Michael is an Acting Coach teaching students one on one privately in person or online via Skype.
Let me start by saying, I love the entertainment business!!! I love everything about it. There is nothing else that I want to do and there is nothing anyone could have said to stop me from pursuing it. With that said, here are a few tips and things to consider before you take the leap.
People think because they're the big fish in the little pond of their community, that they are destined to be big stars. And you may be very talented, however, when you get the best of the best from all over the United States fighting for the small amount of work available, things become a little different.
There are three main unions for performers that you have to belong to for a serious career in this business. SAG and AFTRA for film and television work and Equity for stage work. According to these three unions, on average, only 3% of the entertainers are able to make a good living at it. While seven- digit movie deals make headlines for some stars, creating a false impression that all actors are highly paid, the reality is far less glamorous. There is very little work and many talented professionals trying to get that work. Then you add all of the newcomers coming into this business day after day and you can see why it is so hard to make a living at it.
A few years back I went to an audition for the sitcom "Suddenly Susan" starring Brooke Shields. They needed some dancers for an upcoming episode. It was an agent call and only dancers with agents were at the audition. And yet there were about 450 people auditioning for the few positions they were hiring for. We're not talking 450 amateurs; we're talking 450 professionals who are all very talented entertainers with impressive resumes. It's a miracle I even got cast. And it's that way with every job. How I ever get hired is amazing to me.
My advice….find another career! You'll save yourself a lot of wasted years and disappointment. But if you're like me and there is nothing anyone can say to stop you, then go for it! But be prepared!!!
Be prepared for rejection. The word you will most often hear is NO! On average, the working professional has to audition 30 times to get one job. Those of you just coming into the business have to audition many more times then that to get a job. And more then likely, a lot of you won't even make it past the starting line. But if you work hard, persevere and study your craft, then you will start the long haul up to the top of the hill of success.
Realize that this is a business. It's not fun and games. People won't hire you to make you a star. Theatre, television shows and films are all being produced to make money. Producers are hiring entertainers in hopes their project will be a success and make a large profit. You are the employee. If they could do this without us, believe me, they would. But they need us.
The most important thing you need to learn is how this business works. You can't just come to the big city, get an agent to send out your picture and resume and then sit back, relax and wait to be discovered. You are the product and you must learn to market yourself. The majority of those that have become successful learned the business of the business and then went out and made it happen for themselves. Unfortunately, they don't teach you this in school and yet it is incredibly important.
And studying your craft to be the best you can be is a must. You can't ever stop learning. You will be competing with the best of the best and so you must be sure your talent is as strong as it can be.
Improvisation is also something I think is important. In this business you are asked to think on your feet all the time and improv. will really help with this. The better you are at handling any situation on the spot, the better your chance of getting the job.
Nowadays, almost all commercial auditions are improvisations. Here's what I was asked to do at my last two. You don't audition for the casting director; there's usually a cameraman that tapes you for the casting director to look at later. At this American Express audition, the cameraman brought one other guy and me into the room. He told us that one of us is an architect talking to the other about the house he was having built. That's all we were told. We gave our names to the camera and then started our scene. Then the cameraman had us switch roles and start again. That was it. At a recent Hardee's audition, the cameraman brought me in, started the camera and asked me, "is it true that there is no business like show business? I gave my answer and the audition was over. You can make some very good money doing commercials but you must be able to think on your feet.
Versatility is also a must. If you're an actor, learn to sing and dance as best you can. You never know when a job may come that will require the actor be able to move a little or to sing on pitch. Models need to learn to act. So many jobs today are going to models. If you look good, are young and can act, you may be tomorrow's stars. Dancers need to learn every style of dance that they can and learn to sing and act. Singers need to dance and act. ETC!!! The more versatile you are the better the chance of getting work. I'm able to make a living as an entertainer because I'm able to work as an actor, singer, dancer, model, and MC/Host. If I was just a singer, I would be unemployed most of the time. Same thing if I was just a dancer or just an actor. Being versatile ups the odds of me being employed.
If you're an actor and you have an accent, you must learn to talk without it. Be able to use it when a role requires it but be able to get rid of it for all the other times. My ex-wife, being from the South, had a Southern accent. When she first got to LA she wasn't able to get work. A director told her she would never go anywhere until she lost that accent. So, she got herself hooked up with a speech therapist and worked very hard to get rid of it. Soon after, she auditioned for the casting director of the television show "Silk Stalkings." He said, "I notice your accent is gone" and he gave her the part. Look at Mel Gibson or Tracy Alman, they both naturally have very strong accents but have learned to talk without them.
As far as pictures and resumes, wait until you get to the city where you'll be pursuing your career. There is a specific look for pictures and resumes, and it varies depending on where you end up. An entertainment resume has a different format then a business resume. It's always amazing to me when someone gives me their resume, to get my opinion, and it's in a business format. If anyone in the entertainment industry saw that resume it would scream amateur!!! Be sure to have the correct format for your resume. And again that varies a little depending on which city you're in.
And don't have mom or a friend shoot pictures for you. It will cost more money, but you need a professional photographer who knows what the industry is doing in that area and what type of look you need. Pictures are your calling card. It's all the casting director sees when they decide who to bring in for an audition.
I've worked in casting. You get hundreds of pictures for one job. The casting director doesn't have time to really look at each picture. You go through the stack very quickly and put aside only those that are right for the part, look up to industry standards and something about the picture got your attention. I just recently did a job dancing in a music video for MTV. The reason I got the job? The director liked my picture. It was a tough dance audition, with over a hundred men auditioning for the two male parts available. And I get hired because the director liked my picture.
As you're pursing your career, do you want to do temp work, be a waiter or a telemarketer? If not, then it's very important that you have a profession of some kind that you can do to pay your bills. If you're in school majoring in the arts, then minor in something else that you can use to get work as you're pursuing your real dreams. Or have your own side business that you can build over time. Until the real estate market crashed, mine was Real Estate Investing. I bought & sold properties, built spec homes to sell, and own rentals all over the country. That business allowed me to pay my bills during slow times in my entertainment career and live quite well taking many vacations and traveling the world. Once the real estate market crashed, I started a production company producing TV commercials, corporate videos, and film projects. It took the place of real estate so that I still had a business that would allow me to make a nice living while always working on my entertainment career. The website for my corporate division of the production company is Silver Dove Productions. The film division is Silver Dove Films.
Last, have a back up plan. Give yourself so many years to make it in this business. If you can't make a living at it by that time and you're really not making any head way, then move on to another career and make entertainment a hobby. Why kick a dead horse?! How long will you pursue it with nothing happening? Have another career that either you have been pursing on the side or can now pursue, should it not work out in entertainment. Like I said, this is a tough business and most of you who decide to pursue it, won't be the success you've dreamed of. I'm sorry to say that, but it's important that you realize it now so that you can be prepared should that happen to you.
Again, I love this business. It takes a lot of work, perseverance, business sense, and versatility to make it. If you're determined to give it a try, then I wish you all the luck in the world. And who knows, you may be tomorrow's star. If you are, don't forget me!!!