How to Become an Actress

Lights, camera, action! The world of film offers a highly prestigious career option that many young women would love to pursue. Acting is seen as a gloriously, fun, well paying career and for most, getting onto the big screen is all about the money and fame. While these come with the territory, you must understand that acting is all about your passion for the craft and will not necessarily see you performing you favorite pieces to huge audiences or on film.

It means lots of hard work, long hours in sometimes dreadful conditions, and oftentimes when you start out, the pay is not that great considering the huge amount of work that is required. Most of all, it requires patience as you establish yourself, go to casting after casting and hope that you eventually get that much sought after big break. Of course, all of this is not possible if you have no talent or skills, so here are some of the best tips when you want to learn how to become an actress.

Step 1: Family Support

One of the most important aspects of making it as an actress is having your family’s support. Yes, it is possible to become an actress on your own, however, having help, especially if you are young, is essential to your success. You will have help getting to and from castings, and if your family allows you to stay with them, you will be able to focus all your energy into your acting because you will not be worried about holding down a full time job. Naturally many actresses want to move to the acting Mecca’s like Los Angeles or New York, which is another area where you will need to have your family behind you every step of the way, to help you relocate, give you advice and assistance and be there if you are struggling.

Step 2: Find a Good Acting School

Although many actresses get by without any formal training, it is extremely beneficial to at least attend an informal acting program like the courses offered by The Lee Strasberg Film and Theater Institute in Hollywood. Other exciting classes and programs include the New York Film Academy, Aaron Speiser Acting Studio in LA, Ted Bardy Acting Studio in New York, and many others. Some things to look out for when selecting an acting school to attend, are the caliber and reputation of the school and its faculty, which other famous actors and actresses have attended these classes, and what they offer in terms of preparing you for the real life acting world. Do they send you to castings? Do they offer any kind of platform whereby you can perform for agents or producers? It is great to learn how to become an actress, but you need exposure to really set you apart and give you a chance to shine in you chosen profession. This brings me to the next point.

Step 3: Gain Exposure

Find any ways in which you can gain exposure in the industry. Attend castings, get to know producers and casting agents, and even if you don’t get the role, the entire aim is to meet influential people in the industry. Remember that it’s not what you know, but who you know. Make sure that you get out there and exert yourself, and even if you are not right for a part, you might be right for the director’s next role, so never underestimate the importance of attending as many castings as possible. The rejection is tough for many would-be actresses, but as long as you remember why you are going through this and that every rejection is a step closer to your goal, you will be fine and you will succeed. You have to develop a tough skin and be ready for anything.

Step 4: Work on your Audition Skills

Now, auditioning and acting are two very different things, so it is vital that you practice and improve your audition skills. This will give you a much better chance of actually getting a call-back or landing the role. Here are the key points to take note of:

  • Be adaptable – don’t go there with anything to set in stone, as things change and you could be put on the spot.
  • Be able to take direction – This is important, so make sure that you listen carefully and do exactly what the casting agents and directors tell you to do.
  • Think on your feet – You must be sensitive and open to your acting and if you feel that something is not working, do something else. If you are asked to improvise, think quickly and be decisive in your choice so that you can make a great impression.

These skills are hard to master and require practice just like you would practice anything else which is why you should go to as many auditions and castings as possible. Also take the time to practice at home and role play an “audition” with someone. Make sure you put a camera on so that you can see how you would look in a screen test. Work on this as well. Find out what casting directors look for in screen tests and play to your strengths. Do not overdo it though. See what make-up and hair works that looks natural, but striking and figure out what works best on camera in terms of how you speak, how you look at the camera, what and how many gestures you do etc. Perfecting your audition skills is half the battle won!

Step 5: Always Have Integrity

When you are so desperate to become an actress, it is often difficult to discern the bad from the good. The lines become fuzzy and many actresses all into the trap of taking off their clothes for the camera or sleeping with directors in order to land roles. This is never ok, and you should aim to get your career going with integrity, so that you are taken as a serious professional. Don’t ever let anyone bully you into doing something you are not comfortable with, even if they threaten to ruin your career or bad mouth you. You will make it if you just stick to the plan, be passionate about your work and give it your all at auditions and when you land jobs. Be easy to work with, but don’t be easy!

