Acting is an activity in which a story is told by means of its enactment by an actor or actress who adopts a character ? in theatre, television, film, radio, or any other medium that makes use of the mimetic mode.
Acting involves a broad range of skills, including a well-developed imagination, emotional facility, physical expressivity, vocal projection, clarity of speech, and the ability to interpret drama. Acting also demands an ability to employ dialects, accents, improvisation, observation and emulation, mime, and stage combat. Many actors train at length in specialist programmes or colleges to develop these skills. The vast majority of professional actors have undergone extensive training. Actors and actresses will often have many instructors and teachers for a full range of training involving singing, scene-work, audition techniques, and acting for camera.
How to Become an Actor or Actress
There?s no real clear path to becoming a successful or famous actor, however, there are many things you can do to carve out your own way. Often, these steps will overlap with each other or be repeated as you grow your acting skills. Here are nine key steps to getting started as an actor.
Congratulations on exploring a new career path! Acting is a satisfying, rewarding career that has nearly unlimited earning potential. Some people assume that a career in the entertainment industry is a frivolous pursuit, but today?s talented movie and television stars prove that you don?t need anything but a decent shot to become a Hollywood force. Here are some simple and effective steps to get your acting career started on the right foot.
First Things First
If you think you want to become an actor, it can be difficult to know where to start. What should you do first? Is there a certain order you need to go in? What is the first step to becoming a Hollywood actor? Who can help answer your questions as you go through the process of building your career?
Everyone has to start somewhere and for amateur actors, that?s usually at a high school or community theater. Before you start thinking about making acting your job, try it on for size a few times to see if you really like it.
Where to Get Started in Acting
Look for amateur acting opportunities in your area. This may be easier to do in a more urban area, but many small communities have theaters and acting guilds. If you?re still in school, enroll in a musical or play, even if you don?t have a speaking role. Get as much experience as you can with acting, drama, and performances that get you behind the scenes. Branch out and look for local theater ensembles that cast people of all ages. Productions at high schools, local theaters, and community colleges are all excellent places to start improving your acting skills when you don?t have a lot of initial experience.
Once you?ve explored a few acting opportunities on a small scale and have decided it?s something you want to pursue, it?s time to take the next several steps. Many of these won?t happen in order and some of them may overlap or become jumbled. It?s not necessary to be focused on the order of your progress; simply do what you can when you have the opportunity.
2. Study Acting and Drama
Acting is a craft like writing, singing, or the arts. This means that while some people have a natural predisposition for drama and theatre, not all good actors are ?born with it.? Acting needs to be studied, developed, and cultivated. Even the highest-paid Hollywood actors are consistently working to improve their craft. Here are two primary ways to get an education in acting:
Attend an Acting School or Class
Look for acting classes or a drama school in your area. Explore different genres and avoid choosing characters that limit you to being a certain type of actor. Variety is what you should be looking for. If you find that you do excellent work in dramatic scenes, expand your skills by seeking training in other areas. If you push yourself to become well-rounded you?ll have more opportunities than if you limit yourself to one or two types of acting. Attend multiple classes or a specialized acting school that allows you to get a feel for multiple different types of work.
Enroll in a BFA or MFA Program
Many careers require post-secondary education, however, acting is not one of them. You don?t need a BFA or MFA to become a successful actor or actress. That said, formal education or formal training can definitely benefit students by providing them with a structured approach to learning the craft. The list of successful actors who received formal training is equally as long as those who did not. A college degree program can help you sharpen your knowledge of acting theory, learn the techniques of successful screen actors, and gain valuable exposure through acting auditions for students. Additionally, students who receive a formal education can build their acting resume by participating in student films, commercials, and opportunities open to students in drama school.
3. Hone Your Craft
Like any craft, talent only gets you so far. It?s important to research and learn more about your craft and to open yourself up to new challenges by taking on different roles. It might not always be a success, but staying involved in the acting community can help keep your creative muscles limber and your skills in top shape.
