Want to Be an Actor? How to Begin an Acting Career and Book Auditions

Profile of actress under spotlight on stage.
Dougal Waters / Getty Images

Did You Know That There Are More than 120,000 Screen Actors Guild Members? Do you want to break into show business, but have no idea where to start? All your life, people have told you that you were born to be an actor, now here's your chance to really do it.

There are several things you must ask yourself before making any decisions:

  • What special talents do you have? Do you sing or dance?
  • What type of acting do you want to pursue: TV, film or stage?
  • Are you prepared to accept rejection?
  • Are you prepared to accept a LOT of rejection?
  • Are you willing to put everything you have into acting, no matter how many years it takes?

When Sarah Michelle Gellar was four years old, she was discovered by an agent while eating in a restaurant. Think that's going to happen to you? Think again! Stories like that are extremely rare. Most actors spend years honing their craft and attending auditions before they get their big break.

A Big Break Thanks to Some Good Luck

Making it as an actor takes talent, but pure luck plays a major role in getting your big break.

You might be tempted to jump right into the audition process, but if you are a beginner with no training, the best thing you can do is find some sort of acting class. No matter how good you think you are, the last thing you want to do is to go to an audition and not know what you're doing.

Acting is as much art as it is a talent.

There are natural born actors, but they are few and far between. Most actors have spent years training to become even good enough for small parts.

In addition to attending acting classes and/or workshops, you'll need to get some headshots made and begin preparing a portfolio.

Once you're ready to go on auditions, check to see if your town/city has a community theater and pursue your first gig to get a little experience under your belt.

You should consider finding work as an extra. This will help give you a better understanding as to how television shows or movies are made. If you live near a big city, check to see where upcoming films are being shot.

Central Casting is a great place to find auditions for background roles in the New York and Los Angeles area.

There are a tremendous number of websites that offer auditions/casting calls. Beware that most of these sites charge a fee to view the listings, so finding a reliable website is really a matter of trial and error.

At some point early in your career, you'll need to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and/or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

One of the most important things to remember is that learning this craft never ends. Even actors who have scored roles on major television shows have told me there is always something to learn from their fellow actors. Don't ever take your knowledge for granted and always be open to suggestions.

Much luck in your journey to becoming the next Edie Falco or Hugh Laurie!