Choosing to pursue acting as a career is both exciting and daunting. It’s an incredibly competitive, cut-throat industry, with only around 2% of hopefuls forging successful careers. However, if you dream of seeing your name in the bright lights or strutting down the red carpet before accepting your big award, there are a few ways to improve your chances of meeting with success.
Although, there is no failsafe, secret method to becoming a successful actor, most successful actors manage to make a living doing what they love because of a mix of talent, training and luck. Hard work, perseverance, and business acumen are also essential aspects of building a successful acting career. We took a look at all the things that have made our students successful and have outlined everything you need to know about becoming an actor and getting work consistently.
Step one: Actor Training
The first step is to learn about acting as a craft. Whether you enroll in acting classes in Los Angeles, an intensive training program, or get a degree in acting, being a trained actor will give credibility and will prepare you for the challenges of any role. Training programs will also give you an opportunity to perform in an industry showcase where you will perform in front agents, casting directors, and other professionals.
Training is an imperative first step for any actor and is worth the cost to become an actor. Actors need to learn to use their bodies and voices to serve the character they are portraying. While acting talent is helpful, knowing how to use your voice and body properly will help you convey emotion in a truthful and moving way.
Step two: Self-marketing and CV building
Most young actors won’t leave drama school with an agent, so you will need to learn how to find acting work yourself. As a result, you will need to spend the first few years as a working actor building a CV and a reputation in the industry.
Essential actor materials
You will need to get professional headshots and a good showreel and voice reel. Once you have this package of material, you can send emails and letters to casting directors and agents, introducing yourself and examples of your work.
Find work online to add to your showreel
Sign up for casting directories where you will find casting calls for a wide range of acting work. You may find yourself doing low-paid work or profit-share theater productions. These opportunities are a fantastic way to meet people in the industry and build up a credible acting CV. Don’t turn your nose up at a low-paid opportunity in your first few years, but use it as a way to get material for your showreel.
Invite the industry to your shows
You can also invite casting directors or theater directors to your low-budget theater production. Offer free tickets to your show and follow up after the event. Treat any low-paid job as another opportunity to further showcase your talents to the people you want to work with.
Finding a good agent
Ultimately, your networking and self-promotion should be geared towards finding a great agent who will take over the business-side of your career for you. Securing a good agent won’t be easy at first, but here are a few tips to increase your chances:
- Invite agents to your shows and send them your latest short films.
- Write a strong, personalized cover letter explaining why you would be a good fit at their agency.
- Do research about the agent and what types of actors they already represent.
- Explain your dedication to acting as a career and tell them what your ideal career path would be.
Showing your commitment and knowledge about the industry will encourage agents to take you seriously and consider your material.
Step three: Become a Pro at Auditioning
Even as a trained actor, getting hired as an actor can be difficult unless you are good at auditioning. Lots of actors are brilliant in rehearsal and on stage but are awful at bringing their A-game in the initial audition.
Find and learn a few great monologues
Don’t wait until you’ve got an audition to choose a monologue. Frantically searching for a good monologue the week before your audition will inevitably result in forgetting your lines and embarrassing yourself in the room.
Have a few contemporary monologues and few classical monologues ready to go. Being confident in your audition pieces will mean you will feel relaxed in your audition. Being confident in each audition is essential, as the audition panel will be able to see through an ill-prepared speech.
Make a good impression
Performing an excellent speech is only half the battle. Casting directors are watching you from the moment you walk in the door to the moment you leave the building. Make sure you make a great impression and come across as someone they will actually want to work with.
Have a positive, friendly attitude. Be kind to the other auditionees, be polite to any casting assistants, and make eye contact with the panel when you enter the room.
Learn how to make a great self-tape
For film and television auditions, self-tapes are becoming more and more common. A self-tape is when you film a scene or a monologue from home and send it digitally to the casting director. Usually, self-tapes will serve as the first round of auditions before the casting director whittles down their list of potential candidates.
