If you’re a young person who’s always wanted to be a professional actor, the first thing to do is to banish the myth or fear that it’s an impossible achievement. Instead, you simply need to know how to become an actor as a teenager and eventually break into Hollywood (or theater). The fact is, you can build a successful acting career if you’re willing to master scene study, perhaps attend acting school or otherwise leverage professional acting education (whether at local or online acting studios), start by seeking out your first audition, and persevere until your new skills, coupled with being in the right place at the right time, land you the small roles that can catapult you into turning your acting dream into a viable day job.
A combination of strategy, entertainment industry education, possibly a good talent agent or a run-in with talent scouts, and a lot of hard work can all make the biggest difference in achieving the status of working actor. Since the entertainment world is always in need of teen and child actors, you’ll need to be prepared when that acting agent invites you into the audition room for the next feature film. To do this, there is a list of things you should do first, and if you want to know what they are, keep reading.
- Start Your Training ASAP
Most actors in the field today have received some type of structured training, which usually includes formal acting classes. Try to find one that teaches you the basics because you’ll need to have a good foundation in order to make it as an actor. If you’re still in middle school or high school, join the drama club and get involved in school plays. Drama teachers are usually great at teaching you all of the basics you need to know to feel comfortable while you’re on the stage.
If you’ve already graduated, you might wonder if you need a theater degree, and the answer is “no,” you don’t. These degrees are perfect for honing your skills as an actor, but most casting directors prefer that you have the experience necessary to do the job, along with any special skills it might require. That being said, college classes often give you the opportunity to act in and even produce student films, which is a great way for young people to get both acting and producing experience.
In addition, taking classes is something you should get used to because even with years or even decades of experience, you’ll still be able to benefit from various classes, which also bolster your acting resume. To a casting director, both drama school or classes and acting experience are important, and the classes you find are usually specific to some aspect of being a better actor, therefore increasing your ability to perform well on the stage.
- Learn as Much as You Can About the Business of Acting
Yes, the entertainment industry is a real business, and the more you learn about it, the more prepared you’ll be to be a part of it. In practical terms, being an actor is the same thing as having your own business, so you need to learn all you can about this industry. The good news is that with today’s technological advances, you can easily learn about the acting business through books, videos, and online classes. And even if you’re uninterested in directing or producing, it’s still a good idea to learn about them so you’ll be able to understand the perspective of the decision-makers and be a greater asset to each show or audition.
Indeed, learning about all of the behind-the-scenes jobs that are necessary to produce a quality film is never a bad idea because, in the end, young actors with little to no experience become much better actors by doing this. Not only will it help keep you more well-rounded in the field, but it makes another great addition to your acting resume. It also helps you discover how all of these jobs come together and work towards the goal of producing quality films or TV shows; the more educated you are about the industry (and the different personalities and tasks involved), the more equipped you’ll be as a good actor, even if you have limited professional experience.
It’s easy for a young teenage actor to assume that the person doing the acting is the only important person in the cast and crew, but the more you learn about this unique business, the more you’ll understand that this isn’t true. Always learn as much as possible about the acting business because it is something you’ll never regret.
- Make Sure Your Headshots Are Professionally Done
Naturally, all teen actors have headshot needs (they need good, up-to-date headshot photographs), and they should always be professionally done. Don’t use your smartphone or let your friends take the picture just to save a few bucks. Experienced headshot photographers are less expensive than you think, and you can order more copies of the photos whenever you like. The best thing about hiring a professional headshot photographer is that they know how and have the proper lighting and equipment to make you look great, impress casting directors, and elevate your audition materials to a much more professional level.
Professional photographers who specialize in headshots can also give you tips and suggestions on how to pose perfectly for the pictures. Another important tip is to make the headshot look like you. Don’t try to look like your favorite famous actors or singers. Directors and agents don’t want to wonder why you look completely different from your headshot when you walk through the door to their office. As an aspiring actor, you should consider a good headshot an investment in your future.
And while we’re on this subject, there’s another tip worth mentioning—always create a very professional-looking portfolio when you’re trying to find an agent, manager, or job. Bring along a detailed, error-free resume along with the professional photograph whenever you’re hitting the pavement. Excellent acting skills are one thing, but being able to market yourself properly is just as important.
- Make Sure You Can Be Found Online
Marketing yourself to talent agencies is crucial, and the best way to get started is to make sure you have a great online presence that is easy to find. Naturally, you’ll want to utilize social media for this purpose, but you should also register on the sites that make it even easier for industry professionals to find you. In North America, this means registering at both Actors Access, which is good for new actors who want to be in film and television, and Casting Networks, which is the right place for people interested in doing commercials.
