Right, so I promised I would talk about voice next. As always, I will try to keep it extremely general, so you can look at it as a broad guideline of things to work on rather than a detailed criticism of different techniques.
When you first start out as an actor, voice can be one of the big things that hold you back, particularly if you are doing stage work. Screen work is more forgiving because you don’t need to project as much, but you’ll still need good vocal technique for emotionally and physically difficult scenes. Women in particular can struggle a lot when they first start out because a naturally high voice is difficult to hear, and smaller frames can mean smaller lung capacity. Don’t let this get in your way, it can be improved with a little time and effort – but firstly you need to be aware of what you need to work on.
Regardless of whether you have a light voice, Read More
Right. I just finished talking about your body, and now I want to talk about – your body. Yes. In an entirely different way. Let’s stop thinking about what it looks like and start thinking about what you can do with it. This discussion relates more to stage than screen, simply because usually your whole body is visible in theatre, and in film there is often more of a focus on your face. However, I believe the best actors, regardless of medium, know how to use their bodies. If you’ve ever thought, “What should I do with my hands?” then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
You might want to ask yourself, “What is a great actor’s body? What do great actors do with their bodies when they act?” Read More
It might be a bit of a touchy subject, but I’d like to talk about your body for a bit. This is a really tricky area, especially for a lot of young women, but it affects everyone in the industry to some extent. I have seen a LOT of actors struggle with body image issues, so it’s something I feel passionate about. Often we think that changing our bodies or faces to fit a particular ideal will get us more work. More often than not I think the opposite is true: changing to fit an ideal will get you less work because there’ll longer be anything interesting or memorable about you. It happens a lot to celebrities – they have plastic surgery and suddenly they look like grotesque and inhuman and cease to be cast in anything. And beyond that, chances are that whatever you think is a problem is probably not what’s stopping you from getting work – it’s more likely to be a lack of confidence, or the fact that you don’t seem alive or vibrant in auditions because you’re too busy thinking about your big nose… More about noses later. Let’s start with body.
I don’t believe for a second that you have to be super skinny or super muscly to be a successful actor, but your body shape will affect the sorts of parts you get. To some extent, you won’t be able to help this, because your body has a ‘type’, just as your face does. Read More
In my first post, I gave you the most important things you need to know about headshots before you go for your shoot. If you haven’t checked that out, you may want to check that out here. Now that we’ve covered the essentials (that everybody seems to get wrong), here is some practical insight into what the shoot will be like, how much it will cost, and what you can expect to get out of it. I also have some tips for DIY headshots for you as well.
Finding a photographer
A professional headshot is an important investment and doesn’t have to be super expensive, but sometimes finding a photographer can be tricky. Photography studios don’t always advertise whether or not they do actors’ headshots, and independent photographers who often do headshots may not have an online presence where they advertise what they offer. It’s worth doing your own research before you choose someone, and it’s definitely worth reading up on what makes a good headshot before you go to your shoot.
It’s best to work with people who have done headshots for actors before because they’ll know what works and what’s expected, plus they’ll give you the rights to the material so you can reproduce the photos as needed. As I explained previously, you can’t use glamour shots from companies where you are expected to buy prints directly from their company; those companies have strict copyright on their shots and you will not be able to reproduce or distribute them as needed. Invest a little bit of time asking around and looking at websites before you decide on a photographer. It’s also a good idea to check out the headshots of professional actors (have a look on imdb.com for the real pros) to get an idea of what makes a good headshot, what’s popular and acceptable and what you would like yours to look like (poses, colours, clothes, hair and makeup, etc). There are trends in headshots as much as anything else, so it’s a good idea to be aware of what’s ‘fashionable’, Read More
I promised I would talk about headshots, but there’s something important we need to discuss before we get to that: casting type. If you want your headshot to actually get you work, it has to look like you – but it also has to bring out the right elements of you. If you get a headshot that brings out your sexy side, but your casting type is not sexy at all, then your headshot won’t help you in the long run. So let’s get to know ‘type’.
Typing is good for you
A lot of actors resist their type. You have probably heard whinging or bitching about certain actors being ‘typecast’ as the same roles over and over again – generally considered lazy, unlucky, or a result of no talent, whereas the reality is quite the opposite.
