In the old Disney film, Pinocchio, there's a famous song, Hi Diddle-Dee-Dee, The Actor's Life for Me.
Pinocchio is being lured into the theatre to become a part of the show. He's enticed by the fox, who sings,
An actor's life for me
A high silk hat and a silver cane
A watch of gold with a diamond chain
An actor's life for me
It's great to be a celebrity
An actor's life for me... "
..And so it goes on. Remember that one? (For Henson fans, there's a great reprise by the Muppets here.)
Sometimes aspiring actors think this is what life is going to be like - celebrity, fast cars, gorgeous clothes and red carpets.
It's true that some actors do get this. But for every successful Hugh Jackman or Cate Blanchett, there are hundreds of actors who are not making very much money from their craft at all.
So it's good to do a reality check on this one - before you commit to a career as an actor.
Actors are part of today's 'gig economy' - along with all kinds of freelance workers: designers, writers, dog-walkers, consultants, mobile hairdressers, and more. In other words, you do one job (gig), then do another, then another - depending on who books you.
It's a project-to-project life.
For an actor, it might look something like this: a TV commercial, then a voiceover, then a film, then a guest spot on a drama, then a stage play. This might occur over - say - a period of months.
Even if you're cast in a big feature film, with a shooting schedule of many months, you might only be required for a few weeks - or even a few days - to shoot your particular part.
So if this is the case, there's a lot of other time every year when the average actor's not working as an actor.
The truth is, most actors have another job in addition to acting.
So you need to have a plan around how you're going to approach this gig-to-gig life, and maximise your chances of employment. Here are a few tips on how to get started.
In order to maximise your chances to get work as an actor, there's no question that you need training.
Acting might look simple - sure, when we see our favourite actors on screen they make it all look so natural - but in actual fact, acting is a craft. There are specific skills and processes to learn to achieve good outcomes. And it takes practice.
To get a role in a professional production, you need to be good at what you do.
To be good at acting, you need to do some training. So find the right course, or series of courses, that will teach you the practical skills of the actor.
Know your type
You may have heard of 'typecasting' - that's where an actor seems to play the same type of role over and over again, no matter which movie they appear in.
Typecasting can be creatively limiting for an actor.
But type itself can be very important to you winning a role.
Now you might think, “I’m a trained actor, I can play any role” – and yes, that is true – particularly in theatre. Type is far less important in theatre where there is distance between you and the audience.
But the actor's type is a great storytelling shortcut for screen.
For instance, you might look like a cop. Or an oily villain. Or a geek. Or a romantic lead. Or a willowy damsel in distress. Or a female warrior. Or a soccer mum.
Type is based on impressions, and it's a combination of your internal personality qualities (your energy) as well as the external physical impression that you tend to make when you walk into a room.
On screen, it would be perfectly clear what type of character you're playing, as soon as you enter.
So work out what your type is. If you audition for roles that relate to your type, you have a greater chance of winning them. You're less likely to be cast in a role against your type. (Although it can happen!)
Have a second skill
As an actor, it will pay to develop a second skill. Find something to support your acting career. Perhaps you're a whiz at administration. Perhaps you can take up massage therapy. Perhaps you are great with IT.
This is great! You're not betraying yourself as an actor if you have something else you're good at, as well as acting.
A lot of parents will tell kids who want to be actors to "have a backup plan", or "do your backup plan first, then train as an actor".
But if you're young, it pays to do your actor training first, then begin work on your backup plan - but only if and when you need it! You are much better placed to start making inroads into your career as an actor while you are younger, and unencumbered by children, mortgages and the obligations of later life.
Needless to say, you're probably still going to have to earn some money once your graduate from acting school.
So our advice is: nurture a second skill alongside your acting. It doesn't mean you have to jump into a full-time four-year degree in accounting, for instance (unless you want to!) - just find skills that have value in the marketplace.
These would include things like computer literacy skills, business skills, hospitality skills, allied health or people-helping skills, childcare, carpentry or another trade, and so on.
You can probably find vocational courses that are six to twelve months' duration that will give you a qualification to get a job to keep you going while you look for acting work.
Know where the work is
If you want to be an actor, you have to know how to find the work.
There are various avenues for this:
Make your own work
If there's nothing cooking through your other avenues - make your own work! Put together a night of entertainment. Write a script for a short film and shoot it with friends. Put together something for a festival. Keep an eye out for calls for applications for play seasons. There are lots of ways to make work for yourself and your colleagues. And if you get asked the question, "What are you working on?" - you'll always have an answer!
If you are wanting to get started as an actor, our next audition at Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art is on Sunday, September 3 - more info here.
Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art