When you are looking for professional stage or scene work it is important that you give yourself the best chance of securing a role.
Making the initial inroads into a professional acting career can feel like a bit of a Catch-22 – to get an acting job, you need to have an acting job – but if you can equip yourself with the tools required to showcase your talents, you’re giving yourself a significant headstart. Actor and City Academy team member Katie Sherrard gives us her top tips for finding work as an actor…
1. Represent! Find an agent
Seeking professional representation from an acting agency is just one way along the road to gaining professional work. An agent will contact casting directors on your behalf, look for suitable auditions, and a good one will strategically map out your potential career. Signing with an agent is not always a simple process, and to represent you they’ll need to see examples of your work. There are plenty of directories of acting agents available online, so make that initial contact, invite them to any performances you’re doing, and let them know what you’re about!
The key thing is to have a portfolio of work you’re proud of, and making sure that you don’t stop acting – who knows who’ll be in the audience each night.
That said, having an agent isn’t everything. Actors with representation often need to work hard to find their own performance opportunities, and there are plenty of stories of unrepresented actors landing some pretty huge roles on stage and screen. The key thing is to have a portfolio of work you’re proud of, and making sure that you don’t stop acting (whether professionally or not!) – who knows who’ll be in the audience each night.
2. Lights! Camera! Showreel!
A casting director can receive thousands of applications for auditions and they need to see first-hand what you can do, as well as read about it. Sending over a showreel is a great way to demonstrate your acting abilities, and do just that.
Your showreel should be a video of no more than 3 minutes with a series of short scenes edited together to demonstrate your acting versatility. The clips can consist of recorded stage performances, as well as on-screen work, but the most important thing is that recordings are of a high quality. There’s no point in sending something over that isn’t enjoyable to watch.
You can create your own on our Screen Acting – Showreel Course.
3. Say Cheese! Get the right headshots
The first impression a casting director will have of you is from your headshots, so you need to make them good! Have a small selection of shots you can use, with slight variety between them. The most important tip for headshots is to make sure that they look like you, if you change your appearance for the headshot then you are not representing yourself to the casting director properly, and you will be less likely to get work.
4. Look High & Low – searching for auditions
There are many opportunities for you to audition for plays, short films, tv work and feature films, so it’s important to know where to find them! If you are starting out in acting it is important to get as much experience as possible to build a portfolio of work, making you more appealing to a casting director. There are websites where you can search for auditions which do not require lots of previous acting experience, such as The Stage, Hiive, and Arts Jobs.
If you are starting out in acting it is important to get as much experience as possible to build a portfolio of work, making you more appealing to a casting director.
They will post auditions for parts in Fringe productions, short films and student films which may not be paid but will greatly help you in developing your craft. It is also worth looking into theatres which provide opportunities for you to audition for community performance projects and schemes to create your own work such as Battersea Arts Centre, Soho Theatre, and the Young Vic.
5. Fail to Prepare? Prepare to Fail. Get ready for auditions
An audition is your opportunity to prove to the director that you are going to be a joy to work with. You need to show that you are reliable, hard-working and can take direction well. Turn up to the audition on time, have your lines learnt, be open to new direction and you will give yourself a much better chance at proving you are the right person for the job.
6. Work The Room – the benefits of networking
Go to see as many shows and film screenings as possible, and start to meet people and make contacts in the industry. Networking can be a scary word, but in reality it can be fun and is extremely useful for an actor’s career. Be sociable and approachable, you will be surprised at how many people you will meet who do similar work to you, which can often lead to exciting opportunities.
7. Taking the DIY Approach – write and devise your own work
Waiting for the next audition can be difficult, so don’t just wait around – make your own work! If you have an idea for a script put pen to paper and see where it can take you. If you are not sure where to start with writing but have a group of people you enjoy working with, then start a project together and see where it leads. Creating your own work means you can control the roles you play and generate brilliant opportunities for yourself.
Once you have started creating a piece, approach one of London’s many Fringe theatres and hire them for a short run. Invite agents, casting directors, producers, other actors, directors, anyone who may offer a fruitful professional partnership down the line…
A great source for industry professionals is the book Contacts, which lists pretty much every professional in the industry.
- If you are interested in preparing for auditions, see our Audition and Casting Workshops, here.
- We offer a Showreel Course for advanced screen acting students, find out more here.
- We also offer a 4 week Screen Acting Intensive Courses for advanced screen acting students, which includes training in showreels, auditions and casting.