Over the past year people have read a blog I wrote for the Acting in London website and have reached out asking for advice in acting. Even though I do not claim to be an expert by any means and I am no where near where I want to be in my acting career, I do have a lot of randomness that I can share with you, so I shall.
Just before I start I apologize now for any grammatical errors, I am dyslexic and even though that is not an excuse, before the grammar police come for me, just know, I am no a professional blog writer. Also my spell check will change it all to American spellings, if anyone knows how to change that…let me know.
This first “Official” blog will be answering questions I have received in the past about getting started in show business, because that is exactly what it is, a business.
Being from London as well as living in Los Angeles my goal is to give as much information as possible on both places, blog by blog.
I really do hope you find this blog helpful and if you have any questions, please ask away, I am always happy to answer any.
Back to Basics.
I don’t know if it is too late for me to start acting?
I truly believe that it is never too late to start acting. There are so many roles out there for different ages, sizes, cast types, you name it, you are needed somewhere.
If your journey is starting in London theses would be things that I would and have personally done.
I attempted drama school auditions and was only ever called in for second rounds then…nothing. So of to University I went, and I loved it. I used the time to travel, be a student and have fun. In my University time I studied, a lot. I wanted to know everything I could about any and all of the great practitioners that I could, Jacques Lecoq, Aphra Behn, Caryl Churchill, Bertoit Brecht, Jerzy Grotowski, Sanford Meisner, Konstantin Stanislavski, the list goes on. Learn up, it’s so much fun to be able to refer to these practitioners in your own work. I still use many of them to this day.
I was in my third year of University when I enrolled on to a short course at The Central School of Speech and Drama (now The Royal Central School), and hands down it was one of the best acting course I have ever taken, even to this day. I had an incredible teacher and I just learnt so much in such a short amount of time and it really took me to another level. I ended up getting onto a Masters program at Central and even though I loved the MA program, the short course was still by far my favorite. I still have my notebook from that course on my shelf close to my desk and I still use the technique I was taught to this day. So even if drama school seems out of reach, a lot of them do short courses and they really are great.
In my University and Drama school time I went and studied in Barcelona at The Actors Space. Both of the courses I took there, The Art of Comedy and Screen Actingwere so much fun. It combined two of my favorite things, travelling and acting, win win. You’ll laugh your socks off too as Simon and Marian are hilarious and such great teachers.
Now even though I never made it to The Actors Centeras I left for LA before I got a chance to try it, I have heard from friends who go there that they love it and it sounds like a great place to go and exercise your skills.
There was a point in time where I wanted to get more active in my body too and I went to The Circus Space(now it’s called National Center for Circus Arts) to train and just learn new skills that I would never in a million years think of doing. I can honestly say it was such a fun place to go and hanging upside down or learning how to do backflips for the first time is literally so exhilarating. Sometimes it is really good just to learn new skills and take a breather from acting but do something that is still performance based.
Sword fighting and stage combat is another passion, both circus training and stage combat are going to get you out of your head so quickly otherwise you’ll get smacked in the face or you’ll be dangling from a trapeze mid air, neither one of those sound appealing.
Do I Need Headshots?
Yes, without a doubt. Your headshot is basically your business card. Casting Directors need to see what you look like, so the closer you are to how you look in your headshot the better. On a few occasions I worked as a casting director and it blew my mind how many actors would come in with headshots that looked nothing like them, seriously, nothing like them!
Now in LA agents and managers do love commercial headshots and all that means is that you have your standard theatrical headshot then you have one of you looking super happy and in bright colored clothing that make your eyes pop. Commercials are a whole different field so you need to know how to market yourself for those as well.
When looking for headshot photographers RESEARCH the shit outta of them! Do not just go to one your friend suggested because they were cheap, look around, get as many suggestions as you can then look the photographers up. Headshots are tools to help you get auditions in the first place so if they are shit and look nothing like you then you've wasted not only your time but your hard earned money too. If you spend that little extra and put the time in, you'll be much happier and the results will pay off. From someone who did take a friends recommendation because the photographer was cheap and got sub standard headshots, take it from me, I wish I had spent the money in the first place. A list of headshot photographers are below and these are just ones I have worked with a LOVEEEEEEE!
