Aspiring Actor Advice: Celebrating Two Years of Acting with Three Helpful Tips
It has officially been two years since I’ve embarked on my journey as a professional actress. Year one was filled with much more than a few trial and errors, but in addition to playing a supporting role in the award winning short film #STANDARDS, I somehow managed to land a co-star role in TVOne’s Fatal Attraction, and an industrial for Burt’s Bees. Year two has been all about hard work and steady progress. All of which paid off earlier this year when I booked my very first SAG role as a co-star on OWN’s hit show Greenleaf. I can finally put that magical ‘s’ behind year, because I have spent two years in this industry. That has me feeling like I know a thing or two. Being the oh so generous person that I am, I believe it is my duty to impart actual wisdom. You know, based on my accumulated knowledge and lived experiences, I can help others. So, this is my attempt to aid you on your own journey in navigating what can be a pretty tricky business.
Talent is Cool, but Acting is a Business
1. First things first, talent alone will not suffice. I know, that sucks right? Studying theater in college will have you believing your talent –sans business knowledge, will make you into the star you are destined to be. Don’t get me wrong though, talent is important, and it is your responsibility to always find ways to nourish and cultivate your gift in order to keep those acting skills sharp. It is also just as much your responsibility to learn how the business works and how you can get in where you fit in. Understand?
No Agent? Where They Do That At?
2. You must have a talent agent. This is non-negotiable. You may hear about these incredible stories of actors being discovered by filmmakers just from the way they licked an ice-cream cone, but the chances of Ava DuVernay running into you at Cold Stone are slim. Don’t even set yourself up for failure, boo. The reason you absolutely need an agent is because to be an actress you have to audition to book the role. Only agents have all access to the auditions (breakdowns) posted by casting directors. There are some minor exceptions, such as self-submitting on actorsaccess.com but I can guarantee you everybody and they momma is submitting themselves which makes for some very steep competition for you. I can already hear you thinking, “tell me how to get an agent then”, ok boo, keep calm. The way to get an agent is by any means necessary. Joking, but so serious.
Immediately upon finishing my theater program, I started submitting to agents to no avail. (Also, do your homework, ya girl almost got scammed out in these streets). Anyway, I decided to focus on one agent in particular because I made a connection with them through one of my collegiate acting courses. I submitted to them at least four or five times before I just gave up. This is the perfect example of how when following the rules doesn’t work, you must incorporate creative strategy. As an aspiring actress, I wanted to audition and book work yes, but I knew nothing about the industry I was seeking to work in. I reached out to that same talent agency again, this time singing a new tune. I expressed to them how as a new graduate. I really wanted to learn more about this industry and possessed a skill set for video editing and social media savviness that I think they might find useful. You guessed it, their response was almost immediate. I mean, who doesn’t love a free intern? From then on I learned a valuable lesson that has blessed me with opportunities I still cannot believe I’ve experienced: You must be willing to do the work, sometimes for free. If you can’t handle that, this industry ain’t for you. After my internship that summer, ya girl had her very first agent!
R.O.E (Relationships Over Everything)
3. I’m going to keep it really real. Nepotism is alive and well. For those of us who are not as fortunate to have Ice Cube as our daddy or Diana Ross as our momma, we have to build relationships with industry professionals and make them ‘appear’ as organic as possible. The best way I can tell you to do this, is seek mentor-ship (you’d be surprised by how willing people are to help you), and stay active in what’s going on in your region. In the South East region, casting professionals do a ton of workshops and panels that are usually paid, but provide the actor with a lot of helpful information. Get a coach you trust, that’s a working actor, and ask them about any industry groups or events they think would be beneficial for you to attend. Also, do your research on the key industry players you want to connect with so at the very least you can know what they’ve been up to and figure out some shared interests you might have (great conversation starter).
If these last two years have proven anything to me, it’s that this journey is not for the faint of heart. It has come with so many learning curves, some of which have almost knocked me out of the game, but I’m still standing. I’m here for the long haul and I’m ready for what’s up next. I’m not saying this because it sounds good, I’m saying it cause it’s the truth: Every challenge or obstacle I’ve encountered in my life, has been my blessing. Acting is just like life, in that way. That said, follow my advice and go get your blessing.