Make the commitment to your craft, your art, our job, you passions.
Use the computer suggested links, look up the books referenced, watch the movies suggested and create your own goals and timetable, as suggested later. Read the interviews, then start making phone calls and do your own interviewing, and networking in the process.
Make a commitment to read other books, the trades and whatever you can get your hands on that involves the craft, not jut fan-based entertainment material.
Start taking lessons or working in theater, because there can be no substitute to practice, to actually working at your craft.
Acting is a business and you are your own corporation. Nothing happens unless you make it happen. The old story of being in the right place at the right time only works if the person in that place is ready to grab the brass ring when it appears and hang on to it!
Grab a notebook and a pen, or pull up a laptop or Palm Pilot, and start now. Begin recording your thoughts, goals and ideas in a personal actors' diary. I know it sounds corny, but it really works.
Talent diaries serve several purposes, all of them key to success.
First of all they can be day schedule books (At-A-Glance, DayTimer, or other brand names work well for this purpose). Actors need to be on top of both appointments and when they are available for auditions or work. You must maintain and organize those business cards, contact names and numbers and the fine details of any networking businessperson involved in sales. You are in sales and the product is you.
Second, when you do audition, as talent you should write in the diary exactly what you are wearing, how you did your hair and any details on how you came to the interpretation of the material they read. When they call you back, you need to consider the same or similar clothing, hair and make-up style and a similar interpretation (unless directed otherwise).
Third, a diary or calendar book can be used as a motivational tool. It can be used to track progress and keep on top of professional and personal growth related to the industry by writing a daily diary. The diary should be detailed and include future goals or ideas on how to improve or marketing actions that may be needed to increase career success.
The following is one suggested method provided by the on-line service The Actors Site, a private subscription Los Angeles based networking organization that does provide a free newsletter and a source for leads.
I have paraphrased this a bit, but most of it is a direct quote from The Actors
“Sit down and write about your assets. Write about your talent, your ambition, your hard work, the new relationships you are generating, the new friends you are making, and the new creative progress you are making. Write all of the things that make you, you. Then sit and write down your frustrations and the impasses you've encountered and how you intend to deal with them in the future.”
In other words, use the diary/calendar tool to record the practical and the emotional, the right and left-brain of your experiences. As talent, we have to guard against becoming too much business and not enough observant artist.
Make a list of places to begin to seek information, meet people and build a career foundation. Be sure to include friends, make new friends, interview those who are in a position to know the answers or to help you in your career, ask for advice and share some of your personal experiences with others who are in a position to help or to provide an ear of a shoulder. But be careful not to be too vulnerable, as a casting director or an agent can smell a car payment a mile away!
By networking you will benefit from the mistakes and successes of others, their trials and errors, their experiences and their own extended networks. Networking can solve problems, relieve frustrations and assist all those involved in the pursuit of their careers and interests. It can be done on the net with e-mail or a web site generated bulletin board. It can be done in person one on one, in small groups, before or during class, at school or work.
To learn more about the skill of networking, read one of the many self-help books for business professionals and sales people. The advice, and some of the systems suggested, are universal and can be applied to our profession of acting.
Nothing substitutes for the boards and life upon the stage.
There are techniques for film, video and various formats. These techniques are tools that build upon the craft and art of traditional theater. Most casting professionals feel or know that actors need theater to develop their talents. In addition to classes, networking, and registering with agents, starting or continuing stage acting is often an important element in building a career and developing a passion for acting.
The public is often unaware that many successful movie and television stars began their career on the stage, often beginning in high school or college. The list is quite lengthy, but some examples include Jerry Orbach of Law and Order, who had a long career as a Broadway musical star, Brendan Fraser (The Mummy, Gods and Monsters) started in high school theater and received an MFA in Seattle, Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City) began her career as a child stage actress (including the third Annie on Broadway).
