How to become an actor

Have you ever dreamed of walking the red carpet, performing on Broadway, or becoming the next big-screen sensation?

When I took my first acting class in 2006, I never thought it would end up being a lifelong passion and part of my eventual filmmaking career. What started out as a fun pastime turned into a calling, and I’ve been blessed to be in films – from everything as background player to leading man – playing on big and small screens worldwide.

Becoming a successful actor can be a long journey, but with dedication, hard work, and the right support, you can turn your aspirations into reality.

In this comprehensive guide on how to become an actor, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to building a thriving career in acting, offering insider tips and practical advice to help you navigate the exciting world of show business.

TL;DR – Summary

  • Train and invest in professional acting programs to hone your skills.

  • Network with industry professionals, create a portfolio & resume, and develop a demo reel for auditions.

  • Join unions and organizations & balance your acting career with a survival job for success as an actor!

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The Importance of Training

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in acting, it’s worth considering investing in some professional training. While some aspiring actors may be able to make it without any formal training, most could really benefit from it. With structured training and practical experience, you can improve your acting skills and give yourself a competitive edge in the industry.

So, how do you find the right training program that caters to your unique needs and aspirations? Many exciting options are available, ranging from on-set coaches and acting workshops to university degrees in acting.

If you’re considering pursuing acting, I want to remind you that perseverance and building solid relationships are key to achieving success in this industry. Keep pushing forward and connecting with others who can help you along the way.

Remember that rejections are a part of the journey, but maintaining a positive attitude and fostering connections with directors can open up opportunities down the line.

acting school

Acting Programs and Diplomas

Formal acting programs and diplomas, which are part of formal education, can provide an incredible foundation in acting techniques, stage presence, and character development.

An acting school or acting class is one way that aspiring actors can hone their acting technique for the screen or stage. Many such programs are offered at the theater level or through specialized outlets.

Community colleges provide several options for those interested in studying theater. For example, associate degrees are offered in drama and related subjects. When selecting a program, consider factors such as:

  • the prestige of the program

  • the school’s location and its surrounding theater and talent pool

  • the qualifications of the instructors

  • the opportunity to collaborate with other actors

In addition to acting programs and attending an acting school, you can participate in student films and community theater, providing invaluable hands-on experience and networking opportunities with fellow aspiring actors and industry professionals.

High school drama classes and productions can also serve as excellent platforms for young students to develop their acting skills and gain the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.

Working with experienced actors, theater directors, and casting directors can equip you with the knowledge and skills required to stand out during casting calls and auditions.

As you progress in your acting career, you’ll find that the connections you make and the practical experience gained through these programs are invaluable assets in your journey to becoming a professional actor.

University Degrees in Acting

For those who are passionate about pursuing a more comprehensive academic approach to acting, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in acting, drama, theater, and fine arts are available. These programs combine academic study and theory with practical experience, allowing you to explore various areas of specialization, such as:

  • drama

  • set design

  • playwriting

  • film

  • theater

  • television

  • directing

While it takes around four years to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Acting and Theater, a Master’s degree typically requires three to four years of study. Some schools even offer online degrees, recognizing the need for flexibility among busy working actors.

Going to university for acting can be a smart move that can help you reach your full potential in your acting career. It’s a great investment of your time and energy that can pay off big in the long run.

Acting Coaches and Workshops

Acting coaches and workshops offer a more personalized approach to enhancing your acting technique. Partnering with an acting coach provides tailored instruction and feedback, allowing you to refine your skills according to your needs and aspirations. This flexible experience can be easily integrated into your lifestyle, accommodating your schedule and individual learning pace.

Audition workshops, in particular, allow you to gain professional insight from experienced instructors and practice your casting skills in a supportive environment.

While working with an acting coach may come with challenges, such as finding a suitable coach and managing the cost, I’ve found that the rewards of receiving professional guidance far outweigh these obstacles!

Building Your Network

Actors networking with industry professionals

Networking is an essential aspect of any acting career. Building a strong network will open doors to new opportunities, gain access to valuable resources, and establish connections with industry professionals. So, how can you effectively build your network? Here are some tips:

  • Get involved in your local acting community

  • Participate in productions

  • Attend industry events

  • Join acting classes

  • Answer casting calls

  • Utilize social media platforms to connect with fellow actors, casting directors, and other industry professionals from around the globe.

