A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Working Actor
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About the author
PETER JAZWINSKI runs the popular website MyActingAgent.com and writes The Agent News, an acting newsletter. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Cloe, and daughter, Storm.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
So, you want to be an actor . . . but you have no idea how to get started. In the pages of Act Now!, you’ll find a step-by-step process to show you not only how to get started, but also how to become a working actor. It will take time and commitment, but if you follow these steps you will find success. Author and acting teacher Peter Jazwinski explains every aspect of becoming an actor from start to finish. You’ll learn about:
• Improving Your Acting Skills
• How Actors Get Cast
• Finding Auditions on Your Own
• Working with an Agent or Manager—and What the Difference Is
• The Importance of Networking
• And More!
A frank and encouraging game plan for success, Act Now! will empower those who have the drive to stop dreaming and start making a living—as an actor.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
; December 2007
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Title: Act Now!
Author: Peter Jazwinski
WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY TO ADVANCE YOUR ACTING CAREER?
DO you ever ask yourself that question? Think about that for a second. Other than picking up this book, did you do anything else today to advance your acting career? If you have an answer for that today, will you have an answer for that question tomorrow? Here's the first secret about succeeding: The more often you have an answer for that question, the faster you're going to succeed. Write this question down. What did you do today to advance your acting career? The answers to that question will be the most important information you ever learn as an actor.
If you can't answer that question each day or each week because you're lazy, then there isn't a book or coach in the world who can help you. If, however, you can't answer that question because you simply don't know what to do, then you're in luck, because I'm going to teach you exactly what you need to do to advance your acting career. It won't matter how old you are, where you live, or how much experience you have. As long as you can follow the steps of this book, you'll have a good answer for that question each day, and you'll be on your way to becoming an actor.
Your overall goal
I'm sure you have some kind of goal in mind for yourself. Maybe you want to be a major movie star or you want to be on a hit television show. That's great, and in the world of show business, anything is possible. Let's call that your "Overall Goal." Jim Carrey has often talked about the night he drove his car up into the Hollywood Hills before he made it big and wrote a check to himself for $26 million. He said that his goal was to make that much money doing movies. Years later, he got paid exactly that amount. What's your overall goal? Go ahead and write it down. Keep it in mind and I'll show you how to reach it.
If you ask a major star like Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, John Travolta, or Meryl Streep how they became famous, they probably won't tell you that they called a big talent agent and the next day they got paid millions of dollars to star in a box-office smash. They might be able to do that now, but that's not how they started and that's not how you're going to start. First they learned how to act. Then they built up some experience. Then, based on that little bit of experience, they got an agent. Once they got an agent, they got some better roles. Once they got the better roles, they got a better agent. Once they got a better agent, they got the really big roles and the really big money that goes along with it. That's how it works. It's okay to have really big goals, but you must know where to start and what to do, and that's what I'm going to explain.
Your main goal
Once you've established your overall goal, it's time to talk about your main goal. Do you know what your main goal is? Let me tell you what it is. You should write this down, too. Your main goal is to put yourself in the best possible position to get an audition. That might not sound very glamorous, but that's the real secret to succeeding as an actor. This goal is more important than learning the craft of acting itself and I can prove it.
Let's say there are ten actors at an audition, and they're all pretty good. They aren't the best, but they're okay. Maybe some of them are really bad. Some don't even have any training, but it's the last audition and the casting director has to pick one of them. Also on that day, there's a super actor who nobody's ever heard of and he's at home watching soaps on television. Who is going to get the part? Obviously, the great actor at home isn't going to get picked because he's not even at the audition. One of the ten actors standing in front of the casting director is going to get picked. That brings up a very important point. A casting director can only cast people who show up at auditions. That's why your main goal has to be to get an audition. The more you do it, the more chances you have.
It's not your right as a citizen of the world to get an audition for something. If you want an audition, you have to go find it. If you have an agent, then your agent has to find it. Remember that. Nobody just calls you out of the blue and says, "Hi, I understand you've always wanted to be a movie star. Come to this audition today." You have to find auditions. The good news is that they happen every day, and I'll teach you how to find them.
Think of a television show like Friends. There was a time when all of the cast members had to audition for those parts. Casting directors had to choose the six cast members. Those six actors are very talented and entertaining, but they never would have been chosen for those parts if they didn't find that audition. Just like you are never going to get a part if you don't find an audition. So even though you have to be an entertaining and creative person to actually act, you have to be a very determined and persistent person to find those auditions that will allow you to show your talents. It can be done, but you have to start from the beginning and that brings us to your daily goal.
Your daily goal
To reach your overall goal, you have to reach your main goal first. The only way to reach your main goal is to complete a daily goal. Your daily goal is to do whatever is available to you right now in your town. Throughout this book you're going to learn about headshots, training, demo reels, auditions, casting directors, and much more. The way to keep moving forward is to keep doing whatever you can.
