All right, beautiful people! I’m glad you’ve found your way here.
I wanna do a li’l myth-busting, especially when it comes to those LIES we all hear about stuff you *have to do* in order to succeed as an actor.
Whether you’re in LA, looking to move to LA, or have zero interest in LA, this stuff will help you get your mind right, when it comes to *where* to spend your energy, as you pursue a creative career.
Option overload will paralyze you. Let’s just cut the bull and get to what works!
You tell me. What myths have you bought into then later realized were a bunch of hooey? What “rules” are you still certain are very real? Comments are open below and I wanna hear from you! I’ve launched this free series of vids specifically so we can get very real about what works.
(To be sure you get the heads up about the next vid, make sure you’re on the mailing list — there’s a handy box at the bottom of this post, if you expand to the comments area — and check the box at MailChimp saying you want to hear about online instruction. We’ll get you covered!)
All right, ninjas. I wanna hear from you! Share your tales of myths and mojo below. 🙂 GO!
Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!
Yay! I’m your first comment!!! Great job, I could not agree more. I’m always telling new parents to calm down, if nothing else that anxiety to hurry up will stress out the child. That concept is for all actors. Don’t get desperate!!!If you get desperate, you’ll end up loading the industry and great sites like ActorsAccess and CastingNetworks with bad submissions that will make the CD’s think twice next time about posting a good project on actors… One day at a time every one!
Totally first, Kerri! Thank you for being here. 🙂 I think having a long-haul view is such a beautiful gift, and especially as I work with parents of kid actors, I stress that YOU set the tone for how your young one is going to thrive in this business. Starting NOW not being results-oriented makes a huge difference, no doubt!
Joe, thank you! YES! That’s a huge voiceover related (and on-camera related) issue. “I’m a natural,” translates into, “Who needs training?!?” but that’s like thinking you’re probably gonna be GREAT at surgery and starting in cutting on people and removing organs. Ack! Think it over. 😉 Of course, I know acting isn’t brain surgery, but it’s important to take the craft seriously, if there’s a long career to have, right?
Thank you, Anne (and thank you BizParentz, for all you and Paula do for young actors and their parents). Absolutely, you’re right about kid actors having a different timeline and OF COURSE the need for an agent out there negotiating on their behalf, hopefully with the kid’s best interest at heart! YES! Excellent points and I so appreciate the clarification! YES! Soooo with you on the “get to town, have a pilot season, showcase in front of AGENTS” thing that kid actors and their families fall prey to. So many broken dreams and TENS of thousands of dollars thrown at something that just doesn’t need to happen YET. Thank you for all you and Paula do for young actors! Truly, https://bizparentz.org is a phenomenal resource and I appreciate your perspective!
Next up, Alejandra, THANK YOU for plugging in and checking all the goodies out! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoy what you’re reading and watching from me. Pleeeeease stay positive, as it’s one of the best things you can do, in terms of being castable, wherever you are! Did you check out the “Agent Free Auditioning” link I mentioned in the vid? Please visit the links there to sites even outside of LA that can get you started. And remember, you can *always* create your own content to show people what you’re capable of. No matter WHERE you live, creating a short vid or putting up a few scenes in a small theatre is usually do-able, and it’s a great way to plug into the creative process and showcase your abilities, while you research your future market (whether that’s LA or some other larger market outside of where you currently live). Lemmeknow if you have follow-up questions on that! I’m glad you’re laying a great foundation, already! Yay!
More comments to come! Y’all are awesome. Gotta run! THANK YOU for all this delicious feedback! I love getting to know y’all! 🙂 XO
Thanks for the article, Bonnie – on the mark with all three!
A myth I run into in the VO world is the “I’m a natural – I don’t need training!”
They rush out, grab a $100 microphone and are convinced they’re ready.
It comes in part from stories of people being “discovered” and rising to super-stardom overnight. The real story in many cases is that “overnight” actually takes years of hard work and determination.
Granted, there seem to be a lot of people these days who are famous for being famous… but I’d hardly consider that to be a career in acting 😉
Hi Bon! AWESOME vid! The only suggestion I have for a “add” is that child actors do need an agent *slightly* earlier than adult actors. Here’s why: kids are legal minors, meaning they can’t negotiate employment contracts for themselves. If you read the technical terms of service (TOS) to legit submission websites they will tell you that you are submitting yourself, and that you are an ADULT, that you understands this, blah blah blah. In other words, kids aren’t supposed to be submitting themselves on those sites. And if mom is making deals on behalf of the child, they are agenting without a license in NY or CA (anybody who is procuring work for another person, or binding them to an employment agreement is doing this). Kind of a little slavery vibe going on. Eek.
