Acting in Salt Lake City

These were originally published as 3 separate entries. But I've shortened and compiled them here, with updated information. DISCLAIMER: 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.

1. Get good headshots.
This is so so so important. Like, this is what will get you in the door, and help people remember you. Here's what a headshot should be: It should focus on your face, and specifically on your eyes. Choose colors that flatter your skin and hair color, and stay away from black, white, and busy patterns. You should have two main headshots: one "commercial" (smiling, friendly) and one "theatrical" (serious "acting" headshot). If you plan on modeling or submitting for lots of extra work, you can also spend a little extra and get a few "full-body" shots.

2. Remember that there are LOTS of factors that go into casting. 
Talent is a part of it, but it's only one small part. Other factors include look, type, voice, availability, compatibility, how much they'd have to pay you, pure instinct, what phase of the moon it is, the will of reptilian overlords, etc. It's impossible to know why casting decisions are made. And remember that success is a numbers game, as much as anything else. For every "yes," there will be at least ten "no's." So just keep auditioning. Sometimes it's pure statistics...the more you audition, the more likely it is that you'll be cast. Keep getting yourself out there, even if it feels like nothing is happening. (And when nothing is, remember the parable of "F you, Matt Damon.") So just give it the best you've got, and don't get too discouraged when you don't get something.

3. Actually, expect to be discouraged. 
Sometimes. Not all the time. But discouragement is almost inevitable. So is poverty. Especially when you start out. I think a lot of people start out by thinking that they won't experience discouragement and poverty like every other actor, but you probably will. That's okay. Join the ranks.

4. Keep an audition diary. 
It can be as detailed or as simple as you'd like it to be. This serves a couple of purposes. One, it will help you keep track of who you've auditioned for before, and if you've done any followup. Two, it will give you a chance to record thoughts and/or things you've learned. Finally, it actually offers a bit of encouragement to see what you've gotten, compared to what you haven't gotten.

5. Take a class.
Acting is a muscle, and if you're not working for a little while, taking a class is a great way to help you improve your work. It can also give you "networking" opportunities, and help you build your audition repertoire. Sometimes another pair of eyes can see something about your work that you're not seeing, and can give you additional advice. (I highly recommend Ben Hopkin's class "The Three C's of Acting.")

6. ASK for help, guidance, and advice.
When we first made a plan to move to Utah, I sent messages out to everyone I knew who worked in acting in this area. I asked them every question I could think of, and their advice and guidance made my own career here possible. Sometimes we're afraid to ask for help, because we think it will make us look weak, or we're afraid to bother someone. But the reality is that people often respect those who ask for help, and they're often happy to provide their thoughts. It has always been 100% worth it to reach out to others in the field.

7. Remember that your body is your most important tool. 
Treat it well. Learn to eat well, sleep well, exercise well.

8. Don't ever forget your CRAFT. 
This is the most most most important thing. This is my deepest belief about acting as a career. In the midst of all of these businesslike tasks--"networking," getting headshots, taking classes, updating your resume, tracking your expenses--don't ever lose sight of your work AS AN ACTOR. Don't get into this for the fame or money. Get into this for the art. Take every opportunity to continue to improve and learn and grow. Challenge yourself. Connect with and listen to your fellow actors, on and offstage/screen. Your work as an actor must be about the human experience. If you don't know why you're doing this, that's okay. But try to find out. Think about and create your own philosophy of acting. Learn about techniques and systems, and find tools that work for you. Continually build your tool-box as an actor. Don't forget why you're doing this. Being good-looking, having a good resume, knowing the right people--none of it matters as much as your CRAFT.

9. Get to know others in the industry.
I hate the word "networking." It makes me think of schmoozing people at parties, which is exactly the kind of thing I hate. Don't befriend people because you think they'll be helpful in your career. Think of "networking" as sharing what you love with other people who have the same passions. Think not only about how someone can help you create meaningful art, but how you can help them, and what ways you can create awesome things together.

