Too often, the acting profession is ridiculed as being set aside for shallow people with pretty faces. “It’s not a real job,” some say, “and you’ll never make a living out of it.” That may be true to some extent, but it’s not impossible and it’s an area of employment that doesn’t get as much helpful assistance as more traditional jobs.
It’s Not a Life for Everyone
If you decide to become an actor, read all the negative stuff you can about it. Far too often, the only material presented to the world is a life of glamor, movie premieres, free rides for everything, and relationships with the most physically perfect people on this planet. That exists, of course, but the media doesn’t show the other side of acting because it’s not sexy: 12-hour days on set, living out of a suitcase, constantly adjusting to different time zones (if you’re one of the lucky ones), getting shot down for parts far more often than getting accepted, a big outlay in self expenses, subjectivity to negative reviews, a lack of privacy, a really small social life with relationships not usually standing up, and little/inconsistent take-home pay.
These are just a few of the things you’ll face.
Of course, it’s much easier to decide to go into almost any other profession, but actors feel a calling that makes them put aside the mountain of crazy stuff and keep forging ahead. The rewards, if they do come, also seem to make the hardships worth it because they really can be spectacular.
How to Prepare
This is by no means a complete list, but there are certain things aspiring actors need to take care of, as you’ll be judged on two things: who you know, and what you look like.
Headshots: In an industry where everyone is primarily judged based on how they look, having the right headshots can mean being able to buy groceries that week instead of scrounging around. Again.
Money: Most professions require a financial outlay in order to get started (e.g. university tuition for a degree to become a certain set of jobs), but acting doesn’t have a central “bank” that hands out interest-free loans.
Thick Skin: You will get rejected over, and over, and over again, and roles will go to people with far less talent than you and to people who have been at it a fraction of the time. It’s like getting cut by a knife when you’re a cook: it just goes with the nature of the job.
Contacts: You will need to build up one heck of a network, because a lot of jobs go to people directors and casting agents know. It’s about as opposite as the classifieds as you can get.
Knowledge of Expectations: Roles are cast with very specific looks in mind, so it’d be a bad idea to show up at an audition for a tall basketball player when you’re a pint-sized woman. It’s just wasting everyone’s time.
Some of the most successful actors are the ones who didn’t listen to anyone at all and kept pounding on doors until directors got tired of the knocking, and let them in. You’ll have to be your biggest advocate and champion for yourself when nobody else will. But if you’re willing to enter into acting--and succeed--you’ll be all the more stronger for it.