A Working Actor’s Guide to Hollywood
by Mindy Robinson
In the last article, I talked about what it takes to make it in the biz. Now assuming that you have talent, an amazing work ethic, and all the other qualities I previously mentioned, then you’re probably thinking, “Well, now what?” I’m often asked how people can get started acting, and while there is no clear-cut answer that’ll work for everyone, there are several things that one can do that will immensely help…as well as there are things to avoid.
1. You need a good headshot. Even background casting companies want a picture, there’s absolutely nothing you can do without one. The only thing worse than having an unflattering headshot, is having one so over photoshopped it doesn’t look like you at all…and nothing pisses a casting director off more. Having a lot of character in your face is a good thing! That’s what makes you stand out. There are plenty of reputable professionals online for this, find one whose portfolio you like and they can tell you exactly what you need. Sometimes, especially if you’re a girl, you can get headshots while doing TFP (Trade for Portfolio) shoots. When you do unpaid photo shoots for content make sure that the photographer signs an agreement giving you the rights to use your own images in perpetuity, otherwise you do not technically own them if you want to use/submit/sell them later on, especially if the photog decides to be difficult.
2. You need to start building up your acting profiles. It’s not expensive, but you’ll need to invest in a few different sites, plus now you can upload your spiffy new headshot. You’ll need an IMdb pro account so that productions can credit you further down the road. Do not write your life’s long story in the bio area, you’ll look like a shmuck and no one cares, it’s for your acting “known for’s” when you eventually get them. Now create an Actors Access and LA Casting profile, or a profile on your local Casting Calls America sites if you’re not in LA, and check them daily. You will be pissed if you miss a casting call you were perfect for because you got lazy one day, trust me. Also, don’t be disappointed if you only get few if any audition notices at first, it’s because you have no reels or resume to speak of and you’re competing with tens of thousands of actors who do. Which brings us to…
3. Now you need to build your resume. This is where you just need to start doing shit for free. You say, “What?! I’m not working for free!.” Look, people pay to go to college, they pay to learn a trade, all you have to do to learn about acting is to show up to set. It’s an investment. Web series, shorts, online sketches, and director reels can be a quick way to get a reel. Non-union films can take longer, if they ever come out at all, but it’s experience all the same. Student films are just an awful idea, they’re still learning themselves. You can start getting paid and being pickier once you’ve built up either value as an actor or enough experience to knock every audition out of the park. Background work and music videos should only be done for money, as it doesn’t help you out as an actor otherwise. When you do book a paying background gig, pay attention on set! You will learn more from watching a named actor perform in front of the camera than you ever will in an acting class taught by an actor that couldn’t cut it himself in the first place. DO NOT DO NUDITY FOR FREE! That should always be compensated and anyone that tries to convince you otherwise is a scumbag. If they can’t afford to pay for that, then they can’t afford to make a movie.
That should get you started. Acting is fun, but you still have to treat it like a job. You’ve got to show up on time, be prepared, etc. Fucking up will set you back, it’s a very small town. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket either…I’ve seen people get on a high horse and turn “lesser” gigs down because they booked and filmed a lead, or a good part in a seemingly good project only to have it shelved and never see the light of day. Until it gets distribution, it does not exist to the real world. Stay humble, be courteous without being a pushover, and spend as much time on set learning as you can. Also…bring a cell phone charger, you are about to make best friends with a folding chair.