Becoming an Actor

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PART 1 – Is Acting the right career for me?

In this five-part blog I hope to be able to use my 26 years experience as a professional actor and provide you with some practical help, dispel some myths and maybe guide you on your journey to becoming an actor. I will cover Drama schools, Agents, theatre, television, radio, career choices and do’s and don’ts, but today we are going to ask ourselves a very important question… is acting the right career for me?

Abby Ford – IMDb Biography

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Some of you may think my approach seems negative in areas, but those who know me, know I am a very direct person and this is just an honest, no sugar here, view of the industry as I see it… I don’t want you to be deterred, just prepared.

The wonderful thing about realising you want to be an actor is that it doesn’t matter if you have known forever or if it hit you like a thunder bolt at the age of fifty… you can become an actor at any age. But there are lots of things you need to understand and consider before jumping into the glorious and frustrating world that is acting.

I started my acting career professionally at the age of 14, but before that it had been nothing more than school plays. I have a father who is in the industry and I grew up going to the theatre and surrounded by actors, so it seemed like the natural course. I was lucky in that my head was well and truly screwed on because it was not an industry my dad was keen on me entering… and for some very good reasons. I have had such fantastic experiences, met extraordinary people and travelled, but there is also a lot that may surprise you, unless you are ready for it. Everybody will have a different journey of course, but a lot of the themes actors struggle with are the same, so let’s try to make your journey a little easier.

THE FACTS

If you get to act it is the most satisfying, rewarding and interesting job you could possibly imagine, but getting those opportunities, getting your foot in the door, is what is difficult. There are more actors than ever before, but actually only a small percentage are on our radar. We tend to see the same faces on our screens and so the pond has an appearance of being very small. Something like 90% of actors are unemployed at any one time, which shows you just how hard this industry is. So now you know that most actors experience being out of work, and that it’s normal, now we know that part of our job is to become comfortable with that… which is a strange thought.  Most people become actors because they are explorers, because they are interested in discovery, so to not be working can be mind-numbing and disappointing.

SOMETHING ON THE SIDE

When you have a dream it is hard to consider something else, but I wish the seed had been planted for me at Drama School, I wish they had said ‘start thinking about a side-line, something you enjoy doing that can keep you moving through those static moments.’ My advice would be to find something that runs alongside acting, probably self-employment, so that you are financially and mentally nourished, but also able to make your own hours. Finding a boss that will allow you to go off to auditions at a moments notice or give you leave for a week or a month to do a play or some filming is very unusual… if you find one please share!  Having something on the side that keeps you financially stable will allow you to walk into auditions without the desperation of needing rent … for me this was Photography, but I have actor friends who are yoga teachers, singing tutors, photographers, cooks, plumbers etc.

Most people with a steady income know that because they earning a certain amount each month they can do A, B, C, save up for a car, a holiday, or even a mortgage, buy food and pay bills, but actors never know where they will be in the world or how much they will be earning month to month. All of this makes building a stable life pretty hard, and banks do not give mortgages to people with fluctuating incomes… having that side-line job can definitely help.

CELEBRITY STATUS

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be known for being a wonderful actor, but for the most part it isn’t as glamorous as you think and you have to be willing to work HARD. There is a perception that actors have it easy and it’s not a real job, but an actor needs to be, among other things, very resilient, self motivated and conscientious. We live now in a world of celebrity, but don’t get it twisted… being an actor is not the same as being famous… it takes everything in your being and you have to be one hundred percent committed for it to work as a full-time career. Having already discussed the percentages we know that the likelihood of fame is slight, but not impossible… it’s worth baring in mind if fame is what you seek.

YOU MIGHT MISS OUT ON REAL LIFE

That sounds dramatic I know, but for years I didn’t go on holiday because I was worried I would miss an audition… I didn’t commit to anything because I thought I needed to be a hundred percent available… there is an aspect of this that is true, but as I got older I realised that it was okay to miss the possibility of an opportunity so that I could have an adventure that would undoubtedly help me grow as a person, and in turn, an actor. There is an expectation from the industry, and a saying that sums it up… ‘The show must go on’… translated literally this means that no matter what you are experiencing in your life, even if the sky falls in, you must paint on a smile and get on that stage. I had my mothers funeral in England and then flew to America the next day to open a show, because of the pressure I felt from my bosses, from myself and from the industry as a whole. In the end I had to leave the job early, because I didn’t take the time for myself at the beginning. The reason I mention this is because I want to give you an example of the level of expectation in this industry that doesn’t really exist anywhere else. The level of commitment I would liken to a spiritual or religious calling or being a soldier in the army. BUT all of that is only true if you allow it to be… I think a lot of the pressure is floating around from the past and the industry IS changing. Having children is another example…. It has always felt, particularly for women, that you had to make a choice and you couldn’t do both, but thanks to movements like PIPA, that raise issues about childcare in the industry… slowly but surely there comes a shift.

