You probably heard it all before, but never all together, almost drawn into a scheme!
On stage or behind the camera? Dreaming of a leading role or settling for a commercial? Earning some money until shooting for the stars? Amateur headshots or metaphorically selling a kidney for a professional photographer? Fixing your accent and quitting smoking while watching your friends advance in their careers? How do you balance acting classes with building some particular skills? What’s it gonna be? How patient can you be while building hopes for starring among actors in Hollywood? How often do you ask yourself “Am I Going to Make It”?
Starting out as an actor is a very challenging perspective, which depletes you of most of your energy and dedication without posing any certainties. If you firmly believe in your luck and/or talent, you still need to walk the talk and start by perfecting a very long list of skills. You also need to be aware that most of the current castings focus on types or typologies. “In an industry where most auditions specify what gender, ethnicity and age they are looking for, type-casting is the unfortunate reality of being actor”, according to Forbes’ article by Alexandra Talty.
1. Growing Your Craft for The Stage
a. Your Studies
Not all film stars took specific acting classes or courses on how to become an actor, but if you do not live in Los Angeles or New York, it’s more than recommendable to start walking towards your ascension gradually, from the bottom. Not only you get exposed straight to the pros and learn plenty about techniques from them, but also you will get an automatic chance to work on stage. It’s a very good prepping period for any aspiring actor, as it also helps with networking, development, motivation, resume and finding your own voice (maybe even literally, as a voice actor, why not?).
b. Attending Alternative Courses
If summer’s here, that doesn’t mean you will sit around and do nothing. Summer courses or summer schools can demand a lot of your time and be quite intensive, but they are indeed rewarding, as they can sum up in a few warm sunny weeks the experience you would have otherwise gained in months. You can stay on top of your game by attending workshops and even get involved in shows. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to do so, at least keep researching your craft and stay connected by going to shows and reading up on theory.
c. Entering Community Activities
Community Theater might be a step above College Theater and it also might provide an entry for you among others who are perfecting their craft and building up experience. This is where you will try to mirror yourself in the presence of competition and position your persona in the field of drama. Consider making friends and learning new stuff.
d. Working with a Coach
If you care for polishing your skills and softening your mistakes, you can try to learn from an acting coach. As long as you go for experience and a well-connected coach, perhaps straight from the faculty, it can only do you good. They might recommend expanding your horizons through dance, singing lessons or a handful of advice you couldn’t even imagine right now.
e. Developing Particular Strengths and Underlining Them
This might just be the essential chapter of your journey and a great step you would make. The sooner you know what makes you special and upgrades you from the herd, the better your chances at getting a good role.
Your strengths might identify themselves among various skills: it might be something related to your appearance, an accent, a special ability, an impersonation. Any talent you have listed in your resume means more chances of fixing yourself up on various casting calls. If you enter a typology (or several ones), you get more specific about yourself, your evolution and your calling. Look at Channing Tatum. He is skilled in Kung Fu, worked as a construction worker, a model for Gap and Armani, a stripper, a salesman and even a mortgage broker, so take it easy, but don’t take it easy!
2. Preparing Yourself for the Big Screen
a. Arriving to a Big City
You need to be where the action is. If you’re trying to crack the code on how to become an actor (or actress) and make it big, then you need to shoot for the stars right away. No one became famous just by living in a small town at the countryside and taking a minor class. Yes, Los Angeles is definitely more expensive than your hometown, but the effort will pay itself off and it will anyway, independent on the outcome, become your dearest memory. In the end, even if things don’t work out the way you wished, living in NYC can’t ever be that bad, even if you don’t land on Broadway or get invited to Inside Actors Studio.
b. Starting From the Background
Once you’re there, you’re not going to immediately get cast into a role partnering with Johnny Depp. There’s plenty of patience you need to arm yourself with, so try to enter the business mildly. A background role doesn’t put a lot of pressure on you, but still places your presence where it needs to be. Look for opportunities right here, in the Hollywood Reporter or Variety.
c. Working with an Agent
If things move slowly, you don’t need to make an U turn. When you feel like you’ve done everything you could on your own, that’s the moment when an agent is needed. This person knows insights only agents have access to, knows people with a deciding authority in the matter and can also keep you in the auditioning loop without you stressing over that. His or her motivation will top yours, since an agent’s pay arrives right about when your check does.
d. Access to a Performer’s Union
Did you consider entering a community where your needs would specifically find an answer or your interests would be protected?
