Whether you're new to a city, new to a particular scene or new to acting in general, landing acting jobs without a network is hard. People like to hire people that they know or people that've been recommended to them. Being an unknown quantity can be a limiting thing. Through my experience of moving to Sydney after growing up in Perth, there are three healthy habits I developed that had an instant impact in getting me work.
1. Find your opportunities through strategy and sheer determination.
This might range between opening your laptop and scrolling through Facebook groups looking for casting notices, or going down and speaking to students at your local film school. It might mean going out to see theatre and asking what's scheduled for later on in the year, (In some cases, season launches can be one of the best places for info on castings for upcoming plays.) Following any independent theatre companies you want to work with on social media certainly wont do you any harm and finally start talking to other actors in an open and transparent way.
It's a paralysingly, self conscious and poor state of affairs when actors wont share auditions with each other, out of fear that it might mean that they don't get the part themselves. But putting your combativeness aside and embracing an abundance mentality, where you don't have to shroud auditions and opportunities in secrecy, can be a very empowering state of being. Don't compare your journey to other peoples' and always know that when it's right, it'll happen, pretty much every time.
2. Asking the right Questions.
If you find yourself in a situation where you're talking to someone who could have the keys to a casting you'd like, 90% of the time the end result you seek is all about the questions you ask. In this moment you need to call upon inner sales genius. Not the sleazy used car salesman, but the one who understands that by asking the right questions, you can make the customer sell the product to themselves.
Let me play out a little scene for you.
You: Have you got anything that you're working on for later in the year?
Producer: Yeah we're doing one of the late night shows at the Old Fitz in August.
You: One of the late night shows?
Producer: Yeah. They're great, we basically do a weeks run on the same set as the main stage show at the time, we're not charged for the space and we just split the box office 50/50.
You: That sounds sweet. What are you putting on?
Producer: A little four hander, it's called Fat Pig.
You: By Neil Labute?
Producer: Yeah! You know it?
You: I love Labute, who have you got attached at the moment?
Producer: Well Actor A is playing Tom and B is playing Helen.
You: So you're still looking for a Carter and a Jeannie?
Producer: Yeah we've done a couple of auditions so far, but we haven't found the right chemistry yet.
You: The right chemistry?
Producer: Between Carter and Tom.
You: That kind of status obsessed thing that Carter projects onto Tom, that kind of thing?
Producer: Yeah people have been finding it hard to go toe to toe with Actor A.
You: You know come to think of it I know an actress who'd be perfect for Jeannie, her name's Anna, I'm not sure if you know her, but I should put you two in touch. Also if you want, I mean I love the play, the Carter/ Tom relationships a great one, I'd be happy to have read for it if you'd like. Would Wednesday or Thursday suit?
And there you have it. "You" may have just landed themselves an audition. The technique of repeating pain points that get brought up with a empathetic tone (ie. 'the right chemistry?') is a great way to get somebody to elaborate without feeling like your digging. If they object to your proposal you can always say, "No of course, sorry I didn't mean to invite myself. It's just I thought you know I'd just be happy to help the search, it's just a read after all." The more reasonable you are, and the less you way something down with expectations, the easier it is to say yes to it. Maybe you'll fit, maybe you wont, YOU don't let these things get to you, but you'd be happy to help!
3. Become a Referral King or Queen
If you have eyes like a hawk you might have seen this one coming from the conversation above. You might have noticed that the 'you' character in the script gave 'Anna' a leg up in being considered for the role of Jeannie in Fat Pig by the referring her to the producer. That's because when someone else says that you're good, it's about ten times more powerful that you saying it by yourself. The easiest way to get work from referrals is by giving them yourself in the first place!
Again it's that abundance mentality. I have been in the incredibly fortunate position of having been able to get a couple of handfuls of my acting friends work in Sydney since arriving in 2011. This has been both when I've been acting in a production myself, as well as a couple of times as an advisor to directors and producers from the outside looking in. Getting these friends work has been great for two reasons. It's wonderful to be able to put your friends into a position where they can do what they love, whether they reciprocate it later or not, it doesn't matter! But also, when you make a good referral and help solve a tricky problem for a producer while they're casting they remember it and they'll come back to you. Maybe to help them find someone to be in their next script or maybe to be in it yourself.
Occasionally it wont come off and its important to insure yourself against being burnt too badly, by making sure that people you refer are reliable. But one thing I've found that is concrete, is that the actors who have a community of friends that refer each other, when roles come up, they get more work than the actors going it alone.
So if you get proactive by really looking for the work, asking the right questions when an opportunity comes up and becoming a referral king or queen when you know somebody perfect for a role, you're most likely going to see the tide of work start turning in your favour. Then you can start leveraging your current job to get the next one and so it goes!
Hope this helped! PS. A play that I'm in at the moment "The Big Funk" Opens tonight Friday the 13th of March, downstairs at the Tap Gallery at 8pm. OPENING NIGHT IS SOLD OUT, but if you guys want tickets for the rest of the season make sure you click this link: http://bit.ly/1AD7fTy
It's an awesome play written by the incomparable John Patrick Shanley; a Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winner, so please check it out. Every show's an opportunity and I'd love to meet you!
Film and Theatre Actor Based in Sydney. Creator of Script Gym. Lover of Stories.