What New Actors Need

Walk Of Fame

This is the time of year when I get invited to a lot of showcases presenting graduating drama students from prestigious universities. From what I see, I sometimes wonder if drama programs are still teaching the basics of what an actor needs to get started.

So, I’ve prepared the list below. Print it out, memorize it, hang it in your bathroom—just make sure you follow it.

  • Headshot. It’s your calling card; it has to look like you. It should show the top of your head, all of your face and at least some of your shoulders. A full body shot is fine for dancers and models, but actors don’t need it. Your resume should reveal your body type (height and weight), and the special skills section will let me know if you’re athletic.
  • Resume. Keep it clearly organized. Your name should be at the top, your contact info right below, then hair and eye color, then height and weight. Because Los Angeles is a film and television town, your first section should be film or TV. It doesn’t matter which one comes first, just be clear. Name the project, role (lead or supporting is fine), director, and studio/network. Theater should be the next heading, then training and finally special skills. And don’t lie. If you have twenty-nine film credits, but you are still nonunion, or don’t have an IMDb profile? I’m going to question if the movies are all homemade.
  • Post it. If you aren’t on Breakdown Express, Actors Access, Now Casting, or LA Casting, you are doing yourself a disservice. I know it’s expensive, but you should be listed on at least two of these sites. It’s as important as having a headshot, and all of it is a tax write-off. If you have a reel, make sure it’s up there as well. If you have a reel on your website, make sure the link is clearly listed on the casting sites I mentioned, and that the link works. Casting’s time is limited. The less time it takes to find and view your materials, the better. Don’t lose out on a possible audition because you couldn’t be found.
  • Let me know if you’re in something. If you’re appearing in a play, showcase, webseries, TV show, or film currently in theaters or festivals, you should let me know. I do my best to see live theater as much as possible. I don’t care about the venue, just make sure your work is good. If it’s a webseries, send me a link. For TV, let me know when and what channel. If it’s a film, chances are I’ve already seen it or am about to, so just tell me which one. My office is paperless, so send me everything via e-mail.
  • Do workshops, but research them first. It’s a great way to be seen by talent reps and casting directors, but the quality of workshops and showcases is inconsistent. Do your research before you sign up. Who attends? Is it an agent or agent’s assistant? Casting director or casting associate/assistant? If it’s an assistant, does the person have any power? Will s/he let you do your own monologue or scene, or will you be stuck doing material you don’t like? Will there be feedback? Is an audition required to get into the workshop? Be smart with your money, and target only those who can advance your career.
  • Keep perfecting your audition skills. Acting classes are expensive, so a Shakespearean-trained actor with an MFA might view them as an unnecessary expense. I disagree. You may know how to act, but do you know how to audition? They’re two different skills. If you are lucky enough to be working regularly, you’re continuing to hone your acting on set or stage, but learning how to audition is an ongoing process. Continuing to work on your audition technique will help you book more jobs.