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How to Book Your First Professional Acting Job

How to Book Your First Professional Acting Job
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So you want to know how to book your first professional acting job? Let me start by saying I have no idea how you should book your first professional acting job because we are all unique and we have to use our own individual strengths based on our own unique goals and plans.

Despite actors reading every actor autobiography they can get their hands on looking for clues, rarely does the famous actor in question really understand or convey what, exactly, it was that led to not only the launch but more importantly, the longevity of their careers. What insight might be lacking on their part has become an obsession of mine and so I think by sharing and analyzing my own personal experiences, I can shed some light on how you can take advantage of the strengths each of you brings to the table. 

The tough part for me now is to decide which “first” acting job to tell you about as I really have three of them. The first was a non-union commercial and the next two firsts were both top 10 TV shows. I know. I will tell you about the commercial today and leave the others to subsequent articles. The booking is not really the interesting part; the teachable part is what came after and from which I hope to inspire your imaginations to always try to see beyond what is right in front of you and create career opportunities for yourself by leveraging others. 

As I said, my first professional job was a non-union commercial for JetBlue Airways. I actually booked it the traditional manner. I was a hopelessly lost struggling actor with almost no business even being in the business. I was a former management consultant with no creative arts background and I was into my late 30s. I was sent to an audition by my agent and showed up dressed like everyone else. After a round of callbacks, I received the news I booked the commercial. I was pretty shocked and I really didn’t know what I had done to merit this gig. The pay was the hefty sum of $500 for a one-year buyout. 

I showed up on set more or less petrified because I had never been on one before. I did enjoy meeting the other actors, the VP of marketing for the airline, and the director/agency owner. I think I excelled more at chatting than at acting but by the end of the day, everyone seemed happy with the results. Before leaving the set, I suggested to the director that we exchange information as we seemed to share a similarly dark sense of humor and I thought it would be good to stay in touch.

After a few months, the commercial began airing and it was causing some controversy because it made fun of the fact I flew for “another” airline and my son suggested, “that’s why mom left.” Family groups were up in arms and JetBlue was getting a ton of free publicity.

I exchanged emails with the director and he couldn’t have been happier. Around the same time, Dell Computers was using a spokesperson known as the Dell “guy” for all their ads and I thought it would be great to be the Jetblue “guy.” I thought they could do a series of ads along the same theme as the first; the hapless pilot of the other airline getting shut down everywhere he goes. The first one could be trying to meet women in a bar. I suggested it to the director and he thought it was a good idea and actually passed it on the VP.

READ: 4 Things Desperate Actors Do (and What to Do Instead)

The next thing I know, I am on a plane to NYC to record a voiceover ad which aired for over a year and then we shot a commercial in Santa Monica. They even told me whenever I wanted a ticket on JetBlue to let them know. Not only that but without warning, I got a check in the mail for $2,000 as a writer’s fee! That was 4x my fee as an actor on the original spot.

After running the original spot for a year, they wanted to renew it. My agent called and said they offered me another $500 for one more year. By then I was in the union and $500 for a year’s worth of airplay sounded low. I thought I would take a chance and ask for more. Since they needed my signature, I told him to tell them I would accept $10,000.00 or they could pay me SAG residual rates. My agent told me I was out of my mind and they would never go for it. A week later, I got a check for $10,000, turning one job that paid $500 into a string of projects worth more than $15,000. 

The moral of the story is that to be successful in life, you need to always keep your ears and eyes open and try to be helpful whether they ask you or not. The most important thing is to banish the idea that sticking your neck out is a risk. Not sticking your neck out is the real risk. Express yourself and just be yourself; seek out commonalities between you and others.

The big shots don’t have all the answers so if you have an idea that might help them out, they will not only appreciate you making them look good but they will respect you as a peer and include you at higher and higher levels. 

David Patrick Green is the founder of HackHollywood.com and a Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Green’s full bio!
 
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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff. 

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