How to Become an Actor: Step-By-Step Guide
In This Article
If you’re reading this blog post, it’s likely you’ve long considered acting to be your calling. But there’s also a decent chance your dreams have been met with consistent criticisms about how hard it is to “make it” in the entertainment industry.
Of course, launching a career as an actor is not easy. But it is far more achievable than the naysayers would lead you to believe. After all, Hollywood is a massive multi-billion dollar industry that employed over 32,000 actors last year. And the same is true for Canada’s screen industries; in 2020 Canada’s vibrant film and television industry contributed $12.2 billion to our GDP and generated over 244,500 jobs!
Really, you can think of acting like any other sought-after career, including those of professional athletes, musicians, doctors, travel writers, and lawyers. But if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to work for it!
It’s vital to approach your work with a well-thought-out strategy; one that takes into account education, skill development, connections, and personal dedication.
Unsure how to start strategizing?
Then read this guide from top to bottom! It’ll walk you through five steps you can take to become an actor, even if you have zero experience.
Let’s get into it!
Step #1: Start Training Now!
“Do I need to go to acting school?”
If you decided to pursue a career in acting, this is likely your first question.
In short, the answer is technically no but pragmatically yes. Although there is a long list of Hollywood stars who didn’t even complete high school – Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Nicole Kidman – they are without a doubt the outliers, and many of them started their careers in childhood.
So, If you’re not already a child star, having a formal education can – and likely will – give you a leg up in the industry. And when it comes to education, it’s worth noting that you have multiple options outside of just acting schools/programs.
So, let’s take a quick look at all your possible academic pathways.
Acting school and diploma programs
If you’re serious about becoming an actor, you’re going to want to immerse yourself in both the craft and the industry. Put simply, there’s no better way to do this than to join a full-time acting diploma program at a specialized institution.
An acting program – like the one offered at Toronto Film School – provides you with structured training that covers everything from acting theory to performance techniques to resume-building. It is also one of the quickest ways to get your foot in the door of the industry. Right from the jump, you’ll have the chance to network with fellow actors, filmmakers, and the program’s faculty.
The most valuable aspect of a diploma program, however, comes in the form of practical experience. When you first start out, nothing beats consistently practicing and honing your acting skills, day in and day out. And this is exactly what you can expect at schools such as Toronto Film School, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and Julliard.
Pursuing a degree (rather than a diploma) from a university is another option for aspiring actors. Unlike a diploma program, which tends to be more hands-on and industry-focused, BFAs and MFAs offer a more academic acting education.
Most BFAs take four years to complete and require students to spend more time learning acting and theatre theory. With a BFA, your assignments could range from performing in actual theatre productions to writing full-length essays on the history of acting “methods.”
Some highly-regarded BFAs in Canada include:
• Toronto Metropolitan University – Performance: Acting (BFA)
• University of Toronto – Theatre & Performance Studies
• Simon Fraser University – Theatre (Performance Stream)
If you prefer one-on-one instruction, you can always seek out a personal acting coach. This can be one of the most effective ways to develop your skills as you’ll receive personalized feedback tailored to your specific strengths and weaknesses.
In addition, working with an acting coach tends to be a very flexible experience, both in terms of scheduling and learning. For example, you could ask a coach to do multiple sessions walking you through the fundamentals of acting. Or you could request a single session dedicated to prepping you for a specific audition.
The downside of acting coaches is that they are hard to come by. And the ones that do promote themselves commercially tend to be quite pricey – we’re talking $100-300 an hour!
Step #2 Network, Network, Network
Once your training plan is in place, the next thing you should consider is networking. As an actor, your network will be made up of fellow actors, directors, agents, casting directors, and other industry professionals. Without a doubt, the earlier you prioritize networking in your career, the better off you’ll be.
But how do you start networking if you have little to no acting experience?
1. Get involved in your local acting community: Attend plays, take night classes, volunteer as backstage help, and join a theatre group.
2. Reach out via social media: Social media is a powerful tool for connecting with casting directors and agents – use it! Start developing your own social media presence on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn. Then follow industry pros which you are interested in connecting, and when the right opportunity arises, launch a DM!
3. Work as a production assistant (PA): Try to land a part-time gig as a PA on a film or television set. As a PA you’ll have the chance to work alongside a variety of professionals, including actors, directors, and producers. You’ll also have the chance to get familiar with set life in general.
Replying to @yourunfavorablefriend How to network as an actor and sign with an agency #acting #actor #actress #actors #actingadvice #actingcareer #networking #actingagents #actingbusiness #actorsoftiktok #actorslife
#3 Prepare Headshots, Craft Your Resume and Put Together a Demo Reel
Now that you’ve started training and begun building your network, it’s time to orient your efforts toward auditioning. But before you can start, there are a few key items you’ll need: a headshot, resume, and demo reel.
In the world of acting, your headshot functions like a business card. It will be the first thing that casting agents look at. So you want to ensure two things: that the photos are high-quality and that they accurately reflect your unique personality.
We recommend you hire a professional photographer who specializes in headshots. We also recommend that on shoot day you bring multiple outfits and try out a few different “looks.”
Much like a traditional CV, your acting resume should highlight your skills and experience.
