One of the eternal truths about Hollywood is that there’s a new bus arriving daily, bringing more acting hopefuls and more competition. There is an industry that lives off of the fresh faces and dreams of these hopefuls. It’s the “Let’s get you into show business” business. Some are more blatant cons than others. Some are legit in that they do provide what they say they will provide. It just gets you nowhere near the real business. You spin on the wheel until you decide to jump off.
It was not any different for me. I had my headshot (8×10) taken and duplicated, ready to announce my presence on the Hollywood acting scene, and mailed hundreds out to all of the LA agents. I did student films for aspiring filmmakers at USC and LMU, I auditioned for theater groups and plays and went to “seminars” in which one paid to meet casting directors and read a scene for them, hoping against hope that they would call you in to read for a real professional job. In fairness, I did land my first auditions through these “seminars.”
By preserving, meeting people and getting some work, I was able to join both acting unions: AFTRA and SAG. From there, it was much easier to land my first real agent, the one who got my career started with jobs like “Beverly Hills 90210,” “All That,” a “Cracker Jack” national commercial and scene with Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter in the film “Live From Baghdad.”
But before that, I was scurrying about in the shady world of “entrepreneurial” Hollywood agents and businesses. One agent signed me, but wanted me to go to their “highly recommended” photographer who would give me a special deal. Later I realized this special deal included a kick-back to the “agent.” The next agent signed me and conveniently ran his own on-camera acting workshop. No kick-back there–I paid the agent directly!
But my favorite detour on my professional acting career was signing on with APS, the Actors Promotional Service. Still in business, this is one of those businesses that does what it says it will, but keeps you on the gerbil wheel. For a monthly fee they would send out my headshot and resume to casting directors every week. I was mailed a report as to where they all went. They held motivational meetings and planned special Industry Networking Events. I signed up for one which was held in an upscale gated community near Pacific Palisades.
The other shoe dropped when it was revealed that each actor attending (and having already paid a fee to defer expenses) had to sign up for a shift working the event! Yes, we were to serve the “industry guests” while schmoozing them! Now, what are the chances an industry executive will “discover” the bartender of waitress? I was stunned. Curious to see just how this train-wreck really played out, I signed up as part of the clean-up crew. This allowed me to mingle during the entire Sunday afternoon event and take it all in. I love people-watching and this was both hilarious and very sad.
I cleaned up the garbage with a wry smile, shaking my head at both what I had observed and the fact that I had to pay for this privilege.
I’m just saying…