The Business

How To Build Your Acting Business Without A Day Job

How to start an acting career and be succesful

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No one teaches the business side of acting; I think this is one of the great misfortunes in the industry and in schools around the country. Yes, the actors coming out of the best programs are better prepared for a career because of their advanced level of understanding of the craft, but most actors learn the business by trial and error and repetition. The actor who auditions the most will have the opportunity to get better at auditioning because of that repetition. Repetition breeds familiarity. For many actors, the business will always remain a mystery.

The Tools of the Business

The tools of the business range from knowing what resources are available to you as an actor to many of the approaches I have discussed in this book. I discussed that mass mailings to agents and casting directors are vital, so you must learn that Ross Reports is a monthly publication that lists every agent and casting director's name and address. If you do not have an agent, then you must buy Backstage every Thursday (or you can subscribe to the online version at, because that is where you will be given audition information on such projects as student films and theatre showcases, which won't require you to have representation. You need to be reading industry magazines such as Daily Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and Entertainment Weekly to be current on what is happening in the industry.

The Business Approach

When a businessman starts a new venture, he writes a business plan wherein he maps out what the new venture is, what the assets of the business are, how he would like the business to grow, and what he is going to do to implement the venture's success. When I propose a businesslike approach to an acting career, I suggest that you as an actor need a game plan for how you would like your career to go. You must decide what the attainable goals are for you and then try to attain those goals. Deciding you want to get off the bus and become a television star is an unrealistic goal. You can get off the bus, but it is unlikely someone will award you with a career. However, setting goals such as gaining experience in a particular medium is realistic.

You could begin mapping out a career by making a plan to do background work on a daytime television program, with the hope of building a relationship with the casting department. You might also decide to make every effort to get into an Off-Off-Broadway showcase so that you can invite agents to come see it. After completing those goals, you might decide your next step is student films or regional theatre, or perhaps it is a small speaking part on a primetime television show, with the hope that you will be able to develop a demo tape to send to agents as you seek representation. These goals should be set with the idea of accomplishing them within a certain time frame.

Once you have achieved those goals, you can claim a certain level of success and experience. When you employ the audition technique detailed in this book, you are utilizing a very businesslike approach to the art of auditioning because you are setting attainable goals at every level; you can do the same in your career as a whole. While pursuing your goals, you are studying and learning and working your "money job" to help support this investment in the career that you are making for yourself. This plan does not guarantee success; it only guarantees fulfillment of goals. If you do develop a successful career, even better. I am sure this is better than the young actor sitting in his studio apartment, watching television and waiting for the phone to ring to ask him to be on the television program he is watching. It just does not happen that way.

You must treat your acting career like a business, because the business will treat you that way. It is not unheard of for an actor to go through the entire audition process and land a role, only to have that role be recast during production. This is not personal; it is usually a business decision. You spend good money on your headshots and resumes and mailing them to people, and they end up in the trash. This isn't personal; it is the reality of the business. Network television is a big business that involves a lot of advertising dollars, and sometimes the people who have the ultimate casting decisions have to think about that as well.

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