Lots of people love the idea of becoming an actor, but how do you get started? Whether you are completely new to the field or already have some amateur acting experience, taking the leap into the world of professional performance isn’t an overnight process.
Becoming an Actor – What’s the First Step?
Becoming an actor requires a great deal of dedication and determination and you have to be proactive. You can’t simply sit around waiting for someone to discover you. Instead, you need to get out there and learn the skills required to break into the industry.
The minute that you’re not learning I believe you’re dead. – Jack Nicholson
There are various options when it comes to gaining the knowledge and experience you’ll need to become a professional actor. Making the wrong choice can waste years of your life, not to mention a whole lot of money, and leave you no closer to realising your dream. When making your decision, ask yourself this: will I actually walk away from this with the knowledge and skills I need to land an agent, get auditions and win professional roles? If not, you really are wasting your time.
Getting involved in a local community theatre or an amateur dramatics society is a fantastic way to test the waters and see if acting is something you’re actually going to enjoy. There are literally thousands of local amateur drama groups you can join that will give you the chance to try out your performance skills, meet other people who share your interest and gain experience of being in front of an audience. There are also all sorts of projects such as amateur short films you can potentially get involved in to get wider acting experience.
The problem is there’s a pretty wide gulf between taking part in these sorts of non-professional productions and getting into actual paid work in the industry. Although you may pick up some useful knowledge about acting, auditioning and the like, with these kinds of amateur productions there is a certain element of the blind leading the blind. If you really want to know how to make it as a professional actor, you need to speak to the people who have been there and done that.
While taking part in amateur productions can be really fun and rewarding, if you are serious about becoming an actor, it really is advisable to step up and look at getting professional training.
If you are still at school, or have access to a college offering courses for adults, you could consider taking a drama class. This should give you a basic grounding in some of the work involved in being an actor and staging productions, including acting, directing, costume making, set building and stage design. Again, this can be a good way to get a first taste of how the industry works and give you a broad understanding of some of the skills involved.
The problem is, by being so broad and aimed at beginners, college courses will only really give you the most basic insight into the industry. Sadly you are highly unlikely to walk out of a college course and into an auction for your first big break and, if you did, you almost certainly wouldn’t get the job.
If you are still at school, taking a drama course makes perfect sense as it can help nudge you in the right direction. However, if you’re an adult looking for the best way to become a professional actor, a college drama course is unlikely to be the best use of your time and money as it will still leave you with a whole lot to learn.
Getting a degree
There are a variety of different degrees you can take focused around acting and performance, including Drama, Theatre Studies and even pure Acting. These will go into a lot more depth than a college course and there’s no doubt that if you apply yourself you can come out a much better actor with a decent understanding of the industry.
The problem is that getting a degree will take anywhere from 3 to 6 years (depending on whether you choose to study full-time or part-time) and at the end there is no guarantee that you will be able to find professional work. It’s also not cheap, with tuition fees likely to set you back many tens of thousands of pounds or dollars. That’s a massive commitment of time and money for something that has absolutely no guarantee of getting you anywhere.
Having a degree is not going to get you more work. – Mark Summers (award-winning casting director)
The other problem with getting a degree is that, while it may teach you a lot of useful stuff about acting and working in the industry, many courses do not set you up with a clear route into the industry. When looking at courses, make sure to find out what they will do to actually help you starting winning roles. After all, all the training in the world is no use if you can get in front of the right people to show them what you can do. You need to make sure that you learn just as much about the business of acting as you do about acting itself.
For many people who dream of becoming an actor, getting into drama school seems like the ultimate prize. Many successful actors have been through drama school and there is absolutely no doubt that a BA in acting from a leading drama school will teach you a lot of valuable stuff. Drama schools also tend to be more professionally focused and you are likely to come out with important professional tools, such as a show reel. You may even get the chance to perform in a showcase in front of industry professionals who can help give you your first leg-up into the industry.
All this sounds great, and it is, but just like taking a degree at university, studying BA Acting at drama school will take you at least 3 years and cost a lot of money. It’s also not so great if you’re an older person looking for a change of career as you are likely to be in the minority. If you are looking for a change of career, 3 years of full-time study is a huge commitment to make for something which might not work.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many drama schools focus heavily on stage acting, which is fine, if that’s what you want to do. If you are more interested in getting on screen, however, you need to realise that acting for the camera is very different to acting for a live audience. Make sure any course you apply to offers the right kind of training for your career ambitions, otherwise you are likely to be wasting your time and money and severely hampering your chances of becoming an actor.
What most drama courses wont teach you
If you’re going to survive, then being properly trained is crucial, not just in acting technique but also in the techniques of getting a job, building a career and surviving in the longer term. – Richard Jordan (theatre producer)
If your goal is to start working as a professional actor, many drama courses will help you a little bit, but most won’t leave you in a position where you’re able to start getting paid jobs as soon as you graduate. This is because most courses focus primarily on the theory side of acting and wider production skills, but not on the actual practical business of getting work.
The other thing to consider is what sort of acting you will be learning. As previously mentioned, most traditional drama courses focus heavily on stage work, so if you are more interested in film or TV work, you may be disappointed. Many courses also focus heavily on traditional acting techniques which are all well and good, but, if your aim is to become a truly elite actor, you need to go deeper.
Increasingly the very best actors are relying on method acting techniques to help them push their performance skills to the next level, with over 80% of Best Actor Academy Awards this century going to method actors. Many traditional courses give little, if any, time to method acting techniques, so if you want to join the elite ranks of actors such as Robert De Niro, Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, you really need to look for a course that will teach you to truly master The Method.
An acting course like no other
If you are serious about becoming an actor our 1-Year Ultimate Acting Programme really is the best option on the market. We are a top UK method acting training provider and the only one offering Lee Strasberg Method Acting training, special business of acting training and an exclusive career launch.
The course is part-time, meaning you can fit it around your existing commitments, making it ideal for people keen for a change of career. Because the course only lasts for 1 year, you can quickly turn your life around and be out there working as a professional actor before you know it.
About the Course
Our Ultimate Acting Programme includes comprehensive training in method acting for both stage and screen with clear guidance on the difference between the two, so you can become a truly versatile actor. We also work extensively on voice training, physical acting training, monologue performance and much more.
You won’t just learn to be a great actor, however, but also how to take your new found skills out into the market to find actual paid work. Our training focuses heavily on the “business” of acting, including audition skills to help you land those key roles, sessions with two leading Hollywood casting directors, a top UK casting director and a week in Los Angeles for our L.A. Boot Camp where you’ll learn how to break into the ever lucrative US market.
We will also provide you with our career development support package, which includes a professional quality show reel, head shots and CV writing help so you have everything you need to start presenting yourself as a professional actor.
The course ends with a Graduation Showcase at the industry’s exclusive private members’ club, The Century Club in Soho, London where you will get the chance to show off your work in front of agents and casting directors.
All of this means that we won’t just teach you how to act, we’ll teach you how to get work and give you your first key opportunities to get your name out there and start the all-important networking process.
If you are serious about becoming an actor there is still time to apply for our 2016-17 Ultimate Acting Programme which starts in October. Auctions are taking place on 15th June 2016, so if you want to kick-start your acting career, don’t delay! If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.