Here is a reality check for artists moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting. You are more than likely to be used by some person or organization/company and it doesn’t matter how careful you are, smart you are or diligent you are and the younger you are the more likely it will happen to you. Please do not let bad experiences make you jaded to the industry or make you quit; there are a lot of great people and once you meet those people you will start to enjoy the experience.
I was 28 years old with a college education and spent years entertaining people, ran my own business, had a house and a life before I moved to California and it happened to me. It’s going to happen to you. Please understand that there is a difference between being “used” and paying your dues. There is a huge difference. Most often you won’t understand that you are being used until it’s too late or until you walk away and once you are removed from the situation you can honestly look back and assess the situation for what it was.
To a certain extent please understand that you must allow yourself to be used in certain situations to gain needed tools to advance your career; this is what is meant by paying your dues. Tens of thousands of people are out and about every day trying to hit it big and be that working actor. Do you have a solid package? That is what will get you a manager and agent. Do you have great headshots and a show reel, which for those that don’t know is a collection of a body of work that you have done to show someone in a short amount of time what you are capable of doing.
The chances of you getting hired without a reel is slim, but the changes of you getting hired with terrible headshots is more than likely not going to happen. This is why it’s important to invest in building a package before seeking a manager or an agent, and to be honest more than likely they aren’t going to take you on, or that is the first thing that they are going to tell you before they start to submit you. Do not take thousand dollar headshots, some managers/agents have photographers they prefer you use so stick with $600 and below.
How do you get a reel? There are several ways to get reel:
1. Do Student Films-Highly NOT recommended.
2. Shoot short films with your friends-Depends on the skill of your friends.
3. Shoot short films with production companies with high production values. -Recommended
4. Book something and get a copy of it when it is released-Highly recommended but difficult.
If you have never been on a film set or understand the terminologies used DO seek out Extra work when you move to Los Angeles. Extra work will more than likely not lead to anything but the going rate for a non union extra, but you will understand when the Director tells you to go “Back to one” where you are suppose to go. As stated in the introduction the cycle goes for you to “compile, leverage and reinvent”. You must do ANY type of speaking work (that you keep your morals and integrity intact for) to build a reel, leverage what you have done into a show reel to help you get better roles, and then reinvent yourself by taking the roles that you get to go back to the drawing board and compile your next speaking work (hopefully better) to create your new show reel. Everything is a cycle.