Getting Started in Film Acting

by Joshua Siegel

Man with film reel

There is no one surefire way to become a successful actor. But there are some basic tips that can help new actors get their foot in the preverbal acting door.


There is no one sure way to become a successful film actor. In fact, there are as many different ways as there are actors. Each actor finds success in their own way, using luck, connections, and perseverance. There are, however, some basic tips that can help any new actor get their foot in the proverbial door. Here are a few ways to get started.

Theater
Almost every city and town has at least one small community theater where local actors gather and put on performances. Take advantage of this opportunity, even if your primary interest is film and television. Acting is acting, and it changes very little between media. Any practice and exposure you get while doing community theater will only improve your chances of making it in the film industry. Also, many agents and casting directors attend plays and showcases in hopes of finding talented new actors. Remember, opportunities can come at any time.

Student Films
Is there a college in your hometown? If so, chances are they have some kind of film, media arts, or broadcasting program. Film students always need talented actors, and you could be just what they're looking for. They probably won't be able to pay you anything and the final product may not be that great, but the experience will be more than worth it. Just be sure to get a video copy of your performance and keep in contact with student director. Who knows... he or she may be the next Spielberg.

Be a Movie Extra
Extras (sometimes referred to as "background" or "atmosphere" actors) are used in almost every movie. They may be a face in a crowd of thousands or someone who fully interacts with the other actors but doesn't have any lines. In either case, you don't have to live in New York or Los Angeles to get this kind of work. Watch for ads in the newspaper or contact your local film commission if you know a production is coming to the area. You might be able to get a few days work as an extra.

Even though extra work is not considered serious acting by most people in the entertainment industry, it still gives you valuable experience. If you have never been on a film set before, you can learn a lot just by watching the cast and crew work. Also, there is a very small chance that you might get "upgraded" if the director decides that she needs you to say a line. This rarely happens, but if it does you will receive a lot more money and be eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild.

Independent Films
Many low budget films can not afford to hire experienced actors and will hold open calls. You can find auditions for these kinds of productions in trade publications or even local newspapers. However, it's a good idea to be cautious when responding to these ads. Take a friend with you to the audition and know what you're getting into. Most small films are wonderful experiences, but others can be purely exploitive. Always use your best judgement.

Get an Agent
After building credits and experience doing some or all of the things listed above, you should be ready to find an agent. Unless you live in a major city, this may be difficult. But even some smaller cities have reputable agents who submit their clients for commercials and the occasional film.

Be Persistent
You may be the most talented actor on the planet, but you'll never get anywhere without determination. Believe in yourself and never give up. If you want it, you can succeed in this business!
Joshua Siegel is an actor and short subject director.
Copyright © Joshua Siegel. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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Reader Comments

i love acting beause it is my dantiny

Posted by daniel duru (2015-07-02) 7191

I have always wanted to act but I have no idea how to get started.Im 35 and in some ways feel a little foolish for trying to chase a childhood dream,but my passion out ways my reasoning.So if anyone has any tips I need all the help I can get.

Posted by winston naulta (2013-12-31) 6606

I'm not even sure to begin I've wanted to be an actor since I was a young girl but it seems I keep running into scams artist I now stay with my sister in Marietta Georgia. I just need an opportunity some exposure once I get that I know I well be able to go far so please contact me.

Posted by Ayesha Davis (2013-07-30) 6530

Hi, i'm 18 years old and i really want to become a movie director/actor , can you help me out?

Posted by Marlon (2012-07-10) 6087

I come from a small town but I've been very involved with school plays and drama but theres a limit to how far I can go! I wish I could go further but Im only 14, about to be 15, so I cant pusue acting any further without help!

Posted by Dustin Chavers (2012-06-06) 5920

It all seems so hopeless... I really want to be an actress because it's what I love and I can't really imagine myself doing anything else. I mean, to be a part of something that great and working so hard and giving your best effort to correctly portray a character would feel... amazing in the long run. But I live in a very small town. I have been on stage since I was 10 and am pretty comfortable, but I still have problems... I'm only 15 and I'm not sure that even IF I could possibly get an audition that my parents would actually let me go...
I'm sorry for wasting time, but I felt like I had to say something...

