Friday, May 1, 2009

The First Step in the Right Direction

Hi! This is Cassie, and this is my first post on "Dear Aspiring Actress". Amber and I are here to encourage, inspire, motivate, educate, and hopefully articulate and translate how YOU can make your big break!

Wow. Okay, stick to acting, NOT rapping... there I go again. Yikes!!

So, here are some tips that I've accumulated for girls wanting to move to LA to pursue their dreams. I can always go into deeper detail about specific steps needed to take place for your move, so if you have ANY questions WHATSOEVER, that's what Amber and I are here for. Feel free to comment below and we'll help you out.....

Now, just to let you know: moving to LA will be the hardest and biggest step in the right direction you can make in order to pursue your acting career. It won't be easy, but it IS a necessity.  

Your main focuses will be: 
1. apartment 
2. survival job  
3. headshots 
4. resume 
5. demo 
6. agent 
7. SAG membership  

1. Apartment!  

This is one of the hardest things (I find) to secure, especially if you're planning on having a roommate. When I first moved to LA, I got a studio apartment on "Miracle Mile" (mid-Wilshire Blvd). It was $750/month with no parking space... and that killed me because I ended up racking about 15 parking tickets within the 6 months I lived there. Each about $50! Killer! So... definitely try to get an apartment with parking (that is, if you have a car). Which brings up: you'll definitely want a car in LA. Public transportation is not only dangerous here, but a pain in the arse. Especially with last minute auditions/meetings... and filming that ends at 11pm or later. It's close to impossible to try to be a working actress without a car. I recommend looking around: Hollywood (central to auditions), West Hollywood, Studio City, Burbank, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood (can be a little seedy, but it's CHEAP), Toluca Lake, Los Feliz, and Silverlake (beautiful and convenient). Santa Monica and Malibu are beautiful and on the ocean, but extremely expensive and traffic is a nightmare. If you want to go even cheaper and don't mind the drive: Glendale or Alhambra seem to be good. is a great resource in finding a roommate or an apartment (or both!).  

2. Survival Job!  

If you're fortunate enough to have an amazing savings account to sustain living in LA without a steady income, then AWESOME! If you're like most actors and need a survival job, then here are your options: 
- most common = waitressing 
- what I do and recommend = Promo Modeling!!! 
- want your SAG card? = extra work!
- don't mind the 9-5 desk job? = Temp work / Temp agency 
- special skills: bartending, go go dancing 
- random jobs: apartment building manager, real estate agent, medical transcriptions (requires schooling)

I say nay to waitressing. I did it for 2 years and it took over my life. They try to advertise that it's flexible and you only work at night, but it wasn't that way for me. If you can't get a shift covered to go on an audition or for filming, then you either miss the audition or lose your job. It was also VERY exhausting for me, that I would get out of work at 2am, and end up wasting the whole next day sleeping in, and then have to go back to the restaurant at 5pm. I made great money, but it wasn't worth it, and my only connections turned out to be people in the restaurant industry (which is a competitive industry in itself!). If you can avoid waitressing, then do!  

Promo modeling is acting like a Vana White for conventions, trade shows, and promotional events. As long as you clean up well and you can talk to people and be friendly, then you're IN! There are different promo modeling agencies. I'm with and, but there's also a lot of freelance work from

***By the way, craigslist is not as scary as people make it out to be! It's like saying everyone on myspace is a pediphyle. Obviously you have those types, but as long as you're cautious and go with your gut feeling, then you'll be fine. If it sounds shady, then it probably is***

Extra work (background) is long, tedious, and boring, but it's worth it for the on-set experience and hopefully getting your 3 SAG vouchers. I'm with Central Casting. There is also Jeff Olan and Sande Alessi Casting, among others. It's like $25-$50 to join and they put your photo in the computer system and then you call a hotline to see what show or movies they need extras for. Also, some extra agencies call you if you want to be on their calling list. I've never done that before because that's usually if you want to do extra work 5 days a week, and I can only handle up to 2 days a week because they are usually such long days (9-12 hours, sometimes 16 hours), but of course you get paid overtime. Always bring a book and a warm jacket to set. A lot of waiting around, and usually on cold sets.  

