Break into Showbiz

by Angela Morris

Woman swinging a sledgehammer

Now that you've decided you want to become an actor, you're probably wondering how to go about breaking into showbiz.

You woke up this morning, gave a big stretch, and then decided you want to become an actor. But now what?
First thing is first, to break into show business, whether you wish to model or act, you need to do these things; start somewhere, gain experience, build credits, and make contacts with people who can help you network.

To start somewhere and get some acting experience, local, community theatre and school theatre is a good place to begin. Not only will you gain that valuable experience and learn what it's like working with other actors, being directed, and performing for a crowd, you'll also start earning credits for your resume, and you'll meet people with whom you can network. If jumping in feet first and performing before an audience is difficult for you or even terrifying, consider first taking classes on public speaking or get involved with Toastmasters. This is an organization geared to help people learn to speak in front of large groups - an essential skill for actors.

Then, if you are serious about acting, it's time to get a good set of headshots and start networking. Headshots are a must for serious actors. Headshots are an actor's way of self-promotion and self submitting to projects and productions. To get noticed, to get discovered, or to just get yourself on the map, an actor must network with industry members and sending out combination headshots/resumes is the single best way to do that. Headshots can be sent directly to casting directors, talent agents and talent agencies.

There's plenty of information on what makes a great headshot and how to write an actor's resume on this site. So, I highly suggest you find and read those articles. But briefly, an actor's headshot needs to be professional. It's an 8 x 10 inch photo with your resume stapled to the back, text opposite from the back of the picture.

For Modeling (that's if you want to dabble in to commercial print modeling) you're going to want a composite card, this can be a mix of B&W and color. A headshot usually goes on the front and 3 to 4 pictures on back along with your measurements. You can find places that print comp cards online. An agent can usually do comps without getting in trouble with the unions as they are not making a profit on them. My logo does not go on a comp card unless I am the person sending it out to the printer.

You aren't going to want your photo's to look like they came from JC Penny's. They do portraits and it's an entirely different ballpark here. So no portraits. And NO "Glamour Shots." Dynasty has been off the air for years. Comps can have a glamour look to it on one of the shots, but your headshots have to be something else. And don't just submit a snap shot. Trust me, I do not have time to sort through snapshots, neither do other agents.

Don't work with ANY agent that makes you use their photographer, in order to be represented. Don't work with anyone that pressures you into utilizing any of the services they may offer in order to be represented. If an agent wants a fee to represent you, turn around and walk out of their office. They will never get you anything that makes it worth your while for what they charge.

In my opinion, once you do get your headshots done, the best route to go is with a UNION FRANCHISED Agent. A union franchised talent agent can work with both union and non-union talent. AFTRA is the union that works with TV - Commercials and TV Shows - basically shows in a videotaped format.

To find SAG/AFTRA franchised talent agents, visit Actingland provides contact information for thousands of agents along with casting notices and auditions.

Beware of agents that don't have real offices. The unions will not franchise anyone who works from home. An agency needs a professional office in order to interview clients. I'd be concerned if my niece/sister-in-law/daughter went to interview with someone calling themselves an agent who works out of their home.

Be sure the person you are dealing with as your potential agent is ethical. The BBB is a good place to start but here's an even better route. Call the state Attorney General's office if it's someone you've never heard of before. (I started out as an actress myself and learned the hard way.) You'd be surprised how a company can appear clean from the BBB and have a rather large (and active) file in the Attorney General's office. Still do not neglect calling the BBB.

Try the local Consumer Affairs office too - it never hurts! Many states regulate agencies through the department of Consumer Affairs or Protection. CT regulates through the Dept of workplace Standards.

Standard agency percentages are 10% MAXIMUM on any union work and between 15-20% on non union work if it is outside of union governance. (I have seen model managers take up to 25%, OUCH!)

What is outside of Union Governance? Print, Runway and Promotional Modeling. Don't let any one take more than 10% for your acting work. Be prepared to spend $$ on GOOD Photos and Printing costs for your headshots. These are your expenses, make sure the photographer you pick is a good one.

Ultimately, please remember, that no matter how difficult it is to get an agent, they work for you, not the other way around. Best of luck in all your careers, and remember to send agents your headshots with the contact info attached. You'd be surprised at the amount of people who send in photos to my agency with no contact info on it at all.
Angela W. Morris is a talent agent and the owner of the 2AM Agency. She has been in the entertainment industry since childhood and tries to keep in mind how rough it was when she was starting out.

Copyright © Angela Morris. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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