Every couple of weeks, I’ll get an email like this one:

Bon, I love your column but you make acting seem like a lot of work. I chose a career in acting because it’s fun and creative, not because I like to do research or produce my own stuff. There’s gotta be a better way.

Yeah. There is. Dumb luck.

It absolutely is possible to have a career in show business without doing any research whatsoever. You can simply bump into the right headshot photographer, end up with awesome shots, use a poorly-formatted resumé that basically gets the point across about what you’ve done and where you’ve trained (assuming you’ve bothered to train), and get seen by someone who is casting something perfect for you at that exact moment, thereby giving you an opportunity you really lucked into. Totally possible. As possible as it is to hit the Mega Millions and retire a millionaire.

Far more realistic is an understanding of the pursuit of a career in show business, which involves knowing yourself, knowing your most castable type, knowing who consistently casts your most castable type, and knowing how to get in front of those folks — each time doing your best work — over and over again. Over time, that’s a career.

Look, I understand that “the fun stuff” is why most of us choose to pursue a career in show business. All of us have decided against the more traditional career path that almost everyone in our families (most likely) chose and would, frankly, love it if we had chosen. We like the fun stuff that showbiz gives us the opportunity to do. For actors, it’s so cool to get to try on different roles, play characters completely unlike anyone you’ve ever met, connect with other creative people doing what they love, get to see the work you’ve done on a screen somewhere eventually, and maybe even get paid very well for it all.

But in order to do that fun stuff, much of the time you’ll need to do more than count on “dumb luck” to maybe put you in the right place under the right conditions at the right time to have that amazing opportunity that sets you off on a path to stardom (or even “working actor-dom”).

So what the research part of things actually does for you, as an actor, is help give you that edge you probably seek. Doing research on which agents and managers are the best fit for you at this point in your career is what makes it a no-brainer to sign with this rep or that rep when given the opportunity, vs. finding yourself scrambling to learn more about someone after you’ve invested in the meeting(s). Researching which shows consistently use actors of your type makes choosing which CD workshops to do much simpler. A well-researched target list of casting offices means a few good Google Alerts which lead you to every opportunity you may have to attend a panel discussion featuring one of your top CDs, a workshop with her associate, and so on.

Producing your own short film or scene as a means to build your own fanbase and show potential buyers your best work in your most castable type before you’re getting an opportunity to do so on someone else’s set may seem like a lot of work, but where else do you get so much “bang for your buck” as an actor? You have complete creative control. You get to show us exactly how to cast you. You get to choose your best take. You get to take your career into your own hands rather than just clicking “submit” and waiting for the phone to ring. And if you end up creating a brilliant little short that could become a festival darling, that rocks! Heck, short films win Oscars too. Why not swing for the fences?

I totally understand that it looks like a lot of work, and that it may seem unfair that someone out there is “making it” by being lucky, rather than by doing the same amount of self-producing and researching that you’re doing. But because dumb luck is out of your hands, why not choose to do the work that makes success so much more likely? Make it fun! Conspire with others for your collective success. Build a master list of shows and the types most frequently found on those shows. Who do you know that would be perfect for this show or that show? Tell him or her. Ask him or her to tell you what shows your type is made for. Just like with last week’s type list, start collaborating with fellow actors about targeted shows, best casting offices for your type, the sorts of self-produced material that would best showcase your castability.

Or don’t.

Choose the route of dumb luck (if you can happen to figure out how to make that happen, do let us know) and let Actor Darwinism naturally select you right out of the competition for everyone else. You’ll say the business is unfair and not worth the time or energy you put in. And you’ll be right. Leave the unfair business to the pros who want to work their butts off to get the edge… and the two or three truly lucky folks out there who happen to bump into it.

So, my friends, what do YOU rely on, to build your career? Let’s hear it! Comments are open below. 😀

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001029.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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  1. Bradford Stevens April 23, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Hey Bonnie,

    Thanks for coming out to the Chicago Actors in Film meetup last Friday. I checked you out last year as wel l and found very informative. I had to leave for work before the open question and answer session, but I wanted to know at what point you think a film maker should hire a casting director? Thanks


  2. CrackerJack April 23, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Ooh, that’s a great question, Bradford! Is it when you’re trying to get actors above the normal tiers you can reach? Is it when you’re starting to pay your crew members (oh, those happy days)? I want to know now, too!

  3. CrackerJack April 23, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Oh, wait, totally forgot! There might be something about casting in the Self-Producing columns. If you want to dive down the rabbit hole I’m sure there’s lots of great info. ^_^


  4. Marrissa April 23, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Bon – As a manager, I love this. Yes, I try to help my clients by doing some of this with and for them. But, I’m only human – I can’t always remember every single detail for each and every client. So, *gracefully* helping me when we come up with certain targets can increase our opportunities exponentially.

    It can’t be said often enough – if you had been here when I started out as an actor (the very dark ages), I hope I would have been smart enough to take advantage of your help and guidance.

    Thanks, as always!

  5. CrackerJack April 24, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Marrissa – that is super comforting to know. I’m always afraid that either I won’t recognize someone, or they won’t remember me. Oh, actor mind taffy.

  6. Bonnie Gillespie April 28, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Bradford, thank you *so* much for having me out to CAFM. What a *great* group of pros! I love your questions, every visit, and I’m thrilled to see the good work you’re all doing. As for when a producer should hire a casting director, I’ve actually done talks on that to filmmaking groups and on panels at indie film festivals. 🙂 It’s so important to bring on a pro with relationships when you’re looking to get access to actors at a level beyond your immediate reach.

    So, I’d say if you have a good project gearing up and your budget allows for the early attachment of a CD, do so right away — especially if you need to get a name actor attached to your project to help with additional financing from investors. Often times, a CD will take a producer credit in exchange for working with you before you have your FULL budget in escrow. Always ask! You never know. 😉 Also, if your project is microbudget, perhaps approach someone who works as a casting associate in a busy casting office, because she’ll have the relationships *and* be looking for indie work while the top shows that office casts are on hiatus. That’s a GREAT “in” for indie filmmakers.

    Hope that helps! (And thank you, Ninja Cracker Jack, for pulling up those self-producing columns for reference! Definitely good info there.)

    Marrissa, thank you! 🙂 I think the *grace* is key, isn’t it? I’m so glad to know that awesome managers and producers like you appreciate the teamwork of the actors who make up your roster and your projects. That’s encouraging news, for sure!

    As for the “back when I was an actor” thing, ha! I tell ya, if *I* had had ME, back when I was an actor, I could’ve done more with my acting career too. 😉 Hee! I guess I just had to get PAST my acting life in order to demystify it so well, for others. Fair enough… I sure don’t miss that part of my career. THIS is what I’m meant to do. I love it! Thank you for loving it too. XO


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