By following these 5 steps, you can easily become a great actress. Always keep your goals in mind, try, try and try again, and never give up no matter how bad things get. If you have the determination, the talent and the maturity you will go far.

HOW TO REACH YOUR FULL POTENTIAL AS A PROFESSIONAL LOS ANGELES ACTOR

A successful acting career in Los Angeles is more like a marathon than a sprint.

All of us want to reach our full potential artistically and professionally in our film, television and stage acting whatever else we do. In addition to having fulfilling relationships with our family and friends, reaching our full potential makes life feel worthwhile.

LA acting school classes should help students access and express their uniqueness in their acting. While attending acting classes in Los Angeles, the most important goal is to express your uniqueness and to serve the script at the same time. Our greatest hope is that when we do that, the world will find the result valuable. That’s the highest high!

So, simple script analysis isn’t enough!

There is only one YOU.

AND – your unique performance of a scene that serves the scene, is what gets you acting work. Why is anyone going to hire you if you do the scene just like everyone else? You go to the movies to see a particular actor because you know you’re going to see something special that no one else will do.

Though we would all love to be given an instant solution, formula or rule to get work and be successful, there are no rules or formulas that guarantee satisfaction or success, and THERE IS NO INSTANT SOLUTION. Any LA acting classes, coaches, or acting lessons that promise instant solutions, rules, formulas are telling actors what they would like to believe; those promises are sheer attempts to get more students and nothing else.

The best actors learn through long-term practice, trial and error, and trustworthy guidance. When you find that, be willing and open minded and give your all.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Each of us comes up against moments in our lives when we just “don’t know what to do.” We are baffled. That’s normal whether we’re marketing ourselves or working on our craft. We may need to work harder than expected or do things we never expected to have to do. Those are the times when we will either grow or contract.

It is very uncomfortable to feel confused, ineffective and incapable. Can we live with that discomfort?

At those times, we need to accept the process without knowing how or when it will end. That is at the core of all creative endeavors! (I recently saw an interview with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslett who talked about this very thing.)

And, living with the part of the process where you don’t know, is essential to personal development. There is no end to new challenges, once we’ve met and conquered the current one. Can we accept that?

When we feel like giving up, we need to find emotional support and professional guidance to courageously persist with the process so that we can enjoy the breakthrough whenever it comes; and in whatever form it comes. And, since you can’t see yourself as others see you, you need that outside eye to develop confidence in the direction you’re taking. Feeling confident is huge.

We give up too soon! We want an easier path. We want someone to TELL us WHAT to do. This methodology keeps us immature and stunts our growth. We need to conduct ourselves as adults in our artistic development AND our career development/marketing.

Ideas and suggestions are great… BUT, they are only a starting point. How we integrate information and experiences, and follow our creative intuition into unknown territory yields our highest satisfaction.

All good acting classes are teaching the same core skills. They simply have different teaching exercises to get you there.

The way Sanford Meisner described the core skills is:
1) your talent comes from your instincts
2) acting is living truthfully in the imaginary circumstances
3) acting is self-betrayal – (quoting George Bernard Shaw) – which is the big one
4) all good performances require risk-taking.

The first step in the actor’s journey is to find out what each of those statements really mean.

Don’t get persuaded by hype, glitz, false promises and slick marketing. If you’re not learning those skills, you’re not in a professional acting class.

The hardest part is to give up controlling how others see you, what they might think, and to be true to yourself.

David Kagen’s School of Film Acting
www.davidkagen.com
(818) 783-5300

How to Prepare for an Open Casting Call

Open casting calls are an opportunity for aspiring actors and performers to be spotted by directors, producers or casting directors. If you want to work in films or on television, you must prepare before you go to a casting call. A business-like mindset will help you get exactly what you’re looking for.