In contrast, an adult actor can submit themselves, can negotiate their own contacts, etc. A kid technically, legally, can’t. Now everyone knows that mommy is submitting on online sites, and they are looking the other way (thank goodness!). But if it came to something decent, paying and worthwhile, an agent is needed for kids. With adults, the agent is an option…but with kids, it really isn’t.
Of course, the wise thing for a parent would be to do self-submissions, build that reel and make deels at home (outside of NY and Los Angeles where mom could get in trouble for agenting without a license). Then, when you get to the big city, start looking for an agent with some meat and some *money* (as you note in the video) to attract a decent agent. For those living in NY and LA, the agent thing will just happen a little faster because that’s the kid-showbiz-culture here. Even if everyone isn’t following the law to the letter, or is looking the other way so that kids can get those self-submit jobs, GENERALLY, the agent will need to be in the picture earlier here.
Loved your advice about agents though: I cringe every year at this time when I see the literally hundreds of families who have spent $10K and up on a showcase to “get an agent”. I always want to scream at them: you don’t need one yet!!! And the ones you are meeting at that newbie showcase are D-listers!!! Go home, do some work and get a DECENT agent!
Hello Bonnie! Thanks so much for this vid. I lovee all of your stuff, your columns, your advises everything you do for actors out there, really, you are amazing! thank u thank u thank u
Now that I’ve said that I appreciate so much the opportunity you are given us to speak with you. So here is the thing:
I am an aspiring actor and I look forward to someday move to the states and go to LA and become a successful actress but right now it seems so unreal that it gets me down sometimes.
You said in your vid there’s a lot of work an actor can do wherever they are, well I am from Venezuela and I don’t know if you know the biz here but it’s not big at all, it is actually very limited, there is not even agencies or stuff like that, there is defenetily some stuff but most of them are not that good, and sometimes I just get confused and frustrated cause I don’t know what to do and I don’t have the means to go to america just yet.
I would really appreciate some advice if you don’t mind, what do you think I should do? should I just start here with whatever I got and take it from there? should I look for opportunities in bigger markets? I really think I have to start doing something for my dreams I just don’t know where to start, I’m lost. I don’t mean to sound negative or anything like that I’m just trying to be honest and real, I really need some guidance but I just want I little advice from you.
btw I’m 19 years old
Thank you so much Bonnie, for everything 😉
sorry for my english
I am returning to acting after a long time of being away from it. Not fully away. I went back to school and got an MFA in Filmmaking, so I had a great experience being behind the camera, writing, producing, and directing actors. I get these stupid fearful thoughts in my head like “I’m too old!” blah blah blah…But I’m trying to fight them. But at this point I do not know how I would even brand myself once I step in front of the camera again. How do I begin to do that? I’m good at other people but not myself.
Goodness! Y’all rock! Thank you so much for these delicious comments. I’m apologizing RIGHT NOW for how long it’s taken me to get back to y’all with more feedback! I have been running like crazy, teaching at UC Irvine, doing the SMFA Foundations class here in LA (and online via eProf), and starting up a new casting for next week. Ack! My apologies for the slowness of my replies, now! But, here I am, pulling a late-nighter (or maybe an all-nighter) and I’m gonna dive on in! 😀
Picking back up with Bernadette: Looks like one of my Ninja Angels, Cracker Jack, has supplied you with an amazing link to an archived column I wrote about “starting old.” Please check that out and comment there (or back here) with follow-up questions. For sure, we need actors who are ready to do any level of roles at all ages, so you should never feel like it’s too late! It’s not like starting a career in football! 😀 You can start ANY time!
Brenden’s next: Okay, you’ve fallen into one of THE biggest traps (and one of my least favorite things that people DO in this industry), and that’s where “they” will tell you, “Oh, we can’t hire you (or cast you or sign you or whatever) because you’re nonunion.” And then you go and GET in the union (thinking it will solve the problem) and you’re told there’s SOME OTHER REASON you weren’t hired (or cast or signed or whatever). You were *actually* given that reason because it’s a “stopper.” You can’t talk your way out of it. It’s like saying, “I can’t cast you; you’re too short.” You can’t GET taller.