The reason you should register on both of these sites is that on both of them, there are people in Los Angeles and New York City, as well as in other places, looking for talent. Today, show business professionals are found in a lot of big cities, so if your goal is to be a successful actor one day, you need to be on as many sites as you can so you are easier to find. The casting process can be a tedious one, but it always starts with getting enough would-be actors to the auditions to find the perfect one for the part.
Yet another advantage of registering for sites such as these is that both of them regularly have public casting calls that you can use to browse these jobs and even submit a résumé for, but be careful with the location. If a casting call is going to be held in Canada and you live in the U.S., you’ll have to figure out how you’re going to get there. In many cases, you won’t be able to do this, so never just haphazardly submit your résumé to tons of jobs without learning a little bit about them first. That said, in recent years, many more castings have allowed or even required initial auditions via online video submissions to save the time, money, and inconvenience of travel with a live casting call; you can determine the casting call’s requirements or online submission options in the audition information provided.
- Register for Auditions
While your first step to becoming an actor is to take the proper classes, the most important thing you’ll ever do along the way is to go to an acting audition. You can do this with or without an agent. While having professional representation is usually recommended, today’s technological advances make it easier than ever before to register for auditions on your own. The decision of using an agent versus doing it yourself is one you’ll have to make for yourself, and keep in mind there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
In the meantime, you’ll want to continue honing your talent by taking classes and participating in community theater and other local acting opportunities. Improving all of your acting techniques is what you should concentrate on most because there is no such thing as an actor with too much experience. You should also never pass on an opportunity to act in anything. After all, doing a local play when what you really want is to be on the big screen will still teach you a lot of valuable lessons about this profession.
Also, never get discouraged when you’re not chosen for a certain role. Indeed, most of the time, you will not be selected, but that’s how this business is. The key to being successful is to make sure you keep trying and apply to as many auditions as possible.
- Make Sure You Create a Demo Reel
Just as musicians need a demo tape, actors always need a professional demo reel. If you haven’t had any acting jobs, though, not to worry. Just do a short scene on your own, but if you’ve had a few jobs, make sure you add bits of those scenes to the reel. But keep the reel short because most directors will only be looking at the first 20 seconds or so anyway. That means your best work should come first, but you should also keep the reel itself the right length—which means 90 seconds to two minutes.
If you’re curious about what to include on your reel, think of it this way: directors and agents want to see your natural talent, not necessarily the scenes that show how well you can cry or over-emote. This is why you might want to consider hiring an acting coach during this phase to help you better prepare for tasks such as creating the perfect demo reel. Remember, the more learning you put into it, the closer you’ll get to being a great actor.
- Consider Hiring an Agent
Being represented by an agent can be a challenge because, just as hospitals hire people who are already doctors, agents want to represent people who are already actors, as it makes their job (of finding you acting gigs) easier and increases the likelihood of mutual success. Don’t let this discourage you from finding an agent, however. Whether you’re interested in being hired for television shows or you’re more interested in the movie and film industry, having a good agent often gets you there much sooner than going it alone.
In fact, there are numerous auditions you may not qualify for simply because they only let actors with agents try out for the role. And once you do find an agent, keep in mind that you can’t just sit back and wait for them to call you about a job. In between gigs, use your social skills to network, learn, and submit yourself for jobs on your own. If you’re still in your teen years, this is going to keep you very busy, but if you persist, it will all be worth it in the end.
Agents usually take 10–15% of the money you make, but that means that you yourself are still doing 85–90% of the work. Check in with your agent frequently and in the meantime, continue to improve your craft so that when you do get called, you’ll be ready.
- Branch Out into Other Markets
Even after you start getting acting jobs, you have to continue to work on making yourself an even better actor. A successful career doesn’t always stay successful forever, so it’s a constant battle to keep yourself employed in the fickle and ever-evolving entertainment industry. This is true regardless of what your age range is—not just for teenagers. After all, if you want to be in movies, the chances that you’ll start out doing feature films are pretty slim. The truth is, you don’t know where you’ll be starting your acting career, but once you get started, you can expand into other types of acting.
It’s just simpler to find an acting job when you already have a job or two under your belt. The more experience you have, the better the odds of getting your next job. And don’t consider any acting gig to be insignificant. Even a short local commercial or print ad can bring you more acting jobs in the future. Take every job you get offered (as long as it’s a legitimate opportunity that keeps you in a safe place with professionals and a work permit) because it is the perfect way to gain more acting experience and increase the odds that your next bigger job isn’t far away.
Being a young actor is a very rewarding career, but getting into this business can be a challenge. Taking lessons is a great option for aspiring actors, and in the meantime, working on every aspect of being an actor and staying consistent with it is a great idea, as well as perpetually reaching out to talent managers with updated resumes and touting your enhanced experience or newly mastered skills. Even taking voice acting and other types of acting lessons on a regular basis will help because, in the end, life experience, mounting skills, and unwavering dedication are what will land you your next job.