One of the very best things about being an actor in LA is that everybody else is an actor in LA. I guess you can look at this fact as a not so good thing as well, considering the rising numbers doesn’t really do much for your odds in this town. But, considering I am from a little neighborhood in Philadelphia where a person’s idea of branching out was going to the public pool two streets away, and the closest thing to acting was faking some sort of massive injury in order to win a little bit of money in a law suit, I think it is pretty awesome that people have enough courage to leave everything they deem familiar in order to take a shot at stardom!
My advice to anyone starting out in this industry is to make friends! Make as many of them as you can. This is not really the same thing as networking. That is a beast all unto it’s own. I am here to tell you that there is beauty in a town where everyone is reaching for the same star. I have been out here for eight years and I have never been without theatrical or commercial representation. Part of the reason for this is because I have always had a pretty great headshot. You can get into the door with a great headshot even if your resume is not so great. I have taken thousands, literally thousands of photos of myself and I have paid for them only two times. This is a pretty incredible ratio. Don’t think you have to spend hundreds of dollars on headshots right out the gate. Give yourself some time to adjust. Because, I assure you my friend, adjusting to this city can be taxing enough. The mere thought of the adjustment can make you want to dive, face first, off the Hollywood sign. I kid, of course. But seriously, you will be bombarded with ads for photographers promising to make you famous, to make all of your dreams come true. You will also meet with managers and agents that “recommend” and by recommend I do mean force you to go with a certain celebrity photographer or other if you wish to be signed by their agency. Be aware that this recommendation may be because your agent/manager is getting a little percentage of the proceeds. I kid you not.
The trick is to find a friend who needs shots to build his or her portfolio or website. They may not even be your close friend, they may be a friend of a friend. The point is that there is ALWAYS someone out here who is just starting out. Now, you are gambling with this sort of method. You may not always get the best pictures but the best part of people just starting out is that they take A LOT of photos, so odds are you will be able to get one good picture out of the 700 that they take as opposed to hoping and praying that you get the perfect shot out of the 72 that you paid top dollar for.
I am not knocking the professional photographer by any means. I am simply saying that if you find yourself in an unfortunate financial predicament, and you cannot pay between $500-$700 dollars, there are other options. This city is full to the brim with undiscovered artists! That is the greatest thing about living in LA. That and all the gourmet coffee a person can handle. Everyone is looking for ways to create! Be one of them! Don’t be one of the slackers to get off the bus with the sheer intention of being famous. If you are one of these people-I have to, as politely as humanly possible, as you stay the ef off my page. I can proudly say, you are not wanted here. I am interested in helping actors. Interested in offering advise to actors. And by actors I mean, those who love to act, not those who want to star fuck their way to Mulholland Drive.
A little story for you. Like I said, I have always gone the friend route or the model route; exchanging pictures for portfolio shots but I thought I might try my luck with a “real” photographer. Who knows, maybe there was something to shooting with someone with that much experience. There is. Now, I paid well over $500 for three roles of film, but I figured $500 over 8 years isn’t so bad. So, for $500, I got three roles of film. Exactly that. No more. No less. He did not shoot on digital and at first I thought he was a fool, but once I saw the shots, I changed my mind. They were impeccable. The lighting was gorgeous, he did my hair and make-up, which is so much more important than you realize and it was super quick due to his experience. A little side note that always helps-bring your own music! It does wonders!
On the other hand, I recently shot with my one of my best friends’ husband who is trying to break into the photography world. It was not the same experience. I had so much more fun with my friend and her husband and we took a ton of pictures. We played around with a lot of different looks. He is just starting out so we sampled different locations and lighting. The result for both shoots was great. I got something out of both.
I will post pictures and you can decide for yourself.
My point is, yes, the photographer that has tons of experience and connections to agencies can absolutely help but don’t knock the artist who is just starting out! You may form a relationship early on that will last you until you both are famous in this industry! Look at Paul Thomas Anderson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman!
Live, Love, Laugh and Create my friends! xo