Please note that I wrote this in 2015.
Welcome to the world of acting! My name is Ali Froid and I am writing this to help you in your mission of fulfilling your dreams of acting, turning your dreams into your reality. As the saying goes, “Dreams do come true.” Through my experience, I have learned that it takes a lot of hard work, time, patience, facing your fears and acceptance of rejection, all while remaining confident in yourself.
I think it’s important to know who I am, what my experience is, and why I chose acting as my career. As a little girl, I always fantasized about being an actor, but I never thought it was possible, nor did I think I could reach that far. I just didn’t think I was capable, good enough, or even worthy enough to be “known”. So, instead, I put my heart into helping others, wanting to become a psychiatrist or a counselor. I graduated from high school as my class Valedictorian. I then pursued my Master’s Degree in Cosmetology at Esani-Paul Mitchell School, graduating as the Honor Graduate in 2007. In the meantime, I was working hard to support myself financially. I worked in restaurants and modeled to make ends meet. After graduating, I worked in a salon doing hair and makeup, opened my photography business, Ali Froid Creations ©, and was in real estate for the following 5 years. In November 2012, a friend who was aware I had modeling experience approached me. He knew of a film looking to hire model types for a specific scene and reached out to me. That film turned out to be “Getaway”, starring Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez and Jon Voight. I had always wanted to be on a movie set, so I accepted the offer. That is when “The Bug” bit me! I wanted to do it again and again. The only issue I kept running into was my work schedule. I found myself having to turn down many roles (that I really wanted) for a job (where I wasn’t happy). That’s when it came to me, the ultimate question: “If I am the happiest on a set, and I have the opportunities to be there, why am I not following my true happiness?”
I sat down and figured out all of my finances. I went through all of my options and came to the realization that with my savings account, I could last a year with no steady income until I would need to get back to work if acting was not working out for me. I chose to resign from my job on December 25th, 2012.
The goal I set for myself was a “one-year trial.” If at the end of the one-year, I had not advanced or obtained an agent, I would go back to work. Financially, I would have to. Over the course of that one year, I worked on many non-paid short films, I worked as an extra and as a stand in, I took acting classes, and made sure to focus on networking. As the one-year passed, I didn't have much money left. However, by then there was one thing I knew without a doubt: I loved being on set and bringing characters to life.
At this point, it was time for me to get an agent. I did my research, built my resume, made a theatrical reel, had quality headshots made, and readied myself to submit to the first tier acting agencies in Atlanta, Georgia. I figured why not shoot for the stars? I would start at the top and work my way down if need be. After submitting to agencies, I got a lot of responses on auditioning for the agencies in person. I attended the auditions and was amazed by the acceptance.
Next, it was time to make a decision. Due to my diligent research, I knew I wanted to be with The Jana VanDyke Agency and once the offer was on the table, I took it. After being accepted into the agency of my choice, it fueled my fire even more. I started getting bigger auditions; with much more pay than I was used to. I auditioned, auditioned, and auditioned some more.
Now, back to the point of why I am writing this book. I am going to take you from the ground up. Whether you have already completed some of these steps or you have no idea of where to start; I will cover all of the steps you need to get where you want to be as an actor. I will share real life experiences of my own or those that I have witnessed. It’s great to learn from others mistakes. Of course, you will make your own mistakes at some point, as no one is perfect, but my mission is to help you make the best decisions, in the right order, and to achieve your ultimate goal. I will take you step by step through your journey. Here we are at the bottom of a staircase, let’s take a step up.
It has been almost 3 years of me acting full time, and I have reached points in my career that I never thought I would ever accomplish. I am the recent recipient of “Georgia’s Rising Star” award at the 2015 Georgia Entertainment Gala. I have been the lead of TV shows such as Investigation Discovery’s “Swamp Murders”, Investigation Discovery’s “Homicide Hunter” and Oxygen’s “Snapped: Killer Couples”, to name a few.
It’s important to know, you “win” some, and you “lose” some. In most cases, you don't “win” a lot in the beginning. Casting directors want to see your face and see your work for a period of time before booking you. You CANNOT let that take away from your dreams, goals, or career choice. It takes time- anything worth fighting for always does! It's important to always set goals for yourself. It's also very important to practice your craft consistently by attending workshops and classes. Continuously networking will help along the way. The more people you know, the more work you will get. Finally (and most importantly), be the person that everyone wants to work with due to your respect for others, consistent professionalism, and on point listening skills (i.e. taking directions).
