Be A Working Actor: Step 1

December 23, 2010

I’ve recently just come away from some experiences that have given me, what I feel, is a more complete outlook on how to be a working actor…well, how to not blow it as a working actor for sure. What were the experiences? I found a new agent and I interned for a casting agency to find out more about the back end of the acting business.

Just so we’re clear, when I say “working actor” I mean “actor in Chicago with an agent who sends said actor on auditions for various commercials and such.”

Today, STEP 1: Where To Start?

First, you need to know two things: a) do you like to act? and b) do you have a firm grasp on how many other people do too? A lot. If you’ve done a lot of acting through high school and college you’re off to a good start for a start. If you’ve never done anything or taken any classes but you want to be just like [insert favorite actor name] you might want to start with a beginner acting class. But be aware that a lot of people out there are trying to make it as an actor. If you can’t handle rejection this might not be for you.

I’m going to assume you have some experience and have been in Chicago and you’re just not sure what to do next. Maybe you’ve done some plays, or maybe, as is more common in Chicago, you’re an improvisor who took an improv class out of college and discovered you liked it and you’re good at it and you keep hearing about people getting agents.

A good place to start is to get a current headshot. I’m not just saying this because I’m also a headshot photographer. If you’re current headshot doesn’t look like you it is useless. And when I say “like you” I’m not just talking about having old headshots. Did you get recent headshots someplace where the stylist was so awesome that you look the most glamorous you’ve ever looked? So glamorous, in fact, that you’ve never looked like that before? Not you.

Tobias Fünke's Bad Headshots (Arrested Development)

Also, so much casting done in Chicago now is done via the web. This means your headshot isn’t being viewed at 8×10 inches, but 300×480 pixels. The more of your body that is in the headshot, the smaller your head and more importantly your eyes will appear on the small web photo.

Find a photographer and get shots printed. At least 50. Most photographers will offer touched up images with your shoot…2-5 seems average. I personally don’t offer touched up images, but I do offer the entire shoot in high-res. Why don’t I touch up? Most of the printing places will either offer it for $20ish per image, OR when you get prints the $20 to touch up is part of the package…why pay extra to touch up a photo that has been touched up?

Once you have a headshot, print up resumes and make sure they’re 8×10 too. Put those together with a cover letter and mail them out to all the casting and talent agents.

This step is a summary, for sure. I can understand if there are specific questions. What should my acting resume look like? What is in an actor’s cover letter? Google.

Headshot and resume are the main things to get in step one.

The next step will be up soon, but you don’t need to worry about it until you have an agent. It is:

Step 2: Easy Steps To Not Pissing Off Your Agent