HOW TO GET INTO ACTING
A Somewhat Snarky, To-The-Point Instructional
To begin from the beginning, I would suggest that you start in school and/or community plays, any short films and/or student films as well. Short films & student films can be found under Breakdowns on ActorsAccess.com, and several Facebook acting groups. Submit to be an extra on major films & tv shows. Being an extra gives people a good idea on how things work on big budget sets.
Continuous training is absolutely necessary. Not just in generalized acting (how to breakdown a script, etc..), but also on-camera technique, improvisation, commercial acting vs theatrical acting, cold-reading, the business of being an actor, etc… There are many aspects to learn as an actor.
In Atlanta, GA, classes run $100-500/month. So, not inexpensive. That is why I suggest getting involved in local plays and student films to begin.
Coaching for auditions is crucial also.
Read all the old ‘The Actors Voice’ articles by Bonnie Gillespie. It is an enormous wealth of information (she has changed the format of the website, so it may be very different from what I remember).
Read and read and read some more. There is so much great information on the Internet.
Be an extra. Watch who does what. Learn from them.
Wanting to be an actor is not an “I can just ask so & so who is an actor because I knew them 20 years ago.” Working actors do not have any pull to get someone into the industry. Working actors do not have pull to get anyone an agent. Yes, I wrote that twice. They cannot give anyone a magic formula. What have they done? They have worked their booties off training & doing everything they can to do what they love. They have sacrificed many things, scraped by, questioned if acting is what they really should do so many times it cannot be counted. They’ve been figuratively (& some literally) kicked around, taken advantage of financially, probably even relationally. They have auditioned (NOTE: “Job-interviewed”) anywhere from 10-1000 times before getting their first legitimate gig, and they have come out the other side even stronger. That. Is. What. It. Takes.
So, please, do not ask to meet with an actor to get into acting. Feel free to ask questions, but don’t expect us to have “actor-magic”…It’s simply not a thing. I’m sorry to reveal this heartbreaking piece of information.
…Get used to heartbreaking also. But don’t take anything personally. Build that thick skin. Brush it off. Let it go. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And all those other annoying clichés.
CAVEAT: A-list actors do have pull, but it is usually only for their own spawn. The rest of us actors? We may *want* to be A-list and in-demand, but we are not right now. And you are not our spawn.
I AM READY.
Once you have done that much, you will need:
⁃ 2 headshots, a theatrical (non-smiling, neutral look), and a commercial (smiling with teeth). Probably more looks for the Southeast market: Business serious, business friendly, no make up, with/without scruff or beard,…
⁃ A demo-reel.
All the same goes for Voice Over work. You must have a professional Voice Over (VO) demo reel in order to get a VO agent (separate from acting demo reel).
FINDING BEGINNER ROLES.
For now, go to Actorsaccess.com to create a free profile that allows 2 free images. You can also see projects under “Breakdowns” that are currently casting in your region, and submit to short films and student films on there. It does cost per submission, unless you get their annual membership.
Agents in the major cities are not going to take anyone without a demo reel. A demo reel has clips of projects that show the actor in several of their speaking roles (all edited together into one file that is 1-3 minutes long).
Finding legitimate agents is as easy as going to the SAG-AFTRA website, and putting in the closest city and hitting the SEARCH button (Also search the ATA/NATR agents).
HOWEVER, you MUST RESEARCH each & every agency- their website, their rosters, their requirements, etc… because each agency is different. —>Read and Follow. All. Of. Their. Directions. Filter which agencies would work best for you, and you for them… Bonnie Gillespie goes into this in her articles. If the agency doesn’t respond, it means they are not interested at this time. (Get used to not hearing back. We do not hear back if we do not get cast). It could simply be that the agency has someone too similar on their roster already. Give it 4-6 months and try again, hopefully with even more work on the resume and on the demo reel.
If you are truly interested, you will run the marathon which could take years. Perhaps even decades. But this business is not for the feint of heart, nor for the thin of skin. It takes persistence and tenacity while being KIND and humble. To everyone. The person you talk to at the sign in table today will be the major casting director tomorrow. BE NICE. This industry is small once inside it.
Read about why Mark Ruffalo almost quit acting HERE.
SUSTAINING A LIVING.
I have read and heard people say that if you decide to get a job in another area, then you are not committed to your acting. That is complete and utter RUBBISH. It really ticks me off. Having a job that allows you to pay for a living and health insurance and to be able to audition whenever you are called, is not only crucial, but strategic. It is NOT a plan B, it simply MUST be a part of your plan A.
Find a job that allows you to be flexible with your schedule. Most of the time, actors are waiters/waitresses because it gives them the flexibility to alter their shifts easily. Shift work is popular and easy. You can also work for yourself! Find what you’re good at, obtain skills that will allow you to work for yourself, use what you know. Did you take any journalism classes? You could write for a paper or newsroom. Did you take a graphics course as an elective? You can create intros/outros for videos, you can retouch photos & create composite photos and artwork. There are endless opportunities that you already have the skills to do.
Some options are:
Consultant (financial, firearms, set safety, engineering, so many!), real estate agent, photographer, editor (good editors are desperately needed, and will pay well!), Intimacy coordinator for film/tv, acting teacher/coach, website creator, PR/Marketing, social media manager (i would love for someone to do this for me), any work-from-home jobs. There are tons of options, so think outside of the box, and get to work. Multiple streams of income are readily available and waiting for you to grab hold and
Make. It. Work.
Having multiple streams of income means you are SMART. This is true for all careers.
Never ever ever ever never pay for an agent. PERIOD. Legitimate agents take a percentage off work that they get for you. Would you pay a temp agency? No. No, you would not. 10% is what an agent will take from union work after you have been paid (or sent to them first, so they will take it out for you). 15%-20% will be taken from non-union work.
You CAN ask actors about these things, they may be able to help you determine if something or someone is legitimate or not. Scams come in all forms, but one thing to always remember: DO. NOT. PAY. ANYONE. TO. REPRESENT. YOU. Legitimate agencies/agents/managers will ONLY take a percentage from jobs that they get for you. Do not let them tell you that you need to pay them for pictures, classes, a reel, etc… so they can get you auditions and/or in front of casting directors at a convention/meeting. Anyone who asks that of you is NOT a legitimate agent. You may actually need pictures and classes and a reel, but you can do those things without paying an ungodly amount of money. The RIGHT way. (Also, if they use the term “casting agent,” they don’t know what they’re doing…there’s no such thing. There are ‘Casting Directors.’)
If the person who wants to be an actor cannot wait to do all these things, to put in the hard work, and they (or their parents) decide to do a convention to “be seen” by <big entertainment company name> casting directors, it will be money down the toilet. Warning has been given.
If they have been scammed out of money, it is on them if they have already been warned.
You read all of this! Good luck. Break legs. If it’s not hard, then it’s not worth it. Many blessings for lots of patience & lots of peace ✌🏻