One of the biggest hurdles that every actor comes across at some point in their career is finding auditions, and unfortunately having an agent doesn’t always guarantee casting opportunities. Whether you have an agent or not, understanding how to find auditions will ensure your career is self-sustainable.
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Do You Need an Agent to Get Acting Auditions?
No, you definitely don’t need a talent agent to get auditions. Whilst agents have connections with some of the top casting directors in the industry and can help you get auditions for larger productions; it’s still very possible to make a full-time career as an unrepresented actor.
But to do this, you have to be intentional. Waiting for the phone to ring or scrolling through social media won’t cut it. If you want to get access to casting calls and acting auditions, you’ll have to put the time and effort into the things that will get you these auditions.
Finding Acting Auditions without an Agent
There are many ways to find acting auditions without an agent. While it’s easy to simply say that you should “network” I don’t think that’s very useful. So here I’ll be listing the 5 best opportunities to find acting auditions today.
Casting websites are by far the easiest way to find casting opportunities, but that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily the best option. Whilst many filmmakers and casting directors use these sites to find actors, they definitely don’t guarantee you an audition.
Casting websites aren’t all born equal, some may be essential and some may be a waste of money. Here are three of the most popular based on location.
Backstage is one of the biggest casting websites in the industry worldwide with over 100,000 paying members and 2,500 projects post each week for theatre, film, TV and commercials. Whether you’re based in the US, Canada, UK, or Australia, Backstage has auditions for you.
By joining, you will get access to a free profile that shows off your headshots, demo reels, credits, training and physical characteristics.
There are over 1,300 casting directors on the site that can find your profile and contact you for auditions through filtered search options, or you can search through their job boards. Although to apply you must pay a subscription fee.
From my personal experience, there is a lot to like about Backstage. If you don’t have an agent or are looking to find work independently, create an account and try it out. If you don’t like it, or there isn’t much for you, you’ll still have an awesome free online profile where people can find you.
Actors Access (North America Only)
Actors Access is a website owned by Breakdown Services, a company founded in 1971. Breakdown Services posts over 43,000 breakdowns annually and has over 845,000 actors in its database.
The Casting Society of America officially endorsed them in 2014 as their preferred online resource for casting. So it’s safe to say that they’re well established.
Whilst anyone can join Actors Access, many of the bigger jobs are only accessible through Breakdown Services site, Breakdown Express. But Breakdown Express can only be accessed if you have an agent or manager.
Joining Actors Access will give you access to an online resume that displays your headshots, demo reels, credits, training and physical characteristics.
While creating an account is free, submitting yourself to projects isn’t. There are two options, you can either pay $2 per submission plus the cost of other addons, or you can pay $68 annually for a full account with unlimited submissions. If you’re looking to make acting a career, I’d highly suggest paying for the full membership. SAG-AFTRA members even get a 20% discount!
Spotlight (UK Only)
Spotlight is an absolute must for all professional actors based in the UK! Every casting director and agent in the industry uses it, and getting an agent without a membership can actually be quite hard.
Unfortunately getting access to Spotlight isn’t as easy as the other sites on this list. It’s not as simple as signing up, there’s a set of requirements that you must first meet. This ensures that actors on the platform have a certain level of practice and experience and helps Spotlight remain the go-to place for casting directors.
If you’d like to know more about the requirements, costs and tips on meeting the requirements, I recently wrote an article on how to join Spotlight that I’d highly recommend you read.
Once you’re a member, you’ll get access to an industry-standard CV that is recognised by professional casting directors. These casting directors will be able to find your profile and ask you to audition, or you can go through their job board and apply yourself.
Spotlight becomes even more powerful once you get an agent, as the top films and tv shows that are filmed in the UK are all cast through the platform, but these auditions are usually reserved for actors with agents. From my personal experience, Spotlight is an absolute must for actors in the UK. Once you’re eligible, sign up and get your profile!
