Getting Work

The training we do at The Film Practice is geared toward performance (speakers, presenters, actors) in live and on-camera events and productions. We train new as well as experienced performers. Several of the new actors have asked me about getting work. This post is for them.

As a professional actor, you need to identify the kind of work you’re trying to get.

It’s not enough to say, “I just want to act”.

One way to get work is to have an agent submit your headshot and resume to a casting agent, who then decides whether she’ll call you in for an audition. Getting the audition, you walk into a room of people you don’t know and do your thing. The chances of getting cast if the filmmakers don’t already know and your work is slim.

A surer path is for actors to become part of the independent film scene.  Rather than waiting for auditions and hoping to get cast, actors should build their own relationships: relationships that lead to work. That might seem daunting, but it really isn’t different from what any of us already do in our personal lives. Most of us like having friends and making friends with like-minded people. We like to stay in touch and look for opportunities to have fun with our friends. Actors who have those kinds of friends in the business work all the time.

Friendships are not stable. They’re always in the process of becoming more or less close. Friendships thrive in an environment where there is good, open, authentic communication. If you don’t communicate, your relationships suffer. Actors who take care of their professional relationships are basically engaged in marketing. Effective marketing can’t happen without good communication. Actors need to keep in touch and nourish their professional relationships if they want to work.

So how do you meet people in the independent film scene and make friends? The same way you make all  your other friends: You get out of the house and go to places where the kinds of people you want to be friends with hang out. Those people will be there for the same reason you’re there.  They want to connect with old friends, meet exciting new people to be friends with and have fun together. Meeting people you genuinely connect with always leads to other connections.  Connections lead to work, and since the friends you’re making will have similar tastes, there’s an excellent chance the work you’ll get will be the kind of work you really want to do. If you’re an actor who wants to meet and befriend filmmakers, an excellent place to start is at film festivals.  Volunteering at or working for a film festival is one of the best, most direct, and cost effective ways an actor can make friends in the independent film scene. Another way is to become involved in an organization that supports filmmakers such as The Independent Film Project (ifp.org).

Once you’ve made professional friends and contacts, how do you keep in touch? What do you say to your contacts if you’re between jobs and have no great news to report? The answer lies in the way we conduct our most personal friendships. When we have good news, our best friends are always excited for us. When they have good news, we’re excited for them. So when you have nothing big to talk about, find out what your contacts are doing and tell them you’re excited for them. How do you find out what your contacts are doing if they don’t tell you?  Keep up with them online through professional resource sites and social media (imdb, casting about, FB, twitter, linkedin, etc).  When you find they’re doing something exciting, reach out and let them know how excited you are for them. It will nourish the relationships and lead to work.

As a film actor, another important thing to do is to have a project in development. It can be a short film, webisode, script, etc.  These kinds of projects are far easier to engage in and complete than most people realize. Having a project in the works keeps you moving in the right direction, keeps you engaged and excited, and maintains your momentum forward. This works equally well for actors who are new to the business and experienced veterans.

Headshots

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Actor: Christie Monteleone

Acclimation to the camera is one of the benefits of the training we’re doing. Every time The Film Practice meets, we work at being present, being ourselves, engaging with and advancing our own interests and desires. This month we’ve been doing headshot sessions for each actor in addition to our on-camera scene work. It was not surprising to see the ease and presence each actor is finding in taped scene-work also appearing in still photo shoots.

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Next Up

The work the actors have been doing this Fall is going wonderfully. Everyone is advancing, getting stronger and making strides toward getting work. Several people are either in film projects or are exploring avenues into the independent filmmaking scene in NYC. The Film Practice is still very young and I’m bringing it along slowly.  This is partly a function of time. In addition to running the workshops, I’m also teaching at Hunter College, holding down a full time job, developing a feature film production (tentatively scheduled for April), preparing to direct the Chekhov Film Project (January) and doing freelance photo work.  Yet even with more time at my disposal, I wouldn’t want The Film Practice to grow more rapidly. It’s important to proceed in a way where the focus remains on the actors rather than on promotion and growth. That’s the goal. However, there are plans in the works for something big. In meetings with Kelly Morgan (founder of the Mint Theatre, a great acting teacher and friend), we’ve discussed teaming up in order to create a larger version of The Film Practice – an organization that would train and promote actors as well as produce theatre and film projects. So there may be big, exciting changes ahead.

But for now…

We have three more sessions left in the current workshop and I’ve started to think of what to do in November and December. I’d like to continue to bring new actors into the work we’re doing but also want to advance the actors who’ve already been training. To that end I’ve committed in the next three weeks to getting everyone in the current workshop either a headshot that will get them in the door, or a taped monologue for their reels. For actors who continue training into November, I want to take the do a workshop dedicated to film production.  The actors have already been writing scenes. As a means of de-mystifying the filmmaking process, I’d also like to involve them in more areas of the film production process, including editing. This is basically taking what we’ve been doing a step further and creating scenes that will help get the actors work.

So I’m preparing to do two groups beginning November 7th and am excitedly looking forward to the work. I can’t wait to see what we come up with next!