Here is a list of items you should include in your acting resume:
• Your name and contact information
• Your hair colour, eye colour, and height
• Your agent’s name and contact information (if applicable)
• Your union affiliation (if applicable)
• Your acting experience listed in reverse chronological order
• Your education/training (if applicable)
• Your special skills (e.g. horseback riding, accents, musical instruments, etc.)
A demo reel – often referred to in the industry as a “sizzle reel” – is a short montage-style video that showcases your acting abilities. Generally speaking, your reel should be around two minutes long and should consist of only your finest work.
If you don’t have any professional experience yet – don’t fret. You can still put together a strong sizzle reel without professional acting footage. We recommend you start by filming a handful of short scenes with your friends or family. We also advise you to pick scenes that will showcase both your range and your unique personality.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when making your demo reel.
• Is it under three minutes long?
• Does it highlight my best work?
• Is it up to date?
• Does it have a logical and aesthetically pleasing flow?
• Does it include my contact information?
Make sure your answer to each of these questions is a resounding “yes!”
Oh, and definitely follow this TikToker’s tips on what NOT to do in a demo reel:
#actor #acting #demoreel #castingdirector @headshotsbyjmo
#4 Submit to Auditions and Casting Calls
At this point, you’ve been steadily developing your acting skills, you’ve started to build a decent-sized network, and you’ve created a killer headshot, resume, and demo reel. Now it’s time for the exciting part – submitting to auditions and casting calls!
Not sure where to start? Here are some basic steps you can take to find and prep for auditions!
Finding Auditions and Casting Calls
When it comes to finding auditions and casting calls
1. Use online casting platforms: Resources like Casting Workbook, Actors Access, Backstage, and Casting Networks are updated every day and allow you to search for casting calls based on role, location, and project type.
2. Use social media: Follow casting directors, agents, and production companies on social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok. Keep an eye out for posts about upcoming auditions.
3. Leverage your network: Ask your peers, teachers, coaches, and co-workers about casting calls and auditions. Let everyone you can know that you are on the hunt for an audition!
Preparing for In-Person Auditions
Preparing for an in-person acting audition goes well beyond rehearsing your lines. If you really want to impress a casting director, make sure to follow these steps:
1. Thoroughly research the project you are auditioning for If it’s a TV show that’s already on air, watch a few episodes. If you were given the script for the whole pilot, read it front to back.
2. Treat your script like your best friend: In the lead-up to the audition, we recommend you follow actor John Tench’s advice, which is to “hang out” with your lines as if they were your best pal; bring them with you everywhere and spend quality time with them
3. Dress appropriately and arrive early: To make a good impression and help calm your nerves, dress in something clean and simple and make sure you arrive at the audition at least 10 minutes early
Self-tape auditions are the new industry standard. Everyone, from A-listers to amateurs is expected to submit them. So if you want to stand out in today’s acting world, you must start mastering this at-home form of auditioning.
To start, it’s important to recognize that self-tape auditions require basic media production skills. You’re going to have to think about things like
• What video and audio equipment to buy
• How to frame your shot
• What kind of backdrop to use
• And how to light your scene
When it comes to self-tapes, there is A LOT to think about. Which is why we recommend you check out our full-length guide on the topic!
Or, alternatively, you can download Toronto Film School’s FREE Ultimate Self-Tape Cheat Sheet and get immediate access to our top self-tape tips.
#5 Secure Your Ideal Agent
Congratulations! You’ve been steadily submitting to auditions and maybe even landed a few initial gigs. Now, it’s time to think about securing an agent. Although they are not required, acting agents can help you navigate the industry, land auditions, negotiate contracts, and more. Here are some tips for securing your first agent:
1. Research and target agents: Before you begin calling up agents, make sure to do your research! Be specific about which agents you want to reach out to. Pick ones that represent actors who are similar to you in age and project preference. To help get a sense of an agent’s client roster, spend time on their websites and browse their social media pages carefully.
2. Prepare your pitch: When you’re ready to reach out, prepare a persuasive pitch that highlights your unique skills and experience. Be specific about what sets you apart from other actors in your category and tailor your pitch to different platforms. You can pitch agents over email, social media, or the phone.
3. Back to networking: When it comes time to secure an agent, you will want to turn up your networking efforts. Attend as many industry events as possible and let people in your network know that you are in search of an agent.
Now Go Break a Leg!
Ultimately, becoming an actor takes dedication and perseverance. But in no way should this deter you from pursuing a career in acting.
For starters, North America is the entertainment mecca of the world – thousands upon thousands of new actors are hired every single year in Canada and America. And the fact that acting is a competitive field can – and should – be viewed only as evidence that being an actor is a highly rewarding job.
Put simply, if acting is your dream then it’s certainly worth fighting for. And it’s also totally attainable, despite what the skeptics have to say.
In this blog post, we laid out a simple and actionable five-step strategy that you can use to launch your career as an actor. Take from it what you will and go break a leg!
Oh, and one more thing!
If you’re interested in breaking into the film and television industry – as an actor perhaps? – then sign up for Toronto Film School’s industry-focused newsletter, Insider Advantage.
Packed with exclusive content and useful industry insights, Insider Advantage is essential reading for anyone looking to make their mark in the world of film and television.