Posted by Rebekah (2012-04-14) 5744

i love this site

Posted by Edidiong James (2011-12-12) 5283

Hi I am Lisa,
I am 13 years old and I want to be an actress one day.
I play the recorder and the violin...
If I would find an e-mail with a job offer, I would be very happy, do please write me and then I can give you more informations about myself!
with love,
lisa

Posted by lisa (2011-12-01) 5265

I know that simply asking to become an actress does not help, but I just want to share my thoughts. I am a teenager whose life is acting. One day I aspire to be on Broadway and in Hollywood. I know that the road to that is very long and rough, but I am willing to take it in order to achieve my dream. I particpate in theatre groups year round, and I know if I work hard and believe, I can achieve my dreams.

Posted by Jazz (2011-11-06) 5119

I want to be an actress

Posted by Yussif salma (2011-07-05) 3803

ok so um email me! i want to proov how good i am but how? how do i train my talents like acting?

Posted by Violet (2011-03-15) 2948

HELLO! My name is Auburn Richard. I started to desire the acting career when i was 13!!! I tried to persuade my parents, but they think that so many things are fake down here in Florida!! Whatever though!! My point is that i wanted to act!! I still do!! Im very out going towards so many people!!! If you introduce yourself to me, ill be out there!! I feel like I have the capability to act for a future!!!! Not just any future, but MY OWN FUTURE!!! I feel like you could help me out to understand more of this stuff! Information like this could be very useful for me!! I am soon to be 17!!! & its almost been 4 years since i havent made the move!!!! I think it's time now!!!! PLEASE CONTACT ME INSTANTLY!!

Posted by Auburn (2011-02-23) 2895

Hi there, my name is Nadia and I want to be a famous movie star like Selena Gomez. I loved acting ever since I was 5. My dream, and my talent through my whole life ever since I was 5 till now was acting please pick me I will do anything possible in this world just to act.

Posted by Nadia (2011-02-22) 2892

Hi my name is alexis i am 14 i have really big dreams to be a actor... I know 100 of people are asking you the same thing about helping to try to find audition and you probably some times skip over people but if you be-leave on making dreams come true please email me. (thanks for your time) from alexis queen tomorrow's future.

Posted by alexis (2011-01-01) 2822

Oh and as far as agents are concerned, if you show talent, trust me, you'll be fighting them off like telemarketers.

Posted by Nick (2010-08-26) 2684

My name's Nick & I've acted on broadway & was schooled at NYU's TSOA with a major in drama. Please take heed to this warning: anyone who believes you have talent will not ask you for a dime up front. It's the way show biz works folks. They get their cut when you begin to rake in the cash. My advice is to GET GOOD HEADSHOTS, and by good I don't mean a snapshot of you, nor a shot from head to toe. A headshot is just that: a shot of your head in any given pose that you think demonstrates you as a good photo... of your head... only. Once you've got the headshots the rest is a piece of cake. Get them around locally, and AUDITION!!!!!!!!!! You can't get a part if you're just sitting at home. Look up auditions in your area but once again, please don't fall for scams. Someone that thinks you have the potential to be famous will happily shell out the publicity costs. If you're meant for the business do what I said & if you've got what it takes, chances are you'll succeed.

Posted by Nick (2010-08-26) 2683

I dream of being an actress so bad on tv, the thing is i cant really sing that well so i guess theatre is not for me, my passion is acting in film and tv, i'm 15 years old and know and have always known that its what i want to do. I used to go to a small drama club in my town but unfortanetly it was cancelled but know don't know where to go, please help me fulfill my dreams.:)

Posted by Shannon (2010-06-23) 2606

I WANT TO ACT IN MOVIES.

Posted by K.LAVANYA (2010-06-16) 2591

i am one of the most talented student in my large school and i can do every thing to get to what i want i'm 14 years old i haven't gave up for that talent even teachers in my school say that im really talented and i got a golden scout medal and i am hoping you help me become a famous actor and if you want to test me i am redy

Posted by Bernard (2010-02-27) 2399

I really want to be an ctor. I'm talented in many things, sports, music and singing. Please consider me for an acting job. I'm 13 and in great shape. I could do stunts too. Thank you :)

Posted by Andrea Yesupatham (2010-02-20) 2379

I want to be a film actress. I am 13, and have been acting since I was seven. I know that I need to start small, with extras and commercials. I just dont know where to look for these things. I live in Charleston, WV.

Posted by Maggie H. (2010-02-13) 2350

Yeah I have always wanted to be an actress. I got to be strong and follow my dreams! I am 23 years old 5'8, I weigh 118lbs, I have brown eyes, brown hair and fair skin tone. I am real athletic and surprisingly I am a mother of 2. I have been doing photography for almost 7 years and that is my passion right there besides my 2 children. My ultimate goal is acting and then my second goal is to be a Director of Photography (cinematographer), and my third goal is to be a successful photographer and have my own studio in a big city. I have dreams, yes and eventually I will succeed. I have excellent self-esteem and I never give up. I will do it over and over again until I get it right. I have a facebook and a myspace.