BEING AN EXTRA
Being an extra (i.e. background artist) is usually the beginning steps of your acting career. As many celebrity actors today, first began as extras such as Brad Pitt, Channing Tatum, Renée Zellweger, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, and Megan Fox just to name a few. It is very common to “get your feet wet” as an extra, then grow from there. It’s wise to do this, that way you are familiar with how big production sets work. Then you are prepared when it is your turn! Many people believe being an extra is your chance to get discovered; this only happens once in a blue moon, like winning the lottery.Casting companies normally require clear current photos of you, full body, mid, and close up. They also want you to include in your submission your sizes, location, and contact information. If they are not interested, you will most likely not hear back from them. If they want to book you, you will be contacted, then you will receive a confirmation booking with your date(s) and time to arrive. You will be told what to bring with you, for example, your Drivers License or Passport, specific wardrobe options, and most likely to arrive “hair and make-up ready”.Once you arrive you will fill out paperwork, which is called a voucher. Check in with wardrobe when they are ready for you, perform your job as told by the AD’s (it is important to always pay attention to what you are doing in the scene for continuity purposes) and after you are wrapped you will then be signed out by the AD (be sure to hold onto your voucher for tax purposes and to keep up with payment).You are hired to pretty much be a moving piece of furniture, not to audition for a role in the project. You will pantomime as an extra; the only sound crew should hear is the talent. Most likely you will be working 12+ hours a day, sometimes almost the whole time, others you may be sitting around in holding most of the day. Bring a book to read, or something to keep you busy if you have a lot of down time. You will be fed lunch, but it’s always great to bring some snacks with you.You do not want to stick out as an extra. For example, you are an extra in the first movie of a trilogy (a movie series of three movies). Come a year or two later they are filming the sequel (the second movie) and by that time you have an agent, you are auditioning for principal roles, and since you were seen in the first movie, your chances of getting a supporting role are slim.When being an extra it’s important to use the restroom when you can. Production does not want to stop what they are doing because you have to go to the bathroom but they need your continuity to begin rolling the camera. That will put production behind, and the talent will then be frustrated. There is crafty for extras, and there is a separate crafty for the cast and crew. Be sure to only eat from the extras crafty. If you are caught trying to sneak food from cast and crew crafty, you will most likely be remembered (and not in a good way). Follow the rules! When submitting for extra work that is a couple of days away, how long do you wait before deciding you weren't booked and if it's ok to submit for something else that day? It's getting harder and harder to get booked anymore, let alone, double-booked. Odds are you won't have to turn down too many bookings. Just let the second casting company know that you’ve been booked after you submitted to them. First come, first served.I wanted to share a personal experience of mine that I will never forget. When I was working as a core extra on USA’s “Necessary Roughness” for 5 months, they noticed my professionalism, my promptness, and my eagerness to do whatever was needed of me. Within the first 2 months of being an extra, I was asked to take on another role, being a stand in (we will talk about this in the next chapter). When the show was coming to an end, Kevin Dowling, one of the producers of the show, gave me his contact information to not only keep in touch but to follow up with him to see if he received any scripts that I could audition for. This is very rare, but that is why I say always be professional because it does pay off! Over two years later, I am still in contact with Kevin. You never know who is watching, so always be on your best behavior.
BEING A STAND IN
“A stand-in for film and television is a person who substitutes for the actor before filming, for technical purposes such as lighting. Stand-ins are helpful in the initial processes of production. Lighting setup can be a slow and tedious process; during this time the actor will often be somewhere else.”
Being a stand-in is a very important job on set. It requires indefinite professionalism and focusing the moment you arrive to work. A stand-in is crucial for the camera department to light the set and focus the camera. This position helps save time, which in turn saves the production money. There are important things to remember when working. Remember to give the actors their space. Even though you are representing them while the lighting and camera work is being determined, this is your job and you should not be mistaken as being part of the cast. Sure, they may talk to you and thank you for standing in for them, but remember that you are both there to do a job. If you do speak with the principal actors, remember to keep it professional. This means absolutely NO asking for pictures and autographs. Do not chew gum or talk on set. You'll become a distraction and that could result in you not being hired again. Listen and listen well. Follow instructions and always stay close to set, ready to stand in. Never leave your spot until first team releases you. You are referred to as second team. Keep your ears out for that! Stay put until you're asked to leave the set. There will be times when you might think you are no longer needed, where you are able to sit down or take a break, but wait until given permission. The lighting team could say "Okay, thank you," but the director could still be watching you on the monitor contemplating or determining if he/she would like to make any changes. Do not leave your mark until you are released.