Attend Acting Workshops or Camps
Acting camps and workshops are often an affordable way for early aspiring actors to start getting experience. Many workshops are open to individuals of all ages, especially if they?re not connected to a high school or college, so you don?t necessarily have to be young to attend an acting camp. Many of these workshops are extremely intensive and can provide you with several months worth of education in just a few short weeks. In some cases, an acting camp or workshop will pay stipends to actors for their work.
Audition for Community Theater or Join a Theater Group in Your Area
If your community has a local theater, this can be an excellent way to get involved in different productions throughout the year. Depending on how well funded the theater is and how seriously they take their work, small theater productions can be a step up from college theater. Joining a local theater group can help you better understand your competition, make important connections, sharpen your resume, and add to your experience. Additionally, many talent scouts will visit small local theaters to cast for indie roles or other non-blockbuster films.
Develop Your Stage Skills
Many stage actors believe that live acting is much more difficult than acting for a film or television production. You only get one take and your delivery needs to be as close to perfect as possible. If being able to redo your scenes until you get them right is important to you, stage acting may not be where you end up. However, learning how to act authentically on stage can better prepare you for film acting in the future. Consider taking stage combat classes, joining improvisation groups, learning to sing and dance, and working with a dialect coach to improve your stage skills.
Work with Specialized Coaches to Improve Unique Skills
Ideally, you will develop one or more unique skills that help you stand out from the competition. Aspiring actors are a dime a dozen, and it can be difficult for directors to differentiate between a hundred auditions that were nearly the same. Actors access a wide range of human emotions in their performances, so it?s important to increase the depth of emotion you are able to communicate so you can stand out in the crowd. Consider training that pushes you to add new abilities like unusual facial expressions, tap dancing, or a killer Russian accent, but remember to only add them to your resume once you?ve mastered the skill relatively well. Be strategic about how you approach your professional development; for example, if a handful of directors all say that you would be a great fit if you had a certain skill, or could play a type of character, it would be a waste of time to pursue training for anything else.
Keep Tabs on the Entertainment Industry
It?s important to keep tabs on the industry so you can stay ahead of the curve. Websites like Backstage.com, Hollywoodreporter.com, and Showbusinessweekly.com, can help you discover current trends are and keep you connected with key people who may open doors for you. Staying up-to-date on emerging directors and new acting theories can give you a competitive edge and keep your creativity at the forefront of your mind.
4. Prepare for Auditions and Build Your Resume
As you?re working on getting yourself out there in the acting scene, you?ll need to begin preparing for auditions and building your resume. Your resume is often your first impression and your audition the second (or vice versa), so it?s critical to make sure you?re on the ball with both.
Assemble Your Resume
You can build your acting resume in one of two ways. If you have a lot of experience, you can list the productions you?ve participated in. Even if you weren?t on stage, all experience counts. Or, if you?re looking to get experience, you can build a skills-based resume. Instead of listing the places you?ve worked in order, you list what skills you?re proficient in and any special talents you have. You?ll include both skills and experience on either resume, but each emphasizes one over the other, whichever area you?re strongest in.
Have Professional Headshots Taken
One of the first things any producer or director will want to look at is the headshot that accompanies your resume. The entertainment and film industry is very appearance-centric, and your physical characteristics can play a big role in what types of parts you?re cast for. Make sure your headshot is current and reflects who you are and what you look like today. A headshot photographer will likely produce the most professional result, but you can always approach an amateur photographer who is willing to take photos for free, or for a reasonable fee, if your budget is really tight.
Develop a Demo Reel
A demo reel is a compilation of video clips from your best performances. It should be rather short; a few minutes or less is all that is necessary. As you first get started as an actor, it will be difficult to assemble a reel with a variety of performances because you won?t have many to choose from. Do your best to highlight your best work, even if it is limited. As your experience grows you will secure more challenging or notable characters, which will allow you to promote a more impressive and comprehensive body of work.
