By Jill Place, The Acting Intuitive
When I went into business twenty years ago, I realized I needed some basics before I opened my doors. Things like a business phone, a fax machine, business cards, and confidence in my coaching expertise. If you’ve embraced the idea that you’re going to be a successful working actor, here are some basics to consider for your own Actor-Business:
1. Acting Expertise. I didn’t start looking for acting jobs until I was sure I had enough acting chops. I finally got that validation the day Shelley Winters told me I was over-trained. She also told me I was “fantastically talented”. So, when I started to look for work, I knew I was good. I got roles almost immediately.
The first thing that should go in your toolkit is being the best actor you can be. Or at least attaining a level of expertise that is hirable. And then keep working on your technique to stay ahead of the competition once you’re working.
2. Headshots. Your headshot is your business card. And the second most important thing in your Actor-Business toolkit. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about branding or fancy formatting. Just make sure that whichever you choose looks like you, that it’s relaxed and shows your personality glowing from your eyes, and you feel 100% good about it. Oh, and make sure it’s done PROFESSIONALLY. Don’t skimp on headshots. If they don’t look professional, you don’t either.
3. Cold-Reading Expertise. Cold-reading is the way actors get jobs. So you must know how. I was very lucky. I learned how to cold read by doing play readings. And knowing Margie Haber in the days when she was creating her dynamite technique. I can teach it to you in five minutes. Or read her book or, if you have the funds, take her class. But, first and foremost, you MUST practice every day if you want to make these skills a part of you.
4. An Excellent Connection. I got my first job because I was among the first to have an answering machine with a remote. The remote was almost as big as my Note II! But I was the first to respond when they fired someone and called my agent for a replacement. So it’s crucial to be available 24/7 to the ShowBiz community; you never know when they’ll be calling! Even if you’re just starting out, at least a smartphone with text and e-mail capabilities is vital. Later, you’ll be getting those calls/texts/e-mails from YOUR agent.
5. A Computer and a Printer. A computer is also vital as most submissions today, especially the ones you make yourself, are online. And you don’t need a website in the beginning, but you DO need a page on Now Casting, Actor’s Access or LA Casting. So that prospective casting people can see what you’re about. All three wouldn’t hurt. As well access to their breakdown/submission services. You also need a good printer for your resumes. And to print out all those sides when you get called in or called back.
6. A Resume. Again, don’t worry about being fancy. And don’t worry about not having too many credits either. I’ve seen it done both ways, and my take is to be honest about your credits. Even if there’s just a few. Here’s where all your stellar training comes in. I’ve heard showrunners say that good training is just as important as good credits. Especially if you turn in a stellar audition. The bottom line is . . . get good before you get going! If you don’t know how to put a resume together, there are tons of samples online; simply search for “acting resume template”.
7. A Demo Reel. If you haven’t done much work, this can be a tall order. But demo reels are fast becoming an industry standard. And one-minute reels a standard also. So if you’re not doing indie and student films right now, I’d get myself into some for the footage alone. In the beginning, it doesn’t matter that the filming is professional. But it does matter that the reel is professionally done. Also, don’t start with fancy-schmancy montages or the like. Begin with your best edited-down scene first, then a second, and perhaps a third. Put your contact info (including your agent if you have one) at the beginning AND at the end. It’s that simple!
Getting your Actor-Business Toolkit together may take time and energy. AND some funds . . . for classes, headshots, actor resource websites and demo reels. So, like any business, you’ll have to make out a starting budget and make sure you have enough before you begin. Once you have these basics, however, you’re sure to shine. And succeed.
Leave Your Comments About Your Actor-Business Toolkit Below
How many of the basics we’ve just talked about do you possess? What do you need to get? What do you need to know before you can get it/them (i.e. photographers, demo reel editors, etc.)? Do you think this is a complete list of things you need? What else should we add to your basic toolkit?