Do You Want An Acting Career?
By Rose Rogers
Hello creative soul! At the Fourth Wall, we thought we’d bring you our tops tips for getting started as an actor. Are you looking to enter the industry? Firstly, ask yourself these questions:
Are you interested or committed?
There are A LOT of committed talent out there … there are EVEN MORE that are merely interested – think it could be cool, are all talk/no action, don’t actually put any consistent effort in etc.
If you are committed, you will actually set yourself goals and deadlines, come up with a plan to achieve those goals by the deadlines, and then actually take action and work on those plans to meet your deadlines (this is where people usually taper off – stick with it!)
Is there any other profession that could make you happy and fulfilled?
Hardcore dedicated actors will answer ‘no’ to this question. It is rooted deep inside them and the only thing in life that will be truly rewarding for them – that is what drives them to succeed.
If you could be happy as a doctor, teacher, accountant, personal trainer etc. – great, go and do that instead.
If you answered ‘committed’ and ‘no’ to those questions, congratulations – you might just stand a chance. Keep reading!
TIP #1 – FINANCES
Getting equipped and prepared to work as a professional actor will take up a lot of your time … and money.
Every actor wanting to step into the professional market needs their ‘actor’s toolkit’ – just like a builder needs a certificate, hammer, drill etc. actors need training (and not just one course), headshots by a professional *headshot* photographer (yes there’s a difference… whole other blog post) every 6-12 months or every time you change your look – whichever comes first, professional clips/reels to showcase your work, and depending what country you’re in – annual subscriptions to casting platforms (even after you land an agent, unless they’re an extras agent). It all adds up $$$.
So you need to have a financial cushion behind you, and you need to budget carefully to get the best tools. Don’t go with free or suspiciously cheap options – chances are the quality will be substandard and you’ll have to go back to square one/fork out more money for better ones and end up spending more than you would have in the first place. Also BEWARE of scammers. They are rife. Do lots of research and make sure things are legit.
If you’re young or still at school/uni, you may have the advantage of parental support. Make sure your parents fully understand how much they are going to be outlaying over the next 1, 2, or 5 years.
If family finances are tight, or your parents don’t support your choice, go out and get a part time job ASAP. Heck, get one anyway. Save everything up and work out what you need to spend your money on and when. As well as a job you could mow your neighbours’ lawns or do their weeding or wash their cars for $20 a pop. If you can sing or play an instrument, get a licence and go out busking. Whether a kid or an adult, how you spend your money matters…don’t go out with friends, don’t buy coffees/takeaways, don’t buy that cute dress or latest smartphone, don’t drink at bars every weekend, hold off on getting that first car/new car.
You can also ask for cash instead of gifts for Birthdays, Christmas etc. If you’ve saved up almost enough but won’t quite reach your deadline, falling short by say maybe $100-200, you could even set up a Givealittle/Gofundme page if your pride will allow – be sure to outline specifically what the money is for and all the work you’ve done yourself/how much you’ve saved vs. how much you still need. People are generous and like to help dreams come true.
Don’t sit on your butt while you’re saving the pennies – there’s still a lot you can do in the meantime. Go to the library and check out books on acting techniques, copies of plays, autobiographies/biographies of successful actors etc.
Watch YouTube clips, listen to podcasts, follow experts on socials and tune in to their live talks. Many will also offer free webinars occasionally.
In our digital age there are SO many resources available. You could watch the latest episode of Riverdale (go KJ!!), or you could spend that time educating yourself. Interested or committed?
(Hint: KJ probably went with the latter).
TIP # 2 – TRAINING
Go forth and immerse yourself! Jump in the deep end! Drama lessons at school are a good foundation, but you also need to get out into the acting world. Training is beneficial for not only education, but connecting/socialising with likeminded people, networking, and it will help you realise if this is really for you or not. Among the free options I touched on above, you can also sign up to auditions with your local community theatre and actually get some credits under your belt in the process.
