Most artists, specifically actors, move to Los Angeles with the assumption that they will show up in town, get a great manager and agent, book shows and be rich and famous in a short course of time. Almost, if not always, most of working actors in the industry have been working at it for years.
There is this broken mentality in a lot of actors that I have met that they expect to be paid a certain amount of money for their work, when they have no work to substantiate themselves. This is true as a writer, producer, director, Stand-Up Comedian and an actor (all jobs that I currently do and have done for quite some time.) When I moved to Los Angeles I did not move here with the intention of being a famous actor; acting is not what motivates me, but it is the tie that binds all of the professions that I am capable of doing into one. However, many actors move to Los Angeles to be famous lead actors in film and television.
A lot of actors do not understand that acting is a business; you are selling yourself and your talents to casting directors or decision makers (Directors, Producers, etc.) that have the power to change your life by putting you in great projects that could increase your exposure. The question you should be asking yourself is “why should this decision maker hire me?” The key is to work on your craft and your marketing tools (headshots and reel/resume) to make yourself a commodity that a decision maker cannot resist having in their project and once they decide to call you in not making them regret calling you in by showing them what you can do.
When someone does a web search for your name what comes up? Hopefully it is something. If you aren’t interesting why would anybody be interested in hiring you when film is a visual medium and you have to like what you see? People like interesting people. People want to work with interesting people. Actors that have followings and passions are interesting. Put yourself in the shoes of a decision maker and start treating your art like a business.
When you are hired on a production, people are taking a risk on you. This is why it is important for you to be in class; constantly working on your craft to make sure you are at your peak performance for when you go out for a role. It is not enough to be attractive; believe me no matter how beautiful you think you are, you will lose a role to someone that is less attractive than you if they are a better actor.
Plenty of actors don’t book projects and then when the show they go out for comes on the television they will tune in to see who beat them for the role. Then they will complain about it saying that “I could have done better than that.” Guess what? Even the actors themselves that actually booked that role (because sometimes it’s the very first time they have even seen it) will look at it and say “if I could do it again, I would do it better”. Artists are perfectionist by nature; the truth is sometimes you didn’t get the job because they were better and other times there was a situation outside of your control that led to them booking the role over you.
I personally became an actor to make money to help produce projects under my production company; writing and producing are my primary passions and is what led me to Los Angeles. When I cast actors for projects that I have Executive Produced or assisted in producing I look for talent before I look at their resume when I make final decisions. I already know what they look like before they come in the room because I saw their headshots and decided to bring them in. If that actor already has a reel, I have already looked at it so I already have a general idea of what their acting range is and if they could potentially fit the role that I am looking for.
There is an old saying that 90% of directing is casting, which is why the casting process is so important. Time is money and if an actor is cast that is nervous and doesn’t know what they are doing in the audition room, then the red flag comes up as to what are they going to be like on set in front of a group of people with lights and cameras. This is why it is important to not be nervous when you audition. We already know what you look like, now we just want to see what you are bringing to the table.
All of this goes into building a brand. You are building a reputation for yourself in the film and television industry. The higher your brand, the more projects you will book. The more talented you are, the more people will start to know who you are. The most important thing a lot of new actors do not understand is that you have to start somewhere and somewhere is not trapped in acting classes waiting on someone to come in and whisk you away. There are some exceptions to the role (as I always say nothing is an absolute, especially out here).
The next article will discuss ways that actors can start building work for a reel and how networking starts with your peers not with the people you are trying to impress. The hardest part of the Entertainment Industry is getting someone to want to take a chance on you; but before those decision makers take a chance on you, you must first take a chance on yourself.