Getting Started in Film Acting
by Joshua Siegel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!