10 Tips on Breaking into Acting by Brent Street
What do Zac Efron, Cate Blanchett and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman have in common? A commitment to the craft of acting and all it involves.
Acting is one of the most wonderful jobs in the world. It is also one of the toughest industries to crack. But if you really want it, and are prepared to work at it, you CAN do it. The secret lies in a mix of talent, hard work and a little word called tenacity…
1. Learn to love acting, not fame
To become an actor you have to love acting. You have to do it for the right reasons, not because you want to be famous. (Anyone can be famous: you can put something silly on YouTube and get thousands of hits; you can lock yourself in a house and get national attention). But it’s not fame that will get you work. It’s craft. And craft will serve you far more later on than a hunger to be popular.
2. Do it!
Quite literally, the definition of acting is ‘to do’. So do it. Don’t sit around and talk about it. Put on shows for your family, enrol in school drama or take up acting classes after school. Most of all, approach acting as a craft that must be learned, a muscle that must be flexed. The best actors out there, like Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman, go from role to role to role because that means they’re constantly working, improving, honing their craft.
3. Get involved
Have a look around your community for acting opportunities. In the little county town where I grew up I joined as many amateur acting groups as possible; I joined a young people’s group but I also joined an adults group. Expose yourself to as many different opportunities and genres as you can and you can only learn.
4. Take classes
If I were to start acting from scratch today I would start with improvisation classes. They get you in touch with your instincts and encourage you to reveal emotions in front of a group (that’s a big deal and to be an actor you have to be prepared to share intimate moments with a group). Following that I would look at scene classes (very helpful in learning the different skills needed for stage, TV and film) and finally voice classes – learning how to manipulate your voice now so you can do shows night after night without damaging it will serve you well for life.
5. Develop your craft
Talent might get you to the top of the class, it might get you into a drama school, it might even get you an audition – but it won’t get you the work. What gets you the work is the work you’ve already done and the preparation you’ve already done. So work on the craft of acting, study it, be a sponge.
6. Organise headshots and a show-reel
To get a look-in with an agent you will probably need professional headshots. I’d also say that to guarantee an agent looks at your work you should get a show-reel. Now that’s easily said if you have already worked, but if you haven’t there is another option. Perth Film School will shoot a professional scene for you with a professional team. This can be a good option – if you time it right. It costs hundreds of dollars so make sure your acting is at a stage that’s good enough to make the investment worthwhile!
7. Find an agent
There are really two ways to get an agent. One, enrol in acting classes at a school that has agents attached who watch student showcases. Two, knock on doors – and I know many actors who’ve found their agent this way. Call up agents and ask, ‘Are your books open at the moment?’ If they say, ‘No’, don’t give up. Send in a photo or show-reel, keep calling them, be tenacious…
8. Become tenacious…
If you’re going to be an actor you will spend a large part of your life not getting work so you need to develop a tenacious streak – now! But it’s worth it. I do believe that if you have talent, work hard and become tenacious, you will succeed in getting what you want.
9. …Very tenacious
Even with younger actors, success didn’t just fall into their lap. Zac Efron began acting in school productions and taking singing lessons long before he found an agent. And even in the short career he’s had to date, he’s taken on a wide variety of roles to keep developing his skills. If you can’t get an agent now, just keep going, keep acting, until you’re ready to try again.
10. Finally, work hard – and be nice!
A common story in this industry is just how nice Hugh Jackman is: how he is nice to everyone on set and works really hard on set. I’ve heard that from actors who’ve worked with him but I’ve also heard it from crew. Why do people keep telling this story? Because ultimately what everyone wants is to work with nice, hard-working people. Be that person and you will be hireable.