I (or my child) auditioned at a mall or conference center and have been offered an amazing opportunity... is this for real?
So, you or your child has auditioned at a mall, conference center, or acting school and you just got the call... you have "IT!" You need to get into the business NOW, study at the place who auditioned you, get pictures, the go to auditions in Florida, New York, or Los Angeles where anxious agents and casting directors are just waiting to discover you! Wow. What an opportunity! You looked on the internet at places like easybackgroundcheck.com and you can't find any negative posts about them... so they must be legitimate, right?
You have just been pulled in by a predatory industry that takes advantage of well meaning parents or people who want a fast track to success. Those classes are going to cost you thousands of dollars. Your pictures from their recommended photographer will cost hundreds more. The trips to LA or NY (travelling on your own dime of course) will also cost you hundreds in admission fees. When you go to one of these "showcases," you will be so good and impress people so much that they will want to send you to another even more important showcase for hundreds more dollars. They will compliment and faller you all the way and, in the end, you will likely get nowhere and end up having spent thousands upon thousands. Sure they will dangle great potential in front of you but what solid work FOR PAY do you receive? NADA. BUPKISS. ZILCH.
The truth is that the casting directors and agents at these showcases are paid large sums from your entry fees to be there. They may not be looking for anything or anyone but a paycheck. The company sending you from place to place does not have your best interests at heart but, instead, your wallet squarely in mind. Using big dreams and high pressure sales to get you to sign on immediately, they suck you dry... and they are going to do everything they can to keep you on the hook for as long as possible because you are their cash cow.
So... okay, I hope this has taken the wind out of your sails a bit. A career in film, television, or modelling is not something one does on a whim. It takes huge commitment and an ability to stick with it over a long period of time with no success. Even when you do work, it'll start slow. The best thing you can do is start locally with a reputable school.
Are you totally green at the acting thing? Then start with a community college, YMCA class, community theatre, or another venue to get your feet wet. See if you like doing it without the potential of fame and fortune. If you do, then you have a possible vocation on your hands. The only reason to become an actor is if there is nothing else you would rather do... you are driven by an unquenchable need or want to act.
If you have taken these steps and know that this is what you want, then find a good camera acting school. A good school should teach a specific technique and there are many. Anything else is like teaching someone to play football by only showing them the field and how to throw a ball. There is much much more to acting than being able to audition, smile for the camera, and "network."
Who are the legitimate schools? Well, call ALL of the talent agencies in your area and see which ones are recommended most. The reason for calling ALL of them? Because there are also local scams that seek to take advantage of you. By calling or e-mailing all of the agencies you are getting as many opinions as possible. Also, you can go to local organizations for information such as production organizations or acting groups. Ask local university professors in Theatre or Communications who THEY would recommend. For links to agencies and organizations in Virginia, please visit our Actor Resources page.
Classes at a private school should cost about $30 per night. You should NEVER commit to a class unless other actors recommend it AND you can sit in on one night's class first. You should NEVER sign a commitment for longer than about 20 classes... that's about 5 to 6 months. Beware of "agencies" with "schools" if they fail to give you any other options for places to study other than their own school. A real agent will just want you trained well. Good agents will have recommendations for places to go in addition to their own school.
As for agents... they NEVER ask for money unless you work. When you work you will pay them somewhere between 15-20% for non union work and 10% for feature films and television. Some agents have taken to posting actor headshots (pictures) and resumes on their website for a fee.. that fee should never exceed $100/year if it's just for one agency... in fact, it should be MUCH less in most markets. I personally believe that, because the agent will be making money off of you, it is a cost of doing business to operate a site to promote her/his talent. Remember you don't work for the agent, the agent works for you... you are paying them with your commission. The more you work the more they make. That is as it should be.
Headshots.. visit all of the headshot photographers you can to look at their work, get their rates, and see what your rapport is with them. The more comfortable you are in your headshot session, the better you pictures will reflect your personality because you will be relaxed. A headshot session in Hampton Roads is currently running about $200-350 for a sitting with one or two proofs once you choose them from the contact sheet. Sometimes a regional photographer will travel into the area and have sessions for $500 or so. Check out the locals first and see if what he/she offers is any better. Reproductions should be done by a professional company and NOT done entirely through the photographer who will likely charge a handling fee... unless the photographer is simply sending the negative off to the professional company for you. Reproductions will likely cost you about $1 per headshot with a minimum order of 50 or 75. Again, links to legitimate headshot photographers and reproduction companies are on our Actor Resources Page.
