As one of the most sought-after career choices in the world, pursuing a career as an actor or actress isn’t going to be easy. A career in acting can be a long path full of rejection and very low wages, especially at the outset. However, should you become even moderately successful, then you can expect a very fulfilling career that, for the biggest stars, can be extremely lucrative.
Don’t wait for that big break – start working towards it
It wasn’t until Samuel Jackson was 45 until he got his first real break as an actor with Pulp Fiction, yet he has been working in the acting professions since the early 70’s. As with most careers, getting that all-important break is the hardest part, and that means sheer perseverance, commitment and self-belief. This probably applies to acting more than any other industry sector.
So how do you get started?
The simple answer to that is any way you can. Read books, watch great actors in movies, sign up for local acting classes or workshops. That should give you a good feeling for the profession and help you decide whether or not it’s for you. Along the way, you should also develop a network of contacts in the industry that will be vital when it comes to breaking into the paid world of acting. Firstly, however, getting some experience in an amateur production should be your main goal.
Your first paid job in acting
Start by getting a broad range of acting skills under your belt, from understanding commercial acting to method acting. After that, you’ll be equipped with the skills you need to land your first paying job.
Of course, while you’re training, you’ll need an ‘ordinary’ job to pay the bills. If you aren’t already in work, you could start looking for a flexible day job on Zoek to tide you over while you’re auditioning, or for temporary work opportunities in between acting jobs.
Drama clubs, community theatre, student films and even creating your own content can all help you get the experience you need to secure your first paid role.
It’s important too to develop a career plan. Learn everything you can about the business and put together a list of resources for helping you develop your skills and find opportunities. Build your own website, create social media profiles and connect with other actors and industry professionals. LinkedIn can be a great starting place when networking for a job. Once you’ve some experience, it will be these connections that take you to the next level.
Many actors started life as extras and there are sites out there where you can register for work as a background actor. Here too, you’ll meet like-minded individuals who can put you in touch with other actors and organisations that can help you secure paid acting roles.
Of course, for most of these you’ll have to audition – which can be nerve-wracking experience, but something you must learn to overcome if you want to have any chance of being a successful actor or actress. Casting workshops can help, sometimes even putting you in front of real casting directors and securing the advice and confidence you need to succeed in real life auditions.
Make no mistake, breaking into acting won’t be easy, but surround yourself with supportive people who are on the same path and persevere and you might just be one of the lucky ones!
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