Breaking Into Acting – the Best Acting Tips from an Award – Winning Producer
Breaking into acting with Kia Jam.
What’s the first thing an actor should do when they come to L.A.?
Find a great acting coach! Find a place to live, and a way to pay your bills obviously first, but after that, you need to be learning and training all the time. Acting talent is like a muscle and you need to keep working it and training it…It’s a challenging business and the competition is fierce. You gotta study, study, study. Take classes. It’s like what I said about screenwriting earlier: As a screenwriter, you gotta write every day. It’s the same with acting. Even Award-winning actors continue to study with the goal of perfecting their skills – they want to keep their nails sharp, they want to continue to be excellent at their craft. Early on, it’s very helpful to have tape. Do what you can to get some tape of yourself. You can do workshops, short films…etc.
My advice for someone starting out is to study hard, work hard at your craft and do what you can to get noticed and seen
Is Extra work advisable for Actors?
There is a process, by doing extra work, that will get you into the union. While doing extra work, you get to spend time on a film set and study the dynamics. It helps with learning who to know and how to behave. These are all important things you can learn if you’re on a film set. But the idea that you’ll get noticed and suddenly get to play the lead on a TV show is a little too utopian, and you should see it as a bridge to joining the union.
Is it difficult to get an agent?
Difficult but advisable. An interested agent, wanting to learn more about what you can do, could ask to see tape and if you don’t have it, you can try to invite the agent to a workshop. An agent is a critical member of your team and their job is to help, advise, and steer your career. They are there to find you work, negotiate, and close deals. But most importantly, to get you “out there” auditioning. Your relationship with your agent is critical.
I suggest that you be particularly careful with management/representation contracts early in your career. Some of the contracts I have seen have been really egregious.
Who gets more work – men or women actors?
There’s plenty of work for both. There’s not a shortage of work. Especially nowadays. Given that there’s a ton more content being made.
Is there anything an actor shouldn’t do?
Any time you’re putting yourself out there, you are not just auditioning for that particular part – you are auditioning for anything and everything that team is going to do in the future. Maybe you don’t get that part, but you could be perfect for something else down the line. Show up on time, know your lines, don’t be a d*ck. You want the casting director to be considering you for other parts down the line as well.
So ethics is important?
Yeah. Be grateful. Don’t cause problems. Just be cool. Be a team player and work hard.
If an actor could choose an indie script or a blockbuster, what would you recommend?
Just do good work. If the script sings to you, then do it. A lot of folks need to take any and all paying jobs in order to put food on the table and don’t have the luxury of being too picky and I understand that; but ideally as you look back on your career, you need to feel good about the body of work.
What other kinds of jobs could actors do while waiting?
You gotta do what you gotta do to put food on the table, sure, but you gotta keep studying. Do acting workshops. It’s a good time to write if you’re working on something and you can develop your skill. Also be constantly auditioning. Constantly trying to get your next gig.
Is there a point where actors don’t need to audition anymore?
Yes, once an actor gets to a certain stage in their career, people know what they are capable of and at that stage there is no need to audition…but it’s never totally off the table. Even big actors like Daniel Craig had to do Screen Tests for James Bond so it doesn’t go away permanently.
How busy is the actor’s schedule when they make it? Will they have time for family or other personal projects, or will they be booked years in advance?
A notable actor can be as busy as they want to be because they could work all the time if they choose to. We ( Production ) could shift an entire schedule to accommodate an actor. Entire movies can be moved to accommodate an actors schedule.
What do you think about method acting?
What matters is what’s captured on the screen. Everybody has their process. If some guy wants to put a stone in his shoe to remind him of a limp the character has then I get that. But you need to find your own voice. Find what works for you.
Who is your favorite actor?
I have been very fortunate and have worked with many wonderful actors, many of whom I now call my friends. For example, Pierce Brosnan and Jeremy Irons are two wonderful extremely talented actors that were a pleasure to work with that I now call friends.
Finally, I’m sure the quality of acting schools and coaches can vary. Anyone, you’d particularly recommend?
There are many talented and gifted acting coaches in Los Angeles. You have to find one that speaks to you and that you feel comfortable with. Remember, in an acting class, you have to leave your ego at the door and be prepared to take chances and make choices. One of the greatest acting coaches in L.A. is my friend Howard Fine at the Howard Fine Acting studio. He is a gifted instructor and does amazing work.
Whomever you end up with, make this a priority and get yourself a coach! Acting is hard work and the competition is fierce. It takes persistence and resilience to make it in this business. The important thing is to maintain a healthy mental and emotional state, because this business can be harsh and unforgiving. Being a working actor is hard work, but it’s not impossible.