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How to Become an Actor or Actress – A Complete Guide

Do you want to learn what it takes to become a famous actor/actress? If YES, here is a complete guide plus requirements needed to become an actor or actress with no experience.

There is no doubting the fact that the film industry all over America and Europe has come a long way. It is also true that it generates good returns on investment at all times.

What is An Actor/Actress?

An actor or actress is someone who interprets a character to use in performing in productions like theatre, film, television, and radio. An actor or actress attends auditions to rehearse, for their role so as to be able to, deliver a performance to an audience. Talent, confidence, creativity, self-motivation, and commitment are personal requirements an actor or actress should have.

There are different acting types, and some of them are: Method acting- this is a situation, where the actor/actress in identifying with the portrayed character, recalls emotions and reactions from his or her own life, and uses it. Presentational acting on the other hand is when the actor uses a specific language, gesture, or look, in directly or indirectly addressing the audience just to indicate his/her awareness of their presence.

The term ‘actor’ is not specifically for the males; it is sometimes used on the females also. An actor or actress also portrays a character in a comic or dramatic production. An actor or actress performs in films, television, radio, theatre, music videos or commercials.

Duties of an Actor or Actress and their Job Description

  • Reading Scripts: Actors have to read scripts to understand what their role entails. It is this understanding that leads to a correct interpretation of their roles.
  • Meeting with agent: Before an actor accepts a role, he or she has to meet with his or her agent, to discuss what performing in the production would entail. Also, the actor would meet with other professionals too before accepting a role.
  • Audition: An actor’s life revolves around auditions. An audition is an interview or sample performance, which consists of a practical performance to show the candidate’s skill and suitability.
  • Research: Actors have to research on the traits, lifestyle and circumstances surrounding their characters, so as to authentically portray them to the audience.
  • Memorization: Actors read their lines from memory, and so have to memorize the lines of their character so as to effectively portray such character. Sometimes, due to additions or changes while on set, lines might be changed and the actor would have to memorize new lines to effectively act out his role.
  • Rehearse: An actor practices his or her lines and performance privately and then before the production team, with other actors and so as to check their movements in front of a camera or stage this is so that the best performance can be given to the audience.
  • Role Discussion: An actor discusses his or her role with the director and other actors, so that suggestions can be exchanged that will improve the overall performance of the actor.
  • Performance: An actor has to perform his/her role according to directions from the director, so that the audience can view the best performance.
  • Learning new skills: Depending on the actor’s role, new skills might have to be learnt like ballet dancing, singing, learning karate, or horseback riding.

Tools Used by Actors and Actresses

  • Their bodies: The body is a tool that is used for expression, and gesticulations. This tool refers to the hand, face, feet, head etc. The body is used to show the intensity of the actor’s emotions.
  • Their voices: The voice is used to show how well the actor interpreted his lines. The voicing of lines shows the depth of the character that the actor is embodying.
  • Their minds: The mind is used to envision the type of character which the actor wants to portray to the audience. This is where an actor brings up personal experiences and knowledge gotten from past experiences.
  • MP3 Players/recorders: An actor during private rehearsals can record his voice, so as to verify, if he was able to interpret the line correctly, and make adjustments where necessary.
  • Computer: This is used to research the character the actor wants to portray, so that his portrayal of the character might be authentic. Also, the computer is used for networking, and to keep in touch with an actor’s fan base.

Other tools such are online tools, which are:

  • Instagram: Actors depend on their headshots to get roles, but headshots are a bit limited. The instagram tool can give a great boost to an actor and give him or her better branding online.
  • YouTube: Creating a YouTube channel is easy, and any actor can take advantage of this, by creating a channel and posting clips or videos in it. The actor can design the channel’s landing page to include, other places he or she can be found.
  • Twitter:The Smartphone has opened up possibilities for either would be actors, or established actors. Whilst twitter is another way for an actor to connect with his or her fans, they also have the chance to follow other professional actors, acts, and filmmakers. The actor also gets to post their thoughts, re-tweet funny posts or articles. A twitter can create a powerful following.
  • Facebook Fan Page: Facebook fan page, allows different type of content, like videos, photos, and tours, without mixing them up with your personal page. This means you have a dual existence on Facebook; with one part for work and the other part, for personal stuff.
  • Personal Blog/Website: This is another online tool that can be used by the actor, to project his work and by extension himself. The website has to be mobile friendly and user friendly. All of the, actor’s other pages on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms can be linked here.

