that suit my type.
GET HEADSHOTS AND WRITE A RESUME
Now that you have some experience and have defined you product it's time for headshots and write up your resume ( or jus update it).
When getting a headshot visit several photographers and looks over their work. Do they work wth lots of actors or are they primarily a wedding photographer. Do they provide negatives or digital files of your photo or will you have to come back them whenever you need copies. A good way to find a good photographer is to ask actors you've met who have great headshots. Your headshot should be a photo that shows you
As far as your resume it should only be one page long. If you've done enough to fill up more than one page put down the biggest stuff you've done, i.e. parts that were leads or where you played a pivotal role. you can always type somewhere that you provide more information about your experience upon request. Also I would reccomend only putting your agencies info on your resume. You never know where your resume will end up and you don't want some weird stocker getting your information. If you must you can put your email address or the number to your answering service. For a better idea just google actor's resume and I am sure you will find thousands of examples.
Agents find actors work. They get break downs from casting directors which describe the roles for a play/movie/tv show/industrial/animated show and the agent sends actors he/she thinks are a good fit. You go to the audition and if you get a part the agent takes a cut of your pay, usually 10 percent.
You get representation by sending your headshot, resume, and a cover letter to the agency telling them you are seeking representation. Never show up at an agency unless you have an appointment. Generally it's acceptable for you to call a week or so after you've sent the agency your packet and inquire if they would be interested in having you come in and discuss the possibility of being represented by their agency.
Make sure you don't sign an exclusive contract. This limits you to being represented by one agent. There are very few circumstances where an exclusive contract with one agent will benefit a new actor. Some big stars have exclusive contracts but their agents are very well connected and get them work.
This step is certainly one of the more challenging ones. If you can't find representation write away just keep acting and keep updating your resume. Just keep at it. As they say work begets work.
Join the Unions
At some point in your career as a professional actor you will likely need to join SAG (Screen Actor's Guild), AFTRA (American Federation of Radio and Television Artists) or Actor's equity (stage). It can be frustrating because in many cases you need to be in the union to get work but you have to have work to be in the union. Absolute crazyness...
AFTRA is an open union, in other words you can just pay the membership fee and you're in. SAG requires you to get three union vouchers which in my opinion the easiest way to get them is to keep doing extra work until you've collected your three vouchers. Whenever you work you fill out a voucher to be paid, you get a copy and the form is either a union or non union form. Actors equity requires you to get an equity contract or work in enough equity projects to apply.
For more detailed information go to the unions' websites.
You can't rely on your agent to find all your work. I have been represented by several agencies that never found me so much as one job. Subscribe to industry trades like backstage and variety. Show up to casting calls. Network with other actors. Set up a website with your head shots, demo reel if you have one, and resume on them.
Continue to take classes and workshops and network whenever you can. Always have a flexible day job that pays the bills. Good day jobs are waiting tables, bar tending, working for a temp agency or working any job where you have the flexibility to get time off for auditions and acting jobs on short notice. If you are planning on living off acting and aren't already a house hold name understand that will be nearly impossible and generally a bad life plan.
NEVER GIVE UP
Above all else the only sure fire way to be sucessful is to be PERSISTANT. You will hear this word of adivce from everyone who has made it in this industry. It is highly unlikely that you will work at something your whole life and not at least experience some level of success.