9 Ways to go from the Background to the Foreground

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

by Mandisa Johnson

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I started doing background work in, spring of 2006 in the film, Stomp The Yard. It was not only easy, but it was fun. I met a lot of people and I got paid for standing around, watching a Greek step show, and walking around campus.

So many people, who start as background actors, go on set and try to get discovered. Let’s just say that nine times out of ten, that probably won’t happen. Working as a background actor is a great learning experience. You not only learn on-set etiquette, but you also terms, so that when you submit for a role, the casting company will positively remember you.

That leads me to this. So many people, who work as background actors in the entertainment industry, see the lights, glitz, and glamour, which oftentimes lead people to ask, “How can I get a lead or feature role?” I’m not saying that it’s not okay to want to move your career forward, however, I will say that success does not happen overnight. It requires a ton of patience and unless you can make it work, you might have to eliminate doing background work altogether.

9 Steps to go from the Background to the Foreground

Honesty is Key!

1. Be honest with yourself. Think about if this is something that you can see yourself doing for the long run.

2. Time is of the essence.

Be sure that you can put in the time commitment. Sure, working as a background actor is a lot of time commitment, but working as a full-time actor can be a tad bit more.

3. Take a Professional Headshot.

Search for professional photographers who specialize in headshots. Make sure the photographer that you choose, is relevant in your area, and others who work as actors are knowledgeable about them, first.

4. Get Educated.

Learning is an essential part of taking your career (in any industry) to the next level. Search for acting classes and workshops in your area. Oftentimes, you can take a class for free to determine if a specific class is right for you.

5. Network

Networking is an essential part of working within any industry because you never know who you’ll meet!

6. Attend Film Festivals

There are many film festivals throughout Atlanta. Such as The Atlanta Film Festival, The BronzeLens Film Festival, and the Atlanta Shortsfest, just to name a few. Attending film festivals you can view short films and animation, and network with film directors and producers.

7. Work For Free

Working for free is one way you can not only get a speaking role, but you can also either get a lead or feature role, too. This is also a sure way for you to showcase your talent as an actor and a great way for you to create a demo reel.

8. Create an actor’s resume

An actor's resume is formatted differently than a regular resume. Here is a step-by-step tutorial on creating one.

9. Shop Around for Talent Agents

Shop around for legitimate talent agents, who can assist with taking your career to the next level. Legitimate talent agencies are ones that won’t charge an upfront fee but will sign you based on your experience, headshots, actors' resume, and demo reel.

For more information and tips, please stay tuned for the next blog post!

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