Taking the leap and moving to a new city for your career can be intimidating, especially if you are an actor. There is so much uncharted territory to explore, so many new experiences to fully invest in, and all your heart wants to do is be on set and hear the word “Action!”. It can all feel incredibly overwhelming, especially when you are not quite sure where to start. Everyone wants to proclaim the “right way” to go about it all, but there really is no clear roadmap to success. Everyone has their own journey. Having been working actors in Los Angeles for several years now, we wanted to share some of the best lessons we have learned for how to get started in the acting business.
Note: We have provided some recommendations of things we love below. Since we are based in Hollywood, they are all LA specific recommendations.
Perhaps the single most important part of moving to any new city is to find a community to be a part of as soon as possible. It does not necessarily mean this will be your forever community, (or like Brooke, you could find your best friends at Second City the first day you move to LA and then be friends with those same people a decade later!), but in order to begin to make relationships and learn about what is going on in the industry around you, you need to be surrounded by other people doing what you want to do. Whether that is an acting class, improv team, theatre company, comedy club, or volunteer group, having a consistent core group of great people around you is essential. It can be an isolating experience to be in a new city and industry, so be sure to put yourself out there and make new friendships: it’s good for the soul!
You’ll hear the phrase “get in class” a LOT when you first dive into the biz of acting. We are always down to give a different opinion when it comes to sage biz advice, but on this one? We could not agree more. Get in class. The benefits are endless: you’ll find that community you were looking for, be on top of your craft, get a weekly acting workout, AND it will give you the creative fulfillment that you need to keep a good head on your shoulders while you continue to pursue acting jobs. Once more for the people in the back: Get in class!
We love: John Rosenfeld Studio, BGB Studio.
It can be so easy to be swallowed up in the hustle of the industry: classes, workshops, auditions, play reading groups, improv shows, the list goes on and on. Time is valuable. But be sure to still allow time in your life for the things you love outside of acting that make you, you! Hobbies, volunteering, community groups, other artistic endeavors: anything that lights you up. These are the things that make you special and unique and allow you to have a life outside of acting (which is so important! Trust us).
Finding the “perfect headshot” is a quest every actor has been in search of and will continue to be in search of for the rest of time. Remember the “perfect headshot” does not exist, you just need to get some shots that really look like you. And not your “dolled up to the nines going to an awards ceremony” look, but the real you that will be walking into your auditions and meeting industry professionals. And as fun as it can be to shoot headshots for a great discount with your friends, it is essential to go to a professional headshot photographer. They are knowledgeable about what current industry standards are for headshots and know how to accurately capture your personality and essence in the photos, which is exactly what casting needs. There are several incredible headshot photographers in any city, just be sure to do your research and ask around to other actors about who they really enjoy working with. A great headshot photographer is reputable, knows how to capture your essence within your photos, and is probably really fun to work with as well!
We love: Rob Mainord, Leah Huebner, Peter Konerko, Joanna DeGeneres
No matter what an “industry professional” may tell you, social media is not going to make or break your career. Having the most followers does not get you the job: being a great actor does. However, social media is a tool that you can use to your advantage as an actor. Be cognizant about what you are posting: is it something you think reflects who you are, both as a person and artist? Is it something you would be comfortable with directors and producers seeing? Social media has also become a great way to share your creative talents through short films, sketches, singing, whatever your thing is. So be sure to use this tool wisely, don’t take it too seriously, and allow it to be another creative space and incredible way to meet other people in the industry.
We know, we know - getting a reel together when you have NO good footage of yourself can be insanely stressful. Here’s the thing: your reel does not have to be fancy. Casting Directors simply need a good clip of you so they can see if you can say words and act natural. That’s it. Then naturally, the more gigs you do, the more footage you will build. In the beginning, don’t spend a million dollars going to a reel company (we have a much cheaper option we will put below). Instead, you can simply film yourself doing a scene, exactly like how you would film a self-tape audition. Watch recent TV shows and find a character that you could totally nail. Film that scene, or even write your own scene that has a similar feel. Use this as your reel for a while. The rest will come the more you start to work.
We Love: Christopher Sheffield. If you DO want to film something with a bit higher quality, Chris is your guy. He’s the best of the best and is the most reasonably priced you will find in the biz. You’ll wind up with something really special. http://www.christophersheffield.com/actors-reels.html
Chelsea and Brooke here about to give you a very unpopular option: do not worry about representation. Yes, having an agent and manager can be so helpful. They also don’t hold the key to your success. When you have all of the above things sorted out, THEN it’s time to look for representation. You do not need them to work as an actor. Both of us have booked some of our biggest acting jobs with no representation whatsoever. Truth be told, when you don’t have an agent or manager, you work harder. You don’t have the option of being lazy and saying, “My reps aren’t getting me any auditions.” It is your job to find auditions for yourself. When the time is right, you will wind up with a much better agent simply because you waited. Someone who proves they can book work on their own is a dream client for an agent and manager.
Just remember: No representation is better than bad representation.
The truth of the matter is that this is a creative career with no one-way to do anything. Above all else, what we have found is that keeping yourself mentally healthy is the single most important thing you can do for your acting career. It’s hard to go after a possible audition when you are down in the dumps. You will never nail your scene for class when your confidence is at it’s lowest. Give yourself time and space to find the way of working that makes YOU the happiest. Remember: you are doing this because you love it. And sometimes we all need that reminder every now and again.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Brooke Trantor is originally from Quincy, Illinois. She resides in Los Angeles, CA. Brooke received her BFA in Acting from Illinois Wesleyan University, and is also a graduate of the Shakespeare Program at The British American Drama Academy (BADA) in London. She performs improvisational theatre and sketch comedy regularly around Los Angeles.
Website ► https://www.brooketrantor.com/
Chelsea Gonzalez was born in Sarasota, Florida and graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Acting in 2011. Currently, she is an actress and director, known for Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), The Mindy Project (2012) and Criminal Minds (2005).
Website ► https://www.chelseagonzalez.com/