I remember being a stand-in for many previous shows and movies, and I will never forget not knowing the rule of “not chewing gum” while working on a certain show, I remember the director asking me to please take the gum I was chewing out of my mouth. Boy oh boy, was I embarrassed and never did I chew gum again!
What is a headshot? A headshot is a photograph used by actors and commercial models in order to get them work. Headshots are 8 x 10 prints of the performer where the face is clearly shown. It shows the world how you are going to be cast. It shows the industry how you are going to be cast, how you look, and what kind of roles you should be considered for. They are used for in-person auditions, or on the web, your agencies website, your website, or other websites, even when submitting via online. Headshots are your first impression to any casting director. If you don't have the professional high-quality headshot then you could be losing a job you would be getting with the right headshot. It is important to have a warm, friendly, confident, and approachable expression in your commercial headshot. FIGURING OUT YOUR TYPE We all get "typecast", it's part of what we do. Don't let your ego get in the way, be realistic. Figure out your type, once you do, put that feeling or emotion into your headshot. Practice that look, imagine and put yourself into a situation that the character would be in, or a situation you have been in to convey that emotion. Even if you have to look away from the camera for a moment, softly say a few words as that character, then look back at the camera. All of those emotions and feelings will show on camera, that way you will not have a blank look on your face and your eyes don't look dead. You need to have energy, and that's how you can get it! To name a few typical typecasts; The Girl Next Door, Motorcycle Gang Kind of Guy, Teacher, Detective, The Awkward Guy/Girl, The Sweet Innocent Girl, The Nerd, The Hopeless Romantic, The Villain, The Hero, Rebel/Fighter, The Jerk, The Jock, etc. AFTER YOUR SESSIONSee if your photographer will help you narrow the photos down. If not, friends, family, and your agent are great people to ask for their opinions.Once you have narrowed your photos down and it’s time for retouching your photos be sure the photographer does not alter your look. It's one thing if you have fly-a-ways, pimples, and lint on your shirt, the lighting of the photo, or the sharpness of the photo.But, you do not want to alter your look. For example, wrinkles, lines, moles, anything that would show (even with make-up on) when you arrive to an in-person audition. You want and need to look like your headshot! PRINTING YOUR HEADSHOTS Be sure to use a printing company (many agents have referrals they can give to you) that is high quality and also printed in the correct size; 8 x 10.TIPS-Look into the camera lens-Plain Background (YOU should be the main focus, without any distractions) -Minimal make-up, your picture should portray a blank canvas.-Wardrobe that enhances your image, but does not stand out (no logos, brands, stripes, designs, checks, wrinkles or anything that will be distracting.) V-neck tops are great for headshots; it forces people to look into your face. -Don't forget that you can layer your wardrobe, you're not bound to just wearing a shirt. Blazers, solid color jackets, etc. can add that little something that is missing. -Don't incorporate other body parts. Your hands should not come into play with your headshot. Keep the focus on the face.. don't distract with your hands. -No hats-If you need a haircut, get that done a few weeks prior to our session; that way it will look more natural and better-Do not wear excessive jewelry. Sure you might look high fashion, but it looks gaudy in photos and it takes away from YOU. -Again, practice your expressions before our session-Have a checklist of all of the wardrobe you are going to bring, so you do not forget important wardrobe at home. BE SURE TO IRON & CLEAN THE CLOTHES and bring in hangers or garment bag (I have a wardrobe rack for you to hang your clothes on). -Be sure to get plenty of sleep-Drink a lot of hydrating fluids prior to the session (this will help many things, including your skin). -Give yourself plenty of time getting to the studio (it's better to be early than late as that time is taken away from your session) Currently, casting directors and agents prefer vertical (portrait) shots, not horizontal (landscape) shots.
Having a correctly formatted resume is an absolute must. When you go to small or big auditions before you begin the scene they automatically look at your headshot and resume before beginning the audition. They want to know your experience, your training, and what you have to offer them. Here is how to make a resume.
List in the following order: Film, Television, Commercials (*Available upon request or *Conflicts available upon request), Theatre, Training, and Special Skills
*NEVER EVER LIST EXTRA/BACKGROUND WORK*
Featured is not another word for extra. If you don't have lines, it should not be on your resume.
