If you're a working actor, you must have read a lot of articles that tell you to: "believe in yourself", "go out there and just do it", and "put yourself out there". They're all great and we all need to believe in our capabilities, but, well...
This is not one of those articles!
Sometimes we can all use a little guidance, so instead, I'll jump right into it with 12 actionable hints and tips on how to get started (or keep going) in the acting profession from the perspective of a life hacker:
1. Get to know your type:
This is a bit of a sensitive subject matter, but I still want to start here, as it seems the most logical first step. Some of you are opposed to being type-cast, BUT, it won't change the fact that casting directors do and will continue doing that. It also won't change the fact that those who take that under consideration and play into it get the right parts faster.
This said, my suggestion would be to ask around and figure out what exactly your "type" is, and learn how others see you. TypeCastMe is a site that allows you to upload one of your headshots for $5 and people will give their opinions about your look. Now, if you don't have your headshot yet, not to worry, that can be any photo of you, take a selfie if you have to, you won't get any gigs from that, just an honest opinion from others.
Don't have $5? Well, you're already on Stage 32, post some photos to your profile and ask others what is their opinion of you. Find other active members by going through the lounges, introduce yourself, and ask for a favor. It only takes one minute to ask for a favor, and if you ask other actors, they'll know exactly what you're looking for. Who knows, maybe they'll ask you for the same in return.
2. Get headshots on a budget:
Okay, THE MOST important thing you can do as an aspiring actor is to get your headshots. Pretty much anything you're going to do will require that you submit your headshot, so this is imperative. There is no such thing as great quality headshots at a low price, but let's assume that you can't afford great headshots at this time. The first website you want to take a look at is Groupon. A lot of headshot photographers listed on there will go way below the standard price. You have to keep in mind that 9 out of 10 times, the cheaper the session, the lower the quality. It's not always the case, and you might end up with amazing headshots for a very low price, but it's worth it to keep that in mind.
For those of you who can't afford the stuff on Groupon, I'd say save up until you can, but you shouldn't move on to the next steps without having some sort of headshot. So here's an even cheaper way to do it. Register for Model Mayhem and find student photographers in your area. If you're in a bigger city, you might find people who will be willing to shoot you for free! Do remember that they are students, so they may not know how to give you great direction but they probably have the right equipment for the job, so here are some basic tips for you depending on the character type you want to portray. If you're going for a tough look, have them angle shots upwards while you are leaning forward, for the opposite feel, lean back a bit and have them angle shots downward. You can also try and get a hair light effect by putting yourself directly between camera and the sun for better depth.
Hint: Following the advice from step 1, do remember to dress for the part. If someone told you that you look like a mobster, you may wanna strike a tough pose. If they said that you look a little goofy, you may have one pose that's a bit silly, but obviously don't overdo it, dressing up like Steve Urkel will probably count as overdoing it.
3. Get your headshots retouched:
If your headshot photographer offered retouching as a part of the service, you're all set, but if your photographer provided you with raw formats, you will probably need to do some touch ups.
As an actor, you probably don't know Photoshop, nor have access to it, but it's not the end of the world. You can download it and try it free for 30 days. That should be enough time for you to do some retouching by following youtube tutorials for whatever effect you want. There are other free tools out there like Makeup Photo, but you will quickly realize that they offer very little control to what can be done. Plus, I'm sure you'll find any headshot effect on youtube covered step by step, so with a little bit of research, you can correct your photos like a pro.
Remember to resize any raw photos for the web. I recommend square images to be 800 x 800 pixels and portrait images 1320 x 1600 pixels. The former can be used as a main image for your social media like Stage 32, Twitter or Facebook, while the latter should be used as the quality format headshot in 8x10 proportions. Use JPEG IO to resize and crop any images down to the right proportions.
4. Get a website:
If you don't have an actor website yet, you can build one for free with Web For Actors. With a free account you will get three different templates for free. Building an actor website shouldn't take a long time and with this tool you're just 90 seconds away from getting it done.
If you can afford to pay $9 a month, you could also get the premium package with your personal domain name and an email address, which is strongly recommended, but if you don't have any credits, reels or headshots yet, you may want to hold off until you do.
Hint: DO start your research now. Use NameMesh to find out which domains are available right now, and then make sure you can have social media accounts that match it, and what I mean by that is...
