What to Do to Become an Actor

By Eric Hammer

If you’re interested in finding out what to do to become an actor, then we’re sure you’ve heard the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall, but we’ll repeat it here anyway because it is really one of the keys to success in becoming a successful actor. A man stops someone on the street in New York City and asks him how to get to Carnegie Hall. The answer, "practice, practice, practice."

No matter how many times you hear that mantra repeated over and over again on your way to becoming an actor, it can never be enough. Being an actor means being 100% committed to your goal. It means learning constantly about your craft and it means constantly taking the time to learn more and more about how to act and act well.

Most actors who are successful also report that they use something called "method acting." This means that they actually "live" the life of the character they are portraying. One person once observed that a group of successful Hollywood actors got together at a reception of some kind and because they were all so used to playing a role, he says they ended up seeming like they were actors playing actors at a reception rather than real people who happen to work as actors. Whether that’s a true story or not, it does show you what it means to be a successful actor.

How Much Can You Make?

Here’s another myth for those who want to know what do to become an actor: the vast, vast majority of actors in the world make very, very little money. We see names like Harrison Ford or Julia Roberts, who make millions of dollars and seem to have glamour and fame surrounding them and tend to think, "that’s going to be me someday." Sure, it’s possible. They both started somewhere, but the reality is that for every Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford out there, there are thousands of others who spend their whole lives just barely scraping by.

Now that you have been properly warned, here are some facts: An actor in an off Broadway show (still a professional show, but not quite the big lights) might earn between $440-$763 per week gross according to New York Magazine. According to Salary.com, the average salary for an actor ranges from $24,000 to $73,000 per year. A living, but hardly the glamour life we might expect.

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

Many actors end up becoming waiters or waitresses while they wait for their "big break." However, many also try their hands at modeling and singing if they happen to have the body or talent for those professions.

Distasteful as it may seem, if you are comfortable with your body, you may also be able to make good money working in adult films. Keep in mind though that if you ever do get to be famous someday, that adult film you shot when you were 18 years old and desperate for cash could come back to haunt you.

Consider also working in and around the field of acting, working in Hollywood or New York film studios as a light person, camera person or any other job that happens to be open. This will allow you to get your foot in the door at least.

And speaking of those two towns, while you don’t absolutely have to be in New York or Los Angeles, it does help quite a bit to do so because that is where most casting calls take place, even if a show is ultimately filmed elsewhere.

One more good tip: Talk to everyone you meet in the acting world and be nice to them. You never know where your big break will come from so it pays to constantly meet people, remember who they are and to be friendly to them. Even that errand boy who you think just fetches the donuts may someday become a casting agent and you can be sure, he’ll remember that you were a total jerk toward him when you were on the set of some two bit show where you thought you were special because you were an actor and he was merely the errand boy.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements or qualifications to become an actor. If you happen to have natural talent for the job and you get the right break, you could lack a high school diploma and still land a job. However, realistically, if you want to act, it pays to go to acting school and to spend as much time as you can perfecting your craft. Take every crappy role that you can get your hands on. You never know who may see you and think you’d be perfect for a bigger role they are casting for.

First Steps

Start by learning your craft. Go to school and learn what the professional say about what to do to become an actor. Take roles in small scale plays and local commercials. Don’t turn something down because you think it’s beneath you. Everyone has to start somewhere. The one exception to this rule is, as previously noted, adult entertainment. You may be able to land work in that field more easily if you have the body for it and doing such material doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never work in regular acting again, however things done when you’re young and broke do sometimes come back to haunt you.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about what to do become an actor:

About.Com: How to Become a Film and Television Actor – A really good article detailing lots of tips and information on becoming an actor or actress.

If you liked this page please let others know with one of these...

Other Relevant Pages

Artistic and Creative Work

Fun and Interesting Jobs

Every Way to Make Money | What to Do to Become an Actor