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“How can I find work as an actor?”

That question comes up a lot on social media and in person when I am talking to newcomers to the field. New actors with virtually no experience—and perhaps not even a headshot and resume yet—want to get started but have clue how to move in the right direction. Let’s make it very, very simple. You need proof.

1. evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement.
“you will be asked to give proof of your identity”
synonyms: evidence, verification, corroboration, authentication, confirmation, certification, documentation, validation, attestation, substantiation

Without proof you can do something you say can you can do, you’re asking others to have absolute faith in you and give you the job without you having to earn it. Instead, take the approach of reassuring others that you can deliver if given the opportunity. There are several ways to do that.

Proof of industry knowledge starts with your headshots. Are they professional looking images and properly lit and cropped? Regardless of who shoots them, I can tell when an actor has some understanding of what they should be going for in the shot. It pays to find quality photogs online and study their work, by the way.

Another form of proof is your resume. Yes, even before you have film/TV/commercial credits you should have a resume. It tells us a little about any related skills you might possess and any work you have done on stage or other live venues. This resume-in-progress won’t sell you in a strong way but it does serve a purpose all the same.

These forms of proof are meaningless, though, unless the next form of proof can be demonstrated and that only comes when you show up somewhere the work starts to be within your reach. Unless you’re focused on creating the work yourself—which is something to consider—you want to align yourself with someone who is a one degree of separation person. This person is your connection to someone who will hire you today, given you have proven you’re ready even for the smallest roles.

Before we get to this one degree of separation person, let’s clarify something. Working as an extra is not working as an actor. In my improv class last week, I made this point. My mother, who has always disliked speaking in public and standing in front of a crowd as far back as I can remember, could be an extra. If you want to be an extra, quietly move along and go serve as an extra. But I assume you’re here to learn about working as an actor, so let’s proceed.

Who is Your One Degree of Separation Person?
This person is someone who gets to see the proof first before the rest of the world begins to see it. He or she may even be the person to help nurture and develop the proof. That person is an acting coach or teacher of a group class.

When you make a decision to get yourself regular coaching or attend a weekly class, you are saying, “I am willing to do what it takes to get that proof.” Many acting instructors routinely send talent to local producers and directors for small projects as a way to benefit both. Fellow actors may do the same after seeing you in class, too.

Even Established Actors Need Proof
I have been helping a friend with casting a non-union commercial project this month for a client in Canada. I recommended two seasoned actors, with whom I have worked, and sent their headshots to the director. I struggled to get clips of their work—a big problem even for some actors with agents—but managed to find film scenes where each person was playing a quirky role. Unfortunately, the material was so different than they would be doing in the commercial. The client ultimately requested “different, less odd, video samples” because clients (often) are unable to make the leap in seeing an actor in one type of role and imagining him or her doing another.

Despite all this talk of proof, don’t think for a moment there is no faith involved here. Even having proof you’re capable of doing the work, each person along the way has to have some faith to bring you in for the audition, bring you in for the callback, consider you for the role and then offer you the role. When that happens, may you perform in a way that leaves no doubt that you have proven yourself each and every time.

Get to a Class ASAP
So my recommendation is for you to get into a class or schedule a regular coaching session. Create the proof you will need to earn the chance to audition. Don’t wait. Sign up for a class this week. You’ll have plenty of waiting to do once you’re on set in a role meant for you.