How to Become an Actor Later in Life

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

Reaching out to my Twitter followers to find out what they want to know is one of the best ways to connect to my community. This week’s column answers two great questions I received recently:

1. What is the best way to get back into the industry later in life?
Surprisingly, it is very similar to when you were first starting out, except that you already have the basic foundational acting skills and you probably have a lot of old connections. Now is the time for a refresher course. You wouldn’t run a marathon after having hung up your sneakers 20 years ago, would you? Get yourself back to a weekly acting class and warm up those old muscles. While in class, you can network with the students to see if they can refer you to their agent or manager.

If you have good relationships with your old representatives, reach out to them to make them aware you’re in the game again and see if they want to jump back into business with you. Get all of your materials up to date. You’ll need to update your headshot and résumé and upload your reel and clips online in order to subscribe to submission platforms like Actor’s Access and Backstage. As you build new credits, switch them in for your reel’s older footage, which may no longer be relevant.

Then, register with film schools in your area so that when they are casting student projects, they will call you in to audition. Join a theater group.

Reach out to the casting directors who used to hire you to alert them to your re-entry into the biz.

It may feel overwhelming sometimes, but taking it step by step will make it easier.

2. Where do you find new actors, and how do they stay on your radar?
I think about the good old days when I would pore over the Academy Players Directory looking for new faces, and it makes me laugh. Times have changed! I still miss those giant books, but I wouldn’t go back.

Most people I know in the casting field will say they are working all the time. A good CD always has her eyes and ears peeled to discover new talent who can move us with a great performance. When I’m watching television, for instance, I always look up actors I see who are new and interesting and immediately add them to my database. When reading a magazine or newspaper, if an article on a new actor pops up, I rip it out and put it in my “to file” pile. I’m constantly going to theater, screenings, and film festivals; I visit acting classes; I scour YouTube and Instagram. Agents and managers constantly call me to take general meetings with their new clients.

In terms of staying on my radar, if you’re going to send out postcards or email blasts, make sure you have something to say. Don’t just send out a notice with your picture and contact info. It should include your latest work and an action item, such as “Watch me on the latest episode of [fill in the blank] on Tuesday at 9 p.m.” or “Come see me in ‘Man of La Mancha’ at San Diego’s famous Old Globe Theatre.” 

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.

Is There One Way To Become Successful?

By Marci Liroff

Is Backstage Magazine schizo? After going through the “Experts” advice along with the regular columnists’ articles (such as myself, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Secret Agent Man) I’ve noticed a huge discrepancy from one writer to the next. We are actually contradicting each other week after week. I imagine this is confusing to the reader.

Some examples I’ve noticed in the last few weeks:

  • Don’t bring headshots to auditions; no one uses them anymore. Or, even worse, “I don’t bring headshots to auditions anymore, I’ve outgrown that.”/ ALWAYS bring headshots because the CDs need the hardcopy for your audition.
  • Don’t connect with your reader – you should be able to act on your own because CDs and their associates don’t really give you what you need anyway / You need to connect with your reader to give a fully realized performance.
  • Don’t memorize the dialogue word for word. Put your own spin on it. /Honor the writer and do not change the dialogue as it will make the show creator (who is usually the writer) furious.
  • Take Casting Director workshops because it’ll help you network with the gate-keeper / Don’t ever pay for what amounts to an audition. CD workshops are not an educational experience – you’re just paying for access to a casting office.

It seems that everybody wants the answer. Everybody wants the magic pill. How do I do it? How do I get there?

I’m here to tell you that there is no one answer.

There are many ways to get from point A to stardom – or better yet, to be a successful working actor.

I’m often asked for referrals to acting classes or head shot photographers. I send actors, managers and agents my well thought-out lists. These are my suggestions of acting classes that I’ve actually sat in through the years so that I know, first-hand, what the classes are like. Yet, I still get responses like, “Well, which ones do you like? Which are the best?” I’m sending you the ones that I like on a narrowed down list. You now have to do the research to find out which acting coach or photographer clicks with you. Finding the right teacher or photographer can be like finding the right shrink. Only you know which one you’re going to let in. By auditing classes and going through photographer’s websites and meeting them, you need to use your gut to find the person who you can trust and who will inspire and push you. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. There is no “best”. It’s not “one size fits all”. There is no right answer here.

The takeaway here is that our articles are all opinions and points of view based on years of experience in this field. There is no “industry standard” on the right way to attack your acting career. Take it all in, continue to do your research, and use your instincts to figure out which advice is best for you.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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