"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Friday, February 12, 2010

International Struggling Actress

My friend JenIsBetterThanAndreaAnders confided in me that she didn't like the title of this blog, that I was announcing to the world and Universe that I Was, Am, and Will Forever Be a Struggling Actress. I thought that was sweet. "JenIsBetterThanAndreaAnders," I said, "I fully intend to continue blogging from my trailer in the very near future! Then the title will be ironic! And, oh! The irony!" Cause I like irony. Ask my friend JenIsMarley. I like puns too.

Anyways, yesterday I found an interesting email in my inbox:

Hi Lira,

just stumbled across your blog and love it!  Am wondering whether you might be able to help with news piece am putting together…  I’m a British TV reporter, coming over to cover the Oscars this year, and am keen to do something on the real Hollywood – strikes me there’s all the glitz and glam and red carpets that you always see, but I’m interested in the real LA and all of the people working away, trying to make it there..

If you don’t mind my asking - what’s your current situation?  Sounds like you have lots of projects on the go, but how tough has it been to get to that stage, and how difficult is it to get the opportunities at all?  Sounds like a lot of it is about getting an agent in the first place, then getting them to get you the right auditions?  Also, it seems there is big business in Hollywood acting classes – I’m sure there are lots of really valuable ones, but the cynical side of me wonders whether there is also a danger that some are just taking advantage of people’s dreams…  Do you know anybody who has had an issue with this, or any good acting coaches who might speak out about the disreputable ones..?

Anyway, would be really interested to know your thoughts and whether there is a story in this, but would be nice to do a piece about what’s really involved in trying to make it in Hollywood and what goes on behind the scenes, rather than the usual smoke and mirrors…

Best wishes,

She had the news outlet's logo on the bottom of the email and I check it out and find that not only is it real, but she's real too. Wow. So I double checked something - if you google "Struggling Actress," My blog is the top item. I'm the most famous Struggling Actress there is!

I wrote her back:

Hi Emma!

I know all about the glitz and glam of the Oscars; my best friend has been the Assistant Art Director for the last few years and part of the fun is picking out her dress for the event.

As for me, yes, I am still very much the struggling actress. I dream to one day stop waiting tables, however it doesn't look like that's going to be anytime soon. The industry became an ugly anorexic during the Writer's Strike of 2006. Productions halted and never fully recovered (especially with the whole "will they or won't they?" SAG strike threat that followed in 2008-09). They say that it takes 10 years to become an overnight success but with the industry the way it's been, with more reality programming, fewer films, and now film stars taking on the very television roles I would be going out for, it's more likely that it will take 15-20 to become someone who relies solely on acting for their income.

As to how to start the process of becoming a struggling actress, it's actually pretty simple: there are only three rules. 1) Do not be the child of anyone famous. 2) Have no trust fund. 3) Have an absolute need to act. Not desire, need.

How to erase the struggling part? Gosh, I wish I knew. The game has changed and is constantly evolving. Going on a reality show used to mean career suicide, now it's hard to have any type of clout without a built in audience who has followed you around on MTV or a major network competition game/reality show.

So a lot of us actors who refuse to whore ourselves out in exchange for fame (as it's not about fame, but creating art) have to exercise our right brains and write/producer/star in a vehicle for ourselves so that we'll hopefully get noticed. If we get noticed. It's such a game of chance.

I need to have the right type of photograph and submit to an agent who is not only looking for new clients, but looking for my type and age range, and this agent needs to have some type of reputation or prestige for casting directors to agree to see his clients at an audition. I need to look the part and have enough talent and not be competing against the director's girlfriend. (I've done casting myself. My booking a role could depend on whether or not the director wants this particular character to have curly hair).

And yes, there are a lot of people in this town who make tons of money off the newbies. They prey on the young twenty-somethings who are new in this town, or even the 30 somethings who feel like their time is running out.

