Today’s actors have it tougher than ever. More and more people are interested in acting at the professional level. The lure of fame and fortune is powerful and rising to celebrity status in the world of acting is an enticement that rivals “Eve” tempting “Adam” in the Garden Of Eden. Reality TV is still alive and well and many viewers would rather watch the Real Housewives duke it out in a restaurant than a Sidney Lumet directed film. The best way to approach this highly competitive field is with both feet planted firmly on the ground and eyes wide open. To that end I would like to offer some advice that may prove helpful.
Pursuing a career in acting will demand all of your time, energy, and the financial means required to sustain yourself over the long haul. Acting is not a part-time endeavor. I have never known anyone who could juggle a full-time job and the demands of acting. The first thing you will need to do is find a part-time job that provides you with enough income to afford an apartment in close proximity to NYC (Manhattan). Rents are at an all-time high so you will have to find a roommate(s) to share expenses. Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Astoria, Kensington, Bushwick are among those that are still affordable (by NY standards). If you go through a Real Estate broker you will have to pay a fee somewhere in the neighborhood of 18% of the yearly rent. No situation is perfect but it’s important that you get a good feel for the person(s) with whom you will be living. You do not want to be saddled with a situation that is riddled with tension and strife. Spend a little time (if time is available) getting to know your prospective roommates. Networking is an excellent way to find out who and what is available. In my experience most people are eager to help as many have faced the same challenges that you will be facing.
As I mentioned before you will need a job that provides you with enough income to afford classes, workshops, apartment (utilities rarely included), head shots, transportation, (if you are outside the boroughs), and all things related to the profession. It’s important that you find work that doesn’t stress you out and provides you with some degree of flexibility. Over the years I have seen students so drained of energy that they are unable to focus in class. Do your best to find a job that compliments the demands of acting.
You will need to find an acting class that resonates for you and one that fits within your budget. Take some time and read up on the different techniques so that you will have a basic understanding of the different approaches to the craft. Then spend some time auditing classes. What is the environment like? Is it conducive to learning? Is the teacher, knowledgeable, well versed in the craft, communicative, articulate, approachable, warm, nurturing, passionate, concerned? These are all qualities that make for a positive learning environment. When it comes to choosing a teacher he/she must be the right one for you.
At some point you will need head shots. Some photographers are very expensive but there are very capable photographers that don’t charge a King’s ransom. Take the time to look at the head shots of fellow actors. If you like what you see ask them who took their photos. Most capable head shot photographers have a website with samples of their work. There are more than a few “photographers” that are just starting out that may offer their services for free in an effort to establish themselves. This is risky business. Your head shot is your calling card. If you have to spend a little more to get the best results don’t settle for pictures that don’t present you in the best possible light.
Chances are in the early stages of your career paying gigs will be hard to find. It takes time to develop a strong technique and jobs may not be prolific until you can prove to the casting directors that you are capable of doing the work. Take your craft seriously. Don’t shy away from doing the work.
Rejection is a part of this business. You will need to develop a thick skin. Acting is not for the faint of heart. It takes moxy to stand up to the pressures of the business. The best actors in the world are not strangers to rejection. Learn to develop strategies that will help you when you don’t receive callbacks or job offers. In the early going, when Richard Dreyfuss didn’t win a role, he would say to himself, “What’s the matter with these people? Don’t they know how good I am? Find your own unique way to deal with rejection.
Job, training, housing, transportation, workshops, networking, head shots, developing your own website, business cards, auditioning, are all part of the actor’s world. If you want to be a part of it, it’s important that you understand what lies ahead and to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the journey. Like everything in life it’s a process. Learn to embrace it and take something positive out of every experience.