It’s difficult to knock down preparation and its importance. In my opinion, actors who have a solid plan on how to start an acting career will do much better than those who’s only plan is to wing this whole thing.
The fact of the matter is that if you’re new to acting business, and especially whole concept of the entertainment business, then you’ll need to do some research and learn about what this career choice entails, what type of training you’ll need and what’s the best plan of action to take for you to succeed.
Quick reality check. Have you ever seen statistics on working actors? They’re not pretty. About 95% of actors are out of work all year round, while the rest 5% work continuously. So the goal is to be in that 5% figure. How you do this? By having a plan, and working smart and consistently.
Take it from entrepreneurs. No smart business person ever launches a business without doing market research and creating a plan of where this venture is going. This is no different.
RECOMMENDED: How to Make Your Own Acting Website
Having a good step-by-step plan on how to start an acting career and how to “get to your destination” will put you ahead of many other acting wannabes who are uncertain about what to do and how they can achieve those goals they set for themselves.
5 Step Plan on How to Start an Acting Career
Below I’ll list some generic advice that can help you to understand what it takes to start an acting career.
This is going to be a very broad look at the steps to take, but I have some upcoming articles in the future that will expand on every one of these aspects with more details on how to start an acting career and provide you with more specific advice.
1. Figure Things Out First
Every ambitious actor who got recently bit by a acting bug wants to know how to start an acting career and how to do it efficiently. Nobody’s interested in years of useless meandering around, trying to score auditions and not even understanding whether they have progressed or not.
You’d be surprised how many people I talked to who always wanted to be in the show business, but never pursued their dream. This idea of becoming a successful performer, be it actor, singer, dancer or musician, has popped into most people’s heads. And when it comes to this, there are three kinds of people:
- Those who leave it at that, just a dream, and move on;
- Those who blindly chase the fantasy of becoming rich and famous without any knowledge on how to do it;
- And those who set realistic goals and educated themselves on how to achieve them, one step at a time.
Hopefully, by the end of this article series on how to start an acting career I will be able to convince you to become that third type of an actor – someone who’s smart about this tricky business.
So, the first thing you need to do is figure a few things out for yourself. Answer some of these questions in your mind:
- Do you enjoy the process of performing enough to tolerate this difficult business?
- How good are you with coping with rejection? Because you’ll get this a lot. A LOT.
- Are you willing to stop your regular life? You won’t be buying a big house any time soon.
- Will you be able to work two survival jobs while also trying to find acting work?
These are just a few of the conditions for someone who loves this art form and dreams big and wants to become a successfully working actor. Entertainment industry is harsh, and acting is not an easy career to take on by any means, so you better be ready for this.
I picked some great articles from the internet on the reality of show business:
- More than half of actors are under poverty line (self-explanatory)
- Most competitive jobs (acting is #6 most competitive of all the jobs you can choose)
- A tough scene for actors (some reality from the acting business)
I’m not trying to discourage you, but my personal belief is that staying half-realistic is important. It’s necessary to understand the reality of this business so that you know how hard you need to work and how well you should prepare for what is waiting for you in the future.
So if you want to know how to start an acting career, I’d say begin by making a plan and sticking to it.
2. Making an Acting Plan
If you’ve read either one of our free eBooks on acting, you know how to start an acting career and it’s actually very easy. But there is a more complicated question waiting just around the corner: How does one become a working actor?
A working actor is someone who goes out on auditions and gets to a film set or on stage on a regular basis. It’s someone who can put bread on the table solely from acting jobs. This should be every actor’s goal. Not becoming a film star, but paying bills with your acting gigs.
Once you decided to start an acting career, it’s time to open your Word and type out your plan of actions. This will mostly be based on the knowledge of how the acting industry works. Where do you get that knowledge? Reading Acting in London, of course.
Here are a few sample questions you can explore in your acting business plan:
- How well do I understand how the entertainment business works?
- What type of training am I going to do and where? How much will it cost?
- Where do I find my auditions, how do I apply for them, and how much it costs?
- Do I need improvisation and commercial class training to book commercials, or not?
- Who’s the best private acting teacher in my area that can coach me for important auditions?
Answer as many of these as you can, and keep it all in writing. If you can’t answer some of these questions, that means you need to include this in your plan and make sure that you address this.
