You’ve wanted to be an actor for a long time. It might have started as a kid watching great films, or seeing an incredible actor on stage. For me it was watching pantomimes on trips to London to a young boy. I loved the grand characters, and epic sets, and I loved getting caught up in a great story. I loved escaping into the world of the play and knew early on that I wanted to be up there myself.
Turning that dream into reality isn’t easy. I’ve been a professional actor for 6 years and it’s tough. There is a lot of rejection, a lot of financial instability, and a lot of uncertainty. But acting is what I love, and if you’re reading this article chances are you love it too. So for those with the passion, but without the knowledge of how to to become an actor, this article will be a great starting point.
What is an actor?
Before you dive in it’s important to investigate your motivations for becoming an actor and what being an “actor” looks like for you.
Motivations for becoming an actor
Money. If you are getting into this game for fame or money, don’t. Even working “successful” actors can
Fun. If you want to be an actor because you love doing it, that’s awesome. But does that mean you want to be a professional actor? Pursuing acting as a career is very different to pursing it as a hobby. You can still do great, meaningful acting work on a part time basis. Local theatre, short films, making projects with friends.
Addiction. You’re addicted to acting. You have to act and it’s all you want to do. This singular focus is what it takes to be an actor. When it’s in your blood it means you simply have to follow acting as a career.
Once you’ve defined your acting goal you can take it from there. Regardless of what that goal might be, it all comes back to your acting. Get good at acting and everything else falls into place. These are the steps for how to be an actor:
Step 1. Tell Stories.
Part one of how to be an actor is learning how to tell stories. Acting is essentially storytelling. If you can captivate an audience of friends and family you’re on your way to becoming a successful actor. One of the pit falls for beginners is to think acting is all about the actor, it’s not, it’s about the story. So stop worrying about how to be an actor because you already are one.
Step 2. Take Some Classes.
Acting classes are lots of fun and a great way to meet like minded people. These people may also help you get that first professional job.
Acting classes won’t teach you how to be an actor, they will teach you how to use the “tools” you already have. These “tools” are your voice, mind and body. For beginners, acting classes are mainly about letting go. Acting is scary for most people, so learning how to feel comfortable on stage or in front of a camera is the best place to start. Improvisation and theatre sports are great in helping new actors become less self conscious.
Advanced acting classes will begin to focus of specific acting techniques. If there are any classes that focus on a particular method in your neighborhood then I suggest you give them a go. Acting techniques are very useful in helping you to “get into character” or overcome problems with a script, but they aren’t a sure fire way to learn how to act. In my opinion the most important thing about acting is to understand what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. Try not to over-complicate things- Good acting is simple.
WARNING: Acting classes that charge huge amounts of money will not turn you into a great actor in one weekend. Be sensible. Get 8 singing lessons, 5 yoga classes and tickets to a play instead!
Step 3. Get A HeadShot.
A headshot is a photograph of an actor’s head (and shoulders) that agents look at when casting a role.
Your ideal headshot should look like you at your best. There is no need to have 15 different types of character head shots. 2 or 3 photographs that show your different looks will be fine. No need for cowboy hats or aviators…
Beginner actors are constantly sucked in to paying $400+ for over exposed, over photo-shopped, black and white photographs they will never use. So until you become rich and famous, ask a friend with a digital camera to take a nice photograph of you, and use that.
TIP: A good friend of mine who works in casting once told me “There’re loads of people who look right for the role, but only a handful of them look like people I want to work with”. So please try not to look too tough or too sexy just try and look like someone who other people would like to work with.
Step 4. Get An Agent.
Self promotion is essential for actors. Look for work online, in the news papers and on notice boards. If you get the chance go to general auditions great! But when all else fails (and sometimes it will) you will need someone else on you side. That person is called an agent.
No matter who you are, what you look like or where you live, there is an agent that will sign you on to their books. So make sure you find the agent that is right for you. Extras agencies are everywhere and for some they are a good place to start. For others, the best thing to do is set up a meeting with lots of agencies so that you can choose who will best serve your needs. This may sound intimidating but I guarantee that talent agencies are always looking for new and different actors to earn them money.
Don’t under sell yourself. Remember step 1? You are an actor, so go for it.
WARNING: Never sign with an agent that charges you money to sign with them. An agent earns money by finding you work and taking 10%-15% of the payment. So don’t get scammed.
Step 5. Work Hard, Play Smart.
Okay so you’ve booked your first job. Awesome!! Now the hard part. Yes – you have to act, which is hard but what is even harder (and in my opinion much more important) is managing your professional relationships. I learnt this the hard way.
Make sure you respect everyone on set or backstage, from the director to the runners. Manners will take you much further than skill and good looks!
Moving Forward as an Actor
Having an Acting Career vs Acting for Fun
If you want to have an acting career this is how to do it:
2) Get an agent.
3) Get great at auditioning.
4) Work hard. Refine your skills. And be good to work with.
That’s it. Follow that process.
Being a professional actor can be tough as you start to put a lot of pressure on where you’re at in your career. You compare yourself to others and get caught up in the industry.