It didn’t work for me because I already had a degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and I wasn’t about to go back to school for another 4 years. Not because I wouldn’t love the chance to get a degree in acting, but because school is expensive! Since I was still paying off the loans for my college education, I didn’t want to take on any more debt. Acting classes can be expensive too, but at least you get to choose when you’d like to take a class, as opposed to being locked in for 4 years.
I’m going to guide you through what to do using my own experiences – many people will agree with me that this is the way to go, while just as many will disagree. So far it seems to be working for me, but it may not work for you, so just be aware that there are other options and ways to go about becoming a great actor.
Stay where you are for now, unless you have the means to make a move and continue to support yourself. Don’t move to the big city right away because you think it’s where all the action is – there is a lot of work available in regional markets – take advantage of that while you’re starting out. Competing in a regional market can be difficult, but just imagine how much harder it is in the larger markets, teeming with other actors – all of whom will likely be more experienced and polished than you at this point in your career. This also means don’t dump your day job right away.
I did leave my job, but I also had a husband who was willing and able to support me financially in pursuing my dream. I am VERY lucky!!!
2. Educate yourself
Start reading, watching, and listening to anything and everything that you can get your hands on about acting. Educate yourself on just what it takes to be a successful actor. Unless you do community theatre or student films for fun, you want to make a career out of this, which means making money. Find out what the average actor makes, what it takes to become marketable and maintain that marketability, and the emotional toll that it takes to pound the pavement every day. Don’t lie to yourself – this is important, no really – you need to be very honest with yourself about whether you have what it takes in regards to raw talent, the ability to invest time and money, and the emotional strength to handle loads of rejection. If you aren’t honest with yourself about this, your dream could quickly become your nightmare.
I’m incredibly persistent and determined by nature, so I knew that while rejection would be hard, I could muster up the courage to keep going. I read about all the statistics of what actors really make and I decided that I had what it takes to beat the odds. I also believed that I had raw talent and my friends and family agreed.
So at this point you’ve read up on acting, made any arrangements for your living and expenses and you’ve decided to dive in.
3. Get Educated
Get educated by learning the skills that it takes to become an actor. You can learn some of this from books, but the best way is to be able to read and then practice what you learn. Find a class in your area that is set up to accommodate and teach the beginning actor. Take it! This class will be your first real foray into acting. Do the work, show up on time to every class, and see how you feel. Use this class as a barometer. How does the instructor respond to you? How do you respond to the material? Is this something you really enjoy? Do you really want to do all this work?
I actually took my first acting class about 2 years before I started acting, while I was still working my day job. Then I did almost nothing with my acting in that time, while continuing to suffer in said day job. That was how long it took me to come to terms with the fact that YES, this was for me, and I wanted it badly enough to make any and all the necessary sacrifices. But once I decided, that's it, I was off and running!
Still with me? Ok, good – then you have more than a passing interest – keep reading!
4. Keep After that Education
At this point you may want to continue taking classes with the same instructor you started with. Or you may want to try another beginning class with a different instructor so that you can compare their notes and find out what works for you. It’s a good idea to make sure you have the basics firmly down before trying to move to the next level. And you can also…
I actually found a different class that was also teaching the basics – I felt I would get a more rounded view of what was really important when it came to basic acting skills this way.
5. Start Auditioning
Yes, I said that. Start auditioning. Yes, it’s scary – do it anyway. Learn monologues, memorize sides, whatever it takes. But get out there! The sooner, the better because auditioning is a really vital part of being an actor – and the sooner you start failing at it, the sooner you’ll learn how to do it well. Don’t go for the paid gigs right now. But wait… didn’t you say I want to make money? Yes, but you are very green at this point, so you are really looking for ways to practice and hone your newly developing skills. Think of it as an internship. This is a great time to seek out roles in community theatres and/or student films. Go out there and audition for everything you can at this stage. Just exactly what that first gig is, isn’t nearly as important as the confidence boost it will give you and the opportunity you will have to practice all the things you’ve been working so hard to learn.
This is where my opinion really seems to differ with some. I went out and started auditioning right about the same time that I started taking classes again. My instructor begged me not to because I “didn’t know what I was doing yet.” I went anyway and boy am I glad I did, because I did in fact book a few jobs. Those jobs were instrumental in giving me an outlet for all that learning. I’m a very hands-on person, so the experiences were invaluable. I also formed great relationships that thrive to this day!
6. Repeat Steps 4 & 5 Over & Over & Over to Build a Resume
This is really a ridiculous oversimplification of the next steps to take, but this blog post is about how to get started, so I’ll leave you right here this week. Next week, I’ll break down these steps a little further.
Point me in the Right Education Direction. Pretty Please???