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It's All Who You Know

When I was eight years old I wanted to be an actress. It was a dream of mine for years and years. Then I started to hear the pitfalls involved in pursuing it professionally. So I thought working on the film crew would be easier... it isn't.

So why is it so hard to break into show business? Most of us know it's a very demanding business. Everyone wants to be a performer or work in the entertainment field. It looks like so much fun. And let's not forget all the glamor associated with it at least on the surface.

But deep down this is a business. It's not all fun and games. It's an industry like any other and there's a lot of competition within the ranks to get ahead. Actors are treated like objects. Movies are money making machines. TV shows are ratings blocks. And the production crews are expendable.

Unlike other industries where people are eagerly looking for someone they can rely on to get the job done, the film and TV industry sees you as a possible threat to their job, not that youíre out to get them or their paranoid, but itís because there are too many people eager for work, not enough jobs. Itís like that in any business, but the entertainment industry is one of the most popular ones to get into, and there are so many folks wanting to get in and not enough open doors.

So how does one get a job in the industry?

Making contacts through community theater?

It depends on what community. If you're doing plays at a small playhouse in a small town, don't expect to meet someone who's a pro in the industry. You can hope and strive to audition for plays at bigger theaters elsewhere and move continuously on from there, but to hope for contacts within that playhouse that will get you a bigger job is not likely. You've just got to work at it. Plus, many of the bigger theaters hire actors who are a part of Actorís Equity. Some of the roles may be non-Equity, but most arenít. So in order to make a name for yourself, you need to audition at the right place and get yourself in Actorís Equity.

Getting a subscription to Variety?

Variety is a great publication, but itís mainly a trade paper that provides industry news and reviews. There are very few casting notices, and not much in the way of production listings. Occasionally, they will list some, but not in every issue.

For job listings in film crews The Hollywood Reporter is a good, because they usually post detailed production listings with the names of key members of the production team and (in most cases) an address and phone number. However, this can be an arduous and sometimes unsuccessful process for those starting out in the industry.

For casting calls Backstage is a good publication. They have detailed listings of auditions in New York and Los Angeles. There also are some positions listed for stage crew. The publication is also a great resource for finding photographers, agents and other services designed to aid you in making yourself the kind of talent people would want to hire.

The Ross Reports is also a good resource for casting agents, photographers and other services. They also publish a list of films and TV shows in production, so it can be used for cold-calling as well.

Believe me we're all a dime a dozen in this industry. It's really who you know in a very very big way. When I first moved to LA, I had a phone number a of a writer for one of the top comedy shows at the time. He was related to someone I had worked with in New York. When I called him he gave me advice instead of a job. He also used two standard phrases I often heard, "You have to know somebody in the business," and, "If you make it, let me know."

Another friend of a former co-worker told me that when he first arrived on LA he constantly called one of the top producers in town for a writing job. The producer never returned his calls nor acknowledged them. Months went by and this man kept trying. Finally he managed to get a job with another production company and has worked on several box office hits. At a party for one of them he ran across that producer he was constantly calling months earlier. He introduced himself to the man who replied, "See what persistence will do? Good job." This was the advice given to me. What I gleaned from it: "Keep trying, just don't bug me with it."

Networking in any other industry brings more successful results. People want to use your talents, want to hire you if a position comes open. In the entertainment industry, everyone is too protective over their own jobs because there are more people than jobs. No one wants to keep your name as a contact. You've got to prove to people you can make it, and then they'll pay attention to you. But the only way you can make it is if you have an agent who can get you through the door or - MOST OF ALL - you should be related or close close close friends to someone in the industry. The last one is the big plus, even if you do have a good agent.

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