It’s very common for actors who have just graduated from a training institute to try and resist their type, because they have probably been cast against type during their training, to challenge their abilities, and therefore think they can play anything. This may be true, they may have the ability to act a large variety of roles, but no actor is EVER cast like that. You will get, at most, Read More
Whether you’re applying to an agent, or submitting freelance for auditions, at some point you will need an acting CV. Your acting CV (or arts CV, or resume – same thing) obviously needs different content to a CV you would give to a retail or hospitality employer, but often it’s hard to know what to include and how to format it, especially when you feel like you don’t have much to include yet!
Let’s start with format. There are a zillion different ways to format an arts CV, so the smart thing to do is check your agent’s website before you submit to them Read More
You may have heard other actors talking about being ‘represented’. This is the terminology used for an actor who is registered (or ‘on the books’) with an agent, who puts them forward for roles and handles their contracts and payment if they are cast. An agent is a useful ally to have, but having one is not necessarily essential when you first start out. Let’s talk through why you may or may not need one.
What they do
Firstly, you need to know the difference between an agent and a casting agent. A casting agent is the liaison between a client (someone who needs to cast a role) and an agent (who represents people who want to be cast). They are usually the ones who run screen tests and assist the client in making casting decisions. Casting agents do not have ‘books’ as such; that is, they don’t represent actors directly. It is their responsibility to find the most appropriate actor for the job, and therefore representing particular actors would be a conflict of interest. So casting agents are not the ones to approach when you are looking for representation.
Occasionally, for certain projects, casting directors will accept freelance submissions – meaning if you don’t have an agent but you hear a role is being auditioned, you may be able to book an audition time straight through them. This is usually only possible if the casting agent has advertised the role publicly, or if an agent knows your work and trusts that you are worth submitting. This sort of arrangement varies greatly from state to state and I’m referring particularly to what tends to happen in Perth, so you will need to suss out the situation for yourself in other states. In general, it is more advantageous – and appropriate – to develop a relationship with an agent rather than a casting agent.
Note: casting agents are mostly used for screen rather than stage work. In the theatre, it is most often the director who makes casting decisions. This will be the case on some lower budget screen projects as well.
Now, an agent is a company or an individual within a company who puts you forward for auditions. Every day they are asked by the various casting agents to provide actors to fill certain briefs, eg. ‘athletic blonde, late 20s’, ‘cute and bubbly, 20-24’. They will be given a certain number of audition slots to fill and they will choose actors from their ‘books’ to put forward for those slots. If one of their actors is chosen, they will negotiate the terms of the contract and handle payment, from which they will deduct a fee for their commission.
How much they cost
It is unusual for an agent to ask for money before you have completed a job for them, but it does happen from time to time. Some agents ask for a fee to represent you as an extra only, rather than for featured roles (which will get you some experience and exposure but won’t make much money for them, so it could be considered fair enough to charge you), while others may ask for a fee for headshots or for website maintenance. Ask around and search online to ascertain whether this is a reasonable request before you agree to anything. A general rule is that you shouldn’t have to pay an agent anything until they’ve booked you for work.
- Why they’re useful
Having an agent cuts down on your workload. An actor’s workload can be huge, as you’ll have to juggle other jobs, study, going to see shows, working on grants and other creative projects; networking and researching like crazy on top of that is a lot to ask. Not to mention the fact that after a while you’ll begin to annoy peers, professionals and even your family if you advertise yourself as a product too much (“like my facebook page”, “look at my website”, “give my CV to your friend”… blurgh). There’s nothing wrong with asking people to come to your show, but when you get to the stage where you have to manipulate your friends and family in order to get to where you want to go, you’re straying into very unprofessional territory.It’s also worth considering that once you’re at a professional level, if you’re not represented, it can raise serious questions about why you aren’t. Is it because your previous standard of work wasn’t good enough to secure you an agent, or is it because your personal code of conduct was not satisfactory? That is, are you just plain not a good actor, or did you act like a jerk and piss someone off? Neither may be the case but unfortunately both these scenarios are all too common, so it’s probably for the best that you plan to seek representation once you’ve started to work at a professional level.
Above all, your agent has experience and knows what they’re doing. They know what needs to be in your contract and how much you need to be paid. They can help you avoid getting ripped off or working under poor conditions. If you’re a freelance actor, you’ll definitely want to become an Equity member to help you deal with these issues.
- When should I get one?