Actors often find that the stage gives them a level of fulfillment and excitement that film or television doesn’t because of the feedback from the audience and bonds developed with fellow actors. You also get opportunities to do roles or use talents (singing, dancing) that Hollywood may not cast you in. If you take roles in school. community or professional Equity theater, then you may gain the confidence, determination and love for the career of acting long before you take steps toward a television or film career. (In Los Angles, New York, and Chicago agents may scout for actors by going to plays). Stage acting requires different acting techniques than film or television (as film and television may be different depending if it’s drama or sitcom) but it also provides the basic skills and helps actors learn to understand and develop real characters in an imaginary world. The skills of stage acting are vital to long-term success as an actor in any media. But whether it is stage or film acting, as an actor it is your job to make a character come alive and help tell a story. It can also keep a career (and income going) during periods when the auditions and roles run dry. In any event, this is a commonly used route on the road to Hollywood, so it is worth taking into consideration.
Focus on the Brass Ring
No matter what your long and short-term goals, be aware that to succeed you need to focus on quality and the national nature of the competition. Do not assume that only Las Vegas actors, particularly the few who may happen to have the same call time for an audition or attend the same acting class, are your competition for work. This is a national and increasingly international work market, where producers and directors interview in multiple cities and have data banks or actors they can call on, particularly to come work on projects filming in resort cities like Las Vegas, Reno or Lake Tahoe. They are your immediate competition. These “working actors” represent the level of talent, craftsmanship, achievement and business skills you need to aspire to and exceed.
A few suggestions before you go any farther.
Read multiple views or opinions, then use what works best for you. Read the trades and pay attention to the art form by watching television, going to see movies and enjoying the theater. Watch people on the bus, at work, at school, at the mall, in church, as they live their lives. Observe carefully and learn from what you see. Take a personal inventory of your own character, life events, experiences, emotions and observations. Interview and take inventories on others willing to help you. Become a student of life and the human condition, and then translate it into your work.
Learn, practice and apply the basics of the craft, including cold reading, scene scoring or breakdown, improvisation, movement, voice, speech and various performance techniques.
When you consider a new acting class or coach, first see if you can audit once for free. As you audit, watch the students. No matter whom the teacher is or how good they are, you will need to find a class where you can work with, learn from and network with your fellow students. For that reason make sure that at least some of them are at the same or more advanced level of training and skills as you are. You learn from working with people who have something to offer you.
Make a decision, do the research, make a commitment and than do what you must to do what you know you would love doing for a living, acting!
Nevada: General Market Information
Las Vegas is a convention and modeling market first, with film secondary, followed by predominantly non-union commercial and industrials. The film market is primarily location work, which translates into background extras and day players (actors with small speaking parts who work only a day or a few days) opportunities. That is not to say that actors have not been selected from this market to go on to careers in the industry. The list grows each year of actors who are from or who lived in Nevada prior to making it big.
Proper training, marketing tools, business sense and representation are needed to take the next step toward a successful career. And while this is a youth centered industry, talent comes in all sizes, colors, backgrounds and ages. Anyone with the dream, willing to learn and work at it, can make a living in show business. It takes time and dedication.
But Las Vegas, and by extension, Nevada, are towns where most actors have to do other things to support their acting bug. To stay within the industry convention, modeling or even advertising or marketing work may be necessary Try to work as close to the industry as you can, and to make the connections you may need in the future while doing so.
For these reasons, it is good business for the agents and managers in Nevada to represent and see to it that paychecks flow to the talent that earns them the most money, traditionally convention and modeling talent. While character and other roles are cast, many of those actors are imported from Hollywood or New York, even for smaller roles. Actors do have representation, however it is best if you develop into talent that can be marketed for commercial print, convention and other modeling work as well. It is also becoming common for agents to request actual video of film and television projects you have done prior to agreeing to represent you as acting talent.
Las Vegas is number one in the nation in convention attendance and volume. Convention and modeling work is primarily through modeling agents, managers and convention production companies. The pay level here is usually low when compared to other convention markets such as Chicago or Atlanta. The work is highly varied, and includes both high paying ear prompt and spokes work and lower pay handing out news publications or simply greeting visitors. Actors across the country find themselves from time to time returning to the convention and trade show industry, including some high profile stars. Simply put, the money is there.
