Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How To Get Started As An Actor


I coach 15-20 actors a week, and those that are new to the business often approach me with the same question, “I’m passionate about getting started, but I don’t have the money to pursue things fully. What should I do?” Further, even if they did have the money to take class, they wonder, ”What kind of acting class should I be taking?” There are so many options - audition technique, scene study, Meisner, Strasberg, monologue prep, acting for the camera… and so on and so on. So, how is an actor supposed to know where to start, particularly in a large city where resources are vast and, frankly, a little confusing?

One of my followers from Twitter, let’s call him “Charlie”, send me this email recently:

Hi Erin, 

Thanks for taking a moment and reading this. I am pretty much new to the acting world, I want to try it, I feel some sort of an attraction towards it. However, I do not have enough money to move to LA and or take classes. Where can or do I start? Thoughts? 

Thanks!! 

First off - I want to address his concern about not having enough money to take classes. If you want to become an actor and you expect to make money at it, you must put resources into it -- which includes training. It is a very rare case that an actor can be successful without some sort of training (not to mention other resources needed to be an actor.) I’ve written two “tough love” articles on this topic:


You might also want to look at a recent “BackPage” article on Backstage, where a prospective actor got a dose of reality from one of their staff writers when he asked if it was possible to become an actor without having any money to spend.

The first thing I always recommend to someone who wants to become an actor is to start looking for a place to get training. Like any profession, if you want to make acting a career you’ll need to have good training to build the skills necessary to being an actor. There are classes than you can take in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate your work schedule, and there are affordable options for just about every budget. For beginning classes, I often recommend taking a look at one of your local community colleges, which often have 10-20 week courses for a fraction of the price you’d pay to a professional studio. This will allow you to “try out” acting before making a large investment of money. 

One of the key resources an actor has in building their career is the ability to RESEARCH. There are lots of ways to find out exactly what it means to be an actor:

• Start reading blogs by actors & teachers (like this one: Bite-Size Business For Actors: or my acting blog: The Erin Cronicals.)

• Read books on the business and craft of acting (here’s a list of acting books I recommend.)

• Watch as many movies, plays, musicals and TV shows as you can, and start thinking about what kind of career you envision for yourself. 

• Read biographies on respected actors, directors, writers, and producers. Read plays & screenplays. 

• Subscribe to professional publications like Backstage to start getting to know the industry. 

There are lots of other things I can recommend, but in the interest of time I sent the above information to “Charlie” in the hopes that it would be enough to get him started.

“Charlie” then wrote back:

Hi, Erin. How are you? Thanks for your response. I have done my share of research and took some basic steps towards the acting thing, signed up for actors access, got a head shot etc. I wanted to ask you, what kind of classes should I take? Where? Can you recommend any places in the city which are reasonable? I was thinking maybe commercial work shops to learn how to audition for commercials etc. Let me know your thoughts when you get a moment please. Thanks :) 

My first reaction to this was: Wait a minute, you said you don’t have any money for classes, but you have money for headshots and Actors Access? That seems a bit backwards to me. It doesn’t make sense to spend money on the business elements until you have the artistic elements to back it up. There is no sense in learning about auditioning until you have taken an actual acting class, which will teach you what you need to know once you actually get the job.

It’s baffling to me that brand new actors are being wooed into spending money on things that will be of no value until the actor has some basic training under his/her belt. New York and Los Angeles, in particular, are hotbeds for businesses that prey on new actors with stars in their eyes. So, let me help you wade through the crap and give you some real world advice:

If you want to be an actor, there are no shortcuts. You must be trained. You must put in your time. And you must take it as seriously as a medical student in pursuit of being a doctor or a law student in pursuit of being a litigator. Acting is high profile profession that requires skill, moxie and determination -- anything less is an insult to the profession.

I’ve written these three articles (plus numerous others) that expound on my deep and passionate feelings on this topic:

If It Seems To Good to Be True (It Probably Is.)


If there are other questions that "Charlie" did not address, please feel free to leave a comment - I may be able to answer them right away, or use your questions/concerns in a future blog post.


Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.

6 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Josh Samors said...

Hey Erin,
I stumbled upon your blogs when I decided to seriously pursue a career in acting. I just wanted you to know that I've been reading, enjoying, and profiting from all the great advice, stories, and guidance you offer to actors young and old, experienced professional and fresh beginner (like me!). I love what you're doing, keep on trucking.

Erin Cronican said...

That is so awesome, Josh. Thank you so much for commenting - it makes me feel great to know that my blatherings-on about the business are useful! I hope all is well with your career. :)

Actors' Embassy said...

Everything you've said here is so on point. This career is a huge investment in both finances and time. And for most actors starting out, these resources are scarce. You must plan wisely.

I totally agree with what you've said about starting with the basics- classes. Training, training, training. There is no sense in doing anything before you have it. And yes, research is key. If money is an issue as far as classes go, books are a great way to start. Many of the top instructors have published books that will give you a taste of their classes. When trying to find the right class fit, it is sometimes helpful to start with their books to get a feel for what each instructor does and make some decisions about enrollment from there.

For research new actors, don't forget that going to see shows and movies is a part of that. If you are BRAND NEW then start looking into film and/or theater history. Familiarize yourself with the key performances, players and other industry facts. Read plays and movie scripts. And also get to know the industry at large. When looking for blogs and books, don't just focus on actors. Learn from producers, directors, etc. They will teach you a lot about your craft and future business as well.

And for those looking for a place to start, Erin's blogs are such an incredible resource. Keep reading! Thanks for covering such an important topic Erin!

Anonymous said...

Hey Erin, I love your blog posts. I'm getting ready to start classes over with AAU's program (http://www.academyart.edu/acting-school/index.html) but I love the insight I'm getting from you posts on the business side of things.

Thanks for the all the advice and experiences you're sharing, I'll be sure to keep them in mind once I start out there.

Alex said...

Nice post, looks like you are a lot of help to new actors! - One thing that they should all know, if they are new to this ball game, and are not making too much $, under $16000 to be exact, as performers they get special tax breaks, deductions, and exemptions that they should really consider.

Alex,
www.ABTTeam.com

I would be glad to give you some ideas that can help actors, which you can blog about.

Best Regards.

Jared Hill said...

“If you want to be an actor, there are no shortcuts.” Very well said, and very, very true! Thanks for telling it like it is. I’m sure plenty of aspiring actors have benefitted from your sound advice.@acting schools in Sydney

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