Starting Your Acting Career - What You Need To Know First
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
As a principal casting assistant i have the joy of being able to interact with a lot of new actors that are just starting to get their feet wet. I have dealt with actors with years of experience & ones that don't even have headshots yet.
Here's my advice:
You don't have to move to LA to start your career
If you are completely new to the industry, moving to LA will be a waste of time. Pay attention to the projects that are filming in your area. For certain roles you may have an upper hand because you're auditioning as a local. I highly recommend that you apply to be an extra as well. It will give you on-set experience that will help you realize whether or not you want to be an actor for film & television. Be a big fish in a small pond before trying to become a big fish in a big pond.
Know that it's more than just acting
Becoming an actor is about knowing how to act, being booked as an actor is about so much more. I recommend you focus on the other aspects first & then grow all of your skills simultaneously. You don't want to spend all of your time knowing how to act...and then not know where to submit for roles. Or not know how to format your acting resume. You can be the best actor in the world but if you don't know how to put yourself out there, whats the point?
You will also learn a lot in the process of submitting that you wouldn't learn only in a traditional acting program. So make sure to maintain a balance in learning how to act & learning how to submit.
But..how do I submit??
Great question! I will have a post later about WHERE to submit, but this is about how you submit and what you'll need.
You are going to need:
A good professional headshot
An Actors Resume
A basic understanding of how to Self Tape
Your headshot is the best physical embodiment of who you are. It is the first thing people look at, which makes it the most important thing to get right. You want to pay crucial attention to how you will be perceived from this photo.
Please I beg of you, don't take sexy headshots. If you're wondering what a sexy headshot is, you probably don't have one, which is good. This headshot may help you for some roles but please, really think about whether this is how you want the team to see you.
Have different headshots for different roles.
You don't want to submit for a role in a period piece with a face full of makeup. You also don't want to submit for a role where you're playing a character that's younger than you, while wearing a full face of makeup. A lot of teen drama shows cast older actors to play teenagers because of the content. Pay attention to this. You want your headshot to say you're 16 even if you're 25 (in this case).
When in doubt, use a neutral headshot that isn't heavily edited. Make sure its up to date! Nobody wants a picture of you from 10 years ago. If you don't look like your headshot you're wasting everybody's time. Mostly yours.
Stick around for another blog with the guidelines for a good headshot. Please note that headshots for modeling are generally not the same as headshots for film and television.
If you don't have the money or the time to get professional headshots, have someone take a picture of you in a well lit area showing your entire face from the middle of your chest up.
When I see the word Resume I immediately get nervous. Don't be nervous about yours.
Your Actors Resume is a document that says "this is what I've done, this is what I'm capable of and this is who I have worked with". It's the only thing that exists (other than imdB) thats a record of what you've accomplished. Keep it updated. Nobody can tell us what you've done, you have to tell us.
So what if you don't have any experience? Thats fine! Focus on your special skills. Make a list of everything you can do that may be valuable to a role on screen. Examples of this includes:
sports ability (all sports, including things like horseback riding and skateboarding)
Sometimes it will give you an upper hand to have skills that may be shown on screen. If you're auditioning for a show about fire fighters and you used to be a fire fighter, put it in your special skills.
While sometimes it's amusing to go through and see special skills that I wouldn't consider special skills, its always better to be more detailed.
To pad the empty experience in your resume, volunteer your time for small theater credits, independent films & student films. Short films & Youtube projects also count as acting experience.
Basic Understanding of Self Tapes
In-person auditions do still exist but they are few & far between. If you are invited to submit an audition for a project it will be done as a Self Tape.
What is a Self Tape?
A Self Tape is a recorded audition of the written material provided to you. For larger roles it may include more than one scene. Please follow the directions provided by the casting team to know whether or not you should separate your takes or your scenes into different clips. If they say yes, please do this. Following instructions is your best friend.
"Following instructions is your best friend."
You will need some kind of recording device and a neutral background. Always remember to film horizontally. Always remember to follow the directions. If there is a script, follow it. If you are asked to improv, stay on topic.
If you have Self Tapes and would like advice or critiques on the technical aspects please click HERE.