How do you define success as a professional actor? Many people will immediately picture the favourite Hollywood or West End star, but that is a very narrow idea of “making it” as an actor.
In reality, any actor who can make a living from their acting consistently year after year is a success. Most people who want to be actors never achieve this and the reason is simple: although they may know how to act, many have no idea how to manage their careers.
Traditional drama schools bear a large degree of responsibility for this. They often put little emphasis on teaching aspiring actors about the business side of the industry. Without this knowledge many actors graduate from their acting course and then realise they have no clue how to go out and start finding work.
Actors have to approach their careers as a business. Their commodity is themselves and they have to know how to sell themselves to directors, agents and casting directors. Being able to do that effectively means an actor can ensure themselves a steady stream of paid work leading to a sustainable career. Knowing how to do this is the difference between acting winners and losers.
Finding the right opportunities
Ideally most actors serious about making a career for themselves will want to find an agent to represent them. Your agent will be able to find you auditions and talk you up to increase your chances of actually landing roles.
However, if you haven’t landed an agent yet or don’t want to leave everything up to them, you also need to be finding your own opportunities. To do this, you need to know the kind of roles you are looking for and where they are likely to be advertised. There are numerous casting websites you can sign up for but it’s also important to network within the industry to increase your chances of hearing about new opportunities by word-of-mouth.
Knowing your type can make your life much easier as it means you can pursue the kind of roles you are most likely to get. This can make your job searches much more efficient by reducing the amount of time you waste on roles you have little chance of landing.
Successfully promoting yourself
Finding out about auditions is one thing, but actually getting invited to them is a whole separate challenge. The first thing you need to do is produce a promotional package to show casting directors what you have to offer. This is also what you will be sending to agents if you haven’t yet secured yourself representation.
Your promotional package should include a properly formatted actor’s CV, a set of professional-quality head shots and, ideally, a professional-quality acting showreel. You will need both physical and digital copies of these, with email increasingly the preferred means of contact for most casting directors and agents. When approaching a new contact, however, it is a good idea to do some research, such as calling their office, to find out exactly how they like to be approached.
It is also increasingly expected for aspiring actors to be promoting themselves online. At the very least you should aim to have an online copy of your promotional package in the form of a website. Social media is also playing an ever more important role, so make sure you familiarise yourself with how actors promote themselves on social media and do everything you can to get your name out there online.
Attitude is everything
Acting is a tough business and it often takes years to get to the point where your career reaches any degree of stability. To get there you need massive amounts of patience and persistence. As often as not, the actors who succeed are simply the ones who keep going.
Far too many people go to a handful of auditions they fail to get, then decide they are wasting their time and quit. Winners don’t quit, they keep going, attending audition after audition after audition until they finally get cast. Then they start over and do it all again.
For most of us, at least 80% of our time is spent looking for auditions and going to them and only a relatively small part of our time is spent actually acting. If you can’t deal with that, this really isn’t the profession for you.
Be someone people want to work with
Having the right attitude isn’t just about perseverance however, it’s also about the impression you make on the people you work with. To build a successful acting career, you not only need talent, you also need to be reliable and pleasant to work with.
Nobody wants to work with a diva, so make sure you are always on time, polite and you listen to what your agent, directors and other industry players tell you. Be nice to your co-stars and to everyone else on stage or set, from the make-up person to whoever makes the tea. Remember, people talk and just because someone is a lowly assistant today, doesn’t mean they won’t be an important industry player one day who remembers how you treated them.
If you can manage this, you make hiring you again an easy choice helping you to develop useful contacts for future work. One thing you should absolutely never overlook is how important it is to make a good first impression.
Making your own luck
Successful actors and actresses often talk about having been “lucky” to get where they are. While it’s true that you need a certain amount of luck to make it in this business, this is something you can actually control to a certain extent.
When actors talk about being lucky, what they most often mean is things like meeting the right person at the right moment who was able to offer them an opportunity. While you can’t guarantee these kinds of meetings, you can make them much more likely.
By attending industry events, such as launch nights and after show parties you are increasing your chances of meeting industry gatekeepers who can give you a break. Socialising with other actors can also lead to all sorts of other opportunities, so it’s always a good idea to say “yes” to that post-show drink.
Getting the most out of opportunities
You also need to know who the relevant industry players are, so if you run into them you won’t miss your chance. Make sure to do your research and if there are any agents or directors you are particularly interested in, make sure you know what they look like and what they are currently working on.
Finally, when these opportunities do crop up, be prepared to take advantage of them. You probably won’t be carrying a copy of your actor’s CV and head shots around at all times, but you can carry cards with the address of your website and social media handles. This means you can easily point anyone in the direction of your credentials making it much easier for them to consider you for any upcoming roles.
Learn how to be an acting winner
While there are no guarantees in this business, you can learn the skills that separate acting winners and losers. Once you have the skills, the only thing stopping you from achieving success is you.
The Brian Timoney Actors’ Studio’s 1-Year Ultimate Acting Programme offers a world-leading introduction to the method acting techniques used by the most elite actors. However, it also teaches you the business skills needed to market yourself and build a successful career. Without this knowledge, all the acting talent in the world can’t make you into a successful professional actor.
If you want to be an acting winner and avoid a lifetime of regrets about your acting career, please get in touch.