An Essential Guide for Actors Moving to NYC

It’s officially 2 weeks until Christmas! YAY! What does everyone have planned this holiday season? Let me know in the comments below. I’m staying in NYC by myself since Matthew is going home to Hong Kong. I’ll be working on the blog a lot. I have sooo many exciting topics coming up & I’m really looking forward to sharing them with you all!

A lot of my followers seemed to want to have more blog posts in the Theatre section, so here is an essential guide that I put together for those who are looking forward to moving to NYC to kickstart their acting career.  

Your Living Situation

When you first move to NYC as an actor, the thing you should really focus on first and foremost is getting yourself a secure & safe place to live in. This will be your permanent home (or at least that’s the goal), because moving in NYC is a pain in the butt. You need to find a place you like, especially in a neighbourhood that feels comfortable for you. If you’re not in a rush or anything, you might want to take a little more time in finding your home. So what that means is that you should look into the option of subletting a room first while you’re looking for your permanent home. You can join groups on Facebook such as Gypsy Housing NYC, NYC Actor Sublet Connection, Columbia Housing etc. There’s a bunch of them on Facebook so just join them all & scroll through them to see if there are any sublets that sound good. Be careful of scams and make sure you see the place before you move in. Don’t pay anyone anything before knowing it exists. Skype the person before you meet them. Please be smart & safe.

There are a couple of ways you can look for apartments. You can have a roommate(s) in mind, it doesn’t really matter – but just know that if you do end up finding a 3 bedroom, you’ll need to fill the other 2 rooms quickly so you can put in an application. Getting an apartment in NYC is vicious. It’s first-come-first-serve. You gotta move at a quick pace! So maybe it is slightly easier to know ahead of time who you want to live with. I have used brokers as well as found my own apartment in the past. Brokers are great because they get exclusive listings in certain neighbourhoods, but of course you have to pay 12-15% of the annual rent. If you’re interested in using a broker, I have a contact who only charges 1 month’s rent instead of the crazy 15%, which is a steal! So let me know if you want his contact. He’s an awesome dude. Regarding apps, I found these iPhone apps really useful: Zumper, Zillow and Naked Apartments. You can select a “no fee” option & lots of great deals will pop up. You will need to schedule your apartment viewings wisely. I also found my no-fee studio on www.nybits.com. They’re worth checking out!

A lot of actors love living in Washington Heights, West/Central Harlem, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side. In NYC, I’m sorry to tell you that you can’t have it all. Unless you have a crazy high budget, you cannot expect to have all of the following: proximity to midtown, space and price. I’m always willing to sacrifice space for a closer train ride because I’m a very lazy commuter. It comes down to really knowing what kind of person you are. You need to be honest with yourself. You can’t assume just because you’re moving to a new city, your bad habits will automatically disappear & that you’re going to “re-invent” yourself. Play it safe. I’m only telling you this because you want NYC to work for you. I knew that if I lived anywhere above 110th street, I would never go to auditions because I simply wouldn’t wake up in the morning & spend another 30-45 minutes on the train. Trains also suck in NYC, so keep in mind if you’re the type of person who’s always running late, you will never be on time. 

Rent wise, my portion of rent was $1250 for a 2 bedroom in the Upper East Side. Not the most glamourous apartment, but it was a decent size. My room was quite small with a built in closet. In NYC, heat & hot water are included. For wifi, you should look into RCN (which is what I use. I find them lovely). I pay around $39 a month, & my utilities bill is usually $50 total. During the summer months, it can rack up to $100 because of AC. The further away from midtown you go, the more affordable rent will be. To help you get an estimate of how much you should budget for rent, $900-$1500 is a good ballpark depending on the neighbourhood you want to live in.

The final thing I will say about getting an apartment is you should get your guarantor’s documents ready when you view your apartments. Unless you and your roommate(s) are already earning 40x the rent, you’ll need a guarantor who earns 80x the rent. They’ll need to prepare documents such as: Letter of Employment stating their salary, Last 3 Bank Statements, Last 3 Paystubs, Most Recent Tax Return and I.D. information. They’ll also need their credit checked! Get on this if you are serious about apartment hunting in NYC.

