You want to learn how to become an actor or actress? Join the club! A lot of people at one time or another has probably thought about becoming an actor. They watch their favorite shows and movies and think, “I can do that!” They think it’s easy and glamorous.
But what most people don’t realize is that it’s a lot of hard work. It’s a huge amount of fun but it’s work!
It takes a special kind of person to want to become an actor in Hollywood, New York or anywhere in between. They have to be determined, unafraid of rejection and willing to work hard to consistently get better at their craft.
This isn’t a site to learn how to become a famous actor or actress or becoming a star because odds are, you won’t. Hopefully, you’re here because you want to learn how to pursue a career in acting and be the best actor you can be. Whether you’re in Los Angeles or New York, Ohio or Colorado or anywhere in the United States (and beyond!), you absolutely can have a career in the performing arts.
One thing aspiring actors should know from the start is that trying to become a professional actor is expensive. You’ll need money for headshots, headshot reproduction (though not nearly as much as it used to be) and acting classes. Eventually, you’ll need to market yourself with a website and a demo reel. You’ll also need to add your material to casting websites. It’s definitely not cheap!
So, if you’re looking for steps on how to get started acting, keep on reading!
The Basics: How to Get into Acting
If you want to break into acting, one of the first things you’ll need is a headshot.
What is a headshot? A headshot is an 8×10 photo that showcases your face and and personality. It’s used by casting directors and agents to help decide if you’re a good fit for a certain role. A great headshot can help an actor stand out from the competition and land more auditions.
This isn’t the place to skimp and be cheap because this is your calling card. If you submit an awful headshot to a casting director or agent, 99% of the time it’ll be filed away in the trashcan. Having a picture that isn’t professional automatically shows them that you’re not serious about becoming a successful actor.
Your headshot needs to be taken by a professional photographer and needs to look like you. Seriously, I can’t count how many times a casting director has told me that they’ve called in an actor for an audition and they either look 10 years older in person or that their picture was so photo-shopped that they had to do a double take. Your headshot must look like you, not what you want to look like.
How much does it cost for a headshot? In New York and L.A., paying anywhere between $400 to $600 for a headshot session is the norm. If you live outside of these cities, you should pay less.
Create Your Acting Resume
The next thing you’ll need is an acting resume. This isn’t like a resume you’d give to someone when you’re applying for a “normal” job. An acting resume is totally different.
What is an actors resume? An actors resume is only one page and includes your contact information, experience, training and special skills.
“I’m just starting out and have nothing to put on my resume!” I’ve heard that before and don’t worry: everyone has to start somewhere. You can easily fix that! Audition for something at your school or local community theater productions or church. Look for a nearby dinner theater or if you’re in school, join the drama club. Most likely, someone at local college near you is looking for actors for student films. There are probably lots of opportunities near you!
If there isn’t a role for you in an upcoming show, ask if you can help out. Theaters always need a good, responsible volunteer. This will get you in with the theater community and make it tons easier when you actually do audition. They’ll already know you, so it’ll be easier for them to take a chance on you!
All of these things can be listed on your resume. You can even list any acting classes you’ve taken.
Learning Your Craft: Develop Your Acting Skills
Take a Class Near You
Wherever you live, there’s definitely an acting class, acting program or even an acting coach near you. I grew up in a small town and there were at least 5 acting classes within 20 minutes of where I lived.
If you’re still in school, try and find a summer acting camp. Usually, these are all day workshops that take place Monday – Friday. You’ll learn tons and walk away a much better actor. Plus, these are great places to meet people who are into the same things as you!
Go to College or School and Train as an Actor
There are a lots of great schools and colleges you can choose for a formal education and for acting majors. You’ll be immersed in all things acting so how can you not improve? You’ll learn to act with classes like movement, costumes, theater history, acting styles and techniques and best of all, you’ll be performing constantly.
I went to college in Baltimore, Maryland and loved my time there. I met some wonderful teachers and made some great friends that I still keep in touch with to this day.
Audition for Local Theater
Like I said in the resume section, auditioning for community theater is a wonderful way to get started. I did a handful of musicals for my local community theater when I was in high school and I loved every minute of it. Plus, I learned a lot in the process.
You’ll most likely start as an ensemble member of a large cast (every town does Oklahoma or another huge production at least once a year). By getting involved, you’ll get to know the local theater companies and the people involved. The more they get to know you, they easier it’ll be to get a part in one of the upcoming shows – especially if you’re starting off as an actor with no experience.
Audition as much as you can. Audition even if you don’t want the part. The more you audition, the better you’ll be. Learn to love auditioning because chances are, that’s all you be doing the first couple years once you have decided start acting.
Start Your Own Play Reading Group
Get a couple of friends together once every couple of weeks and read a play. Give yourself the lead role! The star of Beautiful Creatures and Solo: A Star Wars Story, Alden Ehrenreich still does exactly that. When I interviewed him, he said, “Just invite friends over to read a play. Like, me and my friends do that a lot and it just… it promotes that energy and that energy only builds, but you have to get the… you have to start the engine.”
Looking for Acting Agents and Managers
At some point, you’ll want to start looking for an agent or even a manager. Do you have to have one? When you’re just starting to break into acting, not at all. And especially if you’re not a member of SAG-AFTRA or Actors’ Equity, the unions that represent actors.
When looking for an agent or manager, you might encounter someone who says you’ll need to pay a fee for their services. There are actor scams out there where you’ll be asked to pay an “agency fee” when you sign up. Don’t do it. Ever. The only time you should pay an agent or manager is after you’ve received payment for an acting job they’ve helped you book and already worked on.
Will You Need a Manager?
Odds are you won’t need to sign with a manager when you’re just starting. You’ll only need a manager when you have a career that actually needs to be managed. Typically, managers get 20% of what you’ve made per acting job. That’s a lot of money to give to someone when you’re only working a couple times a year. Check out this article on How You Can Spot a Fake Manager
Going on Auditions and Casting Calls
How do you find acting auditions and open casting calls? If you’re not in LA or NYC, check your local paper or their website. Google – auditions ‘my city’ – and auditions will pop up on the screen. Also, check out Actors Access or call your local SAG-AFTRA office. Some still have hotlines or audition information listed on their site. That’s how I found out about the audition that got me my SAG card.
|Check out this article on Casting Websites
The Acting Industry is a Business
You have to treat acting as a business because it is, in fact, a business. When you’re called in for an audition, be prepared. Know your scene, monologue or your song. If your audition is in person, come with your headshot and resume (stapled together!), do your work and leave. If the audition is via self-tape, make it look professional with good sound quality and submit it on time.
You might only have one shot with that casting director. Make it the best and show them you have the goods!
Casting directors, directors and anyone who can hire you want to know that you are the answer to their casting “problem”. They need you and they want you to be great! They are rooting for you.
Keep Up With What is Happening in the Entertainment Industry
Don’t go into this blind. Nothing can sideline you more than not knowing what is going on in film, television and theater. This is your job!
Becoming a Working Actor Won’t Happen Overnight
I did my first play in elementary school, kept that going through high school and then started to do plays at my local community theater. When I went to college, I moved onto Dinner Theater and found other theater companies to work with. While I was doing that, I auditioned for an industrial film, got the part and was lucky enough to get my SAG card. After that, I got my Equity card and I’ve been moving forward ever since.
Some people get lucky right off the bat. Some don’t. It could take years. But, if you work hard, it’ll happen. If you’re prepared, it’ll happen. And always, move forward!