An actor sent me a message on Facebook last week. I’ve cleaned up all the typos and grammatical errors so that you can read it. Believe me when I tell you that it was chock-full of them.
“Dear Marci, I am 20 years old. Italian descent and six foot even. I have a video reel I’ll have by Monday of next week. I would like to move forward with you and your team and be represented by you because I think we would make great work. I am seeking work. I live in Los Angeles now. So I’m available for pursuing my acting career. You’re one of the best and I follow your work. Please see about hiring me for some upcoming roles. All I need is one shot!”
I replied, wishing the young man luck. I explained to him—gently—that I’m a casting director and producer, not an agent. “I’m living in my car,” he wrote back. “I trusted the wrong friend coming to L.A. I can’t get an apartment or student loan from my school until Monday or Tuesday. I know this is a weird question but is there any way I can stay with you or a friend you may have for a couple days? Please let me know. I don’t know anyone in Los Angeles.”
At this point you may be thinking, “I know a Nigerian prince who would like to deposit money in this guy’s bank account.” But the exchange stirred up a lot of emotion in me, whether it was true or not. I can’t imagine moving to a new city and not having a safety net in place. For those of you considering the big move to L.A., doing advance research and preparation can prevent the sort of catastrophes my pen pal claims to have encountered.
Be a big fish in a small pond. You’ve trained, you’ve studied, and you’ve been on set and in local theater productions. It’s easier to get your SAG-AFTRA card in a local region than in Hollywood. Hopefully, you’re also coming here with a demo reel already in progress. You’ll be adding more footage to this along the way. These days, we need to see your demo reel.
Budget your finances—and time. Do you truly understand what it’ll take before you make this giant leap of faith? Because L.A. is so spread out, you’ll need a car to get you to and from your auditions. That means gas and insurance as well. You’ll need a job that will allow you flexible hours so that you can audition and take classes. Your survival job will also need to let you go when you actually get an acting job. A safe place to live is mandatory. At minimum, you’ll need money for classes, headshots, food, the gym, and going to the movies and theater for research and to grow as an actor.
Be ready to share. If you are successful enough to land an agent or manager, 10 percent goes to the agent and 5–15 percent will go to your manager. And don’t forget Uncle Sam.
One would think planning and research would be mandatory for such a move, but I see actors come out here every day in search of “the dream” only to have those dreams dashed. Come check L.A. out beforehand. Make sure you thoroughly understand the lay of the land. Think of it as a reconnaissance mission for your future.
Known for her work in film and television, Casting Director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story," “Poltergeist," “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial," “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and “Blade Runner." After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose," “St. Elmo's Fire," “Pretty in Pink," “The Iron Giant," “The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday," “Mean Girls," “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.
Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned a DVD, which features the highlights of the Audition Bootcamp classes.