Every actor who moves to L.A. has the same three-step plan: Find an apartment, buy a car, and get an agent. This is a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. You can’t just jump into the deep end of the pool.
Before even thinking about making the big move, you should consider coming out here on a recon mission. Spending time in L.A. before you commit is an incredibly smart choice. That way, you’ll be able to explore different neighborhoods so you can make an educated decision about where you want to live. I’m always stunned when actors just show up with their fingers crossed and no L.A. experience. I had to visit twice before I was ready to give up my apartment in Chicago.
Once you’re actually here, you need to put the industry on hold. I know that’s the reason you came, but the simple truth is you’re not ready. Too many actors start looking for an agent before they’re even settled. I can assure you we’re not going anywhere.
After finding a place to live and buying a reliable car, your next priority should be getting a job with flexible hours. You might even need two. Just lock down enough sources of income so you don’t have to worry about paying the rent. It’s not easy to focus on your acting career when you’re being evicted.
Now it’s time to test the waters. That means getting into class, ideally one that’s known to the industry. Doing this serves two purposes. First, you’ll have something to put on your résumé that shows you’re not just sitting around waiting to be discovered. And second, being in class will allow you to meet fellow actors who can be a valuable source of information. Hell, you might even make a few friends.
During this period, you should also start surrounding yourself with the industry. That means reading Deadline Hollywood, Backstage, and The Hollywood Reporter.
Knowledge is everything in this town, so you need to stay informed. You never know when a little nugget of information might come in handy.
The next issue you have to address is your headshots. They’re still your number one calling card, so you need to have the best pictures possible. If you came out from New York, there’s a good chance you already have decent ones. But if you didn’t, this is the time to find out if you need new headshots. So show the ones you have to your teacher. Compare them with the pictures your actor friends are using. That should help you figure out if you’re good to go.
By this point, you’ve probably been here a few months and you’re starting to get itchy about finding your first agent. That’s fine, but I would argue you’re still not ready for theatrical representation. On the positive side, this is the perfect time to begin looking for a commercial agent. That’s an easier goal, and if you sign with the right person, you’ll start going out right away. This is an excellent way of building up your audition skills, and all that driving around will help you learn more about the city.
Finally, there’s one more step you need to take. The workshop scene here is very popular, and a lot of actors get their first job this way. So start signing up (and paying) to meet as many TV casting directors as possible. I realize this is an investment, but all you need is one positive response to make it worth the expense.
Congratulations! You’re now light-years ahead of the unwashed masses. It’s time to find theatrical representation so you can start auditioning for the good stuff. I have some excellent advice on how to do that, but sadly we’re out of space.
Good luck, and welcome to Hollywood!