No one is going to tell you exactly the right time or moment to make the move and pay the fee to join SAG. It really is up to you.
I advise people to design an internship/apprenticeship phase for their career when they move to LA. A lot of commercials are non-union these days so there is an opportunity for you to go out and get audition practice while you’re not in the union.
But you need to join SAG-AFTRA if you want to work in TV and Film.
It’s up to you to decide when you feel ready to go comfortably and confidently in front of casting directors. You have to decide when you can show up on a set and do great work. And when you can show yourself as a professional who can hold their own with a cast already in motion…
That’s when you should join the union.
Conversely, a lot of actors wait and it holds them back. Being SAG eligible is another way of saying you are not in the union. Many producers won’t hire actors who are “must joins”. I tell actors to look at it this way: Writers are members of the WGA, Producers are members of the PGA, the main cast members are in SAG•AFTRA, the crew are members of IATSE. Why would a show, whose entire cast and crew are in a union hire someone who’s not?
First off, a lot of actors don’t like networking in Hollywood. Many actors don’t have a great relationship with that word. So let me make it more palatable:
What actors fail to realize is that socializing, going to class, or experiencing all LA has to offer, counts as networking. Creating projects on your own, learning to shoot and self-produce with the people around you, also counts as networking.
Lastly, people you attend class with, perform with, and come up through the industry with, start booking jobs over time. As you become more seasoned, these will become your allies and friends who can help you in the industry.
Networking is uncomfortable when it’s inorganic. Be open to people, experiences and say yes to everything you can. Learn to ask for help when you need it. Boom! You’re a successful networker!
Outside of your house!
I guess that question implies that you’re new to LA. Actually, even if you aren’t, it can be hard to meet people in Los Angeles. It’s spread out for miles and is a huge collection of neighborhoods. It’s a very much a car town. I think that’s why our comedy scene is bigger than New York’s and Chicago’s. It’s a way of connecting.
I urge actors to also join the union when they can. That gives you eligibility into SAG-AFTRA events, SAG Foundation events, and the Conservatory as well. At the Conservatory you can sign up for multiple classes for a minimal fee. You have to check the website to learn what the current fee is. Once you become a union member there are events all year long. Attending those events will give you the opportunity to meet people who are doing what you’re doing.
A lot of actors think of joining as an obstacle, but it’s not. It helps in many ways, the least of which is building community.
Of course, go to class and STAY in class. But step one? Get out of the house!
There are many actors out there who believe they cannot self-produce because they have never written scripts.
I’m going to subvert the very nature of this obstacle. EVERYONE can write scripts. You might not be experienced at writing. It might not be a skill that you have polished or honed. But if you’re looking for footage or just to get started the way you learn is by practicing.
If you can act, you can communicate. If you can communicate then you can write. Start by transcribing an improvisational conversation between you and one other person. Place that conversation in a relatable setting. Have it make sense and play a character that is very close to who you are in real life. Then shoot what you have written. Boom!
You can also buy my books. The Funniest Scenes in the World, Volumes 1 and 2 were written and designed to solve this problem!
Cold reading, especially in Los Angeles, means using your sides as you audition. Actors who are auditioning for lead roles are using their sides all the way through the audition process. If your goal is to become a working actor it’s imperative that you learn to work with the script in hand.
When you audition, casting expects you to use your sides. I often tell my students that being a great cold reader is a separate technical skill that has nothing do with your innate talent. It’s important to get comfortable with the process and you can with practice. Think of integrating the pages into your performance, not just holding them. Working from memory or improving is dangerous. You should be familiar with the material, but also know how to comfortably grab words off the page as needed.
There are many ways in which I am different from other acting coaches. First, when I give feedback to actors in my classroom it’s going through all of the filters you get when you’re auditioning for roles in show business. I advocate for the writer in terms of the correct archetype or character. You will learn to tell the story the way the writer intended. You’re going to be taught what casting would say about audition technique. Furthermore, I give exceptional actor to actor notes.
I can do anything I ask of any of my students. I don’t play games or withhold knowledge or notes. If there is anything I can possibly think of to help a student, I will give it to them.
That’s me in a nutshell.
So if you’re not a hot twenty year something are you too old to have a career in acting? Are you too old to get started?
The answer is no! Oh my gosh! No, no, no!
Show business has a place for everybody. Incidentally, I don’t think that “hot twenty year olds” have the easiest time. Of course, there are certainly advantages to being young and beautiful in the world at large and in Hollywood. But on any given week the industry is asking for a huge variety of ages, ethnicities and types of people.
There are so many other factors that go into making you a commodity in this industry that being young does not cover. Beautiful young actors are placed in certain categories that only come out at certain times just like everyone else. So it absolutely makes no difference.
Plus, we’re all beautiful in our own way!
Here are a couple of examples of single-cam vs multi-cam:
Big Bang Theory is an example of a multi-cam show. It is shot live in front of a studio audience on a sound stage. You can hear the audience’s laughter during the show. Multi-Cams hearken back to Vaudeville. There is a set up, punchline, & joke. The writers attempt to land several jokes per page.
Modern Family is an example of a single-cam comedy. There is a cinematic look to the show. You don’t hear any laughter during an episode because there is no audience. Single-cam shows tend to have more absurd premises. Characters often rant for a long period of time. Generally, you don’t have to set up jokes and knock them down like you would on a multi-cam set.
That’s the short answer. the longer version is explored throughout our curriculum.
What should go on demo reels is simple:
Demos Reels present your ability to act. They help you sign with an agent or manager. They are also part of the toolkit your reps use when presenting you to casting and producers.
Remember, this is not a piece of entertainment. You should be the primary focus of each demo. Their length should be between thirty to ninety seconds. The clips should be well lit and your dialogue should be easily heard and understood. Keep the clips separate and avoid long montages.
Last, post all demo reels to your website, IMDB and Actors Access. Add clips from jobs you have booked and add at least two new clips a year.
Being too big in comedy is a question which comes up in class quite often.
There are two parts to this answer:
- Good acting is good acting. Performing scripted comedy requires the best acting possible because it goes faster than drama. It leaves you more naked. It is risky and it never asks actors to play it safe.
- Specificity is key. If you have fully realized the story, character and archetype and you are being specific with your intentions then the emotions won’t be too big. Always tell the truth from an authentic place and you’ll be fine.
Not all acting training or comedic training is the same. People like Megan Mullally (Karen Walker) and Michael Richards (Cosmo Kramer) aren’t able to play larger than life characters honestly because of their DNA. They trained, practiced and perfected them.
One of the reasons I’m so proud of Actors Comedy Studio is because this is one of the few places on the planet where people can develop upper level skills. Actors can come here to learn how to perform like the icons of comedy. It takes instruction, dedication and direction from a knowledgeable mentor.