Getting started as an Actor (in Philadelphia)

A friend asked me recently for some advice for her daughter getting started in acting.  Here’s what I told her.  (She’s in the Philadelphia area, so a few of the links are local organizations.)

Before we get to the useful links, some advice:

Achieving fame and success as an actor, be it TV, movies, or theater, is a long shot.  Achieving that “superstar” success is like winning the lottery.  Even if you have the talent. Having the talent just gets you a lottery ticket.  There are probably hundreds of thousands of truly talented actors in the country… but how many actors can you name off the top of your head?

That said, there is plenty of work for actors, if they would be content to work without the stardom. Extras, small roles on TV shows and in movies. Off-Broadway and local theater. Commercials, corporate video etc. There’s a lot out there.

It is a cutthroat business at the upper levels. Agents, producers, everyone wants something. There are some people of good character, but you always have to be on the lookout. It’s important to have strong character yourself before you get into this business, so you’ll have the strength to make good decisions.

Also, there will be a LOT of rejection. It’s a simple fact of this business. There are thousands of actors competing for a handful of jobs. Everyone who ever made it as an actor first dealt with thousands of rejections.

Once you get a couple acting jobs under your belt, most likely as an extra, the next step is to get into the Screen Actors Guild (link below). But that’s for another discussion.

Okay, now to the good stuff:

Mike Lemon Casting  Big, reputable casting agency in Philadelphia. Good for getting started as an extra. Click on the “actors” button in the center for info about upcoming casting calls.

Headshots 101  The links on the side have great info. Check out all the stuff under “Headshot Basics.”

Screen Actors Guild — Young Performers  A page of resources for actors under 18 and their parents.  S.A.G is the official union for TV and Film actors. They have info for beginning actors too.

Greater Philadelphia Film Office  Philadelphia’s official filmmaking resource. Scroll down to the bottom and click on “jobs” or “hotline” to see upcoming cast opportunities for big and small films.

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