Tips for Becoming an Actor
How to become an actor? Well, there are a lot of paths to becoming an actor. For one, there are all sorts of actors: movie actors, televisions actors, commercial actors, stage actors and community theater actors, just to name a few. So the advice for becoming an actor will be slightly different for your particular acting ambition, though each has certain common elements.
Becoming an actor is going to require a certain type of personality. Most actors and actresses face plenty of rejection and turn downs before they break into the business. So you’re going to need to be confident and positive about yourself and your talents, and you’re going to need a passion for acting and the skills it takes to become an actor. Good looks don’t hurt, either, especially when you want to become an actress. That isn’t always necessary, though, so don’t give up hope of becoming an actor if you don’t look like Brad Pitt or Jessica Alba.
This article will focus on becoming a professional actor, instead of becoming part of a local amateur theater group. That’s because professional acting is a rarefied position, and people with a little acting talent can usually hook on with a local acting troupe if they have can find one. So for the professional actress and actor wannabes out there, read about how to become an actor or actress.
- Move To the Big City – This is a big leap for people from “Middle America” or small-town America, but you aren’t going to find professional work acting away from the centers of the performing arts. Like any job situation, actors sometimes have to relocate to find work. So move to Los Angeles or New York City is you want to be a professional actor, because that’s where you’re going to find steady work. If you don’t want to make that sacrifice, you probably don’t want to be an actor bad enough.
- Take Acting Classes – Acting is a skill and, generally speaking, it’s a trained skill. Sure, there are celebrities and models who break into the acting business with little or no formal training. I’m assuming you haven’t made a marketable name for yourself which will open doors to the entertainment industry, so you’re going to have to learn your craft and work your way up the hard way. Do online research to learn the best, most respected placed to take acting classes. Go to these places and begin to learn how to act. It’s a cliche that everyone in Hollywood is taking acting classes, but it’s a cliche because that’s the path to becoming an actor or actress.
- Build Your Acting Resume – Start doing local theater in your community. When you are taking acting classes, you’ll learn about local productions. Any acting school where you can learn acting will put on their own productions and performances. Start to build your resume while honing your acting skills. Always be in a production of some sort, no matter the size of the role or the size of the audience. Start small if you have to. The idea is you get better with practice, and you’ll learn even from watching other actors perform.
- Practice Acting – Practice, practice, practice. Learn about acting through books, classes, productions and talking with other actors. You can’t control other people, but you can control yourself. Continually study the art of acting and try to improve all the time. If you’re a pretty face, improving your acting skills will only increase your allure to producers. If you’re not such a pretty face, you’re going to break into the industry as a character actor, which means you’ll need to be the best actor or actress in the shows you act in — even better than the lead actors. Either way, maximizing your acting talent increases your chances of “being discovered” and remaining in the acting community for years to come.
- Look Your Best - This is another way of increasing your odds of breaking into the entertainment industry. Sure, there are plenty of actors without classic good looks, and there are roles which don’t require handsome actors. In fact, actors who look a little different stand out from the crowd and are often hired to play the eccentric or offbeat roles. But if that’s your fate, you should let your natural looks take over. When you stay in great shape, you increase the odds you will get a roll, because there are going to be more roles for actors and actresses who look stunning. So stay in the best shape you can stay. Wear the best hairstyles for you. And if you have an asymmetrical physical feature, you might consider having it changed. For instance, if you decide you need dental work done to have those “classic good looks”, consider it an investment in your career.
- Network With Other Actors – Another advantage of performing in theater productions is the ability to meet other actors and directors and network in the acting community. Most of these people will never become a big star or big-name director. A good number of them might even be jerks. But it’s best to get to know people in the business and start to build a network of friends and contacts in the acting community. While some might view you as a rival, others might like you and remember your name when it comes time for a bigger and better production. Acting is a who-you-know business like any other aspect of life you know. Consider the career or setting you’ve been in before and remember how much gets done simply by the people you know and the people who know you. If nothing else, you’ll build a list of acting references. This network will work for you even when you aren’t aware of it.
- Get a Professional Headshot – Go to a professional photographer and get a professional headshot. Look your best. Wear your best color. Get a professional to do your hair. Smile and look confident. This will be the first impression your potential employers will have of you, so a good headshot is important.
- Draft and Redraft Your Resume – Put together a resume of all the productions you’ve been a part of. If you’ve acted on a commercial or local broadcast program, place that on your resume. Take good notes of your acting career and get the names and dates right. And as you build your resume, rework it. Once you start to have a larger body of work, remember to drop the less impressive acting credits you have. Don’t leave anything out that’s important, of course; just drop out school productions and community plays you might have done. As your resume grows and you begin to take on larger acting challenges, your resume should also evolve with your career.
- Know The Local Acting Scene – Keep up to date about the local acting jobs in your area. Do this by reading the trade magazines which cover the local acting scene. Reading the trades allows you to know which directors or productions are casting, and when auditions are being held. When you see a job you want or that could help you, send a resume. Trade papers and internet resources you should know about are Backstage, The Internet Theatre Bookshops or stageplays.com, Premiere, Variety, newenglandfilm.com, hollywoodreporter.com, The Ross Reports and Dramalogue.
- Send Out Your Resume – Add a brief cover letter along with your headshot and resume, and send these to all the local agents and directors in your area. Every several months (at least once every half-year), send a postcard update to let these people know about your continuing acting career. Signing with a competent and well-connected agent is a major step for an actor, because this agent will begin to further your career without your direct involvement. Being noticed by and impressing a director can be your big break, so you should contact any director who can help your career. You should look at this like you do dating. You’ll be turned down or ignored by most of these people, but the more you contact, the greater the chance you might find the person perfect for you.
- Beware of Con Acts – Double check when you meet agents and talent services that promise to help you in your career. There is a cottage industry of scam artists and con men who take advantage of naive young actors and actresses who want to break into the business. This is one example of where having a large networks of friends and contacts in the actors business, because you can get references on the services and individuals who are approaching you with offers. If no one has heard of a person who is supposed to know “the business” or you hear horror tales about a service, avoid them at all costs. Becoming an actor is tough enough without having these added stresses and setbacks interfering with your acting career.
- Attend Events – Never turn down an invitation to an industry event like a premiere or a party. You just never know who is important in the acting industry or who will be important in the future, so attend acting events and get to know people. On the flip side, don’t make enemies. In an industry as competitive as acting, it’s a bad idea to make enemies. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compete hard for jobs or that you should compromise your values, but you should not start feuds or make snotty comments to actors, directors or producers you get to know. As I mentioned before, you just never know which of these will become a power broker. If people like you, they are more likely to give you a job.
- Have Patience and Perseverance – The most important trait for how to become an actor is to learn patience. Auditions are certain to get your hopes up and just about as certain to disappoint you. Parts you think you’re perfect for will go to someone else. Roles you have your heart set on will slip through your fingers. Unless you’re the luckiest of actors, you’re likely to face a long line of professional rejections. Moments of self-doubt are certain to happen in that environment, but even the best and most successful actors and actresses struggle when breaking into the acting industry. Read the biographies of actors like Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis to learn how long it sometimes takes actors to get noticed. Use these and other acting success stories to persevere during the lean times of your early acting career.