Film: The correct roles would be: Lead, Supporting, and Featured *NO EXTRA WORK SHOULD BE LISTED*
Lead: principal role in the film, in most scenes, on-screen credit is often in the credits that start the film (as well as in the complete end credits).
Supporting: principal role in the film, in one or more scenes but not a lead character although important to the storyline.
Featured: principal role in the film with one or more lines but easily cut from the final version of the film. Unfortunately, many extras have started using the term “featured” to describe their extra work and that means casting directors are less and less convinced that a job listed as “featured” actually was a featured principal role.
*Extra: non-speaking role in the film with no on-screen credit. This billing does not belong on an acting résumé.
Television: The correct role terms would be: Series Regular, Recurring, Guest Star, Co-Star, Contract Role, and Under 5
*NO EXTRA WORK SHOULD BE LISTED*
Series Regular: contract role with exclusivity to the series, network, and production company for a term of a year or more; paid for a predetermined number of episodes produced, on contract for all episodes, even those in which the character doesn’t appear.
Recurring: character returns over multiple episodes, either on standing contract or contracted periodically, based on negotiations and number of appearances.
Guest Star: one-episode guest whose character’s storyline is central to that episode, works at a weekly rate (and is under contract for the week, even if only shooting a day or two).
Co-star: one-episode guest whose character’s storyline may or may not be central to that episode (since co-star billing actually depends more on negotiation than size of the role), anywhere from one line to multiple scenes.
Contract Role: a soap opera AFTRA contract term for a daytime series regular or recurring character.
Under 5: an AFTRA-only contract term for a character with between one and five lines.
*Extra: non-speaking role with no on-screen credit. This billing does not belong on an acting resumé.
Commercials: The reason why not to list commercials on resume:
Due to working, for example, Delta, you are limiting yourself now to only Delta. If you were seen on a Delta commercial, Southwest would not want to hire you. It is the same with Capital One and American Express- so on and so forth. There are buy outs for a contract and if you contract expires with the brand, you are free to do another rival company.
Theatre: Billing is pretty much non-existent for theatre credits on a resume. Most theatre credits include the character name, as role size is generally known. If, however, the production is of an original work or relatively new play, it is fine to include a parenthetical notation of “lead” or “supporting” after the character name. Also note that you originated the role if that’s the case. Depending on how well known the play becomes down the line, this could be especially impressive information. If you have theatre and you are mostly a film/television actor now, list your theatre but keep your resume to one page. If you are over a page, only keep your most important theatre roles listed.
Training: List the class name, the topic, and the instructor. Training is one of the first things that agents and casting directors look at. It is CRUCIAL to have great instructors and always be adding to your training section.
Special Skills: Only list things that you could do ON THE SPOT. Example, if you list hula-hoop, you must be able to impress the casting director with your hula-hoop skills. If you list tumbling or gymnastics, that doesn't mean you can do a cartwheel that means you can do much more.Stunts:It's a tricky one...You want to show that you're a) willing to do stunts and b) have some familiarity, but you don't want to come across as though you are saying you are a stunt person, because as an actor, you're not. It's tricky. Stunt coordinators, and even casting directors get upset when they see stunts on a resume in the special skills, just as they would if it said pianist and they asked you to play the piano right there in the office and you can't. So, I can't give you any concrete advice, except to say in special skills, you could include "stunts" or "limited stunts" or stunts: high falls, low falls, precision driver, weapons, etc.
Reference link for some of the information listed under this chapter:
Always put your best work FIRST. Whoever is watching your reel will most likely not want to, or have the time to, watch it all. First impressions are crucial here.You will be updating these reels all throughout your career, the more recent work, the great new scenes; you will want to show that off. With that being said, be sure to have your reels (the high-quality version) easily accessible. If you do not know how to edit yourself, have an editor do it for you.Theatrical ReelA reel is your acting resume in motion. It can either help you land roles or it can keep you on the sidelines. Sometimes if no footage exists you can shoot a monologue to get the ball rolling on what will eventually be your reel. A reel should be less than 2:30 minutes, preferably 2 minutes. Show your BEST work. Show a range of characters, for example from comedy, romantic, to drama.Commercial ReelA commercial reel shows your type cast, what you play best, what you promote best, and how you present the product or company you are “selling”. A commercial reel should be no longer than 90 seconds long. 3 great scenes is ideal, leave the casting directors and agents wanting more.Voiceover ReelA voiceover reel should be no longer than 60 seconds. An ideal voiceover reel would include a wide range of your voice in different ways. Put your biggest projects first. This means, the highest company, or the biggest voiceover movie, something that is known for the casting director or agent to take you seriously.Hosting ReelA hosting reel can consist of several things. You interviewing others, just you giving an intro to an event, a show, or an interview. Show your best moments of YOU on the hosting reel. It’s not about the great answer “John Smith” gave, it’s about the energy, and the great questions, and reactions you gave. Hosting reels ideally range from 60 to 90 seconds long.