One popular (and illegal) way to make money off actors is through Casting Director Workshops. Actors pay anywhere from $35-60 to perform an audition scene in front of a casting director (usually associate or intern) who might critique your work with a sentence or two. The problem is that the state of CA calls these types of workshops pay to play. Billy DaMota (who cast me for a small part on America 's Most Wanted, and is an incredible person) has been the whistle-blower on these types of scams for almost a decade. http://castboy.com/dnp/2020.htm He is currently writing a book about the subject and you can reach him at [Oh, He'd kill me if I kept that in!]. He is exactly who you would want to talk to. Send him my regards.

If you would like to set up an interview with me while you're here for the Oscars coverage, I will be more than happy to accommodate you in anyway necessary.

My very best,

PS Would you mind if I reposted both your email and this reply on my blog? I find your sympathy with my plight astounding and comforting, and I think my readers will too. 
I'm kind of blown away. I could become an International Struggling Actress Icon! Which, oddly enough, could help me book more work. 
 Oh, the Irony!


  1. love. this. post. can't wait to hear how it progresses.

  2. I LOVE that you are the most famous "Struggling Actress" in the world!! Creating a brand for yourself is important and you are doing a superb job! Reporters taking notice? Wow. Who knows where else it can lead. We will see!!

    I have have to disagree about CD workshops. Too many people I know get good work from them. I interned at my LA talent agency and the clients who did the workshops got more auditions and booked more things. My agent pushed hard for us to do them. I've booked something from one and I'm auditioning for a film this month because of another. I rarely get auditions from submissions, so at least meeting these people gets me seen. Its just like anything else though, its targeting the right cd's and not throwing money around blindly. I just see it as another investment.

  3. Hey Kristin- I got an agent out of a workshop once- the guy running it was so impressed with my scene that when I told him I was free agent, he handed me a card and said, "This is my agent's number. I will call her about you tonight. Phone her tomorrow."
    BUT - the thing is - Casting Directors used to do this thing called "Generals," where they'd bring in a bunch of people agents recommended, or from actors submitting to them directly and audition them - For NO Fee - because that was their job - To Find Talent. The bottom line is that SOME casting directors/associates are abusing the system. You are PAYING to audition in front of someone! You are PAYING for an interview! That's illegal! And it's THEIR JOB to audition people! I've even heard of some cds telling their interns to go on their behalf so that that the interns can make some money and so the cds still don't have to pay their interns anything.

  4. I love this! You could be the actress everyone roots for! Just no punning...JenIsMarley will cringe.

  5. Well, thanks for sharing the email and congratulations!

  6. ANd would make for a fantastic story!

  7. I'm a little torn about the "Casting Workshops" thing too. On one hand I agree, it feels scammy and nasty, especially when you get squat-o in the way of feedback from the attending CD/assistant. And they're pretty much undoubtedly illegal, in their current state.

    But, knowing people who've interned for CDs, and from conversations with CDs, most of the blind head shot submissions get thrown in the trash (and those can cost an actor at least $60 per mailing, not counting the time and effort it takes assembling them). And there can be thousands of submissions to any LA Casting or Actor's Access posting, so unless you're heavy on credits, or lucky in looks, you're very unlikely to even get called in using that route. Really, short of having a real sock-o agent to pitch you to CDs (something that absolutely never gets done for costar roles), or getting extraordinarily lucky, there's no other way to even be seen by the top CDs in town when you have no notable credits or union affiliation (the Casting Access Project is only for SAG members).

    I think it just boils down to doing research before attending a workshop -- helps to check with your agent, or groups like Hollywood Happy Hour. Speaking of which, Bonnie Gillespie talks about CD Workshops frequently, and wrote an article about the practice: http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/2005_08_15.html She says it's like "winning the lottery" to get cast from one of these...but so is every other method at an actor's disposal. So until they're outlawed (again), I see it as just another way of getting yourself out there.

  8. YAY!! Yay for Lira, my beautiful international struggling actress!!

  9. Tyler - yeah. Lottery. A scammy, disgusting lottery.


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