As you may recall, my last post touched on the importance of working on your craft and finding your community when you get to L.A. But simply being in Los Angeles is not enough to get you discovered. (I’ll be working my day job and Spielberg will walk in and just KNOW that I am the girl for his next movie.) Some transplants to L.A. have an attitude of entitlement, like “I’m here. Now cast me!” The reality is that it doesn’t happen simply by moving here, although that is an important first step. It is a very fortunate time to be an actor because there are so many ways we can take control of our own careers – and we need to! No more sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. There is so much that you can do to realize your dreams!
- You can do research. There are more TV and Film projects here in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the world. With that in mind, it is a seemingly impossible task to stay on top of everything going on in the industry. Once you’ve identified a few directions you’d like your career to go in, you can begin using tools like Imdbpro, Deadline, and The Futon Critic to stay up to date on projects that interest you and the people involved. You can read Bonnie Gillespie’s Self Management for Actors or the hundreds of articles available to you online.
Find your style. Figure out what it is that YOU do best and get your marketing materials together in order to best showcase that.
Research casting directors, producers, directors, and writers you want to work with. Be in-the-know if they’re speaking at a film festival, on a panel, or at an event. When I first came to L.A., I went to a screening of Casting By and met casting directors Sara Isaccson (Bates Motel, ER), Josh Einshon (Community), and Deborah Barylski (The Middle, Arrested Development). Not only did I get in front of them, but I also got some great insight into the casting process and how their offices operate.
- You can get on set. Ideally, you’re out auditioning and booking work to get you on set. But when you’re starting out, I also would suggest doing some background work as a way to get on set. One of the easiest ways to do this is by registering with Central Casting, the largest and (I believe) oldest background company in Los Angeles. If you’re serious about launching an acting career, you don’t want to overdo it on background work. If you’re seen in an episode, it may preclude you from being able to book a speaking role on that show in the future. But if it’s a show you’re not targeting or a feature film that already has its cast in place, go for it! Working background is a fantastic opportunity to be a sponge and absorb information about what happens on set. If you can, try to work on a variety of different types of shows and films- you will learn how a single-cam comedy is shot differently from a multi-cam, get to observe different directing styles, and see how the whole machine of cast and crew works together. I worked background on a couple of projects when I first moved to L.A., and although there was a twinge of sadness because I wasn’t actually performing, I also had an absolute blast. I realized that if I was having that much fun as just an observer on set, I was definitely getting into the right profession 🙂
- You can meet people. When your research uncovers things like seminars or festivals, go to them! Talk to the people who work on the kinds of projects you want to work on.
Go to casting director workshops, if you’re okay with that “pay to play” approach. Workshops are a great way to start a relationship with a casting director when you’re just starting out in LA and/or don’t have an agent to vouch for you. They can be very effective if you approach them appropriately by targeting CDs who cast the projects you can see yourself on and following up with them. Often, CDs share info about how their office works and how they prefer actors stay in touch with them. Notice that it is the actor’s responsibility to stay on the CD’s radar, and it is so important! You also can get some awesome feedback about how you’re marketing yourself because they often give you a scene based on your headshot. I find that workshops help me gauge whether or not my headshot is giving off the vibe I’d like it to be. Just be smart about it — there are a lot of people in this town who just want to separate actors from their money. Do research to figure out which CDs have a reputation for bringing workshop actors in to audition for their projects. Some of the best places to workshop are Act Now (for multiple week workshops with the same CD), Reel Pros (for classroom style, cold read workshops) and Actors Key (for one-on-one, prepared-scene workshops).
4. You can do the work. You don’t need to wait around for an agent/director/casting director to call or give you permission. When you find your like-minded people (your community from part 1), DO stuff with them. Create. Or if you haven’t found those people yet, do things on your own. Write something for yourself and put it on youtube (that is how I started doing my 99s videos!). Find sides from shows you want to book and put yourself on tape. Practice auditioning and practice your at-home set up because believe me, you WILL be doing video auditions. The most important thing is to keep creating things that excite you. Don’t wait, CREATE!
When you put effort and a positive attitude into your career, things will begin to fall into place. You can do it!
This article is modified from one that originally appeared at www.sarahjeagen.com