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Actors: 5 Things I Wish I Would Have Done Before “The Big Move”

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Once the big decision to move to LA was done, I don’t know about you, but I sat and waited in anticipation…and that’s pretty much it. I figured that only after I moved would I be able to do anything constructive towards my career.

But I was dead wrong. Whether you’re one semester away from graduating college or checking the days off a calendar in a cubical, there are things you can be doing before you even step foot on La-La-Land. And most of them are free.

  1. Read TV and film scripts

Especially if you’re in a college theatrical setting, there is a chance you’re used to plays. Getting used to reading scripts will not only make you super familiar with them but also introduce you to a ton of new words and phrases you’ll hear a lot on sets and in auditions. And for bonus points, read a script and then watch the movie or show. Seeing things translated from page to screen changes your perspective and teaches you a shit-ton more than you can imagine (it’s basically free acting class). Hot tip: Google any previous show or movie and then “pdf” and there’s a good chance you’ll find the script online.

  1. Get on camera.

Someplace around you (even in the middle of Kansas…and trust me, I would know) there is a film class, club, or school. And they always need actors. Yup, you’ll probably work for free. Yup, it probably won’t be the most groundbreaking material. But, yup, you will have footage or yourself and even more valuable: you will have experienced being on camera! I had one on-camera class in college and it was SO helpful. I wish I would have spent time on it every single week (and a little less time playing beer pong).  Not finding any available options? Ok, then grab your iPhone and a script (mentioned above) and just practice. Websites like WeRehearse provide fellow actors on demand as readers. The point is: get. on. camera.

  1. Learn how to do your own hair and makeup.

If I would have known at age 22 how to pencil in my eyebrows, I swear I would have booked at least a handful more jobs a year. I am well aware one of the best parts of booking a big job is not having to do these things and simply showing up on set in your pajamas. But for your formative years or auditions (and life in general) you will be in charge of getting yourself together. I suck at this. I’ll be the first to admit this is one of my least favorite parts about auditions. So I took a few makeup classes. Another good place to start is at a Sephora or Ulta. Or, welcome to the age of YouTube, there are literally 7+ pages of results for “on camera makeup tutorials” on the site. Remember, it will look like too much in real life…but thank me later when you’re the only person who actually looks like an actor in the camera lens (I also did a great one with my favorite h/mu girl, if you want to check it out here).

Actors: 5 Things I Wish I Would Have Done Before "The Big Move"

  1. Get a “Day Job” as you’d have in LA.

Ok, you got me here. This one I actually did. I spent years as a nanny and the year before I moved, I became a waiter because I knew that was a good way to make money and work as an actor. Having a serving job (or babysitting, bartending, assisting, etc) on your resume with references already gives you one less obstacle when finding steady income in this overpriced city. Does that have to be the job you have to do until you start making your living as an actor years down the road? Probably not. But you have to start somewhere…and you have to make some money. Side note: I would avoid Uber as a starter job unless you pair it with something else. You need reliable money at least for a few months.

  1. Start reading sites like Deadline and Actor’s Access.

Obviously, you can’t submit to auditions or tell your agent you’re perfect for that pilot CBS just picked up. But you can be proactive in seeing what types of jobs are out there, learn descriptive words you can later use to describe what kind of actor you are, and have a general knowledge of the range of work happening. Knowing Deadline headlines won’t be the big thing that sets you apart from other actors (hopefully that’s your talent and life experience) but being able to make relevant conversation about the industry is worth its weight in IMDb credits.

So, will all of these things make you ready for your Oscar? Probably not. That will require years of training, hard work, life experience, and a general run through of the Hollywood shenanigans. But it will defiantly make you one step closer and prepare you for the world of adventure coming your way.

PS: for more of this kind of advice, feel free to check out my site and podcast, I sure wish I had had this too…

Sam Valentine

About Sam Valentine

Sam is an actress based in LA from all over the midwest. She created and runs 1 Broke Actress, a website and podcast dedicated to the honest truth of the working actor life...basically to kill some free time...but also to help other people in this creative cluster-f*ck of a world feel a little less unstable and alone. She lives in Hollywood with her boyfriend and rescue dogs. Instagram: @samvalentine