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How Do I Become a Television Actor?

An actor typically starts off in small roles and works his way up to larger roles.
Some television actors provide narration for commercials.
Television acting jobs often require a video resume, or a reel, which serves as an actor's calling card.
Actors and models often use clear, simple portraits for their head shots.
Many television actors begin by performing in local theater productions.
Aspiring television actors may attend many auditions while searching for work.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2014
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Trying to become a television actor requires patience, study, and quite often a lot of luck. Although this broad field is full of opportunities, it may sometimes feel as if there's a concrete wall separating a new actor from an acting job. Deciding to become a television actor may involve risk, frustration, and creative thinking, but it can ultimately be a rewarding and lucrative career choice.

The first step when trying to become a television actor is to live in an area with extensive opportunities. This may require moving to a place where a lot of television is filmed, such as Los Angeles, New York, or London. Cities that film a lot of TV shows will offer more opportunities; even beginning actors can find jobs as extras or through open casting calls. Although moving to a big city with a lot of production may be a scary step, it may be instrumental when trying to become a television actor.

Training is often important for actors; while inborn talent is a fantastic asset, a television actor must understand how to work with cameras and in the television world. A new actor should consider taking classes and reading about acting. While some choose to get a formal education and a degree in acting, others take workshop courses offered by acting companies or acting studios. Some places offer courses specifically geared toward acting with cameras for film and television, which could be very helpful in overcoming camera fright.

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It may be valuable to create an acting reel when trying to become a TV actor. This is a short film that allows an actor to show off his or her strengths for auditions or agents. To create a reel, an actor can combine clips from produced shows or films he or she has been in, monologues, or short scenes filmed with other actor friends. A reel can serve as a calling card for finding representation or sending to possible employers.

Many television actors start out by working in live theater or as extras. This allows an actor to build a resume and get positive attention through reviews. Most successful actors have an agent or manager that helps them find auditions and negotiate acting deals. In order to get an agent, an impressive resume is a valuable asset. Luck comes heavily into play when finding an agent as well; some people get representation through friends or even just by impressing a conveniently nearby agent.

As in the movie business, trying to become a television actor can rely heavily on networking. Whether a friend of a friend has an agent that's willing to see an audition tape, or a co-worker's cousin is filming a short movie and needs a lead actor, it's possible to become a TV actor through a variety of strange coincidences. Being friendly, loyal, and honest can help build connections and friendships that can lead to jobs in television.

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bythewell
Post 3

@indigomoth - I do think that there has to come a point where an aspiring actor or actress needs to realize that it might not happen for them. It's an incredibly tough industry because there are so many people wanting to get into it.

Some of it is simply luck. Whether that is luck of the genetic draw, or the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

And, to be honest, if it is the acting itself that is what calls a person to the job, they can always just act in small, hometown plays. If it's fame and fortune they want, they are better off trying to get it some other way.

indigomoth
Post 2

@browncoat - I think that's true for some people, but for others it just takes a lot of persistence. I had a friend who was really keen to get into acting and she used to work seven days a week going to auditions and volunteering for independent projects and so forth, just to get her name out there. That's not just networking, it's gaining the experience and the reputation as a reliable person.

Unless you have a really big name, what people want the most from actors is someone who is going to be reliable. Television is expensive and time consuming to make. There isn't space for a drama queen who isn't going to pull her own weight.

It's not true that people always get their big breaks from knowing someone who knows someone. That does help when becoming an actor, but no one is going to put an unproved person into a show that costs millions to make. It's too risky.

So network, yes, but also attempt to prove yourself at the same time.

browncoat
Post 1

I think networking is really the most important aspect of this kind of work. Talent helps and good looks can help as well (although they aren't strictly necessary) but networking is key. You've got to get to know as many people as possible and you've got to really be good to them or they won't be good to you.

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