Monday, November 9, 2015

What I've Learned About Acting in Salt Lake City, Part 3: The TV & Film Scene

Welcome! This is Part 3 of a 3-part series! Part 1: Getting Serious, Part 2: The Theatre Scene, and Part 3: The Television & Film Scene. 

DISCLAIMER: I'm still fairly new here! My info is limited to my own experience. There are plenty of other actors out there who will have different advice and different insights. I am not any kind of resident expert--just sharing what I know.* So ask around--lots of other folks ARE resident experts. 

I've been doing theatre for a long time, but when we first moved to Utah, I was pretty new to the screen. I still feel like I am. But here's some of the info I've found helpful on my journey.

1. Get with a good agency. 
This is the best way to get great auditions. Most major films and television shows DON'T have open auditions--they just don't have time to weed through everyone. So they'll contact the local agencies and run auditions through them. I'm with McCarty, and I love them. They're one of the two big agencies in the area--the other is TMG (Talent Management Group). They're about even as far as how good they are, but TMG is a little harder to get into. If you know someone with them, or have a ton of IMDB credits, that will help you. But I'd suggest keeping an eye on McCarty's website for open auditions (that's what I did), or stop by with a copy of your headshot and resume. Both McCarty and TMG represent both actors and models.
BEWARE ANY AGENCY THAT ASKS FOR MONEY UP FRONT. Reputable agencies in this area will take a fee from your paycheck anytime they get you work, but they won't require certain classes or headshot sessions or initiation fees. They may recommend or ask that your headshots are of a certain quality, but  (For example, do NOT join Urban Talent Management. They have scammed a handful of people I know, and you'll take five steps backwards in your career.)
Most of your auditions through an agency will be with Jeff Johnson. He runs a casting studio in downtown Salt Lake, along with Robert Andrus, who usually does most of the readings. They are both awesome guys.

2. Become eligible for SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild), but don't join. 
This may be different for every situation, but if you're living and working in Utah, this is the way to go. You become SAG eligible by playing a lead role in a SAG film. Then you can put "SAG Eligible" on your resume, which makes you sound a little more legit. But Utah is a "right to work state," which means that non-SAG actors can still work on SAG projects and get paid SAG rates. But if you do decide to join SAG, it may disqualify you for other work, because you HAVE to be paid SAG rates.

3. Build your IMDB credits. 
This is becoming more and more of an important "resume." It's easily accessible to everyone in the industry (they don't have to know your personal website URL to get info about you). You can put your demo reel and your agency contact info on your page. And you can't fake any credits on IMDB. In order to gain control of your IMDB page, you've got to create an IMDB Pro account, which runs $150 per year, or $20 per month. Your IMDB page will be created automatically if you get cast in something that the film creator puts on IMDB, or you can create your own page and add your own credits. You have to submit your acting credits, and they have to be approved. You can check out my page here.

4. Create a demo reel
This can be tough if you haven't done much film. BUT, you can use what you have to your advantage. Don't have anything? Then create your own stuff! Find a few scenes or monologues, and film them. There are a handful of folks in the SLC/Provo area who will help you create a demo reel for a small fee, or you can do it yourself on iMovie or a similar program. Just make it look as professional as possible--this is a casting director's big chance to see your work! Check out my short reel here.

5. Keep your resume simple
Include relevant information, but make it easy to read. Film folks are trying to do a lot of work in a short amount of time, and keeping your resume to-the-point is the best way to show that you're a professional. You can check out my screen resume here.

6. Do background work! 
Seriously. Being an extra is one of the best ways to get into the business. First, I do have to clarify, that it is EXTREMELY RARE for anyone to be "discovered" by doing extra work. I can almost 100% guarantee that it will not happen. BUT, there are a few other important reasons to do background work.
- It's a source of income! Standard background pay is $101.50. Not bad, eh?
- It connects you to other industry professionals, whether that be directors, makeup people, production assistants, or other actors. It's helpful to make friends in this business.
- It builds your resume! Even if you don't have a speaking part, you can still credit yourself on IMDB and include it on your resume. You can give yourself a "name"--not a specific one, but one that just explains what your role was (bar room patron, nurse, airport patron, party attendee, etc) (NOTE: I'VE HEARD A LOT OF DEBATE IN THE INDUSTRY ABOUT WHETHER YOU SHOULD INCLUDE BACKGROUND WORK ON YOUR RESUME. Some say yes, others say no. The answer for you may depend on what kind of work you're looking for. Some have also suggested that you can put it on your resume if you don't have ANYTHING else, but to take it off as soon as you build some other credits. Ask around and see what others have to say.
- Most importantly, it's the best way to learn how film works in a low-pressure environment. In film, time is money, and there's a specific way of doing things, and there's all this jargon, and if you've never done film before, it can be a little overwhelming. And if your first time on set is doing a speaking role, it's...intense. So do background work, so you can learn all the little details about how a film or television show is made.

7. Use the internet!
There are a couple of sources outside of my agency that I check in order to find work (especially background work).
- Utah Actors NING (background, speaking roles, non-speaking roles, paid, unpaid, etc)
- G&G Casting (they do a TON of background stuff)
- Yun Casting (lots of background stuff as well)
- Facebook Group: Utah Filmmakers and Actors (great place to start for all kinds of projects...Gumby of G&G Casting often posts for projects here)...this is a closed group, but just request to join, and it's pretty easy to get in
- Facebook Group: Utah Film Gigs (same)
- There's also Backstage Utah, which I never use, but it's another resource to look into

Maybe sometime, I'll go into some of the things I've learned regarding screen work, but in the meantime...

Have anything else you'd like to add? Give us your tips and insider info in the comments!

* Like, seriously. Part of me feels like I don't have any right to be giving others advice. But others helped me on my journey, so I want to pay that forward. 

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