Congratulations, you’ve graduated or finished an actor’s training programme but what’s next? How do you go from trained to professional?
1. SELF BELIEF
It is important to understand and accept one very simple fact – You ARE an actor. Not someone that has trained and wants to BE one. You ARE one already! Took me a while to realise that until my family once asked me “Kelly, why do you keep saying I want to be an actor? You trained, performed in front of an audience and started your own theatre company right? So at what point will you be one?” I had this illusion in my mind that I wouldn’t be able to call myself an actor until I had my own perfume line or won an award; which is strange because I have never strove for fame but rather for recognition as an artist but it really clicked, if you don’t BELIEVE IN YOURSELF who will? I’m going to share another reason why believing in yourself is important. When I was in my final year of studies, for our practical module we had to learn how to set up our own theatre production /show. We worked externally with a professional theatre company on their play. We each got a department i.e. finance, marketing, costume design, set design as well as a role which we had to audition for. In the audition workshop, I was given the role of the Empress. In rehearsals, I would get told “perfect” “amazing” “okay, maybe this bit more…” and “yes, good. I couldn’t help but feel there must have been room for improvement and would see the director afterwards once in a while and just ask if there are any extra notes; I wouldn’t get given any. So after our final year performance, we all excitedly and nervously logged onto our computers to check our results. I got given 1 mark off a first. I was so confused. What could I have done to have gained a first (one mark more)? In the improvement for next time section it read “Believe in yourself more”. I was so mad at first! Why couldn’t they have pushed me further – the answer to that is because it isn’t their job to do that. An actor must take responsibility for their involvement in the piece, and not believing in yourself affects your performance and the character is flawed by elements of your ego. Thank you Jane and Gareth, for showing me that by believing in ourselves we let go of our essence and fully immersive ourselves into the character’s world and mindset. Only then, can we truly be an actor that can grow and give a great performance.
2. SHOW REEL
This is a montage of all your work in a video (maximum 5 minutes but for twitter and social media the rule is a maximum of 2 minutes) so that directors, casting directors and all those involved in film can see you:
A. What type of roles you’re particularly good at
B. Your performance style
C. Skill set; accents, horse riding or whatever it may be.
3. SPOTLIGHT / MANDY / CV
Mandy, formerly called casting call pro, is a professional job site for actors where you can apply for paid and unpaid roles. There is a small membership fee monthly for the paid roles. The good news however is, getting involved in the unpaid (final year) student films to gain experience and free show reel material are available on Mandy to apply for free. Spotlight is the UK’s top directory of professional actor’s/performer’s/writer’s where Casting director’s and agents are able to view your profile like a virtual CV. You need to be on Spotlight in order to get an agent as that is where agents submit clients and where most of the breakdowns (job posts) are. It is also great to get onto spotlight after you’ve graduated or had your first paid job role as even without an agent you are able to see some breakdowns and submit yourself.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA!
Having social media is integral as it increases your chances of visibility. It also serves to establishing your unique selling point, what kind of work you have done and will do and building upon those working relationships and friendships you’ve made within the industry. Plus, if someone enjoyed working with you and they want to recommend you to another director it is a good idea to also be easy to find on the web! However, another thing to bare in mind is to not be too focused on the amount of followers you have this early on, all it will do is take away the quality material you could be putting out there instead. I think, as we are millennial’s, most of you have social media and all of this goes without saying but this blog is for anyone trying to start a career in acting no matter what age! p.s. Morgan freeman had his first blockbuster film role aged 53. I will also be posting a blog soon about branding and marketing and books or links that can help in the near future so keep your eyes peeled. So go get Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, linked-IN, Tiktok and whatever else peeps are using these days!
5. SELF-TAPE EQUIPMENT
Lot’s of people will tell you in order to have really good self tapes you’ll need really good equipment and to some extent this is true but when you are starting out I understand that funds aren’t just readily available. So what I’ll do is list the basics and from there feel free to look at some other options that I’ll call add – on’s (if you find yourself in a position to purchase them now or in the near future).
The Must Have’s
A. a camera, smartphone, tablet or laptop. (can even borrow a family member’s or friends when needed)
B. high desk/surface or tripod stand
C. plain white wall or ironed white bed sheet
D. a lamp or natural light from window (if filmed during the day)
E. Vimeo or Wetransfer account (this is what you use to import the material/self tape over when submitting.
The Potential Add-On’s
A. Ring / box light (you can even get a small one for your phone for as little as £10 online)
B. White / blue / grey backdrop
D. Designated area where it’s all left up at all times ready to go.
6. HEAD SHOTS
This in my opinion the second most important thing as people need to see a professional photo and not just one of your face slashed on the weekend or sun burnt in mexico. We will get onto marketing yourself soon but having a professional head shot helps to get you noticed and taken seriously as a performer as they use it for theatre programmes, websites, castings you’ve booked to promote shows/plays etc. Now, a lot of people will tell you if you go cheap in this area it will show and to an extent it can be true, however, ask a friend or a head shot photographer starting out to get one for a lower fee. That friend or industry contact is also starting out and you could help each other out via social media promotion and experience. They will probably be much happier to spend 2-3 hours getting 300 shots of you inside and outside in 5 different outfits. When you do have more experience and ready to take shots to a new level, then you can look into head shot photographer’s that have been in the game for a longer amount of time and may know a little more on what CD’s are looking for in the present moment/certain looks that will help you get noticed for that new Netflix series you’d love to cast in! P.s. as much as there are some wonderful people out there willing to help out, there are also plenty of opportunists so be careful that no-one ever asks you to pay full price up front, check reviews and where studio is based and also never agree to anything nude (unless it’s a role your agent bagged you for with a great pay package and exposure in a reputable performance /show. Deposits are normal but won’t be much and if you’re unsure about any service or individual call upon actor group pages for info or call Equity; union for performer’s.