If I haven’t put you off and the answer is still ‘Yes, I want to be an actor!’ then you are about to join the crazy gang. If you are considering going to drama school then check out my next blog post about what drama school is like, where to apply, how to apply and do’s and don’ts for auditions.

Big love

Abby

RESOURCES

Spotlight  – connects professional performers with casting opportunities around the world

Equity – Equity is the UK trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners.

Preparing for your headshot session

1 – BEFORE YOUR SESSION

If you have a headshot session coming up be good to yourself. Don’t go out drinking the week before, drink plenty of water and get those early nights. That all sounds very boring I know, but your headshot is your calling card so if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Be good to yourself.

2 – BOOK A LATER SESSION

As soon as you have to get up early and be well rested for your session you will of course not sleep a wink. If you don’t have to work that day ask for a later appointment as it means that if that happens you’ll at least get a nap in or maybe get a chance to chill out before. It is all psychological so it might be enough not keep you up late.

3 – WHAT TO WEAR

Colour headshots are much more fashionable now, so we are able to experiment more. It’s always good to bring something white and something black, but I always encourage my clients to bring colours. Pattern’s are also not a problem and as long as logos are not too complicated, as they can be edited out after, then bring those too. Select items that have interesting and differing necklines and layering items is also a good bet.

Think about your casting… this doesn’t mean you need to come dressed as a police officer, but we want to capture a range of possible castings. If you are not sure bring it all with you… better to bring more rather than less.

4 – CONSIDER HAIR & MAKE UP CAREFULLY

Some make up is very useful, but some it can also be a photographers nightmare to edit, especially if it’s not done well. Natural make up is what we want in a professional actors headshot.

EYES My focus is always the eyes so some mascara and matte eye shadow is great.

EYEBROWS this is a big bugbear for me… the trend is to have block eyebrows and although it may look nice it is far too modern and is too much of a statement and will leave you out of any period castings. Please keep your eyebrows natural.

LIPS A lip stain is better than a lipstick, but if you are going to use lipstick a matte one is preferred and make sure it is of a nude or natural tone.

SKIN It’s good to keep you skin hydrated, but be aware that your skin should not look too shiny. I know it is horrible if you feel your skin is not being great, but part of our skill set is we can edit spots and blemishes so please don’t worry. If you really find it hard to be completely natural then just keep it light… it’s always a good idea to take your makeup with you anyway and that way you and the photographer can discuss it.

HAIR if you have long hair bring whatever you will need to change your hairstyles.

MEN it’s well worth bringing your shaving equipment along so that you can get with and without facial hair should you want to.

5 – BRING IT!

Although being relaxed is important it is also true that a headshot session is part of your job, so treat it like work and bring it! It can also help if you hate having your photo taken, as it gives you the kind of focus you have in an audition. It is completely normal for actors to feel vulnerable in a session as they are not used to performing as themselves… So don’t think of it as you being you. Switch on. Not all nerves are bad, so don’t worry if you feel anxious, just embrace it and focus. Part of our job is to help you relax… I absolutely hate having my photo taken, but a good photographer will make it relaxed and fun for you.

6 – EMBRACE THE THINGS YOU HATE

In an industry where there are a growing number of actors every year, it is more important than ever to stand out. The things you hate about yourself maybe the very things that make you different. We all want to be seen as beautiful, that’s natural, but confidence is the most attractive quality.

If you have a scar don’t let them Photoshop it. I hear so often ‘I don’t like that side of my face’ or ‘my nose is too big’… We are our own worst critics and the things you hate about yourself might be exactly what others love about you.

Embrace the things you hate and have fun!

Here is my link to choosing the best Headshot photographer

5 tips on choosing a headshot photographer

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Here are a few helpful tips on choosing your new headshot photographer

1 – Do a bit of research online

If your agent or friends haven’t already recommended someone you can do a simple search online in your area. Ask others actors for the photographers information if you like their headshot and once you have a shortlist go to the photographers website’s and just make sure the rest of their portfolio is of the same standard. Headshot Hunters is a great way to compare and search in your area.

2 – Talk to the photographer beforehand

You should feel comfortable with the photographer you will be working with, so take the time to give them a call. It’s a complete myth that actors love having their photos taken and in my experience it’s uncomfortable for most, me included, and you need to feel relaxed. You should be able to work out pretty quickly if you’ll get on and all good photographers will be happy to answer any questions you have beforehand.

3 – How much should it cost?

Headshot prices vary, but just remember this is an IMPORTANT INVESTMENT in your career. I know money can be tight sometimes, but a headshot is the tool to get you noticed, they are a necessity, so it’s more than worth the money. You don’t need to pay £400, but neither should you be paying £50. If you scrimp on your photographer you’ll end up paying more later when you need a new set of photos.

