Legend has it that movie star Lana Turner was sipping a Coke at a Hollywood soda fountain when she was discovered. Actress Pamela Anderson reportedly got her start as a model for a beer company after a roving stadium camera focused on her in the stands at a Canadian football game and displayed her likeness on the wide screen. But for most aspiring actors, it’s not that easy.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a jock, or be a great beauty if you want to make a living as an actor. A wide range of character types is needed for movies, TV shows, stage plays and commercials. But, what you will need is training and experience. The ability to sing and dance also gives your chance of success as an actor a boost. That all adds up to lots of acting lessons – lessons, lessons and more lessons. Many colleges and universities offer drama classes and a major in film arts. High school students can join the drama club and get some experience as an actor. You can also take private acting and voice lessons, which run on the average about $25 per session.
However, there is a way to get into “show biz” through the back door. Community theatre is good way to start if you want to become an actor. Most towns in the United States have a community theatre that puts on plays. They are formed by a group of people who are interested in live theatre and have an urge to perform. There are usually a couple of people in the group who have professional experience in some aspect of putting on a theatrical production, such as set design, production, etc. After the group is established, the members decide how to proceed and which play will be produced. A casting call notice for actors is then placed in the local newspaper with a date for auditions. A headshot (a professional photograph of you from the neck up) and resume are sometimes optional, and all that you will be required to do is show up and read part of the script for the director. Community theatre is a great way to gain experience and exposure, so you have something related to acting to put on your resume for professional casting calls. Theatrical agents have also been known to visit community theatre performances to search for new talent.
Another good way to gain exposure as an actor is to work as an extra. Extras are background actors who don’t have any speaking parts and usually appear as part of a crowd. If you live in a city where a movie or TV show is being produced, you can watch for an open casting call for extras, which is often published in a local newspaper in your area.
If you live near Los Angeles, Central Casting is one of several agencies in the area which supply extras for feature films, TV shows, and commercials, as well as industrial training videos. Non-union background actors, who are age 18 and older, can register with Central Casting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. at their offices at 220 S. Flower Street in Burbank. Be prepared to have your picture taken. There will be a $25 charge to be photographed. ( Cash only, checks and credit cards are not accepted.) But before you quit your day job and move to L.A., you need to remember that extras are usually hired for one day only and there’s no guarantee how soon you’ll be called for another gig. So, being an extra will usually not pay the bills. But it’s a good way to start out as an actor in the film industry and do some networking for other more financially lucrative acting opportunities.
The internet is also a good source to find open casting calls for acting jobs. Playbill.com has a searchable data base that includes acting jobs around the United States. Auditions.net also has a data base for non-union acting jobs in the U.S. Craigslist.org is a good place to find acting jobs worldwide. Just click the link to your city listed on the right hand side of the Craigslist.org webpage and then click the link for tv/film/video under jobs. Acting jobs in the United Kingdom are listed at UK Theatre Web . (Click the jobs link on the menu on the right side) Auditions and acting jobs in the U.K are available as well at The Stage Online.
Last, but not least, it is important for you to be aware that there are many scam artists who prey on the dreams of would-be actors. It pays to be skeptical of anything that sounds too good to be true. According to the Screen Actor’s Guild, you should not be charged a fee by a legitimate talent agency for anything except ten percent of your earnings after you begin work as an actor. Therefore, you should never pay an upfront fee to a purported talent agent to register, or for a screen test, or acting lessons. It is also best to choose your own photographer if you need photographs for your resume. A phony agent sometimes receives a cut of the photographer’s fee. Central Casting in Los Angeles does charge a fee for a photograph, but is a legitimate agency and is an exception to the rule.