I often get e-mails from children in small towns who say things like, "Pete, there are no theaters here and I'm too young to travel, but I really want to be in the movies. Can you get me an agent?" The answer is no.
Getting an agent is not what's available to this person right now in her situation. Therefore she shouldn't focus on that goal. Instead she should try something like gathering her friends and performing a play in her backyard. That might not be what she wants to hear, but that's what's available to her right now and that's what she needs to do. Once she's learned to act, has gotten a headshot, has collected some credits on her resume, and has moved to a bigger city, then she can focus on the step of looking for an agent because the opportunity will then be available.
At the end of each chapter, I'll list some daily goals so that you can keep track of the things that will take you to your overall goal. The way to complete these daily goals is to constantly ask yourself this question, "What did you do today to advance your acting career?" If you can keep finding answers to that question, then you'll be on your way. If you can't find an answer, then you'll know that you're not doing anything and you need to focus on the next attainable step.
The only way you fail is by not trying
If you are fortunate enough to audition for a casting director, and you don't get the part, you did not fail. That's right. If you go to an audition, and you perform, and you do not get cast, you did not fail. The reason I say that is because once you audition, you have no control over whether or not they pick you. They could say no because of your hair, your mouth, your height, your weight, your glasses, your shoes, the way you look or sound next to the other actors, or any other reason. However, they could also say yes for any reason as well. Actors never really know why they do or don't get cast for something, and every major actor has been turned down multiple times before he or she got that first big role. My point is that you have no control over whether or not you get picked. You do have control over whether or not you make it to the audition in the first place, and that's why one of your main goals is to put yourself in the best possible position to get an audition. The person who fails is the actor who simply wishes he were at an audition, because he is definitely not going to get cast. The person who succeeds is the one who makes it to the audition. Which one are you going to be?
I'll tell you more about the casting process in a later chapter, but right now I want you to realize that if you find yourself in an audition, then you have already achieved your main goal. Most actors never get that far because they're too concerned with their overall goal of being famous. Think of your overall goal as putting the flag on top of Mount Everest. You don't start at the top and stick the flag in the snow on day one. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. As long as you're taking steps each day, you're working toward that goal, but if you stop walking and spend all your time dreaming about what it's like at the top, then you'll never get there.
Landing an agent is a similar process. If you or your picture winds up in the hands of a talent agent, then you have succeeded in completing another important step toward getting better auditions. If the agent doesn't want to work with you, you have not failed, because you can't control that part. The failure is the actor who sits at home watching Seinfeld reruns saying, "Man, if only I could meet an agent, I'd be a star." The successful actor is the one who gets her picture into an agent's hand, because at least she's giving herself a chance to succeed.
Wishing is not enough
I once heard a writer say, "Writers never fail; they just give up." The same could be said about actors. I live and work in Los Angeles, and I can't tell you how many truly funny, talented, and gifted actors I have met who have not done one thing to get past, "I want to be an actor." They work as bartenders, waitresses, telemarketers, and production assistants, and they bad-mouth all the successful people with awful words like, "Ah, that Tom Cruise can't act," or "Julia Roberts has no talent." Can you imagine such stupidity? Actually, it's not stupidity--it's jealousy. Tom and Julia got where they are today because they worked their butts off and never gave up.
Believe it or not, at one time Tom and Julia were in the same position as you. That's right. Tom Cruise was not born with a long resume, a great headshot, and a high salary. When she started out, Julia Roberts didn't have one acting credit. She had to audition for her first role at some point in her life. Tom and Julia were not sitting in their living rooms watching television, wishing they were famous, and then one day, someone called them up and said, "Do you want to be a movie star?" They had to go to acting classes. They had to get pictures done. They had to audition, and they got beat out for parts by other actors. Of course today they're very famous and they're both considered excellent actors, but that wouldn't have happened if they didn't try. It won't happen to you, either, if you don't try.
I'm not saying that all you have to do is try and you'll be as famous as Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts. What I'm saying is that the first step is entirely up to you. You can't just read books about acting or go to movies or surf websites. Here's a cold, hard fact: You will never become an actor unless you actually engage yourself in a systematic plan toward reaching your goal.
I have yet to read a news story about a girl who was just sitting at her job one day and all of a sudden became a movie star. Occasionally you'll hear an old story about how some actor from the 1950s was working as a cashier or a waitress and got discovered by a talent scout, but if you check your calendar, you'll see that those days are long gone. Sometimes we read about the latest overnight success who just got a role in a movie or a television show. More often than not that same actor will laugh at such a statement and say, "Where were they when I was back in Indiana doing theater for free and trying to save money to get to Hollywood?" The truth is that it just doesn't happen without your making an effort.
Regardless of what you wish to achieve in life, if you want to have huge success, then you're going to have to muster a huge amount of desire. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the world of show business.
From the Trade Paperback edition.