Becoming an actor lets you explore new roles and characters different than yourself. It may be a little intimidating, but remember, every famous actor had to start somewhere. The key to becoming an actor is practicing and learning as much as possible, branding yourself, and auditioning. With hard work and dedication, you could be the star on the big screen someday.
To become an actor, practice reading and memorizing scripts so that you’re used to learning lines for different roles. Also, work on breathing from your diaphragm and projecting your voice so people in the audience can hear you when you’re performing. To practice acting and improve your skills, consider attending an acting summer camp or auditioning for a role in a school play or community theater production. To learn helpful auditioning tips so you land more roles, scroll down!
1. Improving Your Craft
Improve your memory so you can remember your lines. Start with small sections of the script, working on areas that have the same emotional charge to them. Perfect the line by repeating it and remembering a visual that is represented in the lines. Continue working on line memorization until you’ve perfected a whole scene.
– Exercise regularly and have a diet rich in omega-3s to help encourage memory improvement.
– Associate the line with any movements you would make during that scene. That way, you have mental cues to help guide you.
– Take frequent breaks. Every time you sit down to start memorization again, try to repeat the lines you were practicing where you left off.
Work on projecting your voice. Since members of an audience may be sitting rows away, work on enunciating your words clearly and loudly. Stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and anything that dehydrates your vocal cords and prevents you from performing.
– If you’re acting for film, pay attention to the mood of the scene. You don’t want to be loud and projecting while everyone else is sad.
– Projecting your voice is not the same as yelling.
– Breathe from your diaphragm to get the most depth and volume from your voice.
Work on different dialects . Practice reading out loud in different voices and accents to have more versatility as an actor. If you can, watch videos of people speaking in the dialect you’re practicing to see how their mouth moves when they articulate their words.
– If you can, talk to a native speaker of the dialect you’re practicing so you can notice small details you may not have picked up before.
– Hire a dialect coach if possible to help get you started.
Channel your emotions into the role. Look over scripts and determine the main emotions of the scene. Whatever your character is supposed to be feeling at that moment, make sure your performance conveys it. For example, if your character is sad, you may be more soft-spoken and use fewer hand gestures than an overly-excited character.
– The emotional state of the scene also helps you remember your lines since you will associate the dialogue of the scene with what you’re feeling.
Work on your stage skills. Begin emoting with your entire face and using gestures so the audience will understand what your character is feeling. Work on other skills, like dancing, singing, and choreography to help round out your skills and make you more marketable.
– Stage combat classes can show you how to fight convincingly without getting injured. Knowing how to do it can open up a number of roles, in both plays and musicals.
– Take dance classes. The more skills you have, the more versatile you are and the more likely you are to land roles.
– Do something out of the ordinary. Any skills that most other performers don’t have may pay off in the long-run, so keep up your hobbies.
Study acting at a university or an arts academy. Though it’s possible to act without a formal education, if you don’t live in LA or New York, this is a pretty standard go-to option. You’ll get exposure to the pros, learn about techniques, and get automatic, chances to work on a stage. This will also help you build your resume, get exposure, and set up a network of colleagues and contacts. Your teachers will constantly be pushing you to do more, practically taking care of the motivation part for you.
– Acting school isn’t required to be a professional actor. As long as you continue honing your craft and practicing, you could become the next star.
Attend summer camps, acting workshops, or summer stock in your area. Some of these can be intensive enough that you’ll learn months worth of material in a period of 2 to 3 weeks. You can be involved in multiple shows doing multiple roles and possibly even get stipends for your work.
– If you’re stuck with a job or in school that keeps you from being able to attend these, make sure you’re always reading and researching your craft. Go to shows, read up on theory, and expose yourself to new ideas and schools of thought.
– Contact your local theatre to see if they have any special events or seminars coming up that you could attend.
– If you’re interested in stage theatre, summer stock is a great way to get started and it only runs during the summer. Plays, musicals, and even operas get put up in a matter of weeks all throughout the country and offer very valuable life experience. Find an audition near you in the spring to gear up for the season once school’s out.
Practice acting in community theater. Look at your local theatres to see what shows they’re putting on. Winning a role in a community theater production will put you in contact with others who are polishing their craft just like you and garner you more experience. You’ll also get a better idea of where you stand in relation to the competition.
– Consider working a role backstage if the shows they’re playing don’t interest you.
– Even if you’re not looking to work for the stage or do straight plays or musicals, any experience in the field of drama looks good on your resume and will teach you things you didn’t know. And you’ll make friends, too!
Hire an acting coach to help you with your technique. Look for a coach with a lot of industry experience and connections. Your coach can give you the personal attention you need to tackle your weak spots as well as polish what you do well.
– Always ask your connections for help on finding a coach. Talk to the staff and faculty at the school you attend or a theatre you’ve worked with. Someone will surely know somebody that can hook you up with what you’re looking for.
– Find someone with experience in multiple fields so you can train and get pointers in a few different areas.
2. Building Your Personal Brand
Get web exposure through social media and acting websites. Put videos of your performances on YouTube or set up a page on Facebook and Twitter where fans can like and share your content, like photos of you in roles or your headshots. It’s a long shot, but you never know who may randomly stumble upon your info and decide to hire you. After building a social media presence, make pages on acting-related sites like Actors Access to connect with the industry.
– Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. You are an artist, but you’re also in the business for yourself. Use relevant hashtags in posts so you can get the maximum amount of exposure.