5. Get social:
Try to find a username that is available for all of the platforms. Use Namech_k to ensure the availability of your preferred username. You don't want to be @JohnDoe on Twitter, /JohnnyDActor on Facebook and /JDoe on Stage 32. You want something that's easy to remember, and reuse that on every platform you deem worthy. At the very minimum get on Twitter, Instagram and if you're not on Stage 32 yet then click the "join" button in the upper righthand side of this page.
You can use IMDb forums and Stage 32 lounges to connect with filmmakers. While on Stage 32, the trick is to go to everyone's profile and request a connection via their profile. That will allow you to send them a short note before they even approve your connection. Utilize it, but don't abuse it. If you copy and paste the same message to everyone your account might get banned.
Finally, if you have IMDb profile (not IMDb pro), you can also register for a free account at Karmalicity. I never liked social media like-exchange sites as they are usually overrun by robots that blindly follow you to get points and then you end up with followers that aren't even interested in what you're doing, but this page is different. Since it requires an IMDb account, it only has people in the film industry, so if you want filmmakers and directors to stumble upon your social pages, that's one way to do it. These are all active people in the film industry, so you have nothing to lose but few minutes a day. In the worst case scenario you will expand your reach and increase your social media following.
Hint: IMDb pro gives you access to publicly listed contact info for many filmmakers out there. Don't spam them, but starting a conversation won't be frowned upon. Send them an email and ask if they need seat fillers for their next premiere or if they need any assistance with any project, because you're around and available for whatever.
6. Get cheap business cards:
I've said it before and I'll keep on saying it till they stop making paper. Business cards are a must for any networking event. It's a tool like every other item in your possession. On it's own, it will not guarantee that you land a gig, but it certainly won't hurt. Get them as soon as you can and carry a few of them with you at all times.
Use Vistaprint for the cheapest printouts! Vistaprint ALWAYS has some coupons available. But that's not the end of it. Go for the smaller amount of printouts. Once you submit your order, 9 out of 10 times Vistaprint will offer you extra 50% or 100% more at a much lower price. So instead of getting 1000 business cards, you can go for 500 cards and get 500 more for an even further discounted price. If you don't like the designs they have available, PM me here on Stage 32 and I will hook you up with some samples I designed in Photoshop.
Hint: No matter what, don't forget to put your headshot and your website URL on your business cards. Whoever gets the card will remember you easily from the photo and will have multiple ways of contacting you.
Don't quit reading now, we're half way there, here are some kittens to keep you motivated:
7. Get into events for free:
Now that you have your business cards with your headshot and your website on them it's time to connect with some people who might be interested in working with you. Meeting people online is always a great start, but sometimes you need to take your networking offline.
Sign up for a Meetup account and find film related meetups near you. When you do, you can then invite them to host that meetup for free on Stage 32. People will likely appreciate the advice as Meetup charges people to host meetups while it's totally free here on Stage32. And of course, check Stage 32 weekly for any new meetups in your area. If there are none, start one yourself and start inviting people you'd like to work with to join.
Volunteer for film festivals!
You can find a list of film festivals happening near you on WithoutABox and FilmFreeway - if you're not a member of FilmFreeway you should sign up today, no matter what your profession in the film industry might be. Contact the people hosting these events and ask them if they need volunteers. It's usually a 50/50 chance that they'll say yes, because even if they've got plenty of volunteers, they may still want some backup. This is one way to land a full access badge to events and start connecting with filmmakers. Don't blow off your responsibility, DO THE JOB you volunteered for the best you can, but when time permits, get out there and mingle.
Hint: If you're a bit of an introvert like myself, check out this Stage 32 class that has helped me feel more comfortable in crowded networking events.
8. Get your early projects fast:
Social networks will help you connect with like-minded people, but if your resume and your IMDb page are blank, the odds are that people won't be very thrilled to get you onboard. There are always plenty of projects that more experienced actors may look down upon because they offer little to no pay. I get it, working for free sucks, but if you're faced with a choice of sitting on your hands all day or getting an IMDb credit for no pay, just weigh out your options. That's all I'm saying.