For example, new actors who want to know how to start an acting career may not know who casting directors or even talent agents are. That means they need to read about the business first before doing anything else.
An important aspect that every new aspiring actor needs to consider is this: Don’t jump into this business too quickly, flushing down your money down every film acting class or marketing course, trying to become famous in 6 months just because you were inspired watching yet another Tom Hanks movie.
Take some time to figure out whether this is really something you want to do. Consider pros and cons, your chances of success and what you believe you can achieve, what the current state of the business is, and so on.
To get the better idea of what this journey entails, read everything you can about the acting business. Here’s a list of five best acting business books that I highly recommend for every actor to read.
You’d be surprised to learn how many people went on to study acting in drama schools, spent thousands and then realized they don’t really enjoy doing all that work. I’ve met them, I studied with them, I worked with them and I still know many of them personally. This is just the nature of this business, and it’s not for everybody.
3. Start with Acting Training
You don’t have control over who hires you as an actor for their project. You don’t have control over what auditions you can get, what gigs you can book and what people you can work with. But what you do have control over is your acting training.
If you have a little money to spend every month on an acting class, then this would be the best way to confirm whether you truly enjoy this craft. Many people have taken acting classes before auditioning for drama schools simply to see if this whole thing is worth the effort.
Getting a taste of the process is one reason to start your acting career with proper training.
Another reason to put acting training as your first priority is of course to become a better actor and demonstrate your acting chops once you finally start booking work, and to become better at auditioning in general.
There are multiple types of acting training options out there, starting with regular “Introduction to Acting” type of classes, more advanced training and specific classes. Some of those include:
- Acting technique classes, such as Meisner or Method
- Auditioning classes to learn how to be successful at auditionining
- Film acting courses that are aimed at screen acting only
- Cold reading classes which are similar to audition class
- Improvisation training to help you get out of your head
- Vocal training classes that may be helpful for all actors, including voice over actors
- Commercial acting classes which teach you how to book commercials
- Body and movement training, such as Alexander Technique
…and then some more. Obviously, you don’t need to take all of them. In fact, you don’t have to take most of them, at least in the beginning. When you just want to know how to start an acting career and spend the least amount of money, then simple introductory classes will suffice.
Acting training is also a very important part of your acting resume. Casting directors, producers, directors, and all the talent agencies will pay attention at how much training you have under your belt. Placing a few solid, well-known acting classes on your resume can help attract some attention.
So get yourself into an acting class as soon as you can. Try to meet other actors, ask for their advice on how to start an acting career or move it forward and check for yourself what this whole “acting” thing is about.
4. Get That Acting Experience
After you’re done with the planning phase on how to start an acting career, it’s time to begin taking action. Your first two goals should be getting experience and training under your actor’s belt.
Acting experience is going to be the first roadblock for many actors. It’s catch-22: acting jobs require experience, but how do you gain experience without getting those acting jobs? We’ve all been there. The good news is that this state of mind is just temporary. It’s tough, but you’ll make it through. I promise.
So here are best four ways for you to get acting experience without investing any cash:
- Explore drama clubs and actor gatherings (this is London’s free drama clubs)
- Join a local community theatre
- Audition for student and low-budget indie films
- Create your own film or theatre productions
For the best results, I recommend giving a shot to all four of these, in that specific order.
Drama clubs are often free and easy to join, while community theatre may require audition but is still relatively easy to become a part of. Student films will have more requirements but aren’t as difficult to get as more professional gigs, and creating your own content can be as easy or as tough as you make it out to be.
Let’s take a quick look at all four of these options for those who want to know how to start an acting career without investing any money.
Finding Drama Clubs
Drama clubs usually are small actors gatherings that are run privately either by a person or a community. Most of these drama clubs will have very enthusiastic actors who’s goal is to either continue acting and developing their acting chops, or simply put up plays for the industry people to see them and hopefully sign them.
It’s likely that you have a drama club somewhere on your block, even. These can be anything, ranging from gatherings in local high schools, local small theatres, or even doing Shakespeare plays in the park. Not everything will be enthralling for you, so do pick and choose. It’s likely you’ll have a lot of choice.
Joining a Community Theatre
London, Los Angeles, New York aren’t the only cities who will have community theatres with work opportunities for new actors. Virtually every small town the developed countries will have some type of community theatre and they often look for more players to join their company.
