Act for Free
No amount of skill will continuously get you paid jobs if you don’t have at least one sample of your acting work online. The funny thing about the acting world is that there is a Catch 22: You need footage of yourself performing to get footage of yourself performing.
What you have to realize is that in order to break into any new industry as someone who runs their own business in a sense (which is what actors basically do), you almost always have to do work for free.
I typically recommend acting in at least five to ten unpaid jobs that look professional and feature you in the forefront before moving onto paid gigs.
For instance, when I first started shooting headshots, I had to shoot about five to ten people for free just to build my portfolio because no one was going to hire me for headshots if they couldn’t see the work I'd done.
"Okay," you say, "But how can I find these unpaid jobs?"
Lots of places. There are many ways to get footage of yourself performing. Visit websites such as www.castingnetworks.com, www.mandy.com, www.actorsaccess.com, and others. You can easily google "casting calls" and find tons of companies that host online casting calls. Just make sure they are in your city and you are able to make it to the auditions.
Fortunately, unpaid jobs are easier to land than paid jobs, so when you start out, it should only take a couple months to build up a decent portfolio of work. The only unfortunate thing is that the production value of unpaid jobs is usually low, meaning they won’t look very professional. But as long as you have shots that really show your acting ability, you should be fine.
Be sure to constantly follow up with the director or producer after a project has been completed to make sure you get your footage. A lot of directors neglect to give out the footage to actors because they have so many other things going on.
In general, the key to getting great samples is to make sure you're acting in something that is going to be recorded. Theater won't do, unless you have someone specifically film it and make sure to get closeups on you. Your samples need to show your acting ability, so you want to be sure that the footage is close enough in that you can see your face clearly.