A 4-Step Guide for Success in L.A., Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 last week, stop and read that first or this won’t make as much sense or impact. Continuing:

Step 3: Getting in the Game
Now that you’ve developed your craft, are consistently doing great work in at least one of the main genres of on-camera work, and you know that you’ve got the skills and work ethic to audition well, it’s time to get your head in the game. And it’s time to switch up your job situation to allow yourself to be available for auditions. That means that from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can make yourself available for appointments. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Tens of thousands of actors are doing it right now. Probably even you, my friend.

Get a great headshot (I’ve got a very strong opinion on headshots that I’ll share in a forthcoming article) and résumé (don’t lie—we all start with no credits) put together and start getting in front of those that can get you called in: representation and casting. 

To get represented, start doing showcases, mass mailings, and seek referrals from those who know first-hand how good you are. Do as many agent/manager showcases as it takes until you get represented. It took me eight over 11 months using four different pieces—two different dramatic monologues and two different partnered scenes. I finally landed my dream agent and I couldn’t be happier. There are so many variables you can’t know or control involved with why you will or will not get offered representation after a showcase, so just think of it like auditioning. You just be a great option time and time again, and eventually good things will happen.

To get in front of casting, start doing casting director workshops, but only for those offices who work on shows in the genre or genres in which you are proficient. If your dramatic work is killer but you haven’t developed your comedy, do not workshop with offices that cast multi-cam or single-camera comedies. Wait until you’re ready or you’ll burn bridges. Do as many as you can afford. I tell my students to only take CD workshops at places that allow you to do prepared reads. I want casting directors to see them at their best, like an actual audition, and one-on-one with the CD or a reader. Workshops in which the CD assigns participants scenes to cold read, sometimes with a partner, can be fraught with danger; many variables that you can’t control that may result in the CD not seeing you at your best. 

Get this one thing straight: You can’t afford to make a bad impression on anyone in casting, because it is our job to remember.

I remember back when I was a kid, I used to collect baseball cards. I could tell you everything about any player: which team they were on, which teams they used to be on, their batting average, what color their jerseys were, everything. When I got older, I started playing Magic: The Gathering, a collectable card game. I could tell you what color each card was, how much mana it cost to cast it, how much damage and health it had, and what its special abilities were. All this knowledge about thousands of cards was for hobbies. Hobbies!

In casting, you all are our trading cards. We get to know everything about you. It’s not a hobby for us, it’s our job. We remember your good auditions and your bad ones. We even remember what you said in the room if it was charming, funny, or weird. So you can never think that you can slip by doing a poor job or auditioning for something before you were ready and that we won’t notice, remember, or hold it against you. We don’t have audition slots to waste on clueless actors. We have a job to do and have too many other options.

Exercise restraint. Wait to fight a battle until you know you have the skill to win.

Once you’ve got a full team—a great theatrical agent, commercial agent, and manager— move on to Step 4. 

Step 4: Rinse and Repeat. (The Life of a Working Actor)
Now you’ve got great representation that know how good you are and aren’t afraid to pick up the phone and pitch you. You’ve got killer headshots that help casting see you clearly and know how to use you. You’ve developed your skills to be consistently brilliant in every genre and continue to use class as a gym to stay in shape and challenge yourself. You are regularly attending casting director workshops, building relationships with the hundreds of casting directors, associates, and assistants in TV and film.

Trust me. Many actors do not get to this point. Many will try to shortcut the process, get lazy, lose focus, get jaded, or leave the business. Things are going to start clicking for those of you who made sacrifices, have a plan, and have an unassailable work ethic. The hard work you’ve put in over the last few years is going to start to pay off.

Keep submitting yourself for projects. Create your own work—act, write, produce, and direct. Support your reps and make sure they have everything they need to do their job. Keep doing casting workshops. Keep training; expand your skills into improv, stand up, theater, and voiceover.

Step 5: Karma (Optional, but not really in my view.)
Finally, I have to say, that an essential part of your strategy should be to be a beacon of light, love, and support for those around you. Be the most giving, most supportive, easiest to work with, most positive and encouraging, and most humble friend and professional artist you can be. Be the one who says yes. Attend your friends’ crappy plays, stand-up, and improv shows. They’ll come see yours. We bond in the trenches. Help them rehearse. Put them on tape. Help them move. Show up to their birthday parties. I can promise you that, even though it’s not the reason to do it, the more you give the more you will receive. Don’t be an L.A. flake. Make your word mean something.

By following this strategy, I’ve shot six national commercials, eight network TV shows of every genre, four in the last month alone, and am now a recurring guest star on a network TV show. There are many, many other actors younger than me, more handsome than me, and with more and higher-profile credits than me, but for the last three years I’ve made enough money as an actor to support myself purely from my art.

And that is success to me.