Pursuing an Acting Career
Which actors most frequently book acting work in Hollywood? The talented ones? The passionate ones? The attractive ones? Absolutely. However, there are many talented, passionate, attractive actors here. The actors who have a successful long term acting career are also methodical, consistent, diligent, confident, and professional.
It’s often said that the key turning point for most people pursuing an acting career in LA is three years. I agree. Allowing a year for visa or Greencard paperwork, let’s increase that number to four years for most international actors. Furthermore, it seems to have taken most working actors an additional three or four years before they were able to support themselves financially from acting alone.
Eight years is a long time. How old are you now? How old will you be then? I’m not saying you’ll be famous in eight years, or even rich. I’m saying that if you are a talented and consistently proactive actor, four years from the day you arrive in LA is when you will probably have solid mid-level representation, be on the radar of the ‘CDs’ (casting directors), doing union auditions, and generally feeling successful in your acting career. I’m saying that eight years from the day you arrive in LA, with the help of the advice contained within The Hollywood Survival Guide, you might just be a working actor. It also takes a whole lot of luck.
An overnight success is a rarity. Lindsay Lohan and Scarlett Johansson were competing for roles when they were (respectively) eight and ten years old. Even Kristen Stewart and Zac Efron were working in lesser-known movies and television for years before Twilight and High School Musical came out. In the majority of cases, it’s not just about having one hit role. It’s about having many roles over time so audiences and industry members begin to know and trust your ability to create great characters and engage an audience. It’s about building a body of solid credits to help you book that one hit role, and following that role up by attaching to high quality projects.
The reason it takes so long to get into the game is that Hollywood is built on trust, or (more specifically) nepotism, familiarity, and referrals. You need to work hard over time to earn the trust of the filmmakers, representatives (agents and managers), and CDs around town. Investors are spending a heck of a lot of money on these projects, so the producers need to know that the people they are hiring can do the job.
Trust takes a great deal of time to earn and prove. Each legitimate film or TV credit on your resume helps convince CDs and filmmakers to trust you, because if throughout your acting career, you’ve worked with professionals before, it is likely that you will behave and perform like a professional. Having an agent or manager who is trusted by CD’s around town is a vital commodity for up and coming actors, as the reputation they have built for providing solid talent is what will get you into the audition room. When you show your ‘demo’ (demonstration reel) or do an audition, you’re giving the filmmaker evidence that they can trust you to do justice to their character.
Once you gain the trust of the industry and become a public figure, you must earn and maintain the trust of audiences by doing solid acting performances in well-written, well-produced projects. When an audience watches a film “because celebrity x is in it”, it’s because the audience trusts the celebrity to bring them a story that is worth the cost of the movie ticket or DVD rental. After seeing the star acting badly or watching several bad movies starring the same celebrity, the audience has their trust broken and will be less likely to see the celebrity’s next film. This is why stars must be very careful about which films they select and with which directors they choose to work.
Holding a consistent, long-term acting career in Hollywood takes time and knowledge, because earning people’s trust takes time. If you’re in this business to succeed, make sure you educate yourself with resources like The Hollywood Survival Guide, and make sure you’re in it for the long haul.