Advice for the Beginning Actor Part 9 – What Tools Does An Actor Need?

Special thanks to the actors who have taken time out of their busy schedules to graciously provide advice for new actors for Wannabe Pride, including Regen Wilson, Chris Pentzell, David DeBoy, Ken Arnold, Mercedes Rose, Gabriel Voss, Brittany Baratz, Laura Hunter, Lance Carter, Stephon Fuller, and Rachel F. Hirsch.

What Tools Does an Actor Need?

 “For starters you need a good headshot and an up-to-date resume. Eventually you need a good audio demo, a good video demo, and a great website. But none of those tools are worth anything if you don’t use marketing tools. Marketing tools are the most valuable tools of all. And you are your best marketing tool.”- David Deboy (email) (website)

“Headshots, a head for business, and a headstart on the competition through a strong work ethic, friendly demeanor and artistic integrity.” -Regen Wilson (website)

“Headshots — both theatrical and commercial (smiling).  Nowadays they have to be almost close-ups, since casting agents go through thumbnails on their computers.  No full body shots unless they ask.  Acting classes are good for your own personal craft, but casting directors nowadays love to see improv training — Groundlings, Second City, UCB.  Even commercial casting directors look for it.  Also, have a reel if you submit on Actors Access — even if all the clips are from the same project.  Even if it’s only one clip!  Submitting with a reel on Actors Access moves you up in the order.” – Chris Pentzell (email)

“Beginning actors need to have a headshot and resume. Even if the resume just lists their contact info to start. Also beginning actors should immerse themselves in learning as much about the craft as they can by either reading books, taking classes etc. The problem I have seen from actors in this market is after they book that first industrial or indie film role they stop training. Acting is an ongoing process of growth. You must always have someone coaching you and pushing you to get better. Look at Olympic Athletes. They wouldn’t dare coach themselves. To be elite, you must train like the elite. And that means having a mentor, taking workshops, classes and constantly improving upon your skills. I have seen the actors who do become very successful and the actors who don’t stay right where they are. Complaining about not enough work or why don’t they get better gigs. You always need to practice. Its keeps you at the top.” – Ken Arnold ( STUDIO BOH)

“I always recommend the book Breaking into Acting for Dummies for newbies. Yes, seriously. A good headshot is necessary. Acting class for beginners. An improv class. And a flexible day job. “-  Mercedes Rose (Imdb)  (website)

 “You must have decent headshots and a resume of some sort. Acting training is important but you have to start with what you look like and what you’ve done and/or what your skills are. ” – Gabriel Voss (website, imdb, facebook, twitter)

“A best tools a beginning actor can have are passion and perseverance! If you are serious about this industry, you have to have the personal fortitude to let all the “no’s” roll off your back. A clear, well-lit, natural headshot that shows your personality in the eyes will help get you on casting-director’s radar. You’ll need well laid out resume that honestly shows your experience. If you don’t have a lot of credits; that is okay. Don’t ever lie about your experience, and make sure you proof-read for typos!”- Brittany Baratz (website, twitter, Knuffle Bunny National Tour)

 “New actors need headshots, a resume, and some training. I went to a well-known arts college and acting conservatories, and got a lot out of that experience. However, I don’t think that’s the only way, or maybe even the best way, to go about getting a career. The best way to get a career is to start working. Beyond the basics, new actors need to learn how to self-promote. This often feels awkward or pushy… get over that feeling as fast as you can, its necessary. You also need a realistic way to make money while pursuing this career that isn’t going to get in the way of that pursuit.” Laura Hunter (email, website, twitter, facebook, youtube, contributor to NonSociety.com)

“Definitely headshots. And not headshots that your neighbor/friend/girlfriend or boyfriend took. It doesn’t matter if they take good pictures, you need professional headshots. If you’re close to a big city, take a trip there and get some done. Spend the money. It’ll make you stand out from the wanna-be’s. [Not that there’s anything wrong with wannabes! – LF] Take classes or better yet, do plays or musicals. Get to be the best actor you can be.” – Lance Carter website, twitter, Facebook)

“Here is the conventional wisdom (and it’s all correct):

                        – TRAINING! Work with quality coaches and instructors that suit your learning needs. And know that your training is never finished. Even the biggest stars continue to go back to their coaches. 

