Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Working Actor

I keep meeting people who say they’ve been meaning to get into voiceover. But when they realize it’s not all glamour and is actual work, much more than just reading into a mic, many change their minds.

Building any acting career—especially one that pays (there’s quite a lot of free or very low paying work in Chicago)--takes time and effort. Some actors may think that as soon as they have an agent (or agents), they can sit back and wait for auditions to roll in. Not every client wants to go through a talent agency, probably to avoid fees.

In addition to learning as much as you can about craft and industry, believe self-marketing is essential. (This includes keeping your agent(s) and casting directors up to date on work you’ve been doing. I do need to do more of that.) I’ve booked some great gigs through agents this year, but so far my steadiest, biggest jobs are from clients I found myself. Right now they’re keeping me very busy. But if I have a dry spell, I'll seek additional clients.

Having a client return and offer you more work without auditioning is rewarding and time saving. If you do a great job, and if you’re reliable and professional (this is big—several clients have told me they’ve worked with unreliable or difficult talent), word can spread within that company, leading to still more work. Various project managers from one client keep hiring me; I just completed an e-learning course and have two more on the horizon. A project manager called yesterday to say I’m so brilliant he won’t let others “poach” me, though apparently they want to.

And if you can offer an additional skill they need, even better. Because I’m also an aspiring author and critique for a couple of published authors (NYT bestseller Simone Elkeles and author Terri Reed, and write freelance articles, I’m a good and very picky editor. One client has me edit all of his fairly technical scripts. Also, you can be a good writer for the eye, but not understand how to write for the ear.

A good thing about recording from home is that, as long as I meet deadlines, I can do the work at any time of day or night. So if I have a big audition or need to report to a studio by day, I can continue with independent projects at night.

Becoming a consistently working actor takes time, patience, persistence and belief mixed with talent, professionalism and opportunity (if you’re not in it, you can’t win it). If you’re interested in being a working actor, keep learn. Take classes. Network. Listen to talent on agency websites. Can you do what they (we) do? Are you willing to put in the effort to build your business?

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