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  • Elly Norris

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Out

Are you starting out as an actor? Congrats! This is an amazing journey and you are going to have so many different experiences as you dive deeper into your craft, and you will certainly discover more about yourself along the way.


But if you're new to the industry, you might be a little naive...and that's okay! I wanted to write a blog post about mistakes I made, or saw others make, when they were first starting out their careers. There wasn't anything career-upending or dramatic, but mistakes nonetheless. Hopefully you can get some good takeaways from this post to avoid making the same mistakes as myself!


1. Cold emailing agents and casting directors with the same email.

Always make these emails a little personal - especially when it comes to agents. Mention someone they represent (maybe someone you yourself have worked with) to show that you've done your research. The same goes CD, mention a film or show they helped cast that you enjoy.


2. When using email templates, always double-check the email before sending.

Honestly, double-check every email you send out, but especially if you're using a template! One time I clicked "send" too fast and sent an email to a casting director with the subject "Commercial Template". Needless to say, I did not get a reply. You can get around this by naming them FirstName LastName - Commercial, so if you did accidentally leave the subject line in there, it's a decent subject line.


3. Not accepting unpaid work.

When you're first starting out, you need a demo reel to send to CD and prospective agents. You're probably not going to get cast in the latest Netflix series without this...so you need to "pay your dues", as they say! Get involved in student projects to get some experience in front of the camera and some shots for your demo reel. I also feel I must mention here that do this at your discretion - if someone is asking you to film for a week straight, full-time, and it's not paid work...make sure you have the budget to account for that.


4. Paying too much for casting sites.

Utilise Google to find out which casting sites are worth the money. I pay monthly for access to two casting sites, but with one paid job from either of them it pays for my subscription for the year. So to me, they're worth it. But if they were charging 300E or more per year? Forget it. Some casting sites also charge for you to upload headshots, links, or your CV, so these are all things to consider before investing.


5. Not doing your research.

If you are asked to do a self tape for a casting, and you have never done one before, look up on Google or YouTube what you should do. You might not have a 24-hour turnaround time to send in the tape, but you will have five minutes to watch or read an actor explaining how to make a good self tape setup. This is something that has definitely cost me jobs in the past - but now I know better. This can also be used when wondering what to wear for your headshots, what types of pictures to send for a commercial casting versus a casting for a movie role... these are important things to know!


6. Not being genuine.

This is a mistake I've seen a lot of actors make, and it can be disastrous. You don't want to be known as a clout-chaser or a user. No one likes feeling as if someone is only talking to them to see what the other person can do for them. In this business, the quality of your relationships is more important than the quantity.


7. Feeling pressure to say "yes".

In the beginning, I let people bully me into saying yes to projects that I didn't want to do or not pay me what I was worth. I had people pressuring me to do projects for free for "visibility", even though they were making a profit. Do not be afraid to say no to projects, especially if they make you uncomfortable, or if they're being disrespectful to you.


8. Not keeping up with your training.

If you've graduated from an acting program or finished classes for the summer, don't let yourself get too comfortable with not continuing your training! You don't want to lost what you've worked so hard to achieve: so keep yourself refreshed by attending workshops, watching online webinars or YouTube videos, or by listening to podcasts by people in the industry. Even if you can't afford an expensive training or workshop, there are lots of free resources available, or you can utilize what you already have access to in order to learn more. Access to the internet? Read plays online. Library card? Learn a new skill or check out scripts or books about acting, if they're available. Got a smartphone? Learn a new language on DuoLingo for free. Go to the gym? Try a new dance class or yoga, if you've never done so, so you have more skills to add to your resume.


9. Relying on acting to bring you all your income.

In the beginning, this really isn't realistic, and it puts enormous pressure on your creativity to pay the bills...which can make you stressed, cause you to lose focus, or feel terrible if you don't get a job. Find something flexible that you can do while you're still auditioning. Bartending/restaurant work is great for this. Or maybe you work online as a translator, coder, or social media manager.


10. Not pursuing anything except acting.

I'm not sure if you need to hear this, but I think it should still be said: you are allowed to have other passions and interests outside of acting. I love acting, performing, and making people laugh with all my heart. It's what my soul craves, and it is why I am on this earth. But...I also love to bake. I love to box. I love to read thriller novels. And I love to shop for beautiful, flow-y scarves and go out to breakfast with my husband. These are also things that I'm passionate about...and they don't really have anything to do with acting. And that's okay! In the beginning I felt that if I thought about anything other than acting, well, that I wasn't deserving of getting roles or having an agent. I mean...sometimes I preferred to spend an afternoon reading at the park instead of working on texts for class (gasp!). You should have interests outside of acting that fuel you - especially if it helps you relax, which actually will help you in your acting career!


And this last bonus one... Forgetting to believe in yourself.

I have spent too much time doubting myself over the years, and at the beginning there was a part of that worried I wasn't good enough or deserving enough to be doing this work. I've learned to quiet that voice in my head and do what I need to do do pump myself up to keep going. I have told myself since the beginning: I am going to pursue this career as long as it fulfills me and makes me happy, if one day it doesn't, I will find something else.


I hope these tips can help you to avoid making some of the same mistakes I did, enjoy your acting journey and I'll see you soon on another blog post! x


Elly


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