Even if getting into a union seems difficult, especially because you are at the beginning and admission requires for you to have played a character already, it is an important step in your ascension. Don’t just jump towards SAG (the Screen Actors’ Guild), try to start with organizations like the American Guild of Variety Artists, the Actors’ Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists or, if applicable: The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists.
And Then Some:
- Augmenting Your Characteristics
This is something you can start with in your adolescence, because it works the same with 11, 12 or 15 or 26. Well yes, the sooner the better! If there is something special about you, you need to forge that until it becomes almost synonymous with or at least attached to your name. It might be your voice, it might be your Disney impersonation that can get you a voiceover deal, even if you’re still a kid – and even if you’re not, but can still sound like one! It might be your wide gestures or your remarkable presence which distinguished itself ever since kindergarten and kids’ plays. Just focus on it and turn hard working hours into focused development!
- Stage Skills
Gymnastics, yodeling, clowning, combat fighting, dancing like you’re a star from Bollywood, singing, reproducing a specific dialect – whatever pushes you through! Oh, and then there’s comedy – but that’s a totally different subject we will debate on below.
- Opting For An Equity Card
A time might come when you want to flip a magic wand that will open up a number of exclusive auditions. That is your equity card. The conditions to get it aren’t easy and there’s more than one way to get it, so start researching!
- Auditioning: Monologues, Your Resume, Choosing Your Type, Preparing Your Headshots, Prepping Up, Keeping Up With Frequent Auditions
Auditioning might sound scary, but there’s no point asking yourself how to become an actor without it, so you will have to get used to it. Correction: excel at it, and fast! Prep up some monologues that fit you like a glove and put out there what’s best in you: your favorite poem, a hero’s speech from video games, a famous romantic monologue. Rehearse them until they feel as natural as breathing. Teenage intimidation is long gone. Keep a professional resume up to date will all your relevant skills, but don’t overreact. Choose to start building your personal brand, shape yourself following the form of your unique assets, observe successful actors and try to guess what individualized them. Opt for representing a particular type, without blurring yourself out. Directors and casting specialists function through associations, try to help them. Find a way to obtain some good headshots, even if you collaborate with a developing photographer looking to build his portfolio just like you are, or if you pay some money and go with the pro. Don’t stop going to auditions and don’t stop reading, researching, finding out everything that can improve your acting.
- Your Image: Building A Personal Brand, Working On Your Online Echo, Networking, Stay Connected To The Industry
Once you’re famous, your PR will worry about all this, but still you can start by focusing on your online attitude and presence, on what you’re posting and writing, on how you represent yourself and make it easy for people to find you, on networking with fellow actors or any other people in the industry that you need to have a relationship with.
Being an actor means a lot of things that some of the aspiring talents don’t even think of. You can have a career as a comedian and start by doing small shows in comedy clubs and end up with developing your own TV show on your favorite TV channel! You can discover that some roles you might be offered do not suit you – like playing a gay character. If that happens repeatedly, maybe you’re more suited for a job as a voice actor. Then you would be working in a studio and recording dialogues and sounds for cartoons, commercials or anime films. The opportunities are countless, for both male and female voice actors.
If you have a talented child and see him as an adult involved in this industry, you can direct him or her to children’s acting classes and try to see if your kid develops into a famous movie or theater actor while young. There is no particular age to start with acting, some start with 6, others with 13, some even long time after adolescence – it’s irrelevant, as long as you do it before you’re dead!