Posted by Michelle Buehring (2010-01-10) 2295

My daughter is very interested in Becoming an actor. Her name is Alexanderia Dorst.

Posted by Alexandria (2009-10-27) 2161

Though I doubt this is the place that will begin my life, I am very seriously looking for a career in acting. I would be willing to be an extra, though a more prominent role is my more ultimate goal. The reasons why I want to be in movies are hard to explain, and even I myself do not entirely understand, but I have a pressure in my chest that tugs me into the aspiration of acting. I am fifteen at the moment, and do not know if I am good looking or not, but I do know that I would be considered female. I do not know how this works, but if anyone who can help me live my life sees this message, please take a moment of your life to intertwine it with mine and change the world, just a little bit.

Posted by Casey Brahe (2009-08-02) 1876

hi my names amanda im 13 years old! i love acting i know that all this people want to be an actress but i always wanted to be an actress i have been in many plays! i was rudolph in a cristmas play and many others all my drama teachers say im a naturel actress! please sir or mam i realy want this even when i watch a sad movie i cry and i dont even know them! PLEASE CONTACT ME! i will be great and go to any shows or audition! just email me that u r intersested!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by amanda (2009-07-30) 1861

Hey Everybody, reading these messages, I'm once again braught to the reality that this is the most competitive industry in the world, and as scary as that might sound for the prospects of a successful carreer, it's the truth. But I also believe it's a calling and more so, a blessing to do what you love. I'm a drama student at the University of Pretoria and even there, in our little creative bubble, competition is fierce, and critiscism many. You are bound to fall so many times, and I assure you, people aren't always going to help you in these situations. But who cares? What matters is that you stand up each time, more determined and inspired than ever. I believe it's worth the fight, a life-long dream has far more value than what others think, or how many times you fall. Plus, failure is a blessing in desguise, a way to only show the world and more importantly, yourself, what your really made of.
Thanks for all the advice in the articles

Posted by Candice Weber (2009-07-17) 1789

i want any director to choose me to act i will

Posted by freddie randall (2009-06-25) 1656

Hey my name is Gemma Sharman and i am 13 years old and i live in a small village called medbourne i love to sing and act so much! i have signed up for bgt for 2010 wiv ma mate taz and she is amazing to! if i could be an actree i would cry my eyes out cause it is my dream to either sing or act and i just wanna follow my dreams and go futher in life! i have already decided wat i am goin to do at collage performing arts which will take my futher but if any one can help then add me on face book! thank you! :Dx

Posted by Gemma Sharman (2009-06-20) 1620

heyy x
Well its my dream to be an actress.All my life i have wanted to be on i can sing,dance and act.

from shannon x

Posted by Shannon jade penticost (2009-06-07) 1544

I want to be an actress , it means the world to me, Im going to make it happen, i have the confidence to do anything and I choose this because I'm simply a Drama Queen!

Posted by Tiera's gonna be a Star! (2009-05-26) 1501

Hello.
My name is Sol. I believe I have decent talent in acting but I only just decided to try to become an actor. I want to be an actor because I enjoy acting and I want to spend my life doing what I enjoy. I'm an 18 year old male and board in (Staten Island,) NY. If anyone can help I'll be forever grateful. I don't mind starting out small, I just need some info on small "places" near me etc...
Please Help. Thanx.

Posted by Sol (2009-04-28) 1358

hi my name is maria and it's been my dream to be on t.v.............well I do admit I do need some help on acting but I'll do what ever it takes and I'm 14 years old...8)

Posted by Maria (2009-04-15) 1306

Hello to all. I too am an aspiring actress. Not to be rich and famous, although I wouldn't mind, but to inspire the world with the art of being. I would love to be able to move someone so much that they too could find that charecter within themself. I have so much to offer and can't wait for my day to shine!

Posted by Bonnie (2009-03-25) 1195

Hi Everyone! I must say that Twilight has apparently had that effect on numerous people! They really chose the best cast, they could ever have chosen.
I find it interesting that most of the comments listed above strive for the same thing: being a famous actor/actress. Maybe you should start out small;) act at school, with friends, in a theater (hint: you could convince your parents this way too) - see if you really like it. I know, your answer will most likely be: of course I LOVE acting or else it wouldn't be my dream! I'm just saying, if you are thinking big, make sure you can live with being famous...paparazzi will be coming after you, lots and lots of reporters, etc. restricting your privacy.

