Becoming an actor can feel daunting and overwhelming as there are so many things to consider, such as how to create a compelling showreel, what to put on your CV and searching and applying for work. In this article, we'll provide expert tips and insights into the business of acting from those with insider knowledge.
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New Year and New Opportunites
Over the last few years, the world of entertainment has been full of stops and starts. From the pandemic through to the actor's strikes, those in the industry have had their fair share of things to contend with. However, despite starting a little slow, 2024 is steadily on the rise, with new and exciting opportunities in the realms of TV, film, theatre and motion capture.
We also have the increase in backing new and exciting content and a surge in demand for diverse acting talent alongside new streaming platforms, which will transform how content is produced and consumed globally. So, now more than ever, it's important to make the most of your skills and experience and ensure they are showcased to the best of your abilities.
“Starting a new year as an actor can be somewhat intimidating; however, I believe we need to look at it from the perspective of opportunity. There are so many exciting and new adventures for you in 2024. But how do you maximise the potential of a new year? One of my most used phrases is, ‘control the controllable’. There are so many things as an actor that are out of your control, so focus on what you can control, that is, ensuring your headshots are up-to-date, updating your CV regularly, investing time and resources in preparing new showreel scenes and making sure your profiles on casting websites are filled out fully."
Create a Compelling Showreel
If you're just starting out as an actor, creating a showreel is a catch-22. You can struggle to find work without it, and you can't make one unless you work. Likewise, those with plenty of footage can struggle to understand the best structure that will make the most impact on casting directors and production companies.
I always advise actors to engage their storytelling skills when creating a showreel. As with any story, you need a beginning, a middle and an end. The first scene needs to be compelling enough to entice the viewer to continue watching the next scene, so start with your strongest work first. If you're struggling to get showreel material, you can use a company to film the scenes for you, such as Daniel Johnson's Showreels from Scratch.
Ryan Stone, Founder and Creative Director of Lambda Films London has this to say about the importance of showreels:
"You can audition, be found, and attract opportunities purely through the strength of your showreel. We look for actors almost every day, and we find that it's hard to invite new talent to audition when we have little understanding of their skills. Take the time to produce a rich and varied showreel. It needs to show your strengths through monologues and interactions. Build a showreel of staged scenes that show your range and give potential casting agents and producers an insight into your skills. With this, you'll find that opportunities come to you rather than you always having to chase them."
Craft a Winning CV
As an actor coach, there are some common mistakes that I often see with actor CVs. The first mistake is sending CVs that are 3-4 pages long. An ideal CV should be just one A4 size. Pick out your most impressive film, television or theatre credits and display them. If you specialise in more than one area, have multiple resumes. For example, have one for voiceover and motion capture and one for television and film.
Shauna Griffith advises: "When creating your CV, skills that are particularly valuable to see include languages spoken, movement/dance/stage combat/stunt training, any sports played and to what level – essentially any skill that could be required by a character. Making sure they are clear on your CV (generally at the bottom, after credits) makes it much easier for a Casting Director or Production to know if you are right."
Shauna continues to say: "A top tip when applying for jobs is to ensure you read the brief fully and only apply if the character is applicable to you. Casting professionals will do their very best to highlight any particular skill or ability within the job posting, so please be sure to read the brief in detail and highlight the matching skill you have when applying. For me, I love when actors share their headshot and CV as attachments and include in the body of the email their availability for the dates mentioned, and if required, that they possess the desired skill and to what degree."
Know Your Type
When creating your marketing materials, such as headshots and showreels, one thing to consider is what your type is. A type is about more than just your skills and abilities; it's a combination of your physical characteristics and personality traits that defines the roles you're suited to play. Having a type when starting out can be helpful in booking roles; as you progress within the industry and build momentum, you'll be able to play more varied roles.
"One of the most important pieces of advice I give actors is to know your type. Like many industries, acting is a numbers game. The more times you go after a specific target, the more chances you have of hitting it – so you want to be smart about where you are applying those efforts. I was recently talking to Avery Mason, who played hulking enforcer Black Grimace on the Starz hit series “Power.” He credits knowing his type to a lot of his success. He’s 6’4 and 260 lbs., so even though Avery describes himself as a teddy bear in real life, the bulk of his roles are for badass brutes. By knowing his type and embracing it he’s appeared on such hit shows as “Power”, “Gotham”, “The Last OG”, and “The Punisher.” Not everybody is the romantic leading man, and the wonderful thing about entertainment is that the tapestry has room for all types of characters. One of the keys to consistent work is knowing your type and embracing it."
Gain Onset Experience
Getting experience on a film set doesn't just have to be while acting. Many actors support themselves between acting work by working as runners. It's a great way to learn about all the different roles and make connections that could serve you well as an actor in the future. Neil Chase of Neil Chase Films says:
"Don't just look for acting roles when you are first starting out in the industry. Not only do you get relevant film experience, but you can make lasting connections with other like-minded creatives who are also working their way up the ladder - not to mention the ones who have already made it! Those connections are worth their weight in gold. I personally know an actor who was a PA on a TV show film set. He worked very hard and diligently on set, and through this role, he got to know the director and producers. By demonstrating a hard work ethic and great personality, he was able to leverage his experiences on-set to get a small role on the show!"
Related Post: Mastering the Art of Self-Taping: A Guide for Actors
Finally, Handling Rejection
Actors, in general, can face high amounts of rejections. There are sometimes hundreds of actors auditioning for the same role. Sometimes, you'll get feedback from casting and other times not. Handling rejection can be difficult, so it's important to create a network with other actors who can support you.
When working with actors I always integrate mindfulness into our sessions. Mindfulness helps us to stay present in the moment, and a great way to turn rejection into something positive is to keep a lessons-learned journal. After an audition, write down your thoughts and feelings and reflect upon what you feel went well and what you feel didn't. What could you have done differently, and how can you learn and grow from this experience? Were there any mistakes you made that you can avoid in the future by taking a training course or improving a skill set? If you did a self-tape ask a trusted actor friend for impartial feedback.
Shauna Griffith has these final words of reassurance. She says: "Please don’t be offended if you don’t hear back; due to the volume of applicants, we can only get back to those that fit the bill, but please be assured that we individually review each and every application and if you are not right for this role, then you may be for another we are working on. It is our job to keep people in mind for future work, and that we do! Being an actor is tough, there is no denying that, and I would love actors to know that we appreciate and value you and all the hard work you put into tapes… nothing is taken for granted, so thank you!”
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