Everything in NYC happens really quickly, especially when you’re finding an apartment. You honestly don’t need to start looking for apartments until 2 weeks before your desired move-in date. When you have found your apartment, you should look into TaskRabbit for movers. Click here for $10 off.

Getting Ready for Auditions

You’ll want to get your headshots & resume ready. I print my headshots in either Hong Kong or Reproductions. Reproductions’ quality is great & you can print it in bulk. You can also print it for cheaper if you keep going back to them to print the same headshot. Headshots are an important way to introduce yourself to casting directors, but don’t go crazy on spending $$$ over taking your headshots. You should also remember that you will look different after a year in NYC – you will look way more mature whether you like it or not. So don’t drop the big bucks at the beginning of your move to NYC – be patient. Headshots don’t matter as much for theatre work (in my opinion). As long it’s a photogenic picture of yourself where your eyes are active & not dead, it’ll suffice – I promise. For commercial headshots, you want to show more of a teeth-y smile, & maybe some character shots to show versatility for TV work. When you first move to the city, everyone’s going to tell you something different. Some agents/casting directors will like your headshot, some won’t. It’s all very subjective, so the most important thing to keep in mind when you choose your headshot photographer is that you love their photography style. I know I don’t look good against a colour block background, so I have chosen photographers in the past who uses more of a textural background. 

Below is my main headshot I use for everything. Deborah Lopez took my shots. I 150% recommend her work. She is absolutely amazing & I have never had headshots turn out like the ones she took. I really like her photography style because it works for both film & theatre.

Audition Outfits

I love wearing Lulu’s to auditions. I love wearing their jumpsuits & midi dresses. Wear a nice colour; nothing with too much pattern. I always wear a cute bootie or kitten heels (from Steven Madden) because I’m more comfortable in them & feel more grounded. Make sure you go into the room feeling like yourself. I hate wearing a dress & 3 inch heels, so I’ve stopped wearing that.  As long as you look put together & you’re dressed smart-casual, no one will care what you wear. Just be sure to dress in the style of the show though! So no jeans for classic musicals, please! For men, it’s a lot of khaki/dark wash pants with a cute button-down shirt & oxfords. 

Stay in Shape

It’s important that you stay in shape amidst all of the stress. Keep taking dance classes at Broadway Dance Center &/or Steps on Broadway. As an actor who’s not the most comfortable with dancing, I love taking Jeff Shade’s Beginner Theatre Jazz class at Steps. Jim Cooney’s class at BDC is challenging for sure, but he keeps the class fun & professional; he is a great teacher! I’m really self-conscious about dancing, so I’m still finding my way back into dance classes. I also hear great things about Alvin Ailey. For those who want a less intimidating environment (trust me, I get it!), look into Motivated Movers.

I also use Classpass to stay fit. I like Classpass because they work on a cool credit system & you can take whatever classes you want from Yoga to Spin classes to Kickboxing to Barry’s Bootcamp. If you want to try it out, you can use my code here & you’ll get $40 off for your first month! Steps on Broadway is also on there, so you can save so much money by using Classpass at Steps! Classpass isn’t only in NYC, so give it a try! I love them.

Keep Taking Classes

Keep keep keep taking classes. You should always keep up with your craft. Taking classes in NYC can get very expensive, so you have to be smart about picking and choosing what you think will help you grow as an artist. I like taking voice lessons with 2 different teachers. They teach different techniques & that’s what I found work for me! Just because a voice teacher charges $200 does not mean they’re the best for you. You need to figure out who clicks with you the most & who you’re comfortable with, as well as help you achieve the results you want to achieve. Regarding working on material/callback material, I like to work with Jasper Grant who is an awesome vocal coach in the city. He is a fabulous accompanist & doesn’t like to waste anybody’s time. His sessions are more about story-telling rather than vocal technique – so how you deliver a song. I also love taking Musical Theatre acting classes at Jen Waldman Studio. Jen is an amazing teacher with a phenomenal teaching approach. I cannot speak about her highly enough! For film classes, I really like Actor’s Connection. I hear good things about One on One as well but have never had the chance to try it out. In the past, I’ve taken resident director classes at The Growing Studio, which I really enjoyed as well. The Growing Studio creates a lot of opportunities for you to meet the associate directors/music directors etc. of a particular Broadway show, where you can work on the material from the show directly to get a better sense of what they’re looking for in an audition room.