                        -A headshot that really looks like you, a clean and organized resume, audition materials (music rep book for musical theater, monologues for plays, copy or film for tv and commercials). 

            Here’s what you may not know already:

                        -Be extremely googleable. Video and/or audio footage of your work (put it all on youtube!), a LinkedIn account, twitter account, and website are all a must. If you Google Rachel F. Hirsch a million different things come up. I’ve been meeting with a lot of industry people lately that I’ve never met. Yet, by the time we get together, they already have seen my headshot and resume, know where I’m from and have heard me sing. They can find all of that information  online. – Rachel F. Hirsch twitter, website, acting website, website)

 “Ideally, a great, realistic attitude; training in scene study, commercials, voice, improv; great photos and an incredible amount of desire to succeed.  At least.”- Stephon Fuller (twitter, blog, website)

Advice for the Beginning Actor Part 8 – Should You Accept Extra / Background Roles?

Special thanks to the actors who have taken time out of their busy schedules to graciously provide advice for new actors for Wannabe Pride, including Regen Wilson, Chris Pentzell, David DeBoy, Ken Arnold, Mercedes Rose, Gabriel Voss, Brittany Baratz, Laura Hunter, Lance Carter, Stephon Fuller, andRachel F. Hirsh.

“In the beginning I accepted most any kind of role. But after the first 15 years in the business I learned all I could as an extra. Now I’m focused on learning all I can in the speaking roles. 30-some years in the business and I’m still learning.” – David Deboy (email) (website)

 “I don’t.”   -Regen Wilson (website)

“I was more willing to do it before I was eligible to join SAG.  Since then, I won’t do it.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it but, as I see it, it probably won’t lead to anything substantial so it’s largely about the money.  But my day job (private tutoring) is more lucrative and less time-consuming so I’d rather do that.” – Chris Pentzell (email)

“When starting out as an actor these are great jobs to take. It’s like a film school and acting class all rolled into one. And they pay you for it!  But you have to pay attention when you get on set. Don’t just go to socialize and miss the opportunity to learn. I have had the opportunity to watch Steven Spielberg direct, Ben Kingsley go through his process, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, and many more. And I watched closely. How they handled themselves, what they were doing, how they stood, how they carried themselves etc. It’s an amazing learning opportunity but…there comes a time when you need to walk away from that and have the desire to be the one on camera speaking. The focus of a scene. But if you keep doing extra roles casting directors think of you as just that. And you miss a lot of auditions/opportunities because you are doing extra work.” – Ken Arnold ( STUDIO BOH)

“I got my start as “background”. I think it is just that- a great place to start. Being a n extra is a fantastic way to get to know how a set works, the industry terms, the players, etc. But if you want to eventually do speaking roles you have to eventually step out of the shadows and stop doing the background stuff. And anyone who thinks be an extra is a good way to “get discovered” need a dose of reality. No one looks at the background. Literally.”  –  Mercedes Rose (Imdb)  (website)

“They do not advance your acting career but it is a good way to get on big budget sets and see how things work. It’s also a way to make money and you can’t knock that.” – Gabriel Voss (website, imdb, facebook, twitter)

“I think it is a great way to gain experience on a set and an easy way to earn cash and a free meal. I will work background a few times a year if I’m available.” – Brittany Baratz (website, twitter, Knuffle Bunny National Tour)

“Oh, people will tell you all sorts of things about this. I think its a great way to get a feel for how a set is run, and to learn your way around a new city. I’ve done it in both NY and LA a couple of times. I wouldn’t make it a frequent thing, but its not going to kill your career. In fact, I can think of at least 3 people off the top of my head who got “their break” from doing background work. So, you never know. People will give you lots of advice about lots of things, 99% of them have no idea what they are talking about. Do what works for you. If you need extra money and want to take a background job, do it.”  Laura Hunter (email, website, twitter, facebook, youtube, contributor to NonSociety.com)