7. BUSINESS CARDS
Once you have a striking head shot you’re happy with, website, social media and a virtual CV, stick it onto a business card! That way people can contact you. You never know when you might meet someone in the industry or a friend of a friend that happens to be a producer, director, CD etc. ALWAYS carry them around like a good luck charm! If you want to get creative and do them yourself, I highly recommend either Vista Print or MOO.
8. DAY JOB/OTHER INCOME SOURCE
If you’ve just started out there is a good chance you’ll be doing a lot of the prep work towards getting an agent or paid work yourself which means acting won’t be your main source of income straight away. Having an alternative income source helps take off the pressures of bills whilst chasing your dreams! Use your time off from your day job to make it happen. Getting your head shots done on the weekend/day off during the week or creating your business cards and social media pages a few evenings for a week won’t hurt and it will mean you can still earn money to be able to pay for those things. It’s like they say, business’ typically take 3 years before any real profit is made. Right now, invest in your product – YOU.
9. TRAINING – WORKSHOPS / COACH / ACCENT ETC
These cost money, I get it. However, like every other startup business, you must invest in it in order to reap the benefits. Remember how we spoke about that day job? Yeah, that money can be saved and used to pay for said training/workshop and there is no pressure. As long as you are doing some further practice at home in the evenings or days off like learning a monologue, getting together with friends to rehearse your favourite scene from a movie or making films, can all be part of honing your craft. When the auditions start rolling in, it is important you think about hiring an acting coach. Someone to help direct and coach you through the decisions you make in rehearsal when developing a character. Until then, turn your camera on and practice by filming yourself! Perform in local plays and make content with friends and submit to a film festival so you can be seen on the big screen like below image. You will learn a lot by watching yourself back. Eww, I know we all hate watching ourselves but personally I have been able to understand what works and doesn’t work when using certain expressions or body language.
10. NETWORKING / CONNECTIONS
I cannot stress this one enough! I was petrified of the idea of going to these kind of events and ALONE too. guess what I learnt, when you walk in, people introduce themselves and say hello because they are in the same boat as you! Also don’t be that person that turns up and all they’re interested in is meeting the director and don’t interact with anyone else. I’ll tell you why! Firstly, networking in my personal opinion, is not to get you work. That’s what your talent and skill set is for via auditions. Networking is to build relationships with those in the industry and learn from so that you can grow. Of course, once those friendships and trust has built you may find yourself really connecting with that actor you met and have seen at almost every event so far and you might both decide to work on a project together. then you’re looking for a director or other actors, producers, writers etc. Long term it will and can get you work. Short term, it’s to build contacts and relationships within the industry and help you understand more about it, how it works, what the process is like from all job roles and maybe even be recommending or recommend each other when jobs pop up. Having friends in the industry has been my goal and I love to support those friends by watching their films, attending their festivals and screenings and reading their work! Also, now I know what work and what director / actor/writer or producer inspires me and they’re on my radar of whom I’d like to work with. That’s what it’s ultimately for. Vice versa, you may be on someone’s list to hire when the right role comes along because they like you as a person and trust that you will show up on time, work well as team player and do the job because they’ve gotten to know YOU. when we hire people, we want to know we can spend day and night on a 12 hour shoot with them. Sure they may talk too much, cough me cough, but they made me laugh, they’re kind and willing to help outside of the role AND they know not to talk on set when filming;
so why wouldn’t I hire this awesome chatterbox (that’s what im hoping they know about me and think!) Go out there, be you and work with others on projects you’re inspired by!
(11. AGENT )
This one is NOT counted within the 10 things you NEED just yet because, when you are starting out you need all the above in order to apply for an agent. I will talk about this one in more detail on another post. Look at how you can find an agent that is good at what they do and right for you! start by looking in actors contacts and do your research; visit their website, social media pages and look to see what they are about, who they represent (do they have people that are starting out too) and what skill set they are looking for. If they are mainly looking for talent only for musical theatre shows and you know you cannot sing or dance, don’t apply to them because they won’t be able to get you as much work. Of course that is just an example as most agents hire for a variety of talent. Look at their about page, read reviews and search for them on google. Trust me, you need to be able to like each other and answering the phone to one another. You also need to be able to trust each other. An agent wants to trust that you will be great on set and get good feedback from those around you and you need to trust your agent will work hard in putting you forward for your dream roles. Until you find an agent that’s the right fit, learn to MARKET yourself by applying for roles and using social media to get the word out on what you’re up to!
Your First Industry Contact,
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