How Five Los Angeles Actors Met People in the Business

Barbara Kerford
Moved to L.A. 12 years ago (having never acted before)
From: San Antonio
Favorite L.A. credit: "House, MD"

Kate Danley
Moved to L.A. 10 years ago
From: "Military brat"
Favorite L.A. credits: "Blake…da Musical!" "America's Most Wanted"

Lance Irwin
Moved to L.A. seven years ago
From: Glen Rock, Pa.
Favorite L.A. credits: "Cold Case," "The Shield"

Jason Moyer
Moved to L.A. seven years ago
From: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Favorite L.A. credit: Actor-writer-director of "Gay Apparel: A Christmas Carol"

Alison Rood
Moved to L.A. four years ago
From: Charlotte, N.C.
Favorite L.A. credits: "Least Among Saints," "Without a Trace"

Back Stage: When you first moved out here, did you know anybody or have any connections in the business?

Barbara Kerford: When I moved out here I had never acted before, so I wasn't in the place to be able to use any connections I had.

Kate Danley: I thought I was moving out with this great big contact with a casting director from a major television show. I had taken a casting director workshop with her in Boston, and she had said I was really good and should let her know if I ever moved to L.A. I then learned the truth behind that old phrase "We'll do lunch." In addition, I had coordinated my trip with a weeklong $1,200 casting director/actors networking workshop here that ended up being the biggest scam in the world. I was pretty much on my own.

Jason Moyer: I knew a bunch of people from the Orlando theater scene, but many of them were new to the city as well.

Lance Irwin: I had a few connections from graduate school that I stayed in touch with after graduating.

Alison Rood: I knew two girls from acting school in NYC and a friend from junior high. I had visited L.A. three months prior for NYC's "LA Connection" program where you meet casting directors and agents. I had a short list of people in the business I could follow up with after moving here.

Back Stage: How many people now are you friends/acquaintances with who are in "the business"?

Kerford: Most everyone I know is somehow related to the business.

Danley: Hundreds. I can't even count.

Moyer: Most of my friends are in the business in some way, shape, or form.

Irwin: Many. On all levels of the industry.

Rood: I'm good friends with a handful. Acquaintances with at least 50.

Back Stage: How have you met most of your "in the business" friends/acquaintances/contacts?

Kerford: The best friends I have now I met at Joel Asher's class the first year I was here. It was such a supportive environment to be in.

Danley: Most of my friends came from classes I took at the Acme Comedy Theatre. I have met most of the "business" folks I know in classes and working on projects. I got a sitcom because I was professional on another job, which I found in Back Stage. The director lived in the guesthouse of the sitcom's casting director. I did a sketch show and was professional, which led to one of the guys recommending me to a friend of his who was doing a musical. That musical went on to win an Ovation Award and was one of the best shows I've ever done in my life.

Moyer: By working. Whether it was helping out on film shoots or doing theater, I always met somebody new. And it's a small community, so everyone knows everyone else. It is not hard to find connections with people.

Irwin: I've met most, if not all, of my connections through bookings.

Rood: By becoming involved in the industry in any way I knew how. After that it was meeting friends of friends, and being nice when I met them.

Back Stage: Who are the most important people to try to meet?

Kerford: These days casting directors are the most accessible and can certainly open doors for you. Producers and directors are equally as important, but I have found are not as easy to find.

Danley: Everyone. This industry is very fluid and those who are actors today are producers tomorrow.

Irwin: Casting directors are the liaison between you and the director and producers, but knowing any of the three on a legit level doesn't hurt.

Rood: I'd say casting directors because they are the people who are going to cast you in something. They are also the people who are going to cast something next week, next month, next year; the more casting directors who know you and your work, the more jobs you are going to get calls for.

Back Stage: Have you made friends/contacts from taking acting classes? If so, what types of classes?

Kerford: Scene study, the kind where you are paired up and work on your scenes outside of class. I think that builds camaraderie and you get to know a variety of people one-on-one instead of just in a class setting.

Moyer: Bonnie Gillespie's self-management class was a life changer for me. Not only did I learn so much to use personally, but I met so many amazing artists that I wouldn't have known otherwise.

Rood: When I took the audition class at Stella Adler, the teacher was casting a film he wrote, and asked me to audition. Even though I wasn't cast, I consider him to be a contact and a friend.

Back Stage: Do you think it's a good or bad idea to try to make friends with other actors?