How to Become an Actor or Actress – A Complete Guide

Labor Market Situation +Facts and Figures of the Movie Industry

The labor market situations for actors in the following four countries (US, UK, Australia and Canada) are based on the following:

  • In the United States

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as at 2013, the average hourly income was $41.94. As at 2012, the industry had 80,000 employees with projected job openings at 28,900 for between 2012 and 2022. This leads to a slow growth average of between 3% and 7%.

  • The union representation of actors had a higher representation than other occupation.
  • Most Film and Television stars belong to the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)
  • Stage actors belong to the Actors’ Equity Association.
  • Entry educational requirement is no degree, a college or a Master’s degree.
  • Trainings are usually long-term and are gotten on the job.

In the U.K

6% of Equity members earned over £30,000 per annum. 52% of Equity members earned less than £6,000 per annum. Equity has an approximate of 19,000 members. Actors in the UK worked an average of, 11.3 weeks per year. 49% of working actors are women. Minority actors stand at 6%. 47% of actors are under 40 years of age. 58% of actors are self-employed.

  • Entry educational requirement is no formal education, an HND, or a degree.
  • A postgraduate isn’t essential but is useful in gaining more experience, skills and contacts.
  • There are no set incomes for actors, and only well-established actors earn high incomes.
  • Most actors are paid a fee for each contract or performance, and so most actors are self-employed.
  • The trade union for professional performers is Equity.
  • Equity negotiates with employers as regards minimum pay for actors, and this depends on who the actor is working for, and the setting he or she is working in.
  • Some organizations pay non-Equity rates.
  • 86% of working actors have professional training.
  • Entry requirement for drama school or university is an audition, and three A levels or an equivalent qualification.
  • Drama UK accredits most drama schools and university courses.
  • Agents take from between 10% to 25% of an actor’s earnings.

In Australia

As at 2012, 5,000 actors were employed with, a projected job opening of 4,800 by 2017. The employment trend has declined by -11.1% between 2007 and 2012, and is expected to further decline between 2012 and 2017. Male actors had a higher percentage than their female counterparts, by 20.7% for those working full time; as compared to the 12.3% for the female actors. The average salary per year was AU$48,500, with an average weekly work hour of 38 hours.

  • New South Wales has the highest number of actors, leading other regions with a 32%
  • Employment growth in the last 5 years for male and female, full-time and part-time stands at 600.
  • Australia’s first color feature film was released in 1955.
  • Wages vary according to experience, employer and level of skill.

In Canada

As at 2005, the annual employment income for only 14% of actors, who worked full-time, was C$26,177. The remaining 86% of actors, who worked part-time, was C$22,489. In 2006, 49% of actors were self-employed. As at 2006, women held 46% of the acting jobs, a steady decline, where 1991 had 49% of women actors. Average annual growth is 0.9%.

  • Entry educational requirement is no degree but a diploma, and bachelor’s degree is regarded as important assets.
  • The number of actors is expected to increase in the coming years.
  • Selected applicants at auditions are usually those, who had attended recognized acting schools, and universities that offered programs related to acting.

The demand for the acting profession is on a decline for some countries and is only marginally growing in other countries. This is majorly due to the temporary nature of the work, as actors have to constantly look out for jobs. Once the one they are in, which could be a day, week, or month, it then ends. And most actors getting meager fees as compared to the high fees earned by a few percent. Most actors also have other jobs and do not fully depend on the fees they get from acting.

So, the field isn’t growing and is getting saturated -especially as many actors consistently throng auditions.

Impact of the Internet and Technology on the Acting Profession

  • The Positives

The internet has brought actors closer to their fans. Most fans can follow their favorite actor on any of the social media platform and also interact with them. Another positive fact is that, actors could let their fans aware of new projects, productions, and tours, through the internet. Also, actors can promote themselves or their images by posting humanitarian efforts carried out by them.

  • The Negatives

The private lives of actors and their families can easily be spread online, not allowing actors have their private moments. The internet stores everything, and so actors that have had compromising pictures or videos, posted online, can have them re-surface any time.

