There are a variety of ways that an actor can attract attention and get more opportunities. My personal favorite is to develop relationships with people who can hire you or, short of that, people who can put you in front of someone who can hire you.
We don't have the space here to get into how to meet people who can hire you. For now, we will cover how to build powerful bonds of trust with them.
1. A sense of humor. One of the best and least understood ways to build trust is to use humor. I got one of my very first auditions by walking around a casting office where I was "interning" in character from a show they were casting. That in itself isn't all that interesting until you realize the role I wanted was a "serial rapist with a foot fetish." What is even more funny (or maybe bizarre) than that, however, is that I nearly failed in my task of getting an audition by completely underestimating the vanity of women. To make clear my "fetish," I leered at all the women in the office and told them how beautiful their feet or pedicures looked, thinking they would surely be creeped out and say, "Fine, David. You can have an audition." Instead, they all thought I was being genuine about their toes and thanked me for the compliment. In any case, I got the audition and I booked the role. The show was "CSI."
2. Show that you're different. Another way to build trust is to show customers that you are different from everyone else. I recommend volunteering and interning as ways to forge industry relationships but simply doing so is not enough to separate you from the herd. In fact, if you're a terrible intern, you'll be relieved of your duties quite quickly even though you're giving your time for free. My suggestion is to be the best freaking intern they've ever seen. Take initiative and do things before you're asked or look around for things to do and ask if you can do them. By the way, don't throw out the trash unless you know it's trash!
3. Bend but don't break. Flexibility is another hallmark of the trustworthy. If you show a willingness to make changes on short notice and don't raise a fuss, you will be called on again and again by agents, casting directors, and producers. Actors are often at the bottom of a long decision chain, and sometimes they will want to change your work days or times. Rather than complain about it, be happy about the fact you have a job or an appointment. They know when they've shortened your prep time and will be more forgiving of mistakes or they won't. Either way, turning a potential negative into a positive always wins people over to your side. It shows you are in it for the long haul.
4. Pay attention to likes and dislikes. Listening is one of the best skills you can learn, not only as an actor, but also for your industry relationships. When you listen, it shows you care. If people believe you care about them, they will trust you to look out for their interests. Remember though, it's not enough to simply look like you are listening. You have to prove you are. You can do this by being their Fairy Godmother. What I mean by that is you can make their wishes come true. If you hear someone talk about their favorite drink or hamburger joint and a week later you bring them that item, they will have an instant connection with you. There is nothing more flattering than when someone's casually expressed desires are fulfilled by a relative stranger. Careful though. People might think you like them more than you really do.
5. Do what's right. There are going to be times when you are presented with opportunities that go against your moral compass. In Los Angeles, the lighter side of this behavior is called flakiness. Your degree of flakiness is measured in direct proportion to the chance that "something better came up." Don't do it. Flakes rarely get second chances, and they refuse to take responsibility for themselves, believing their dreams are in someone else's hands. Trusted actors know they are in charge of their careers and that strong and lasting relationships are the most important driver of winning greater and more frequent opportunities.
"Opportunities" are going to come up all through your life. That is exactly why you shouldn't take all of them. If they come up unexpectedly that often, they will come up even more when you are working towards something. Stick to your guns, both in terms of your plans and promises you've made to others. If you say no to a random job offer or audition, no one is going to remember it because they don't know you, but if you consistently honor your word, you will create lifelong relationships with people who will take an active interest in creating opportunities for you. Have you noticed that many producers and directors seem to work with the same actors over and over? If so, it's because they had a good experience with someone and they want to have it again and again.
It's hard to build trust, but once it's there, it pays a lifetime of interest.
David Patrick Green is a professional actor and the founder of Hackhollywood.com, a membership-based website dedicated to empowering and educating actors around the globe on how to become a professional actor. His simple, five-step approach inspires actors to be ruthlessly creative in their approach to the art and business of acting and life in general. Mr. Green has an MBA from the University of Southern California and was an international management consultant before realizing Platinum frequent-flyer status had few rewards other than boredom, bedbugs, and beer. His earlier reincarnations include working as an advertising account executive in Warsaw, Poland and he is still kicking himself for leaving the French Alps where, among other things, he taught skiing to European royalty and often simultaneously) tasted fine French wines. He has lived and worked as an actor in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto and coaches/consults to actors and businesses who want to get on the short path to success while maintaining a sense of humor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.