ShowCast (Australia Only)
ShowCast is the leading casting company in Australia and has been for 60 years. As I’ve never worked in Australia, I don’t have any personal experience with this platform, but from what I’ve heard, if you want to become a professional actor in Australia, you must become a member!
It’s really easy to join, and they offer a range of profile options that display your contact details, headshots, credits, characteristics and other media, depending on the membership option you choose.
All notable casting directors in Australia are on the platform and are able to find you through their filtered search function. If you’re an actor based in Australia, whether you have an agent or not, I’d recommend you join ShowCast.
If you have little experience, a great place to start is by joining some online actor and filmmaker groups in your area. These can be found by going to sites like Facebook and typing in your city name and “actors” or “filmmakers”.
These groups always have posts with opportunities. Whilst the large majority of these are unpaid, usually just paying expenses, you can find paid opportunities here too. Many Students like to post jobs through this method.
I understand that not everybody wants to work for free. But as someone that did when I first started, I actually believe it’s more of a help than a hindrance. You can constantly experiment and put what you’re learning into practice.
You can collate footage to put together your first showreel which can help land you more roles in the future and will show agents that you’re putting in the work. You can network with up-and-coming filmmakers and make connections that may pay off in the future.
The more experience you have when you’re first starting off, the better you will be moving forward. If you’re struggling to land that first acting job, online groups are a great place to start.
Follow Casting Directors on Social Media
In the modern world where social media is part of our daily lives, more and more on a daily basis casting directors are attempting to reach out to a wider pool of performers. This happens a lot on both Twitter and Instagram, although my personal favourite is Twitter.
Many of the top casting directors post casting opportunities on Twitter, especially for BAME and LGBTQ+ roles. It’s also just a great way to get to know casting directors better.
People say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” by following the casting directors that are casting the work you want to be a part of, you will develop a depth of knowledge of the people that are casting the work around you. The more you know, the more equipt you will be and the more lines you will have in the water.
Use Social Media Intentionally
With the rise of short-form video content, many actors have been blowing up on social media recently by creating their own content. This is then shared by actors, casting directors, and industry professionals across the web and their names are heard around the industry.
This is a great example of actors using social media intentionally. They made funny, relatable content that allowed casting directors to see their personalities and who they truly are.
Below is a tweet from Hannah Marie Williams, a casting director in the UK saying that their casting office has been using TikTok to scout for new talent.
We’ve been using TikTok to scout for a while (and got mildly addicted during). Give us a follow if you like 🚀 pic.twitter.com/woUGhR9SQ2— Hannah Marie Williams (@hannahcasting) September 1, 2022
Many casting directors say that it’s their job to find new up-and-coming talent, by being intentional on social media, not just posting randomly but creating relatable content that displays your personality, you can put in front of these casting directors.
You don’t have to copy other creators, in fact, it’s not recommended. This isn’t for everyone, but if you’d like to give it a try, be yourself and try new things!
Reach Out to Casting Directors
A Casting Directors’ job is to find the best actor for a role, therefore Casting Directors want to know as many actors as possible. The best way to do this is by reaching out via email.
I personally had Casting Directors contact my agent after I emailed them and I know people that have landed their debut TV role, before they had an agent, by simply emailing the person who cast the show.
You don’t have to be spammy, simply send a short email introducing yourself and give them your promotional material, i.e. headshots, showreel etc. If you’ve just been in a film or show, let them know where they can watch it, and if you’re in a theatre production, offer them free tickets (although make sure to give them as much notice as possible as Casting Directors are very busy)
The chances are you won’t straight up get an audition from doing this, and they may not even reply. But they will definitely read your email, they will see your headshot and they may even look at your work. That is a huge step!
Think about that for a second… The person that cast your favourite show or film could be reading your email and watching your showreel right now! How exciting is that?
If you then work on another project a few months later, let them know where they can watch it. If they see that you’re actively working, they will take notice. And one day, if they just so happen to be casting a role that fits your casting type, they may just ask you to audition.
The most important thing is that you’re not spammy and not too pushy or you’ll end up on their blacklist. Build up a relationship, be professional and move on.