How to Break Into Show Business

By Nicole Vulcan; Updated July 05, 2017
Chinese opera character (Mu Gui Ying)
K-King Photography Media Co. Ltd/Digital Vision/Getty Images

When you imagine a career in show business, becoming an actor or musician might be the first jobs that come to mind. But if you dream of creating stories or entertaining the masses, those are only some of the ways to work in the industry. If you're serious about breaking into "show biz," get there by pursuing education and training, and by looking for any and all opportunities to practice your craft and gain exposure. Then again, gaining exposure can happen even when you least expect it; actress Lana Turner was "discovered" while skipping school to hang out in a malt shop.

Stage and Screen Actors

Two stage actors performing.

Actors often start their training early by participating in plays or drama classes in school. Major in theater at a university, or take acting classes at a community college or conservatory. From there, pursue any roles available to you in theater, film or TV. Actors often do unpaid gigs in student films or independent productions to gain experience and make connections. Also pursue representation by an agent who can help you audition for roles in TV commercials or shows. For stage acting, audition in community theater or smaller theater productions to gain experience. In the digital age, also maintain your own online presence in the form of a video channel or website. Use the site to post audition tapes, performances and head shots. Another intangible: Having confidence. When it comes to getting discovered, it really starts with believing in yourself, suggests acting coach Anthony Meindl in Backstage.

Singers and Musicians

Classical musicians performing on stage.

Like actors, musicians often start their careers by learning how to play music as children. Begin by learning an instrument or singing in a choir in middle school or high school, or study with a private teacher outside of school. At the university level, major in music or music theory. If you aspire to be classical musicians or an opera singer, seek training at a reputable music conservatory. If you want to perform popular music, such as rock or country, on the other hand, you might simply form a band and look for small gigs at music festivals and nightclubs, eventually gaining a following that can lead to more significant gigs. Musicians and singers should also "perform" for the masses online; singer Justin Bieber was discovered on his YouTube channel.

Directors and Producers

A movie producer holding a professional video camera.

Behind the scenes of a film, TV or theater production are the producers and directors who orchestrate all the action. Producers put the elements of the show together. Directors are responsible for the overall look and feel of the production. To break into show business this way, start with a university education, or simply gain work experience in the industry. Major in film, cinematography, or photography, and work on university theater productions or independent films to gain experience. From there, pursue work as a production assistant, grip or other entry-level jobs in film, TV or theater and work your way up. Also look to community theater and TV as a source of exposure and experience; those outlets typically offer training and opportunities to production people of all experience levels.

Technical Careers

A videographer at work.

Show business also requires a host of other technical professionals who are skilled in things like lighting, costumes, props, cinematography, graphics, animation, and hair and makeup. What's more, show business needs its fair share of writers, casting directors and talent managers. Like other professionals in show business, these behind-the-scenes people often get their start by studying their craft at a university, technical or trade school. From there, pursue opportunities to network and gain experience in the same channels that actors, musicians, producers and directors do: by seeking out productions in smaller towns and smaller theaters and volunteering their time for student productions and community productions. In the case of agents and managers, start by pursuing education and work in law or public relations.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.