Every year, hundreds of Actors come to Hollywood, and every year, Actors are heartbroken by the cold shoulder of the Entertainment Industry. It may not be fair, but neither is the competition. To stay, of course, you’ll need to have some source of income. But it’s not how you believe it works.
YOU MEAN BUSINESS
As a Hollywood Actor, you’ll need to be a business entity. You start as a DBA (Doing Business As), which will allow you to use a stage name and keep all your properties – web domain, phone bill, etc. – under a separate bank account. This can elevate your Acting persona separate from your daily life persona. When you’re ready, you may incorporate to an LLC, and use this professional business to be an umbrella company for all your Acting personas (theatre, film, radio, etc.), for insurance purposes.
As a Hollywood Actor, you’ll be more than likely be under a contract, and hired as a Contractor. The DBA or LLC will help you with that, since being paid as your own business will make negotiations much easier – demanding to be paid appropriately to your value, and may allow you to get licenses to purchase things in wholesale prices, such as make up, clothes, etc. Plus, if you’re going to act like a Freelancer, auctioning (or in your case, auditioning) for a job, you may as well pay for your own insurance, and live vicariously through your company’s separate entity, and liquidate when your business’ credit goes down the loo. Save yourself the heartache, and use your credit for your schooling and home loans.
Know Your Industry
Obviously, you’ll want to get your vouchers after you’re SAG-eligible, so do work hard on getting roles – look at Actors Access, Backstage West, and all the local audition sites.
Remember two rules: never reveal your real age, and never reveal your ethnicity.
There is beauty in mystery. Learn different accents, languages, and dialects. Casting Directors are a cold bunch, so be ready to be dispensable, and learn anything and everything to be indispensable once you’ve got your foot in the door – may it be a theatre troupe, an indie film company, etc. Be a dancer, a singer, a martial artist, a stunt man, a model – all of it, and kiss up to the Director and Staff! It’s a thankless industry, so do what you can to make everyone you work with special, so you can be remembered.
And, yes, Los Angeles, as a whole, will forget you. So many come in and out of the Industry that, even at one point, Michael Jackson was considered a Has-Been… Fame is your business. Never forget that.
Don’t Forget To Eat
Anyone can afford to lose sleep, but your diet is important. The Casting Agency may want a fat version of you, a skinny version of you, or a buff version of you – but the minute that you can’t work, there’s no helping that.
People usually get a full-time job to pay the lease, and then take roles in the opposing hours of their work hours. But, sadly, most jobs are in the morning, and film and photo shoots start by 4am. Obviously, everyone runs to get a waiting job at all the restaurants the Agents and Producers eat in, and abuse the flexibility of the restaurant industry.
This is where the trap begins.
Because when this cycle becomes comfortable, the Actor’s self-esteem drops, and the shell of you will dissipate, and then you, as the daily living norm, gets affected.
Solution: get a part-time job, where they employ twenty-six or more employees:
In Los Angeles, employers are obliged to pay for healthcare when they reach that limit.
Then, start getting frequent flyer miles. It sounds ridiculous, but in order to build your resume fast, you’ll need to travel between states. Get used to paying rent, not lease. Of course, you’ll be living with roommates, and traveling by car, when you’re in LA, but to believe you’re permanently here is not a smart way to go. Everyone can stay in LA, but when you have an Agent, a resume to build, and paying gigs, you can’t afford to lose your career to a 9-to-5.
Taking It Easy
But, if you can’t even afford any of the above. Go to Central Casting, in Burbank, at 5am, with your headshot, and car, and become the chameleon this Industry demands you to be, and get ready to be Type Casted!
Get a lead role at a stage play in NoHo (North Hollywood), and apply to the Studios to be a background Actor, Dancer, or even a Looper [a voice actor that’s used for background noise].
Work for free, over and over again, until someone gives you that break!
Some people start a Twitch account, become a social media sensation, and make public appearances at Conventions. Others work for equity. Either way, nothing’s really free. The point is, there’s quid pro quo.
Do yourself the favor, and work in the Industry for four years, get a footing in Hollywood, Broadway, and any international festival and company that’s willing to let in. Do Mainstream, do Indie, do everything until you figure out where you belong. Will you be a household name? Will you be the next Ed Wood? Are you meant for Eastern Entertainment Internationally, or Western? Always learn, and don’t hold yourself back!
But when the four years are done, decide whether you wanna stay or not. More than not, you’ll start your own film company, and have college interns kissing up to you for hands on experience. You might try being a waiter, an insurance salesman, or a gogo dancer, just to pay the rent, at first. But you, as an Actor, will need to earn real money, to fund your career, your hobby – or whatever you consider your Acting to be. And that will take real commitment, whether you’re staying in LA, or moving constantly internationally.