The decision to become a Hollywood actress is a long and sometimes difficult path, but the diligent few who persist can earn an excellent living. Gone are the days of being "discovered" like Lana Turner at the coffee shop counter. Instead, today's hard working actress will have to go to auditions daily and keep her portfolio and credentials in tip top shape.
The head shot required for an audition must be updated regularly, every six months. When selecting your photographer, be sure he or she has had experience in the business, and knows how to light your face to reduce flaws. Use your best head and shoulder photo, color or black and white, and transfer the image to a heavy stock photo paper, adding your vital statistics and contact information to the bottom. For a comprehensive list of Hollywood photographers, check the trade journals for advertisements.
For the actress just starting out, the jobs may be limited to low pay and non-union projects, so you want to have the strongest union card possible to be eligible for better work. You may get yourself an AFTRA card for a price, approximately $1300, and must pay the full amount up-front. This card will open the door to unionized work with industry guidelines and decent pay.
The next step is to get a SAG card, but this process cannot be purchased on demand like an AFTRA card. To get into the Screen Actor's Guild, you must be working on a SAG approved project and then recommended for membership by the producer or director. If you have an AFTRA, you are much more likely to get the job with a SAG project and able to able for your own membership.
In addition, the agent you select is very important and instrumental in getting you to the right auditions. Your agency should not be charging a fee, unless it is for a photography package. He or she takes 15% of the acting payment, and is thus motivated to put you to work.
When it’s time for your auditions, be sure that you make every appointment. The worst thing you can do to anger your agent is to not show up on time for a reading. If you don't get the part, there's no harm done, but you have to go to every appointment set for you. In between times, ask your agent to book you for public appearances at local events where there is likely to be a camera or reporter. There is no money for this type of event, but the publicity will mount and can be the difference between a casting agent knowing your name or face. Keep your image positive and in from of the public as much as you can, and the rest will take care of itself, one day at a time.