  • Even though the entertainment industry looks like great fun, it is actually a business and source of livelihood for everyone you meet. At the end of the day, it boils down to you bringing them big money while they help to advance your career. When you step in for your audition, be confident and remember that they are just as desperate to find someone as you are to get the role.
  • Always run a background check on the production company that is organizing a casting call as well as its producers. Learn as much as you can about the shows they have made and try to find out more about the role that they are auditioning you for.
  • While it is important to dress the part, do not go as far as wearing a costume unless the casting team asks you to do so specifically. Open casting calls that are legitimate usually provide you with everything you need for the audition. Typically there are three categories of clothing that you will be required to wear to an audition – nice casual, business casual or casual. Talk to a few people from the industry so you are familiar with the lingo used during auditions.
  • Remember to carry your resume and portfolio to all open casting calls. If you’re auditioning for a film, the headshots are a must-have though reality show producers insist on regular photographs.
  • When you get news of an upcoming casting call, note the location for your audition and leave with enough time on your hand. You rather reach early than miss your slot at the audition.
  • Not all casting experiences are pleasant. The casting team usually has very little time to scan through many prospective candidates. Since they have experience, they can tell you do not fit the role by simply looking at you. Even though this may seem jarring and rude, do not be offended if this ever happens to you. Instead, thank them and smile before you leave the room. The entertainment industry is close knit and it is best not to offend anybody if you want to succeed in the long run.
  • Avoid wearing white, black and red when you go for a casting call since these colours do not look the best on film. Similarly, avoid wearing tees that have logos and prints. Instead, choose solid colours that add warmth to your face and bring out your eyes.
  • If you already know you do not fit a certain role, wait for an opportunity that suits you better. You rather impress the producers with your audition than waste their time and your energy if you know you won’t make it in the first place.

If you bear these tips in mind, you are likely to find success with most open casting calls. Just remember to choose your roles wisely, be confident during the audition and always wear a smile, even if you don’t succeed instantly.

The Art of Auditioning

As an aspiring and/or seasoned actress, it is important to try to perfect the skill of auditioning, which is a skill set outside of acting. You could be the greatest actress in the world, but if you can’t audition well, you will have a hard time transforming that talent into bookings. The first rule of thumb for auditions: always have your photo and resume. The casting directors and/or producers will need a way to remember and contact you. It is also necessary to dress appropriately. You can dress for the character or you can dress plainly. Most importantly, you must be clean, presentable, and professional, everything else is up to you. Now that we have the general audition practices out of the way, let’s move onto the more specific practices.

  • The first fifteen seconds- First impressions are very important in the world of auditioning. Confidence and pleasantness will aid you in getting to where you want to be as an actress. If you are not completely confident, or if you’ve had a really rough day, do your best to fake it. We all have first impressions when we meet someone, casting directors and/or producers are no different.
  • Memorization- If you have the sides beforehand, or you’re auditioning with a monologue, it is best to have the material memorized. This will free up your body and remove the added stress of not knowing the lines. This will also allow you to get familiar with the character through their words, effectively enhancing and grounding your acting.
  • Make specific choices- This is a very important skill. Specificity gives life to your character and your acting. It also tells the casting director and/or producer, that you are not afraid to make choices and explore. Details in the audition material can provide information for you to make a specific choice. If it does not, still make one. If it is incorrect, usually the casting director and/or producer will give you a direction, or tell you to make another choice. If this happens, and you are able to listen and adapt to the changes, you have shown that you are versatile and/or can take direction.
  • Using mistakes- If you make a mistake, keep going, and try to use it to your advantage. People make mistakes all the time, therefore it is possible for the character to do the same. If you stutter or if you pause, it is possible that your character is thinking of what they’re going to say next, or maybe they’re uncomfortable, or lying: the possibilities are endless. If you can use these mistakes to your advantage, they will bring more life and energy to your character.

All of these techniques can be practiced and perfected in your spare time using sides and monologues. An auditioning class is another great option, it will help you to polish your auditioning skills, allowing them to become second nature. Keep in mind that an audition is like taking all the work you would normally do for a play or a movie, and compressing it into five minutes. It is all of the mannerisms and emotional life, normally built over an extended period of time, stripped down into a snippet. Sometimes you will have time to prepare, and sometimes you will not. This is why it is important to tweak and perfect the art of auditioning, allowing you to embody a character, at a moments notice.

