- I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. Can I send you a resume or pictures?
- I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. Do you have any tips on what to put in my resumé?
- I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. How do I appear in one of your videos (or a video by someone else)?
- I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. How do I get an agent? What do I look for in an agent? What do they do?
- I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. Is there an age limit on appearing in films / videos?
- I want to get a job as…Concept Writer. Does that mean I have to direct them too?
- I want to get a job as…Concept Writer. What is the best thing to do with my treatments when I’ve written them?
- I want to get a job as…Director. I’m unsigned. How can I get started?
- I want to get a job as…Editor
- I want to get a job as…Intern. Can I intern with you?
- I want to get a job as…P.A. What qualifications do I need?
- I want to get a job as…Screenwriter. Any ideas?
- I want to get a job as…Singer / Professional Musician. How do I find a record deal, a manager, make a video?
- I want to get a job as…Singer / Professional Musician. How do I make a demo tape?
I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. Can I send you a resume or pictures?
No! Get an agent and they will do the hard work for you.
I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. Do you have any tips on what to put in my resumé?
The purpose of a resumé is to inform and impress the producer, director or casting director who are working on the job you are applying for. So, you should list all of the productions in which you’ve taken part (E.G. Theater: Hamlet…..Ophelia) so they get an idea of your experience.
But what to do if you haven’t done anything yet? Well I think you could invent a couple of things (E.G. Commercials: Home Depot……Featured). And if someone asks you about the spot confess straight away that you made it up because you’re so eager to work. Every time someone’s said that to me I’ve done everything in my power to get them a gig. If you were an extra in something always fudge the truth and put “Featured”. All of us on the other side of the casting couch, woops I mean table, know what it means but we understand. (I’m not encouraging lying or deception by the way, I’m all for honesty, I’m just telling you what your competitors are up to).
The best way to get credentials before that important first gig is to get acting / mime / dance / cold-reading lessons and list those – that’s always impressive.
Everyone’s resumé always has a list of abilities at the end too. You be amazed at the number of people I’ve met who are accomplished banjo players, motorcyclists, llama breeders, fluent in three languages, ski, snow-board, swim, surf and (my favourite one) have three different English accents. I’m English and even I have difficulty doing three English accents and if Don Cheadle can’t do a cockney accent (see Ocean’s Eleven) then you shouldn’t say you can do one either.
And, as I brought it up earlier, let’s talk about casting couches for a second. DON’T GO THERE! If the job is legit you should not have to go to the director’s house up a long dark drive on a Sunday evening, you should not have to get more relaxed by removing some clothes, you should not have to receive phone calls from anyone except the casting director – wherever possible use your agent as the intermediary.
I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. How do I appear in one of your videos (or a video by someone else)?
STEP ONE: Move to Los Angeles, New York or London. The sad truth is that (as you can see by looking at the dickfilms file) most of the videos I work on are shot in one of the above cities. You might be lucky and have one pass through your town but don’t bank on it. (See note about film centres in E1).
STEP TWO: Get an agent. (See U1).
STEP THREE: Get your agent to send you out on auditions for videos, commercials etc.
STEP FOUR: Don’t give up and be prepared for rejection. It’s an unfortunate part of the process.
STEP FIVE: Keep taking the acting classes, dance lessons, scene study, improvs etc. Hone your craft, learn how to make the most of your talent. Don’t squander your time waiting for the phone to ring.
N.B. It’s useful to have some talent or a look. If you’re concerned about that perhaps you should become an extra…in which case go back to STEP TWO and get an agent who specializes in extras.
I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. How do I get an agent? What do I look for in an agent? What do they do?
(Let’s assume you’ve already moved to a film centre – see E1) You get a head-shot done of yourself (that’s a pretty picture of you looking your finest, sexiest, hunkiest, goofiest etc.) and start ringing up agents who probably won’t return your calls. If you’re an actor plan a showcase at which you and your actor pals can show off your precocious de-Niro-esque / Streep-like talents. Ring up everyone you know and get them to come down, send fliers to agents etc. Hopefully someone will love what you do and will want to sign you up.
What do you look for in an agent? Enthusiasm, honesty and ability to get you work. It’s great having the same agent as Brad Pitt who can get get the head of any studio on the line but she will probably be spending most of her day dealing with Brad’s problems not yours. On the other hand signing with Joseph Wilt, the guy with the office behind the Burger King on Lankershim, means you have the un-focused attention of a man who can get you a gig as an extra in “Stewardesses in Heat III” – probably not the kind of work you’re looking for. So, my advice would be, look for the middle ground.
What do they do? They hustle for you, get you auditions, then get you the gig, then close the deal for you and advise you on whether it’s the right job. (They get 10% so ask yourself twice if you think it’s the right job). But all this does not minimize your own involvement. You have to be talented, lucky, committed, available, reliable before anything the agent does for you will help. Oh yeah…and when you’ve got an agent cut her some slack every once in a while. Just think what it must be like having a bunch of whining clients like you and me on the phone all day long. Ouch!