Talent in Las Vegas has a low reputation amid the national industry. Historically this is a reflection of the agents need to market non-acting talent in acting roles. Also, the nature of the work here means that most of the work is work that can be done by relative beginners and newcomers, who may not have the skills or experience of the talent pool in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Florida. The more you study, the higher your level of skill (talent should take care of itself), the better you will reflect upon Las Vegas and Nevada, and the more likely producers will take the risk of hiring you on as “new” talent. Do not mislead yourself. If they hire a beginner or even intermediate actor, producers are gambling with their money that you will not take too long to do the work, that you know how to produce quality work on the first take, that the chemistry will be there with the crew and other actors and that you will get the job done both creatively and professionally.
The more glamorous “good looking” small roles that are cast in Nevada often go to the “beautiful people” that are working models for the agencies. That does not mean that character actors of all ages and types should not compete and aggressively pursue the market. There is work when productions come to town, since most productions would rather hire local to avoid the per-diem (money paid to compensate for working outside of an actors home town) charges and to populate the smaller role with fresh or unknown faces.
Sometimes directors or producers pride themselves on hiring “off the street”, so you will see non-actors working. When you do just keep in mind that you are in it for a career and not a lark. It is those who see acting as a fun occasional adventure or a glamorous way to inflate their own egos that have ruined Las Vegas and Nevada’s reputation within the industry.
Most entertainment professionals strongly recommend joining the union once an individual looks upon himself or herself qualified professional talent. The protections and income potential far exceed the alternative, particularly if work s sought in the major production centers of Los Angeles or New York City. Since there is no “must join” provision in Nevada, the choice to join a union is a very individual one based individual background, interest and potential.
The negative to joining the union in Nevada is simply this. There is no “must join” provision in Right-to-Work states. Nevada is a Right-to-Work state where access to union jobs cannot be restricted to union members. An actor can work union and non-union work in Nevada, gaining the pay and benefits of the union work when working union and the frequency of employment when working non-union. By joining a union you are limiting your ability to accept work offered to you. Once you enter into a legal agreement with a union by joining, you are closing the door on any and all non-union work.
The disadvantage to doing non-union work lies in exposure and in how much you value your time and talents. Nonunion commercials may run as often, for as long, and in as many markets as the producer wants without paying talent an additional penny. Those same commercials can be turned into print adds, billboards, reedited into other commercials, the audio put on the radio not just in Nevada but anywhere else in the country of world the client wishes without paying you, the actor, an additional cent. When “Excalibur” opened on the Las Vegas Strip, the initial Hollywood quality film commercials that were shot non-union ran for almost a decade. The actors in the commercials found that other employers, particularly union producers, would not employ them. In fact there is a legal liability if you do accept work in a competing commercial, simply put the producers can sue you for breach of contract. And it gets worse, because a commercial for a Hotel-Casino will put an actor into potential conflict on all hotel, hospitality, theme entertainment, gambling, food and beverage (restaurant) and along list of other product categories. In other words you have put yourself at risk for future work in a wide range of areas by doing one nonunion commercial. And then there is the issue of not being guaranteed swept payment or damages that you would under a union contract.
The advantage to joining the unions lies in wages, working condition protections, future residual or use fee income, the potential of qualifying for excellent health plans and retirement and that to many producers and directors being union means you have chosen to look upon yourself as a professional and respect your own talent and its value. As with many things you would put on a professional resume in your primary profession, prior profession or day-job, a membership in SAG is one vital way of getting past those who screen resumes and photos by the thousands. Often non-union talent is summarily disguarded long before the audition process begins.
If your intent is to be a full time professional in the industry, when you feel you are ready join the union and join in Nevada, where initiation is lower and the potential of your getting past the large union talent pools and landing that qualifying role or background work is much higher (entering as a background performer is about to get much more difficult, as the unions are considering ways to slow the rapid influx of new membership that has occurred over the past two decades). The talent pool in Nevada is much smaller, so your potential for that key dayplayer role becomes much higher.