Become an Actor

To be, or not to be – That is the question you might be asking if you want to become an actor. With so many opinions about acting being a viable career, it can be a tough job to decide to go into the industry and even harder to know where to start to get work. Actors work in film, theatre, radio, TV, and online media among other things, although it must be said right from the beginning, that actors’ jobs are very unpredictable and you can go for many months without work.

In fact, according to the main actor unions, it is very seldom that an acting job surpasses 3 to 6 months.

To get work as an actor, you will give yourself the best chance by going to acting school or taking some part time acting classes. You can also get a university degree in drama, however many actors get jobs through sheer talent and experience alone, as well as having contacts in the industry. Some theatre actors advance their qualification by getting an MFA degree (Master of Fine Arts). The National Association of Schools of Theatre is a great place to look for an accredited acting school. The courses usually include acting for stage, acting for film, costumes, lighting, an introduction to directing, playwriting, movement, correct speech, improvisation, script analysis, history of drama, and various acting methods.

To get an acting job, the first thing you will need to do is go to an audition. Whether you want to get a job in film, with a theater production or on TV, you must attend an audition for the role that you want, which is often packed with other hopefuls. The competition for parts is common, so aside from you acting talent, you need to be determined and memorable, but also be prepared for rejection.

To find out when auditions are taking place and to get involved, you will need to join an acting or talent agency. This will involve setting up a portfolio with your picture, previous experience, specific accents you are good at, and training details so that agents can inform you of auditions. To start out, you can also get jobs working backstage or behind the scenes as assistants and stand-ins, just to get some contacts.

Acting is about interpreting the script, taking direction, understanding the underlying issues of the character you are playing to submerse yourself entirely in the role. Sometimes you will have to interact with the audience, sing, and dance, and to enhance your acting abilities, you can undergo voice training, dance training, singing lessons, mime, juggling, modeling, skating, fencing and acrobatic training. Physical fitness is also very important, not just to endure the long hours of running or dancing and moving about the set, but also to endure the hot lights, sometimes extreme weather conditions, and heavy weight of the costumes that are sometimes worn. Physical attributes such as hair or eye color, also play a part in deciding on whether or not you get the part.

Most actors also decide to move to New York or Los Angeles to find acting work, as these are the main filming and theatre locations. Moving does not automatically guarantee you work or even auditions right away, and most actors have a secondary job like being a waiter or bar tender. Actors can also supplement their income until they get another job, by working in nightclubs, cabarets, on cruise ships, at summer festivals, and theme parks like Disney. Actors can also find regular work as voice over artists, doing narrations for TV commercials, radio spots, books on tape, as well as for animated features. Actors also earn extra money by becoming drama teachers, private drama coaches, producers, and directors.

An actor’s job is hard with long hours (normally 12 hours every day for the duration of a shoot) and sometimes harsh working conditions depending on the type of film, TV series, or theatre production you are doing. Before the final day of shooting or performing, an actor must undergo intense rehearsals and training to ensure that their performance is flawless, under the watchful eye of the director and producer or film studio. Sometimes actors will work from 4 in the morning, and other times from 4 in the afternoon all through the night. Actors might also need to travel to different locations around the world for films and theatre tours.

Actors can make huge sums of money, like the A-list Hollywood celebrities, but most actors do not earn that much. The industry is expected to grow by 11 % over the next 8 years due to the expanding TV network operations and an increase in the development of online movies, cell phone content and other interactive media forms. Currently the minimum wage for an actor is negotiated by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to be $782 per day or $2713 per week (5 days). Aside from this, actors that have joined the unions are also eligible for pension and health plans, as well as commission for reruns, and foreign telecasts.

Actor Quick Facts

Job Title: Actor
Office: Anywhere and everywhere including studios, outdoor locations, sets, theatres, and more
Description: You must portray different characters created by a scriptwriter in various locations
Certifications/Education: None required, but many people join acting schools and universities
Necessary Skills:Acting talent, versatility, the ability to take direction, numerous extra skills
Potential Employers: Studios, TV networks, Theaters, Radio Stations, Self Employed
Pay: The daily rate of approximately $782

Helpful Links:
Actors’ Equity Association (AEA)
USA Study Guide to Acting Schools
Stanislavski Acting Courses
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
Screen Actors’ Guild

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