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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Answering a Reader Question #345

Anonymous Wrote:

hi Dania i have a question about acting. how do i get an acting agent. what is the process to get started with acting. I did several plays throughout middle school and high school. however, the last play i did was when i was 18yrs old can i include those plays on my resume right now all i have are my stats from modeling my height and other measurements i was hesitant about adding previous work from high school because i wasn't sure if they were too old. I feel that since i haven't done any performing since I was 18 I figured I'm starting from square 1 brand new. So I would love a step by step approach pursuing acting seriously and hopefully finding an agent I'm a new freelance model but I want to become a freelance actress is that possible is there a M.M for actors. Oh and I would prefer to act for television and film, theater is great but I'd rather be on camera than on stage. I prefer to be on camera I'm fine with starting with small roles I would love to do commercials too is it OK to do some extra/background work or is that frowned upon. I just want guidance on how to restart my career now that I'm 24 and I live in NYC.

Hi, Anonymous! To answer your initial questions, yes, you can include that previous acting experience. However, I would only include the high school stuff instead of middle school. Although that was some time ago, those all count as experience gained for acting so feel free to add those to your resume. You can definitely do acting freelance, so no worries there. Unfortunately, there isn't an MM for actors as far as I know. But that's okay, you've still got options to work with. Seeking background/extra work is recommended and many working actors--as well as newbies or those picking it back up--do this type of work on a regular basis as part of their careers. It's definitely not frowned upon...and you get paid!

Based on the info you've given me, here is your step-by-step guide for pursuing acting freelance in the New York area:

1. Get your professional actor headshot, if you don't already have one. If you want to use your modeling headshot, that's fine, but make sure it isn't too "model-ish." I hope you get what I mean, lol. Actor headshots are less glamorous and should have you with a nice, natural smile.

2. Have a resume you can submit to gigs (don't forget to include your stats and contact info on there as well).

3. Get registered on NY casting agency sites. This is going to be your main resource for finding work. You're in the perfect market so you've got tons of casting sites to choose from and you can register with more than one if you want. You can also choose the type of projects you want to submit to.

4. Start putting together material for your "demo reel." This can be done by working with student directors or submitting yourself to castings they offer "footage for your reel." You'll need to know someone that does video editing in order to have your reel put together so that you can use that to further market yourself as an actor.

5. Take acting workshops/classes. There are plenty of affordable classes, workshops, seminars, etc. Always work on your craft, especially in the NY market where the competition is stiff.

Casting agencies are not modeling/talent agencies and there is no contract or commissions they take out. They basically allow you to register with them, create a profile with your photos, resume, etc. online and will then send you alerts (typically via email) anytime a project comes up that matches your preferences. You can submit your profile electronically to clients and they'll automatically receive your headshot, resume and other profile details. Then they'll contact you directly if they want you to audition.

Most casting sites charge a monthly or yearly fee--some more affordable than others and vice-versa. But you can tailor your profile how you see fit and pay accordingly for the services you want. There are a few that are also free. Below are just a few of the many you can check out for yourself in order to get familiar with casting sites:

Central Casting
New York Casting
Casting Networks, Inc.

I currently use SFCasting.com, which is a sister site of Casting Networks, Inc. The structure is pretty much the same, except they only target the San Francisco market (but that site also exists for the New York market). I currently pay $15/month for the following services:

* Unlimited photo uploads
* Unlimited submissions (if you don't have this, it's $0.99 to submit to each casting)
* Unlimited media clip submissions (I have my demo reel and other video samples of my acting work that clients can see) 

