The Big Question: How To Become An Actor
When you make the decision to take the plunge into the world of acting and theatre, it can seem incredibly daunting. Where to begin? How to start? — Here I try to get your foot on the first rung of the ladder
How Do I Become An Actor?
It’s the biggest question I get asked as a teacher and as a professional. But it would be ridiculous to presume I could answer such a big question in one summarised article or class. Indeed, it takes time and practice and learning. Honing the acting craft is what it takes to become an actor. And that is FAR TOO SIMPLISTIC a response even still.
To become an actor (or actress, if you prefer) is an ongoing process. It is an adventure and an all-consuming task. To achieve this you need to be 400% dedicated (unless your competition is already 400% dedicated, in which case you need to be 401% dedicated!). You also need to be a focused dreamer – letting yourself dream the big things and acting career you want to achieve, but beginning to plan how you are going to get there. You need to take risks – and be prepared for failure. You also need to be instructed well – shown the skills you need to develop and work hard at developing them. Once you decide that you would like to become an actor, you become a student of the acting craft. What’s more, you never stop being a student of acting. You need to go into this knowing this. You will constantly be learning, you will constantly be developing and you will never stop training. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO SURVIVE!
Most actors learn their craft through attending a drama school or conservatoire. While it is possible to cut your teeth as an actor through actual work experience, you will generally be taken more seriously if you have demonstrated a commitment (dedication) to acting by undertaking a course to help you build your skills.
Training to Become a Master of Many Acting Skills
Being an all-rounder as an actor is imperative these days. It used to be true that you could specialise in only one style, but the competition is increasingly fierce and the skills you are competing against are increasingly varied and honed.
As an actor you need to be able to work in a breadth of skills, and preferably in a manner that enables you to seamlessly transfer your skills from the stage to film to voice-over to presenting and more! This is why it is important to train as an actor. At most drama schools you will be given the opportunity to explore a wide range of media and acting styles. By seizing these opportunities and building your skills base you will be preparing yourself for the diversity of the acting world as a profession. Although training with a highly regarded drama school does not necessarily guarantee you a professional acting career, the range of skills you develop will certainly make you become more employable as a performer. At the end of the day, your training is all about providing you with the necessary skills to better secure your first big acting job.
Actor training also provides you with the chance to test your acting ability. You will be given performance based projects and public audiences to work towards. You will be expected to demonstrate your continued growth and development as an actor. You will also be expected to demonstrate a high level of professionalism and professional etiquette. This is all foundation-building for launching your acting career.
As part of this process, you will meet a range of theatre and acting professionals – some as visiting associates to the drama training school, some as guest speakers. Your interaction with these will help you to learn more about the world of acting, and about what you need to do to achieve from other professionals’ points of view. Learn from these. Every experience is essential to your development in becoming an actor. If possible, try to maintain contact with these professionals too. Networking is a vital skill in the acting industry (and sadly this is a skill most drama schools cannot dedicate enough time in developing in you), so you will need to build your own skills in networking fast! Establishing your own list of contacts and maintaining your relationship with these contacts will become invaluable. I will discuss this further in a future article.
Use Every Chance You Get To Show What You Can Do
Another really important reason for undertaking training in performing arts to develop your acting skills is the opportunity many schools give in your final year. Most schools offer a showcase opportunity, and this is a vital jumping-off point for any aspiring actor. This could even be classed as being the most important performance of any actor’s career.
Quite simply, a showcase could secure you an agent and project you into the professional acting world. This single performance could really launch your career. In the UK, for instance, many of the big drama schools hold showcase performances in central London, and they invite all of the primary players to come and watch. You could be performing in front of some of the biggest casting directors and actor’s agents who are looking for standout performers with finely tuned skills and talent to join their books or potentially be cast in a major production. This is your chance to really go for it!
If you make an impression on the agents/casting directors, you will be contacted directly by them after the showcase. Should you be successful with a range of agents and directors, you are very lucky – and it will then be up to you to do some research into the agents who have offered to take you on. Ultimately, you want someone to represent you in the type of acting work you are most interested in doing. Take some time to do this, but don’t leave any contacts hanging.
Excellent! You have an Agent!
But just because you’ve got the chance to be represented, your hard work has only just begun. The agent you go with may not be a big player in all fields of casting and so you might be finding that you still have to write to casting directors yourself and trying to secure auditions (always keeping your agent in the loop – they still represent you, after all). This is something you need to be aware of when selecting an agent if you’ve been given a choice: many agents will specialise in a particular field of casting (e.g. theatre, film, television etc) – but to be a regularly employed performer you need to be both flexible and dexterous. There are a multitude of other performance opportunities including Theatre in Education, fringe and festival theatre, role-play and simulations, presenting, corporate training and videos and more. Okay, so these may not be the ultimate goal of performance you envisioned, but these are regularly employing performers and ALL EXPERIENCE IS GOOD! To be a working actor means that you want to work as an actor. Wanting to be famous is not the same. Just be aware, to be a continuously busy and jobbing actor will require a lot of contact and effort on your part to find and secure the work.
Where Do I Find These Acting Jobs?
Castings are still regularly communicated in papers and publications. In the UK, some of the most prolific are The Stage, Casting Call Pro and The Production & Casting Report. These will list a variety of casting calls and you can apply directly if they allow it. You should also start collecting theatre websites and check them regularly to see if they are currently holding any open castings. The key thing here is that you need to be daring and secure in your in your ability, DON’T BE AFRAID OF PUTTING YOURSELF FORWARD!
You should also keep in regular contact with (and continue to grow) your network. Networking is essential to hear about potential castings and jobs that are on the horizon. Attend theatre productions, mix with theatre professionals, get involved with casting directors, directors and other actors. Only by being involved will information become available to you. You are your biggest asset, and you need to put your biggest asset in front of the people who will contact you.
I’ll be covering more on this in future articles, so do keep coming back and visiting for more information. But for now, the best way to answer the question of how to become an actor is to advise you to receive training, seize every opportunity to perform and if possible get in on the showcase. If you get an agent, be prepared to put in a lot of work yourself. Network, network, network!!!