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Becoming an actor in Australia is a challenging task that requires relentless determination, professional training without the promise of success and a strong resilience to face the inevitable and constant rejection.
Consider why you want to be an actor because you have to be serious and driven to enter a profession that is unpredictable, fiercely competitive, superficial and judgmental. Few make it as actors, and those who do, are out of work 85 percent of their working lives.
Join a stage school or a youth theater group if under 16 years of age and considering being a child actor or becoming one after leaving school. Carefully consider this route because it is not necessarily the best route for children because of the demanding pressure. It can also be too challenging for a child to sustain an acting career into adulthood because of typecasting issues that exist in the profession.
Consider a short course of training after leaving school to ensure acting is the right career path. Start professional training at a recognized drama school, such as the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) or similar performance academies. Study for a period of three years in an undergraduate program.
Training is also open to mature students, and it is beneficial for all actors to have professional training before they embark on acting careers so they can better compete with others and be taken seriously.
Write a photo CV that includes a small scanned photograph in the left-hand corner of the page beside your name, your contact information, your agent's name and union membership details. Follow this with a brief personality profile, your qualifications, your training, any workshops attended, your performance skills and an essential table of roles played in productions that includes dates, venues and the names of the directors.
Have black and white 8x10-inch head shots taken by a professional photographer that can accompany mailshots to agents, casting directors and theater or film production companies. Don't be tempted to take the photographs yourself to save money because they will look amateurish and will not present you as a serious professional.
Invite agents and casting directors to attend the last performance showcase at the end of the course or a professional stage production, by sending mailshots so you can try to gain acting work from casting directors and secure representation. It is difficult to gain acting work without agency representation because agents help find work and negotiate actor contracts, and production companies dislike negotiating contracts with unrepresented actors.
Join the actors' union Equity via Alliance Online web site because it represents an actor's professional status. A union also provides a support network, offering free or reduced deals on public liability insurance, providing essential casting information and organizing beneficial events to help actors remain supported and focused during resting periods.
Join a reputable casting directory service such as Showcast that provides casting directors looking to recruit for their next production with a catalog of actors. The service also will provide actors with essential casting breakdowns. Note that casting information is generally not available free of charge.
Apply for appropriate roles, and be prepared to travel to auditions. Prepare at least six contrasting speeches ready for the next audition because an unprepared actor looks unprofessional and will fail to impress the director. Think about the requirements of the role, and dress accordingly. For instance, if the role is a geek, invest in a pair of wacky spectacles to present something about the character that you think is a quality the director is looking for. Rejection is part of the industry; deal with it. Move forward in a positive manner, and never give up. Consider unpaid acting work such as short films, indie features, stage and theater-in-education projects to help provide a show reel of recent work and keep your CV updated. Consider producing your own work to maintain focus, stay in practice and potentially catch the interest of a casting director. Attend acting workshops, attend networking events to make contacts that could lead to an offer of work, watch films, read plays and go to the theater to keep learning. Invest in a copy of "The Actors Handbook," which is the actor's bible because it provides details about theater, film and TV production companies and other work opportunities available to actors. Avoid amateur work and TV or film extra work since this is not classified as legitimate acting work for a professional actor.
All performers require public liability insurance in case an accident is caused from an actor's accidental or harmful actions to the public or to other cast members. It is illegal to perform without this insurance.
- "An Actor's Guide to Getting Work"; Simon Dunmore; 2004.