Cold reads happen quite frequently in this industry and to have a CD take positive notice of you during one takes practice and dedication. Here are some steps to help along the way:Get a feel for the scene:It’s important to take note of your lines when you first receive the sides for a cold read, but it’s more important to get an idea of the story that’s being told. You must ask questions like: Who else is in the scene? What does your character want out of this scene? What is your character feeling? How should the character react to what the other person in the scene is saying or doing? *It is so important to feel WHO you are talking to, and have a feel of who they are, what they mean to you, and what you want out of them.* Don’t fret over the lines:Try to commit your lines to memory, but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t. Nothing displeases and distracts a CD than an auditionee with their head buried in the script and not making personable contact with the other reader. When your head is focused solely on the lines of the script, it doesn’t give the director a chance to actually see what you can do. If you do have to look at the script make it a brief glance, but ALWAYS remember to look up from the script to deliver your lines.Acting is Reacting so be the part:When the other person in the scene is talking resist the urge to look ahead at your next line. Focus on the person because much of acting is simply reacting. Don’t be overly concerned about getting your lines down to a ‘T’, because directors tend to be more concerned with seeing how to actors work together then worrying if the actors got every single line perfect.Commit yourself to the character, but don’t stress: Of course, your nerves are going to be frazzled a little bit during a cold read, but DO NOT rush through your lines. You want to come across interesting, but not timid. The directors don’t expect perfection, they know this is a cold read, they want to see personality! Don’t stress if you fail, learn something from that audition and take it with you to the next one. You WILL learn from every cold read that you do. Listen intently to direction that is given: If you're given a suggestion or asked to say a line differently by the director, that’s not a bad thing! It means the director saw something they liked and want to see it varied up a bit. ALWAYS give them what they ask for, this shows you’re willing and able to take direction.Be polite and courteous:Be respectful at these auditions!! Always, ALWAYS...thank the casting committee, because in addition to your acting ability, the directors are looking at your personal behavior. Directors are always looking for actors who will be easy to work with and not cause a lot of unnecessary offstage drama or distractions.You don't have to start because you think you have to. Make that connection if there is a reader or an extra.
Monologues for both on screen and on stage.When auditioning for on stage performance, most of the time you will have to provide one or two monologues to the CDs. Whatever role you are auditioning for you need to pick a monologue that matches the tone of the story and also try to find a character as close as possible to the one you’re auditioning for.Pay close attention to the specifics of the casting call. You will be informed before hand if there are specific monologues that you need to read at the audition or if one will be provided for you when you arrive for a cold read. Commercial auditions almost always give you a short page of dialogue or a breakdown of the commercial itself before or at the audition. Film and television auditions usually provide you with dialogue from the film’s/TV episode’s script or a similar one that they choose. Besides the Internet you can always get preselected monologues from an acting class or coach, or research any play that will meet the criteria you’re looking for. You can also buy acting books that provide you with a selection of tested and reliable material.
Love2Act.com, TheSouthernCastingCall.com, 800casting.com, ActorsAccess.com, CastingNetwork.com, TalentSoup.com
Don’t redo one that has been done (a famous one) or you’ll be compared to it
Whysanity.net Scriptorama.com, Ace-your-audition.com, YOUTUBE videos (female comedicmonologue, male dramatic monologue- so on so forth)
Extra Work via Facebook:
The Southern Casting Call, CL Casting, New Life Casting, Extras Casting Atlanta, Hylton Casting, Marinella Hume Casting, Cynthia Stillwell Casting, Paden's Casting Calls, Actors Jupiter Entertainment
Casting Groups via Facebook:
Extras Holding Atlanta, Extras Casting Atlanta, Atlanta Extras/Friends/Actors, My Extras/Crew Friends, Kimmie’s Background Actors