Career Ideas That Exist Within the Acting Profession

  1. Theatre or film director: A director of either a film or theatre is responsible for the overall creative and practical interpretation of a script or musical score.
  2. Film/Television/video producer: A producer oversees a project from start to finish, and may also be involved in the processes of marketing, and distribution. Producers, directors and other production staff, work hand –in-hand during a shoot.
  3. Dancer: This might be part of the skill set offshoot gotten by the actor. A dancer uses body language, gesture and movement to portray a story, character, or situation to an audience.
  4. Lecturer: A lecturer teaches students either in an academy, undergraduate, or colleges. An actor could teach students, in acting classes’ tips, on how to become better at acting, and how to stand out in auditions.
  5. Community Arts Worker: A community arts worker collaborates with a variety of groups to encourage, artistic activities, so as to improve on their quality of life as well as, supporting them.
  6. Broadcast Presenter: This is an individual who introduces news items, information and entertainment to audiences in an attractive manner. A broadcast presenter is usually regarded as the public face of programs on the television, or public voice of programs on the radio.
  7. Drama therapist: This is a therapy of creative arts, where art performances are used to promote emotional, psychological and social change. This is especially if the clients are unable to express their grief or feelings through words.
  8. Theatre Stage Manager: Theatre stage managers help coordinate all parts or aspects of a theatre company, to ensure that performance is successfully delivered.

Professional Bodies and Associations Within the Acting Profession

In the United States

  • Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA): SAG and AFTRA have been merged into one union, and the union represents nearly 160,000 members. Members of SAG-AFTRA get preference during hiring, especially if the organization or studio has a collective bargaining agreement with the union.
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS): This is not a union but a professional body that has honorary members of over 7,000, accomplished individuals working in the cinema. They uphold excellence and inspire imagination, so that members could connect the world, through the motion pictures medium.
  • Actors’ Equity Association (AEA): This is a union that represents, actors and stage managers that work in professional theatre.

In the UK

  • Equity: This is an organizing and campaigning union that represent actors at the parliament and other areas of influence. They are in charge of fees and payments for artists, safety and health regulation, outstanding royalties, pension and insurance schemes for members.

In Australia

  • Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA): The alliance is a union that covers everyone in the media, arts industry, entertainment, and sports. The members are up to 20,000. The alliance is a merger of:
  • Actors Equity (AE)
  • The Australian Journalists Association (AJA)
  • The Australian Theatrical & Amusement Employees Association (ATAEA)
  • The Symphony Orchestra Musicians Association (SOMA)
  • The New South Wales Art workers Union.

The union campaigns on issues that affect their members, and also lobbies governments on policy issues, like unemployment regulations, dismissal laws, tax regulations, and performers copyright.

In Canada

  • Canadian Actors’ Equity Association: This is an association of performers, which is nearly for 6,000 professional artists. The association negotiates for agreements, and working conditions of its members.
  • ACTRA Toronto: ACTRA negotiates contracts, such as working conditions, minimum pay standard, with producers and engagers, on behalf of its members.

Benefits of Becoming an Actor or Actress

  • Playing different and diverse characters: Actors get to play many diverse characters. They get to be heroes, or villains. They can get into any character required of them. This is a benefit since you get paid for being someone else.
  • Being seen on the big screen: There is an immense satisfaction that is gotten when your face appears or is being seen on the big screen. It could be a commercial, or a production. You become famous and people instantly recognize you wherever you go.
  • Doing what you love: Actors get paid doing what they love, which is portraying the characters of others.
  • Learning new things: Actors learn from their new roles because they have to research on the character they are to play, and through this medium get to learn about history, fields, places, people etc.
  • Bringing joy, inspiration, and feeling to others: Different people identify with certain characters they see in different movies which might evoke different feelings in them like joy, sadness, or inspiration in their own lives.
  • Creative: Each new role is challenging and actors get to be creative on how to portray the different characters they act, so that the audience could enjoy it.
  • No monotony in acting: Actors get to play different roles for each new movie or production and due to this; there is rarely any monotony to what they do. This makes their job less boring.
  • Good pay: Most actors get good pay for acting and this invariably leads to them living the kind of lives they want.
  • Helping people: Most actors participate in fund raising events, and because of their popularity, people attend this fund raising event just to either see the actor in person or take pictures with him or her. This invariably brings more people than would have come to the fund raising event.

