How to Become an Actor in New Orleans
Back in the 1990s, Anthony Michael Frederick was working as a model in New Orleans, Louisiana. After transitioning into Equity theater and then background work, the New Orleans native got his first speaking role in a film in 1998, in a low-budget feature shooting locally. That it turned out to be the history-making Monster’s Ball (for which Halle Berry would win her Oscar) epitomizes both Frederick’s acting POV, as well what has kept him working in the Big Easy for all these years since: You never know where one opportunity could lead.
Frederick recently hopped on the phone with Casting Networks to share his advice for obtaining representation, what you do—and do not—need in order to make it in his hometown, and other crucial tips for how to become an actor in New Orleans.
To work steadily in NOLA, you should be adaptable.
In the mid-to-late ’90s, the industry down here wasn’t that big. There were a few pilots that shot but didn’t get picked up, a couple TV shows. Then in the 2000s, it picked up because of the tax incentives [to shoot in Louisiana] and suddenly tons of productions came down. When I first got started, I would walk into auditions and they couldn’t figure out what I was—because I’m Creole, I’m everything! They were like, We don’t know how to cast you. So they said, “Can you lose the New Orleans accent?” It sounds to most people like a laid-back New Jersey accent. I spent years losing it. Then, when New Orleans became more popular and most productions based here were also set here, it became: “Can you do the New Orleans accent?” So I picked it back up!
Chasing fame? Keep moving. Chasing longevity? New Orleans could be for you.
Having roots here has kept me here and I also had a business here, I owned a nightclub for 10 years. But most of all what has kept me here is that there is enough work. I never wanted to be famous, I’ve just wanted to do the work. Do I regret not going to Los Angeles? Sometimes, but this has been my path. I have known a lot of actors who did leave for Los Angeles and they got beat up and came crawling back—actors with more experience than me. And of those who have not left, I am now one of the busiest working actors in New Orleans. There are so many productions here now. I have three auditions I have to put on tape this week!
To stay booked and busy, you may want a region-specific agent—and you may want more than one.
I have an agent in Houston who deals with the Southwest market, I have a Southeast agent and I have a New York agent. Between New Mexico, Texas, Atlanta, Mississippi and New Orleans, I stay pretty busy. And it’s so much easier with everything being self-tape now; the only difference is whether or not you work as a local hire if you get the job. It’s typical to have multiple agents in different regions, but only if your agent allows it. I’ve always had multiple because I don’t want to miss any opportunities. You will miss opportunities if you are exclusively with one agency. But here in the Southeast, I only have one agent and this is where the bulk of my work is.
But you don’t necessarily need an agent to work in New Orleans.
If you are union, you need an agent to work out here. If you are nonunion, there is a ton of stuff you can do without an agent. You can submit yourself. I still submit myself sometimes! My agents don’t like it, but I’m not going to let opportunity pass. I need to work, and if I see a listing, I’m not going to wait.
Here’s what to do on Day 1 in New Orleans.
Reach out to local casting. There’s about four or five local casting directors who cast everything in this area. Reach out, make connections, get a great agent who also has a relationship with those casting directors. As far as getting an agent in New Orleans, it’s pretty much the same as anywhere else: Try to find an agency who needs a person like you, an agent who doesn’t have tons of your type already, someone who understands what your goals are in this business, someone who will listen to you and someone whose needs you can understand. You have to look around, figure out what’s what and do your homework.
Here are your money-saving tips for New Orleans:
The cost of living here has increased dramatically in the last 5–10 years. It’s not as easy to be a working artist here anymore. There is also a lot more competition than there used to be. So many actors are moving to the Southeast market. Actors have more resources now, too, making them more competitive. The level of talent has risen. There are ways to save money, though: There is a lot of temptation in New Orleans, but you can’t go out to eat and drink too much. It’s also a fairly small city and if you don’t need a car for other reasons, you can probably get by as an actor without one and save money on gas and insurance. The city has become very bike-friendly. Find somewhere to live uptown, because that’s where most of the casting offices are, and you’ll be able to get there by bike if you’re needed for an in-person audition or callback.
If you embrace your acting community, it will embrace you back.
When auditions were in-person, it was actually to a fault because every time, it was a big reunion. I’d walk into an audition and I’d have to lock myself in the bathroom because everyone was socializing and I’d get distracted from my audition. It’s a very inviting community, everyone’s very supportive. We tape each other’s auditions now. I have friends who I’ve been working with or alongside for 20 plus years. We used to all get in the car together and drive to auditions, going for the same role. It’s a big family, and you definitely see the same faces in that room.
It’s the same thing on the casting side. These casting directors, I can name five of them whom I have known for 20 years. They’ve watched me grow, I’ve watched them become more successful. You get to know what it is they like and are looking for. You know what they dislike. And they start to think of you for certain jobs. They’ll keep up with you, because that’s their job to pay attention.
Don’t miss the real New Orleans experience.
Treme is right across from the French Quarter and that is the heartbeat of New Orleans culture. New Orleans is like no other city in the United States, it’s a world of its own. It’s an amalgamation of so many cultures. There are some TV shows that shoot here that I am not part of whatsoever but that I watch just because New Orleans is a character in itself. In order to experience all of what New Orleans has to show you, you need to get into the neighborhoods to see where the culture comes from.
|New Orleans versus…||National Average||Los Angeles||New York City|
|Cost of Living||-4.6%||-42.3%||-39.7%|
Sources: BestPlaces.net, Salary.com, Zillow, AAA, Rent.com
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