How to become an Actor – 7 acting tips for success
You’re looking for information on how to become and actor and there is a lot of information out there.
Be clear about why you want to be in the business.
The entertainment industry is a tough, tough, tough business. Did I mention it was a tough business? It is also a great industry that I am proud to have been in for 35 years. But with an unemployment rate of over 90% it can be grueling at times. The first thing you need to be really honest and clear about is, why do you want to be in the business? It should be an important reason. It should be a powerful reason. Because it’ll be this reason that will keep you going when the going gets tough. And it will get tough. There has to be something about acting that is important to the core of who you are. There has to be something about being an entertainer that seems to complete you when you’re given the opportunity to do it. It is this powerful desire that will drive you through insurmountable challenges kind of like the salmon who fight their way upstream, against strong current, up waterfalls in order to fulfill their destiny.
Reasons like making lots of money, or becoming famous will fall away quickly in the average career. If you want the best chance for success, truly fall in love with the process of learning your craft, of being a better artist, of truly enjoying what it means to be an entertainer. These desires and ambitions are more likely to see you through the storms in your career and will give you the energy to get you up this mountain you‘ve decided to climb. There is an old saying that’s been around the business forever: If you can imagine yourself doing anything other then being an actor, by all means, go do that other thing.
Save yourself. Or learn to love the process. Because chances are it’s going to be a lengthy process.
What is great acting?
Not who is a great actor, but rather what specifically is great about their acting? Come to a clear understanding of what you think great acting is. Since you plan on pursuing a career in acting, the sooner you come to an understanding of what great acting is and what you are trying to emulate, the better off you’ll be. If you take the time to break down what you think good acting is, you’ll have a much better understanding of what you are trying to accomplish.
For me, great acting begins when an actor is so believable that I forget I’m watching an actor, acting. I get so swept up in the sincerity of their work that I accept them as the character they or portraying. They seem spontaneous in thought and action. I don’t feel like I’m hearing rehearsed lines. Their work commands my attention. It makes me care. It makes me want to see what will happen next. It’s honest. It never seems contrived. It’s as real as anything I’ve seen in life. In short, it seems like real life unfolding before my eyes.
Your ultimate goal should be to conjure and create real life experiences out of make-believe situations. The authenticity of real life cannot be improved upon. Find authenticity in your work. That’s how you will captivate and move audiences.
Whenever possible try to think of your work as a real life, we’ll call it acting only because people are watching.
(What is great acting?)
Learn to swim before you dive in
The title says it all. Yes, it’s a very exciting business and if it’s the type of thing you fancy, there is nothing as exciting as working on a professional set. Getting to do the thing you love to do, the excitement, the attention, the adulation, it all can be very intoxicating. Even the smallest jobs can offer a fair paychecks. I’ve said it many times about acting, “It sure beats working for a living.” This is why you want to treat it like the outrageous opportunity it is. You want to be fully sure you are capable of doing the job before you apply for the job.
The chances of getting to a point where you have the opportunity to audition for a professional job, let alone a really great one, are slim. This isn’t meant to dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. I’m just trying to give you some straight talk so you can more realistically pursue them. If opportunity knocks, you want to make sure that you can deliver. The casting directors that audition you are deluged with possibilities for a given role. If you walk into the casting directors office and reek of inexperience, it may be the last time you have the opportunity to walk into that office. Casting directors don’t have the time to waste on those who’ve already proven themselves to be inexperienced, ill prepared, or unprofessional. You want to make sure that you are completely capable, confident, and ready, before you apply for professional jobs.
I’ll make a distinction between professional jobs and regional and community theater or student films, etc. It’s in these projects that you will be able to sharpen your skills. But you really want to know the ropes before you walk into a professional audition or onto a professional set. Make the wrong move and it may prematurely end your career. Make the right move and it may lengthen your career.
You wouldn’t enter a professional boxing match without knowing how to box would you? Think of the entertainment industry as a boxing match. You don’t want to get knocked out too early.
What is the product you are selling?
Keep this in mind: There is only one you. The way you see things and your perspective is the artist’s eye that you bring your work. Always concede as little as possible to character. If you can use yourself in the part as is, do it. Only make the adjustments that are absolutely necessary. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. You’ve been you your entire life. You’ve taking you into countless situations. You’ve been with you at every life-changing experience you’ve ever had. Throughout life, you have counted on you to get you through your toughest ordeals. You have trusted yourself to be your own best wing man. Trust your judgment and your ability to make the same interesting choices you have made your entire life.
