BECOME AN ACTOR
GETTING STARTED – INTRODUCTION
So you’ve decided that an actor’s life is for you – what happens next? From the proverbial “pushy parents” who try to get their kids into showbiz to the star-struck teenagers, adults and seniors there are lots of things you need to watch out for on the road to being an actor. Ask yourself this – “why do I fancy becoming an actor?” If the answer is something to do with being rich and famous, then you could be setting yourself up to be hugely disappointed.
The first thing which any established or aspiring actor will agree with is this – the industry is incredibly tough to crack. There are thousands of actors in the world, and the majority of them have neither fame nor riches, there’s a lot of truth is the phrase “starving actor” you know. If you are determined to chase your dreams, then you need to know a few things about how to progress safely in your chosen field – and that means physically and psychologically as well as financially.
It takes training to become an actor. You also need a great portfolio to show yourself off with some high-quality headshots, a CV for your acting history and experience plus a showreel in which to market yourself and your abilities.
Everybody needs a good showbiz agent, but this may be easier said than done. An agent is, however, vital for you to reach your goals and get your foot in the door. Here are a few tips you need to remember about agents.
First of all, you should not have to pay anything at all to join the agency or to keep a place on their roster. Reputable agents get paid only as a percentage of your acting earnings – the percentage they charge does vary between agents so is something you need to discuss before making your decision.
WHAT IS A CO-OPERATIVE AGENCY?
These are the agencies which are staffed by budding actors – these actors each take their turn to handle the business side of things and promote themselves to casting departments as part of a team. This helps to give you more control over your acting career, but it will mean a little-added pressure and responsibility. You won’t have an agent to protect you from some of the most stressful experiences of being an actor.
If you chose this type of acting agency, you will be not only responsible for yourself but also for other people. You must commit a certain amount of time to administrative duties, deal with finances, documentation and tedious paperwork. You must also be well versed in handling casting professionals. If you do decide that this is the road you want to take, you will probably be interviewed by other actors within the agency before being invited (potentially) to join them for a trial period.
WHAT IS A TALENT AGENT AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
A talent agent will submit your portfolio for any speaking role which you are suited to from the numerous offers they receive each day. If a casting director of any project is interested in you and thinks that you fit their criteria to audition, they will contact your agent who will then contact you with the details.
You will also contact your agent if you have any scheduling conflicts for auditions or filming, or any problems while working on set. They will also deal with all of the payments, take their cut and pay you the balance.
Everything regarding scheduling is done through your agent unless otherwise specified by the production and your agent.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT AGENT FOR YOU, WHETHER IT IS YOUR 1ST AGENT, OR YOU ARE SWITCHING
Many people think that the best thing to do is to sign with the largest agency in town. However, this is not necessarily true. They might have a lot of clout in the industry, but you also may get overlooked. Acting is a competitive business, and you could get lost in the shuffle if you aren’t as experienced as somebody who has worked for many years in the industry.
If you happened to be an agent, do you think you would want to submit an actor who had some training but no or few credits? Or is it more likely that you would prefer to provide an actor who had worked for five years or more in the industry and was someone who was known to be reliable by casting directors?
We all want to believe that an agent will always provide every actor with the opportunity for a role, however realistically, many directors and agents tend to go with an actor they have already worked with in the past. However, new talented actors still do get signed all the time, are granted auditions and receive parts in theatre, TV and film. You need to find somebody who believes in you and is willing to work hard on your behalf to help you get auditions and have casting directors notice you.
Remember, it’s your career. It isn’t up to an agent to do all your work for you. When working with an agent, each of you should be able to contribute fifty percent towards your commonly shared goal. You need to keep learning, make sure your headshots stay up to date and be ready for any audition that comes in.
If, for any reason you are considering changing agents, you need to be completely honest with any potential new agent. Tell them the reasons why you are searching for new representation. Just make sure you don’t talk badly about your previous agent. You don’t want an agent to think that you are someone who will bad mouth him or her around industry professionals if your working relationship doesn’t work out for some reason. In addition to the UK being a small place, agents are also very likely to know one another. So bad mouthing an old agent could cause problems for you.
SENDING YOUR PACKAGE TO AGENTS
Contact agencies or agents to find out which ones are accepting new submissions (Some agents may indicate this on their websites). If they are, that’s great. Review their website to see if there are any specific instructions on how they want to receive submissions from actors. Some may prefer to get submissions by email and others by post.
If they don’t specify which method they prefer, send them your package by post.Include your headshot, CV and cover letter (Keep in mind, these three pieces of paper will provide agents with their first impressions of you). Always enclose a stamped address envelope (SEA) that is large enough to mail your 10 by 8 (A4) photograph, along with sufficient postage. Doing that will increase the chances of you receiving a reply. You may be asked to provide a showreel so that they can see how you appear on camera. If you do have one, you can mention in your cover letter that you have a showreel that is available on request.
If you submit your package via email, your cover letter will be in the body of the email, and your CV and headshot will be attached to the email. I recommend that you only send two headshots at most. An agent can always ask to see more if they are interested, or arrange to meet with you in person.
