Thomas Barron Sampson

TV/Film Actor

Thomas Barron Sampson

Thomas Barron Sampson

TV/Film Actor

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So, you want to be an actor?

Thomas - 22/12/2019

Becoming an actor is much easier than you think. You don’t need an agent, training, money, good looks, or even talent when you are first getting started. This post is tailored for new actors getting their start in Houston, TX due to the Facebook groups and other regional websites I mention. If you are not from Houston, you should be able to find similar groups and websites for your city.

Here are some things you will need now, and throughout your acting career.

  1. No one walks onto a major production. Avoid the scammers. – Would you have any chance of getting a starting position on a professional football team if you have never even played the sport? Clearly not. So why would anyone ever fall for those ads that “pay to act” companies create to lure in dreamers and fleece them of their money and dreams. Just like any other profession, acting takes time and effort, study and practice. Don’t get lured in by scammers. There are a lot of big established companies that specialize in taking money from people who are naive about the acting and modeling professions.
  2. Keep your day job! – Building your skill and experience will take time. No one can live on acting alone when they first get started, so don’t go telling your boss to “shove it.”
  3. Be punctual – Being on-time means being 30 minutes early. Never, ever, be late. There are no excuses for being late.
  4. Be nice – Being someone the cast and crew like working with is a big deal. It’s such a big deal, that it can make or break your career. Don’t be an a-hole!
  5. Be prepared – We’ll get into this in more detail later in this post, so read on. Showing up unprepared can be worse than not showing up at all. Get off book! (Memorize your lines) It’s the least you can do and the easiest part of being an actor.
  6. Grit – There are no easy roads to anywhere worth going. Like any other career, acting requires study and practice (lots of it!)

Getting Started

Photos (head shot / body shot)

You need some photos of your face and body. DO NOT PHOTOSHOP your photos. Edited photos end up in the trash, along with your resume and any other documents you submit for casting calls, so don’t do it.

You don’t need to spend money on this at first. Use your smart phone or get a friend to watch a few videos on how to do it and help you. My first photos were selfies taken on my iPhone. These photos were enough to land me my first 5 jobs. After you’ve made some money acting, invest some of it in professional headshots.

Once you know your character type (ie. Leading Man, Leading Lady, Dumb Jock, Girl Next Door, Funny Best Friend, Angry Old Man, Reluctant Hero, Hot Blonde, etc. If you are not sure ask a complete stranger what they think of you!) do some research and find a head-shot photographer who specializes in working with Actors and get headshots to match your character type(s).

Social Media

Swallow your fears about social media, and get on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, (get the free account for now).


At first, you’ have nothing. That’s OK. Don’t put extra/background work on your resume, even it it’s the only thing you’ve done. Also, don’t put things that are not related to acting on your resume.

Head to YouTube and watch videos from Wendy Alane Wright about how to create your Acting resume. You can start here. Staple your headshot, all 4 corners, to the back of your resume.

Now that you are on Social Media, you have some photos and a resume, you are ready to take on your first objective: Doing background work

In TV shows and Movies, whenever you see people walking past the actors, or sitting in the background, these are actually actors! They have an important job and are necessary for 95% of all TV shows and Movies. There is always a demand for background actors! Doing background work is fun and will help you to understand how filming works. It will also help you to lose any fears you might have about it.

Casting Calls

A casting call is an advertisement like a help-wanted ad. A casting director places these ads with hopes of finding actors (i.e. you!) willing to be those people in the background in TV shows and Movies.

Here is where you will find casting calls: (setup a free account for now)

Houston Facebook groups to join:

As soon as you join these groups and sign up for the websites above, you will see dozens (if not hundreds) of casting calls. Now, you need to find casting calls for “background.”

Note the date/time of the job. If you are available, then submit your resume. The odds of getting a response are fairly high for background work, so keep an eye on your email and answer all calls on your phone. We are all accustomed to spam callers and tend to shy away from numbers we don’t know. However, you need to answer them all now, in case it’s a casting director calling.


Keep these numbers in mind: 100/10/1 For every 100 jobs you want (send resume and audition for), you’ll get 10 background and 1 speaking role. These numbers will get better as your skill and resume improves, so keep at it. Treasure every “no,” because it just means you are that much closer to a “yes.” For now, don’t worry about getting paid jobs, just focus on getting cast, so you can gain some experience.

Always be learning!

Get into an acting class, read tons of books, and practice everyday. There’s a great smartphone app called Scenebot that can help you.

Your first acting job!

The day will come quickly when you get asked to do background work. Congratulations, you are now a professional actor! Now, you need to be ready with your wardrobe. Here is what most background jobs will require:

  • 3 changes of clothes
  • No black (except shoes and belt)
  • No white
  • No stripes
  • No logos (even on your phone, if it’s a prop, cover logos with masking tape if needed)
  • No plaid or square patterns
  • Solid colors only
  • Guys, bring both black and brown shoes/belt
  • Ladies, your hair and makeup need to be ready. Background actors rarely get help from makeup and wardrobe crew.

When you arrive at your first job, 15 minutes early, check-in and find other background actors and start making friends! These other background actors, like you, will soon be (if they are not already), well-connected professional actors. Most of them, if not all will have already done background work and will be happy to help you learn the ropes.

In no time, you will be earning $100-200 for background jobs. Now, it’s time to invest in your training. Give Deke Anderson or Shelley Callene-Black at Next Level Acting a call and tell them I sent you! You will also need a home studio, if you don’t want to go broke paying for studio time. A home studio is needed to create self-tapes for auditions for speaking roles. For under $100, you can get a backdrop with stands and lights on Amazon. Shop around for the right size for your home. Use your smart phone camera to record yourself.

Staying Connected

There are lots of ways to stay connected electronically: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Email. However, sometimes it’s nice to hang out with other actors. One place to go for that is

Having actor friends is great when you need someone to read for you on self-tapes. Works great over Skype, WhatsApp, or Facetime calls too!

In Closing

I hope this helps you get started! Here are some fantastic videos from Brad Heller on YouTube. Never stop learning, reading, watching videos, and networking with other actors. If you really want this, you can make it happen. Don’t give up. The only thing that will stop you, is you.

See you on set!

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