How to become an actor


Whether you’re in the spotlight or on the silver screen, acting is a highly competitive career. Crafting your talent with hard work and persistent discipline can help you outshine the competition. Before setting out to be a professional actor, you must build a foundation for your career by auditioning for commercials, smaller theater productions, radio and voice work for broadcasts like podcasts or audiobooks. 

Learn how to become an actor by honing your talent with training:

Education

A bachelor's degree in drama develops your acting skills, giving you an edge over untrained competition. You will learn a variety of acting theories, techniques and methods to further your acting skills. You will take a variety of acting courses in college including blocking, character studies, movement, voice training and approaches that will develop your stage presence. You will also learn and practice for various mediums, including film, radio and stage. 

While pursuing your bachelor’s degree, seek classes that will help you perform and add secondary skills to your ability. For example, take cultural studies and history to understand character context. Courses in dance, archery, gymnastics or skill- and performance-based areas can open you to niche roles. Diversifying your perspective and talent base means getting more chances to work and potentially be discovered.

Get experience

Even an audition that doesn’t land you a role can strengthen your performance. Community theater roles and other live productions are opportunities to better your acting, apply techniques, gain experience with other actors and master being on stage. Time on stage gives you real practice building your fourth wall and overcoming performance anxiety. (As any theater kid knows, even the greats have stage fright—they just have tricks to overcome it.) 

In addition to building your acting portfolio, productions and other work can help you break into the industry. Being an extra can earn you a little money and qualify you to enter the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG-AFTRA). It can give you resources for producing audition reels. Press and local awards can earn scholarships and opportunities with agents and producers. Building your resume also gets you access to better theaters that come with more press and opportunities to join the Screen Actor’s Guild. This access can get you the notice you need. In fact, many roles are not open to non-union performers. Your university can support you as you develop inroads and find qualifying work. 

While many actors begin their career on stage, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the theater. If you are interested in radio or voice acting, foster those skills. Participate in your university or local radio stations or podcasts. Interested in acting in commercials, movies or TV shows? Make YouTube videos to familiarize yourself with being in front of a camera. 

Create an acting resume

When casting directors consider you for a role, they will ask you for a resume and headshots. To look professional, your resume should highlight your acting education, experience and talents relevant to the position. In your resume, add your bachelor's degree, as well as the boot camps and workshops you have completed. If you did a theater elective in stage combat, include the types, such as hand-to-hand or broadsword. Don’t be afraid to include small roles on your resume. Even a small role in community theater or experience as a movie extra should be included. 

Remember, acting resumes include more than just your acting experience. They include other relevant information, like martial arts or gymnastic experience, to help casting directors determine if you are the right fit for a role. Casting agents are always looking for rare combinations of skills for specialized roles. This is where you can stand out.

Going to auditions

Casting agents or directors use auditions to evaluate your acting skills and your fit for a role. Some will require you to perform a monologue or prepared short pieces. Others will ask you to read. Often, there will be a combination of the two. You may also be asked to complete a screen test. Most production agencies select actors through these processes. As an actor, you may have to give multiple auditions and readings for roles. Be flexible and prepared.

Get started with Lynn

Jump-start your career with a Bachelor of Arts in drama at Lynn University. As a drama major, you will learn from professors who have years of experience on the stage and in film. You will develop skills every actor needs to be successful, including camera and radio performance, script analysis and vocal technique. Break a leg!

Interested in similar careers? Find out if film directing is right for you.