I also urge you to sign up to screen acting classes as early as possible. If you get too comfortable in one medium, it can be difficult to adjust to the other. Learn both simultaneously and you will have the benefit of both worlds. After time you will probably naturally gravitate towards stage or screen, but a versatile skillset is key to maximise your booking potential once you have hit the professional scene.
If you have completed a variety of courses and workshops and are still hungry for more you may be considering a university degree in acting. If you are fortunate enough to be accepted into one, enjoy your time there and soak up all you can. If you’re ready to just get out there and work, go for your life. I have seen actors from both boats succeed.
Whether you are just starting out, or are a working professional actor, you MUST keep active with more, more, and more training. Learn from every expert you can. Learn from overseas experts. Keep developing, keep growing, keep connecting.
I sat in a workshop last month with several of NZ’s finest – they were soaking it up like sponges. They don’t think they already know it all, why do you?
If you’re an actor with the mentality “I don’t need to do that, I’ve already done this”… you may find you aren’t taken seriously by the ones dishing out the roles.
TIP # 3 – ACT!!!
So you’ve had your training, you’ve got a few credits… go out and get more. Hustle hustle hustle.
Your resume should be loaded with lead and supporting roles on short films, webseries, student films etc. as well as theatre/stage shows. It doesn’t matter if they were paid or unpaid, amazing or shyte – buff that resume up until it’s gleaming and nobody can deny you are serious, invested, committed, and talented.
Even if you do already have an agent, you should be doing this stuff regularly. It helps with your development, gets you noticed, keeps your resume current, and you will likely get in the audition room a lot more.
You will be competing with hundreds, if not thousands for roles – it doesn’t matter how talented you are if nobody gets to see it, so work work work grind grind grind hustle hustle hustle and tick ALL the boxes. Only then can you know you are doing everything in your power to succeed.
And guess what… if you honestly, truly feel there is nothing out there and nothing is happening (unlikely) you can … SELF CREATE! Self tape monologues or grab a reader and do scenes. Write a short film, rummage up a crew and shoot it! Put on a play or even just a live play-reading. So, so, so many options. Zero excuses. (Again – do this at any stage of your career!)
TIP #4 – MARKETING
Now that you really know your sh*t and have credits up the wazoo, you are ready for the professional world. Start a YouTube channel and upload all the best clips you have, whether it’s footage from projects or self-tapes. Don’t upload any cringy ones – get expert advice if you need it.
Also edit together a reel – the best clips of you pieced together and upload that too. Captivate within the first 10 seconds, so put the best best best stuff first. More on this in another blog. Build a website and/or start pages on socials. Build a following. Post your YouTube channel link in the description/bio.
If you didn’t already snap up an agent along the journey so far, work out what type of agent you want and start applying. NEVER come from an angle of superiority – you will always need them more than they need you, and for every one of you there are 20+ others.
That is just a black and white fact, don’t take it personally.
You can know what you want and go for it, but phrases like “why should I sign with you?”, “tell me about what you do and if I like what I hear I’ll consider signing with you”, “I have meetings with other agents so…” etc. absolutely reek of ego, ignorance, and self-importance. Don’t be that person.
If after a meeting you feel they aren’t right for you, professionally thank them for their time and politely decline their offer/withdraw before an offer or rejection is made. Keep searching.
Once you have an agent, your job is NOT done. Yes, they will put you out there for bigger and better roles than you could find on your own, but you still have to stay active and committed via all the things above, and you still have to nurture the relationship as much as they do.
If your training and resume haven’t evolved at all during your initial contract period, and you haven’t engaged with them on a regular basis, you may find it doesn’t get renewed. They can only do so much for you; you have to help yourself in order for them to help you.
TO SUMMARISE – STAY ACTIVE, KEEP GROWING, STAY COMMITTED. THE REST WILL FALL INTO PLACE.
Published in cooperation with Fourth Wall – Actors & Talent Agency