Acting Studio to TV Studio- Becoming a Professional
Every Summer thousands of young drama students graduate from their college, university or conservatory programs only to face the biggest hurdle of their lives. How do you get started in your professional acting career? Even if you’re enthusiastic and well trained, you need help with practical questions: Where to go- NY or LA? Or should you stay in your home market- Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Chicago?
Which media should you pursue – Theater, TV or Film? How do you get an agent? And when? What marketing tools do you need? Where do you get them? What other classes or training do you need? What jobs can you get NOW?
Everyone tells you it’s going to be difficult but you don’t realize how difficult or how long it may take to get work.Often adjusting to a new location- just finding an apartment and a “bread and butter job”- can be as much of a challenge as finding an acting job. Here are six guidelines that will help take the mystery out of Launching Your Career:
1. Choose your strongest talent/interest– and match that to the market that would provide the best opportunity. Here are some options:
A– Are you a singer? dancer? actor? If you are a triple threat and love doing musicals then head for the Broadway musical theater market-NYC. You might book a tour of a hit musical providing you with some steady employment and credits.
B–If you love performing on stage and want to develop your resume doing classics- Shakespeare, Moliere, Chekov or American classics- Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller- aim for the Resident/Repertory Theater market. There are good companies all over the US- Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Atlanta. Check out L.O.R.T. (League of Resident Theaters) and submit your resume/head shot directly to the member theaters. These are great places to get cast in major productions playing the roles that aren’t always available to beginners in LA or NY. You can also meet new, young directors who might be directing on Broadway in a few years. Mostly, you can build credits, the first thing that all agents look for!
C– If you want to appear in new plays off and off-off Broadway head for The Big Apple- New York City. The cost of Broadway productions requires a “star” or celebrity in order to recoup the expense so beginners rarely get considered for the major roles in either Broadway or off-Broadway productions (musicals are the exception). If you first book a major role on prime time series or in feature film- become known and established- Broadway welcomes you! In recent years Zach Quinto (from Star Trek), Julia Roberts, Ed Harris, Jeremy Pivens, Scarlett Johannsen and others booked shows on Broadway because they were recognized names in Film/TV.
D– If you love films and TV series and the camera loves you– head to Los Angeles. It’s the biggest market for both. NY may have 40+ series (and new studios being built currently) but LA has over 150+ series and dozens of features casting monthly so there’s more opportunity. Daytime series in LA cast a lot of “youth” characters and there are dozens of teen series in Prime time… all casting new, young faces.
E– If you live in or want to move to a smaller market– New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington- all have TV and Film production-but there may not be enough work to support yourself full time. Starring roles are often cast in NY or LA with “local hires” for the supporting and smaller roles.(Might be a good way to get your first small “role/credit” in Prime time!).
2. INVEST in yourself– the best photos, resume, demo, website.
Get advice on your type and castability before shooting. Know the roles you can play- show that in your photos. Pay for a company to produce a great sizzle – demo reel- don’t wait months for a student director to give you a clip that may not sell you. Get a professional to do your website- that’s the first stop when a Casting Director is looking to see your work.
3. Take classes first in the areas in which you haven’t yet trained and are the most practical-
Cold Copy Audition technique– essential when auditioning for prime time roles.
Improvisation-– very important if you audition for commercials, TV and film which requires spontaneity.
Voice/Speech (dialects)- If you’ve only worked on acting technique or scene study, be open to the many Voice Over jobs, animated features as well as foreign/character roles in period films and series. If you have a great range and ability in using your voice- you’ll work more. If you have a Regional accent- Midwestern,Southern, “urban”- Afro-American, Latino- you’ll be more limited in your ability to be cast. With training you can be cast in many more roles not just your ethnic or regional background. Aim for the non-regional, Mid-Atlantic speech that is taught at all the major University Drama programs and “league” schools.
4. Seek a mentor to guide you.
This could be a Marketing Mentor, Career coach, a professional with knowledge of marketing. It can be very frustrating spending all your resources on classes or workshops that aren’t really helping you get work or on marketing tools that don’t represent you as well as they could. Get advice first.
5. Make a marketing plan.
Get a copy of CALL SHEET– it’s a mini booklet with a list of all agents, casting directors, and current Prime Time, Daytime shows and Films in production. Set goals and create a timeline- a date for finishing your marketing tools, researching the market in which you want to work, targeting agents and meeting casting directors for the shows you’re right for. Try to put in a few hours a day/week on your marketing and build a large network of industry professionals who know and like you.
6 Meet the industry when you’re ready.
It’s best to wait until your marketing tools are up-to-speed and then get a referral to an agent. If you’ve worked with a director or know a casting director ask for their help. If you’re working with a coach or mentor they can “open doors” and make that personal referral. (I do for all my Priority coaching clients).
Starting a career can be exciting but also overwhelming. Take it one step at time and always ask for advice. There are many industry professionals who will be there for you.
P.S. Want help going forward? Let’s chat…just REQUEST a complimentary 15 minute Career Consult with me here