I am not sure if I need an agent or a manger?
Absolutely. What I have found in my experience is that you need someone who is a huge fan of you. They need to really want to work with you and they should be able to see what you see in yourself. You need to have a really strong self belief, even though you will get down on yourself at times, you just need know you can and will do it.
MANANGER Vs. AGENT
Now in London I’m not 100% what the differences between agent and managers are, from what friends tell me they seem to act as the same. In LA however it is different. A manager is going to get your package sorted out, your reels, getting your headshots to match your reels and what you’re all about, your look and basically get you to a point that your marketable in different areas.
An agent is literally going to pitch the shit out of you and they generally do not have time to go over your look and your new headshots and new reel material. That’s what the manager generally will do. Do you need both? Not really but usually speaking I have either had one or the other or both. Having both at the same time can be great as you’re getting submitted from both sides but then also sometimes it has not worked out well because the agent and manager need to have a good relationship with each other too and sometimes egos get involved and clash and it is not the best thing ever. It is 100% your call and it doesn’t hurt you whatever you do. You are all on the same team and working toward the same goals, both managers and agents are trying to get you out there and they have goals too, they want to make the next acting discovery. That’s why it is extremely important to work as a team and listen and know it’s not always about you the actor, but you as a team.
In my time in London and LA I have gone through so many agents and managers (I have lost count) because there are a lot of companies out there who take you on and then do nothing with you. Or in the beginning they will submit you for projects, however when you are not getting chosen to audition they slowly give up on you instead of trying to fix the issue and then you go to the bottom of the barrel. This happens a lot more then you would think and it’s sad and as much as it is unfair, it is also your job as an actor to keep on top of your game.
The agent is only making 10% and the manger is making 15% if you book a gig and really that is not a lot, so you need to be working a lot harder then your agent or manager. You can do this is by joining the sites such as Spotlight, Mandy’s, Actors Access, LA Casting, Casting Frontier and submit yourself for student films (they are the next filmmakers), short films, indie films, web series etc. Work harder then your agent because it will pay off, plus in that time you are working on these projects you would have started to grow your network of fellow actors as well as the future filmmakers.
Should I pay for a manager and agent?
NO NO NO!! NEVER PAY upfront for an agent or manager! They work for you and it is there job to find you paid work. If you ever get approached and asked to pay anything upfront they are generally scam companies. (If you have ever seen the remake of FAME then you will see that it happens all the time) and not just for agents and managers but fake production companies too.
Do I need to be able to do an American accent?
I’m always going to say that the more you know and can do the better. Even if you’re in London with no desire to move State side that’s totally fine, however you never know if and when your agent will call you up for an American role, better to be ready for it then not right? There are a lot of coaches in LA that do Skype session too, which is amazing. HOW TO DO ACCENTSby Edda Sharpe & Jan Haydn Rowlesis a great book that comes with a CD and downloadable MP3 tracks to help you work on all sorts of accents, not just American.
Where do I need to move in order for me to pursue the acting career? What city?
London is a great City to start in, as there is so much happening in London and so much to do. If you’re thinking about going State side then New York City is incredible for stage acting and musical theatre, LA is perfect for screen acting (and stage is not bad either), and there are a lot of acting studios in NYC as well as LA, scene study classes as well as lots of comedy places that are just so much fun. Chicago is a great place for comedy and in Canada there is a huge scene in Vancouver and Toronto that is defiantly worth looking into.
You decide where you want to go, there are so many things that factor into your decision making, money, visas, and even how much you like a place. If you don’t really like a place then you may not thrive as much as you should. I know people who hated London or LA and moved to Canada and really found what they were looking for, it really is a personal preference.
I hope this has been somewhat helpful and I only answered a few of the questions that I received, I usually respond by email with the rest. I do apologies if some of my answers are long; I just get way into it all.
Here are some usually sources for you that I have used but there are so many other drama schools, so many other accent coaches, classes etc. I could really talk about them all day.
If you have a topic you want me to cover please feel free and reach out also follow me on Twitter and say Hi! @duchesslindsay
Classes | Schools
Unicorn productions are based in London and LA and they do amazing film style shots.