What does it take to get those great acting roles?
Over the last few years I have spent a great deal of time dedicated to the topic of independent filmmaking. Although I have covered a wide range of topics, from distribution to screenwriting, there is one topic that rarely gets any focus. That topic is film acting, and it’s easy to make enemies when having an opinion on what it takes to land those great acting roles.
As a filmmaker, I deal with actors who possess all ranges of experience. I have seen just as many mistakes made by veterans as I have seen with beginners. One thing is certain, there is a ton of misinformation on the topic.
Like any career path, there are multiple avenues one can take to make a living and find fulfillment. Knowing what you want is key, and designing a path that works for you and your lifestyle is the only thing that matters.
A lot of people have a misguided understanding on how this industry actually works, or how movies and shows are made. Finding the right acting roles is more that going to auditions or knowing the right people, it’s a lifetime of dedication.
For many, it’s the dream of riding around in limos, walking red carpets and being celebrated at movie premieres. While that is all very nice to fantasize about, it is a limiting mindset, which can make you vulnerable to bad agents, and predatory practices.
In today’s post, I would like to spend a little bit of time offering a handful of suggestions to help you on your journey to locating those acting roles. Please understand with full disclosure, I am not an acting coach, nor am I looking to sell you on a service. I am simply an independent filmmaker who has worked with hundreds of actors on a variety of levels. My perspective comes from my experiences in making movies, TV shows, reality shows, commercials and branded content. I have discovered over the years that there is no secret formula, and there is nobody that will open doors for you unless you start by opening them yourself. You are the only person that can direct your success. The only thing gurus and mentors can offer is their perspectives. It’s up to you on how to apply those suggestions. So take the following as just that, a suggestion…
Know your value.
There is this ideology among aspiring actors and actresses that they must do whatever it takes to break into the business. While this seems like good advice for anyone looking to please the world, it opens the door for abuse and you may come in contact with a lot of unprofessional people. Being overly eager rarely offers dividends. Be sure to have limits, like you would for any other job. Do your research before auditioning for a production. Do not sell your values or virtues for the myth that you need to compromise your health, safety or integrity for exposure or career advancement.
Talent is great, but a good attitude is better.
When looking for performers, I often look for two traits. One is, Can the person perform? Two, Is this person a good person? My sets are my happy place. They are my home away from home. The last thing I want in my home is a toxic person. This is why I often seek out people that have high values and integrity more than anything. I will cast the scrappy, hard-working actress with integrity any day over the well established primadonna, or so-called “pained genius”.
Study. Study. Study.
If you are serious about your craft as an actor, there is one thing you can do regardless of your economic circumstances, or your proximity to a production. Study the great actors of cinema. Find the actors that resonate with you, watch their movies, over and over, take notes and ask questions. Pay attention to the way they deliver dialogue, how they move, and what personality tools they use to create realism in their performances. By reverse engineering a great performance, you can unlock a treasure trove of useful tricks for your own efforts. The best part is, this education comes at the mere cost of a monthly subscription to any video streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon, etc.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Like any skill, repetition is required. One might ask how they can practice if they’re not working on sets? Well that’s easy. Self tape your work and evaluate it on a regular basis. The only way you are ever going to grow as a performer is to see yourself on screen. If you have no experience, take time to set up your camera phone or computer webcam and read monologues. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and start slowly implementing the items you have learned from the previous tip. Over time you will notice that your confidence will grow and your range will increase.
Create a professional website and photo gallery.
It goes without saying, you have to advertise your business! You should familiarize yourself with basic social media marketing tools. Create a simple yet professional website that offers potential clients a good idea of your capabilities. This website should include videos of monologues, demo reels, and photos. It should also include easy contact information right on the homepage.
It’s more than Hollywood.
One of the biggest pitfalls that actors find themselves in is looking at their acting careers with tunnel vision. First off, there are multiple industries that you can find acting roles. Movies and TV are only part of the equation. There are commercials, video games, music videos, branded videos, social media marketing campaigns, website explainers, training videos and tradeshows. And with so many companies taking products online due to COVID-19, it also sets up a greater opportunity than ever for aspiring performers to land spokesperson and brand ambassador roles. While this may not seem as glamorous as landing those big Disney+ acting roles, you can make a great living telling stories in a multitude of ways. At the end of the day, work is work, and the more work you have, the more you can build on, the more you can invest on the other avenues you want to explore.
As I digress, I would like to offer a final thought on your quest in becoming the next big star. Your journey as a performer is a lifelong commitment. It is not a day job. It is not a hobby. It is not a side-hustle. It is a way of life. It is your form of martial arts. It’s your constant commitment to development, so that you may live with your true purpose.
If you’re serious about being a performer, then you will embark on a lifelong journey for that goal. I can speak from experience, when saying that as an artist, you never hit a place where you think you’re there, or that you’ve made it. You are always looking for your next challenge. You will always be looking for that next thing to fill your desire for creating. Success in the creative arts is about moving forward. If you have lived your life being able to do what you love, then you have found success. Keep making movies, keep acting, keep writing. Never stop, and never chase the things people say are important. Chase yourself, and one day you may find others following in your path.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my latest books on the topic of indie filmmaking: They are all available on Amazon!
Have a great holiday. Wear your masks!