Getting Auditions: Before Getting an Agent

On the road to becoming a successful and working actress, most likely you are going to have to find an agent. Most agents like to see an actress who is not only proactive about her career, but who also has some credits on her résumé. They do not have to be “big deal” credits (though that helps), just enough to show that you are actively pursuing your career as an actress. There are numerous ways to find out about auditions and casting calls, for all of them you will need your headshot and your résumé.

Actors Access is one of the best sites for submitting to auditions. It is linked to Breakdown Services, which is the service that develops casting requirements for projects, including requests from casting directors. It is free to register with them, but if you would like to electronically submit to auditions, it costs $2.00 per submission. They also have a yearly subscription through Showfax, which costs $68.00. The yearly subscription allows for unlimited electronic submissions. If you can only afford to spend money on one site, this one would be the one.

Backstage is a publication that has been helping actors with career advice and auditions for more than fifty years. They have over 1,800 listings daily, and with a membership you can submit to any of their listings. An online only membership costs $19.95 a month, a 6 month membership costs $15.95 a month, and an annual subscription is $12.00 a month.

Now Casting was created and is run by union actors. Registration and submitting is free on this website. You can upgrade your profile, for a monthly fee. The upgraded accounts allow you to add demo reels, access different databases, and add more personalization to your profile.

Casting Networks is also known as L.A. Casting. It was started by a casting director who sought to make the casting process easier. It has listings for all major casting markets in the United States. This one is a little more pricey. It is $14.95 a month, with a $25.00 setup fee. You can also prepay for 6 months or 1 year, and get 1 month or 2 months free. This one gives you access to 5000 casting calls a month.

There are, of course, other sites that have casting calls. But, these are your best bet. You can also check Craigslist for calls, but use your discretion when submitting to these. Mandy.com is another option. It provides international listings, and registration is free. As with anything, use your judgement and do your best to make sure everything you submit to is veritable.

Lastly, it is not necessary to spend a lot of money on all these different websites. Pick one that works for you, invest in it, and then maybe sign up for one free account. This way, you still have money for headshots, the ability to manage your submissions, and the time to work on your craft.

Tips: How to Cry on Cue in Acting

One of the biggest questions in acting is “how do I cry on cue?” The truth is, it can be hard to create authentic emotion on the spot. If you’re in the middle of an audition, and the scene calls for tears, it’s easy to focus on the need to cry, losing your connection to the character and the scene.

The absolute best answer to this question is to be so emotionally and physically engaged in your character that the emotion flows freely. This means being completely involved in your character and their present situation. However, this is not always the case; everyday distractions and disconnections can diminish your focus and commitment. These following tips are for those moments; the moments when everything is getting in the way.

Using emotional memory
Think of a time in your life where you experienced the kind of emotion that you are trying to recreate. Focus on the details of this experience, being very specific about the moment, the time, and the space. Meditate on this moment and its details, removing all other thoughts from your mind.

Breathing
Breathing from the diaphragm is probably one of the greatest tools you have as an actress. It helps you to connect and focus. A simple test to see if you are breathing from the diaphragm, is to put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Your stomach should be the main thing expanding. Also, there should be no movement in your shoulders. This kind of breathing demands your presence, allowing you to live in the moment.

Fake it until you make it
Sometimes, the tears just don’t come. This is where you fake it until you can do it. This doesn’t mean force emotion or “play” sad. This means take specific details from your experience with sadness (or any other emotion) and recreate them. Do you look down when your sad? Maybe you squint your eyes when you’re about to cry. Take these things and use them. Practice them before you have to cry, and use them when it’s time to perform. Eventually, the tears will come (if you are engaged), and if they don’t you have specific actions to use to communicate your emotional state.

Fake trying not to cry
A lot of times, trying not to cry can help bring out the tears. Not only does it relieve you of the pressure of trying to cry, but it’s also a tangible experience. There are many situations in life where people hold back tears.

All of these tips and exercises can be used together. For example, you can focus on your emotional memory while breathing from the diaphragm. They can be used in the moment, but they will serve you better if you practice them, in preparation for crying on cue. Lastly, keep in mind that not all tears are the same, and that people experience sadness and grief differently. The tears might not be there, but if you are physically and emotionally connected to the character and the circumstance, you have been successful in communicating with the audience and your fellow actors and actresses.