Hello dear friend! I hear you want to be an actor, you’ve had a successful run in high school productions and community theatre shows - you’re now ready to play big ball! That’s great and your genuine desire to give this a go is what you need to take that first baby step and start your journey in the professional world, but it is what it is - a baby step, one of hundreds and thousands more you need to take.
This industry is saturated with young passionate performers like yourself, some have been working since they were 5 years old, they grew up receiving acting training and have professional connections that you can’t even dream of at this point your career. The truth is ages 13-23 are trickier than others. There are not many roles up for grabs, however the competition is fierce. Young actors often find themselves feeling discouraged and beat down. They get impatient and give up, creating more room for people who will not take NO an answer, who will keep kicking until they win. So let me ask you a question… Are you a Debbie Downer type of actor or a Hungry Hustler?
Alright, Hungry Hustlers, I’d like to share with you some tips and tricks on how to navigate these competitive waters and make things happen for yourself!
- Be a Full Package -
Sorry to break it to you, but your breathtaking talent is not enough! If you’re difficult to work with, unreliable, hard to get hold of or your attitude is off - you will not make it in this industry! Forget about it and move on.
The New Zealand industry is very small and tight knit, everyone knows everyone and people talk. If you act unprofessionally once even on an unpaid short film - you might never work again.
Yes, actors are a very important link in the production chain, but they’re also replaceable. Trust me, the production team and the director would rather work with a less “gifted” actor and help them get there by guiding and nurturing their performance, rather than dealing with a diva on set during the entire course of production.
Every time you get booked on a job, paid or unpaid, bring your top game with you. Be polite, professional, reliable, easy-going, drama-free, show up on time etc. It’s common sense! Take every opportunity that comes your way seriously, don’t get sloppy with your acting thinking that’s it’s just a 48 hours short film - whatever! You never know what each and every job can lead to. You’re a sole representative of your brand - think like a business person! Be a worthy investment then people will take chances on you and your opportunities will get bigger and better. Don’t rely on JUST your talent, be a full package!
- Network -
It’s all about who you know, especially in the world of performing arts. How do you meet relevant people? Get involved! Act in any shape or form you can, whether it’s a community theatre play, short film, web series, music video you name it. How do you find these opportunities? Well, these days it’s easy - everything is online. Join Facebook acting groups, connect, comment, participate and jump on board of decent projects (you have to be very careful though, use your wits and filter the dodgy ones out). Look for theatre companies in your area and sign up to their newsletter, follow them on social media platforms, get your yourself out there and connect connect connect. Websites like The Big Idea often have get opportunities on offer. Do your research and get started.
If the people you’re hanging out with the most are accountants then change your network! Hang out with other actors, directors and creatives. Join Equity and go to their events. I’m not saying stop being friends with your awesome accountant buddies. You just have to surround yourself with like-minded people who will inspire and motivate in all the right ways. Guess what? All of them will have projects going on or coming up, they will know people who know people and that can lead to amazing opportunities. That’s the way it usually works.
- Get your tools in order -
Yes, you’re talented and you mum knows it, your friends know it and your mum’s book club knows it, but no one else does. Casting directors, agents, producers, directors - they don’t know how good you’re are and they won’t know unless you show them. How do you do that? Get your acting tools in order! Your headshots must be CURRENT and CAPTIVATING, your resume must be GLOWING with diverse range of credits, both screen and stage, your training must be ON-GOING. You have to be a marketable product that clients would want to book. That also applies to social media. Get your face out there, build yourself a brand and a following. (Hint: Clients like to google actors) You have to be very careful with what you post and how you present your brand online, for example, photos with bongs will not help you further your professional acting career. Tick all the boxes, only then you will have a fighting chance!
- Get an Agent -
There is a reason why I chose to list this last. As an emerging actor you want an agent who will care about you and your career, support you and guide you through this tough journey. If you’re in it for a long haul and not just for fun, then it’s important to take your time, do your research and find a reputable agent who WILL help you. Don’t cut corners and go with an agent who has thousands of people on their books and will take you on board as long as you’re happy to pay joining fees - you will not get the connection you’re after. In order to spark the interest of the RIGHT agent you have to have at least some experience and training up your sleeve to show that you’re committed and willing to work hard. If you already have an agent like that - great! Nurture that partnership and hold up your end of the bargain.
To sum it all up, your talent will only get you through high school productions and community theatre shows. If you want to work professionally, you have to be an actor who understands the business of it all! You have to think and work like an entrepreneur. You’ve proclaimed yourself a Hungry Hustler - now you have to show you meant it!