Learn a Variety of Monologues in Different Genres
Monologues are short, memorized lines that can be used at the drop of a hat, often to cast actors in plays, television shows, and movies. You should have a wide variety of monologues in different genres that showcase your acting talents. Make sure to branch out of your comfort zone and learn monologues that are different from the genre you are most familiar acting in. If you sing, be sure to master 16?32 bars of a few different songs and be ready to perform them on the fly.
Know Your Strengths and Your Target Audience
Although you want to be well-versed in a number of different genres, it?s also important to understand your target audience and know where your strengths lie. If you make an excellent leading actor in a comedy, don?t sweat being typecast. If you?re more confident in a supporting role or playing villains? Don?t be afraid to make a reputation in the industry based on a niche skill you bring to the table. If you?re not a role chameleon, focus on what you are good at and get even better at it.
Show Up to Auditions Prepared and Professional
Few things frustrate a producer or director more than an actor, especially an amateur with little experience, who shows up to an audition flustered and unprepared. You don?t have much control over what the director thinks of you, but you can control how you present yourself. Arrive at your audition on time, wear professional clothing, bring materials that you may need like a pen and paper, and know your material backward and forwards. Be friendly and shake hands with everyone. You never know whose opinions on set carry weight.
5. Move to a Large City (Go Where the Work Is)
One of the harshest realities of having a successful acting career is that it usually requires relocation. Larger cities, especially those on the West coast, have many more opportunities than smaller cities or cities in the Midwest. While you don?t have to necessarily move to Los Angeles or Manhattan, you need to go where the work is. If you aren?t financially prepared to relocate, focus on doing what it takes to get the money saved up to move. Few serious actors are able to make it outside of a large city.
6. Audition Frequently
Your resume and headshot are important, but auditions are truly where the decision to cast you or not is made. Make sure you are well-practiced at auditioning and attend as many auditions as you can within reason, even for roles you may not necessarily want to accept. Auditioning often leads to a lot of ?no?s,? but the experience will help you develop a thicker skin and improve your auditioning skills, which are both crucial for success.
Network Often and Extensively
Networking is the lifeblood of the entertainment and film industry and if you?re not networking, you?re truly missing out on a wealth of opportunities. When you have key individuals in your network, they can help connect you with good directors and available roles, as well as offering insights on your work. It?s important that you build a positive reputation instead of a negative one. Your career can be over as quickly as it started if you become known in the industry as difficult to work with, snobby, or lazy.
How to Find Roles to Audition For
Ask your contacts if there are any upcoming projects in your area or if they have a recommendation for a manager or agent. Look for agent workshops, which can help you find a good agent to work with, although they tend to be quite competitive. Browse your local newspaper and online resources for local casting open calls. Or, if you can travel and temporarily relocate for the part, you may want to consider casting calls in other areas. Audition websites like exploretalent.com and backstage.com are also great resources for finding auditions.
How to Book Auditions
Ideally, you have an acting agent who works directly with producers and directors to help you book auditions. Your agent will contact you with audition times for roles for which you?d be a good fit, and you simply arrive prepared. If you?re booking auditions without the help of an agent, it may be a little more difficult since you won?t have instant access to casting calls. Look for casting notices and contact the number listed in the ad to set up a time for your audition.
Get the Hookups
Networking with people who have personal or professional connections in the industry is an essential ingredient for success. Focus on developing relationships with people who work at all levels, even if they don?t seem to have an important role. You never know who may be able to put in a good word for you with a director or producer.
7. Join an Actors Union
Performers unions are a great way to build your reputation, get to know key individuals who work in casting, filmmaking, and other areas of entertainment. You can also gain access to benefits like health insurance. Unions can be difficult to get into, so it?s best to start now. Consider becoming a member of organizations like AEA, AGVA, ACTRA, and AGMA. Once you?re in a smaller union, it?s easier to get into larger unions like the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Once you?ve been accepted into a union, keeping your membership active may be as easy as finding occasional work and paying annual dues.
8. Find a Talent Agent
There?s a difference between talent agents and managers, and not every professional actor needs or wants both (or either). Talent agents are highly valuable though because they essentially have the inside information about when and where auditions are happening. Even established and well-known actors have agents who connect them with producers or directors who are holding auditions. Begin contacting talent agents once you?ve added a few gigs to your resume through casting notices and open calls, and only meet with agents who have a good reputation in the industry.
