Los Angeles, the great sprawling desert city, the tantalising gold mine for many screen actors looking to work in Hollywood. If you’ve ever wondered when the right time to go is, then read on and assess for yourself if you’re ready jump ship.
I decided to visit LA last year to see for myself what the requirements are to successfully land on the ground running as an actor. As I thought to myself, if I was to relocate my whole life to another country, starting again as it were, I would damn well want my job to be set up in a way where I knew work was lined up and I had the right support network in place to ensure my success. This setup can be summarised as including: A reputable Manager, an Agent, and at least one solid paid job lined up. Of course money and a permit to work in the US.
As part of my research I met with some wonderful fellow WAAPA grads who successfully made the move and are continually working and auditioning. They all confessed that it was a big transition, and not the easiest. It took time and hard work… and yes, a bit of luck. They all made it very clear through their stories that they only moved when the path was paved, when they had more reason to move than to stay in their home city. When there was an impelling reason to move.
I was also fortunate enough to meet with an agent from WME, one of the top three talent agencies in Hollywood. The agent in question also confirmed, that the move should only happen when you are well set up, it’s a big business place, and you need to treat yourself like a commodity, with all the backup in your corner in order to thrive…and survive. Otherwise years on you will find yourself awash on the shore of disillusionment along with thousands of other actors working for their bread and butter in jobs that are usually not creative and do not engage you as an artist. It’s not a fair business, and Hollywood is particularity cut throat. So be as ready as you can be and be smart about when to go.
So, on that note. Here’s a breakdown of the fundamentals:
Obtain as many credits as you can in your city of residence. The US take talent that have proven themselves to be successful in their home country. If you have few credits obtain more before you do anything else.
If there isn’t much happening at home then get your face out there by creating your own short films, Youtube videos, and social media presence. Also work in the theatre, as casting directors still revere the stage actor and regularly attend shows (at least they say they do!). Also, collaborate with others as much as you can, because the more people you work with the more people know about you.
And if it’s really down to there not being many opportunities back home after all your hard work…then go somewhere (perhaps another country if you have a visa or another city) where it is less crowded and where there is opportunity for you to build up your CV. Just don’t head straight to LA because you think that’s where you have to be.
If you are one of those very fortunate people that already have the right to work in the US then skip this paragraph and read on.
The most obvious and tedious of requirements is obtaining the right to work in the US either via the O1 visa or Green Card. Worthy to mention, there are two types of 01 visa; one for film, and one for theatre. Since we are talking fundamentally about a screen acting career, I won’t go into the theatre visa option. Just be aware that there is one.
Now, to be eligible for the 01 you need to be able to prove you have extraordinary talent and that you are in demand. This usually means that you have TV or feature film credits, lots of press on yourself, letters of recommendation, a sponsor (can be your US manager, or employer) and a job opportunity lined up in the US.
There are plenty of lawyers you can ask or research online for further details however the above is the general gist.
US representation by a Manager
Without reputable representation working for you before you even lift off Australian (or other) soil, it is not recommended you go.
So, naturally your next question is how do I get said representation? The answer can already be found in the ‘credits’ and ‘visa’ categories above. You must prove yourself as an actor in your base city of residence. Obtain those TV and feature film credits and get your domestic agent to establish US representation on your behalf.
It is also recommended you acquire a US manager before you get your US agent, as they are initially more important to have around. Think of them as a boxing coach ready to wipe your sweat away and guide you through the next round of blows. They help shape your image, connect you with industry, and offer emotional support if you ever need it. The relationship with a manager as opposed to with an agent is a much more personal one. They also need to get along with your agent, so should be the ones to find one for you that you both like. You may however, get someone that handles management and agent work equally well and thus kills two birds with one stone.
Pretty soon the manager and the agent will tell you it’s time to move to LA. So you start to pack your bags to leave…But did you ask yourself at any point if this is really what you want, and is worth the sacrifice? Make sure you do… Before any of the above happens, make sure you know the true nature of what you are wishing for.
Give LA a visit. Know what you’re working towards and that you truly want to move there. Feel out the terrain. Ask yourself “does this place and way of life suit me, aside from my desires to act?” Because if the answer is “no”, despite all your passion, you will not be happy if you go there. Always, with every step you take, sit in council with yourself and ask if you are still on the right path. We have all seen that success, money and above all fame does not fulfil a human. Love, support and grounding does. It’s the people, the place, and the environment that we interact with daily that give us that. Reassess everything you have achieved and what you think your vision is. Make sure you are making the move for the right reasons. Ask yourself what is truly important to you.
- Audition for overseas productions via IMDB, Starnow, and the various US casting sites. Practice makes perfect, and more exposure creates more opportunity.
- Save money. You might be full of credits but immigration won’t let you through without the relevant dough.
- Research the market. What look is popular? Can you market yourself as a certain type that is in high demand.
- Don’t wing it unless you’re a daredevil. We hear of the talent that was randomly scouted on the street, but don’t fantasise it happening to you. Be realistic. Don’t go empty handed just because you happen to have access to a visa. As even with great credits, a visa, manager, and agent, it’s still a hard slog…but with all those aspects lined up it’s a slog that’s well backed up. And may just pay off. Maybe.
And that’s the message for you today. Move only when you are impelled! And you can only be truly compelled when your corner is well stocked up and brimming.
Break a leg!