This question came from a reader (sorry - it took me THIS long to respond)
<--- this is solely my personal perspective --->
My answer is: VERY HARD. Considering New York is known to be the Theater World, and LA is the http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifTV/Film Land. So, already, there are less TV shows that is being shot in New York, so the opportunities of getting a TV/Film audition is already less compare if you are in Los Angeles.
But it's not the End of the World. Seriously - there are many working Actors in New York, mostly Theatre Actors - but they do work on TV/Film projects from time to time. An audition is an audition - no one really limits their career in just "Theatre" or "TV/Film" only. If that's the case, then having a career as a Working Actor can be very tough in New York.
My friend Timothy is a good example. When I first met him on set (of a short film), I was aware of that he was starring in an Off-Broadway show. In additions to the show, he also bar-tended part time to maintain his living expenses. Plus vocal training, scene study & audition technique classes, GYM, and headshot/resume /postcard - all cost money. Eventually, he started to shift his focus tohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifTV and FILM - and have gotten reoccurring roles on Day Time Soap, as well as Guest Star roles on TV shows, plus a number of commercials.
Sounds good, right? For an Actor to do both Theatre/TV/Film/Commercial - But guess what? he ended up moving to Los Angeles, because he wants to focus on TV/Film works.
Just a couple month ago, on Twitter, I asked another Actor friend of mine Russ Russo:
Me: So, now that you are in LA - do you feel there's more opportunities in the West Coast?
Him: for TV and film. Yes. Theatre. Not as much
It's as simple as that. In order to not have a survival job (full time or part time), and still making a living doing solely Acting, getting income on a regular basis - it's hard to come by in New York. Especially there are more Film "Stars" who started to work on TV series... All the 'known' TV actors get bumped down to Guest Stars roles, and the usual "Guest Star" actors got bumped down to Co-Star, and then so and so forth. If you are not a Name talent - how can you possibly beat the competition?
The brutal truth is - the best actor does not always get the role.
Have real acting chops will help an actor prolong his/her career - but in order to get through the door, there are many factors involved. Especially....
Who are you? Do people know you? Can you draw an audience?
In the world of Show Business - it's all about the business at the end of the day. How much money can the production company make from having you in the cast?
So usually, for a bigger budget production (or commercially marketed film), the producers would like to have a recognizable name. (Honestly, would you go watch a movie with a bunch people you don't know? Or you rather spend your money on a film starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Emma Stone, Johnny Depp, Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, and Ryan Gosling?)
That is when a Casting Office is hired to handle the casting. Getting the right names and talents to fill the puzzle.
Getting the Audition
Talent Agents and Managers can pitch their talents to the Casting Office - in order to get their clients audition appointments. (Bigger Name talents, are usually offer only)
If the Casting Office is not familiar with the Actor's work - the question is usually "What has he/she done?"
Then the talent representative will have to list all the recognizable projects that the actor has done... and see if that is name-worthy enough to get the appointment. (other factors that may help an Agent/Manager to pitch their client is pedigree (graduated from well known school), relatives of someone famous, and trained by a prestigious acting teacher, etc.)
Something that will guarantee this Actor will not waste the Producer, Director, and the Casting Director's time.
Once the appointment is granted - it's up to the Actors to ace the Audition and the Call Back.
Getting the right Representation
For bigger legit projects, the Actors need the right representation to help them move up the Acting Career Ladder.
So what attracts the Agents and Manager's attention (aside from the obvious physical appearance)?
It's what you have done, and what can you do.
What have you done - Projects that will attract people's attention. A popular Theatre/TV/Film that you recently starred. If you are currently starring in a popular show, or gotten good reviews in the paper, Agents/Managers/Casting Directors will pay attention.
What can you do - When auditioning or invited Agents/Managers to your show - make sure you make them your fan! Show them what you can and share the passion for the craft. People will need to believe in you in order for them to help you.
Once you got yourself a representation, you still have go go out on your own to create more work, and continue to work on your craft. When you book something, let your agent/manager know, so they can use that to pitch you to the Casting Office.
How to get into a Popular Show?
Work your way up.
From off-off-off Broadway, to Off-Off Broadway, to Off-Broadway, and then Broadway.
From student films, to Independent Films, to Low-budget Films, and then Hollywood Films.
From ensembles/background, to day players/co-stars, to Guest Stars, Principal, Supporting and Leading Roles.
I'm a strong believer of Work brings more Work. (And you need to be in the center of where "WORK" is, to get more "Work, right?)
If you are truly passionate about Acting as a career - and this is something you want to do for the rest of your life. Eventually, your passion will help to guide you to the right direction.
It's the combination of perseverance, talent, skill, and dedication.