To All Graduating Actors That Need Help Starting Out

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.

To All Graduating Actors That Need Help Starting Out

Graduating Actors and Their Career Paths

Many actors are graduating school this year with a BFA or BA (acting) but will be lost out in the real world. There are no schools that teach you how to get yourself known and out there. Like any other person graduating, undergrad or grad, most are thinking, “what next?” I think every graduate program should invite a top casting director from each genre of casting to talk to the graduating class. How else are you going to learn this information?

No, it’s not easy and it’s honestly harder than ever. With a great connection, it gets your foot in the door, and then you’re on your own. Are you taught how to reach out? Are you taught the importance of pictures and the different shots you need for different things? I would hope you have been taught that your pictures must look like you and your resume MUST contain true and accurate information. When Sally Fields accepted her Oscar for Norma Rae, she said that a great actor, if they really work hard, would always make it. This always stuck with me.

Times have changed and as talented as you may be, you need to be seen. I have said it before, but with more supply than demand, any extra edge you have, you must take advantage of. Why do you think so many celebrities’ kids are doing so well? It’s not that they are not talented but without a connection, they may have gotten over looked. This is not the only way or chance for success. It’s just an avenue that, if available to you, you should utilize. Don’t say, “I don’t want help.” Everybody needs help.

Talent and perseverance are huge. The economy is not great. Kids graduating college, especially with strong degrees, might have a bit of an edge (my younger son is graduating from Northwestern University with a mechanical engineering degree), but there are still no guarantees. My nephew is graduating from the Actors Studio, a step with extra training that is important, but still no guarantees. I have huge respect and a big soft spot for new actors because of the things I have learned from him, but there’s only so much help I can offer. My biggest piece of advice for graduating students is to not let yourself think you’re too good to start at the bottom. An extra degree doesn’t mean you get to start out as president.

Don’t take a job in a profession that you’re not interested in because of the pay. Once you’ve gone off course from your original goal, it’s hard to get back on track. Give it time and don’t think you’re too good for anything. Getting coffee, if there is job growth in what you want to do, is a way in.

I started at the bottom at a time when casting was not only an unknown profession, but it was a profession I didn’t even know existed. If you were in the right place and you liked it, there was opportunity. Picking a casting career is not something people wanting to act think about, but it’s a possible career path that you might enjoy if you don’t think the acting thing is going to happen. Again, start out interning, prove yourself, learn the business, and it could turn into a great and rewarding career. I have received more resumes for starting positions or internships this year than ever before. Once you’re in, you have to do anything, work hard, and if you think it’s a career path you want, work your butt off. Don’t wait too long. Stay on your career of choice if it’s what you really want. Don’t settle and change until you know in your heart that it’s time. No job in this industry is easy and there are less and less jobs, but I will tell you as a company owner, I want people that truly want a career in casting and are hungry for it.

There are many other jobs that actors can opt for – casting, producing, being an agent, and even directing. Though at this point I can’t figure out how to really pursue directing – talk about more supply than demand. You have YouTube available, something we didn’t have. Use it. You have to know when you’ve been at it long enough, so I can’t stress enough to keep trying but stop when you know it’s time. You will never truly be happy unless you feel you gave it your all. Be realistic, accept anything that fits your goal, and try. Any artistic area is a struggle. Wanting to be a professional musician is even harder.

I would love to share my experience with you on how I got into the biz but even back then, a connection helped. Though I did settle for a career that I knew nothing about, I got to learn and found that I was good at it, and there was job opportunity.

Graduating Actors and Their Career Paths