Tag Archives: TV

Acting in LA: An insider’s guide

7 May

“Everybody comes to Hollywood” – or at least it seems like every actor does. For years wannabe performers have flocked to LA, the home of movie stars, studios and thousands of young hopefuls. Each year British actors make the move across the pond in search of fame and fortune but is it really worth it? 

Steve West is a British actor who studied drama and musical theatre at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s school before starting his career in shows such as Mamma Mia and Oklahoma!. He has since worked in TV and film and has done over fifty TV commercials. He moved to LA three years ago. 

You studied in the UK – what made you move to the US?

For me it was a two fold decision. As I had lived most of my life in London I wanted a change of lifestyle – sunshine, more space and the ability to be outdoorsy, and I wanted to expand my work in the direction of film and TV.

How does the LA industry differ to the UK’s?

LA is all about media – TV, film and nowadays the web. This is still the place where the majority of that work happens. There is a theatre scene but it is small scale and very low paid. The UK  didn’t have a fraction of the TV and film work as they do in LA, although the theatre scene in the UK is way more vibrant.

Have you found that the opportunities are better over there?

I’ve found that doors open in different and unexpected directions. I started recording audiobooks a couple of years ago and that came from someone hearing my voice on a demo – I’ve since done over 20 books. Commercials also pay residuals, so if you land a national one you can earn a very nice sum of money. And of course there are a lot of TV shows which cast supporting and guest spots, however, as is always the case with this business, getting seen by these people isn’t always as easy – you really have to have a good agent. But I do think there’s a lot more opportunity here to get your foot in the door as long as you can find the right people to help you get there and when you do make it onto something big, the rewards are high.

Steve West

Would you encourage young actors to move to LA?

I would if they really want to work in TV and film. It is not a place for the faint hearted though. You may come here with great training and a great look but you are coming to the place where everyone comes to act, so you need some real fortitude and a strong sense of self –  Hollywood will tell you a million and one things – it is you who has to keep your head on straight in this crazy town.

What would be your advice for an actor considering moving to the US for their career?

You have to be able to network here, as the saying goes, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. I also think the British aren’t necessarily used to standing up and proclaiming that we are good at something but in LA being too humble or modest doesn’t get you very far. You have to be able to sell yourself and own your achievements, you have to be positive and confident and ready to impress people. You are up against a huge amount of competition – but that doesn’t mean it is impossible.

What are the practicalities involved?

You will need to sort out a work visa or green card which is not easy. If you are lucky enough to be coming over here with a big agency who will send you to auditions for main roles and regular parts on TV, then they will get you a visa but for the working actor that is not an option – you’ll need that in place beforehand.

Any final tips?

My last piece of advice is to take things with a pinch of salt. LA is a town where lots of things get said but don’t necessarily happen and that can be strange and difficult to deal with. Projects are on and off, people seem very keen to see you for something and then you never hear from them again, you do a great audition and the job is practically yours but then the writer knows someone who has been on a big TV show and so the part goes to them. There is a lot to contend with but if you’ve got the determination and strength of spirit this is where the really big opportunities are.

Are you planning a move to LA? Let us know below.

Hollywood image by Tony Hoffarth from Flickr via a CC Licence.