Agents and agencies tend to be very busy, so most of them would prefer that you post your package instead of going in personally to drop it off. If you mention in your cover letter that you’ll be checking in to confirm that your package was received – then be sure to follow up with that agent. Before calling the office, wait for a week. Keep your conversation with them simple and brief.
State your name and that you are calling to confirm that your CV and headshot has been received. A common response is that an agent will be touch if they are interested. Tell them you want to ensure that your package has been received and thank the person for their time.
INTERVIEWING AN AGENT
Keep in mind it isn’t just the agent interviewing you, because you are also interviewing the agent. The agent will consider various aspects of you, including your looks, training and experience. You need to consider numerous aspects of them as well, including their professionalism, goals, enthusiasm to work with you, their interest in you and their overall industry experience. Here are some potential things that you might want to consider or ask:
- Does the agent appear to have a genuine interest in you and helping to advance your career? How many other actors are on their roster?
- Do they have any more of “You” on their roster? (What sells you is your looks and headshot. If they have a lot of other clients with the same look that you have, there could be a risk of you being overlooked due to having to constantly compete with them).
- Why did they become an agent? What goals do they have?
- What percentage do they charge for Commercial Film & TV and Theatre work?
SIGNING WITH AN AGENT
If you feel like the agent is a good fit, and he or she feels the same way about you, then joining the roster is the next step. This generally involves a contract between you and the agent. You are going to want to know what all parts of the contract mean for you, as the contract is in place for your benefit, as well as your agent and anyone else who gets involved.
It is important to not act hastily when looking over a contract. Spend time looking over the contract away from the agent, as everyone knows he or she is going to want you to sign right away. You have to ensure that the contract is not going to be bad news for you concerning a future venture. This involves your own interests and goals, and that is why you need time to reflect upon the contract. This goes for both inexperienced agents and seasoned agents. The biggest caution for you would to not allow any excitement over the possibility of a contract determine the outcome.
There is a possibility that you might not understand certain aspects of the contract. This means that you should contact a lawyer to help explain those parts, or if you know a person that has been in your shoes with a possible contract, he or she might be able to help you as well. You can also contact the union.
If there are any parts of the contract that are not fine in your eyes, then you should mark them. These aspects of the contract can be reviewed and possibly changed to the point where agreement is reached by both parties.
You can now meet with the agent once again, and changes can be discussed. If any changes are made, initials from both parties need to be present on your contract, and all changes of course need to be included. The idea that the contract is in place for protection of all parties is the single most important factor when determining the final draft.
You get a call from your agent about an audition, and you could literally jump for joy. This could be your breakthrough moment, or it at least gets to be a mark on your resume. Once you’re done with the audition, you have high hopes that you got the part. Then, the waiting begins. After time goes by without a phone call, you may have second thoughts about your dream of an acting career.
Rejection is actually quite common when it comes to the acting world. As a matter of fact, did you know that in general, the rule of thumb is that one out of every 40 auditions is usually booked by an actor. You can fight those odds by addressing your confidence, looks, experience and training.
Look at each audition as a wonderful opportunity, and the following are some pointers to help you with your auditions. It’s important for you to gain a good understanding about the inner workings of the audition process, whether you have an agent or not.
THE BREAKDOWN OF AUDITIONS
This is the who, what, how, where and everything else you need to know, including what you should wear to the audition. You want to be prepared for each audition specifically, and you always want to show up early. A good rule of thumb is to be at least 10 minutes ahead of your scheduled audition. Also consider the fact that you could be in the studio for only five minutes, or you might be held up for a couple hours.
When you do land a job, have the breakdown on your person when attending the shoot so that you can make sure your contract does have the terms that were set for you originally.
One should go for as many auditions as possible which are available over the internet. In the different auditions, you might end up meeting directors and producers who might have liked your performances at different auditions and hence end up booking you. Also when you undergo a series of auditions it gives you an opportunity to audition with or without the help of an agent.
One also gains experience and also attains a network. Also one is able to learn new styles and even new tricks that will help you in your acting carrier. In case you are a seasoned professional, undergoing numerous auditions will greatly help you remain on your toes and preventing you from easily rusting off. You will also have a good time and even fun during the auditions.
HEADSHOTS & PHOTOGRAPHERS
The most important marketing tool as an actor, is your headshot. This photograph is the first, and possibly last, thing a casting director or agent looks at. To get the best photo, where should you go? What type of photo should you choose, black and white or colour? Should the setting be outdoors or an indoor studio? These are some of the decisions you’ll need to make before getting your headshot. The most important thing to know is whether or not you need this photograph in the first place.
Infants and babies do not need headshots. Because they grow rapidly and their appearance changes as they develop, the headshot may not show the current appearance of the child. If you’re only looking for Extra or Background work, you do not need this photograph. All others should get a professional headshot.
WHICH HEADSHOT SHOULD I CHOOSE?
You want to choose the photo that looks the most like you. Don’t choose one that shows what you want to look like. You may need to ask your agent or a close friend for their honest opinion. This photograph will be the basis for you getting auditions and meetings. The casting directors or agents want to see the person in the image. If you show up looking different, you’ll be wasting their time and yours.