How Do I Get Started in an Acting Career?

Actors typically bring head shots to auditions.
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  • Written By: G. Melanson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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Whether you want to act in film, television, commercials, or on stage, acquiring the initial professional experience needed to kickstart an acting career can be difficult. As is the case with most professions, the people who make the hiring decisions usually want someone with previous related experience, so just getting a foot in the door will likely be the first challenge of your acting career. Through a combination of practice, networking, and study, you can set your acting career on the right path for future growth.

One of the easiest ways to gain professional experience in the initial stages of your acting career is to apply for roles as an extra with local casting agencies. Sometimes known as “background performers,” both paid and unpaid extras are cast in everything from small commercials to major motion pictures, and are usually not required to have previous experience. In addition to making contacts on the set, extras also have the added bonus of potentially being scouted by members of the film or production crew and recruited for other projects.


Networking with other aspiring actors and people in the industry is another important component to getting started in an acting career. Social networking groups, chat rooms, web boards, and other online communities are a great resource for staying abreast of new developments and opportunities for aspiring actors in your area. It’s also important to balance online networking with face-to-face networking, by attending performances in your area and meeting regularly with a group of like-minded aspiring actors.

In addition to acting classes offered at theater companies and talent agencies, drama classes are also sometimes offered as part of the standard curriculum in middle school and high school. If you’re in university and you aren’t already majoring in drama, consider taking a few acting classes as electives, so that you can gain acting experience while still pursuing other academic endeavors. You could also join your school’s theater society or drama club on an extra-curricular basis in order to gain more of the initial experience needed to pursue an acting career.

Although finding an agent is an important part of getting started in any acting career, the ideal agency is not one which charges up-front costs, but rather one that charges on commission. This is not only more convenient for you as an aspiring actor, but also a sign that the agency is confident about finding work for their actors. As well, agencies which charge a mandatory portfolio fee to actors should be regarded with caution.


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