One of my favorite actors, Bill Murray, did Rushmore for $9K. Ethan Hawke agreed for a backend pay when working on The Purge, while Lindsay Lohan did Day for The Canyons at $100/day payout. Whatever the reason they might have for doing this, if you have an empty resume and an opportunity to show up and do something you're passionate about, you may need to swallow your pride and just go for it. Make sure that IMDb credit is an option and do ask them to sign a release allowing you to use parts of the film for your acting demo reel. There is nothing better than showing a potential agent or manager how motivated you are and a demo reel is one of the best ways to do that.
9. Get a perfect bio & resume:
Now that you have some credits it would be great to build a correctly formatted resume and write a kickass bio. When writing your bio, focus on who you are, what your accomplishments are, what you want to be doing, what you are passionate about, and what is it that you're asking from the reader. If you cover these 5 points, you'll be fine. Bonus points if you make it funny or memorable for some character trait.
And yes, I did pool the bio in with resume, as building your resume is not an art, it's a simple science. Don't reinvent the wheel, just check out this image from SAG-AFTRA for guidance.
10. Get auditions & background gigs:
Sign up for auditions online! There are too many sites to list, but in addition to the opportunities listed on the Stage 32 jobs page, here's a pretty comprehensive list of casting websites. And if you're not on there yet, absolutely check out Actors Access and Casting Call Pro or as I call it, the "New Mandy". Both sites are free to register, but make sure you browse the heck out of them like you browse Stage 32, there's a lot of hidden gems out there, you just need to commit to finding them.
If you're open to background gigs, you absolutely should check out Central Casting. They pretty much have a monopoly on extra casting, and have a pretty straight forward formula on how to register, so there's not much planning involved, you just pick a day, prepare what's needed and go register with them.
11. Get a reading buddy and/or help others rehearse:
If you know of this website, it probably popped right in your head as you read the heading above. Yes, I'm talking about WeRehearse. If this is not something you have heard about, give it a go right now. If you need help rehearsing you can always ask your friends, your siblings or your significant others, but if that's not an option, this site will allow you to pay someone few bucks to go over few lines with you.
Don't forget that you can also be on the receiving end of this and actually get paid to read the lines with somebody. You won't get rich off of it, but it's a good way to help others while actually improving your skills through practice.
12. Get affordable education:
Acting classes are expensive, we all know that, but not everything that you learn in this profession is artistic, there's also the business side. I hope that by getting through this entire article you've learned a thing or two, because if you knew all of it, then we need to talk, as you probably have some tips I could learn from you. But I digress. There's a lot you can learn from acting webinars here on Stage 32, A LOT, but if that's not something you can afford yet, you can always check out the freebies.
There is a ton of On Stage with RB and other podcasts that are filled with a plethora of information that you can watch for free. You could literally be watching it for DAYS. I know it might sound overwhelming, but compare it to becoming a doctor. Four years for a bachelor's degree, years for medical school, 3-7 years of residency, and then maybe, just maybe 12 years later you can get your own patients. No, I assure you, if you download these podcasts, you can also download VLC player and watch everything on 2.5 speed to get through it all faster. There are a lot of gems in these, just as there's a lot you can learn about acting from other articles in this blog.
And finally, I mentioned Groupon above, and I shall mention it one more time. There's a lot of group acting classes you can get into for a low price. Not that you shouldn't try to get into more prestigious acting classes or director workshops, but if you're starting up and you can get into a program for $10, I don't need to tell you that it probably won't get any cheaper than that.
If you have any other tips or know of any other websites that can help others advance their acting career right away, I invite you to share these resources in the comments below, and as always, "believe in yourself", "go out there and just do it", and "put yourself out there".
About Tomasz Mieczkowski
Tomasz Mieczkowski is the Senior Web Developer for Stage 32 and the Founder of Web For Actors. Tomasz acquired the taste for web development in the late 90's while serving in the United States Navy, where he programmed his first basic website. After an honorable discharge from the military he continued his passion of converting vision and ideas into its virtual existences.
With a Master's Degree in computer science from Brooklyn College, Tomasz has developed well over 100 real estate websites in New York City and in doing so, he has gained an in-depth knowledge of front-end web development, interface design and user-experience methodologies.
Tomasz is highly dedicated to ensuring user satisfaction and is a strong believer of the ideology that all opinions matter.
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