By Marci Liroff

This is a cautionary tale about preparation and research. If you’re honest with yourself you’ll save lots of heartache.

An actor sent me a message on Facebook last week – I’ve cleaned up all the typos and grammatical errors so that you can read it. Believe me when I tell you that it was chock-full of them!

“Dear Marci, I am 20 years old. Italian descent and 6ft even. I have a video reel I’ll have by Monday of next week. I would like to move forward with you and your team and be represented by you because I think we would make great work. I am seeking work. I live in Los Angeles now. So I’m available for pursuing my acting career. You’re one of the best and I follow your work. Please see about hiring me for some upcoming roles all I need is one shot!”

I replied: “Hey Danny, I think you need to do more research. I’m a casting director and producer. I’m not an agent and therefore do not represent talent. Best of luck to you!”

Two days later, at 11:30pm I got this email from the same actor:

“I’m living in my car. I trusted the wrong friend coming to LA. I can’t get an apartment or student loan from my school until Monday or Tuesday. I know this is a weird question but is there any way I can stay with you or a friend you may have for a couple days? Please let me know. I don’t know anyone in Los Angeles.”

I posted this interaction on my personal Facebook wall because I was stunned on so many levels. Who is this guy? How can he be so unprepared? How come he doesn’t know that Casting Directors don’t represent talent? Then my compassion kicked in and I started to worry for him. Poor kid coming to Los Angeles with no plan in place and no network of people to catch him when he falls. And it seems he “fell” upon entrance to our fair city.

My friends’ reactions varied. I got a bunch of comments along these lines: “So sad”, “Scary”, “Poor guy”, “Heartbreaking”. I was surprised to hear these comments from my friends though, “Does he clean?” “I have a Nigerian prince he should call!”, “Don’t feel too sorry for him, it’s probably a scam”.

This stirred up a lot of emotion in me whether it was true or not. I can’t imagine moving to a new city and not having a safety net in place. Charles Darwin first wrote about “natural selection” and British philosopher Herbert Spencer later coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest”. When you think about “making it” in Hollywood those concepts surely come to mind but it doesn’t have to be so. Doing the proper research and preparation ahead of time helps to prevent such catastrophes.

I like the concept of being a big fish in a small pond so that when you do come out to Hollywood you already have a fair amount of experience under your belt. You’ve trained, you’ve studied, and you’ve been on-set and in local theater productions. It’s easier to get your SAG-AFTRA card in a local region than in Hollywood. Hopefully, you’re also coming here with a demo reel already in progress. You’ll be adding more footage to this along the way. These days, we need to see your demo reel.

Have you made a budget? Do you truly understand what it’ll take before you make this giant leap of faith? Because Los Angeles is so spread out you’ll need a car to get you to and from your auditions. That means gas and insurance as well. You’ll need a job that will allow you flexible hours so that you can audition and take classes. Your thrival job will also need to let you go when you actually get an acting job. A safe place to live is mandatory. At minimum, you’ll need money for classes, headshots, food, gym, going to the movies/theater for research and to grow as an actor.

If you are successful enough to land an agent and/or mgr, 10% goes to the agent and anywhere from 5-15% will go to your manager depending on how you negotiate that contract. Let’s not forget Uncle Sam.

One would think planning and research would be mandatory for such a move, but I see actors come out here every day in search of “the dream” only to have those dreams dashed. Come out here a couple of times in advance of your big move and check it out beforehand. Make sure you thoroughly understand the lay of the land. Think of it as a reconnaissance mission for your future.

I’d love to hear your stories about making the “big move”. Please share with our community so that everyone can benefit from your experiences.

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  1. Tim Dunigan says

    Hey Marci,
    Great advice, as usual, and a subject near and dear to my heart.. the financial aspects of the pursuit of acting. The preperation is NOT just about the craft and comes with many hard lessons. Thanks for your words here , If it helps just ONE young actor to think things out more clearly and prepare more for the day in and day out grind of the pursuit, it’s time well spent
    Tim D.

  2. Hi Marci,

    Love following you on Twitter and reading your blog. You offer so much insightful information!

    I am moving to LA in January with my fiance (we’re getting married in Newport Beach in March, eeep!). I have been planning this for the last year and a half. I graduated from a medical transcription program. Now I can find a job that will allow me to work from home and be flexible with auditions! I’ve been taking classes nonstop the last year to help prepare me, including a marketing class geared toward actors (I have a business plan made and everything!)

    Anyway, I feel like I’m prepared, but I am having trouble getting a demo reel together. I have done a lot of stage work and a few student films, but I don’t feel as though the films I’ve done showcase my talent, so I don’t want to put them out there to casting directors if it’s not good work. I feel as though it would do more harm than good. What is your opinion on the matter? I do know how crucial a demo reel is in this industry, but will I be able to get any auditions without one?

  3. Hey Marci,

    Thank you so much for reiterating something I needed to hear. I love reading your blog!

    I am an actor who is currently living in Charlotte, NC after having lived and auditioned in New York and it has been really frustrating being a smaller market. However, it has allowed me to get some really great auditions on major feature films and tv shows! There is such a huge growing film community here and it is a great place to gain experience while not paying big city prices. I have learned to embrace being a big fish in a small pond for the time being instead of hurling myself back into the big leagues before I am prepared. As much as I feel as though I may be missing out on opportunities I have to realize that it is part of the journey and credits that I am amassing here are preparing me to have greater success once I move back to a bigger market. I look forward to moving to LA and taking your class in the future! Thank you for being such an advocate for actors!

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