Full Steam Ahead
Once you have an agent and are networking and going to auditions regularly, it?s time to put the pedal to the medal. Take the bull by the horns and start shaping your acting career into what success looks like for you. Discover what you need to feel satisfied with your career and then chase it full force.
9. Create Your Own Work
Creating original work is arguably the highlight of every actor?s career, especially when that work is seen by many. It also helps you maintain your creativity and keeps you sharp for other acting roles. Creating your own work is often challenging, but the payoff can be great.
Write Your Own Film, Play, Television Show, or Web Series Script
In your spare time, consider writing your own script for a television show, web series, play, or film. This is also a great way to spend any downtime in between auditions and roles when you?re not making money acting. Writing scripts can also help you discover what you?re truly passionate about and what types of roles excite you.
Direct or Produce a Project You or Someone Else Made
When you?re not acting, you can also consider directing or producing. If you?ve worked with a local theater production, perhaps you can convince them to direct a play that you?ve written. Or, if you have strong connections with screenwriters or playwrights, you may be able to direct someone else?s work. Or, you can apprentice under an experienced producer and begin learning how to produce television shows, films, and more. Getting behind the scenes is another great way to expand your skill set and make sure that your name stays fresh in the community.
Interested In Becoming an Actor? It?s Hard Work But Often Worth It
If your interest in how to become an actor evolves from curiosity to a serious pursuit, it?s important to know that becoming a successful actor takes a lot of effort and a great deal of sacrifice. You may not get to live where you really want to, or you may be stuck in between auditions working temporary jobs to make ends meet. You may find yourself in back-to-back auditions or staying up until the wee hours of the morning to go over your lines one last time. It sounds tough, but actors who truly love the craft and have become successful often say that the hard work is worth all the effort. Explore an acting career today and discover if it?s right for you.
5 Acting Techniques to Know If You Want to Be an Actor
You may not realize it, but there are several different techniques when it comes to acting.
Several of your favorite Hollywood A-list actors all use different acting techniques to make their characters come alive.
The following is a list of acting techniques Hollywood actors use daily.
- Classical Acting
- The Chekhov Acting Technique
- Method Acting
- Meisner Acting Technique
- Practical Aesthetics Acting Technique
Classical Acting Technique
Constantin Stanislavski created the acting technique called Classical Acting. Stanislavsky?s ?system? is an acting technique that has a systematic approach to training actors. Areas of study include concentration, voice, physical skills, emotion memory, observation, and dramatic analysis. Stanislavsky?s goal was to find a universally applicable approach that could be of service to all actors. He said of his system: ?Create your method. Don?t depend slavishly on mine. Makeup something that will work for you! However, keep breaking traditions, I beg you.?
In Stanislavski?s system, also known as the Stanislavski?s method, uses an actor?s feelings and experiences to connect with the character they are portraying. The actor puts himself or herself in the mindset of the characters finding things in common to give a more accurate portrayal of the character.
The Chekhov Acting Technique
Michael Chekhov was a student of Stanislavski, and he would later add to the Stanislavski?s system. Chekhov was a Russian-American actor and author. His acting technique has been used by actors such as Clint Eastwood, Marilyn Monroe, and Yul Brynner.
Between 1930?1935 Michael Chekhov worked in Kaunas State Drama Theatre in Lithuania. Between 1936 and 1939, Chekhov established The Chekhov Theatre School at Dartington Hall in Devon, England. Following developments in Germany that threatened the outbreak of war in 1938, his school moved to Connecticut in the United States, where it took up residence of an old boarding school, awarding its first diplomas in 1939.
In this technique, the actor focuses on the internal problem the character is facing and then expresses the issue in the form of movements.