A big note: Don't give up your dream, no matter what others want to make you believe! I know it from myself - my parents made fun of my recent idea of going to a film academy in the summer.
Bonne Chance!

Posted by mae (2009-01-05) 838

Hi. Wajiha, I feel the same way! I'm very shy at school but when I go out everything changes..I talk to strangers on the streets and I act like I'm a totally different girl than I'm in school. My parents just ignore me when I aay anything about acting and that one day I will be there in Hollywood..
I recently saw Twilight in the cinema, here in Galway(Ireland). And that movie is just awsome, I mean Robert is so hot :)..also Kristen is so talented. Since I saw this movie I feel more inspired to be an actress.
I wanted to become an actress since I was 11(I'm 15 now). I was inspired by the TV-show 24!
I feel like I am really talented and my friends also tell me that I'm good and that I should do some acting. I do NOT have any experience but I can work hard and I'm easy to get along with. I can memorize lines quickly and willing to try anything!
Please if you can help me to fulfill my dreams as becoming an actress, contact me!
Thank You!

Posted by Victoria Budafai (2009-01-04) 822

I want to be in a movie

Posted by Genevieve (2008-12-15) 665

hi, i was very shy at school but when im not at school i get like hypo and i always watch movies and then when i watched twilight the other day i wanted to be an actor because that has been my dreams for ages and my parents dont ake me seriously and if they do they say NO! thats why im asking you to help me in my acting dreams because one day i want to become famous and proe everyone that they are wrong and i am right because i used to get stage fright at sckool like for example for class projects i didnt want to present my work in front of the class because i was scared and sonce ive watched twilight i want to become like edward cullen (the actor) so, please i beg you to help me out on my big dream.

Posted by wajiha (2008-12-13) 658

I was a thespian by the end of the sixth grade. I won several competitions in readers theatre and other categories. In high school, I gave up acting for sports and now that I'm 26, I really miss it. I'm thinking about getting back into it. How come no one on this web site knows how to spell or speak English? Isn't that a requirement for Acting in america? Not being mean - I just think it's funny.

Posted by Justin V. (2008-12-05) 642

Hi. My name is Meruert. And biggest question I wanted to ask is WHERE CAN I FIND, CALL OR MEET A REAL MANAGER OR AN AGENT?? I do, I understand your advices, but where can I Find them then? Tell me it please. I really want to be a good actress, but don't see opportunities to star the career..

Posted by Meruert (2008-11-10) 538

pliz update me always on wat i shd do to become a great actor,i know i will,its a matter of time,yes thanks 4 all

Posted by bismac (2008-11-03) 524

Hi I am harun 25 male from bangladesh.My life hoby acting so I want to actore.
I recuest you are you give me any chances ,any agency or eathers midia
It is my dream sir.
ok bye harun

Posted by Mohammad Harun or Rosid (2008-09-28) 419

I want to become an actor. i have myself confidence in my acting. i want to make my name. so, please take me for acting.i am very serious about this. please accept me for giving an opportunity.i will be forever thankful to you, if you give me an chance.

Posted by ARPIT (2008-09-11) 352

my name aljanay i live in new york i love acting that my dream i love doing everything i am smart funny and nice i have a high head for doing anything i joined the newspaper club to keep me very educated please email me if anything

Posted by aljanay (2008-08-12) 212

I love to sing and want to be and actress in movies, but i wanna be in teen movies because i am a teen. When i was younger and still now i didn't get that much attention. By becoming an actress, i want to be noticed for once.

Posted by Radhika Jikaria (2008-07-26) 152

I love acting and I want to become a famous actress so bad that I'll do anything. I live in Gary, Indiana and want to travel to Chicago because they have great casting calls there but the only problem is my sister doesn't want to travel that far and she doesn't care about my acting career. But do I supppose to do? I want to become a famous actress and be in the spotlight now!

Posted by Krystal (2008-06-14) 105

I LOVE ACTING AND I AM JOIN ACTING JOB.
MY PERENTS NOT AGREE IN MY THINK BUT I AM LIKE THIS JOB.

Posted by AJAY DWIVEDI (2008-02-27) 57

I love acting and singing it is the best thing a person would do one i will wish a wish that will turn me into one.

Posted by Siphosethu Tshikila (2007-11-18) 5

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