Are you an actor new to LA? Not sure where to start? I can relate. When I moved here seven years ago to pursue film and television acting I felt sort of lost. I’d come from New York, where I understood how the business worked there. I was pursuing Musical Theater (after having majored in it in college), and I knew how that business operated. I knew to look on the Actors Equity website for auditions. I knew to go to the Equity building and sign up for audition slots. I generally knew how to operate there to get a job. Or at least audition for them. And I did book a great job!
After touring the United States for a year with the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I started reassessing what I wanted to do with my life. I kept coming up with film and television oriented goals. I wanted to get on a soap opera. I wanted to act in commercials. I wanted to be on film and television. So I thought to myself, “Self, if that’s what we really want to do with our life, why don’t we just move to LA – the mecca for all things on-camera – and dive right in.” So that’s what we did. Then I had to figure out where to start…
1. HAVE HEADSHOTS TAKEN
If you don’t already, you NEED to have a good headshot to use here in this town. Your headshot is your calling card. It is the number one most important piece (unless you know people) that will get you called in by casting directors to audition for roles. Headshots range in price from $100-$1,000 depending on which photographer you shoot with. I’ve shot with a number of different photographers over the years, all at varying prices, and I’m generally pretty happy with the shots in the $300 range. (Of course the more expensive ones are gorgeous too, but I just don’t think you need to spend that much. Especially in the beginning.) Here’s a list of photographers I’d recommend:
- John Brantley Cole/JBC Images
- Greg Crowder
- Michael D’Ambrosia
- James O’Keefe/Fail Safe Photography
- Dana Patrick
- Jonathan Tantype
2. SUBMIT FOR ROLES VIA CASTING WEBSITES
Once you have your gorgeous headshot, you’ll need to use it! There are a handful of casting websites that casting directors, directors, producers, all kinds of people creating content, use to fill their casting needs. You need to register and set up a profile with all of them. Your profile consists of your fabulous headshot(s), resume items, special skills, training, and a demo reel/clips if you have them*. It’s time consuming to fill out all the info and create profiles for all the different websites, but it’s worth it. And you have to do it. (Plus, once you sign with an agent or manager, they’ll make you do it anyway, as they also use these sites.) Painting a clear picture of who you are, what you do, what your experience level is, and that you’re available for work is key. These websites are the gateway for you to be able to submit yourself for roles without needing an agent or manager in the beginning. Once your profile is up, look through the casting breakdowns and find roles you think you’re right for and submit yourself! If the casting director likes your headshot and thinks you fit what they’re looking for they’ll call you in to audition. (Then you have to show up and be good.) I booked my first several television credits through these sites. The sites you need to be registered with are:
*If you don’t have a demo reel (or have one you’re unhappy with), you can create one! There’s a company here in LA called Relentless Filmworks that shoots super fantastic demo reels and scenes for actors. Most actors put a demo together as they begin to compile work (from student films, short films, paid projects, etc.) but often find those scenes to be lacking in some component that makes them not ideal for a demo. Either the sound is bad, or the project wasn’t shot well, or the material doesn’t showcase what you can actually do, etc. So Troy and Steve, the awesome guys at Relentless, have solved that problem. Depending on what package you get, they’ll do everything from writing tailor-made scenes specifically for you, casting the other actors, to shooting professional quality scenes that look like they could’ve aired on tv. They’re a great value and produce really high quality work for actors who feel ready to showcase their abilities and have a little more control over their demo reels.
3. GET TO KNOW CASTING DIRECTORS – CASTING DIRECTOR WORKSHOPS
These are a bit of a controversial issue within the industry because it’s a pay-to-play format. Casting director workshops are where you pay to take a “class” with a casting director and have the chance to meet them and be seen by them, in hopes of them calling you in to audition for the projects they’re casting. They are, unfortunately, a bit of a necessary evil in the business today. I don’t entirely agree with the concept of them, but you’ve gotta do it in order to meet the people who are casting the things you want to be in!
My advice for casting director workshops is research who you want to meet first. There are SO MANY workshops happening daily around the city, it’s really easy to become overwhelmed. Figure out what types of shows you’d like to do (and what you’re the most appropriate for), and figure out who casts those. IMDB.com is a great research tool for this, also CastingAbout.com. Casting About is a paid membership-based site, but it’s really excellent and up to date on who and what is casting CURRENTLY. Then I’d use the site TheWorkshopGuru.com to find out when and where those casting directors are workshopping. There are so many casting director workshop facilities around LA, it can be nearly impossible to keep up with who is teaching at all of them. Workshop Guru has all that info in one place.
Some good casting director workshop places I’ve taken from and recommend are:
4. TAKE ACTING CLASSES AND TALK TO FRIENDS. ASK FOR REFERRALS
It is my opinion that you should ALWAYS continue working on your craft. A casting director I know says that “LA is the Olympics of acting.” He’s right. And Olympians are always training. And so should you. Acting class is also a great way to connect with other actors in the business and talk to them about what they’re doing, what’s working for them, if they wouldn’t mind referring you to their agent or manager, etc. It keeps you active in the business. I’ve taken classes at several different places around town and they’re all different. Finding the right teacher or studio to study at is ultimately a personal path. You just have to find what’s right for you! You can audit most studios (go watch a class for free or a small fee), and I’d recommend auditing at several before you decide on one. See which one is closest to you, and which one feels like the best fit. Some studios/teachers I’d recommend are:
- Jamison Haase/LA On-Camera Training Center
- Aaron Speiser
- Ivanna Chubbuck Studio
- Bill Howey
- David Gray/Gray Studios
- Edgemar Studios
- Margie Haber
- Howard Fine
5. CONTINUE LEARNING ABOUT THE BUSINESS
There are several different resources for continued education on the BUSINESS of acting. I think these are key, and soooo important. One of the BEST choices I ever made for my career was to study with Dallas Travers. She’s a creative career coach for actors, and teaches strategies for navigating the business of acting. Her website isDallasTravers.com. She has a blog for actors, a book, and offers several free 90 minute seminars throughout the year where you can get a sneak peek into what she teaches and her genius strategies. I highly recommend her!
I also highly recommend Kristine Oller. I took her Leap Year program in 2013 and it was AWESOME. Kristine has put together TheActorsLibrary.com which is a free resource with lots of little video clips, audio clips, and tools for the business of acting. It’s chock-full of valuable tips, little golden nuggets, for getting ahead in the acting biz!
Another one of these resources is The Actors Network. It’s run by a super smart, savvy actor/businessman, Kevin E. West. He offers a great blog, video interviews with industry professionals, webinars, etc. on how to operate as a successful BUSINESS person/actor.
6. READ ERICA’S LAST BLOG POST
on the Secrets to Breaking into the Film Industry and follow a lot of her advice there! Especially her advice on etiquette, and her number 4 and 5 points.
Happy acting and I’ll see you at the Academy Awards!