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How to Become an Actor

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An actor is someone who performs in order to entertain – either in films, theatre productions, commercials, television or radio.  An actor’s key task is to be able to convince their audience while playing their character – and they must be believable, otherwise they are NOT an actor!

Actors will follow a script and be directed on where to stand and how to express their lines.  More often than not, a good actor will research their character beforehand to try and get into the right mindset.  For example, this can be if the character has a specific job or cultural background that the actor needs to learn more about.  They may also make up their own ideas as to what life experiences etc. that their character has been through.  All of this makes it easier for the actor to understand and therefore portray their character more convincingly.

An actor will typically do the following tasks:

  • Explore different acting techniques
  • Attend auditions and castings
  • Research roles
  • Learn scripts
  • Rehearse
  • Perform

Acting can give you the opportunity to travel, depending on what type of jobs you’re going for.  Whether working on a film or with a theatre production, most will involve travelling to different locations.

There are certain skills that will be expected of you if you want to become an actor:

  • Being confident, having energy and lots of enthusiasm.
  • Having good stage/screen presence and being able to connect to your audience.
  • Good memory – as you might need to learn a lot of lines.
  • Being able to adapt to a range of different media.
  • Creative and imaginative – for when you have to develop the character you’re playing.  Or even if you have to improvise.
  • Being able to work under pressure – there are many pressures in acting, such as having to perform in front of a huge audience or learning lines just a couple of days before a performance.
  • Willing to travel and work long hours – also, having to work weekends and evenings is usual for an actor.

Drama Schools / Training

As this is such a competitive industry to get into, it is vital to have some sort of training behind you to make sure you stand out from other actors who do not.

Joining a drama school is probably the best option, as you will come into contact with some professional and established actors.  This is brilliant for not only a learning point of view, but by keeping in touch with them may help your career in the future.  Making contacts is very important in this industry (it’s not what you know, it’s who you know…)

You can expect a course to last around two to three years and you will have to audition for a place in a drama school.

Here are some useful links for finding drama training and schools:

  • The Acting Website.  This is an entertainment directory with many resources and the latest entertainment news.  It also has a list of drama schools and coaching around the UK.
  • The Actors Centre.  By becoming a member you are entitled to many benefits such as discounts at associated businesses, services and room-hire.  You will also be able to apply for training and classes.
  • National Council for Drama Training. 

Benefits of freelancing as an actor

There are many advantages in becoming a freelance actor, some of which include:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Greater tax benefits by being a freelancer
  • Flexibility and time management – you can decide when and where you want to work.
  • The opportunity to make more money

By using our Freelancer Calculator you can work out exactly how much you could potentially take home.

Finding work as an actor

This is a very competitive industry to get into, so to be successful you will need to have an impressive and up-to-date portfolio / CV for agencies.  It’s also worth considering attaching a show reel and a voice demo to show off your talent.

Here are some useful suggestions on how to market yourself:

  • Get an Agent.  This way you have someone representing you, though they take a percentage, they will help in finding you many jobs you might not otherwise find or know about.  The Acting Website offers a list of acting agencies by location.
  • Join Equity.  This is the UK trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners; by becoming a member you will have access to the latest jobs available.
  • Look regularly on Spotlight.  This is a casting directory and many television, film, radio and theatrical companies use this to find actors.
  • Create a composite card (or z card as it’s also known).  This is the equivalent of a business card, but is especially for actors or models.  It will need your statistics, contact details and at least two photographs.  Always keep them at hand to give out to potential clients.

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