Another effective way to build your network is by working as a production assistant on film and TV sets. This role allows you to learn about the industry, forge relationships with key players, and gain firsthand experience in the world of film and TV production.

As you continue to build your network, you’ll find that your connections can become invaluable assets in helping you land auditions and secure acting jobs.

Creating Your Professional Portfolio

An impressive professional portfolio is crucial to any successful acting career. It serves as a visual representation of your unique personality, abilities, and skills, showcasing your accomplishments and potential to a casting director or talent agent.

A strong portfolio comprises three essential components: a headshot, resume, and demo reel. In the following sections, we’ll look at each of these elements and provide tips on creating a standout portfolio that sets you apart from the competition.


A headshot is your calling card in the acting industry, giving a casting director or talent agent a powerful first impression of who you are as an actor. The best headshots capture your unique personality, professionalism, and versatility while adhering to industry standards, such as clean backgrounds, proper lighting, and a focus on your face.

a woman having a headshot taken

Consider working with a professional photographer specializing in actor headshots to create a standout headshot. They will have the expertise to guide you through the process, ensuring that your headshot accurately reflects the industry or role you’re pursuing. For inspiration, you can browse websites such as and

Remember, a fantastic headshot can open doors to incredible acting gigs. So, it’s worth investing the time and resources required to produce a headshot showcasing who you truly are!

Writing Your Resume

Your acting resume is a crucial component of your professional portfolio. It showcases your talents, expertise, and past work, providing casting directors a comprehensive overview of your acting abilities.

When writing your resume, be sure to include your full contact details, such as your name, address, phone number, email address, and website (if applicable).

an actor working on her resume

In addition to your contact details, include a section on your physical attributes, such as:

  • Height

  • Weight

  • Hair color

  • Eye color

These are important details for casting directors to know about you. List your acting credits in reverse chronological order, separating them by project type or medium to emphasize your versatility and experience.

Lastly, don’t forget to feature well-known studios, teachers, or coaches you’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with, as this demonstrates your dedication to professional training and development.

A well-written resume will showcase your skills and accomplishments and show your commitment to a successful acting career.

Developing a Demo Reel

As noted in this article, a demo reel is a 2-minute video showcasing your previous acting credits and acting scenes, designed to attract the attention of casting directors, agents, and producers. To create a great demo reel, gather footage from your past acting projects, and assemble a cohesive, visually appealing sequence highlighting your most impressive work.

When refining your footage, ensure it is current and accurately represents your acting abilities. Avoid including outdated or irrelevant clips that may detract from your overall presentation. Once you’ve completed your demo reel, share it with industry professionals who can help you land auditions and secure acting jobs.

demo reel

To increase your chances of success in the acting industry, it’s important to create engaging and well-produced demo reels that showcase your unique talents and potential. And be sure to update it regularly, as you don’t want it to look dated or become stale.

Take the necessary time and effort to create a reel that truly highlights your abilities.

Finding and Preparing for Auditions

an actor reading a part at an audition

Auditions are the gateway to landing acting jobs, so knowing where to find them and how to prepare for them is essential. Online casting platforms, social media, and networking can help you discover amazing auditions and casting calls, allowing you to showcase your skills to casting directors.

To prepare for an audition, follow these steps:

  1. Research the project and its background.

  2. Familiarize yourself with the script.

  3. Dress appropriately for the character you’re auditioning for.

  4. Be punctual and arrive early, as this demonstrates your professionalism and respect for the casting director’s time.

Just a friendly reminder that the more auditions and casting calls you attend, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become in showcasing your amazing talent to casting directors.

Securing an Agent

an actor meeting with a talent agent

An agent can be instrumental in helping you progress in the acting industry, securing auditions, and negotiating contracts on your behalf. To find the right agent for your career goals, research, and target specific agents rather than sending out your headshot, resume, and demo reel to all agents indiscriminately.

Before approaching an agent, ensure you have a solid acting experience and training foundation. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Invest at least one year in training with experienced teachers.

  2. Create an impressive demo reel.

  3. Network within the industry to gain valuable connections.

By following these steps, you will increase your chances of securing representation and demonstrate your commitment to pursuing a successful career in acting.

Once you’ve secured an agent, maintain open communication with them and proactively seek opportunities. Remember, your agent is part of your team, and together, you can work towards achieving your acting career goals.