Survival Jobs

While you’re auditioning, you need to pay your bills. Find a survival job you don’t mind going to everyday. I’ve never worked as a server & never will. I hear it’s soul sucking & I can’t deal with people in that capacity. Try looking for survival jobs that make you feel good, whatever that means to you. For example, if you love working out, try looking for jobs at Pure or Barry’s Bootcamp or Equinox. If you love yoga, work at a yoga studio like Y7. If you love organizing, work as a personal assistant or events. If you like photography, work with a photographer or a photo studio. Stay creative. Stay inspired. Otherwise, NYC can be difficult to navigate. 

Going to Auditions

Depending on if you’re Equity or Non-Equity, this will be a very different experience for you. If you’re Equity, you can sign up online/you’ll get priority over Non-Equity members on the day. But if you’re Non-Equity, you need to be vigilant & smart about taking care of yourself. I’ve lived the Non-Equity life – it’s not for the faint of heart. Because you want to try and get seen at an EPA/ECC (Equity Principal Audition/Equity Chorus Call), you have no choice but to wake up at the butt crack of dawn & show up at Pearl/Ripley Studios & sign up on the unofficial list. The unofficial list is a list Non-Equity actors start way before the audition in hopes of getting seen that day. Most people start signing up at 5:30-6am & sometimes don’t get seen because there is no time. You have to be ready for that & don’t take it personally. There is a website called Audition Update where you can track the progress of each audition (I hear Audition Update is moving locations on the internet, so make sure you read where). People will post on it how many people have signed up by a certain time, so you know where you’ll end up on the list if you’re still on your way. After you sign up, you don’t have to show up again until the audition starts. The best chances of getting seen are if you’re 1-15 on the unofficial list, but that’s still not a guarantee. This unofficial list will be transferred to an official Non-Equity list after the audition starts. This official list will be on the monitor’s (the person who is running the audition) table. You’ll spend a lot of time waiting around that day, so bring things to do or schedule your day wisely. If they see Non-Equity that day, they’re usually not seen until after lunch. People on Audition Update can also be shady as hell, so… beware.

Finding Auditions to Go To

I use Backstage, Actor’s Access, Casting Networks & Playbill to look for auditions.

Getting An Agent

Your short-term goal should be getting an agent shortly after moving to NYC. Getting an agent can be very useful & make your life so much easier. Do the traditional thing & submit to every agency you see fit. There is a whole list of agencies on Backstage, so use it wisely & mail your headshots/resume in! You can also take agent seminars at Actor’s Connection where you have the option of doing a monologue/singing a song for a specific agent from an agency. This is an intimate way of helping them get to know you & hopefully get you the representation you want! 

Take Care of Yourself

 

Guys. This is the most important. Make sure you take care of yourself. Mentally and physically. You are your worst enemy. Don’t go out the night before and party if you know you have an audition to go to the next day. Get enough sleep. Don’t overwork yourself at your survival job. Prioritise your auditions, not your survival job. Pick and choose the auditions you think will be most beneficial for your career. Despite the contrary, don’t go to every audition because you will get burned out (especially if you’re Non-Equity)! Reach out to people if you need help. Stay kind. Find your own people & support system. Stay connected to your friends but don’t try and please everyone. Take time for yourself because your journey’s not going to be easy – NYC can get extremely tiring, depressing & lonely. This is why you have to take care of yourself. You will find your own groove. You will make it in the big apple. You will book work. You just got to stay committed, stay hungry & persevere. It won’t always be pretty, but there will always moments of magic in it. I promise.

If you found this post useful, please share it on your social media & let me know what other things you want to know about the business. Until next time!

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1 Comment

  1. May 13, 2019 / 3:08 pm

    Hi Viveca,

    This is hands down one of the most informative guides for a catered set of prospective New Yorkers.

    Regarding the living situation section, I wanted to get http://www.transparentcity.co on your radar as a source of no broker fee apartments for your readers on top of the different facebook housing groups you mentioned. The thousand dollar broker fees are killer for any aspiring actress and aren’t needed to move into an apartment in NYC.

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