What could be more exciting than a career in acting? Nuclear submarine commander? Brain surgeon? Mayor of New York? You may not qualify for any of these positions. But you could play these individuals. That’s the joy and challenge of acting. You may not be a doctor — but you could play one. But how to get into acting?
There’s no denying it: acting is a challenging path. But if you’re dedicated and determined, you just might make it as a working actor. If you’ve ever wondered how to start acting, you may think back to your childhood. Most likely your play featured imagination-based situations in which you stormed the ramparts, danced with a prince, or sailed the high seas. The trick is to get paid to do what you love.
1. Study, Observe, Learn
While the presence of child actors in films and on television suggests anyone can launch an acting career at any time, the fact is that most actors come to auditions with years of study, training, and experience under their belts. There are numerous opportunities to continue to learn and study acting and it is crucial to do so.
Making industry connections is important no matter what field you work in, but exceptionally important in the acting world. Many actors get a foot in the door and begin making these all-important connections, by landing extra work through organizations such as Central Casting or Extras Management. As a film or television extra, you will get a taste of what it’s like to work on a production while gleaning insights regarding what it takes to bring a production to fruition. Any production involves a virtual army of people, working behind and in front of a camera or live audience.
3. Invest in a Superior Headshot
Success in virtually any profession involves commitment, and often, a certain level of financial investment. Plumbers need training and tools, doctors need extensive schooling and certain diagnostic instruments. Actors need professional-quality headshots. Your high-quality, up-to-date headshot is your primary calling card. Before you ever score an audition, someone will have viewed your headshot and formed some preliminary impressions about you.
Make sure your headshot allows you to put your best foot forward, so to speak. Be aware that you will ideally require several versions; perhaps a primary headshot, as well as other versions highlighting your flexibility or hinting at some of your strengths, such as comedy or glamor. Update your headshot relatively often, to stay current.
4. Work It
Landing an audition is the first step. But then you’ll need to actually audition. Many actors dread this phase of the process. At worst it can be nerve-wracking; at best exciting and challenging. Consider taking a casting workshop or refreshing your skills through intensive workshops. You’ll learn, often from industry professionals with relevant experience, how to optimize your auditioning experiences. Classes may even expose you to directors or casting personnel who may take an interest in you. These sessions can be pricey, so do your homework, network, and invest only in the most reputable classes.
5. Cast a Wide Net
In-person networking is crucial, but these days you can cast a wider networking net by signing up for participation on websites dedicated to listing projects and putting actors and production personnel together. Examples include Actors Access, Now Casting and LA Casting. Feel free to throw your hat in the ring for any and all projects that could conceivably make use of your particular skills, talents, and type.
Keep in mind that every single audition, no matter where it does or does not get you, is a potentially valuable learning experience. Stay positive no matter what. Meryl Streep famously auditioned dozens of times before landing her first meaningful role. Imagine if she had given up, or internalized a (false) message regarding her innate acting ability, after just a few “failed” auditions. Resilience and determination are important skills for virtually any professional, but especially so among actors.