10. Make decisions about your standards
Are you willing to swear onstage? Portray violence? Sexuality? Are you willing to take off some of your clothes? I'm not here to tell you what to be comfortable with. But be thoughtful about what kinds of stories you want to tell, and what you think needs to be done to tell those stories, and how willing you are to do those things. (For some of my personal thoughts on this, check out this past blog entry about Cabaret.)

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. 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 a professional agency will not force you to use THEIR photographers. Reputable Utah Agencies: McCarty, Talent Management Group (TMG), Elevate, Stars. To submit to agencies, keep an eye on their websites and look for an open call. You can also stop by with your headshot and resume, but you’ll probably either need an impressive resume, or a strong recommendation from someone inside the agency.

2. 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. NOTE: DON'T LIST BACKGROUND/EXTRA WORK ON YOUR IMDB.

3. 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!

4. Do background work! 
This is the very very very very best way to learn about film and television if you’re a complete noob. Don’t do this to be discovered. Do this to learn the ropes. It is EXTREMELY RARE for anyone to be "discovered" by doing extra work. I can almost 100% guarantee that it will not happen. But what will happen is that you’ll get to meet and work with awesome industry professionals, and you’ll learn all the jargon of being on set and how everything works. You can find out about extras calls here:
G&G Casting
Yun Casting 
Utah Actor’s NING
Utah Filmmakers and Actors Facebook group

1. Build your audition repertoire. 
Buy a binder and fill it with sheet music of songs you know, and make 16-32 bar cuttings of them. Bring it to auditions, along with copies of your headshot and resume. Have a handful of monologues memorized or handy (30 seconds - 1 minute, both comedic and dramatic.) Practice often. Build variety. Know your strengths and play to them.

2. Get audition coaching.
Starting with my "Oklahoma" audition, I've been going to Audition Advantage in North Salt Lake, and IT'S SO AWESOME. Erin, Jeanne, and Anne are all amazing. They can help you find a song, give you info about the production team and what they'll be looking for, coach you on the acting and singing, help you cut your music, help you pick an outfit, RECORD A REHEARSAL TRACK. I love it. No matter how good you are, it's always helpful to have fresh eyes. When I went there with my audition song for "Oklahoma," I was thinking I don't know what else these ladies can do for me. But Erin helped me break down the song and fill in the gaps, and I don't think I would have been called back without her guidance. It runs about $60/hour, but they'll also pro-rate that if you take less time.

There are lots more companies, but here are the ones that I've worked with, seen shows at, or heard great things about. (If you have strong feelings about the content of plays you're interested in performing in, I'd encourage you to research the shows themselves. Note that generally, Hale Orem and Hale West Valley/Sandy will always produce "family-friendly shows.") Instead of taking up a bunch of real estate on this page with lists and links, I created this Google Spreadsheet of upcoming auditions and theatre companies! The sheet is also editable, so if you know about an audition, feel free to add it.

1. How do you format your resume?
Simply. You can see how I've done mine here. Print out a dozen copies, 8x10, and put them in your audition binder, so you don't have to worry about it on your next audition. Only put training, education, and work experience that's relevant to acting. (For example, if you work part-time at an accounting firm, don't put it on your acting resume.)

2. Should you join Equity (Actor’s Equity Association, Theatre Union) or SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild, film/television union)? 
That's up to you. There are pros and cons, and it takes some research, but for most people, the answer is "no." The theatres in Salt Lake are limited in how many Equity contracts they can offer, and if you’re Equity, you HAVE to work under an Equity contract. You don’t have to be a member of SAG to do a SAG project in Utah. Joining a union always includes this dichotomy: You'll get less work, but it will probably be better paid work. I’d say become eligible, so you can put that on your resume and show you’re legit, but wait to actually join.

3. How do you find out about auditions? 
Most theaters will post their audition info online. Film and television projects will usually just cast through agencies, but sometimes independent projects will send out casting calls on the Utah Filmmakers and Actor’s Facebook page.

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