If you have set your sights on a career as an actor, then acting school is usually a prerequisite of the job (yes, it is a job!).
While the life of a performer may seem desirable from the outside, with Instagram posts showing them at a celebrity-packed gathering or a star-studded bash most nights of the week, the truth is that they will most likely have worked hard and been committed to their training in film acting or musical theater. Also, though you might find it hard to believe, not all actors want to party hard. A lot of the celebs are paid to attend specific events and would probably rather just go home and rest after a long day of rehearsals or filming!
If you know someone in the business, or you are spotted by a talent agency through kids classes or a modeling classes, then the chances are that your experience of breaking into the world of acting and directing may be slightly different. That said, even if you are chosen for a role and have no experience, you will certainly want to learn more about your profession and try to better your skills to open up more opportunities in the future.
There are many different actor training paths. Some might pursue a career in television, some might prefer the idea of presenting or working on TV shows, whilst others might be drawn to a theatre company.
Life on stage comes in various different forms, with voice-over acting and presenting making up just some of these. Photo credit: William Hook on Visualhunt.com
Regardless of where you see yourself in the years to come, your training will be key to enabling you to reach the heights you want in this challenging field. Furthermore, don’t forget that, if you reach a level of national or even international fame, your achievements and experiences (including supportive roles or appearances) will usually be made public for the world to see, along with details about your personal life that you would probably prefer to keep private. That’s one very good reason to work hard on your acting qualifications and skills!
Just like there are different types of acting roles for performers, there are also different types of acting workshops and classes to participate in.
Drama school is unlike acting classes, yet both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Drama school is a fantastic option for launching a career in TV and media, as it offers three-year training, full-time, giving participants a good grounding and teaching young actors about the industry they are about to enter. Acting lessons, meanwhile, are a good choice for those who can’t commit to full-time education, because they can’t afford it, are working or have a family to take care of.
There really is no age limit for the entertainment industry. Actors of all backgrounds and ages are required for the diverse roles that are cast everyday, so you won’t find your age to be a problem, even if you are a beginner in the discipline (unless, that is, you are forty-something and want a part as a youthful teenager!). Remember also that you don’t have to complete dancing or singing lessons, some people have very successful careers doing voiceover work, improv comedy, screenwriting and storytelling!
Acting training is open to all, regardless of age and profession. If you are an older person looking to launch a career quickly in the acting world, then acting classes may be better suited to you as they are the cheapest and fastest way to see if the profession is for you. There are no auditions, so no pressure – you can simply enrol on a course and get stuck in.
Since you often pay for acting classes for a term at a time, you also won’t have any financial ties like you would have if you applied for a student loan to cover the cost of a full-time acting course.
If you are really serious about making it, and are already set on attending classes, then you might also like to consider hiring an acting tutor to help you with working on your skills one on one. A coach is usually a seasoned actor who will usually rehearse with you, encourage you to succeed and suggest ways that you can improve and take your passion further.
You can usually find acting classes in most big cities, but London and New York City are of course hubs for drama schools and clubs, with many trainees setting up in the cities in the hope of being spotted for an exciting acting job or a career on broadway. The UK capital is where many opportunities for auditioning for British stage roles are, but it is also a very popular place in the country for filming, with many agents, artistic directors and film crews from all over the world passing through.
Those seeking a career in the West End may be drawn to living in London to make opportunities more accessible. Photo credit: vgallova on Visual Hunt
If you are tied to your hometown for work or family reasons, or you can’t afford the fees for NYC or London-based academies, then there is absolutely no harm in attending acting lessons in your area and working hard on developing your skills or accent before moving to a more animated location.
As already mentioned, there are various types of acting camps on offer aside from attending a drama school which can help you to build confidence.
Before you sign up for any class, you should familiarise yourself with the options and decide on which is best suited for your own personal goals. Plus, some are looked upon with high regard from those superiors in the TV and film industry, so are worth investing in.
Take a look at the different courses I have listed below, so that you don’t wind up spending time and money on a class that isn’t right for you.
Acting Technique classes are one of the most common among hopeful and successful actors. If you are not planning on going to drama school, then this well rounded master class really is a must to give you a foundation in the industry. Individual classes will differ in style due to different approaches from their teacher (i.e. depending on the way they run the class: using the Meisner Technique, Method Acting, Stella Adler or other) so investigate two or three classes at least and go for the one that you feel most comfortable with.