Navigating Different Acting Opportunities

acting for film and tv

The acting world is vast and diverse, offering many different opportunities for actors to explore various mediums and find their niche. Some of the exciting avenues you can pursue to showcase your skills and passion for acting include:

  • Film

  • Television

  • Theater

  • Web series

  • Voice Over

  • Video Games

By exploring different acting mediums, you’ll gain experience and discover what resonates most with your unique talents and interests. Many actors may find their calling in the high-energy world of musical theater, while others, such as screen actors, may prefer the intimacy of working on a film set.

Don’t hesitate to step out of your comfort zone and try new mediums. You never know where your acting journey may lead, and experimenting with different opportunities can expand your horizons in the entertainment industry!

Enhancing Your Acting Skills

flat screen TV

As with any profession, continuously improving your skills is essential to success in acting. There are many ways to enhance your acting abilities and strengthen your resume, from attending acting classes and drama groups to volunteering in local productions.

Another effective way to improve your skills is by watching films and studying the performances of accomplished actors. Analyze their acting techniques, observe their character development, and note their choices in bringing their characters to life.

Also, don’t be afraid to study your own performances. Many actors I know hate watching themselves, but if you can look past your insecurities, you will learn much about what works and what doesn’t, from your delivery to camera or stage presence to ticks and nervous habits.

In addition, reading books related to acting and the entertainment industry can provide valuable insights and inspiration for your own work.

Balancing Acting with a Survival Job

outdoor dining, restaurant, bar

Pursuing an acting career can be rewarding, but one part that can be tricky is balancing your passion with financial stability. A flexible survival job allows you to continue auditioning and taking on acting gigs while providing a steady income.

When choosing a survival job, look for one that offers flexibility in terms of scheduling and accommodates your acting pursuits. Seek a job that supports your acting goals rather than one specific to a certain industry or profession.

Remember, it’s important to find a balance between your acting career and your survival job. Your survival job is there to help you pursue your acting dreams and keep your eyes on the prize of becoming a successful actor.

Joining Unions and Professional Organizations


Membership in acting unions and professional organizations can provide actors with invaluable resources, support, and networking opportunities. Unions, such as SAG-AFTRA, ensure fair pay and accommodations on set, helping you secure more professional productions and the compensation you deserve.

Joining a union or professional organization is a significant step for actors, providing access to industry events, networking opportunities, and resources to help you navigate the complex world of show business. When considering joining a union, it’s essential to research the requirements and benefits of membership to determine if it’s the right fit for your career goals.

By becoming a member of an acting union or professional organization, you’ll gain access to:

  • Invaluable resources

  • Support

  • Networking opportunities

  • Training and workshops

  • Industry events

These resources and support can help you reach new heights in your acting career and achieve your dream of success. However, some unions can have drawbacks as well, so make sure to do your own research.

Final Thoughts on How to Become an Actor

In conclusion, building a successful acting career requires dedication, hard work, and a strategic approach. By following the steps outlined in this guide – from pursuing professional training and building your network to creating a standout portfolio and honing your acting skills – you’ll be well on your way to realizing your dreams of becoming a professional actor.

As you navigate the exciting world of show business, remember to stay committed to your craft, embrace new opportunities, and never lose sight of your passion for acting. Break a leg!

Common Questions About Acting

Is it hard to become actor?

Becoming a professional actor is challenging and requires talent, hard work, and luck. It’s important to get training and study to become an actor, and even then, most working actors will face a lot of rejection.

But with dedication, hard work, and persistence, becoming a successful actor is possible.

Is 23 too old to start acting?

No, you are not too old to start your acting career. Whatever age you are now, there are opportunities for you to perform on stage and on screen.

However, this doesn’t mean it will be easy – you’ll need to work hard and prepare to compete with younger actors.

What types of formal acting training are available?

Discover your true acting potential with on-set coaches, BFA and MFA programs, acting and improv classes, and online courses.

How can I build a strong network in the acting industry?

Take action and make meaningful connections – attend productions, join classes, go to industry events, and leverage social media! You’ll soon have a strong network in the acting industry.

What are the essential components of a professional acting portfolio?

A professional acting portfolio must include a headshot, resume, and demo reel to highlight your unique personality, abilities, and skills effectively.

These three components are essential for any actor looking to make a lasting impression on casting directors and agents. They should be tailored to showcase your best qualities and demonstrate why you fit the role perfectly.

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