So You Wanna be an Actor in LA? Here are your MUST Read Tips

By LA Actress, Allie Costa – Insta @alliecosta & Twitter @allieacts

So you’ve moved to LA to become an Actor? Now what?!

Sounds like a pamphlet, doesn’t it? There’s a lot to consider when moving to a new city, far more than can fit on one sheet of paper, to join the LA actors scene. But instead of getting overwhelmed, stay positive, take a deep breath, and be both practical and optimistic. A few things to consider:

Expenses

The cost of living in Los Angeles is high; some sources say it’s 40-50% above the national average. Before you move, figure out how much you should have in the bank, save up, then budget well once you’re here. Rent is a big factor and will depend on your living situation: location, number of rooms, number of roommates, etc. Also figure in transportation, including gas, car insurance, general upkeep, and parking. If you share a vehicle or opt to rent vehicles on a needs-must basis or use ride shares, bicycles, or public transportation, plan accordingly. (More about that later.)

Job

Many LA actors have day jobs – understatement of the year, some people have multiple jobs, myself included – so figure out how you can earn a steady income to pay your expenses. Try to get a job you like, doing something you like, something you’re good at and/or want to learn more about. Some prefer a flexible schedule while others thrive from set hours/routine. It’s great if you already have a job in place before you move, but if you don’t, don’t panic, but be ready to fill out those job applications and go on interviews. Speaking of interviews…

Headshots

Get headshots that look like you, that fit your type and the roles you play. If people assist you with wardrobe, hair, and makeup during the shoot, make sure it’s something you can replicate on your own for auditions. There are a lot of headshot photographers out here, and headshots can be very pricey, so do your research: get references from friends/roommates/coworkers, look at portfolios of different photographers, and figure out whose style matches yours and whose rates you can afford. Rather than stressing about getting ten different “looks” and doing all kinds of different facial expressions, keep it simple: something smiling (it doesn’t have to be over-the-top: relaxed and approachable is nice), something serious, and something reflective of your personal style and energy. You’ll be more authentic if you’re wearing something that makes you happy/that you’re comfortable in, rather than something borrowed or ill-fitting. Solid-colored tops are great. You don’t have to be totally silent during your shoot. If you’re a talker and your photographer is likewise chatty, then chat! You’ll be way more relaxed. Remember, these are pictures of you, not of who you think they might want to see. Get pictures you’re proud of, that represent you well.

Demo Reel

You can upload clips to casting sites as well as IMDb, YouTube, social media, and so on. If you don’t have any performance footage yet, get some. Even if it’s just filmed on your phone, it’s something for now. You can replace these clips with better footage as you gain experience and credits. In the meantime, putting yourself on tape is an asset, because not only will you have footage at the ready for submissions, but you’ll also see how you look, move, and sound on camera, which is key if you’re interested in working in film and TV. If you want to get into comedy, perhaps film a sketch with a friend. If you’re pursuing roles in classic plays, film a monologue. If you have special skills like singing, dancing, skateboarding, gymnastics, etc, have clips of those skills available so that you’re ready when a casting call asks for it. It’s like having a business card in your pocket at all times, so that when someone asks for it, boom, you’ve got it! It’s proof that you can do what you say you can do. You are well on your way to becoming an LA actor.

Casting Calls

 The most reputable casting sites for the LA actors region include:
Actors Access
LA Casting
Backstage

Membership fees vary, with additional fees to upload headshots, demo reels, etc. These sites offer casting calls for multiple regions and a variety of projects: TV, film (including feature films, short films, student films, etc), theatre, commercials, voiceover, and more.

Always, always trust your gut. If you get an audition for something that doesn’t seem right, if it seems unprofessional or unsavory, turn it down.

Don’t go to someone’s house. You should be going to a business, not a residence.

There are a lot of casting offices out here for LA actors, some for specific casting directors/projects, while other studios have multiple audition rooms that are rented out to different projects every day. Look up the casting directors/studios/projects before you go; bring your sides, headshot, and resume; and make sure you have the proper address for the audition. Which brings us to:

Time Management

Traffic in Los Angeles can be very, very bad. Prepare for this and don’t use it as an excuse. Give yourself plenty of time to get wherever you’re going. Traffic is only part of it: parking is also difficult. The last thing you want to do is get to your location and then waste a half hour (and gas) looking for parking. Budget money for parking meters and parking lots. Give yourself time to find a parking space and then walk from there to the audition/filming/rehearsal location, plus time to get into the building and prep: if you need time to get into character, review your lines, or go to the restroom and freshen up, factor that in.

Public Transport

Luck may have it that you live near a Metro bus stop or subway station, and your destination is also near a Metro stop. It may also be that you have to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus, transfer to another bus or the subway, then take another bus, then walk half a mile to your destination. Map out your route in advance and leave early. Get your TAP card and load it with your fare in advance if you can; drivers do not make change, so be prepared when you board. Daily, weekly, and monthly passes are available, or you may simply pay for a one-way trip.

Learn more about the Met

Willingness

In order to be a working LA actor, you have to be willing to do the work. Submitting to casting calls, making a demo reel, rehearsing, taking classes, memorizing lines, seeking representation, submitting self-tapes, creating and maintaining a website/online presence – these things take time. Just like it may take time for you to establish yourself here, so:

Optimism + Realism + Determination

Believe in yourself! This is essential when you’re actor. Know it’s not always going to be your day; everyone has off days where they flub lines or don’t feel well or spill their lunch on their shirt right before their audition. It happens. Know that it’s not always going to be your part: you can know the lines backwards and forwards and deliver them naturally and confidently, but if they’re looking for someone with X hair color/eye color/height/voice and you have Z hair color/eye color… It’s okay. It doesn’t mean you should change how you look or how you perform. It just means that’s not your part. It’s okay. There will be others. (And sometimes, something better comes along that you wouldn’t have been available for had you gotten the first thing!)

It might be months before you get your first audition. It might be months before you get your first booking. You may have friends that are booking left, right, and center. It’s a big pond here, a really big pond, but it’s not a competition. Comparison is the thief of joy. Let that go. Celebrate the successes of others. They might be your collaborators one day!

You will submit for more roles than you get auditions. You will get more auditions than you will bookings. But remember that every audition is a win. It’s an opportunity to do what you love, and the role is yours for however long you’re in the audition room. You may not book the job, but you might book the room, meaning they like your performance/attitude/style and keep you in mind for something else later.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s plenty more where that came from – audition technique, getting representation, taking classes, creating your own projects – but don’t get overwhelmed, especially if this is something you really want, especially if it’s something you’ve wanted since you were a kid. Think about how impressed and happy your younger self would be when you told them you’re pursuing your dreams. Do it for that kid. Do it for yourself. Welcome to the world of La actors!

I wish you the best of luck, and I’ll see you on set!

Allie Costa always has energy to burn and a song to sing. Her theatre credits include Spring Awakening, Alien vs. MusicalLittle Miss Scrooge,Hamlet, and Wake. Film/TV credits include 90210, You Me & Her,The Hopes, and What She Said. Allie is also a prolific playwright and screenwriter whose works have been produced internationally, including the critically-acclaimed Two GirlsFemme Noir, Phantom Pains, Mindstream, and Can You Keep a Secret? She’s also appeared in commercials, narrated audio books, and lent her voice to video games. Occasionally, she sleeps. 

You can see more of Allie by visiting her website here

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