So you want to work in LA? What to know before you go!

 

248698_1505296999718522_8618667625970154208_nI recently participated as a guest speaker with Casting Director Nancy Bishop in a workshop for Malta Film. And I realized something; actors who hope to make the leap to Los Angeles, CA come from all over the world. However, what they need to know and do before they arrive is nearly all the same.

This post is dedicated to anyone who has just made, or is about to make the move.

The material is based on my handout from the workshop in Malta. At the bottom I’ve included some valuable resources to help actors who are new in LA get started. I can be contacted at Act Now, the networking company where I am a consultant, with more questions, or for help once they arrive in the City of Angels. Bon voyage!

 

  • MARKETING in LA. HEADSHOTS tend to be more polished. Less natural than Europe, less edgy than NYC (but that may also depend on your type). You may want to get new ones once you arrive, some photographers are listed below under RESOURCES. Ask to see a photographer’s book and at least talk to them on the phone to find out how they work. If you can, interview them in person. Interview at least 3 Photographers before you chose one. —-POSTCARDS are a tool for staying in touch once you create a relationship. They should have your headshot and contact infer on one side and be blank on the other. An E-NEWSLETTER is also a good idea, keep contacts and send out 4 times a year and list what you’ve booked, what you’re doing, etc. When it comes to REELS LA CDs have told me many times it is better to have no reel than a bad or unprofessional reel. Make sure you have VERY high quality film or video. Having a WEBSITE is not necessary but not a bad idea either. However, you should have an IMDB page and be on all the websites for submitting (see RESOURCES below). Above all: Be “findable.”

 

  • NETWORKING, There are so many opportunities (Women In Film, Film Festivals, SAG events, volunteering with Young Storytellers Foundation, Writers Bootcamp, casting workshops, Christmas parties (NOT kidding!). Don’t forget to network with other actors!

  • INTERNSHIP at an agency, management company, TV network, production company or casting office is a great way to learn about the business side of “show business” and also meet people.

  • MAKE YOUR OWN WORK Make a  web series. Create a short film and enter festivals – very easy using www.withoutabox.com . Have a script in-hand when you arrive. Think of all those who made it this way – Billy Bob Thornton, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Kristin Wiig. This is the new “calling card” of the LA Actor!

  • RESEARCH by watching US TV shows and films and see what part(s) you could have played, look at supporting roles as well as leads. Genre is also important, re: single camera vs. 4 camera comedy, know the show/director you are auditioning for and be able to match the tone of the project. Know that the sense of humor is different in USA vs. Europe. Be part of the whole.

  • PITCH. Learn to talk about yourself as a product, you are what you are selling. Know who you are. Have a log line that rolls off your tongue so that if an Agent or CD asks you “What types do you play” you have an answer.

  • UNIONS. Joining SAG-AFTRA vs. staying SAG-AFTRAe (always better to stay eligible as long as you can so you can book non union paid work for a while). You can become eligible to join by getting Taft-Hartleyed (drafted into the union). Most often this happens through commercials or film because they have it in the budget to do so. Not so often through episodic TV unless it is a special circumstance. You can also joint through Equity (sister union for theater). Or you can do background work and accumulate vouchers.

  • BUILD CREDITS. Possibly consider moving to a smaller region first ( New Orleans, NYC, New Mexico, Atlanta, etc. ) to build credits before coming to LA, unless you have recognizable credits already in a foreign country.

  • CLASSES- See my post on “What Is The Best Acting Class in LA” for links to many of the best acting classes in LA. There is a variety, depends on what you want – improv is expected especially for commercials and comedy acting, audition technique is important, on camera helps you be competitive because almost all auditions are on-tape for producers. Ask to “audit” or sit in on a class before you pay for it, and audit at least 3 classes before you choose one. If you can’t audit ask to interview with the instructor.

  • AGENTS. In LA it is usually easier to get a commercial agent first. Book a few things, join the union, then look for Theatrical agent. Theatrical agents all want to see recognizable credits, so be prepared to hear “Book a few things and call me back.” Agents are looking in May and November but NOT during pilot or episodic season. Managers are also usually more open to “developmental” actors (who don’t have many credits). They are more hands-on.

  • SEASONS: US Televison has four: Pilot Season Jan. – April, Hiatus, late May and June, episodic season July – Dec. Awards season Jan. and Feb. This has been the traditional way, things are changing. In 5 years this will probably be different. Films and soap operas tape year-round. Cable TV has a schedule all its own.

