WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO LA?
When you're ready. Ready to work in Prime time TV and committed to mastering the skills needed (Cold Copy Technique especially), getting the representation that is essential and spending at least 2-3 years to making that happen. 5 is more realistic. The pay off? Ten times (probably more) the income than working in NY and hundreds of times more than working JUST in theater. Most importantly you've positioned yourself for a major A list film career.
Once established in TV and Film, you can come back and STAR on Broadway- it's called the "Backdoor strategy"- as carried out by Bebe Neuwirth, Jeremy Pivens, Ed Harris, Julia Roberts and numerous "names". ALL doors are opened once you're established- easier than standing in line at 5 AM for an EPA-Equity open call to get an understudy role.
Many TV actors bounce up very easily to film work. You could also just stay in a lateral career working in TV - going from one show to another as an established "name". But either way you are farther ahead than struggling in NY to get fewer available roles from less series. There are 15+ or so prime time series in NY and about 120 in LA. So, if you can book some hefty roles in Prime time, make a 6 or 7 figure income in a few short years and have the option to work anywhere in any media - that's not bad. At least, that's the template. But you need to do it right.
So, When is the RIGHT TIME to go to LA?
In APRIL, JULY, and DECEMBER. Why?
In APRIL, after Pilot Season almost all Agents/Agencies are doing spring cleaning.They're cleaning out their roster of actors who for some reason didn't work out, literally didn't WORK, didn't get major roles during pilot season and the previous year of their contract. 30% or more are usually dropped by agencies during this time. Then what? The Agents look for new faces of the EXACT SAME TYPE to replace the clients who could have/should have booked roles.
That's your break if you are a new actor coming from another market, hopefully as a member of SAG and with some good TV and Film credits. That doesn't mean showcases, student or Indie films. Even if you don't have a lot of credits but excellent tools - head shot, good resume, sizzle (demo) reel- and "fill the bill," be the type they are looking for their specific roster, you'll have a pretty good shot of getting offers of representation, auditions and potentially, jobs. One follows the other.
Go in early Spring. Go prepared with excellent marketing tools, preferably in SAG and with some recent TV/Film credits.
In JULY, when Episodic Season is just beginning. That means "business as usual" so most shows, after being on hiatus, cast their weekly episode, hence the name. This goes through October. Multiply 115-120 shows times 5-10 roles per week and you have a ball park of the number of roles available for NEW faces and experienced semi-New faces, those actors who have worked in the previous season or two and are known by Casting Directors.
Ideally, if you can book a few featured or supporting roles (probably not "guest starring") at this time you are then set up perfectly to be ready for pilot season. You will already have an agent, have auditioned for a few dozen casting directors, have booked a role or two getting that valuable credit(s) and know the ropes. Pretty good for six months if all goes according to plan. That makes you far more desirable to CD's and producers when new roles in new series come up at the beginning of the year. You've moved into Phase 2....very marketable!
Build credibility by getting roles and a network of contacts -mostly Casting Directors - during the normal production season.
In DECEMBER just weeks before OR during Pre-Pilot Season. Things are winding down for the holidays but also gearing up - a few smarties will be casting a pilot early. A number of agents will be filling in their roster with known-marketable types so they will be prepared for the "shark-fest" of casting coming in January. If you meet, audition for and get signed at this time - You're ready to go. Then, in January, you might get out on smaller roles in episodic, films and may even get a shot at the contract parts. If you meet Casting Directors at this time - December they'll probably remember you for the projects they're casting 2 - 4 weeks later. Good timing! You might have an average of 3-5 auditions a week depending on your type and your agent's pull. It's busy! Those already established actors with 2, 3 or 4 seasons under their belt, ditto and more! THEY book the major roles!
The 11th hour entry can be your break IF you go super prepared, get agent representation and can network like crazy. If not, you'll sit out the 4 months of pilot season by the pool /phone. Of course all the above can be accomplished in half the time up if you:
1- Get A Marketing Mentor who is well-connected
2. Attend an Actor Marathon or have your Mentor refer you directly to the Industry Pro's who can sign you, audition you, hire you!
The biggest MYTH that many NY actors swallow hook, line and sinker is to go to LA during pilot season, JANUARY - MARCH.
WRONG. Agents are busy. Casting Directors are busy and they don't need a newbie knocking on their door when they have minutes/hours to book a dozen roles for each on-going episodic as well as the 40 or so new pilots each with 5-10 or more roles- that pop up hourly. It's a casting carnival - fun, exciting, full of possibilities and careers take off but NOT FOR NEWBIES, the unestablished, unrepresented, inexperienced (meaning you haven't booked a prime time show yet or know the system).
So, hopefully you can follow the strategies above OR cut to the chase and get a Mentor or a Marathon.
Gwyn Gilliss is the creator and Executive Director of TAM, The Actor's Market, a marketing firm for actors. They provide monthly FREE seminars/teleseminars, FREE weekly marketing tips as well as access to top photographers, graphic artists and videographers who provide every marketing tool an actor needs. As the foremost Marketing Coach and Mentor to actors, Gwyn's acting career spans several decades during which time she appeared on and off-B'way, in classical roles in American Repertory companies, in over 18 contract and recurring roles in Daytime and Primetime TV, Films and dozens of network commercials/V.O.'s. She has special Coaching programs for ready-to-succeed actors.
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