It’s crucial that you learn the art of the self-tape. It’s fine to use your phone to film, but you will need to invest in a tripod and a good light. Use a blank wall in a well-lit room. Stand in the first third of the frame and look towards the empty space in the frame just to the edge of the camera. You want to look as though you’re looking just past the camera.
You will need to find a scene partner who will film the tape and read the other character’s lines from behind the camera. Make sure they aren’t too loud or expressive in their reading.
Step four: Find a Useful Second Job
The harsh reality is that most aspiring actors don’t find career success in their first few years. While you may get a few jobs here and there, it’s unlikely you will be consistently employed.
Almost every working actor will need a side job or a “day job.” Sadly, around 90% of working actors are currently unemployed. It’s crucial that you find another job that gives you the flexibility to go to auditions and rehearsals, but it’s also necessary to find a job that you actually enjoy.
Many actors fall into the trap of entering the customer service industry. These jobs can be demeaning and depressing and will inevitably lead to a resentment of acting. These jobs can also be physically draining, leaving you too tired to attend acting classes or auditions.
Think about what your other passions are, aside from acting, and find a second job that allows you to pursue these passions. For instance, if you love reading, try a bookstore. Or, if you love to travel, you could try working at a travel agency.
Step five: Keep Studying the Craft
Once you’ve got your agent, your showreel and a steady stream of auditions, don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Acting training doesn’t stop when you leave school. Make sure you keep studying your craft and practicing your skills, even when you go through periods without an acting job.
Go to the theater or a movie, or sign up for an evening acting class. You could even set up a weekly play reading group with some of your friends. It’s also imperative that you stay physically fit. Practice your voice and movement exercises that you learned in your training program, or sign up for a yoga class – anything to keep practicing and learning your craft so that you are ready to perform when you get your next audition.
Tips on Finding and Maintaining Success as an Actor
Here are a few more creative tips on how to find and maintain success as an actor.
Never stop networking. Do research on theater and film companies, find people whose work you admire and reach out to these people over social media or email. Attend their productions and tell them why it inspired you. You’ll be amazed by how helpful networking can be. In the future, these directors or actors may remember you when an opportunity comes up and recommend you to a casting director for their next project.
It’s important that you stay up-to-date on the industry. Try to see as many plays and movies as you can. Write notes about what the actors did that you liked and didn’t like. Think about what you would have done differently.
Thinking about acting can be incredibly helpful – you’ll find that you have more creative inspiration in your next audition or rehearsal.
Making your own work
Sometimes, the auditions just don’t seem to materialize. If you find that you’re going through a slow period in your acting career, why not make your own work?
Put pen to paper and try writing your own play or short film. Get some friends together and brainstorm ideas for a project. Making a short film can be cheap and easy, plus it will give you extra material to show industry professionals.
Pick up additional skills
Actors need to have a range of applicable skills if they wish to be competitive in the industry. Spend your free time picking up some unique, unusual skills. Learn to play an instrument, practice your accents, take a puppetry course, or learn to ride horseback. Take a look at some casting calls that ask for specific skills, and choose a few that you are interested in learning.
Acting is a difficult career to break into. With thousands of people trying to forge a successful career, you will be up against a lot of competition. To improve your chances of finding success, try following the steps we’ve outlined in this article.
Start by enrolling in a reputable training program, where you’ll learn foundational skills that will serve you throughout your career. Then, start compiling materials that will help you showcase yourself to the industry, including professional headshots, a showreel, and a voice reel. Sending these materials to casting directors and acting agents will help you get your foot in the door. Build up a CV by taking part in a few low-paid roles. Finally, continue to practice and hone your skills, even when you aren’t working on an acting project.
Succeeding as an actor will require hard work, perseverance, and a positive attitude. Learn to accept rejection and look onwards and upwards. If you keep pushing and auditioning, one day, the part will be the perfect fit, and you’ll land your dream role.
If you would like to sit in on a class and see how we prepare our students to get consistent work in Hollywood, sign up to audit a class today.