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 talent agent. A union franchised talent agent can work with both union and non-union talent. SAG-AFTRA is the union that works with film and TV actors. SAG-AFTRA represents nearly 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, program hosts, recording artists, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.

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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Reader Comments

Hi...My name is grace and I'm 13yrs have always wanted to act all my life and becoming an actress has always been my biggest dream...all I want is to make my parents proud of me..I have always dreamt of pursuing my acting career in the right are my only chance/key to success....and it's always inspiring me when I see other child actors alone pursuing their dreams....that's all I want

Posted by Grace (2022-09-07) 13874

I really like to act because I've got a lot of talent and I'm so happy to get this page .so I just want to act nometer the situation is

Posted by Lebohang (2020-08-19) 13247

Hi I'm from jamaica, I want to become an actress, please help

Posted by Kawana wilson (2018-10-29) 13004

i want to be an actor please help me

Posted by motloung Themba (2015-04-02) 7157

this is an example of why most agents know nothing about the craft of acting. public speaking has nothing to do with good acting. public speaking you are dealing directly with the crowd. acting is creating a life & a mood & interacting only with the characters on stage. this is what creates magic in theatre or film. go take some acting classes. public speaking is good for politicians. the only similarity is that you are talking.

Posted by alfred muscari (2015-03-25) 7154

Hello my name is lakota, and i was wondering. can you send your headshots and resume through the internet? and how frequently are you supposed to take new headshots?

please email me and tell me.

Posted by lakota cloud (2010-05-17) 2533

Hello, I am really thrilled that I have found this web site. The articles are very easy to understand and quite the motivational tool. I possess a great deal of fervor for acting and fell in love with theatre from the moment I stepped on the stage. I have performed at churches, schools and even stages ranging from Orlando to Chicago to Las Vegas. I absolutely love speaking to large groups and have spoke to various groups. I give my absolute everything to my character I am playing and work hard at becoming a more versatile actress. I was Miss Illinois Outstanding Teen 2008, and through that wonderful experience, I learned what it meant to network, network, network! I also was awarded the opportunity to come into contact with the President of Dolphin Entertainment, Bill O'Dowd (discover of starlets such as Megan Fox) and brilliant agent Sam Haskell (signed people such as Kathie Lee Gifford). Since meeting these inspiring men, I have really seen myself being able to climb to the top. I truly desire to. I live on a farm in very rural United States so the opportunities are not just overflowing; however, I love to sing and dance and I play the piano and other instruments and I also speak Spanish so it increases the opportunities by a little bit. :) I have had some experience in modeling as I have recently signed a contract with the very down-to-earth, pioneer of her industry, Stacey Schieffelin. It has been so much fun, as we try to inspire teens and tweens alike to express a more genuine personality. The photos have been printed in magazines such as Savvy. It has been quite the culture shock for this farm girl. I have always been a dedicated young woman and strived to make straight A's in all of my classes. I am currently 19 years of age and attending a local community college on a presidential scholarship. I am searching for any and all opportunities that I could grab by the horns. Please, if you read this message, I would like to provide you with further information in regards to credentials and I would also wish for any other tips. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Posted by Emily (2010-05-04) 2502

I have some acting experience, went to school, I have all the necessary material (resume, headshots, composite cards, business cards, post cards) i'm NON UNION and have NO representation and I don't know what to do from here, I feel stuck!!!!
Please give me you best advise about:
- mailing
- get legit representation
- break into commercials and commercial prints
- how necessary is to become union and what are the benefits
- where to take good commercial classes
Thank you, hope you can give me some advises!

Posted by BB (2010-03-17) 2430

i want to be an actress soo bad its my passion please get me into showbiz

Posted by chelsea (2010-02-18) 2369

I have only done Extra work in Texas (Prison Break, Mark Walhberg movie/ Invincible, a few with Danika McKeller and a Barney Video) I have not pursued it further because we are military and moving around makes it hard. But I am now taking classes at the college and am going to try local theaters.

When I think of why I want to be an actress, it's NOT the money I think of, it's the freedom of being a different person, different roles. I get bored of the same ole job and with acting, I can always be a different person, personality, etc. I don't sing, but I dance (not professionally) but at 44yo I still have the moves. I can some what do other accents and I cry really easy and fast. I believe that maybe and I'm not sure yet, that Acting may very well be what I need in my life. I love acting out as I do at home while watching shows, I become them. But, I also believe that you don't really know what you want to be, until you have gotten a taste of it.

In my opinion, when one wants to do a certain job. They have to ask themselves "is this something that i would enjoy doing for free?"

So, in closing, I want to thank you for the information on your website. I found every bit of it very informative and inspirational.

Posted by Sheila Robinson (2009-12-31) 2267

I have my 8 x 10's. I'm in the midst of considering who to send the pictures off to. Do not have an agent yet. I have no acting experience at all. Does anybody know the "best" type of resume to use for a very green beginner? As well as reputable agents to send my photos off to? Thank you.

Posted by Cathy Ortiz (2009-02-28) 1066

Im looking for auditions in or near New Orleans, Lousisana. I can't travel far, but I'm posative I can land a part in something. I'm only fourteen, but I've been in a couple of school plays, and tooks classes and I'm about to take even more classes. I havent done anything BIG, but would love to or even a commerical. I'm also looking for a good agent, even though I havent been in many plays. I have expirence in front of large crowds.

Can you please email me with information about auditions, agents, or anything that is helpful. Thank you.

Posted by Sadie (2008-09-11) 354

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