- How do I become an Actor?
That is one of the most frequently asked questions I get. And to be quite honest, there is no simple straight answer. It depends on several different factors; age, end-goal, experience, personality, etc. Luckily, I’ve been around the block and learned a thing or two from doing it on my own and making a mistake or two along the way. Many online resources give you vague answers but I will try my very best to paint a detailed picture about the whole process.
Most everyone 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 (12-18 hours a day on set not counting your hours training). It’s a huge amount of fun but yeah, it’s work! It takes a special kind of person to want to become an actor. They have to be determined, unafraid of rejection and willing to work hard to consistently get better at their chosen craft.
So, let’s take myself for example and how I got into the business. I was a University student majoring in Computer Engineering. Acting was never even in my mind. I was break dancing as recreation and helped teach a break dancing class at the school gym. Through that class, I was seen by a random passerby who asked if I would be interested in dancing for a TV show as an extra. I thought to myself, that would be a pretty cool thing to try. I went and I was extremely nervous, what was I doing here? Everything looked so foreign to me. I didn’t understand all the terminology they were using. What if I do something to mess up? I sat quietly waiting for instructions and danced when I was told to. After a couple days on set I became quite comfortable and it showed! Someone on set liked me and ended up offering me an extended role along side one of the main cast members. While, it was only a featured extra role (no lines but heavy camera time), I got bit by the showbiz bug. I wanted to do more and more of it. I went online, did some research (which is hard to do since most websites misdirect you to try and sell their product or service) and jumped in. I’ve been doing it ever since, 10 years counting now.
Before you even begin to do anything, you need to know what your end-goal is. Do you want to be in live theater? On TV? In Films? Commercials? Music Videos? Background Extra? Or even a mix of a few or all of them? What you want your end-game to be is how you plan around it. Trust me; it will save you a lot of time to properly cater your time and efforts towards your end-goal.
Another factor is your age, at what point are you in life?
If you’re a child, teen or parent of one, then you’re going to want to get them into their drama club or any school theater program offered. This is to begin to mold them young; get them comfortable performing in front of people, being on stage and memorizing lines. Additionally, any acting classes/coaches outside of school can help hone in their technique and introduce them to cold reading, scene study, audition process, etc. There are a few more steps to follow in order to start working as a child/underage actor and I will outline those in the “Child Acting Process” section.
If you’re in a college/university, look into their drama programs. Many schools offer them and can get you the experience you need to get you started. If you’re serious about taking drama/performing arts as a major because you want to at least have the degree to fall back on in case you don’t get your big break, then certainly go for that. Many people start as actors and end up being directors or some other production position because of their degrees.
I on the other hand, was no longer in school and working a job full time to survive so I had to go another route. I used to work through Central Casting as an extra where they just look at your database photo and book you off that. I would book extra work whenever I had a free day off and that alone got me some experience being on set. But, it was not enough. The pay was okay but not enough to quit my job for. Plus, I was not acting. Not in the sense I saw myself wanting to do. I needed to go a step further, but how?
I noticed I couldn’t get acting work because I didn’t have experience. I was frightened of auditions because I’ve never had to do one before. You can’t get a talent agent/manager to represent you without any experience. I was stuck. I took some time off from doing extra work and began taking acting classes on the weekend. I was taught by a great acting coach named Alan Feinstein. He was able to help me get a backbone and lose my fear of opening up. Every class I seemed to shed off another layer that prevented my emotions to express themselves. Each class I was reaching another level of confidence. My technique was improving, my confidence was there, and I was ready. I decided to take another class with a commercial acting coach whom taught me more about the audition process. Taught me how to slate. Taught me how to create a background story; a presence and emotion for a character when perhaps the script did not offer enough to create one. Unlike a scene script I was accustomed to, a commercial perhaps only has one sentence dialogue with no backstory.
Feeling more confident than ever, I had asked some of the other students regarding what their approach to booking jobs was. Some mentioned they had friends doing student films, others mentioned online casting website and some had an agent. I went online and registered with the casting websites and started working. Along the way I noticed I needed to have an acting reel, some casting directors wouldn’t even bother looking at my submission without one. I realized I needed a better headshot, updating to a proper headshot alone instantly got me more bookings. Auditions still gave me a little anxiety but having done a few I got comfortable and learned not to over think them. Keep working and you’ll gradually get better and better roles, network with other actors or those in production and learn whatever you can. You are always learning as an actor; every role, every new experience, it all adds to your technique.
It’s getting pretty late so I will go into further detail in the next segment, “Getting Started.”