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How to Become an Actor: Step-By-Step Guide

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. This is the only way to become a great actor. 

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 a professional actor, even if you have zero experience. 

Let’s get into it!

Steps to becoming an actor overview:

Steps

Actions

Step 1

Start training now!

Step 2

Network, Network, Network

Step 3

Prepare Your Headshots, Resume, and Demo Reel

Step 4

Submit to Auditions and Casting Calls

Step 5

Secure Your Ideal Agent 

Become an Insider

Step #1: Start Training Now: Formal Education, Acting Classes, or Acting Lessons with a Tutor

“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. 

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.

University degrees

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)

Acting lessons with a tutor or acting coach

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.

Acting tutors are also a great option if you’d like to train a more specialized field like voice acting. For a complete guide on how to break into the voice-acting industry, check out this blog post! 

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.

@anytownactorslab

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

♬ original sound – Anytown Actors LAB

Step #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.

Headshots

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.”

Acting Resume

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.)

Demo Reel:

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 if you’re wondering if you should add music to your reel, watch this:

@smammie

To add or to not add music to a demo reel? #learnontiktok #tiktokpartner #demoreel #animation #3dartist

♬ original sound – Sammie

Step #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

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.

Step #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!

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Niko Pajkovic
Niko Pajkovic is a marketing copywriter at the Toronto Film School. He’s also an academically published author whose research focuses on algorithms, AI, and their intersection with film and television. Niko holds an MA in Professional Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Hon. BA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University. His freelance bylines include Film Threat, Independent Australia, Film Matters Magazine, and Film Cred.

How to Become an Actor FAQ

What are the requirements to become an actor?

While there are no specific educational requirements to become an actor, having a background in acting or theater can be beneficial. Additionally, it is important to have a passion for acting, good communication skills, the ability to take direction, and the willingness to continuously learn and grow as an actor.

Do I need to go to acting school to become an actor?

Attending acting school or taking acting classes can greatly enhance your skills as an actor and provide you with valuable training and knowledge. However, it is not a mandatory requirement to become an actor. Many successful actors have learned through practical experience and on-the-job training.

Can I become an actor with no experience?

Yes, it is possible to become an actor with no prior experience. Many actors start their careers by participating in school plays, community theater, or independent productions. It is important to gain experience and build your acting resume through these opportunities before pursuing professional acting roles.

What type of acting can I pursue?

There are various types of acting that you can pursue, including theater acting, film acting, TV acting, commercial acting, voice acting, and more. It is important to explore and find the type of acting that interests you the most and aligns with your skills and goals.

How do I find acting opportunities?

To find acting opportunities, you can:

– Attend casting calls and auditions advertised in industry publications, online platforms, and social media.

– Network with other actors, casting directors, and industry professionals to discover hidden opportunities.

– Join local acting communities or organizations that share casting notices and acting opportunities.

– Create an online presence through a personal website or social media platforms to showcase your work and attract potential casting directors.

Do I need an acting degree to become a successful actor?

While having an acting degree can be beneficial and provide you with formal training, it is not a strict requirement to become a successful actor. Many actors have achieved success through practical experience, talent, and hard work. However, pursuing an acting degree can provide you with a solid foundation and a deeper understanding of acting techniques.

How can I grow my acting career?

To grow your acting career, you can:

– Continuously improve your acting skills through classes, workshops, and practice.

– Seek out challenging and diverse roles that can showcase your versatility as an actor.

– Network with industry professionals and build connections that can lead to more opportunities.

– Market yourself effectively by creating a professional acting resume, headshots, and an online presence.

– Stay informed about industry trends, auditions, and casting calls.

– Be proactive in seeking acting opportunities and never stop learning and exploring your craft.

How can I become a famous actor?

Becoming a famous actor requires a combination of talent, dedication, hard work, and luck. While there are no guarantees of fame in the acting industry, you can increase your chances by:

– Building a strong acting portfolio through theater performances, student films, and independent projects.

– Developing a unique and memorable persona or acting style.

– Networking with industry professionals, casting directors, and talent agents.

– Auditioning for high-profile projects and seeking representation from reputable talent agencies.

– Being persistent and resilient in the face of challenges and rejection.

How to become a working actor?

To become a working actor, you need to consistently find and perform in acting roles. Some tips to achieve this include:

– Attending auditions and casting calls regularly.

– Building relationships with casting directors and talent agents.

– Showcasing your talent and versatility in your acting reel and audition monologues.

– Continuously improving your acting skills and staying updated on industry trends.

– Networking with other actors and industry professionals to discover new opportunities.

Can I become an actor in Canada?

Yes, it is possible to become an actor in Canada. Canada has a thriving film and television industry, with opportunities for actors in both English and French-speaking productions. To pursue an acting career in Canada, you can attend acting schools or workshops, join local acting communities, and audition for Canadian film and TV projects.

Niko Pajkovic

Niko Pajkovic is a marketing copywriter at the Toronto Film School. He’s also an academically published author whose research focuses on algorithms, AI, and their intersection with film and television. Niko holds an MA in Professional Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Hon. BA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University. His freelance bylines include Film Threat, Independent Australia, Film Matters Magazine, and Film Cred.

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