Washington Filmworks is frequently asked how local actors find work, and accordingly, how an actor can build a career from the opportunities available in our state.  We’ve solicited some advice from our region’s busiest actors and assembled some introductory suggestions and resources (although this should not be viewed as a comprehensive catalog).  Look at this as a set of tips and tricks that can help jumpstart an actor’s research and move their career to the next level.

Think big picture.

Many actors in the Pacific Northwest construct a career from a hybrid of film, commercial, theatre, corporate, voiceover, and other types of supplementary work.  Some work comes in their hometown, and other jobs require them to travel.  Being open to a variety of possibilities can only help an actor secure more employment.  Participating in both professional and amateur theatre is one great way to become involved with the local community, and many jobs open through the connections made there.

There are several resources where an actor can find out about upcoming auditions for both stage and on-camera work, and those will vary from region to region.  In Seattle, the website www.seattleactor.com is one example, and organizations such as Theatre Puget Sound host online callboards.  Lots of different opportunities to secure work can be found on these directories – audition listings, message boards, searchable databases of local performers, and more.  Emerging actors should explore what their own community has to offer.

The Northwest Production Index is an online film, video and media industry directory for Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Washington Filmworks refers inquiring productions to this database daily.  The Index has a “Talent” category and several sub-categories for professional development opportunities for everyone from stunt people to voice talent. Check into what’s available.

Working as an extra is a way to pick up additional days of employment each year and for less experienced actors to get a feel for what it’s like to be on a film set.  The Northwest Production Index also includes several extras casting agencies in the region.  Reach out to these agencies, and find out what it takes to get into their database.

Craigslist is an option for finding gigs.  Each city may have several prospects for actors listed here.  One can find paid and unpaid opportunities, as many smaller productions, shorts, and student projects rely on Craigslist as a means of finding talent.  Remember that many of these opportunities are legitimate, and some are not.  Actors should trust their instincts, but don’t rule out Craigslist as an option.  It can lead to work for those who are just getting started, trying to build their reel, or looking to branch out.

Get out there.

Networking is an essential part of finding work in this business. It’s unrealistic for an actor to think the jobs will simply land in their lap.  Working actors know it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know.  Talent should take advantage of the many social opportunities that Washington communities offer.  For instance, in the Seattle area, Solo Bar near McCall Hall has a reputation as an “actor’s bar.”  One might hear about jobs through casual conversation, learn which productions are red flags, and get informed about opportunities to avoid.

Washington State has any number of regular community events for creatives, as well as membership-based societies.  These are places where filmmakers, crew, and talent can come together.  Participating regularly may be a tremendous benefit, and help grow an actor’s reputation. Washington Filmworks recommends seeking out these events in order to get busy networking.  Some examples include:

  • Seattle’s Film + Music + Interactive Happy Hour – This monthly happy hour is for adults 21 and over, and is a fantastic place to network across, and learn about, multiple industries.  Actors should work the room strategically, bring business cards, and be sure to listen as local filmmakers discuss upcoming projects.  Remember that these events are not about bombarding producers by promoting oneself as an actor in search of work; they’re about relationship building.
  • The Northwest Independent Film & Video Entertainment Society (kNIFVES) – This is a members-based organization that offers frequent educational and social opportunities for those who live and work in the inland Northwest.  It’s open to film and live entertainment professionals, amateurs, and enthusiasts alike.  Talent who live in Eastern Washington should look into kNIFVES.
  • The Tacoma Film Creatives Monthly Meetup – This monthly gathering is held the fourth Sunday of each month. Members are encouraged to share coffee, discuss projects, network, and support one another.  Again, becoming a participatory member of one’s local community is so essential to garnering regular work.  Actors should look for “meetups” in their own area.

We intend for this conversation on ways actors can break into the biz to develop over time.  The next post in this series will discuss continuing education, as well as tips to stay safe and savvy as you build your career. Watch for future installations and multiple-perspectives.  Stay tuned.

The next post in this series in Breaking Into the Biz – Tips for Emerging Actors (Part 2).