Kerford: As long as they are supportive people it is a great idea. People who aren't in the industry don't always understand. A dealer at a casino said once when I said I was an actor: "I had an ex-girlfriend that used to think she was an actor—she did one line on 'General Hospital' and thought that made her an actor." I was so taken aback by this attitude. You need people around you that know that one line on "GH" is hard-won and celebrate even getting an audition for that. I have many friends like that. I also have a friend that, every time I mention a victory, instead of being happy for me, she bemoans the fact that she hasn't had an audition or booking in so long—not a word of congratulations. Instead I feel like I am rubbing success in her face. That isn't the kind of actor friend you need. You hear all the time about groups of friends who when they made it helped their buddies. I have gotten so many jobs from my actor friends suggesting me that I think it is worthwhile. I would be out some of my best friends if I said I didn't want any actors.

Danley: We're all in this together. This is more of a relay race than a marathon. The actor you help out today will someday pass you the baton and help you to finish your own journey.

Moyer: I think it is a fine idea to make friends with other actors. Most artists that I have met in L.A. are very supportive and want to help other people get ahead. I think when I am successful it only helps to benefit the people I work closely with and vice versa. Having a strong network of people who know what you are going through can help you in so many aspects.

Irwin: I think it's a great idea to make friends with other actors. Most likely you'll start to see the same people at your auditions after a time. They may be your competition but they can also be your best allies. I've had my competition tell me about an audition they were called in on but not right for, but thought I was, so they gave me the info. Had I not been friendly, I never would have known.

Rood: Friends like working with friends, and you might get to work on a show because you're friends with someone working on that show.

Back Stage: Have you met any people through being involved with theater companies here in L.A.? What's the best way to get involved?

Danley: I have belonged to several, including the Acme Comedy Theatre. Choose a company that will either provide you with information you need to become a better actor or with frequent performance opportunities. Otherwise, they are a waste.

Moyer: A good majority of my close friends are from Celebration Theatre. I joined that theater company not long after I moved to L.A. and worked closely with so many talented artists there and have remained friends with many of them. I started as just a regular company member and by the time I resigned I was the associate artistic director. Joining a theater company or even just volunteering at a company whose work you like is a great way to network and meet like-minded artists. Go see shows, ask your friends, and talk to people in classes; they will tell you the theaters that they work with, and odds are they can probably refer you to people to talk to there.

Rood: I've worked on two shows at The Victory Theatre in Burbank. The first play I worked on I was an understudy, and then a year and a half later they cast me as a lead in another play. The experience was incredibly valuable for me. I met friends and family of my castmates, the director, and the theater owners. Many times, the friends and family I met were directors, casting directors, actors, or agents. When I was an understudy, I made friends with the lead actor. After the show, he asked if I wanted to dog-sit while he went to go shoot a movie. He became my coach for auditions. I booked my first L.A. co-star after he helped me with my audition for "Without a Trace." He also cast me in a small role in his first film. We're good friends now, and I still consider him to be one of the most valuable contacts I have in the business.

Back Stage: Have you met people at networking events or through a networking group?

Kerford: I have met some great actors at the Actors' Network and at Women in Film events.

Moyer: I have met some wonderful people through networking groups. I try to keep up with them through social media. If I can help them out, then I offer my help and I try to do the same when they need something.

Irwin: I have met other actors at networking events, but no business has ever come of it.

Kerford: I make friends for the night at the SAG Foundation events with the people I sit next to and chat with before the event starts. I have gotten to know some CDs at Actorfest. I was able to talk to April Webster there last year and feel like I would be more at ease if I was called into her office thanks to our chat.

Back Stage: Have you met people over social media like Facebook and Twitter or through blogs?

Danley: I met some of my dearest, closest friends through my blog. It is a different era now, and I don't know if it is still possible to create deep friendships through blogs like you once could, but you absolutely must be social media–savvy.

Irwin: I have, but not in person nor did anything come of it. I've "friended" people I've worked with on sets, and we've followed each other's careers.

Back Stage: Have you met people through your "survival job"?

Kerford: My survival job is booking casting directors and agents for workshops at The Actor's Key, so meeting them is my job. Those people I have the most direct results from, since I can pinpoint when I met someone there and then got an audition.

Danley: I met a gal in my office who was a struggling actress too. Frustrated with the lack of opportunities I was having, I produced a little one-woman show and asked if she wanted the second half of the show. We went on to produce several more projects together. She now is on Broadway.

Back Stage: Have you met people through doing extra work?

