A lot of young actors are graduating in May and have to try and navigate their lives and concerns through a business that has more actors entering the biz than job opportunities right now. Truly, “pound the pavement.” If you wait around hoping for someone to just show up at a showcase and find you, you may end up very disappointed. Anyone you know, any connection or advantage you may have, jump on it. That’s just how it is right now. You must be talented, but that’s not enough. Managers and agents need a bit more to go on. Lots and lots of showcases with actors graduating from undergraduate or graduate schools need a little something more to make them stand out. It is important to use a name connection, maybe a casting director or even an actor friend who already has an agent that can put in a good word for you. Don’t be afraid to use that, but never in a bragging way. Always stay humble in whatever you do and be grateful for whatever you get.
The next important thing is making yourself available. What that means is if you don’t have a trust fund or rich parents to support you through this process, get a night job, so you can be available for auditions. Set realistic goals. You will know if you should keep going or make acting a hobby. Graduating is just the beginning. Never have an attitude over material, unless you do not feel you can do justice to the part.
Leave your schedule open to not only auditions, even if they’re last minute, but also available to do the job if you book it. If it’s a commercial audition, make damn sure you ask when the callback is and when it shoots before you come in to audition. We understand if an acting job comes up after you come in to audition, but no other excuse is going to work and you could ruin your chances of ever being called in by that casting director again. Even though you are actors, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t handle your career professionally.
If you want to do theater, even showcases, do it. Those are opportunities to help your craft along. Don’t sit at home and wait for the big famous bus to hit you. Try and do a “fringe” show. Agents and managers go to them and respect them.
If you need to make money, then take a weekend job, or a flexible restaurant job, or even a sales job that allows you to set your own schedule. Even seasoned actors that have been able to earn a good living as actors for years are finding it harder and have to figure out ways to supplement incomes. The biggest problem with that for their agents and casting directors is that the actors are trying to do multiple professions. They don’t want to tell their agents that they have a job because they don’t want to stop being submitted for acting jobs. Then they pick and choose what auditions might be worth their time to take off from work for. We need actors that want to audition and book.
Agents not knowing their clients’ schedule leads me to prep a job multiple times. If you’ve made acting a hobby, then your agent should know that and will submit you accordingly. Acting in this environment should not be a hobby, but I also get people’s need to pay rent.
As an actor starting out, your priority must be getting seen, keeping your skills up, continuing to learn, and figuring out a way to pay your bills. To me, any theater job, paid or not, is experience (unless of course it’s just a terrible project). Any commercial booking is worth doing.
New actors are not generally SAG yet. Take advantage of that and go out on non-union auditions as much as possible. Once you’re union, your opportunities will change and you can no longer do non-union. Your choice of agents will change and SAG projects might be better and pay better, but these opportunities right now are fewer than non-union opportunities.
Years and years ago, people would say to me, “I’d like to do commercials to make money,” as if it was an easy acting gig to get while pursing the “real stuff.” My answer to that now is that commercials are a career choice, not an easy fix. Commercials don’t ruin your chances of moving up, doing episodic, sitcom, or even film. Commercials are not looked down upon. They are not just an easy default to pay your bills. I can give you a list of very well known actors and actresses that started out in commercials or were even seen in a commercial and were requested by a producer or director. Good commercials are a great stepping-stone for your career.
If you are a strong improv/comedic actor and people see you in a really funny commercial, it could easily help you get an audition for a sitcom/pilot. It really has happened. People know that the people we cast in the commercials that run during the Super Bowl are not only directed by the top directors in the world, but we do tons of casting with well trained actors that have studied at the top level, UCB, The Pit, The Magnet, etc.
We are a great resource for up and comers that are talented and well trained in improv and that belong to improv groups. Commercials can be used as a great platform for actors to be seen and advance their career. A comedy commercial that is directed by a top comedy director is something that comedy/improv actors can really use to get seen.
You are going to “them.” “They” are not coming to you. Again, many of these actors have gone on to do big things. Even in some cases, they end up doing so well that by the time they are being asked to do a commercial, it is because people know them, love them, and they are doing commercials at a celebrity level with great offers. If you think hard, you can come up with a bunch of those actors on your own.
The last thing for now is don’t be afraid to put your comedy training on your resume. If you don’t want to present yourself in that way in your legit career, then you should have two resumes and two headshots. Have your agent submit the one that is right for the project. A lot of actors can do both, but I find most often that when starting, you have your preference and your strong points.
Quite often, lately when I ask for resumes for a comedy spot, I get them with no comedy training. I will call the agent and ask why they submitted them when they only have theater on their resume. The answer is the resume is for “legit” and legit wants to see theater training. I do not agree. I think your resume should reflect everything that you do “for real.”
Even when I cast film, I want a truthful resume. Your agent or manager makes that decision, whether they think you should have one or two resumes. I believe that great training of any kind is important. I believe any work of quality should be on there. I think young actors starting out might be stronger at one thing than another but give the casting director options. Not everyone can do comedy/improv. If you can’t and you don’t enjoy it, then don’t put it on your resume. From a commercial point, I’m looking for comedy more often than heavy theater, so make sure that you’re noting everything on your resume. It can cost you an audition. Good luck to all those graduating! As always, thanks for reading.