I want to get a job as…Actor / Actress. Is there an age limit on appearing in films / videos?
No. But there are strict rules on the hours people under the age of 18 can work in films / videos. (These rules vary from state to state. e.g. California is very strict – Florida less so). The younger the person the fewer hours they are allowed to work in any one day on a set – and must have a teacher with them. This can get very expensive and also play havoc with scheduling. That’s why when you see a movie like Big Daddy the kid is always played by twins. While one twin is doing his lessons the other one is acting and then they swap at lunchtime or something. What we usually try and do is look for 18 year-old kids who look young! So, if you feel you’re not getting work because you’re too young, you may be right. There is also another possibility: you might not be right for the part!
I want to get a job as…Concept Writer. Does that mean I have to direct them too?
No. It’s not unusual for directors to get other people to write concepts for them. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people – I have to do everything myself!
I want to get a job as…Concept Writer. What is the best thing to do with my treatments when I’ve written them?
Perhaps I’m not the best person to answer this question but my big fear for you is that treatment writing is not a way to make a living. Yes, the writers get paid, and yes there is work for them. But how much work and how much cash there is flowing around is questionable. You might need to find other types of writing or work to pay all the bills.
However, let’s assume you can accept that. My next question for you is: How useful is a portfolio of ideas? My personal experience is that I used to keep a book full of great ideas. I had them all numbered and I got up to about idea number 350 before I realised that of all the videos I’d written on and shot only three or four ideas came from that list. Nowadays the list of parameters of what labels want and don’t want (the latter list can be longer!) is so great that shoe-horning an idea from your portfolio into the label’s want-list might be just too difficult.
But. I’m being too negative here. Original ideas are always in short supply, so write, write and keep writing. It’s a wonderful form of self expression and release and discovery. Who knows your list of ideas maybe the basis for your first novel!
I suggest you write some sample concepts. It’s best to choose a song that people are familiar with but hasn’t already got a video made for it. (e.g. an album track that wasn’t used for a single). The samples should show a range of ideas – a performance clip, a special effects clip, a linear story clip etc. Then, armed with your samples, phone around the production companies, tell them you write amazing treatments and ask for work. When they ask for samples you’ve already got them under your belt and can put them in the post right away.
Some hints. Spelling is important. Grammar is important. Presentation is important. Brevity is important but not at the cost of clarity. The rest is up to you. Good luck. (Want to know what a video concept reads like? – hit the ‘conceptual dick’ icon on your left).
I want to get a job as…Director. I’m unsigned. How can I get started?
STEP ONE: Read: How do I get a start in film / music video? (It’s in the About the Film Business section)
STEP TWO: Buy / borrow a movie camera. Doesn’t matter if it’s 35mm, super 8, high 8, mini DV etc. Make a film of something – a short about your sister collecting Beany Babies, or the neighbour’s dog pooping on the lawn or a video of that wretched metal band your brother plays in. Doesn’t matter. Keep doing it.
STEP THREE: Put the best stuff on a tape or DVD – this is your REEL – and start showing it to people, sending it to production companies etc. Keep praying and DO NOT GIVE UP.
STEP FOUR: Take any gig they offer you if it will give you experience and something else to put on the reel.
STEP FIVE: You can repeat this useful chant over and over. It will teach you a) that anything is possible and b) some humility. Say after me: “Russ Meyer started out as a War Photographer, Gregory Dark started out shooting porno and Orson Welles started out with Citizen Kane.”
I want to get a job as…Editor
Today all editing is done on some form of computer based system, and involves consuming vast amounts of coffee while spending hours in a small darkened room listening to the same piece of music / dialogue over and over (probably something you don’t like). So buy a large Starbucks and lock yourself in a toilet for twelve hours straight with a laptop and a Milli Vannilli song on an endless tape-loop and see what happens. If you can survive that without wanting to join a religious cult you have what it takes to become an editor.
Many would-be editors get a gig at someplace where editing equipment exists and then ask for permission to use the equipment after work to learn how to cut stuff together. After hours of practice they find some fellow aspirant film-makers who need some editing time but have no money and offer their services and their borrowed equipment for free. With luck the resulting work gets noticed and pretty soon you can call yourself an editor and charge for your services!
Nowadays it is easier than ever to learn how to become an editor. Most lap-tops are powerful enough for you to use some off-the shelf editing system like Final Cut Pro. In your own bedroom you can learn the basics of editing using that embarrassing footage shot on the family trip to Disneyland last summer. Better still find a friend with an unsigned band and cut those hours of rehearsal footage together into a cool three minute piece. Hey presto – you have an editor’s reel!
Of course there are other ways to become an editor: Michael Heldman, the guy who edited most of the G n’ R videos I directed, started his editing career by studying for and obtaining a degree in Classical Greek.
