Moving to the States: How to do it (and get ready).
Updated: Jul 4, 2019
For actors and performers, and in general entertainment people, places like Hollywood and Broadway seem like the promise land, where dreams come true and anything is possible.
This is probably true… to a certain extent.
The factory of dreams is surely a very appealing place for anyone in the industry, especially coming from rainy and grey England (yes, I know, winters in NYC are harsh, but summers are glorious!) and there is nothing wrong with that. Surely Hollywood is the place to be to try and ‘make it’ in the film industry, as well as Broadway is the place for plays and musical theatre. As a plus, Method Acting is extremely popular in the States and you can find many great classes to go to and work on your emotional and technical skills. Here in London, as you know, the Strasberg Campus is one of the very few places that offers this kind of training.
Before going any further though, it is worth mentioning that London is probably the greatest place in the world for quality theatre, and the film industry has definitely skyrocketed in the last few years. Without mentioning that the best Drama Schools are indeed in the U.K., where you can get a tip-top education, learn the self discipline needed to be an actor at a much more reasonable price that in the States. Having said that, if you really do want to try and make the move to the Land of the Free, there are perhaps a few things to consider.
TRAINING. Consider starting your training in Europe, as the amount of culture and resources that we have at hand is enormous, you’ll be (usually) closer to home and the importance given to theatre is much greater over here than it is in LA. Even if you do ultimately want a predominately film career, always lay the foundation of your training with theatre, as the jump from stage to screen is much more doable that the other way around; theatre is a great acting gym for anyone who wishes to be an actor.
REPRESENTATION. Start getting in touch with agents and managers from early on. Make a list and start writing every six months, or every time you have exciting news about your career: a production you are in, a short film that won an award, your new headshots, etc. You may not get anything out of it at the beginning, but when you then decide to move, you would have been on a number of managers and agent’s radar for a while already. That would make them keener to meet you.
MATERIAL. You headshots, reels, voice-reel (if you are a VO artist), résumé (or CV, as it is called here in the U.K.)… all of the above needs to be in best-looking shape. When you move to New York, San Francisco and especially Los Angeles, you will be a small fish in an ocean full of little teeny tiny swimming creatures, some smaller, some bigger than you. You have to be ready to go and already be ‘sellable’.
PAPERS. Last, but definitely not least, the subject of the working Visa. As you know as European citizens we have the joy of freedom of movement and work within the UK (at least for a little bit longer, given the dramatic uncertainty of the times we live in. #BREXIT), but in the States we need a working Visa to be able to work, and even audition. Such Visa for us, working in the entertainment industry is the O1 Visa, or Visa for Individuals with Extraordinary Abilities. Now, it is important to say that this particular Visa will only allow you to work as an actor, or extra, in the industry. You won’t be legally allowed to do any other job, which could be a big problem for a lot of us. Having said that, many people survive for years in NY, SF and LA solely with an O1 and they get by perfectly well. Now, what do you need to obtain this Visa? The main answer would probably be: A good Immigration Attorney. Having a good, trusted lawyer would give you a higher chance to obtain an O1. Make sure to hire someone who won’t charge you extra for emails and phone calls, and at the same time make sure to hire someone who isn’t too cheap. Anywhere between $3000 and $4000 is a fair rate for a good Immigration Lawyer. Secondly: a sponsor. The sponsor would be the person who requires your presence in the States, and that will be attached to you for the whole duration of the Visa. Usually a sponsor will be your manager or agent (that’s why building relationships early is a good thing, go back to point 2 for this). Thirdly: a considerably large amount of documentation that the lawyer will use to show Immigration your presence in the industry as internationally acclaimed actors. That could mean anything from contracts, call sheets, posters, proofs of payments, as well as your Spotlight and IMDb. Fourthly: Recommendation letters. Anything between 7 and 10 recommendation letters written and signed by people in the industry with whom you have worked with, and who will swear upon your talent and professionalism (the O1 is a Visa for ‘individual of extraordinary abilities’, after all). Fifthly: Deal Memo. A series of letter of intents and contracts that prove Immigration that you will indeed be working as an actor’s for the whole duration of the Visa. These have to be written by directors, producers and casting directors who work in the USA.
After having carefully considered all of the above, you will be ready to make the move to the other side of the pond. When you do, you will want (and should want) to keep up your training as an actor. Here are the best places to find good and recognised Strasberg classes in NY and LA:
The Lee Strasberg Institute
Stella Adler Studio of Acting
The Actor Studio:
The Susan Batson Studio (the Strasberg Campus's Method and Training are inspired to Susan's, who was Lee Strasberg's PA and long-term student. She is still kicking it in NYC, so go and train with her if you can!):
(...And if you can't go yet, well, how about you start with us and see if you love us or what ;) It would be indeed a great preparation for when you start working in the States).
Indeed making the move isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it is absolutely doable. Guys: anything is possible if we put our brilliant minds to it: so chins and spirits up!
Keep striving, keep working, keep focusing on the small steps that make your journey amazing, and remember: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
All the best and see you in class!
The Strasberg Campus Team