A Beginner’s Guide To Acting

Last night I received a text message from a friend of mine who had quit his job that day as an apprentice electrician to pursue a career in the film and television industry. Risky, right? So this friend came to me for advice on how to break into the industry and it got me thinking…How did I do that again? Seeing as I dropped out of high school to pursue acting at the age of  sixteen, and have been working in the industry for five or so years now, I thought I’d write an article on all the necessary steps you should take to getting somewhere as an actor in this crazy, crazy thing we call show business. (Don’t drop out of school to become an actor kids). *nods head while whispering “do it”*. 

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So…you want to quit your day job and start working in the film and television industry as an actor? You’re not sure if it’s the right move as many people are telling you it’s a waste of time, a pipe dream. Yes, in fact many things could go wrong, however, many things could go right. If you ask any successful creative in the industry how they did it, they’ll all tell you the same thing – hard work and luck. They’re not wrong. This industry comes with hardships, many setbacks and rejections but the key to succeeding is not giving up. If you continue to put yourself in the right positions, surround yourself with supportive company, and work hard, anything is possible. You’ll need to start somewhere though.   

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Acting Classes – Education is extremely important so take as many different technique classes as you can. One is bound to suit your style and I tend to use many. If classes become too expensive, there are other alternatives, one being YouTube. There are endless videos of actor’s and acting coaches that talk about their crafts. (Lee Strasberg Technique, Chubbuck Technique, Meisner, Stanislavski, Steppenwolf, etc.). I also suggest listening to Larry Moss - he knows what he’s talking about. Some acting schools that I attended are the Film & TV Studio International, Melbourne Actor’s Lab, 16th Street Actor’s Studio, just to name a few. Other ways of learning are through various acting books; The Power of the Actor by Ivana Chubbuck and The Lee Strasberg Notes by Lola Cohen are two of my favourites. 

Headshots – Casting Director’s need to see your face in order to know if you’re the right look for the character they are casting, before calling you in to the audition room. In order for them to see what you look like, you’ll need to get some professional headshots taken. Research the type of characters you believe you’d be a right fit for, and prepare outfits to wear accordingly. There are plenty of great headshot photographers around that can do some great deals at an affordable price. If you’re based in Melbourne, the team at OOMPH! Media can sort you out.

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Showreel – In order to showcase to casting director’s and agents what you can do, you’re going to need a showreel. The best way to do this is to choose a scene from a film or TV series that you like. Make sure the character you’re playing in the scene suits your age range, as well as the types of characters that you believe you can play. Your showreel should compliment your headshots. If you’re unsure of your age range or character types, do some research and ask around. You’ll want to keep the scene to a maximum of two and a half minutes and you’ll also need someone to do the scene with. Find a fellow actor (possibly someone you met in acting class) and ask them if they’d like to film a scene. 

Actor Profiles – So it’s easy for industry professionals to find everything they need to know about you in the one place, it’s worth investing into acting service profiles such as Showcast, Casting Networks, IMDb Pro and StarNow. Some of these are free, and some of these you have to pay for. On here you can update your profile with everything from your acting credits, to headshots and behind the scenes photos of you, to your showreel and your training and experience. It’s basically one large profile of all your work combined into one. Casting professionals and agents use these services so it’s also good to be on their radar. 

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Agent – Finally you’re just about ready to book an agent. This might seem easy, however, it’s not. For an agent to take a chance on you, they need to see potential in your ability to make their business money so they can survive. The idea of an agent is that they go out of their way to find you work and book you an audition for a potential role. If you book a gig working on a television commercial, film or TV series that’s making you money, once you’re payed, they will take a cut from your pay. This could be anywhere from 10% - 20% depending on the job. Keep this mind. If an agent ever asks you or mentions a yearly fee, they are not the real deal. This is why it’s important that your agent has faith in what you’re doing, because they don’t get paid until you get paid. In order to get book an agent, you’ll need to have completed all of the above. Remember your agent needs to see what you can do before taking a chance on you. Don’t rush into it, assess your options, do your research before selecting who you’d like to apply to. When applying to an agency, it’s usually via email. In this email, you’ll need a transparent subject line - “actor looking for representation”. You’ll also need to draft a cover letter, introduce yourself, tell them where you’ve been training and what techniques specifically, if you’ve been in any short films, mention a current client that they represent which you feel has a similar acting style to you and explain why. Then you’ll want to end the email by leaving a link to your showreel, attaching your  CV and headshots, and signing off. Keep it short and sweet. Agents are busy people. 

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Don’t forget to keep working hard. Just because you have an agent, that doesn’t mean you get to slack off. It’s a two way street. Don’t wait for the phone to ring, because it won’t. StarNow and Casting Networks are great platforms to apply for jobs. Some are paid and some are not. But don’t get trigger happy and apply to every job in your age range you see. Research the project and see if it’s a story you actually want to be a part of. Then make a decision. There’s going to be a lot of setbacks. People are going to turn you down a lot. Trust me; I know what it’s like first hand but keep pushing. At the end of the day, you’ll never know if you don’t try.