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Many people dream of becoming actors but are deterred by the prospect of trying to break into the business, a process that can seem difficult and lengthy if not impossible. Although it helps to know people that already work as actors, directors, agents, writers or stage crew, there are concrete steps even complete newcomers can take to break into acting. Luck and talent are important factors but preparation, self-confidence and professionalism can also contribute to an actor’s ultimate success in the entertainment industry.
Anyone who is hoping to break into acting should consider moving to a location that is considered an entertainment market such as Los Angeles, New York or Vancouver. It is important for an actor to be aware of his or her strengths so that it will be simple to highlight them for an agent. For example, some actors are highly skilled at playing a certain kind of part as opposed to the leading role. Knowing an actor’s strengths can help locate work appropriate to his or her specific talents. Those hoping to break into acting can consider taking an acting class as well.
Pictures are a crucial part of an actor’s portfolio and can help him or her land an audition and an agent. Photographs do not have to be taken by a professional but should be recent and show not only the actor’s head but also most of his or her body. It is reasonable to accumulate several photographs that show the actor with a variety of expressions ranging from smiling to serious. Photographs with different expressions will help distinguish an actor from his or her peers and can gain the attention of casting agents more easily.
Talent agencies help actors get auditions and work and those trying to break into acting generally need the expertise, advocacy and contacts of an agent. After contacting several agencies, an actor will typically be asked to submit his or her photographs or come in for an interview. Honesty about previous work and future goals and self-confidence are important to communicate to a talent agency. The actor and agent should keep in constant contact so that the actor is always foremost on his or her agent’s mind. Maintaining an honest and complete resume and business cards printed with the actor’s headshot can be additional key networking tools.
An agent will help an actor land auditions for parts in theater, commercials, television and film. Actors should arrive punctually to any audition and be well prepared with lines memorized if possible. An actor may wish to avoid imitating the acting style of a famous actor while auditioning and emphasize his or her unique strengths and talents instead. It can take time to break into acting, but diligence and perseverance are more likely to be rewarded.
I wouldn't even think about pursuing an acting career without a good agent these days. A well-connected talent agency learns about acting opportunities that won't be advertised in the trade papers. There was a guy from a really small town around here who wanted to pursue a career in acting when he was just 12 years old. The problem was that he had a very thick Southern accent and very little training. His parents sent a tape to a talent agent in Nashville and she agreed to take the boy on as a client.
It just so happened that a Hollywood movie company was working on a film set in the Deep South, and they were looking for young
boys with authentic accents. His agent arranged for an audition, and he was hired for the role because he was exactly what the producers wanted. They didn't want to hire a professional child actor and spend months with a dialect coach. He was at the right place at the right time, and he's been working steadily ever since. He now has a lead role in one of the "NCIS" shows.
As a theater major myself, I highly recommend investing in legitimate acting classes if someone really wants to break into acting and stay in the business. I've had classmates that decided they would take their chances in New York or Los Angeles after only taking a few years of college theater courses. Every one of them came back home penniless and discouraged. When you're in a room filled with 200 people who look just like you, it usually comes down to experience and training.
Another theater friend of mine earned her MFA degree at a reputable college and then studied improv acting when she moved to New York City. She's now a recurring character on a well-known TV sitcom, and she also does voice over acting. She didn't try to rely on her looks or native ability alone to break into acting. You've got to be willing to do the groundwork before pursuing an acting career.
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