“…[I am] always on a path, seeking, questing, looking for [my] special star to follow into a night of endless mystery.”
-The Magic Circle by Katherine Neville
I know what you are wondering. How is acting going Nayo? A question I frequently receive whenever anyone hears about my occupation. Some ask with genuine curiosity, while others in snobbish jest. Well, I am about to celebrate my three-year anniversary in Los Angeles (LA) this upcoming June and I would say it is going well. Time has flown and plenty has happened since that first day:
When I originally moved to LA, I was sleeping at Hustler’s place. He was on tour for a year in Asia, flying back and forth. Conveniently, while I was transitioning into the city, he was gone for a month, so he let me crash. It was a chill place in Noho (North Hollywood) with his super chill roommate. It was perfect. I used that time to find a place of my own.
What was I doing for work? Background-acting on set. You heard me. I was one of many people blending into the background of some of your favorite television shows. If you squint, you can see me, haha. Seriously, background was fun for a newb! I met cool peeps, got some great food and I spoke with several well-known actors. Plus, I learned a copious amount about on-set production.
Side note: I recommend this transient experience to all beginning actors.
I was a background-actor for nine months. After the first four months, I acquired my Screen Actors Guild (SAG)-eligibility, meaning, I was able to join the union. This is a significant step in any actor’s career. It symbolizes that you are officially a professional actor; however, meeting all of the qualifications can be difficult and it can sometimes take years… I stumbled upon it with pure luck.
One day in Santa Clarita while heading to set, I met this amiable guy. He was lost and we were going to the same location. I worked there the day prior so I knew where to go and park without getting towed. I voluntarily provided him with directions. On set, we ran into each other again while standing in the wardrobe-line waiting to be checked-in. It was then, he offered to put me in his upcoming project, ANIMAL NEWS. He was already a SAG member and the project was union. He wanted to give me the opportunity to be “Taft Hartley-ed” into SAG. There are multiple ways to enter the union, but this is how I acquired it. Loophole! Being so new to the industry, little did I know how important this was at the time. Of course I accepted the role and long story short I now have a chance to enroll. I still have not, but that is a story (business strategy) for a different day. I guess, a good-deed never goes unnoticed.
Working background was a way to test the waters into acting. After nine months, I decided to rip off the band aid and fully pursued it as a career. I listened to more than two hundred podcast-collections of actor-interviews and there were definitive reoccurring themes: hard-work, take risks and perfect your craft. My first task was to begin classes. There were hundreds of places to train, but not all of them were legitimate. On top of that, I did not know which techniques to study first; Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, or maybe Sandford Meisner. Who the heck was Constantin Stanislovski? Side note: If you are an actor, you should know this. On set, everyone talked about “Improv…” I started there. There were multiple Improvisation schools, but there were three that stood out among the crowd; Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and The Groundlings. I selected the later.
During time, I was eating beans and rice for almost every meal, so my second task was to find a new job because my employment was not cutting it financially. Moreover, the retirement money I took out to live off of was low. My next occupation needed to be flexible with weekdays open for auditions, but also bringing in the cash. I bounced around, but eventually, I tapped into my background-friends network. Luck! One of them started a job a few months ago serving tables in a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant. I was hired through a glowing recommendation from him… I never waited a table in my life.
My third task was to get head shots. It can be argued that they are one of the most important items to an actor, especially when starting out. With nothing on your resume, it literally is only thing to get you through the door of an audition-room. I hit my computer hard researching local, affordable, quality photographers. Thank goodness I took a class in High School so I could identify solid work. Those hours sitting in a dark room paid off. I guess I did learn something back then. The photographer I worked with was great. She was polite, did not treat me like a dollar-sign and was genuinely open to hearing my input and concerns. The photos in this blog are some of the head shots she took.
The year was almost up and I still had one more goal to accomplish. My fourth task was to find an agent. I think this topic is brought up among actors the most, representation. I went to this nifty book shop I heard about on set, Samuel French. Side note: If you are an actor in LA and do not know about this place, shame. I bought “Actor’s Guide to Agents” for 20 bucks and I still use it to this day. It was worth the investment. Then, I scoured the internet with many weeks of research. I marked which agencies I was interested in, then I goggled them on multiple platforms. I asked questions like, did they use social media? What did their talent think of them? Were their actors working? Eventually, I landed three interviews; however, I only went with one, Clear Talent Group.
End of year-one, a three part series.
Follow my blog to read about year-two.