Temp work is kind of like having a desk job, except it only lasts to 2 days to 2 weeks, or maybe in the rare case of a month or two. You need to have good phone and computer skills, and sign up with a temp agency. I'm with Career Group, Inc located in Century City... they're nice, ask for Greg ;) You just tell them when you're available and they will find you a spot to fill in for if a receptionist or office assistant is sick or on vacation. Easy as that, and you'll make about $10-$15 an hour. This is obviously more flexible than having a regular 9 to 5.

I don't know much about bartending, go go dancing, real estate, apartment management, or transcriptions, but I know other actors that make good money doing that as their "survival job", so if one of those interest you, google around, see what's out there!  

3. Headshots!  

The way of Hollywood is color headshots. If you have black and white, then put a stamp on your forehead that says "inexperienced". It's true. I've shot with about 15 different photographers and only paid for one, the first one. I recommend getting on and finding a photographer on there that you would like to do a TFP/TFCD shoot with. Meaning: "Time for Photo" or "Time for CD". You give them your "time" (modeling for them), and they give you a copy of the photos, or a CD with all of the images. It's a great give and take relationship because beginning photographers can't afford to hire a model, but they still (usually... hopefully) produce good photos, and you also learn your angles or best expressions and "looks".  

4. Resume!

Building your resume can be as simple as doing a one day shoot on a student film (obviously for no pay). The trick is, casting directors want to see that you've been in front of a camera, lights, and crew people, while acting out dialogue from a script. That's all it means. It doesn't matter if the line on your resume is from a small college student film, or from a big hit Blockbuster movie. It's all a learning experience. My favorite websites to find resume-building work and acting jobs in general are: 
- or the Backstage West trade paper found in select Borders, magazine stands, and a weekly mail subscription.  

5. Demo! 

There are A LOT of steps that have to take place until you can get the proper footage to add to your (ever-evolving) demo reel! You have to audition, book it, film it, and then bug THE HECK out of the director/editor/production company to give you a copy of your work to add to your demo reel. Getting footage is the hardest part, and it's especially depressing when you finally get the footage and find that the color or sound sucks, and it isn't good enough to even show people. But, with that said, don't get discouraged! The main concern is to have good acting work on film, because your performance is the only thing you have control over (not lighting or sound). If it means you have your mom or friend hold a home video camera while you act out a scene, so be it! Good casting directors should have enough imagination to see your talent shine through the low-quality.

Also, when you're ready to compile your different scenes and footage together, you'll need to get someone to edit your demo reel for you. I cannot stress enough the importance of making friends with EVERYONE (not just directors or casting directors), make friends with the writer, the editor, the sound guy, the PA, the grip, the AD, the wardrobe stylist, the makeup artist, the script supervisor, the animal trainer, the owner of the house you're filming in.... and the list goes on and on and on and on.... EVERYONE! Because you NEVER know what else they do or who else they know. You are bound to find someone who can edit, and will make your demo reel for a steal (which is $500-$800 if you go to a company that makes demo reels)... or they may even do it for FREE! So make friends! Mingle! Exchange cards! GET cards, actress business cards, has some great deals. GET CARDS!  

6. Agent! 

I put demo before agent on this list because most big agents want to see your work on film (versus doing a monologue in their office) before they decide to take you on as a client. How do you find an agent? That's tricky. In my experience, you have to know someone that is with that agent, and then ask for a referral. Ask the fellow actors you work with if they have an agent. Ask them how they like their agent (because having a bad agent is just like having no agent). 

But just to clear something up: don't think that when you get an agent you can just sit back and wait to be called for auditions. You still have to put in 90% of the work even AFTER you get an agent. Keep doing your submissions online, and think of the auditions your agent gets you as "bonuses".  

7. SAG!

Don't let this cloud your vision! Whether you're SAG or non-union, if an agent, director, or casting director REALLY wants you, they won't care if you're non-union. However, on the flipside, if a non-union film really wants you, but you're SAG, they can't take you because they'd get in BIG trouble. So I say hold off on becoming SAG until you've done all the non-union work you want to, because once you're SAG, you're SAG for life! The best position to be in is SAG eligible until a big TV show or film comes a knockin.

Benefits of being SAG? Higher pay, bigger auditions in bigger movies/tv shows, you can get health insurance through SAG.... the list goes on, check out to learn more.  

A great book I got before I moved to LA is called: "Hollywood, Here I Come" by Cynthia Hunter. I still look through it even today! I highly recommend it!  

Amber and I will try to keep updating this blog with more tips and tidbits on the industry from our own experience in what we've done and what we are currently doing as this battle to be a working actress in LA continues...