Acting is a learned skill. I believe anybody can act, the difference is to what degree. This is not some magical quality or ability within anyone when they are born. I do agree that some people can learn quicker than others and can project the traits of the characters they create to a greater degree than others. I think if you like something you just give it more attention, dig deeper and enjoy the reproduction associated with it whether it is teaching, playing a sport or acting.
How does someone become an actor? As kids we grow up acting all the time. We play games where we pretend to be Superman, Tarzan, the Lone Ranger, play war, or cowboys and Indians. We make up the situations and improvise the dialogue. Acting is pretending just done on an adult level and following someone else’s script. It is a little more intense and the lighting is a lot better.
How do we start? First you must want to do it. Otherwise do something else. The first step is to get some training and you probably need to enroll in a quali-fied acting school. The absolute truth is you can learn by doing and your les-sons will be a trial and error education. A good school is a concentrated course of study that give you the tools to begin a career. It will not teach you to act. That you can only learn by doing, by stepping in front of a camera or an audi-ence and practice those tools you were given in class.
Now you need an agent. An agent can’t get you work. They are only a clearing house for production that either comes into your area from Hollywood or New York or from local production company’s right in your area. You still need them otherwise how will you find out when these companies are looking for actors. Agents are always looking for new people. It is the life blood of their existence. At this point in your beginning career about all you can offer an agent to con-vince them to agree to represent you is your body. You have very limited expe-rience; an acting school and maybe a school or church play.
How do you get an agent? First you need a picture of yourself called a head shot. Just head and shoulders either black & white or color. Don’t go to a wed-ding photographer or a glamour studio, but a bonafide commercial photo stu-dio that has experience taking pictures of models and actors. Once you have this picture phone an agent in your area and make an appointment. Usually agents are listed in the yellow pages or on the internet. My advice is to call only those agents that have as SAG – AFTRA franchise. These are actors unions and in order to become franchised agents have to qualify and agree to abide by the union rules. They are usually better agents.
Representation. Why will an agent consider representing you if you have no experience? If you look like Brad Pitt, J-Lo or Angelina Jolie you will be snapped up very quickly. Most of us don’t have that good fortune. My advice is to offer to perform as an extra in any production. These are back ground people that make the scene look real: waiters, people walking on the street during a shot, customers in a store or restaurant. Every production needs this and agents sometimes are hard pressed to find enough bodies to fill a shot. This is important to you for a number of reasons (1) it gets you on a set where you learn the business, (2) you make the agent happy, (3) you get to meet others like yourself and begin a network that often leads to work, and (4) you are probably going to get paid some money.
You will notice I put the $$$ last. At this point in your career you need the experience more than the money. That will come with the experience because that is why you were hired – YOUR EXPERIENCE. With experience comes ability and nice paychecks. My advice to beginners is to be persistent. In the end that is what pays off. Qualities that get you work beside persistence and ability are: being eager, enjoying the work, being observant, enthusiastic, and being on time with your lines memorized and in character.
What now? There will be a lot of days when you will not work. That is the tough part of this business. It’s called survival. What do you do to survive the down time short of an actual job that pays your rent? Get in a play at your church or community theater. You need experience and there is nothing better that being on stage in a play. Short of that get together with friends and assign parts and read plays. Go to a local theater and watch a live play. Immerse yourself in the world of acting. This I hope is going to be your life, so enjoy.
I have been in this business in some form or another for almost fifty years and I have been lucky, but I worked at it so in some way I made my own luck. This web site that is being put together will be everything I have learned and taught to students for thirty-five years. I know it will help you. It has been the greatest career for me that I could ever imagine and I would do it all again. Good luck!