Answering Your Acting Career Questions


Stephanie PressmanBecause I write my blog (Struggles and Success), people automatically assume I am the authority in the acting world. I would like to state I do not know everything. I know a lot only because I constantly ask questions myself. However, I do love when people ask me questions. This week I received an email from a girl named Rachel in Philadelphia. Rachel asked some amazing questions that I thought it would be beneficial to share with you.

Rachel writes,

“Hi Stephanie,

I’m a fan of your blog posts on Ms. In the Biz, and work as an actress. I was wondering if I could get your advice as someone who is just starting out. I’ve recently decided to take my acting career more seriously. It seems like the natural steps to take would be to get headshots and search for an agent. However, I am currently an undergrad and spending a semester abroad. I will have six months in a foreign country. I’m wondering how I can get ahead while I’m abroad so I will be ready to launch my career when I come back to the U.S. I was also wondering if you have any thoughts on grad school for acting?

Thanks so much for your time!!


here is my response…

“hmmm, great questions. what sort of acting do you want to do? theater? tv? film? hosting?

You should take your headshots when you return to the US because who knows what you are going to look like in a few months in a foreign country – you may cut or dye your hair – or find that you want to live a natural lifestyle and only wear 100% undyed cotton and smell and look like a hippie – all of those things effect what your headshot should look like. Your headshot should represent you – and the you, you will be playing on camera or stage.

I think you can prepare while you are abroad by researching agencies that fit your personality and goals. How do you do that? You look up 5 actors or actresses whose career is at a place you want yours to be at in 1 year. So, you should refrain from Kate Winslet or Jim Carey. Pick actors that had a bit part in one episode of a tv show you liked – (you probably don’t know their name). Look them up on imdb – it’s in your interest to fork out the money for imdb pro at this point so you can find out who represents them (who their agent is).

After this, find out information about the agency online. Do your research – if you can find pictures of the people they represent, do any of them look like you? are they your type? do you know your type yet? what type of roles do you typically get cast in? ask your friends on facebook to describe you using 10 adjectives? ask people to type you? It is so important to truly find out your type before you go any further – because again that is how you get the right headshots, pick the right agent, audition for the right jobs. For me – i’m a quirky character type… I play the next door neighbor, the quirky friend, the sarcastic, the brainy, the kinda stupid ditsy girl… I’m never the ingenue – I never submit for parts that say blonde, all american, or even pretty, etc because the odds of me booking a role for those characters is slim to none… so why waste my time, gas money, the time of a casting director etc…. but in theater you can get away with all that depending how far away the audience is from the stage and performers.

If you are interested in on-camera hosting – while you are away start a vlog or video diary and pretend you have your own travel show on youtube – you can use your phone and document your travels abroad and share it with your family and friends – when you get home from your semester look at all your “episodes” and edit together a small reel of your favorite moments of your travels into a travel hosting reel – that you can put up on casting websites when they want footage.

As far as grad schools for actors… it depends what field you would like to be working in. I can’t think of any actors I know that got a graduate degree in acting but I believe you should never stop learning so, if that’s your plan go for it – i would choose to look into schools located in New York and LA – because while you are learning you can put your skills into practical use – you can gather footage from fellow students by being in student films – schools like NYU, UCLA, and USC have great film programs and by being in graduate level student films at these schools you will be building future contacts with great film and TV creators (of the next generation) and also acquiring a reel as you continue to study and hone your craft.

– Please keep in touch and I look forward to watching your career grow.



After I wrote this, I realized that there is a grad school all actors go to… it’s called acting classes… In Los Angeles as I’m sure is also the case in New York you are always at the mercy of casting directors, agents, and fellow students asking you where you’ve been studying – while college acting programs are wonderful and beneficial they rarely “count” in the world of a working actor. That sounds really stupid but it is true. You need to constantly continue to study and hone your craft.


The most important thing at this moment I can tell you right off the bat is to enroll in an improv school. Even if you want to be a dramatic actor, take improv. A lot of colleges don’t offer an improv program. Casting directors and commercial agents look at your improv skills first (after looking at your headshot) and If you’ve studied improv at one of the good schools – you are golden. Which schools should you consider? The top 4: Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), Second City, and Improv Olympics (IO West). Depending if you are in NYC, Chicago, or Toronto – you will have a few more options like Comedy Sportz, etc but, in LA it’s essential to choose at least 1 of those schools, though most people that are serious eventually do them all. Each program has 3-7 levels of classes and all the programs cost around $2000 for the entire thing (Each individual level is around $400).

Sitcom Acting

Personally my goal currently is to work in sitcoms. There is a great class at The Actor’s Comedy Studio (LA) that is acting and scene breakdown of sitcoms. If you are someone that wants to work in this field too this is a valuable class. This particular program costs roughly $400 for 6 weeks.

Dramatic Acting

Margie Haber Studio is supposed to be the best, at teaching you auditioning and putting you in the moment. (I haven’t taken her classes but they are supposedly very expensive.) They have classes in LA and Atlanta. I will say that dramatic auditions are harder than comedy or commercial because you will have a 3 sec scene where you might have 2 lines but your character is in tears, you need these skills of being in the moment to make those 2 lines your own and real.

Commercial Acting Techniques

Killian’s Commercial Workshop is the one that everyone takes in LA. There are 3 levels of workshops he offers and the entire program is about $1000 (you can take individual levels). Most other commercial workshops I have been to teach about silly things like at a personality slate talk about pizza. Killian is known for being hard on his students and telling it how it is but he’s teaching truth and getting results.

Ok, so that is only a small sampling of things you can consider as your graduate degree. Add “in private coaching” for auditions, voice lessons to keep your singing voice ready, etc… and you have a full class load. Like I mentioned before I truly believe one should never stop learning – learn film production too, know what everyone is doing on set. All these levels of knowledge will help add layers to your acting no matter which part of the industry you choose to pursue.


There was also one other thing I did not touch on in my letter that needs to be addressed… Rachel said the obvious next step in her career was to get headshots and an agent. Headshots are always the first step… getting an agent however is not immediately step 2… getting an agent is important BUT you need to be able to show you have a proven track record when presenting yourself to an agent, and you do that by showing them work you have already done. You need to create a reel and resume before you get an agent and you do that by posting your headshot on casting websites and booking low pay or no pay jobs to start, you also do that by creating your own projects and webisodes, or by doing student films. So get some footage, get a reel together of acting work and then go pursue those 5 agents you have chosen.

Break a Leg & I love answering your questions, so send more!

Please feel free to add your comments about classes, etc below.