Danley: I met several friends doing extra work. I found myself drawn to the "not crazy" crowd of extras and we spent our days rolling our eyes at the desperation of the other extras as they tried to meet people, network, and otherwise schmooze in the sleaziest of ways. Our group was made up of legitimate actors who were doing extra work just to make ends meet and see what life on a set was like. I cast one of the guys I met on set in a Web series I produce. One of the girls is now always hiring friends from our group for marketing jobs. Another gal and I stay in touch regarding our standup. And a third girl and I have done improv together, and she hired me for a new play reading.

Back Stage: How important is it to go to parties, clubs, and bars? Is that a good or bad way to meet people in the business?

Moyer: It may be a cliché, but everyone in L.A. seems to be in the industry, so you are bound to meet people at parties, bars, and clubs. It's not the best place to go to meet industry folk unless the party itself is set up as a networking thing.

Danley: I think it is extremely important to go out with your castmates and classmates to forge friendships outside of the workplace. But, for meeting total strangers who might help your career, it is a terrible way to go. It's a great place to get a date, but not a job. I know many actors come to L.A. with the notion that "who you know" means meeting people in a bar or at a party. All of my friends who took that approach are no longer in the industry. My experience has been that "who you know" means who you meet on jobs or in class.

Kerford: I have one friend I met at a bar and am still friends with. I think parties are the better way; it is more personal than a club.

Back Stage: Do you carry and give out business cards? Did anything ever come from giving them out?

Kerford: I do carry them, but I don't think I've ever had a direct connection from giving one out.

Danley: I carry business cards just like any businessperson would. They are invaluable.

Moyer: I don't carry business cards anymore. If I can find you on Twitter or Facebook, I think that is a better networking tool.

Irwin: It's professional. It shows that you're prepared and serious. However, be efficient with your money. Don't buy them until you like your headshot enough and when you know you'll keep the same number and email address for a long time.

Back Stage: What other ways are there to meet people in the business?

Kerford: Interning at casting offices. I interned for two years on "24," and when I see those producers on other projects, I always remind them that I was the one in the corner behind the camera.

Danley: The gym, Meetup, yoga studios, the YMCA, volunteer organizations. Almost everyone in Los Angeles is connected to the industry, so just seek out the things that interest you, not as an actor but as a person. The people you meet doing the things you love will end up being the people who help your acting career.

Moyer: Going out to see shows. Volunteering for friends' film shoots or creative projects.

Irwin: Be passionate, nice, prepared, and fun. No one wants to hear your sob story. We've all been through it. Remember, you never know who is sitting next to you, nor do you know why someone you don't know is striking up a conversation with you. Try to always be yourself and be prepared for anything.

Rood: Go to casting director workshops, intern at agencies and casting offices, audition for plays, do showcases, say yes to opportunities that don't pay. You will gain knowledge and friendships. Write thank-you letters to casting directors after you have an audition, be courteous and professional, smile, be nice—go the extra mile in whatever way you can.

Back Stage: Any rules for if you do meet someone in the business?

Kerford: Don't dive in and ask a million business questions at a social event. If you want to do that, ask to go to coffee or to take them to lunch to pick their brain. Always pay in that case. I honestly believe that getting to know someone for the sake of knowing them will always win out over getting to know someone because you want them to do something for you.

Danley: Impress people with your professionalism. If you find yourself in a bad project with a bad director, see if you can "act" like it is wonderful. You don't have to marry them; you just have to see their show to the end. It is amazing how many of my opportunities and friendships came after seeing an embarrassingly horrible project through. You almost become "brothers in arms" with the people who endured, and those sorts of bonds are ones that will never break. But if you need to leave, extricate yourself with grace. This is a very, very small town. I can't tell you the number of times I have said to myself, "Gosh, I'm so glad I didn't tell that guy to go flush his head."

Moyer: Don't use someone for what they can do for you, unless it is an obvious predetermined and mutually beneficial type of using. Don't ever use their names to get meetings unless you have asked or they have offered. Do be yourself. Do make friends for the sheer joy of knowing a new person.

Irwin: Maintain your integrity. Most likely you won't be given the lead in a film if you sleep with the director or producer. I've been propositioned by both men and woman that said they could "help." They knew nothing about me except that I'm halfway de­cent-looking and fun. Wouldn't you rather know that you succeeded because you're a talented actor than because you slept your way to where you are?

Rood: Be nice. If you do that long enough, you are going to run into someone who knows someone you know, and then you know that person, and that's how you meet people. If you're nice and talented, sometimes you get a job out of that.