Factors Discouraging People from Becoming Actors/Actresses

  • Temporary nature of work: No movie lasts forever, as production usually ends. This means that actors always have to search for jobs just so that they could work. This could discourage those who do not like the hassle of constantly searching for jobs.
  • Extreme Criticism: Movie critics hound the acting lives of actors, especially if they starred in a bad movie, or had a terrible role, and this can cause actors to become depressed as they write articles and constantly talk on the mistakes an actor made. This might be discouraging to people, who cannot handle light much less extreme criticism.
  • Being always politically correct: Because they are constantly in the eye of the public, actors have to be careful on what they say so that their words or actions aren’t misconstrued by their fans, the public, and other interested stakeholders. This might be discouraging to those wanting to be actors, because they cannot have an unfettered expression without being judged.
  • Lack of Privacy: Every step an actor takes isn’t hidden from public view. Every detail about what they do might get picked up by willing paparazzi or written about by online blogs, or mainstream media. For those who cherish their privacy, this fact might discourage them especially as their families won’t be spared from such publicities.
  • Pretentious Lifestyle: Due to the fact that they are always under scrutiny, actors have to always be on guard physically and mentally, so as to keep up with a cheerful personality always, even if they aren’t feeling too cheerful. This can be mentally and physically draining. This factor can discourage potential actors from becoming one.
  • Unpleasant rivalries: Rivalries occur between actors and this fact isn’t helped by their fans, which fuel these rivalries. Rivalries could result in verbal assaults, indirect criticisms and this might affect an actor’s social standing and even the movies, he or she gets to perform in.
  • Rumors/Scandals: The age of the internet hasn’t been fair to actors, as most are linked to their co-stars, directors, producers, and other people even when it is an innocent hang-out.
  • Crazy and weird fans: There are fans that are obsessed with their favorite idols, and can indulge in crazy things to get their attention. Some of these things are like; stalking the actors, slashing their wrists, sending weird gifts and letters, giving creepy phone calls.
  • Uncertain relationships: Due to the nature of their jobs, which require them being on location in faraway places; actors keep uncertain relationships especially, if their partners are the kind that demands attention always. Also, rumors and the media attention can serve as a relationship destroyer especially, as distrust and insecurity begins to step in.

How Much Do Actors and Actresses Earn

  • In the U.S, actors earn an average hourly income of $41.94.
  • In the U.K, 6% of Equity actor members earned over £30,000 per annum. 52% of Equity actor members earned less than £6,000 per annum.
  • In Australia, the average income per year for actors was AU$48,500
  • In Canada, 14% of actors, who worked full-time, earned an annual average of C$26,177. The remaining 86% of actors who worked part-time earned an annual average of C$22,489.

How Long Does It Take to Become An Actor or Actress?

  • In the United States, the length of time can be from age 5 (for child actors), age 17 (after high school), a 2 – 4 years degree in drama or arts. And then auditions, till eventually one gets a role.
  • In the United Kingdom, there is no single route to becoming an actor in the UK, especially for those without formal educational training. One might take the route of joining a local amateur dramatics group, or work at a theatre, or get into one of BBC placement schemes. Others can become actors after working as camp entertainers during holidays, or a tour operator at a holiday resort. Those with a degree might not take these routes, but might use networks and join a union.
  • In Australia, one can become an actor anytime, regardless of education or age.
  • In Canada, one can become an actor anytime, regardless of age and education.

Educational Requirements Before Becoming an Actor/Actress

  • In the United States

While a degree level is not required, save perhaps a high school diploma, intending actors or actors who wish to advance can get a degree in Theatre arts, acting/performing or drama. Also, one could participate in college productions, to bolster the resume as well as gain experience in front of a camera or on stage.

  • In the United Kingdom-: There is no formal requirement, but most actors have a degree or HND, with few venturing into Postgraduate, which is not necessary but might be beneficial.
  • In Australia, while the entry requirement is no education, actors with bachelor degrees in Arts   (Acting), fare much better than colleagues without.
  • In Canada, it is possible to work with no education but a Diploma of Collegial Studies (DEC) in professional theatre acting, a degree in performing arts or theatre, or any other training programs as offered by the Conservatoire d’art dramatique du Quebec, and the National Theatre School of Canada.

Is Certification Required to Become an Actor/Actress

  • In United States-: The UCLA Extension: Acting certificate requires that candidates have a, professional-level proficiency in spoken and written English; foreign students must pass Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
  • In U.K-: Certification and training schools have to be accredited by Drama UK. There is a one year diploma course in Professional acting. Graduates get a recognized diploma in professional acting, and graduate-student equity membership.
  • In Australia, one can take the Advanced Diploma of Acting course.
  • In Canada-: Acting for Camera and Voice (ACV); Entry requirement include either a high school diploma, or a Grade 12 English, or an appropriate Academic and Career Entrance (ACE) Certificate program. Also, candidates are enjoined to have basic computer skills.

How Much Does It Cost to become an Actor or Actress?