It is this unique, interesting person you have been testing, training, and polishing your whole life that we want to see. It is your greatest asset. It is the high card in your hand. It is your most powerful weapon. You can’t be any smarter, greater, or more clever than you already are. If you could be, you would be. Remember: You have the market cornered on you. Use yourself. Don’t worry about creating characters. The lines and situations will do that. Always try to bring as much of yourself to the characters you play as possible. Bring the uniqueness that is you to your work. That’s what you’re selling. That’s what you take to market.
You, is what you’ve been selling your whole life. You’ve come this far in life gambling on the person you are and on your ability to trust your instincts make the right choices. You might as well let it ride and roll the dice. The odds are bound to be in your favor.
(You have the market cornered on you)
Have a plan in place to maintain an acceptable lifestyle.
You’ll need to find a way of living that is sufficient enough for you to be comfortable and free from suffering. This business is going to be hard enough to manage. It’s hard to compete if you’re desperate and constantly on the verge of living on the street. TV shows generally don’t hire desperate actors. It’s a TV show, not a soup kitchen. You’ll need to first create a secure, livable existence that offers the flexibility needed for an actor’s life. Be realistic. If you’re going to take your chances getting employment in a business with a 90% unemployment rate, you need to plan for the fact that show business isn’t necessarily going to supply you with a steady paycheck.
Try to find a way of maintaining a happy and peaceful life. You need to be able to comfortably keep the world at bay so you can happily pretend for a living. Learning to cope with the extreme highs and the extreme lows of this business will be a major factor in your survival. The distance between those two points can sometimes be staggering. It is this distance that frequently destroys an actors resilience. The challenges ahead will be accomplished much more easily with a roof over your head and food in your stomach.
It has been said that the image of the tortured artist is romantic to everyone except the artist. In this business you need to avoid being desperate. Desperation is hard to hide. There is no deodorant for desperation.
Be a supportive parent to your creative inner child
Imagine your creative side as your inner creative child. The following is how many actors deal with theirs. The actor works with his inner creative child in making decisions on the role. They practiced the lines together. The actor continually corrects his creative child to make sure he gets it just right. Then the actor brings his creative child to rehearsal. Rehearsal starts with the actor’s hand clamped on the back of his creative child’s neck. He squeezes tight and whispers into the child’s ear, “Alright, let’s do it just like we practiced it, real normal like.” This is the tight reign many actors hold on their creative impulse. Be a better parent to your creative child. Learn to release your grip and let the kid play. It is the quickest way to discover the authentic artist you have within you. Grow a fearlessly creative inner child. Release your grip and be daring.
Most actors are far too hard on themselves. Imagine if you could separate yourself into two parts, one as the creative child and the other as manager/teacher/parent. How would you want this person to treat you as a growing artist? Would you want this person to chastise you and come down on you like a ton of bricks every time you made a mistake? If you happen to give a bad audition, would you want this person to unrelentingly grill you and give you a hard time for not having done your best work? If you flubbed a line on stage would you want this person to confront you just as you got into the wings, berating you about how stupid you were for flubbing your line? I can’t imagine an actor would want any of these things. But don’t you know this is exactly how most actors treat themselves after similar situations.
Learn to be more understanding of yourself, learn to be more patient with yourself, learn to nurture your talent. It’s easy to lose patience with yourself for not being perfect. It is a far greater person that shows patience and cheers on personal growth no matter how small the progress. Learn to be a positive, good friend to your inner creative child.
There may be times in this business where you may be the only friend it has.
(Controlling your mood is key)
The 3 Ps, Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance
Chances are you just entered a marathon. Occasionally there are exceptions. People fresh off the bus are plucked from obscurity and become stars with huge careers. These exceptions frequently give false hope to other actors planning for quick results. It’s natures way of weeding out the less committed. Look at your career as a marathon, not a sprint. Getting into the industry truly is a case of survival of the fittest. It’s not just about your talent. That’s only part of it. You also need the talent of perseverance. Above all else, you need to persevere.
The timing of success has nothing to do with timetables. Success can suddenly happened now, or just as suddenly never happen. Make plans for the long haul but, if it happens tomorrow, swell. In the meantime, accept the fact it’s not supposed to be an easy mission. Develop an unrelenting persistence and turn perseverance into a pleasure. Look out at the horizon and begin a focused trot. Make a focused and unwavering commitment. Be a champion, an Olympian. You’re in it to win it, and you’ll figure out the way.
If you look at every challenge and hurdle as an opportunity for you to test your resolve and prove your mettle then there isn’t anything this industry can do to you that you won’t benefit from. Don’t be the sucker who sits around like a sad sack lamenting about the unfairness of it all. This industry doesn’t owe you anything. When you’ve proved your worthiness, when you’ve figured out how to showcase your salable talent for the world to see, that’s when you’ll be invited to sit at the table. Until then, be willing to be the last one standing. Learn the art of joyful perseverance. Be patient. Be persistent.
Success rarely arrives on schedule.