Part of being successful in this industry is knowing when you’ve outgrown your market. Do you remember your first paid acting gig in Louisville? Were you performing in front of a full house at the Pamela Brown Auditorium? Maybe you had an ensemble part in a musical  at Whitney Hall. Were you in short film with a budget, or maybe even a feature headed to Sundance? Louisville has a great acting community, but the larger the market, the larger the opportunities and sometimes to get to that next level, you’re going to have to pack up and go back to being a small fish in a big pond.

I’m Michael Schacht and I’m a headshot photographer in Chicago, Il. If you’re looking to step up to a larger market, I think Chicago is the obvious choice, but before you quit your day job and break your lease, I think it’s important that you be as prepared as possible for the move. Here are 10 things I think you should know before leaving Louisville to pursue an acting career in Chicago.

Did you know there are more plays produced in Chicago, than in NYC? They’re smaller productions, but our live theater scene is thriving. In 2016 there were 10 television shows and 7 major motion pictures filmed in Chicago.

  1. Get to know the city before you move here. If you sign a 12 month lease in an area you don’t like, it’s going to be a long year. There are lots of things to consider, like proximity to public transportation, rental cost, and general neighborhood safety. Do not under any circumstances move to a suburb.
  2. Polish up that resume. Are you currently waiting tables or making lattes between auditions and rehearsals? You’re probably going to be doing that here too. Honesty is the best policy. Tell your potential employers that you need flexibility so that you can continue to audition. It might take a little longer, but finding the right fit is essential to your success as an actor.
  3. Learn to love commercial work. Being that we’re smack dab in the middle of NYC and LA, there’s a lot of commercial work shot here, and it’s often the highest paying work in town. You’re an artist, I get that, but suck it up and take the money every now and again so that you can afford to donate time on a passion project now and again. It’s great experience, and like I said, it generally pays well.
  4. Network, network, network! Start networking now. Hop on social media and start making friends with people in the industry. Hit up actors, directors, even photographers. The faster you can earn a spot in this wonderful acting community, the faster you’ll have friends bringing you in on their personal projects and talking you up on their sets to their directors and such.
  5. Chicago is nicknamed The Windy City. That has nothing to do with the awful winds we have in the winter and everything to do with the fact that we don’t stop talking.
  6. Leave your car in Louisville. Between the trains, the busses, and uber, you’re covered. Parking spots and parking tickets are luxeries you’re not going to be able to afford at first.
  7. Plan for things not to go as planned. It’s going to take longer than you think to land that first part, get that first job, make that first million.
  8. You need an awesome headshot to hit the ground running. Not a good headshot, an awesome headshot. The kind of a headshot that makes a casting director do a double take. Your first stop is going to be the local talent agencies, and they’re not going to take you seriously without one.
  9. You’re going to want an agent. An agent is going to have access to auditions that you just can’t get without one. A good agent is deeply connected to local film/tv/stage scene and they work for you. They don’t get paid unless they get you work. A good agent won’t put you on their roster unless they believe they can book you. Here’s a list of agencies worth reaching out to.

Recommended Agencies

Big Mouth Talent
900 N. Franklin Street, #709
Chicago, IL 60610
On Camera: Kelly McLaughlin
Kids: Brooke Tonneman
Bmg Talent
456 N. May St.
Chicago, IL 60622
Agent:: Jaime Henderson
Gray Talent Group
727 S. Dearborn Suite 312
Chicago, IL 60605
Dawn Gray, Owner/Agent
Kiki Kapral, Julietta Sanchez
Grossman Jack Talent
33 W Grand Avenue, Suite 402
Chicago, IL 60654
On Camera: Bob Schroeder, Donna Simon,
Jess Jones

Lily’s Talent Agency
1017 W. Washington Blvd, #4F
Chicago, IL 60607
On Camera: Stephanie Potakis
Paonessa Talent Agency
1512 N. Fremont Suite 105
Chicago, IL 60642
Owner/ Agent: Marisa Paonessa
Samantha Siroky
Shirley Hamilton, Inc.
333 E. Ontario, #302B
Chicago, IL 60611
President: Lynne Hamilton
Print Director: Laurie Hamilton
On Camera: Renee Keen, Morgan Manock
Stewart Talent
58 W. Huron
Chicago, IL 60610
Theatre: Sam Samuelson
TV/Film: Todd Turina
Kids: Jenny Wilson