How to Succeed in the Entertainment Industry? D.I.Y!

I’ve been hearing some depressing facts from the industry, lately. So I thought I’d share them with you.

Apparently, if you are over the age of 28, whether female or male (but let’s be honest, especially if you’re a lady-friend), the current movie/TV/Theater industry couldn’t be more over you.

The word on the street is that if you are over 28 and you haven’t “cracked” it yet, then there must be something wrong with you. And, just to brighten your day it seems that agents, CD’s and producers these days are only really looking for new tweens (Robert Patinson, Kristen Stewart, etc) to invest in – and only tweens.

“But wait!” I hear you saying, “I’m 34! I can at LEAST play one of those tweenies Mom’s, right?” You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But, actually, the ladies lucky enough to get those jobs are women who’ve already “cracked” the system and have some kind of name and/or resume behind them. I guarantee it. Name a current movie-Mom and I can bet you that they have an extensive movie/theater/TV career behind them.


What am I getting at?

Well, I am urging you to become extremely pro-active in your career.

If you’re reading this and you’re under 28 you’d better get cracking. I’m amazed at how people waste their time. When I moved here I was 20 and for 9 years I was unable to work legally. So I lost my entire youth to the immigration system and am making up for some seriously lost time. Nothing irks me more than a lazy, talented 25-yr old. What are you waiting for? Sign up for classes with good schools, teachers, Casting Directors, etc. Go to Actor’s connection/One on One and set up appointments with Agents and Casting Directors. Get your name out there. Hang out with actors, directors, producers, casting directors, everyone you can who is in some way working in the industry. If you know people making movies or videos ask how you can help them. Roll up your sleeves and get into it with them. Make friends. That way, if you have a lick of talent or charisma you will be working in no time. A good philosophy for young’un’s is to say yes to everything. Cast that net far and wide. You have time to catch fire and get the attention of the industry. You might also take a note from the advice below because with the surging online industry you have a leg up on us all.

If you’re older, then I suggest you get to work making your own projects. Whether it’s theater, film, TV, webisodes, sketches, music videos, installations, whatever. If you want to have a career, you’re going to have to take it, in part, into your own hands. You’re also going to have to take a note from the advice above – sign up for classes and stay out there in the field. Why? If you want to make money being an actor you’re going to have to stand alone as a viable asset in the business world. And making friends who feel as passionately as you do about it all is a sure-fire way to get started. If you want to be in a play, hang out at the new playwrights labs all over the city. When you see something you like be bold and approach the writer. If you can somehow offer to help invest in producing it, then even better. I know a couple one of whom is a bartender and the other a masseur and once a year they put on a week or two of theater by new writers, starring them and other friends ALL on savings from their jobs.

I know another couple who have set up a theater company and produce quality, Off-Broadway (!!) productions once every two years.

If you want to be in a movie submit yourself for student films through NYU, NYFA, Columbia. When you find someone you like, again, tell them so and offer to help them in any way possible to get their movies made – with you in them! Sketch comedy? Write your own (you can do that for the other options, too, by the way) rent a stage for cheap (Producers Club for example) and showcase yourself. Grab a camera and shoot sketches and upload them to your YouTube channel and make sure you get everyone you know to watch them. Just start somewhere. You’ll get the hang of it and you WILL get better at it. I have friends who have all up-and-left NYC for LA because of show’s they wrote.

For some reason, we’re led to believe that “so-and-so agent” discovered “so-and-so-talent,” scooped them up from complete obscurity in their waitressing job, and TA-DA! ready-made movie star! But the real story is usually very different from that. The given actor/actress has usually spent years grinding away and finally after years and years of tireless devotion they randomly make a right move and all the business folks flock to them foaming at the mouth – NOW they’re ready to invest in the future of this talent, but only after said talent has done all the work and established themselves through their own faith and personal/spiritual/financial perseverance.

There is a great romance with the cinderella or underdog story. But its important to remember that everything worthwhile takes time and work. If you’re busy pining to be discovered by some big-wig who just spots you on the street and whisks you away to your career, you’re in big trouble.

Overall, it’s high time we all took a little initiative and took control of our careers. You CAN have the life that you want, but don’t think it just drops in your lap. Even if the spin says that it does, its a spin. It’s not real. Sure, every now and again it does happen, like with the ever-popular story about Gabey Sidibe from Precious. But that is a rare situation and she wasn’t even an actor. Do not, I repeat: DO NOT get carried away with the fairytale. Do It Yourself!

Here’s a list of some people who were spun in the news and within the entertainment community as “new discoveries” when they broke out:

Sandra Bullock had 16 credits to her name before she broke out in Speed at 30.

Amy Adams had literally decided that at 31 after 20 credits Junebug was going to be her last acting job ever – she was nominated for an Academy AWard for her performance.

It took Warren Beaty falling in love and marrying Annette Benning at 33 and after the movie Bugsy for everyone else to finally notice her. Not to mention the 11 credits she had before that.

Even Brad Pitt has 17 credits before he was “discovered” at 28 in Thelma and Louise.

Here’s a list of some successful people who took their careers into their own hands by creating work and who were also branded as “new discoveries” in the industry:

Billy Bob Thornton directed Slingblade after 27 credits at 41(!!) years old.

Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Jessica Hynes all spent years on the comedy circuit in London working on TV shows with little or no recognition until they came together on the TV show Spaced. Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes created, wrote and starred in it and Edgar Wright shot and directed it.

Ricky Gervais had a similar career and was an unknown until he wrote a little monologue about a “seedy boss” he’d worked with and managed to convince Stephen Merchant and a few other wild-cards to produce it with him. He wrote, co-directed and starred in The Office at 40 years old.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia was created as a webisode by a young group of friends in LA who shot the whole thing on a handy cam with no money, lights, wardrobe, etc. A lot of their videos had already gone viral and this one was seen by the right person at the right time – but it wasn’t luck. It was hard work and a LOT of connections/networking.

About The NYC Actor

Angela Dee is a professional actress working in Film, Theatre, TV, Commercials and Voiceovers. She currently lives in New York.

3 Responses to “How to Succeed in the Entertainment Industry? D.I.Y!”

  1. >I agree with you, these days agents are more interested in making young teens into famous celebrities, instead of putting out there their talent.It's sad to see 28+ year old people with talent going being sent to the trash can, because the casting directors rather see comething concrete in a piece of paper, celebrity status.I'm 20 years old now, and i'm in a doubt, if i should go to Hollywood try out my luck, or go to college instead. ( If i go to College i'll get out at 25, a bit old for Hollywood standards, but if go right the way at the age of 20 i might regreat not improving my education). This sucks.

  2. >Thanks for reading Claire!

  3. >Great post, Angela. It's always inspiring to be reminded of how many of our favorite works were the result of performers owning their power & taking the bull by the horns.

Have something to add? Go ahead!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: