I definitely have a LOVE/HATE with living in Atlanta as a working actor.
Part of what I love about the southeast market is that it’s not so saturated.
Part of what I hate about it is that there is not a lot of work.
That’s right. I hate it and love it. I hate it because when I was in Los Angeles, I felt like I went on an audition anywhere from 3 to 10 times a week. There was always something to do to make me feel like an actor in between jobs. There were always actor friends who were creating content and wanted me to be a part of their shows. There was always a show to go to so I could stay inspired. There was a mountain to hike with other actors on it. Los Angeles is very actor friendly because the city was literally filled with us.
In Atlanta, I have to hunt to find the artist scene, where to print my headshots, who has the best classes, and landing an audition is a rare occurrence that happens (if I’m lucky) once a week. However, when it does happen in Atlanta, it’s a goooooooooood audition. It’s for a network show or a major feature film. And that’s why I came! I came to capitalize on a smaller market!
Most recently, that fruit turned gold when I was blessed enough to land a full-time stand-in position on a new show, Survivor’s Remorse. Lebron James executive produces for Starz and I’m so excited I can barely sleep about this project. If you ever get the chance to work as a stand-in, take it! You get to work side by side with the director, executive producers, writers and more. These are the people you want to know. This is also extremely important: YOU GET PAID FOR STAND-IN WORK!
However, let me caution you. Opportunity is only opportunity. You have the opportunity to succeed and the same one can cause you to fail. When you’re working as a stand-in, it’s extremely important to be punctual. Arrive an hour early to base camp and don’t complain about not getting paid for it. Be present and prepared when the director is working with the “first team,” also known as the cast. Stand-ins are the “second team.” The second team needs to watch the first team to know the blocking during lighting and rehearsals. It’s crucial to be punctual, aware, and attentive or this position can do more harm to your career than good.
I have worked as a stand-in before and I really love it because it’s just one step away from being on the first team. You get to see everything. And unlike background actors, they learn your name and treat you like family on set. Casting directors usually recommend stand-ins to production staffs, but they only recommend people they can trust.
Keep working out there dreamers! Hit me up if there is anything I can help with and don’t be afraid to send me an email!
I’ve had this conversation with many actors and the opinion is always different: Some people feel like once you know how to act, you just know and you don’t need to be in class. Some people feel like you should always be in class to stay sharp. I fall somewhere in the middle: I will be in class as often as I can afford it.
For me, class has always been a way to stay hot in between gigs. I can’t just be immobile. Life and this craft is a continuum. We never stay still. We are either progressing or falling behind. Progression will always be at the top of my list. If you want to get creative about ways to stay sharp when you’re not in class, here are a few things I do:
1. Take an Intensive. We’re actors and we have bills. Committing to an on-going scene study class can seem daunting once you’ve been gone so long. Ease back into the game with an intensive. These generally last 3-6 days. Get your feet wet. Get inspired. Jump all in when you can spare the time.
2. Read books on acting. Someone wise said that if you read three books on the same subject, it makes you an expert. Well become an expert in your technique of choice. How many books can we find on Meisner? Reading is cheap and mobile.
3. Watch Virtual Channel Network on ActorsAccess.com. Industry professionals give priceless advice. For free. Get educated.
4. Create a project. Booking can be tough but writing a scene and putting it up on its feet can be done in a day. Grab some actors and make the most of the time. You never know what it could lead to. Ever heard of King Bach or Issa Rae?
5. Memorize monologues and record yourself on your phone. Play them back and critique your own work. You probably know by now what works and doesn’t work, but you may not know what you’re giving when you audition. Do a little self-study. It’s harmless.
I should take my own advice with some of these. My default is creating my own material. I guess that’s just the writer in me. I hope this helps you along the way! Stay inspired.
Let me tell you a thing or two about working for free.
As an actor, there will be plenty of times (especially in the early days of your career) when you will work for free. I am a seasoned newcomer at this point and I am still working for free from time to time. As writer I wrote for Essence for no monetary compensation. I wrote for HOPE for Women magazine for no money. I have done plays that didn’t pay. I have written for another blogger for no pay. I have done countless film projects for no money, including one just this past weekend, which brings me to the premise of this blog.
IF YOU AGREE TO WORK FOR FREE, WORK LIKE YOU’RE GETTING PAID.
This past weekend, I knew the project was unpaid when I submitted for it. I figured it would be a ten hour day, because filming can take a long time. The call time was 6am (I wasn’t expecting that), but I showed up on time as if there was a clock for me to punch. We didn’t wrap until 9p. You got it. I worked for 15 hours on set for no pay, and as a stand-in. That means my face will never even be seen on the footage. Let me tell you why it was worth it:
· I moved from LA to Atlanta. So I’m in a new city. I have to start from scratch with networking. I don’t know many filmmakers here so being on this set gave me 15 hours of making around 30 first impressions with people who work in Atlanta and know other Atlanta filmmakers.
· The director is award-winning.
· Columbus Short of Scandal was the lead actor.
· Columbus Short of Scandal was the lead actor.
· Columbus Short of Scandal was the lead actor, like dude. It was hours of free acting class.
· One job leads to the next. It’s too soon to tell right now, but I can guarantee that working on that set will lead to a job in the future.
Don’t believe me?
After serving as a stand-in for My Black is Beautiful on BET, I was brought back to work on the show as a model, networked with a photographer and got a free photoshoot, and the casting director cast me in several paid projects after that. Because I have written/write for Essence, I am invited to exclusive events with just the hopes of gaining exposure. After writing for HOPE for Women as nutrition writer, I landed a paid job with a publication due to having that experience. Not to mention that years later, I am now the Online Content Editor for HOPE. I wrote for a blogger, and now I have a bigger (paid) position in her company. After doing an unpaid play, I learned from the playwright and wrote my own show, which generated income. I did a couple of unpaid shoots for another director and we became friends and now she does all kinds of stuff for me for free, including film/edit my comedy reel. I’ve met people on set who tell me about jobs, opportunities, and casting directors, etc.
Networking is not an activity you set aside time to do. Networking is the result of putting yourself in amazing situations to meet people with similar goals.
I take business cards to set and events (with my face on them) so that people can find it in their pockets later and learn more about me. Everything anyone wants to know about me can be answered at this website. That is the way it is designed!!!
Understand that there is more than one way to be compensated. I believe that education costs. I’m willing to pay with my time, which is why I will work for free. I will act for food.
So if you show up for a job that does not pay you in cash, behave like it’s the biggest paying job you have ever had. Submit your work on time. Show up to set on time. Behave professionally. Be excited to be used. Your performance and enthusiasm will lead you to other projects. I promise you! And if it doesn’t, you haven’t done enough free jobs yet.
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