Confidence, creativity and strong communication skills are just a few of the transferable skills you’ll have gained if you’re a drama graduate. But what if you simply want to tread the boards?
Becoming an actor isn’t an easy option but with determination, talent, experience and a sprinkling of good luck, it’s can be done. Here’s our guide to improving your chances.
1. Perfect your profile
Before you start looking for roles, you need to create a good quality marketing kit consisting of a headshot and an acting CV.
Your headshot is the first thing a casting director will look at, so to make a positive impression, invest in a professional photographer. On the day of the shoot, wear neutral colours that complement you, avoid hats or accessories and only wear minimal makeup.
Allow your personality to shine through and check that the photographer won’t be indulging in any over the top airbrushing. Wrinkles add character!
Your acting CV should be a one-page summary featuring your training, your appearance, whether you have a degree and the roles you’ve played so far. If you’re just starting out professionally, feel free to include student productions, films and self-penned plays.
As you gain professional roles, add them to your CV, always including the venue, company and director.
You also need to feature any extra skills. These might include:
Speaking in accents
Speaking another language
2. Apply for roles
Now that you’ve created your marketing kit, the next step is to explore the UK casting scene. We recommend signing up to leading casting call website mandy.com (the first month is free), as this will allow you to access and apply for auditions across the UK. Casting directors view every application they receive before selecting a few actors to audition.
What do Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton and Vanessa Redgrave have in common? They all began their career by joining a repertory theatre company. While regional reps aren’t as prolific as they once were, they are enjoying something of a resurgence, so it’s worth checking out whether your local theatre holds open auditions. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre for example, welcomes fresh talent.
If you’ve recently graduated, you’re probably under 25, which means you’re eligible to join the National Youth Theatre’s rep company. This runs from May to December every year and offers young actors the chance to experience acting in West End theatres.
It’s also worth approaching fringe theatre companies, theatre in education companies and heritage organisations. Fancy yourself as a knight, jester, torturer or grave digger? Then keep your eye on Warwick Castle’s recruitment pages to see when they’re holding auditions. Community theatre projects are worth a look too, although they tend to offer a share of profits instead of a salary.
If you’ve tried every avenue and can’t find work, why not consider banding together with a few like-minded actors to create your own play or short film?
3. Join Equity and Spotlight
As soon as you have a small amount of paid work under your belt, you’ll be eligible to join two organisations that will increase your chances of being picked to audition.
Equity is the UK union for professional actors. They advertise jobs, offer career advice, set minimum rates of pay and protect working conditions. To join, you’ll need to have completed one job on an Equity contract in film, television, radio or theatre. Alternatively, you can apply if you’ve earned over £500 from work in the industry.
Eligibility to join casting call website Spotlight is a little more tricky, as it requires four professional acting credits. As the first port of call for many producers and casting directors, becoming a member is definitely worth the effort.
Your Spotlight profile will feature your acting CV, a showreel, your headshot and a list of your skills. Crucially, you’ll also be viewed as a professional actor, boosting your chances of securing auditions.
4. Find an agent
Unfortunately, some auditions will be closed to you unless you’ve been signed up by an agent. Casting directors rely on agents to act as a filter, making it easier for them to decide who to call for an audition. Once you’ve got an agent, they’ll promote you and negotiate contracts on your behalf.
When it comes to getting signed up, it’s all about who you know, as you generally need to be referred. If you don’t already know any actors who are signed with an agent you admire, it’s a case of getting your name out there by acting as much as you can, blogging about your theatrical activities, engaging with agents on social media and generally showing that you’re a committed and passionate performer.
Our top tip? Sign up to Stage 32, a social network for people working in theatre, film and television.
5. Hone your craft
An actor needs to be ready to audition at a moment’s notice, so while you wait for that first role or if you’re ‘resting’ between jobs, it pays to keep fit and keep learning. University drama courses don’t normally offer the intensive practical training you would receive at drama school, but there are plenty of ways to acquire this training.
Higher education institutions like the Birmingham Conservatoire offer weekly acting courses and summer schools, as well as specialist voice training and audition workshops.
Many drama schools also offer part time training. For example, regular intensive acting classes take place at The Bristol Old Vic and the Guildford School of Acting provides weekend courses in musical theatre.
Acting may be an insecure profession but if you’re patient, persistent and market yourself well, you have every chance of enjoying an exciting, challenging and rewarding career. Good luck!
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