 “If you don’t live in NYC or LA, I think it’s fine. You can meet a lot of people in your area with the same interests and network. That’s what happened when I did it back in DC. In LA and NYC, I think it’s fine if you need some quick money but I wouldn’t do it on a regular basis.” – Lance Carter website, twitter, Facebook)

“I don’t currently do background roles, but I’ve done a lot in the past and it was a great learning experience while earning a check.”- Stephon Fuller (twitter, blog, website)

Advice for Beginning Actors: Part 1

 Special thanks to the actors who have taken time out of their busy schedules to graciously provide advice for new actors for Wannabe Pride, including Regen Wilson, Chris Pentzell,  David DeBoy, Ken Arnold, Mercedes Rose, Gabriel Voss, Brittany Baratz, Laura Hunter, Lance Carter, Stephon Fuller, and Rachel F. Hirsch.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ALONG THE WAY THAT YOU WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD YOU IN THE BEGINNING?

I wish someone had told me that when you go into an audition Producers, Directors and Casting Agents WANT you to succeed. If you’re good, you’ve solved their casting problem. When I was first auditioning, I thought they were all looking at me like they knew I was an imposter and they wanted me to fail. But that was all in my head.- David Deboy (email, website) 

Whenever possible, memorize the sides for the audition before you go in.  It’s a pleasant surprise for most casting directors. – Regen Wilson (website

Stay in action and don’t limit yourself to one thing.  Do improv, do stand-up, write, whatever.  You never know what’s going to hit.  Drop all preconceptions of how you think your career is going to go.  Even if you’re getting loads of auditions, stay active creatively.  Auditions aren’t creative or rewarding in and of themselves — they’re simply a means to an end.  You need to keep sane. –  Chris Pentzell (email)

That you don’t have to accept every audition and job offer that comes your way. You can say no. And if a situation seems awkward or not right that you can speak up.  – Ken Arnold ( STUDIO BOH)  

I think the thing that took me the longest to realize was to not be embarrassed. I loved acting but I was often afraid of looking silly. The moment I realized “looking silly” was our job, everything changed. I lightened up. I enjoyed the audition process. And I stopped worrying. And started booking.– Mercedes Rose (website) (imdb)

It’s not over until it’s over, meaning that a film isn’t done until it’s released and available for public consumption. I’ve had so many projects fall apart in pre-production, during production, and even after the film is completed. Don’t count on it until it’s done done. Gabriel Voss (website, imdb, facebook, twitter)

Be 100% yourself. Show your personality; don’t try to make yourself into what you think others want to see. Get into a good, supportive acting class, and stay active with your education.  – Brittany Baratz (websitetwitter)

Most importantly, that you have to have a life outside of your “dream.” Friends, family, relationships will be there for you when things go wrong, and will provide stability in a very unstable lifestyle… your career won’t.  – Laura Hunter (email, websitetwitter, youtube, contributor to NonSociety.com

 Don’t pass up any opportunity to be on stage or audition.  – Lance Carter  website, twitter, Facebook)

There are so many things I wish I’d known before I started pursuing acting that I had to launch an entire website (www.ihopeigetit.info) just to list them all! But I think the biggest, most useful lesson I’ve learned is to spend some time figuring out who I am as performer and build on that. Find what you do best and what makes you the happiest, and then seek out those auditions. Not only will this make you a happier person, but it will serve your career well. Casting directors are more likely to remember you because you have given them a distinct impression of who you are instead of trying to adapt yourself to who you think they are looking for each time you get in front of them.- Rachel F. Hirsch twitter, website, acting websitewebsite)  

I specifically didn’t ask many questions early on, but I listened a lot.  I found that people often repeat what they hear, but I had trouble finding a reason to follow much of what I heard.  I decided to create my own reality; I simply did things in my pursuit that made sense to me from a business point of view.  My understanding and love of business has been a great asset to me.  – Stephon Fuller (twitter, blog, website)