15 Feb Sarah is PUBLISHED in the 4th edition of Self-Management for Actors
With Bonnie Gillespie’s latest edition of her book, Self Management for Actors coming out in print, I am happy to announce that a good chunk of an article I wrote for her Actor’s Access column back in August made it into the book! Check out her 400+ pages of excellent ways to manage your own acting career regardless of what market you’re in, and let me know when you come across my piece!
Here is the original article, from the August 1st Actor’s Access column Actor’s Voice.
Starting Out in a Smaller Market
I moved to Seattle from the Midwest right out of college, knowing I wanted to pursue an acting career, but not really knowing what that meant. I didn’t know anyone, but I knew Seattle was a much bigger market than I was used to and therefore would have more opportunities. I arrived fresh out of a liberal arts program where I studied voice, movement, history, and acting in the context of performance on the stage. I am someone who does well in academia; I excel at following outlines, completing assigned tasks, and meeting deadlines. But here I was, fresh on the shores of Puget Sound without any sort of roadmap to theatrical success except to start auditioning.
The academic side of me was ashamed to admit I had no professional experience, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere! I began with what I knew–I studied. I Googled theatre in the area and immediately found Theatre of Puget Sound (or TPS), a wonderful conglomeration of theatres in Seattle and the surrounding area. Their callboard listed auditions for plays, commercials, short films, student work, indie features, and voiceover work. So I began auditioning.
Since I was trained in stage technique, I studied books about the industry side of things and how to translate stage performance to working in front of a camera. One of the first books I bought and consumed was Self-Management for Actors, which I found incredibly relevant despite being written primarily for an LA market. And as we all know, Bonnie is a goddess.
Through TPS, I immediately began booking work. This led me to meeting people. And meeting more people. And that is what has made all the difference. I learned about agents in the area. I learned about places to study, like Freehold, where I took voiceover classes with Gin Hammond. A friend I worked with in my first Seattle play suggested I study with acting coach Steven Anderson of Actorswork, who is actually based in LA and teaches TV and film intensives in Seattle every three months. Thus began my ongoing training.
Looking back, I came to Seattle incredibly green (Although, Seattle IS very green, so I fit in. Get it? Green? PNW? Trees? Okay…). But I was incredibly fortunate. Seattle is made up of an AMAZING community of people willing to lend a hand, point you in the right direction, make suggestions, provide guidance, and take a chance on you. I booked roles in student films, webseries, commercials, animated series, music videos, and indies where I was able to explore new media.
And I met even more people. I met Denise Gibbs (of Foreground Background), an exceedingly hardworking woman who casts background work in the area. I was booked as an extra in a scene with Aubrey Plaza in Safety Not Guaranteed and got exposed to higher-profile projects. I learned about agents and began pursuing the ones that seemed most mutually beneficial, although in the end my agent sought me out after seeing my audition at the TPS Generals.
I was introduced to the world of casting directors and traveling for work when I made a few trips to Portland to audition for TV shows shooting down there. I had a ringside seat as a couple of Seattle industry leaders started their own production company, Mighty Tripod, and began teaching on-camera classes as a way to impart some of their expertise to the community. My introduction to creating my own content was watching friends take a script they worked on in class or wrote themselves and make delightful, inspiring movies like Jessica Martin’s For Patrick and Wonder Russell’s Revelations. I met people with so much talent who are so committed to the Seattle industry.
And thus, I slowly built up knowledge and experience in commercial, film, and television. With the help of acting coaches, casting directors, and peers, I have molded my stage training into film performances. I have learned how to talk to agents and casting directors. I also learned very valuable things about how the BUSINESS side of things work, which needs to be given just as much attention as the craft. All the while, the wonderful people around me supported me and allowed me to take risks, grow, try new things, gain confidence, and LEARN.
Am I ready to take a leap and move to LA? Yes, I am. But I cannot imagine having done it without the incredible stepping-stone that was and is Seattle. Never could I have fathomed how much there still was to learn when I left college, bright-eyed and ready to take on the world. And I had no idea how well I would be nurtured and supported by people I had yet to meet. I know I would not be entering the LA market with the set of tools or confidence I have now, had I not spent my years in a smaller market, specifically Seattle.
I have learned how to build a network and become part of a community. I am not worried about getting swallowed up and lost in the larger LA market. I am ready. And I will be forever grateful to the beautiful people in Seattle for giving me the tools and confidence to spread my wings. They will remain my colleagues and collaborators as I move to Los Angeles.
So if you are starting out in a smaller market, my advice is this: Jump in. Find resources. Meet people. Listen to them. Learn from them. Take advantage of the opportunities and community that are uniquely available in a smaller market. It creates a wonderful foundation you can build upon for the rest of your career.