If you’ve talked to friends and family members about becoming an actor, they may have reacted in a way that left you feeling discouraged or foolish. But if you’re really passionate about acting, you’ll want to power through and take on any obstacles in your path to stardom. That said, you’ll need to know the basics of the industry to get going and realize your dreams, no matter how big they are.
Here’s how to break into the biz without looking like a total amateur (even if you are).
How to Get Started with No Acting Experience
Let’s get serious here. First thing’s first: you won’t magically become famous overnight. Clearly, everyone needs to work hard to make things happen, and that starts with having a day job to pay the bills. Something that’s flexible enough to handle while also carving out time for your acting pursuits. Whether it’s bartending, freelancing or something else entirely, have something lined up that allows you to devote yourself to the craft.
- Read up. Dive into books by experienced actors and/or acting teachers to see what this profession is all about. Discover various techniques and methods to see what resonates with you. Watch those awe-inspiring performances you already love over and over. You know, the Oscar-winning scenes that made you want to look into this field in the first place. Every little bit helps.
Bonus points: For best results, take note of things like instinct, character development, stage direction and physicality when studying the greats that came before you.
- Educate yourself. Look into acting schools and workshops in your area. Just make sure to research the school or program and its instructors before sending them a check. Browse the available courses and find what you really need. Even tiny productions in local theaters are a chance to develop your abilities. Stay sharp by practicing independently too. You can work on things like voice exercises, monologues, script analysis, singing, even impressions on your own.
Bonus points: If you’re a total newbie, search for classes that focus on acting fundamentals like breaking down a script, developing an authentic character as well as body and voice work.
- Fully embrace the realities of the trade. If you know any actors, talk to them about what it’s really like. Get the scoop on the struggles, challenges and triumphs while gleaning some age advice. Also, mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for rejections. Remember that auditioning is completely time-consuming, what with finding parts, memorizing lines and preparing materials, especially if it leads to a dead end.
Bonus points: Aim for 100 rejections in one calendar year. It means you’re out there and you’re trying, not to mention the fact that it gets you oriented to just how many times you may hear the word “no.”
- Gather a stunning portfolio. All actors need to have a binder or folder on hand with headshots and copies of an acting resume and cover letter. If you have a reel or any acting experience, throw in some DVDs of your work too. Sure, headshots can be expensive, but the more professional you look, the better. Photographers with good reviews will be worth forking over the cash for. Your acting resume should include personal stats such as height, weight, hair and eye color. You should also list any relevant work, training, related experiences and special skills.
Bonus points: Special skills on your acting resume should be production-worthy and unique. Speaking multiple languages, juggling, unicycling, playing rare musical instruments and martial arts experience are all solid examples of activities to include.
- Find an agent or fly solo. Of course, a good agent is crucial. Experienced agents, especially Franchised SAG agents, are able to access information that you can’t get otherwise and are monetarily motivated to find parts for you. However, if you’re a true beginner, many experts recommend getting some experience first. Find local auditions and casting calls with a little online research and become an extra for movies and shows in your area to start things off. Then, once you have a few line items on your resume, research your agent options.
Bonus points: If you’re ready for an agent, browse reviews and recommendations before committing. There are plenty of scams out there to avoid, so don’t pay an agent before he/she lands you a gig!
How to Get on the Fast Track to Being an Actor
Unless you’re one of those people who win the lottery frequently and are constantly rolling around in luck, there is no real fast track to becoming a movie star. If you’re in it for the money then maybe you should reconsider. But fortunately, there are some tangible ways to increase the amount of opportunities and callbacks you receive that are relatively straightforward.
The best thing you can do is network, network, and oh yeah, network some more. Make connections in the industry by starting small and pay those proverbial dues. Sign up to be an extra or small part in something local and work from the ground up. Talk to people while you’re there and ask questions of those slightly further along in their careers.
Don’t give up too easily. The situation may not look like how you imagined it would, but keep going. Through your experiences, you’ll become more comfortable with rejection, mature as an actor (and a person) and partake in interesting experiences you wouldn’t otherwise know about. And those things alone make the perilous, not-even-close-to-glamorous journey worth it. Don’t skip auditions because you are afraid. Know the script, be polite and prepared. If nothing else, it’s another chance to learn something. Perseverance and networking are the most powerful tools in this industry. Keep your chin up!
Working the Big Screen Versus the Small Screen and Everything in Between
Take classes that hone in on the skills required for your particular interests. Whether you’re trying to become the next movie star, soap opera queen, commercial talent or theater sensation, each concentration comes with its own idiosyncrasies.
Even if you want to focus on a certain area, cross genres every once in awhile in order to grow as an actor and gain more experience. Many TV stars transition into movies when it’s advantageous, or vice versa. Some dabble in modeling also. Take a role even if it’s not in your comfort zone and acquire new skills. Increased exposure is the name of the game regardless of your ultimate goals.
Advice for All Stages
Whether you’ve never looked into a camera or you’ve had your fair share of callbacks, everyone needs to market themselves in order to remain successful. Think of yourself as a business owner. Actively post on social media channels and gain followers. Get exposure and increase industry connections just like you would for any career. Follow people on Twitter you’d like to emulate and see if they post some free advice.
Snag a website too. These days, you can build something simple and clean using tools like Squarespace, WordPress and others. You don’t need to be a web developer to have something halfway professional in place. Add plenty of photos and acting clips on your site. Link to your YouTube or Vimeo channel and upload your reels and past projects to really put yourself out there.
Keep learning, stay on top of trends, be as prepared as possible for every audition and role you encounter, and most importantly, have fun with it. Life is serious enough as it is, and if you’re fortunate enough to give this acting thing a real chance, that’s pretty incredible. Best of luck on this wild adventure you call a vocation.