So you want a successful career in acting in film and television? Well, fall in line; there are thousands of other aspiring actors with the same ambition: to see their name in lights and their billing above the title.

hollywood film actorUnfortunately, it’s not that easy to get your start in the movies, especially considering all the competition out there. It is estimated that at any given time, eight out of 10 actors in the US are unemployed. If this figure does not daunt you, here are some suggestions on how you can get your big break in the movies.

Attend open casting calls. Many TV and movie productions hold open casting calls that are open to non-SAG members. (SAG is an acronym for Screen Actor’s Guild which is a union for actors working on American productions.) You can usually find open casting call announcements in sites such as Backstage and Actor’s Access. However, these are pay sites, meaning you have to shell out some money to become a member. But in exchange for your membership fee, you get access to services such as being able to upload your headshot and demo reel to their site for casting agents to view, and to reply to casting calls online. Even if you don’t get the job, these casting calls may at least bring you to the attention of filmmakers and casting directors who may decide to use you in future productions. Most of all, networking with people in the industry will help. Look beyond making friends with only fellow actors and actresses. Networking with people who work in different areas in production such as the movie costumes, make up, or props department will give you more contacts in the industry. You can never have too many friends in the industry so your social skills will play a big part in how successful you can navigate yourself in Hollywood.

Another option is to get work on a low-budget film. While this is not a sure-fire way to get noticed in Hollywood, it will at least help get your foot in the door. Not having a SAG card is actually advantageous in working on low-budget shows because the producers cannot afford to pay actors scale so they are willing to cast less experienced actors new to the industry. This is a great way for you to gain experience and meet people. It may not be as glamorous as a Hollywood product but don’t be put off by the low budget film equipment and amateur production crew because they can be a stepping stone for your future. The list of film actors who have gotten their start on independent productions is a fairly long one, and includes stars such as Jack Nicholson (who started in several low-budget films directed by Roger Corman, including The Terror and The Raven), Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellwegger (who appeared in The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Holly Hunter (whose first movie credit was the low-budget horror film The Burning). How do you get work in an independent movie production? Get in touch with the film department of your local community college, since this is where many independent filmmakers look for talent to use in their movie.

Work on a student film. While acting on a student short will likely not give you the same exposure as appearing in an independent film, it can at least provide you with footage for your demo reel, which you can use to market your talents as an actor. To find student films that might be looking for acting talent, get in touch with film departments of colleges. Another tip: look for student films that are being directed by graduate students, since they have more experience and will generally produce a more professional-looking film.