Don't be taken in by gorgeous photos that are mostly stunning style and wild locations. First and foremost your headshot should look like you... you on your best day. That is a headshot's primary purpose: to give the casting director an accurate idea of what you look like. Beyond that, a good headshot captures something of your personality as well. Don't play a "character" in your picture, just be you. Save the acting for the audition. Always show up in the audition looking like your headshot because that is what they expect.
Always bring a selection of clothing to the shoot for a variety and the photographer will help you choose. Currently, color headshots are in vogue. Black and white works just fine for most but if you are African American or a readhead... a color photo will help the casting director more accurately judge your skin tone or just WHICH shade of red your hair is. If you are having color headshots done you may wish to choose some clothing that will compliment your eyes.
Adults should have their headshots retaken every couple of years because both our appearance and personality change. Children younger than 6 SHOULD NOT GET A HEADSHOT! You will have to replace then every 6 months to stay on top of things. In fact, I advise against headshots for kids until they are about 8 or 9 - and, even then, they should be updated every year as teeth fall out and they grow into teens.
This just begins to scratch the surface of what you need to know. The best thing to do is find a class taught by a working actor. This is the best way to stay abreast of these things. Remember always, as long as you focus on getting better at what you do - working on your artistic growth, then be patient and the opportunities will come. There is no fast track to success. Nobody legitimately looks for the next big star by lurking around shopping malls and advertising big talent searches in the paper except very very rarely... and then it will be for one specific film and they won't be asking you for money. Use your instincts. If it feels like you're being taken, you probably are. Don't let the compliments, flattery, love for your kids, impatience, big dreams, or high pressure sales motivate your decision.
I wish you well.
Is The Actors' Place, Inc. an acting school or an agency?
We are a training program for film, television, and voiceover actors… NOT an agency. On occasion, agents will visit classes and watch students work and often ask them to audition in class by doing a cold read. It is a conflict of interest for an agency/agent to operate an acting school.
What is Mesiner Technique?
Sanford Meisner was an actor with the Group Theatre in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Group Theatre was the first American theatre to explore the use of the teachings of Constantine Stanislavski and the “realism” school of theatre. While the early Stanislavski Technique incorporated what is now known as “method acting,” Meisner embraced the later teachings of Stanislavski, which focus on using the imagination, emotional preparation, given circumstances, and reacting. The Meisner Technique is a series of exercises developed and taught by Sanford Meisner to accomplish these goals.
I have absolutely no experience with acting, are these classes for me?
YES! You are better off coming to this with no prior training as good habits are easier to develop if you do not have years of bad habits to strip away. Classes contain 8-16 people between the ages of 18 and 60. Anyone willing to set aside what they know to learn a new way of approaching acting is perfect for these classes.
My child is 3 (anywhere between 0 and 7 years old), do you have acting classes for him/her? How do I get her/him started?
Wow, if I had a dollar for every time someone has come to me with a kid this young for classes, I’d be a millionaire. The short answer is: 1. no I don’t have classes and 2. you shouldn’t get them started.
Look, if you are trying to get your kid into acting at 3 then it is YOUR idea and not your kid’s. This is no small distinction and it is important to know the difference. Film work is tedious, slow, boring, UNglamorous, and difficult work. One should only enter this career if there is nothing else you feel you can do. Never, EVER get a kid into film acting unless the child is focused, well behaved, and wants to do it her/himself. This is usually not knowable until about 7 or 8 years old. Until they reach that age, behavior is unpredictable, they have difficulty reading copy and memorizing, and, besides, there is no real technique one can teach a child.
Now there are plenty of places that will be happy to teach your 5 year old about film work but you are throwing your money away on a glorified babysitter. The best that a child will get from such classes is some social skill development and there are far cheaper ways of doing that. The best thing for your child is to let her/him develop skills using the imagination and to foster the continued use of them. The best actors are those that never have the use of their creative mind stifled and constrained. Community Rec Center classes in Theater Games are perfect ways of working with the imagination and are inexpensive. Most of the time, however, kids do it all on their own by PLAYING. Turn off the TV and encourage your kids to PLAY.. inside or out it doesn’t matter. Lego blocks, dolls, cars, trucks, and pretending of all kinds are great uses of the imagination. Engage your kid while he/she is playing and share the imaginary world with her/him… this way your child learns that imagination is not a solitary activity but can be shared… this opens the way for acting as they grow older.
Yes, the best way to help children with an acting career is to do nothing. Let kids be creative people and let them do so in an environment where they depend on their own mind for their entertainment and not an electronic box full of inane distraction that will dull them instead.
That was kind of harsh, Keith, do you have to be so blunt?
Yes. Ask the question… What kind of teacher am I if I don’t challenge you? What kind of student are you if you don’t challenge yourself?