But with the union thing — which is often used as a THING (and it soooooooo bugs me) — it’s a stopper, but it’s something actors *do* go and try to “fix.” And then they’re stuck in the union before they should be union members… and they still don’t get the rep, the gig, etc. Of course, now that you’re a union member, you need to look toward people with whom you can work on UNION projects. You can build relationships with people who are working on things that are micro-budget and still union (tons of web projects, student films at certain institutions with blanket agreements, and lower-budget projects that are being done through SAG Indie), so that you can stick to your membership and start building relationships. Heck, you can begin producing your own content, to show the buyers what you’re capable of. LOTS of options!
Deb, thank you for the feedback. You’re awesome! 🙂 I actually have a short course for kid actors (and their parents) coming up on Saturday, thanks to the awesomeosity that is eProf: https://eprof.com/9-smfa-essentials-live-young-actors — it’s a super small enrollment situation, so there’s gonna be lots of private attention. I’m thrilled to be able to work with kid actors and their parents, because *I* was a kid actor and I know that a successful career (in whatever area of the industry) is built on a foundation of support and realistic expectations for the journey. I’m so glad you found this post helpful and I hope you’re plugged in at https://bizparentz.com and PARF!! Great stuff!
Okay… posting this comment so I don’t lose it (it’s long), then hopefully I’ll pick back up with the rest of your awesome posts! 🙂 Love you people!!!!
So quick question Bonnie,
I had reached a top tier in Utah, so I began speaking to agents in LA to begin my transition.
Every single one of them said they wouldn’t take me, or even look at me until I was Union.
So I joined the Union, moved to LA and now I’m finding that agents won’t even respond… most likely because it’s Pilot Season and they’re swamped.
I’ve noticed it’s not as easy to say yeah lets work together here in LA, because I’m Union. As where in Utah it didn’t matter.
How would you recommend building relationships with those film makers, that aren’t making union projects?
As a Stage Mom, I love your advice to newcomers! Awesome video blog! Would love to see/hear more great advice!
you’re so peppy and adorable. Your advice is always awesome, but the best part is how excited you are to share it with us. To yes-and your “option overload”, there’s a psychological term for that called “choice” or “analysis paralysis”. https://opus1journal.org/articles/article.asp?docID=90
The Union thing is totally true. I’ve been Union for ages but got stuck in a bind last year where I had no current credits, and couldn’t do any of the no-pay/low-pay stuff. I didn’t want to work off the card, but I couldn’t audition for union projects at my tier because none of my credits were current. Thankfully I took a year to produce some stuff on my own, work on my friends’ projects, etc, and now my tools are great!
Bernadette, speaking as someone who took a decade-long break from the industry, you are NEVER too old. Those kind of brainloops are really tough to get through. Something that really helped me is Bonnie’s “you’re never too old to be an actor” articles. My favorite one is this one: https://bonniegillespie.com/am-i-too-old-to-start-an-acting-career/
Ninja Angel Cracker Jack: THANK YOU for being on the team! You are awesome and I’m so grateful to you for being here and rockin’ it out! 🙂 YES! “Analysis paralysis” is a great term for it and I thank you for sharing that! Whatever the term, “option overload” will stall you out! So, I’m thrilled it’s something we can help simplify, with the SMFA principles! THANK YOU for sharing the article with Bernadette, and your thoughts about union membership with Brenden. So helpful! 🙂 Thank you and… well… more thank you! 😀
(Y’all, get used to seeing more of Ninja Cracker Jack. She’s amazing.)
Sara, I *wish* I never never NEVER heard from anyone the phrase, “I wish I’d heard this X years ago.” Sadly, it’s one of the most repeated lines I hear (or read). It especially hurts my heart when I hear from an actor, “Where were you a decade ago when I really needed you,” and, well, I started writing for Backstage (then called Back Stage West and Dramalogue) in 1999. I’ve been writing weekly for actors forEVER. I think it’s why I’ve gotten (a little more) okay with the promo stuff. I’m (finally) marketing my own stuff, because I realize I’ve been treating SMFA like “Fight Club” and that doesn’t help nearly as many people as those who may crave the goods. I’m just glad you were able to avoid the evil “Bitter Actor Syndrome” despite having fallen prey to some of these myths, a decade ago. You’re awesome. And not lease of all b/c you appreciate my precious kitty. Sad/fun fact: He’s been a wee bit sicky for a while. A Maine Coon, he should weigh 17 to 24 pounds (and he has, before) and he’s down to 10 right now. So, he was convalescing nearby during this shoot. I started to move him because, y’know, he could break my continuity over the course of several vids, but NO. I let him stay. So, you’ll see him tomorrow and next week as well. 😉 He appreciates the love (oh, and he’s on a new diet thanks to Keith, so he should be beefing back up soon. Yay)! 🙂
All right. Another long-ass comment. Gonna post it now. More next. Woo! All-nighters are FUN!
LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS! I can’t help but feel like I got suckered by one or two of these myths along the way… oy! Wish I could have heard this 10 years ago when I was just ramping up! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
But my favorite part of the entire video (and I swear I paid attention to every word!!)…is your sweet kitty sleeping in the background. Super cute!
Love these top 3 myths!!
I totally feel you Alejandra about not having a ton of work in your area and feeling kind of stuck. One of the best ways you can overcome this and kind of take charge is to make your own work…AND bonus since the same thing that happened to you Brendan happened to me with joining the Unions too soon…you can make them SAG-AFTRA projects and even Taft-Hartley other actor friends which increases your ability to get to know other filmmakers and build your web of trust).
Bonnie has some amazing blogs on the subject. Here is the start of a 3 part series on Self-Producing: https://bonniegillespie.com/self-producing-i/ and another great one on Taft-Hartleying Youself: https://bonniegillespie.com/taft-hartley-yourself/
Also…if you haven’t Bonnie’s great article on web of trust…check that here: https://bonniegillespie.com/web-of-trust/
Ninja Anna, thank you! I love that you’re pointing folks to some columns that helped you. Y’all, please, ANY follow-up questions, post ’em at those columns or here. Happy to “yes, and…” it all!
Sariann, glad to have you here! So happy you’re enjoying the free vid series! Definitely, keep laying the groundwork for success where you are, keep researching your potential buyers (both on the casting side of things, and as future partners in representation), and just HAVE FUN! I cannot wait to hear how things go for you! Keep me posted!
Becky, I cannot WAIT for you to see the next vid in this series. It’s all about the most uncastable quality, and it’s one you’ve mentioned in your comment. I LOVE that you’re open to moving away from restlessness and coming up with better options for your journey. Oh, and one of the favorite things I “picked up” from my trip to Sydney to teach SMFA a few years ago was the word HEAPS, so thank you for using that. It takes me back and makes me smile! 😉
Finally (for tonight anyway), Meghan, thank you for watching! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed this one and I hope you’ll stay plugged in for more. Congrats on getting into a program you’re excited about in LA. I assume you’ve done a lot of research to be sure it’s a GREAT program and one you’ll be proud to have been a part of. There are a LOT of programs based in LA that are fantastic. And others that are just… not. I moved to LA 20 years ago and had done the whole “lemme audition for AMDA and AADA and anything else that would make me feel like I was a part of a PROGRAM” type programs. I’m actually glad that I showed up on my own, hustled to build relationships, and didn’t add to my existing student loan debt.
But that’s just me!
You may find that being a part of a program makes you feel plugged in, it becomes worth all the money, and it gives you a soft place to land (which is invaluable, when uprooting your life and moving across the country, or halfway around the world). I’d say don’t worry too much about whether you’ll have access to higher-tier people as alumni from a particular program. Sure, it’s handy. I connect with fellow UGA alums all the time. But I also plug in with Gamma Sigs from all over the world. I also connect with fellow Atlantans. I also build crazy-important relationships with people with whom I share NO alumni affiliation. The only thing we have in common is something silly and basic. And that’s one of my favorite things about this business. Building a relationship with a producer just because we both share a love for “90210: The Brenda Years” is plenty over which to bond.
All this to say: Don’t overthink the alumni factor. If you crave the training they offer, go for it. But if you’re hoping it’ll be an IN at certain agencies or casting offices, maybe save your money and produce your own content with a fraction of that. 😉
Keep rockin’, all! 🙂 Phew! Finally… gonna get a wee bit of sleep. XO
Wow, love seeing you chat with me!!
You are a pleasure….
This is very very accurate and so right on!! It took me a while to get these principles –
Now I am patiently waiting to scope out my agent locally and become SAG!
Wish I’d heard these little tips a couple years ago when I was getting started. #3 really REALLY hit home for me. Might explain why I’ve been rather bitter and restless the last little while!