Having a demo reel will be your most valuable asset in getting legit work. Resumes are great but when clients can see you in action, that is what gets your foot in the door faster.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dania I'm the same person that wrote the question regarding getting started again as an actress. I have another question on these websites I'm currently with actors access I keep seeing terms like union, non-union, sag, aftra what do these mean and which category do I fall under since I'm new again I don't know on my actors access profile I put myself in the non-union category but I don't know if that's right. In other news I have a day job to pay the bills and to help me save for my own place however, it isn't very flexible so I signed with a promo modeling agency and their gigs are mainly on weekends I'm like the people at Costco who hand out samples. I'm on MM and submit myself to castings and on Craigslist too and people don't want me. How can I actively pursue the industry because Promo modeling is great and it is still modeling but it's not getting me in front of the camera like I want. Since I need my day job I can do shoots on weekday evenings and weekends when I'm not promo modeling I'm wondering is my schedule a problem with people not wanting me. Should I look for another job like waitressing that's more flexible. You see modeling and acting are my passion and I want to make sure I'm getting my foot in the door from every angle possible. I honestly wonder if my look is even in demand right now I'm 5'4'', age: 24and stats 32,25,35 with dark skin and dark eyes and full lips I have Afro centric hair and I transitioned my hair for the purpose of being in the industry so I feel I spent 18months transitioning my hair from perm to it's natural state and now agencies and casting directors don't even want me. I was considering dying my hair something to make me stand out and have them pick me but I just don't know what do to. When I submit to agencies I either get no response or they'll respond and say they have no use for my look or they can't represent me at this time. The worst response was when two agencies said they liked my look but were too full that was the hardest because it's like I'm so close yet so far and had I submitted to their agency earlier maybe they would've signed me. Anyway Dania I'll stop typing please help me I don't know what to do.

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Anonymous! I'll respond to your latest questions in this post directly so that you don't have to worry about navigating to a separate blog post.

You were correct in putting yourself in the non-union category. SAG and AFTRA are the names of the most prominent unions for actors in the country. Since you're currently not a member or meet the requirements, you're non-union so that's all you need to know. Just make sure the stuff you're submitting yourself to is for non-union work and you shouldn't have any problems. Unions are for actors only...there is currently no such union for models.

The Afro centric look has been so heavily in demand these days that it's probably what's causing you to not be what agencies want. Instead of dying your hair a different color, have you thought about changing it back to your original hairstyle (I don't know how your hair used to be before)?

How long have you been submitting yourself via MM, Craigslist, etc.? The thing with pursuing modeling and acting is that work comes in waves. It isn't a process where you get tons of work consistently. There's also no time frame when you can expect to begin actively booking work. Even agency represented models/actors don't work all the time. So that is a reality that you have to accept if you want to continue your efforts to boost your career.

Are you submitting yourself to castings that you fit the look, stats, shoot dates for? Most major modeling/acting jobs occur during the week so that could be a reason why it may be difficult for you to find work. Since you're 5'4" are you submitting yourself to modeling gigs that are looking for models of your height? It's important that when it comes to modeling gigs, that you're only applying to castings that specifically match your stats. You're going to want to look for modeling jobs that involve print work, catalogs, commercial, stock, lifestyle themes, etc. Luckily, height is not typically a factor for acting work.

Being a waitress will give you the flexibility you need and could give you more leverage in applying to castings...as long as you can make enough money to afford your lifestyle and bills, you might want to look into that option instead of your full-time day job. But make sure you crunch your numbers and try to figure out how much you'd need to make as a waitress so that you don't find yourself in a financial situation with trying to do that and pursue modeling/acting.

So to sum things up:

- Make sure you're submitting yourself to castings that you realistically meet the requirements for.

- Look into waitressing to open up your schedule of availability.

- If the Afro centric category is too full at this time, consider changing your look completely so that you can revamp your portfolio/headshot, etc. and try to remarket yourself with a different look that agencies and clients will want.

I know it's hard and I sense the frustration in your words but the honest truth is that it takes a long time and consistent submissions to really get yourself those opportunities that will make you a person everyone wants to work with. I submit to MM, Craigslist, casting sites, etc. every other day and sometimes I'll hit a dry spell for a few weeks and then suddenly, I'll be flooded with work for 1-2 weeks straight. Then another dry spell. That's how the industry is. You're getting there but it takes time and you have to accept that you're not always going to be hired for the gigs you submit for. The only solution: keep on submitting to castings that come up every day. Unfortunately, instant gratification is not a common factor in the entertainment industry.