Question: I am a 22 year old non-union and non-represented actor. I would like to know if the rumors I hear are true, is it really who you know and luck that gets you the job? I am getting fed up and I want someone to take a chance on me. I will be successful but I need someone to believe in me to give me my chance. Thanks, Kristopher
The first person who needs to believe in you is YOU. I know that sounds trite, but really, it is the most important element to success in the industry. Being non-union is a temporary situation, and there really is an awful lot of non-union work to be had, while you work toward getting your SAG card. Representation will come, too. In fact, you may consider looking to sign with a manager first. An agent may not be interested in signing a non-union actor, but a manager (who usually takes on fewer clients than agents do) may be willing to take a greater risk (and larger percentage) and sign you without your union membership or even lots of credits.
Luck is a huge element of making it in the business, that is true. And the Who You Know factor is big too. So, make yourself luckier by learning as much as you can and being ready when the opportunity arises. Know more people by doing as much work as you can at this stage in your career. Do small theatre work. Do student films. Work on shorts and staged readings. Take every opportunity that presents itself and you will soon have quite a database of contacts. You'll have worked with people on the set and these folks will know you are professional and talented. They'll remember you and want to work with you again... and again. That's really how it all happens.
So, begin by taking control of your own career. Get as much work for yourself as you can, be professional, and network with the people you meet behind the scenes on every project. Stay in touch with people (keep them apprised of your performances and progress in the industry) and remember that you are in this for the long haul, not a quick rise and fall.
Keep doing good work!
Bonnie Gillespie is a Los Angeles casting columnist, the owner of Cricket Feet Management, and the author of Casting Qs: A Collection of Casting Director Interviews.