And action: Tips to start an acting career
There’s no point working a “bill-paying” job seemingly endlessly, such as waiting tables in restaurants, barman at catering events, retail sales in malls or reception work in a big corporate, unless there’s an end-goal for artistic aspirations – becoming lead of a top movie.
A bill-paying gig should ideally give the flexibility to explore an artistic side and acting potential, while being secure enough (an understanding boss will help!) to pay the basics and keep the wolf from the door. A plan and stamina is needed to avoid squandering money on unnecessary luxuries, such as eating out and clothing, but rather aim to save slowly and invest wisely in a few actor essentials. Let’s explore what these may entail.
Join a reputable casting company
Choose via word of mouth or reputation and then benefit from the service a casting agency provides. This makes it possible to remain informed of all the artistic projects taking place in town – medium, mind-blowing and small-scale, film, stage or commercial – and will be required to load a profile up on their website, reminding of any gigs from the past. Even that high school musical counts.
Jules Bausch, a Los Angeles-based actor, writer and producer advises aspiring actors, in a piece for The Muse, that they really should aim to attend every single casting or audition that crosses their paths. Each one broadens the learning curve and you may be surprised by excelling in a role or at character type never tried or considered in the past.
Not sure how to audition? A couple of those two-hour casting workshops could prove a valuable aid, because there’s no point being really good at a craft and then blowing the chances by freezing up when the time to shine actually rolls around.
Invest in professional pics
Concerned about headshots being a little out of date and unrepresentative? This is one area to certainly consider spending a little cash. But don’t break the bank. Being in an artistic crowd, most people will know a really competent photographer who’s just starting out. Support this person – whose pictures are probably as good or better than a seasoned professional – and they’ll do the same in the future. What goes around comes around.
Hone your craft
Every profession, acting included, requires learning and evolving. Options for continuing education in the performance arts include: summer school sessions, night courses at college, local workshops and networking events. Some may also like to route out an inspirational mentor to have coffee on a regular basis with. At these, aim to discuss professional development and how to stay inspired.
Take time for TLC
It can be tough to remain upbeat when you’ve not landed a gig for a while. Work on a positive mindset in these trying times by spending spare time doing yoga, practising mindfulness meditation, gardening, hiking or trail-running in nature, reading inspirational books and thought-provoking scripts and gathering socially with other performance artists. A weekend away in the mountains or at the beach may help, where it’s possible to and recuperate, but also spend evenings role-playing different characters and getting feedback from others for whom the stage life dances.
Establish what acting means to you
Carolynne Barry, an on-camera and commercial teacher who has trained literally thousands of professional actors over the years, suggests that during a “lost patch”, ask yourself: “Is acting an investigation, hobby or career [for me]?” This will allow truthfulness to be a guide. She adds: “Whatever your response, I would suggest starting with an acting class. Do your research and auditing, then select the technique and teacher you want to train with. Then, commit yourself to that class for at least six months. If you love it, then continue, and when you can, add an improvisation and a commercial class or audition technique to see if you are interested in another area of acting.” Carolynne concludes by suggesting making a move to a major city – New York, Los Angeles or Chicago will do – to study acting professionally (even if part-time), because that’s where the real action happens.
Consider commercial work
It may come as a surprise, but we’re not all intended to become a George Clooney or an Emma Stone. And even these amazing actors have done some commercials in their time. George has knocked himself out in a range of amusing Nespresso ads that have paid him over $40 million, while Emma has captivated audiences in a Louis Vuitton fragrance gig worth $12.8 million. Commercial work is definitely worth a look-in.
A last word of advice from artistic director at the National Youth Theatre, Paul Roseby, is not to give up hope because that big break is still waiting in the wings. Samuel L Jackson, for example, was 45 when he first appeared on the big screen in Pulp Fiction, while Jane Lynch was well over 40 when she secured her first notable role as the gym teacher, Sue Sylvester, in Glee. Paul suggests that it’s both confidence and the ability to “sell yourself” that will grant the final cherry on the top of this game: becoming a household name.
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