  • In the U.S, the UCLA extension: Acting certificate costs $9,150
  • In the U.K, 1 year professional diploma course, costs approximately £16,000
  • In Australia, the Advanced Diploma of Acting course will cost $24,727
  • In Canada, ACV would cost $6,042

Can You Acquire Acting Skills Online?

Yes, one can acquire acting skills by taking an online course or attending an online school. The schools are either free or paid for and purely depend on what the intending actor wants. It is worthy to note that acting schools either offline or online do not give an intending actor talent, the schools only aim to get the talent of the intending actor noticed.

The online school schools give:

  • Step by step guide in becoming an actor.
  • Online acting classes
  • Tips on how to pass auditions, get a role, and build a successful career.
  • Sample resumes, monologues and cover letters.

Career Opportunities within the Acting Profession

  • Research Assistants: Due to the fact they carry out researches, actors can become research assistants, especially those that have a research related bachelor degree. Research assistants work in research institutes or universities and assist in academic research.
  • Interior Designers: Because they have seen how sets are being designed, actors that have a flair for decoration can become interior designers. Interior designers, designs and coordinates, the decorative elements of a structure, house or office’s interior.
  • Event Planner: Actors throw parties all the time, and due to this fact, some become adept at planning parties and events, and so might become event planners. Event planners are those who identify target audience for an event, devise the concept and plan the logistics.
  • Promotional Modeling: A promotional model is one who is hired by a company to help promote a consumer brand, service or concept by interacting directly with the consumers.
  • Freelance Writing: A freelance writer is one who sells his writing services hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, but whose job is not on a regular salary basis.
  • Personal Trainer: Actors who are fit can decide to personally train others. They might need to get the minimum educational requirement plus pass a certification exam but the pay is good, and they can set their own working hours. A personal trainer is a professional who prescribes exercises and hands out instructions.

Skills Required to Become a Successful Actor or Actress

  • Reading comprehension: Before an actor can translate his or her part, he or she has to first comprehend all that have read. Understanding the written sentences and asking questions for clarity.
  • Memorizing: After reading his or her lines, an actor has to understand and commit them to memory. The memorization will help the actor in correctly transforming the lines.
  • Transformation/translation skill: Actors have to be able to take the words written in a script and turn them into something which can be acted. An actor should know the difference between speaking and acting. This skill allows the actor know about the character, therefore, leading to his or her understanding on the intentions of the character.
  • Embodiment skill: Embodying has to do with representing an idea, feeling concept in tangible form. Actors need to be able to behave in a way that is in line with their given task. This shows that they have read and understood exactly what is required of them.
  • Listening skills: An actor needs to pay attention on instructions from his or her director and other colleagues, so as to understand and act on the points being made.
  • Speaking: The ability to convey thoughts and information and doing this audibly and with clarity is an important skill and actor must have.

Tips and Advice for Becoming a Famous Actor/Actress

  • Networking: Every profession requires this. Most times, actors get their parts based on who they know. This is why even recognized actors go out of their way to attend events, such as fashion shows, award shows, movie launch, fund raising events and other shows- because there is a possibility of meeting future employers.
  • Get a good agent: Agents make or mar the careers of actors. Getting a good agent means one who is willing to be honest with you as regards your chances and also search for the jobs for you. An agent shouldn’t be reluctant of going the extra mile for his client.
  • Create your own work: Actors have been known to try their hands at other aspects of film making, like producing and directing. Sometimes, most of your acting jobs might not represent or show case your range of abilities, this could lead to an actor creating his own work. The work could be posted on line as a web series, as well as go ahead and become an independent film, play, or a big production outfit. This provides valuable education to the producer, and gives him or her edge over their colleagues.
  • Understanding that not every role is to be taken: Actors sometimes get carried along with their passion and love for the job, that they forget the business side altogether. This means that not every role must be accepted. Your representatives, such as your manager and agent might give their advice concerning a role, but only you know what roles will project your image and profile and what might not.
  • Finding your niche: Every actor should have a niche for themselves, by knowing the unique qualities they have, and putting it to use. Qualities can be known by asking others, watching one’s self in film and noting the funny habits and quirks. Once this is known, one can then hone and capitalize on the said qualities.

The acting industry requires talent but most actors get an edge over their colleagues by have a bachelor’s degree in theatre, or radio and television broadcasting. Some go a step further, by getting a Master of Fine Arts in Performing Acts.

The acting jobs are referred to as temporary jobs – especially as actors are paid hourly, except for some famous ones – since filming can take place in a day, week, month or several months; and as such, most actors constantly look out for other jobs, making the field a very competitive one.

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