  • WORK. Good jobs for actors? Ones that are flexible or night jobs so you are available for auditions on weekdays- Lift or Uber driver, bartender, massage therapist, waiter, tutor, nanny, personal trainer, anything where you make your own hours and make good money in a short period of time.

  • LIVING in LA: Airbnb is good for short term. For longer term check out www.westsiderentals.com Drive around and find a neighborhood you like, then see how far it is from the major studios and casting offices. I live in Los Feliz because I can get anywhere in the area within 45 minutes. There are studios in Manhattan Beach, Burbank, Hollywood, Culver City, Studio City, Santa Monica. You want to be as close to them as possible.

  • SUPPORT. Community is something you can create with actors you meet in classes, that you know from your alumni association, etc. Get together a group to meet weekly or bi-monthly to be accountable for goals, keep each other inspired and share resources.

  • ACCENTS: If you are coming from abroad, should you go in speaking in your Standard American accent so they have time to “fall for you” before they realize they may have to help w/ Visa and also are not looking for flaws? Or go in with your real accent? Your choice. But be able to do standard american dialect if at all possible, plenty of good dialect coaching available. As Osa noted in her quote below, your natural accent (weather that’s Swedish or a South Georgia drawl, can also be what sets you apart – but that is specific and will put you in a certain category).

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RESOURCES: 

WWW.CASTINGABOUT.COM – List of who is casting what and their addresses.

WWW.BSW.COM – Backstage West, good articles on what is going on, events, etc.

WWW.ACTNOWNETWORK.COM – Reputable casting workshops. Ask for Dufflyn!

WWW.WORKSHOPGURU.COM – Find all sorts of Casting Workshops to meet CDs.

WWW.LACASTING.COM – All commercial auditions are posted here and some you can self- submit for. You should have a profile here with your headshot and special skills.

WWW.ACTORSACCESS.COM – Have a profile here with headshots, reels, etc. You can submit yourself on some films and TV here, free w/ an Agent who can submit you on everything.

WWW.SAMUELFRENCH.COM – Playbooks, books listing agents, mailing labels, supplies.

WWW.REPRODUCTIONS.COM – Ask for Tommy. Printing for headshots, postcards, biz cards.

WWW.DANAPATRICK.COM – Great professional headshots, good for drama, film, soap.

WWW.GREGCROWDERPHOTOGRAPHY.COM – Great headshots for commercial, comedy.

WWW.POYEYPHOTOS.COM – Vanie Poyey, great headshots for commercial, comedy.

WWW.DUFFLYN.COM – Click on ACTING for my blog for actors, all sorts of topics.

WWW.SPEEDREELS.COM – Ask for Matt, great for editing reels and can help w/ web series!

WWW.SAMCHRISTENSEN.COM – Ask for Sam, Great for further work on type/marketing.

 

Some quotes from international actors:  

 

“I’ve been in the states since I was 20 years old and didn’t come to L.A until my early 30’s (from NYC). There are a lot of things that are different between L.A and NYC as well as the US vs. Sweden. I do think one of the most challenging adjustments to make is a cultural one. Americans are confident, Swedes are “shy” or modest, at least this is what we are taught to be. It was definitely intimidating in the beginning, seeing how people carried themselves and spoke about their careers. Until you realize that this is part of the “game”, a lot of it is an act and a good one, as people love other confident people. I feel it is an important lesson to learn early if you are to be successful in the US. Be proud of who you are and what you have to offer, you don’t have to be like them, you just have to show them you. Also, I struggled for a long time trying to figure out what to do about my accent. I worked very hard to get rid of it, thinking that I would fit into the American market this way. Now however, I realize my look puts me in a category and there’s not much to do about that at this point. If being Northern European or Eastern European is what will get me in the room, great. I’ve come to accept I usually won’t be seen for the All-American girl, but I will definitely get in if they are looking for my type, and even though there are fewer roles, there are also fewer of us.”

–  Act Now client Osa Wallander (Sweden) 

 

“The feedback I have gotten personally was regarding my headshots: in Europe they want natural looking photos, while in the US they prefer perfect and modelesque photos. Also in the US there is a strong hierarchy on set, meaning Lead Actors are kings and Background Actors are nothing (they don’t even get the the same food). That is something that, I have heard from a lot of European actor friends, was hard to get adjusted to. Also in LA people don’t take you seriously as an actor, so you really need to prove yourself even more. In Europe being an actor is considered a “job”, here you’re look down upon and seen as a dilettante until you make it.”

– Act Now client Marianne Bourge (Luxembourg) 

 

photo-21

A dusk view of Valetta, Malta

 

 

 

 

 

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