Actors, it’s time for a huge dose of reality. No more Googling “Acting” or “How do I get famous?” or “How to get an agent.” If it were that easy, then everyone would have an agent and be a series regular on a TV show. There is too much bad advice out there, too many scams, and not enough truth. We hear about someone landing their lucky break by accident, and so a lot of actors think the same will happen to them, and that they can skip all the steps. Those are the rare exceptions. Like any other business, you have to put in the work, be professional, earn respect, pay your dues, train, and take the craft seriously (and be nice to assistants). If you are doing it for the fame, this isn’t for you.
Here are some common myths about the business.
1. “I need to be in the union to get an agent or manager.” Simply not true. Agents take actors who are talented and who they think will book work, regardless of union status.
2. “I need to do extra work to join the union.” It’s true you can get three waivers for doing extra work, and then they will allow you to pay $3000 to join. However, you don’t need to do this. If you are doing extra work to join, then you probably aren’t ready to be in the union. Once you get an agent, you become a “must join” after your second union job booking. Although more difficult, this is the best way. In the meantime, I suggest you stay nonunion, build up your résumé, make a great demo reel, and join only when you are ready.
3. “If I do enough extra work, I might get discovered.” Nope. Nada. Doesn’t happen like that. You have been watching too much “Entourage.” This rarely happens. I think doing a little extra work is good for experience, but that is not the way to get noticed.
4. “I can just have my friend take my headshots and save money.” If I had a nickel. Your friend better be Annie Leibovitz. You need a great headshot. Spend the money. At least $400. A high quality headshot shows how serious you are about your career.
5. “If I take this improv class, then I’ll be on ‘SNL.’ ” Improv is an essential part of any actor’s training; however, those “SNL” actors have worked hard for many years, paid their dues, worked many different side jobs, and carefully honed their craft. They are the best at what they do. It takes more than a name on a résumé.
6. “Actors who are young and hot have it easier.” You don’t have to be young and hot to break into this business. It’s not just about being pretty, it’s about being comfortable with who you are. That’s even more attractive. Truthfully, if you are young there is less of an expectation for you to have an extensive résumé. It depends where you see yourself, what your type is, and what kind of shows you see yourself on. Figure out your type and own it. Commercials are always looking for different types of all ages.
7. “I’m just gonna show up on set and see if they can use me.” If you just show up on the show filming on your street and ask for a job, you will come across as unprofessional, if not crazy. You have to go through the proper steps. Agent, audition, callback, booking.”
8. “If I spend enough money, I can meet all the agents and casting directors in town.” True, you can meet all of them, but you will also go broke, and might not have anything to show for it. I would never recommend this. Again, good work will speak for itself. If you are going to do these pay-to-meet workshops, be smart, do your research, and meet the people who are right for you (When you are ready!). Here is a link to my recent article about this.
9. “If I get an agent, then I can quit my job.” Let’s be honest. Getting an agent is wonderful, but it is only half the battle. Then you have to get work, which might take you months, or years! Keep that side job, keep yourself financially and mentally stable, keep training, and be patient. You have to keep hustling, keep developing relationships, and keep putting good work out there. Do whatever you can, produce your own Web series, get involved in a reading or a play, and keep exercising that muscle so you don’t get lazy and assume your agent is doing all the work.
Want to get more advice on how to break into acting? Check out Matt's book "10 Steps to Breaking into Acting: Second Edition" on Amazon.