Tao and Having a Career in Acting
The Tao of Acting offers much advice to the aspiring actor, but as I have reworked this book it became obvious that there were things that I needed to include. One of these things was networking which is now the preceding article. Another is how to get an agent that I have addressed in the “All About Agents” article. And yet another is explaining how to get started in acting as a profession. This is the path of the Tao of Acting that follows.
First a note to those under 18 years of age: you cannot become a professional actor as a teen unless your parents make it happen. Since a minor cannot sign a contract, your parents have to do that for you. Some professional acting work situations require that your parent be on the set with you the entire time that you work. Your parent should attend all auditions that you attend. These things look after your safety and well-being. Your parents also have to find you performance opportunities, training, and, when you are ready, an agent. The process of becoming an actor at any age is long and complex. There are no shortcuts on the Internet or anywhere else. Of course, there are highly publicized exceptions of people who were not even trying to become actors and suddenly were made professionals, but they are very, very rare. That is what makes them noteworthy for publicity. Most actors of any age have put in long years of preparation
What an adult must do to become an actor: If you are going to attempt to earn your living as an actor there is one thing that most books on the subject never mention. That is that going into acting as a career is just like going into any other business. It is called “Show Business” isn’t it? It requires investment, expertise, experience and devotion. Sometimes it may be a good idea to work and earn the money to invest in acting before starting out. This is especially true since the first step in becoming a professional actor is to move to where the action is.
When you get there (and in many cases even before you get there) you
must find a place to live and you must find employment. Since it
is so very difficult to earn a living as an actor, aspiring actors need
to have a ‘day job.’ It is a good idea that you let prospective
employers know that you are an actor and will, from time to time, need
to take an afternoon or a day or two off for auditions and, if cast, for
filming. This is why so many actors use bartending and wait staff
jobs -- they provide maximum flexibility. Sometimes
employers like the idea of having an actor on their rolls and will be
happy to accommodate you. However, you must never take unnecessary
leave from your employment. Your employer’s good will is
priceless. Besides your job supporting you, there are many
expenses that an actor will have that are his or her investment in
acting as a career. One of the things an actor must have is a
reliable car (except in
Once you are settled in and ready to start the day-to-day business of looking for work as an actor, you need to get your tools together. It would be foolish for you to start without having your resume, headshot, business card and postcards all duplicated and ready to use. Never go anywhere without these things! You never know when you will have the opportunity to network and to do that you need them. At this point you are ready to start to establish yourself as an actor in the local area. Identify and contact the community theatres in the area and start auditioning for roles. Find a good acting studio and take a class on the weekend to network and get informed about the acting scene. Discover the local sources of casting and auditioning information and start using them. Network every step of the way, as I have described in my book.
If you have a strong resume, or after you have built one, or when your networking provides you the opportunity, seek representation by an agent. Seek representation for extra work, for principal roles, for commercials and for stage work. If this takes more than one agent, then get more than one agent. Don’t get in too big a hurry to leap to the professional world. Acting is rather like being an old time prospector. You live a lone and austere life seeking pay dirt. You keep at it your entire life, and maybe you will strike it rich. Never stop building your resume or stop networking. Agents have lots of things to do besides get you auditions. As you are an actor, keep acting as constantly as you possibly can. Remember when the casting director asks you what you have done lately, it is death to have nothing to say, but it is door opening to be able to rattle off two or three productions. You don’t have to mention that they are amateur if you are not asked where you did them. Even if you are asked, The Downtown Community Playhouse is a good, solid reply. Of course use the name of the theatre you worked at.
Thus begins your journey of a lifetime. As Lao-Tse said, by taking one step at a time, it is possible to travel a thousand miles.