Really great advice, as always, thanks heaps, Bonnie!
This is my first time watching one of your videos and I believe you are a genuine person who wants to try to help people out. 🙂 I am 22 years old and it has always been my dream to be an actress. I live in a very small town in Arkansas and I recently auditioned for one of the colleges for dramatic arts in Los Angeles and I got in!!! I currently work 2 jobs approximately 70 hours a week. While neither of these are jobs I’d like to keep forever, I’m struggling with the idea of taking on so much debt and moving across the country leaving these 2 jobs. In your opinion are these types of colleges worth the time and money? Also, will the connections I make in one of these colleges gave any benefit in working my way up in the industry?
THANK YOU so very much for this video – I just wish I had seen it 18 months ago when I first moved to LA. I wasted a lot of time in my first 6 months meeting with agents and managers that I wasn’t interested in because I thought that “I needed one, any one”. After 6 months I decided to focus on the work I could get and my what a difference that makes!
That being said its nice when I see that someone in your position says I made the right choice (cause sometimes you wonder).
Its wonderful that you take the time to share your expertise and insight with the rest of the world.
Of COURSE, Jessica! 🙂 My pleasure. Yeah, actors spend a lot of their “new to LA” time running all over town taking meetings with these folks that — if they really LOOKED deep into it all, they’d realize — are just NOT a good fit for them (and certainly won’t be a year later). Why bother with that entry level agent? I love that you focused on the WORK. It’s so important! It’s something you can actually control! 😀 Good for you and keep creating, girl!
Thanks for the cool video.
Much appreciated. Even though far far away.
So good to see you here, Nikolaus! We miss you! Glad you enjoyed the vid. Hope all is rockin’ in your world. XO
I just loved the way you put the Video together.
Remember me, I remember very fondly how you worked on Judy’s videos, thank you for being an inspiration to me
Aw, thanks, John. Just iMovie and my MacBook Air webcam. 🙂 I love being able to do these vids. Oh, you would love my little lighting trick: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bonniegillespie/8406686176 Hee hee! 🙂
I loved this! YOU should have a class at AADA where my daughter went!
She just signed on with SAG
I moved her to the country and five years ago she boomaranged back to LA to go to school and is living in her dream.
As a mom, I wish I had found your blog years ago!
I just sent this to my daughter!
How wonderful! Thank you, Diane. I actually have done guest lectures and Q&A at AADA several times over the years. Great school. Great program! I’m glad your daughter is living her dreams, and as someone who “boomeranged” myself, I totally get it. She’s lucky to have such a supportive mom! Thank you for this comment and I hope to see more of you, through my columns, the mailing list, and the free MP3s at iTunes! 🙂
Thanks for shedding some light on the myths of rushing to get into the unions and needing an agent right away. I’m returning to the business after a break and have been attending many workshops with casting directors and agents. It’s comes naturally for me to shoot for the stars and aim at opportunities that could help me level up. But I can see how glossing over opportunities to update my resume and build work relationships could be like shooting myself in the foot. I’ve been feeling that this might be what I’m missing in my strategy lately and finding your blog came at just the right time to solidify those feelings. Opening my mind more 🙂
Oh, I’m so glad, Joseph! THANK YOU for landing here, and for your comment! Rock on and stay inspired! 🙂 Hope to see you back here, soon!
Here are the three biggest myths that I think/have found, even from here in Tulsa, are a bunch of hooey:
1) LOS Angeles is dog-eat-dog and nobody wants to help you—not for real, anyway.
In the short time I was out there, I came by, through natural relationships, most of the work I did through suggestions of and opportunities given by other people, most of whom had nothing to gain by putting me over.
2) LOS angeles/HOLLYWOOD is a den of sin and iniquity—you must be possessed to want to go out there.
I found plenty of similar-believing folks out there when I was there. Just saying.
3) EVERYBODY who gets into movies and so on is an egomaniac who wants to be rich an famous, to be a *STAR*.
OR we like telling stories through acting and choose to use what some call the most influential area in the world to do it. Money is more than welcome. Yes, please! I remember a Hollywood veteran saying to me that fame is “useful”, but I honestly think that if we are not doing this for love, we will eventually be found out, even if only to ourselves. Somebody once said “The truth will out.”
Call me naive, but that is what I think.
Addendum to #2 in my comment above: I am a VERY imperfect Jesus-follower. I did find others of my kind when I was out there and have found more since.