– Build a personal website with an easy to remember URL. Use your name as the web address if it’s not already taken.
– Connect with acting communities on LinkedIn to find like-minded individuals.
Get headshots. Have a professional take your photos so you can have the best looking headshots. Wear minimal amounts of makeup so directors looking through the photos will know what you look like if you were to walk in at that moment. Look directly into the camera as the pictures are taken.
– Ask around for any emerging photographers willing to take you on for a small fee, or even free. The great thing about headshots is that no set is required and nothing fancy-schmancy is necessary.
– Update your, headshot every 2 or 3 years so casting directors will know what you currently look like.
Network extensively. Be approachable and build your reputation as a professional. Be the first person to reach out to others so you show a genuine interest in the people close to you. Those in your network can connect you to available jobs and can provide you with valuable insights about your work and about the business.
– Avoid developing a bad reputation. If you get coined as lazy, difficult to work with, or just downright snooty, you’re less likely to get gigs.
– Use websites like LinkedIn to connect with others in your area and field.
Stay informed about the industry. Check out industry papers and websites like Variety, Backstage, Show Business Weekly, and the Hollywood Reporter.com to find out what are the current trends in the business. Constantly go to shows and work on side projects with friends and acquaintances to keep your creative flame burning.
– Stay up to date on emerging playwrights and directors, familiarize yourself with theories, and get yourself out there. Knowing in which direction “the scene” is going will help keep you ahead of the curve. Maybe you’ll be the inspiration for the next big project!
3. Auditioning for Roles
Learn an array of monologues. Look up 1-2 minute monologues online or purchase an acting book with monologues from famous pieces. Practice delivering them in your own voice and acting style. Monologues are often used to cast you in plays, movies and shows and they allow you to showcase your talents in a short period of time.
– Choose a monologue based on the type of actor you are. Don’t read an old woman’s monologue if you’re a young man, or vice-versa.
You’ll want contrasting monologues. Even if you always play the funny man, have a couple serious monologues ready to whip out when requested.
– For singers, prepare 16-32 bars of a few songs and master them. Some auditions won’t specify a genre while some will want you to show them something similar to what they’re producing.
Assemble your resume. List your acting-related strengths in a notebook and pick your most important skills. Add any productions that you’ve done at camps, workshops, universities and community theater. Make sure you only list your most recent productions so the casting director isn’t overwhelmed by the amount of work on your resume.
– List any special abilities that you have (dancing, singing, dialects, combat, etc.) on your resume. Don’t lie about what skills you have.
Show up prepared. Show up on time, know your audition material, bring any materials that you need (including a pen or pencil), and look your best. You can’t control what the director who’s casting the project will think of you, but you can control how well you present yourself.
– Be talkative and confident with your talent. You never know who you’ll meet that can get you in. That guy hiding in the corner with a headset on probably has way more power than you realize, and even if he doesn’t now, he may later. So chat up those around you and dig your toes into the acting sandbox.
Audition frequently. Taking auditions is a good way to be seen about town. Once people start to recognize you, they’ll be more likely to consider you for roles. Getting your name out there is half the battle.
– You will get rejections. Take them lightly and keep going. A yes will come eventually.
4. Continuing Your Career
Move to a large city if possible. Start by working in your local film scene or in areas that you can easily get to. Save the money you make so you can make the move to a larger city where more roles are available and movies are frequently made.
– Consider moving to Los Angeles, Austin, New York, or Atlanta if you’re in the United States. Try Vancouver, Toronto, London, or Mumbai for film outside of the US.
Look for roles in commercials when you begin. Search for casting calls on websites like Backstage or Craigslist for local commercials. As you go in, for the audition, dress for the part you’re playing so the casting directors can easily picture you in the role.
– Commercial acting is a smaller role, but it will give you exposure to a wide audience and get your face out to the public.
– Look out for posts on Craigslist that seem too good to be true since they could possibly be scams. Watch for off-site emails or jobs that seem to be paying too high with no needed experience.
Become an “extra” actor in larger pictures. Once you’re where you need to be, get connected and take on roles as an extra, or background actor. Open casting calls for these can be found all over the Internet, but a few places to start off are Backstage, Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
– Though it may not be a starring role, you can still list an extra role on your resume to show you have experience.
Get an agent. Ask around your network for opinions on who to go to and how to get started. Make cold-calls or send inquiry letters to agencies to see if they are looking for new talent to represent. An agent will help you negotiate deals for the roles you take on.
– Agents only get paid when they find you work. Don’t buy into the ones that demand some exorbitant fee even if your schedule stays wide open.
Get into a performer’s union. Look into organizations like ACTRA, AEA, AGMA or AGVA. Once you are a member for at least 1 year and worked under union, you’re eligible to get into SAG (the Screen Actor’s Guild). Unions provide you with benefits and insurances while you’re working.
– Annual SAG fees are $201.96 USD and 1.575% of the earnings you make in that year. Check with the union you’re interested in to see what their annual rates are.
Consider getting your equity card if you want to do theatre. Though it’s completely possible to run through all the hoops without it and still find success, having your equity card opens up a number of auditions that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you. You either have to get a contract that requires equity standing, be a member of a sister group (like SAG, for example), or accumulate enough credits to meet the standard.
It’s natural to find the process a bit confusing, so contact a friend or mainstay in your actor’s social network for more information on how they received their, card.