Breaking into Acting For Dummies
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If the thought of spending years studying acting, working in bit roles, and getting paid sporadically (if at all) depresses you, then maybe acting isn't for you. On the other hand, if you truly enjoy acting for the sake of acting, the previously mentioned obstacles will be nothing more than minor nuisances on your way to success — whatever form that success may ultimately take.

Every successful actor has to have two skills. One is a certain amount (but not necessarily a lot) of acting talent, which usually comes from a combination of natural ability and constant training. The second skill, and perhaps the more important, is knowing how to market yourself as a product.

As an actor, you're a salesperson, and the product that you're selling is you. In order to sell yourself to the people in position to pay for your product (you as an actor), you need a head shot (so people know what you look like), a resume (so people know what experience and skills you have), and the necessary talent to wow a casting director when you audition for a role.

An attention-grabbing head shot

Talent and determination can increase the odds that you'll succeed in show business, but until people know who you are, you're just another face in the crowd. Because you can't possibly introduce yourself to everyone who may be able to advance your career, you have to use a head shot instead.

A head shot is a photograph that acts as your calling card by displaying your face for others to see when you can't be present physically. Your head shot should capture your best physical features in order to make casting directors and agents say to themselves, "I've got to meet this person!"

Because head shots can be such a crucial promotional tool, you absolutely must have the best head shot possible, which means finding the best photographer and developing a specific image for your head shot to project.

A five-star acting resume

While your head shot projects your physical characteristics, a resume lists the acting experience and unique skills behind your attractive face. After seeing an actor's head shot, casting directors often study an actor's resume to see whether that actor has the ability to perform in a particular role.

A good acting resume answers any questions a casting director may have about an actor's ability to play a certain role and supplies enough evidence to convince a casting director to choose you. By knowing how to create and present your acting experience and skills in the best light possible, you can use your resume to help you land roles again and again.

Polished talent

Everyone has some talent for acting (think of the last time you called in to work and pretended to be sick so that you could take the day off). Even if you have astounding natural acting talent, you may still want lessons or coaching to nurture and further develop that talent. Here are some of the different ways to polish your acting talent:
  • Majoring in drama in school
  • Attending an acting class or workshop
  • Working with an acting coach
  • Learning on the job

If you're serious about becoming an actor and you're already in school, you can't get any better training than performing in your high school or college drama department. Not only does such exposure give you an idea how much fun (and how much of a pain in the neck) acting can be, but it can also teach you all the technical details necessary to put on a play, ranging from creating backdrops and building sets to sewing costumes and marketing the show.

If you've already graduated or just want to jump right into the world of acting as soon as possible, you can choose from plenty of acting workshops, classes, and coaches available for varying prices. Once again, some acting teachers have better reputations than others, and some charge outrageous amounts of money while others are more reasonable.

The best way to develop your acting skills is to keep looking for acting roles wherever you can find them, whether they're lead roles in small plays or bit roles in larger productions. The more experience and knowledge you can gain by acting in a real role and watching others perform, the more you'll discover about the world of acting that no class or coach can ever duplicate.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Larry Garrison is President of SilverCreek Entertainment. He’s worked as a producer/actor in TV and film in Los Angeles for more than 30 years. His company has produced news stories for ABC and NBC News.

Wallace Wang is a stand-up comedian and the author of more than 10 bestselling For Dummies books. He focuses on screenwriting, movies, and comedy.

Wallace Wang specializes in making complex topics understandable. His assorted For Dummies tech books have sold nearly half a million copies. He has a master’s degree in computer science along with side hustles in stand-up comedy and screenwriting because life is too short to focus on just one thing.

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