I look at Miley Cyrus
and Jamie Lynn Spears and wonder how those girls became professional actresses
. Actually, I know how those
two became actresses (Hi, Family Connections!), but all the other unknowns that suddenly appear on the television or movie screen do make me wonder. What does it take to become a Hollywood actress?
Your first step to becoming an actress
is to get acting skills and time on stage. You might not be interested in the school play, but Community Theater or local acting classes can offer you a start to your career. (The school play will work, too.) You’ll be studying new skills and brushing up on old ones the rest of your acting career, so get used to it. Raw talent is nothing without refinement.
Get the Right Address
If you want to be in Hollywood
, you need to be there – literally. Don’t expect to get noticed for the next big movie sitting around in a small town. Go where the other actresses are and start the real work.
Once you arrive in Hollywood, you have to get noticed. This is entirely up to you, so you’ll need the right kind of personality to push yourself all the time and not be too disappointed with rejection. (You’ll be getting plenty of it.)
To get noticed you’ll need to keep a resume of your experience. That is why it’s so important to start acting as soon as possible. The more experience and skill you have, the better you’ll sound on paper. To go along with your resume, you’ll need a headshot.
A headshot is a professional photograph that you distribute like a calling card. It will have your stats and contact information readily available. A good headshot is critical – you have to be photogenic on paper before you can be photogenic in the movies.
Once you have a resume and headshot, put together a packet to send to all the agents in the area. You can actually do this without being in Hollywood, but if you get a call, be ready to head to the city ASAP. Your packet should also have a short cover letter that shows your personality and summarizes your qualifications.
The whole time you’re working on getting noticed, you’ll need to keep up your practice regime. Find local theater projects and enroll in an acting class. Keep taking classes both to build skills and to build contacts. Keep adding experience to your resume and be sure it current at all times. Keep a copy of your resume and headshot with you at all times – you never know when opportunity will strike.
Build a Network
Anywhere in life, but especially in Hollywood, you need a network of friends and contacts. Go to every party you’re invited to (provided they aren’t shady) and meet and greet. Keep a smile on your face and be upbeat and pleasant. You have to be bold – nobody will notice the shy girl in the back. Don’t burn any bridges. Half the waiters, valets and receptionists in LA are future actors and actresses. You never know who you might be able to use for a favor down the road.
Stick with It
There are very few overnight sensations. Most actresses
put in a lot of time in commercials, bad movies, failed pilots and other forms of theater before they ever make it to a popular show. Plan on finding a job outside of the acting industry to support yourself while you search for the right connections and work on getting noticed.
You’ll also need to keep an open mind about the city and industry. Don’t go into Los Angeles thinking you know what it will be like or how things will go. Work hard and expect more than a few bumps in the road to success.
It’s also important that you protect yourself when you do make it to Hollywood. There are more shady businesses and con artists preying on fresh young actresses than real agents. If you have to pay money for anything (other than a professional headshot from a reputable source) or if someone offers to take your headshot for “free,” head the other direction. Find a friend who already knows the ins and outs of the city. Then stick with her until you learn the ropes and know you’re safe from all the various scams and tricks young hopefuls often get sucked into.