So your bags are packed and your next destination is Hollywood to pursue your life long dream of becoming a movie star. No one will say its an easy road to take, so hats off to you for going through with this journey. This article will save you a lot of time in preparation when you make it there. The first thing you need to do is land an agent. Listed below are the four main things you need to have/do in order to get that agent.
Before an actor becomes an actor, they are put in training. The same way a boxer conditions his or her body to become a better fighter, an actor trains through acting classes, to hone his or her craft.
Acting classes are the basics, where you start before anything else if your desire is to become an actor. You develop your skills using various techniques to mentally train your mind to transform yourself as a person saying words written on paper, into a person living in a moment of truth. There is no single method or technique that is correct; it’s all about finding the approach that works for you. Again, just like every boxer has a unique style, every actor brings something different to the table. Whether you identify with Sanford Meisner, Constantin Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, or somebody entirely different, a great acting program will offer one or a combination of the techniques that work for you.
The first thing an agent or casting director look at (whether finding new talent or filling a role) is a headshot.
A headshot is an accurate picture of you, representing your physical attributes. A headshot photo is often of one’s face, but just as fashion trends come and go, headshot framing can be trendy as well. Another great reason to have a current photo, is so that you don’t seem outdated in terms of style, color, and formatting. A person’s entire body can be used in a headshot when submitting to a modeling agency.
A “look” is an actor’s demeanor in a photo. If an actor wishes to audition primarily for comedic roles, the photographer will direct him into a playful mood, capturing images of the actor smiling, and perhaps looking a bit goofy. For action roles, the demeanor could be more intense and serious. This is not necessarily a rule, but rather a way of creating an advantage for those going after specific roles.
When just beginning a career, it is crucial to have a variety of photos to demonstrate versatility and to open up as many doors as possible. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself right away, but at the same time, be honest with yourself. Know what you can and can’t do as an actor and get pictures that correlate with your repertoire of skills.
At the very least, an actor just starting out needs a commercial shot (generally a smiley picture used for commercial auditions) and a theatrical shot (generally more serious, used for film and television auditions).
An actor’s resume displays the work they have done. A rule of thumb in the industry is to have your resume stapled at the corners and behind your headshot, making a clean attachment for casting directors and agents who sift through hundreds of headshots, looking for that person with the right look for a particular role. Although almost all submissions are digital these days, having hard copies of your picture and resume is still expected.
Your resume should consist of only the most the basic info: your name and contact information (either personal phone number and/or email address, or that of your agent/manager). If you belong to SAG-AFTRA you should indicate that as well. Putting your height, weight, and hair/eye color used to be standard, but has begun to phase out.
List the most prominent productions you have been involved in, and the details should be broken down into different headings: Film & TV, Theater and New Media (web series). Once your credits begin to grow, the heading of Film and TV can be broken up into two categories. Next you should list your training. Acting classes, theatre, voice over training, etc.
Lastly, the most commonly overlooked section of a resume: Special Skills. Here is where you can brag about hidden talents you have, or cash in on ordinary talents. List the sports you play, the games you know, the accents you can do, the languages you speak, etc… You’d be surprised how many actors can book a role simply because they know how to hula hoop or, believe it or not, drive a manual transmission. You can also use this section to be creative and write something that will stand out and make you memorable. If you can freestyle rap, for example, that’s a great way to grab attention on a resume, just be prepared to show it off if and when you’re asked about it. DO NOT LIE on you Special Skills section. It will only hurt you in the long run.
Now here’s the catch 22. You need an agent to get work, but you can’t get work without an agent. So how do you get work without an agent to start? I’ve been in this predicament, and had an agent call me and tell me this exact bit of information.
“A good agent won’t represent somebody who doesn’t have an acting background, even if you found one that did, you don’t want that type of agent representing you. You need to focus on building your resume. Get enrolled in some acting classes, and for work, try looking into either Craigslist to get involved in any student films, or lacasting.com and do some extra work. All of this will help build your resume and show you are serious about acting.”
After you feel you’ve taken enough acting classes, had your headshots taken, it’s time to start looking for representation. It’s very difficult getting represented by an agent with just your headshots, resume and acting training. You need a video montage of you showing off your acting chops. This where a demo reel comes in handy.
A demo reel is a collection of scenes edited together to showcase the ability of an actor. Demo reels are also made for directors, cinematographers and editors as well. For an actor, a demo reel can be used to show their genre range, mixing in various works they have done from dramatic to comedic. They can also be tailored to represent an actor in one complete genre, such as an all action genre reel. This usually comes only after the actor has enough credits to warrant separate reels.
A good demo reel is usually between three to five minutes in length and displays anywhere from six to eight scenes. Sizzle reels, are a trimmed down version of a demo reel, usually running no more than one minute in length with music overlaying the edited footage giving a “teaser” type effect. Sizzle reels are becoming quite popular, as they are quick and stylish. It is good to have both, as every agent has their own reservation for what they want submitted.
The biggest mistake people make in getting their demo reel made is that they over do it. Often times I’ve seen demo reels consisting of scenes of a person screaming at the top of their lungs or crying, or holding a gun and shooting someone. A great demo reel should be 2 things, subtle and entertaining. Keep that in mind. And always lead with your best stuff, either your most impressive credit, or the clip(s) that showcase you the best. Remember, the person watching the reel doesn’t love you as much as you might love yourself, and isn’t likely to watch the entire thing, no matter how short it is.
TIME TO GET AN AGENT
At the end of it all, you’ve got enough acting classes under your belt, you have a great new headshot, your resume is substantial and growing, and you have a reel that represents you well, it is now time for you to find an agent. You can check out our updated Agent list. We hope this article has been a good source of information to you. Check out our site for other articles related to the world of acting. Good luck on your journey, looking forward to seeing you on the silver screen!