I want to get a job as…Intern. Can I intern with you?
No! But try any production company.
I want to get a job as…P.A. What qualifications do I need?
You need straight A’s in energy, enthusiasm, discretion, determination and passion. Seriously. Having a film degree or a major in Communications isn’t really a lot of help. You will also need a driving licence and a cell phone. You’ll also need to be able to lift stuff and be able to find a solution to any problem. PA’s who, when given a task, find a solution and get the job done with minimum of fuss always get re-employed and soon find themselves working as producers, A.D.’s etc. I also advise having deep reserves of humour and being able to get by without much sleep. If you think I’m kidding about all this report back to me after you get that first PA job! Good luck.
(See also “How to get a job in the Film Business” in the Film Business section)
I want to get a job as…Screenwriter. Any ideas?
Adventures In The Screen Trade by William Goldman
Conversations With My Agent by Rob Long
Monster by John Gregory Dunne
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella
Step One: Watch as many films as you can, especially Adaptation and Casablanca.
Step Two: Sit in front of your computer screen for a whole day and ensure that you achieve nothing apart from chewing some pencils and making some coffee. If you thought that was fun screenwriting is for you!
Step Three: Write a screenplay.
Step Four: Watch Casablanca and Adaptation again, ignore what Kaufman has to say in the movie, and book yourself into Robert McKee’s Story Structure class which will take up a whole weekend, change your life, and explain why you needed to watch Casablanca twice.
Step Five: Start re-writing your screenplay.
Step Six: Watch Adaptation a third time and realise what a friggin genius Charlie Kaufman is.
I want to get a job as…Singer / Professional Musician. How do I find a record deal, a manager, make a video?
STEP ONE: Check that you really can sing!
STEP TWO: Sing everywhere you can, with anyone at any time. Join a band, take lessons, learn how to read music, make some home demos and send them to anyone you can think of (but not me): record labels, managers, other bands, your local radio station etc. Eventually, if you’re talented and you’re lucky (very important), something will happen. Remember that behind every overnight success story (Britney Spears, Ricky Martin etc.) are years of hard work. As for videos they will come in good time if you have the right label and the right manager.
If you’re really serious about going further and you want some background reading you could do worse than getting hold of a copy of “What They Never Tell You About The Music Business.” (Billboard Books). This information laden tome is written by Peter M. Thall who is / was a music business lawyer and he tells you everything you need to know about what REALLY happens in the business side of the music business.
I want to get a job as…Singer / Professional Musician. How do I make a demo tape?
FIRSTLY: You can’t make a demo without a song. Find a song that suits your voice. If you don’t write pick a song by someone else. It could be a well known song but try and avoid the recent Beyonce hit or that big Eminem track. Show how clever you are by your choice of material.
SECONDLY: Who’s playing the music? If you play guitar or keyboards great. If you don’t you need to find musicians. Perhaps they are friends you know or perhaps the studio you record in can help you find them – See OPTION 2 below.
THIRDLY: Remember that labels, managers etc. receive hundreds if not thousands of demos every week just like yours. When I worked at Stiff Records we had a huge box in the corner of our office into which we threw stacks of demos every day that came in the post. Every evening my boss Paul Conroy would plough through the tapes, listen to the first minute of each tape, laugh or groan (usually both) and chuck the tapes in the trash. In the five years I was there maybe one artist got a recording deal from that box. He didn’t have a hit. (Paul subsequently signed many hit acts e.g The Spice Girls)
FOURTHLY: Still determined? Read on.
OPTION 1: Do it yourself at home. There are loads of 4 track and 8 track recorders on the market nowadays that you can buy to make your own demos. They start at about $300 and you can get them mail order from places like Musician’s Friend or your local Guitar Center or other music store. This gear is really good but you’ll also need mics’ cables etc. But understand that it’s no match for the million dollar studio that Green Day recorded their last album in. (Many computers can also record stuff – check those out too). Oh yeah you’ll also need some expertise: I suggest you read Hank Linderman’s “Hot Tips for the Home Recording Studio.”. I’ve been making demos at home for many years and everybody agrees they sound like pluto-doo. Perhaps you should try…
OPTION 2: You find someone in your town who makes demos already and has all the gear AND THE EXPERTISE! It could be a friend or someone at the local radio station or someone who has a full time studio. This will cost money but it’s well worth it. The demos will sound better and so will your voice. The person who runs this studio will almost certainly be able to find you some musicians too if you need them. This will probably cost you at least $200-300 per song MINIMUM. Perhaps Mum and Dad will buy you some time in the studio for a birthday present – secretly most parents would love to have a recording of the kids for posterity. No matter how much they may sneer at your musical tastes you’d be surprised how proud they’ll be when they’ve got a CD of their kid to play to their friends!
Sounds daunting huh? Well it is but if you’re truly talented and driven (and you need to be to succeed) you will somehow make all this happen.