Friday, March 8, 2013

Working in Hollywood


MARCH 8, 2013

by Dr. Melissa Caudle

Over the course of the last year I have met thousands of people who aspire to become a working actor and to land the role of their dreams.  There is a big difference from being able to call yourself an actor or actually being an actor.  Anyone can say they are an actor, but, out of the 4,200 plus online auditions I reviewed during the audition process for The Keystroke Killer, how man of the actors do you think solely relied on their income from acting jobs to survive?  It is daunting to think that maybe four out of the 4,200 could claim acting as their sole income and profession.

That alone seems depressing doesn't it?  Most of the actors held, at the minimum, one other job.  Their were waitresses, DJ's, paramedics, valet attendants, nurses, secretaries, a casting associate, a small business owner, a television host, a poet, a doctor, a nurse, and so forth.  This seems to be the rule, more than the exception.  If this is true, how does an actor go from holding multiple jobs in a variety of entry level and professional level occupations, to become a working actor?  I think I just might have a clue.  It is all in what the aspiring actor is willing to learn, their persistence, and how much time they are willing to put into their aspiring career.  Really.


Don't sit back and simply think that you are going to be the world's greatest actor because you love to act.  That simply isn't going to be good enough.  You have to develop your craft much like anything else you want to be good at.  You have to put yourself in situations where you can develop your skills.  Take classes.  Read books.  Join a acting study group.  Talk with others about your craft.  Video yourself and become your own casting director and fine tune your monologues.  Film a demo reel.  You have to be involved, stay involved, and become involved.

A great start will be this Saturday in Metairie, LA with my workshop based on my new book THUMBS UP! HOW TO NAIL AUDITIONS.  If you haven't enrolled, do so immediately by calling Robby at 504-301-8000.  This workshop includes a copy of by book.


I have had the honor of working with several A-List actors and actors who can claim the acting profession as their full-time and sole occupation.  I"ll start with HBO's True Blood actor Alexander Skarsgaurd.  I worked with him for five months on the Rod Lurie film Straw Dogs.  Alex and I are on first name basis, and in fact, as a group, we have attended concerts together, dinners, and just hanging out.  I had the opportunity to talk with Alex about how difficult it was to get into a television series and be well-known.  I'll never forget one of the things he told me.  "Just two-days before I was offered the role of Eric in True Blood, I was going back home to Sweden and giving up acting," he said.  Can you imagine True Blood without Alex?  I can't.  But that was almost the case because Alex was on the verge of quitting acting and making reservations back to his home country of Sweden when he got the call.

I share Alex's story with you because, his isn't the only story I have heard with a similar sentiment.  Billy Lush, Rhys Corio, Kate Bosworth, all shared the same type of stories.  They too almost gave up.  With this said, as an actor, if you truly are going to be an actor, go into this profession with persistence.  Persistence in obtaining your career has to be forefront in your mind.  Don't let others discourage you and don't ever give up on yourself.  If you do, we more than likely won't ever see you on the big screen.


Along with persistence, comes marketing in yourself.  There isn't anyone in the world that can market you better than yourself.  Let me repeat this in a different way.  Even if you have an agent or a manager, they can't market you like you can.  In fact, they often divide their energy with several clients.  You on the other hand, are only responsible for marketing yourself.  Believing this is crucial in the acting profession.  Why?  I've seen it too many times where an actor doesn't get sent out by their agent for any auditions.  And, what do they do?  The bad mouth and complain about their agent not getting them any auditions or any work.  Ask yourself, "Is this really my agent's fault or could I in someway be hampering my own career?"  If you answer this question honestly, you just might discover that you could be doing something differently.  For example, are your head shots reflective of you?  Do they look like you?  Are they glamour shots?  Have they been photo-shopped so much that the head shot doesn't really represent you, your age, and even your own flaws that make you who you are and your individual uniqueness?

If this is the case, how can you really fault your agent?  As a producer/casting director for my own projects, I can tell you that I am often very disappointed with actors when I meet them face-to-face because the don't look like their head shot.  Some people have submitted head shots to me that were taken more than a decade ago.  Why?  I don't know that answer, but when an actor submits a head shot that doesn't look like themselves, it can and most often does, go against you.  Avoid that at all costs.  Seek out a photographer that can do head shots that look like you, don't ever submit some photo-shopped version of yourself.  Again, this is your responsibility and not your agent or manager's role.


Also, along in this category of working in Hollywood, you have to take your own initiative to submit yourself for roles.  Again, don't simply rely on your agent.  You are in this together, so you should work as a team.  And, by all means, if you submit yourself for a role and receive an audition, notify your agent immediately.  They need to know and not be kept in the dark.  I can't tell you the number of times during the call backs for The Keystroke Killer, that I contacted an agent, and they didn't know which of their actors auditioned.  That's not good.  In fact, it might raise a red flag to your agent. Your agent is there to help you but they can't help you if you don't let them know what is going on.

Now back to submitting yourself for roles.  I am a firm believer that a working actor works because they take their own initiative.  The actor that stays informed works more.  For example, although I don't have any scientific research on this, I have discovered that the actors who look for roles to audition work more than actors who only rely on their agents to submit them.  With that said, do what is necessary to locate and find roles to audition.


Searching the Internet is by far one of the quickest and easiest ways to discover auditions in your area as well as in Hollywood, New York, and New Orleans - the three top film markets in the United States. Using key search words such as "Casting Calls," "Open Auditions," and "Currently Casting" will get you started.  Also, become familiar with the key online job boards for actors that includes Actors Access, Billboard, LACASTING, ACTNOW, and more.  Then, many independent film producers post on Craig's List. Also, go to acting social network sites and become involved with members.

A lot of information on who is auditioning and where auditions are being held are posted for the finding.  Also, visit entertainment websites for television networks, television shows, and see where the links lead you.  Another viable source is through your acting classes and film schools.  And, don't forget to look in entertainment magazines and newspapers.  Then, be sure to check out your areas film commission and state film commission's websites, as many producers will post auditions there.

I feel that it is important that I also address that an actor needs to be careful and make sure that all auditions are legitimate.  Yes, there are scams out there.  I go by, if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably isn't true.  Watch out for auditions that make you PAY to audition.  This should never happen.  Also, watch out for auditions that require you to give your social security number or a credit card to hold a spot for you.  No legitimate casting director needs this information.  The only time they need your social security information is after your contracted to work for taxes or to contact SAG.  I also would avoid auditions late at night in a hotel room.  If I were you, don't go.  And, never go to an audition if the casting director or producer promises and guarantees they'll make you a star.  No one can promise that.  So, use your discretion and discernment.

To sum this up, an actor must:
  • Be persistent
  • Be your own "marketer"
  • Take Initiative
  • Do your own homework and research where to find auditions.
  • Use discernment
I can't guarantee that by doing these things you will become a full-time actor, but at least your chances will increase.