Let’s get one thing clear. You don’t necessarily need an agent to work as an actor in Perth, especially when you’re first starting out. It is possible to seek work as a ‘freelance’ actor, especially for stage or film work that is considered ‘independent’ (which is generally the small-to-medium size stuff that sits between community theatre and major theatre companies). However, if you are ambitious, it is infinitely easier to access the big stuff via an agent.My general guideline is to think about getting one once you’ve finished, or nearly finished, training of some sort. Agents don’t just look for credits on your CV but often prefer taking on actors who are trained to some degree. However, training is not a strict prerequisite, so decide when it’s right for you and plan ahead before you approach them – take a long, hard look at your CV and think about ways to fill in the gaps. You don’t have to have a long list of credits to your CV, but what you list should indicate the sort of actor you are, as well as what sort of actor you want to be.
Keep in mind that a lot of agencies only take on new actors at a certain time of year (unless they’re scouting for something very particular), so it’s worth calling them and asking when it would be best to apply, and while you’re at it, check what format they want your CV and headshot in (soft copy via email/hard copy via post). If in doubt about when to send, send it through when you’re ready and follow up a few months later with an update. Don’t give up if you don’t hear back right away – agents receive so many submissions every day and won’t go through them straight away. It could take months. My recommendation would be to submit around January/February, when agents are more likely to be assessing whether they are able to take on more actors.
- The tricky stuff
Getting an agent is not the hard part of being represented. The hard part is maintaining a relationship with your agent that is pleasant and mutually beneficial. Until your agent gets to know you and trust you very well, you may not hear from them much at all. The catch-22 is that they may not trust you until they see you do work, but you might feel like you can’t get work until they trust you enough to give you auditions! Persevere with getting your own work through auditions you’ve found yourself, and make sure you invite your agent along to see your performances or screenings of your work, and send your updated CV every so often. Keep in touch without being a pest, and eventually it will be pay off. Don’t be alarmed if that takes a few years, and most importantly, NEVER whinge to or about your agent.
- Who are they?
So if you think you’re ready to be represented, you need to do some research about the agents in your state. Before you agree to ANYTHING, you really need to understand properly whether your agent is a major acting agent in your city, a small extras and promotion agency, or a dodgy online operation. If you don’t know any actors who can give you the inside scoop, hit up a few Facebook groups for actors (you should be following these types of groups anyway) and ask for their opinion.
There’s a lot more that you need to know about agents, but before I write more posts, let me know – what do you most want to know about having an agent?
I don’t want to get too much into the heavy theoretical discussions just yet, so let’s embark on something you’re probably very interested in: auditions.
As an actor, a large percentage of the work you get is going to come from auditions. So you have to know how to do them well – but before that, you have to know how to get them at all.
I will dedicate a future post to agents and how to get one, but if you’re just starting out, or you want opportunities you don’t usually get offered via your agent or your networks, then you need to know where to find auditions.
The easiest way to find auditions for freelancers is online. There are certain websites you should be frequenting Read More
So now that I’ve chewed your ear off about training, I’ll leave that for a bit so you can think it over. In the meantime, I’m sure you’d appreciate some ideas about what you can do to train yourself – whether you’re attending classes or not, there are always little things you can do to get ahead. So I’ll start with the simplest and possibly the BEST of them all: reading. Yes, this blog will be a very nerdy celebration of the written word.
I’m going to talk a bit later about some drama theory you might like to get into, but let’s start with something easier – plays and screenplays. Film or stage, if you are working within the Australian industry, it usually pays to spend some time reading and watching whatever’s coming out of your own industry. Read More
I told you in the last post that you don’t need to go to drama school, and now I’ll start the long series of suggestions of things you can be doing instead. The best place I can think to start is with training, which you are probably already considering in some form.
Training is important. 99% of the time you can tell which actors on a stage are trained and what sort of training they’ve received, just by the way they move and speak. Film is slightly different. ‘Raw talent’ is much more common in film because the camera loves actors who can move and speak ‘naturally’, which is possible without training. On stage, this naturalness would probably mean that nobody can hear you or that you’d create the dreaded ‘talking head’ effect. But eventually, film or stage, you are going to come across a particularly challenging scene where you are going to need to rely on ‘technique’ of some sort. Some actors are lucky and become very successful without training, but this is often due to a personal temperament that includes confidence, diligence, and intelligence, as well as natural ability. This is a rare combination, and whether you have it or not, it will almost certainly benefit you to get at least a little bit of training.
Training doesn’t have to come from a drama school. There are a lot of courses available Read More