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Top 5 Tips for New Actors

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Ready to fall in love with your acting career? Whether you’re just starting out, or ready for a new strategy, there’s something here for you.

These five tips are sure to save you time, money, and allow you to pursue your dream, happily.

  1. Fall in love with periphery characters.

Chances are you’ll be vying for the smaller parts for the first couple of years. Sure, every once in a while, someone books a larger role early in their career. But I promise you, it’s so so rare, you’d be more likely to win the grand prize in the McDonald’s Monopoly game.

I don’t want you waiting for a winning lottery ticket. I would rather you have an effective STRATEGY that builds your career in a way you have control over. To do this, I recommend marketing yourself for the smaller co-stars and guest stars.

Watch a ton of film and television. Or what I like to call “market research.” Instead of trying to find yourself in one of the leading or supporting roles, watch the small roles. Where do you see people who look like you?

Take note of which shows have a lot of small roles that would be great for you and notice how fun they can be. Resist the urge to “count lines” or judge these characters. Booking “sleazy neighbor dude” or “snarky roommate” can be really fun footage for your reel.

When you take your eyes off the leads, you gain a richer vocabulary around the types of roles available to you. You won’t get stuck in the “leading woman” or “quirky best friend” trap. You’ll see that there are many more types for you to play.

  1. Fall in love with unpopular shows.

EVERYONE is trying to get on Westworld, Modern Family, and any of the Shondaland shows. So while they’re zigging, try zagging. Research shows on networks with a little less buzz, like TruTV, Pixl, CMT, SyFy, AppleTV+, Discovery, LightWorkers, Freeform, etc.

It still won’t be easy to break into these rooms. But by focusing on these less popular shows, you’ll be competing with far less people for auditions. Researching your targets this way will help you narrow the field and get more bang for your efforts.

  1. Fall in love with your type.

Everything about the way you look and speak tells a story. It may not be the TRUE story of who you are inside. But it is the story most likely to get you cast in your career-building roles at the beginning of your career.

EXAMPLE: You might be the nicest person in the world, but if you’ve got “resting mean face,” then your type might be a snarky pain-in-the-butt. That’s great! Totally castable.

Not only is a “snarky pain-in-the-butt” castable… “nice” isn’t. The more you pay attention to smaller roles, you’ll notice that there are very few people who are “nice” or “sweet” or “perfect.” It’s the negative characters creating problems for the leads that help drive the story. Embrace your flaws, they could make you a star!

Align your headshot and demo reel footage to match your type so you attract the right customers. That can’t happen if you’re a “trashy” type with knock-em-dead-beautiful headshots.

Imagine you’re at the grocery store, looking for coffee and can’t find it anywhere. Finally, the clerk tells you the coffee is now sold in the pickle jars. HOW WOULD YOU HAVE EVEN KNOWN TO LOOK THERE?

Don’t do this to casting by using headshots that don’t match your type.

Whatever your type is, embrace it. It’s not what you will play for the rest of your career. But it is your short-cut to attracting the roles you need to build trust and credibility in the industry.

  1. Fall in love with your customers.

The only reason to go into business is to serve customers and casting directors, producers, and agents are yours. Seek to understand their lives, desires, pain points, and how you can make their lives easier by solving their problems.

Here’s an example: casting directors are short on time and long on choices of actors to call in.

Instead of slapping a photo of yourself on casting sites and wondering why “nobody will take a chance on you”… be of service. Find out who needs your type often and give them all the tools they need to know you’re the one who can solve this problem.

If you play an airhead, give them the photos and reel to prove that. It makes their lives so much easier.

Instead of imagining they have “all the power,” shift your mindset to that of a person who seeks to serve. You actually have all the power, you just need to give them what they need.

  1. Fall in love with this lifestyle.

At Happy Actors, our motto is “No More Struggling Actors” and that begins with shifting our mindsets to… the long game. The struggle is the result of believing that “effort equals reward.”

While that may be true in most pursuits, it is just not the case in a professional acting career. UNLESS, you redefine type of reward you’re after.

While seeing yourself on-screen and earning money as a professional actor is the dream, your life is what is happening to you in the meantime. Who you are becoming while you pursue your goals is what your life is really about. So please don’t wait to enjoy your career.

  • Think of your auditions and self-tapes as a chance for creative expression.
  • Have friends over to read plays in your living room.
  • Film a short sketch on your iphone that you only send to your friends in a group text.

Be an actor – don’t wait to be an actor. This creative life is your reward.

Be brave enough to buck the “struggling actor” label. And adopt the “happy actor” instead.

For more tips on how to grow a happy and profitable acting career, check out Happyactors.com. We’ve just launched Actor Business Plan, the first online course that not only shows you how to get crystal clear on your type and marketing materials, but how to use them to strategically grow your professional acting career before you even set foot in a major market.

Tristen MacDonald

About Tristen MacDonald

Tristen MacDonald is a working actor & screenwriter in Los Angeles, currently recurring on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and the spokesperson for three national brands. Other credits include recurring on NCIS: LA, Grey’s Anatomy, Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger, national commercials for Amica, Taco Bell, Toyota (and dozens more), and the Groundlings Sunday Company. Tristen is also the founder of Happy Actors, an online community providing tools, resources, and training to help actors thrive. Happy Actors’ mission is to reshape the collective psyche of the next generation of artists and rid the world of “struggling actors” forever.