Do your research, Google this and find out what community theatres are near you. Reach out to them and ask if you can join or at least audition. This is your first-hand acting experience, and not only can you put this on your acting resume, but you will also be working on becoming a much better actor overall.
Doing Student and Indie Films
Majority of universities, colleges and sixth forms will normally have their filmmaking departments continuously working on films all year round. Students on those courses make short films every month, with occasional feature film or music video. These productions are your best chance to get on a real film set as a newbie actor.
The easiest way to find these is through casting websites. Some websites such as CastingCallPro have “Opportunities” section where you can browse and apply without paying anything. Most of these projects are low-budget indies or student films, which is exactly what you need.
Creating Your Own Content
The toughest way (out of these four, of course) and the most rewarding is producing your own content. Whether it’s a stage play, a short film, a web series or just a YouTube video, it’s a great opportunity for anybody wanting to know how to start an acting career without any experience or money.
Working on your own productions is arguably the best way to break into the industry today. No, not auditioning for big projects that you are unlikely to get; creating your own content is where it’s at. Not only do you get to hone your acting skills, but you’ll also gain experience in writing, directing and producing.
To top things off, producing your own short film and submitting it to film festivals can launch your career into stardom. Remember how Vin Diesel got hired by Steven Spielberg just off his short film “Multi-facial“?
5. Continue Progressing
Once you’ve gone through some acting classes and booked a few acting jobs, had some experience on a film set of a stage, and you’re positive that you won’t be able to live with yourself if you don’t give acting dream a shot, it’s time to move further.
At this point of how to start an acting career, you’ve done everything you needed to do to know if it’s time to start investing money and time into your future career.
Now, there are two paths you can take:
- Formal 3-4 years training from a reputable drama school, or
- Short-term acting schools and long-term acting classes.
You probably know what drama schools are and what the training there entails. If you don’t, simply check our acting guide for more articles on what’s it like to get into a drama school and study there.
We’ve also already discussed regular acting classes above, which usually last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. However, there are long-term acting classes that last about 1-2 years, which is similar to drama school training just not as taxing and with much less hours spent in a class.
Both of these options have produced many great and successful actors who are working today both in UK’s film industry and Hollywood.
Here are a few things to consider once you really begin pursuing this dream:
- Your location: are there enough opportunities to act? Here’s more on locations.
- Your job and time: will you have enough time for acting and your work?
- Your funds: can you afford to pursue this costly dream? This is how much it costs.
If you live in a small town where there is little to none professional productions happening, you might need to consider moving to London, Los Angeles, New York or other similar metropolitan city eventually.
My advice to you is to not rush things and take it slow. Go through acting classes, read acting books, do plenty of research and think things through before committing to this hard yet rewarding career.
Key Points on How to Start an Acting Career
I’ll be honest with you: this article barely scratched the surface of how to start an acting career. There’s so much more I need to tell you about how to do this with most efficiency, without losing too much time and money. Stay tuned, and we’ll get more articles from this series to you soon.
Here are the key take home messages from this article:
- Learn about the industry first so that you know what to expect. There are many intricacies about the show business that every actor must learn. You need to know how to play this game in order to get ahead.
- Before you start pursuing acting, create your own “acting career business plan” of sorts. Write it all down so that you know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there and what you’re going to do once you’re there.
- The easiest way to test your passion for acting is to get yourself into an acting class. Pick an introductory course and see if you enjoy it. This will also start off your acting resume, help you book jobs and make you a better actor.
- Acting experience is one of the most important things you need to focus on. The more credits you have, the more people know you, the more impressive your resume looks, the better actor you are, the easier it is to book jobs.
- Consistency and progress is what makes any unknown aspiring actor into a successfully working performer. Once you’ve gone through some training, working and planning, you can narrow down your path and focus on what matters most.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to you and how hard and how smart are you prepared to work for this. There is no fast track to becoming a successful working actor. But we’ll give you the tools and the information you need to become successful. All you have to do is work at it, and stay CONSISTENT.
Would you like a last piece of advice from someone who’s been in showbiz for many years? Here it is: I wish I would’ve learned more about how this industry works and how business-focuses this acting business really is. It’s not as artsy as I expected it to be, and it takes a lot of smarts and connections to become successful in it.