4 – Natural verses Studio light

All photographers have different ways of working with different equipment that suits them. I prefer to use natural light source because natural light is more even and flattering. I do however have and use studio lighting when needed and I would recommend finding someone that uses both as it shows flexibility and knowledge.

Now this is only my opinion, but I have heard it echoed by casting directors… I believe headshots should focus on you, the actor, and not a trendy backdrop/setting… If we are looking at the fancy background we are not looking at you.

5 – How long should a session be?

When you call your potential photographer ask them how long the session is… Part of my job is getting to know a bit about you and what you are looking for. My sessions have no time limit, but they naturally take approximately 2 hours. Make sure you choose a photographer that won’t rush you so you are going to be provided with a relaxed environment in which to work.

Happy headshot hunting!

Spotlight the professional actors catalogue for casting directors and industry also has a lot of information on guidelines.

Choosing the right wedding Photographer for you.

Abby Warren Photography:38Choosing the right wedding photographer for your special day is a completely personal choice that is based on the style of their photographs, cost, location, or a combination of all three. This blog will hopefully contain some helpful tips when considering who you would like to capture your day and also give you some ideas about what to ask the photographers you are considering.

 COST

Cost is a major factor for most people when choosing a wedding photographer which is completely understandable. Every photographer has a different price range, but be aware that the cheaper end of the scale may have a lot to do with lack of experience and quality of work. It doesn’t necessarily need to cost the earth, but it is worth doing your research and comparing different photographers work and pricing.

At short notice it is very difficult for photographers to find replacement work so a non-refundable deposit is completely normal, however it is important to find out what the photographers payment plans are and how much, if any, is refundable should you need to cancel or rearrange… I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but a lot can happen in a year or two and if there was some reason that the wedding couldn’t go ahead as planned you maybe left out-of-pocket.

Double check that whichever package you choose has no hidden costs and includes VAT and postage and packaging.

I travel all over the country, as do most photographers, but maybe at an extra cost depending on distance and accommodation should they need it, so definitely check if you have a photographer that you love who is based outside the desired location.

On a smaller note… some photographers require that you put lunch or dinner on for them and although they will eat away from guests, its worth checking.

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STYLE

Photography is like any form of art in that the style will vary hugely depending on the artist and it is all about your personal taste. Some photographers will use a mixture so as to maximise coverage and variety for the couples album, but generally there are three main styles.

TRADITIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY – This is mainly focused is on set-up or posed shots. There are benefits here in terms of making sure you have group photographs of family and friends that you wouldn’t otherwise get. The downside is that it is very time-consuming and can eat into the day and you will get very little in the way of natural, candid shots.

DOCUMENTARY STYLE PHOTOGRAPHY – Also known as reportage, candid or journalistic, this is the most natural form of photography and often suits couples who don’t enjoy having their photos taken and prefer a more relaxed approach to their day. The negatives are that you may miss out on the group shots so it is important to ask your photographer if that is possible.

EDITORIAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY – This is quite like traditional or classic wedding photography in that it is posed and can be time-consuming, but it is more modern. The photographer will concentrate on surroundings, backdrop and lighting and your photos will have an editorial, fashion shoot look.

Think about how you would like your day to flow and which style reflects you best as a couple.

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LOCATION

Most photographers will travel, but there are of course benefits to hiring a photographer that is local to the ceremony and reception locations. Local photographers will have knowledge of the area and all the hidden gems and will also probably already have a working relationship with many of the vendors and venues. If your photographer is coming from outside the area or has never been to your venue check that they will be going there prior to your date, so that they can get a feel for the place beforehand.

If you live outside the area where the wedding is taking place why not set up meetings with potential photographers whilst you are booking venues.

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MEET YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER

It is one of the most special days in your life so make sure that you meet your photographer beforehand. I always think the photographer should be like an extra guest and not some strange person on the outside. Taking amazing photos is obviously the most important part, but they also need to communicate clearly, calmly and should be good with people. The better they get on with everyone the better and more personal the photos will be. If it isn’t possible to meet because of location or clash of work at least do a Skype call so that you can get a proper idea about the energy of your photographer.

I always post a few photos on social media and on online, but I have chosen not to put my couples entire day on my website, the reason being that I believe it’s a very personal thing which should be kept private, so this is one of the things I am able to do with my potential clients in person. It’s also an opportunity to see samples of anything contained within you package and the quality of them, such as albums, USB’s, boxes and prints.

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BOOK NOW OR MISS OUT

We are definitely an industry that is all about future bookings, but there is a fear that’s been instilled in couples that if they don’t book now, then they will miss out and not find anyone. Of course if you have a particular photographer in mind it’s probably wise to book them sooner rather than later, but not everyone plans a wedding that far in advance. Don’t feel pushed into booking, there is not a shortage of great wedding photographers, so don’t panic and it’s always worth checking because they may have had a cancellation or simply have your date free.

HAPPY PLANNING!

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