How to get started as an actress?

by Guest1147  |  earlier

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I live in the suburbs of Chicago and I have always dreamed of becoming a real actress. I am 25, married with two children under five. I believe I can still pursue my dreams! My first questions though are how to be discovered and where to start? Second questions are, with a family what affect does this kind of career have on them - good, bad or indifferent?

 Tags: actress, started



  1. John

    Hi Jaiden

    There is absolutely nothing that says that you have to be a youngster to start in acting. Many actors do not start until they are in their 20s. I did not start until I was 34, married with two children. Mine when I first started studying and performing were 10 and 7. I started working professionally about 10 years later after study and some years doing community theatre and enjoying it.

    However the question is not how to be \"discovered.\” Being \"discovered\" without any training, without any experience, without working on a career, is a myth. Acting may look easy, but it is incredibly hard to bring a character to life and make her look real, and takes study, training and experience to learn the techniques to make it look that easy. Not to mention the hard, tedious and often frustrating work that goes into actively pursuing the profession and the business of building an acting career. Acting is one of the most difficult professions there is. That does not mean that you should not pursue it, but you do need to go into it with your eyes open. There are thousands and thousands of actors - Equity (the stage actors union) membership is 46,000, SAG (the Screen Actors Guild) membership is nearly 120,000 actors. All those actors are competing for the same relatively few jobs. The competition is fierce. Most of those actors are university or conservatory trained, have been taking classes for years, are incredibly talented and have years of experience. And of all of them fewer than 2% ever earn a living by acting alone. Most have flexible day jobs to pay the rent and buy the groceries and pay for the expenses of pursuing their dream of an acting career.

    If you have talent and want to work as an actress, then you need to get at least some actor training. Like any other profession, you need to learn the skills and techniques that actors need - including such things as script analysis, acting for the camera, improvisation, character development, scene study, voice, movement, rehearsal techniques, audition techniques, monologues, listening and reacting, the moment before, emotional and sensory memory, taking direction and much more. A university theatre training program is the best way to learn, but there are also acting schools and community college programs where you can take classes one at a time and learn gradually. And that is where you need to start.

    Along with training, comes experience. Acting is learned by acting, and a career is built by being seen and notices in shows. And the way to do that is to audition. But to audition for professional shows you need a resume and professional headshots. Those two things are your \"business card\", the first impression that you leave with any director, casting director, agent or producer. And to have a resume you need some experience. Community theatre, school shows, showcases, readings, even some independent or student film work, and other unpaid acting work is the best place to get some experience before you are ready to compete in the professional world. Also they are good places to start to make some contacts that can lead to future work.

    As for your family, there are really two questions here - what effect an acting career would have on your family, and what affect your family will have on your acting career. Professional acting is an exceptionally unstable and insecure career. There is no such thing as a regular schedule. Initially it is a tremendous amount of time study and auditioning, sending out mailings and interviewing. It is rehearsal and performance time doing unpaid showcases, readings and workshops until you have established enough of a resume, enough experience, and made enough contacts, know the business well enough to be able to begin to get paid more regularly for your work. And even then there are, even for the most established and well-known actors, often long periods of pursuing work but no regular acting work.

    On top of that, an acting career has no regular hours. Auditions and rehearsals may be in the evening or during the day. They may be a few hours a week or as much as 6 hours a day 6 days a week, depending on the job and the role. They could be around the corner from you, or require extensive travel for as little as a few hours or as much as a few months to interviews, auditions, rehearsals, shoots and performances for stage or screen.

    You do not mention your financial status or your husbands work and how much he would support you in an acting career. Trust me (I have been there through a divorce to a first husband who had no clue how to deal with my passion for theatre, and then a remarriage to a wonderful man who loves theatre and supports me and my work like crazy) an acting career can be very hard on a family unless you have really strong support and a strong sense yourself of your priorities and what you really want from your life, your family and your career.

    The demands of a family can really limit an acting career. If you want to stay home with your family, then you are limited to acting only within your own area. There is plenty of theatre in Chicago, so, if you are not really ambitious and simply want to act, that might be fine with you. Juggling the demands of rehearsals and performances, with the demands of young children can be really hard. You can not simply skip a rehearsal or performance if your child is not feeling well or has to stay home from school. Many people are depending on you, and in professional theatre you have a signed contract with responsibilities. With younger children not in school, it means figuring out child care, day and/or night, but on a schedule which changes daily. It is not impossible, but it is hard.

    As for the effect of your career on your family, that too depends on them and on how you prioritize. Children need to know you are there for them. But they do understand that people need to work. The problem is that children are more comfortable with a schedule, and acting makes that difficult. You may be called on a day or even a few hours notice for a commercial, or have a few weeks of rehearsals every night so you are not there to tuck them in at night. And then you might be home for a month or more. It can be confusing for them. A supportive husband who is enthusiastic about your career is a huge help and can help the kids understand that mommy is doing what she loves to do. Much depends on the dynamics of your family.

    Unfortunately, with an acting career, unlike some others, there is no regular path to a career, and there is no way to predict the effects on a family. It all depends on you and how much you are willing to put into the career, how much you are willing to sacrifice, and how you want to prioritize your life.

    Just one note... It is perfectly possible to have wonderful time acting regularly without all the stress, sacrifice and instability of an acting career. Community and semi-professional theatre provide a great creative outlet for many, many talented people who love acting but want a stable home life and a regular income. I worked in community theatre for 10 years and more before I \"outgrew\" it and moved into the professional world. I acted, stage managed, directed and more. I learned tons about theatre and how to make it. I got an Associate degree while doing community theatre at my local community college, and improved my skills gradually until my kids were older and pretty self-sufficient and I was ready for professional work. It is not professional acting, but it is fun and creative and artistic and a great place to start while your kids are still small. And it has the benefit of allowing you to be there for them while you are learning.

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