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7 Steps to Becoming an Actor in Pittsburgh

Lights, camera, action! These three words are what some of you may have dreams of hearing one day. I understand the love for TV and film is hard to turn off when once bitten by the acting or directing bug. Your friends and/or family might not understand this passion, make fun of you, or complain to you: “You watch way too much TV.” But, don’t be embarrassed or discouraged when chasing a dream. Besides, take pleasure in the fact that you will get the last laugh when you become an actour (as Tobias from Arrested Development would say). Whether you are a serious actress saving up money to go to Hollywood, or enjoy being dramatic during your spare time, there are plenty of opportunities to get started in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh has been a hotspot for films to shoot since the 1940’s. According to 31Streetstudios.com, Pittsburgh has the “perfect location, architecture, and economical work environment.” The industry is rapidly rising in this area; film companies are always looking for new talent. So how do you jump into the scene?

This may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised how many people expect to be casted for a role with little experience. Whether it’s taking acting classes in Pittsburgh, taking theater classes at Pitt and auditioning for plays, or being part of a Film major’s final project, it counts toward helping you become a better actor. Acting classes especially help with audition techniques for the camera, different acting techniques such as Meisner, and monologues that work for you. There are also many ways to get involved with the film companies in Pittsburgh such as Pittsburgh Film Office (always lists casting notices), Pittsburgh Film Makers, and Steel Town Film Factory (for screenwriters and filmmakers). Last but not least, ask Pitt’s Film program. Professors and students will be more than happy to direct you to the right spot to gain more experience; you may even be able to get a job or two out of them.

Headshots, Resume, Acting Reel
Headshots: These are a must no matter where you go to audition. Headshots are pricy, but do not cop out on them. A bad-looking headshot will get thrown out in an instant. Make sure it’s done by a professional, preferably someone who has done headshots before. This does not mean Wal-Mart or Kmart. It is okay to ask some samples of the photographer to make sure they are done right. Your headshot should focus on your face (mainly eyes), be in color, and should look how you do daily. You need at least a commercial shot (smiling) and a dramatic shot. There are many places in Pittsburgh to get headshots. One place is MBK photography in Monroeville, or Michael Ray Photography. If professional, the photographer will instruct you with what types of clothes and makeup that should be done in order to make your photo pop.

Resume: This is pretty self-explanatory. Your resume should never be more than a page long and should start with the most recent work you have been in. Make sure to include skills that you can do which will make you much more competitive. These can include: dancing, cheerleading, speaking a different language, and being a Pitt student (JK), but come on, we’re awesome.

Acting Reel: Agencies or casting directors may want to see your acting skills before meeting face to face. An acting reel showcases your talents. Think of yourself as a product, and you are trying to sell yourself. Business majors, this should be a breeze. Backstage.com has great advice on what should be on your acting reel; including what type of scenes should be included and how long the reel itself should be. Again, it is not a bad idea to get a film student or professor to help you out.

This may not seem like an exciting way to jump start your career, but it does offer experience, which is a must on a resume. Plus, it is a great way to learn how things work behind the scenes. It’s also a way to hang with friends and see some celebrities. Since Pittsburgh is always filming, there are plenty of chances to be an extra. You may even get lucky and be saved by the main star, Matt Bomber or Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We can dream.

Look for an agent.
This step seems scary, but it is necessary in order to be able to learn about different casting opportunities or even get your foot into an audition for a TV show or movie. When looking for an agent, do some research to make sure of their credentials. Unfortunately in this industry, there are lots of people trying to take advantage of young aspiring actors or models. If an agent is asking for money in order to represent you, run away. No agent will ever charge you to audition or represent you. Once you get an agent and you find work, they will take a certain percent of whatever you make. Two credible agencies in Pittsburgh are Docherty Model and Talent Agency and a new agency that opened downtown called Bohemia Group Pittsburgh. You can do a mail blast and send in your resume, acting reel, and headshot to these locations to get an audition. You could also call, however some agencies do not think this is professional, but hey, give it a shot. Make sure what types of monologues they want you to perform. Ask around, it never hurts.

Be Positive and have fun!
This should be your main drive in pursing acting anywhere. You act because you love it. We have all heard of the horror stories about being in this business. However, a positive attitude can get you a long way. Include your friends in the fun as well. Make a movie for Halloween and showcase the Humans vs. Zombies club or make a day in the life of a Pitt student, the sky is the limit. This is also the best method if you want to act for fun and are not interested in making it big.

Pittsburgh is a great city and Pitt is a great university that can help guide your career. What are you waiting for? Action! 

Samantha Saenz is a senior at Pitt. She is a Communication Science and Disorders major with a theatre minor. Sam loves movies and great TV shows and will probably write about it at least 90% of the time. She is in Pitt Ballet Club and has enjoyed her time with the girls from HerCampus Pitt.
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