You’ve finally made the transition to the big city. Welcome! You’re here. So, now what?
Like most eager actors, you’re probably wondering, “How do I get seen by all the people that need to see me?” In this edition of the New York Newbie series, I’m sharing my “wish I knew then” advice for getting your foot in the door and building relationships with industry contacts and more.
First, the goal should not be to just be SEEN but to become KNOWN. It’s much easier (and, granted, more vulnerable) to become known by people, then to wait for others to do something that you can’t control, like calling you in for an audition or offering you a job. Each time you go to a class, audition, workshop, or networking event, you have a chance to get to know people and build valuable and fulfilling relationships by letting them get to know you. There are many ways to be seen in the business, but what creates longevity in this business is allowing people to know you. Not the “actor” version of you, but the real you, because we all want to work with people we know and like.
Now, you may think that the first place to look to build relationships is at auditions. While auditions are the main ways to find work, they aren’t the best way to start relationships. Everyone there is more focused on the task at hand. Also, remember that building relationships take time.
Instead, consider finding a regular, on-going class with people who are pursuing work at the same level you want to be pursuing. That may be a musical theatre class, a scene study class, on-camera, improv, or maybe a combination of all of them. (For a list of place to explore, click here to download my Broadway Survival Kit.) The point is, the best way to gauge where you are in your career, is by surrounding yourself with other people in the same place or better. I have many clients who are scared of taking the more challenging classes, or the “mean” teachers, but I challenge you to consider that pushing past THAT fear will get you to the level you want to play.
If you aren’t uncomfortable, you aren’t growing.
Casting Director workshops are another great option to start to build relationships, but only if you are using them wisely. It is a mistake to treat casting director workshops as a class. No matter what the CD says, you must treat every single workshop as an audition. OFF BOOK, looking great, and making strong choices. However, you should always base which classes you take off of a specific target list of CDs you want to work with. It’s much easier to become known by 5 people in NYC than 25. This is key to saving our money, our time, and our sanity.
And do not discount networking events. This does not mean tedious and awkward gatherings with name tags and stale cookies. Networking events could be readings, performances, showcases, visiting The Actors Studio or The Dramatists Guild, dance classes, fundraisers, and charity events. Wherever you go, that is a part of how you tell people WHO you are. People have to see you in order to know you, so get out and explore the artistic opportunities of New York.
Use all of these opportunities to find YOUR people! I encourage you to start by trusting your gut and staying in tune with your vision for your career. It can be tempting when there are so many open doors to not pick the first one to walk through, but you won’t know where you're headed if you don’t head somewhere. Go for what you really want, and be willing to risk failure. I’m here to tell you, YOU WILL DO IT ALL; you just can’t do it all at once.
This is Part 2 of the New York Newbie article series, where I share my “wish I knew then” advice for actors making the move to the Big Apple. You can read Part 1: The Reality of Moving to New York City here.