Assuming you’ve achieved mastery in at least one genre of on-camera acting—drama, single-camera comedy, multi-cam comedy—there are four different paths to making a living with your art that are within our control. You can pursue one or multiple paths simultaneously, but each one has the potential for you to live your dream.
1. Traditional Way
If you’re like most performers, you’ve opted for this path, which includes getting marketing materials (like headshots, footage, résumé, and online casting profiles), then getting representation by an agent, and/or a manager, and finally waiting for them to generate auditions for you, through which you hope to book increasingly larger roles until you’re a lead in series and studio feature films.
This path works for some performers, but so many others languish due to five common failure-points that actors face:
- Not getting training
- Not getting the right training
- Not marketing themselves properly
- Not building the right team and the right relationship with them
- Being limited by the work ethic or industry relationships of your team or by the randomness of the opportunities that come across their desk
2. Industry Relationships
The keyword here is “relationships,” not “connections.”
In addition to the Traditional Way—or completely separate from that path—you can build meaningful artistic relationships with industry pros who can lead to employment, like writers, directors, producers, casting directors, network or studio executives, and other performers.
This means developing these relationships and investing in them as professional friendships. You don’t need everyone in the entertainment business to know and feel real friendship with you. That’s impossible. But you can find your crew, your tribe, the pros—especially in other disciplines—who love you, the way you work, understand how to use you in stories, and then do.
Many actors build amazing careers by building close relationships with just a few others and then collaborating upward.
Just taking a workshop or working on a job with someone won’t necessarily build a meaningful relationship that will lead to additional work together. Find a way to add value to others’ lives and invest time, interest, and resources into them. A small percentage of that energy will pour back into your cup. Do it consistently over years and before you know it, your cup runneth over.
3. Content Creation
Or make your own content.
It takes effort and energy, mistake after mistake, lesson after lesson, to make professional-quality content. Everyone starts somewhere, so just get to it. The first few things you make will be horrible. The next few things you make will be bad. Then they’ll be “meh.” And soon thereafter, you might create something that someone would actually watch to completion on YouTube. You’re on your way!
The first step to this path is to learn what every role in a professional production does so you realize why filmmaking is a team sport. Then find collaborators who are devoted to each discipline. Find a budding cinematographer, editor, sound designer, script supervisor, etc. Don’t try to do it alone; there’s a reason almost anything worth watching has a ton of names in the credits. Build a team. Crowdfund or invest your own money. Just create and create and create.
All it takes is for one project to catch an industry pro’s attention or generate viewer interest to launch your career. A lot of people talk about creating content but very few people ever do.
4. Social Media
You do not need to be an influencer to succeed on social media. If you want to be an influencer, go for it—it’s another way to create content that may not be narrative in structure but develops an audience that can be monetized for yourself or others.
But you can also just have a social media presence and curate the content you post to give potential employers and collaborators a way dive deep into who you are, your essence of character, and how to use you in stories. Let us see your individuality, your nerdiness, your intelligence, your compassion, your leadership.
Social media profiles can often communicate more useful and interesting information about who you are than your online casting profiles. They can also show your activity; acting classes, film festivals, red carpet shots, posts about projects that won’t get you in trouble or ruin a show’s storyline, industry friendships, etc.
It’s a powerful enough tool just to have a presence, not just influence.
Just one of those paths can take your full focus and take you the distance to your goals, but combining them is not only more strategically sound but more fun as well. Remember: people want to work with the best artists, not those who want a job the most. Whichever route you take, give it your best effort and focus on whatever genuinely interests you.
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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.