Become a Film Actor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 19, 2018

Learn how to become a film actor. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career in film acting.

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  • 0:01 Become a Film Actor
  • 0:34 Career Requirements
  • 1:23 Career Steps

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Become a Film Actor

Film actors portray characters in movies. They must research and develop the characters, rehearse lines and work under direction. Film acting is one of the most glamorous and highly sought after fields in the entertainment industry. Jobs in the field, therefore, are extremely competitive. Work can be unsteady, so many actors have to take on separate jobs in order to support themselves financially between gigs. Actors also need to be able to endure continual rejection while on the hunt for their next big role.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; Bachelor's degree helpful
Degree Name Acting, theater, drama, or film
Experience Several years experience
Key Skills Persistence; creativity; memorization, reading, and speaking skills; physical stamina
Salary $18.80 per hour (2015 median for film actors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Screen Actors Guild.

While you can get entry-level positions in film acting with a high school diploma and drive, a bachelor's degree in acting, theater, drama or film can be beneficial. Successful actors typically have several years of experience. These professionals typically need persistence for continual auditioning and frequent rejection, creativity and reading skills for interpreting and developing characters, the ability to memorize lines and speaking skills for delivering lines, and physical stamina needed for working long hours as well as standing and moving for extended periods of time. In 2015, film actors earned a median salary of $18.80 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now let's check out the career steps for film actors.

Career Steps

Step 1: Complete Formal Training

There are no strict education requirements for a career in acting, and some people simply have a natural talent for the art. However, most actors and actresses have some form of formal training. Many earn bachelor's degrees through the drama department of a university or an acting conservatory. These programs can also feature courses that teach students how to act in front of a camera. Actors who do not earn degrees usually complete at least some courses in acting and film, but a bachelor's program includes courses in movement, voice and acting techniques as well as acting practicums. It may also include filmmaking, which can give prospective actors an inside perspective of the character and plot development processes.

Get hands-on acting experience during college. Aspiring actors and actresses can audition for parts in student filmmakers' movies. A future film actor can even participate in school, community and summer stock theater productions, which provide acting experience that can translate to film.

Step 2: Market Yourself

A film actor's resume is often the first thing a director or casting agent sees when considering an applicant. The resume can include professional or college-level acting experiences, training and special skills, like fluency in a foreign language or the ability to do certain stunts. A headshot that embodies the actor's personality should be attached to the resume. Actors and actresses should update their resumes regularly in order to highlight their most exceptional experiences.

Auditioning for roles is a necessary part of the acting process, and actors should work to hone these skills. During auditions, candidates read excerpts from film scripts so directors and casting agents can choose which actor is best for which role. If possible, actors should study these scripts and rehearse beforehand. Candidates may also increase their chances of being hired by dressing similarly to the characters they want to play. Some film actors hire talent agents or managers to help them find these roles, though many find their own roles through advertisements and trade publications.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Training to become an actor or actress is a life-long process, and these professionals continue to hone their crafts and learn new techniques throughout their careers. Taking a range of roles, such as characters in comedies, dramas and action films, can give actors a greater variety of skills. Entry-level actors typically play minor roles in small-budget or independent movies and, with experience, advance to higher-paying gigs in larger film productions.

To recap, with the completion of postsecondary education and experience in the acting industry, a film actor can earn about $19 an hour to research and develop characters, rehearse lines and work under direction.

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