The Tools You Actually Need to Get Started in This Business

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Photo Source: Photo by Eugen Str on Unsplash

When you’re first starting out in the entertainment business, I think it’s essential to choose a direction to focus on: TV, film, theater, or commercials. Being in the business for over 20 years, I’ve seen many, many, many actors make costly mistakes by trying to do everything instead of getting specific with their energetic focus.

First and foremost, your acting needs to be in tip-top shape before you begin getting headshots, reels, casting accounts, etc. Why? Because if you’re acting isn’t up to par, you’ll be working backward rather than easily moving in the direction of your dreams.

So let’s say your acting is on point. Hooray! Now what? Here’s what I suggest to actors just starting out in the business: get your game plan together to keep you on point with your marketing tools.

Let’s say you’d like to focus on television and your dream is to be a series regular on a primetime drama. What do you need to do to get there? First, you need to know what roles you’ll play. Then you need to know what type of actor you are. A leading man type like Bradley Cooper or more of an Amy Schumer-type geared for comedy?

Once you determine what types of roles you’ll play and what type of actor you are, then we need to make sure your headshots reflect these types of roles as well as the qualities that make you unique as an actor. From a casting point of view, we call you in based on a “character breakdown”: basically the personality traits of the character. A good headshot isn’t just a pretty or handsome one where you look really, really good. It should be a reflection of the type of person you are in real life as that’s what we want.

READ: Headshots: Everything You Need to Know

After you have your acting and headshot in place, it’s time to put together your online casting profiles. These sites are where casting goes to look for actors to fill roles, so your profile needs to reflect your brand. For example, let’s say you’re a fun, kind, loving best friend type. A person who always says yes, but should say no. You’re also a klutz. Your actor profile should have headshots that reflects that “type.”

Next, add your reel to that profile. Many of my actors freak out about this when they feel they don’t have professional-looking footage. One solution? A “slate shot,” which is a quick, seven-second video that captures your essence or the type of person you are. Remember, when casting is looking at slate shots we need to get a sense of what type of actor you are so we can determine if you meet the breakdown of the character we’re looking for.

Once you have headshots and footage that reflect your essence and type, and your acting is in tip-top condition, you’re ready to get in front of casting directors! Many actors choose to do casting director workshops to get to know casting. My suggestion is to be sure you’re seeing casting that works on the medium you’re going after. Meaning, if you want to be on television, it’s not a smart move to sign up for a casting workshop with a CD who only works in theater. See what I mean?

Of course, this is a simplified approach to starting your acting career, but these steps and the things you’ll need to fill out your actor toolkit hold true. Make sure yours are ready to go, and then get out there. See you on the big (or small) screen—or stage!

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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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Mel Mack
Mel owns and operates Mel Mack Acting Studio (MMAS), offering educational programming, ranging from classes and workshops to career coaching and advice sessions. Mel also runs a Casting Support business, running casting sessions that position her in the room.
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