?Central to his method is an image of the Ideal Actor who, as a human being, is himself a two-fold instrument. As an embodied being, he has corporeality: ?I have a body.? As a conscious being with thoughts, feelings, and will impulse, he has an inner self (psyche/soul): ?I have an inner life.? In Chekhov ?s vocabulary, the term ?psycho-physical? is shorthand to indicate the actor?s whole instrument, which by its essential parts, is both physical and psychological. Understandably then, the first goal of the method is for the two parts of the actor?s whole to develop together in the direction of their highest potential.? [Source]
In this technique, the actor physicalizes a character?s need or internal dynamic in the form of an external gesture. Subsequently, the outward gesture is suppressed and incorporated internally, allowing the physical memory to inform the performance on an unconscious level. The Checkov Technique is a psycho-social approach to acting. The Chekhov Technique focuses on transformation, working with impulse, imagination, and inner and outer movements.
Method Acting Technique
Method acting is credited to Lee Strasberg and the members of his Theater Group. For instance, actors Sanford Meisner, Robert Lewis, and Stella Adler all worked under Lee Strasberg, where they all developed the acting technique.
Strasberg?s teaching emphasized the practice of connecting to a character by drawing on personal emotions and memories, aided by a set of exercises and practices, including sense memory and affective memory.
Stanislavski?s system of acting as the foundation of Strasberg?s technique. Followers of Strasberg?s technology are now commonly referred to as ?method actors.?
?If one listens to either its critics or supporters. Method Acting is described as a form of acting where the actor mystically ?becomes? the character or tries to live the role in life somehow literally. Like all clichs, both explanations are false. When Lee Strasberg defined what is popularly known as Method Acting, he used a simple declarative sentence: ?Method acting is what all actors have always done whenever they acted well.? [via]
The method acting technique has different varieties. Overall, method techniques used by actors force actors to imagine themselves with the thoughts and emotions of their characters to develop lifelike performances. This type of acting method is common for many American actors you see on television, such as Jared Leto, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Angelina Jolie.
Meisner Acting Technique
The Meisner Acting technique is closely related to the Method Acting technique. It requires the actor to focus not on themselves but entirely on the other actor as though he or she is real and only exists at the moment. This type of acting method makes the actor?s scene seem more authentic to the audience.
The essential exercise that Meisner invented to train actors? responses is called the Repetition Exercise. Here?s an example of the activity:
?In this exercise, two actors sit across from each other and respond to each other through a repeated phrase. The phrase is about each other?s behavior, and reflects what is going on between them at the moment, such as ?You look unhappy with me right now.? The way this phrase is said as it is repeated changes in meaning, tone, and intensity to correspond with the behavior that each actor produces towards the other. Through this device, the actor stops thinking of what to say and do, and responds more freely and spontaneously, both physically and vocally. The exercise also eliminates line readings, since the way the actor speaks becomes coordinated with his behavioral response.?
Followers of the Meisner acting technique learn principles that help them find their expression in other people?s responses. James Franco, Alec Baldwin, and Naomi Watts are actors that employ the Meisner acting technique.
Practical Aesthetics Acting Technique
If the method acting was an apple, then Practical Aesthetics is oranges. Practical Aesthetics is an acting technique created by David Mamet and William H. Macy, based on the teachings of Stanislavsky, Sanford Meisner, and stoic philosopher Epictetus.
Practical Aesthetics is based on the practice of breaking down a scene using a four-step analysis that entails the following:
- Literal ? The most basic description of what is happening
- Want ? What does one character ultimately want the other actor to say or do
- Essential Action ? What the actor wants within the scene. It is necessary to understand that what the character is doing and what the actor is doing are separate.
- As If ? As if relates to the ?essential action? to the actor?s own life. For instance:
- ?Essential Action? ? To retrieve what is mine. ?As If? ? It?s as if my mom has taken away my favorite piece of candy that I was going to give as a gift. I need to retrieve it because it is mine. This step is a memory device, a spark to involve the actor in the scene. It helps the actor escape the fiction, find the truth, and apply it elsewhere.
Practical Aesthetics Acting Technique is used to highlight the experience of acting and is based not on the character but the actor. What does the actor want to accomplish in this scene? What would the actor do in this situation?