Becoming an actor is a common dream that is all too often given up on. However, the fact that you are here reading this article shows that you are willing to take action on your dream by learning how to become an actor. Afterall, every successful actor started somewhere. To give you a better idea of where to start, we put together this guide of steps to becoming an actor and support you in pursuing your dream of learning how to be an actor. 

How to become an actor

Enroll in acting classes

The very first step to get better at any craft is to learn. As it pertains to acting, enrolling in some type of acting class is a great place to start. Depending on where you live, most aspiring actors will find the best classes locally. These in-person acting classes will allow you to perform and gain feedback from acting teachers and coaches. It will also allow you to learn from peers.

If you’re unsure of which acting class to enroll in, acting coach Anthony Meindl recommends trying them all. Check out more on what Meindl has to say about trusting your gut when choosing an acting class in the video below. 

How to be an actor with the right acting class

Acting classes will vary greatly depending on what kind of actor you want to become and what work you want to do. For example, becoming a comedic actor versus a dramatic actor may determine which class you enroll in.

Local acting classes, of course, are not the only way to learn how to act. There is of course the educational route. 

How to become an actor

Seek higher education

Even if you already graduated from high school without any theatrical education, you might want to consider getting a BFA or MFA in theater. 

Various universities such as New York University, Boston University, California Institute of the Arts, and The Juilliard School all have prestigious theatre programs. For a real glimpse into what it’s like to becoming an actor at Julliard, check out the day in the life video below.

How to be an actor  •  A Day in the Life 

Even if these universities are a bit unfeasible, pursuing a BFA or MFA in theatre at any notable university has its benefits. Not only will you network with filmmakers in the school’s film program, you will be able to practice your craft while receiving constructive feedback from your professors and coaches. 

How to become an actor

Assemble a headshot, résumé, and reel

Before submitting to any casting calls or auditions, you will need something to submit. Typically, this involves assembling a headshot, résumé, and demo reel. 

Headshot

A headshot is simply a portrait photograph. It’s important to get a professional headshot taken that is up to date. Don’t be afraid to show a little personality in your headshot either. After all, the goal is to stand out and get a call back.

Many headshots are taken in black and white to focus a casting director in on the emotion and eyes of an actor. 

Ed Norton Headshot

How to be an actor  •  Ed Norton Headshot

Résumé

Your acting résumé should inform a casting director on your relevant experience, unique skill sets, and educational background. As far as experience, you’ll want to list the name of the production you were in (stage or screen) as well as the role you played. These can help identify whether you were casted as a lead, supporting role or extra.

Oftentimes, unique skills can help you land a part. These skills can be singing, dancing, playing guitar, fluency in another language, accents, or martial arts. All of these can be valuable for a specific role. 

Finally, your educational background might entail listing an acting coach, BFA or MFA degree, or a recognizable acting class. Here are some inside tips on what to include on your résumé directly from an acting coach. 

How to become an actor  •  Making a Résumé

Demo reel

Last but not least, you will want to put together a demo reel. A demo reel is a video that showcases your best performances from past work. 

For actors just starting out, your demo will consist of performances from commercials, short films, or student films you’ve worked on. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when editing together your acting reel. 

How do you become an actor  •  Making a reel

To improve and build your résumé, you’ll need to work as much as possible. And the key to finding work as an actor is to find and submit to auditions and casting calls. 

How to become an actor

Find auditions and casting calls

To become a working actor, you will need to stay updated with and constantly look for casting calls and open auditions for work. Commercials, student films, and indie films will all put out casting calls for the roles of their project. 

One of the best resources an actor has to find casting calls is Backstage.com. Backstage allows you to search for roles by location and by specific role details. Many successful actors found their way into the industry through Backstage. 

If you’re looking for options beyond Backstage that are effective and budget friendly, check out the video below. 

How do you become an actor  •  Free casting websites

It’s important to constantly be looking for work. Until you tackle our next tip, the amount of effort you put into finding auditions and casting calls will directly impact how much work you get. 

When you do get an audition, practice makes perfect. Whether it is an in-person audition or a self tape there are a few tips to keep in mind.

First, always audition "off book." This means memorizing and knowing your lines inside and out so that you can give a full performance. 

Within the confines of an audition, you must try to showcase what you are capable of. This means having a monologue prepared just in case that showcases your range. 

For more tips on auditions and self-tapes, check out this video. You’ll get first hand advice from a working casting director to land that big role. 

How to be an actor  •  Self-tape auditions

Auditions are the first tile in a domino effect of casting. More auditions mean more work. More work builds your reel. And a better reel will get you to the next step: singing with an agent. 

How to become an actor

Sign with a talent agent

A talent agent is hired to find you work as an actor. In return, they are paid a specific percentage from the pay of the job you book. An agent is paid off of this commission. For example, if an agent takes 15% commission and you land a job that will pay you $2000, your talent agent will make $300. 

You might be wondering, “Why should I pay a talent agent if I can use online resources to book jobs?” The truth is, most professional work as an actor will be found through talent agencies. This is because studios typically hire through talent agencies rather than public resources like Backstage. Agents then connect studios to actors that they represent. 

Learn more about the benefits of having a talent agent and why it can be a game changing move in the career of an actor in the video below. 

How do i become an actor  •  Agents

To recap, having a talent agent will open a ton of doors and opportunities for you to become an actor. You may not be even thinking about signing with a talent agency if you are just starting out, but it is a great goal to keep in mind.

How do you become an actor

Consider relocating

The volume of work you will find as an answer will depend greatly on where you live. While the obvious answer is to move to either Los Angeles or New York, these cities also have much more competition. 

Explore your options in cities where the industry is largely prevalent, but less popular among aspiring actors. Cities like Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, and London should all be taken into consideration when relocating to pursue a career in acting. 

How to be an actor

Be persistent

Finally, to become an actor you undoubtedly have to be persistent. The path to becoming an actor is filled with rejections, failure, and plenty of obstacles. To be successful, you’ll have to grow thick skin and discipline in pursuing your dream to become an actor. 

Dig deep and find out why you want to become an actor and why it is so important and appealing to you. The answer is what will keep you moving amidst rejection and adversity. 

UP NEXT

Best Free Casting Websites

It’s important for any aspiring actor to take actionable steps toward their dream. One step you can make right now, is searching for casting calls on some of the best free casting websites. Not sure what websites to search? Check out our next article of the best free casting websites online. 

Up Next: Casting Websites →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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