Equally an important class to attend, the instructor in this lesson focuses on the audition and callback process and how to confident going into either scenario. Auditioning is normally far more nerve-racking than performing, as you are surrounded by a panel of unknown faces, unsure of what it is they are looking for. At least once you’ve secured the role, you can be confident that you’re doing things right! You’ll learn about script analysis, how to take instruction in an audition and generally how to impress the judging panel.
This training will introduce you to studying, analysing and practising scenes off and on-camera. While it is important in understanding scenes for a play, film or television show, the class leader will still want you to draw on your acting techniques. Therefore, one of the above classes is paramount in addition to this.
Also referred to as Cold reading (mainly in the US), this class is useful for improving on this exercise. It is best suited to those who are auditioning for roles that don’t offer much in the way of preparation, like short adverts or brief appearances. It will teach you to quickly prepare a text and deliver it confidently, allowing you to spend more time thinking about your performance than brushing up on the context surrounding it.
Most on-camera jobs will involve acting from lines previously learned and rehearsed. However, not all performers have the luxury to cut filming and restart. For instance, those presenting in the moment on live TV or on stage in front of thousands of spectators may have to improvise from time to time. Improv, as it is also known, is valuable for actors because it enables them to think fast, embrace spontaneity and to be more aware of timing and thus creating the illusion of a seamless performance.
Anyone looking to appear in commercials should place this high on their list, but with improv being required for most commercial auditions, you shouldn’t rule out the above Improvisation classes. Commercial classes will teach you how to audition for a commercial, how to interpret the script, how to behave on the shoot and a bit more about improvising.
Vocal coaching is not just for singers; the voice is equally as important for actors. Actors wishing to perform on stage shows might be better suited to this class, as they will be taught breathing techniques, how to sing and ways to control your vocal abilities. That said, most West End performers come from drama schools, where singing is taught during the three-year course.
This is the physical version of the above course, i.e. with an acting teacher teaching you how to use your body and movement to evoke feelings in performances. It teaches you awareness of all aspects of your body, from your limbs to your facial expressions.
Designed for trainees looking to appear in classical performances like Shakespearean plays, for example, this class will teach you about period acting and how to do it right. Voice and movement techniques will make up part of this course, and you will be taught how to read and analyse classical literature.
These are slightly different to vocal lessons because they focus on the specific branch of acting: voice-overs. These classes are only necessary for those wishing to pursue this as a career. There are a lot of skills to learn, including many technical ones to master.
Choosing an acting coach is so important to an aspiring actor. You don’t just need to get on, you must respect and look up to your guide.
They will not only be your teacher, they will become an influence in every step you take toward acting success.
As such, picking the right one is very important, since it won’t do you any good switching coaches all the time. If the chemistry isn’t there, then it’s probably not the right pairing!
It is difficult to pin it down in words, but you will know when you have found your perfect acting coach, as you will instantly connect, and they will get you.
Going with a coach that has been a mentor to actors you look up to might not always be the best way forward – if you don’t feel comfortable with them then perhaps their style of coaching isn’t what you need after all. That said, your coach is not your friend, and the relationship should remain professional so that each of you can stay focused on your respective goals with no distractions or sentiments getting in the way.
There are many other things to consider when looking for an acting coach; there’s the question of how much they cost, where they work, how respected they are in the industry, how successful they are in their own right, what qualifications they have and if they are recommended by others. But, these should come second to finding the greatest influence on you.
So, if your budget won’t stretch to the person you feel makes the best team with you, then consider asking what deals they offer or seeing if a relative might be in a position to sponsor you throughout your training, before ruling them out completely. Working with this person could be the key to you finding acting success (and when you look back then, none of those secondary factors will matter!).
Of course, you must start with researching possible coaches, perhaps by searching the Internet for coaches in your area or asking connections within the industry for recommendations.
As mentioned before, the bigger cities are normally where the most successful coaches and agents are at, but that doesn’t mean to say that you won’t find a superb coach who likes livings in the suburbs! If your line of work is busy and demanding, then wouldn’t you too want some respite from the hustle and bustle of long city days!?
Remember, while you will have to audition for a place in their care, the audition also gives you a chance to see how they work as well and work out if you would make a good team or not. If you’re not asked to read a script, then be prepared to ask lots of questions to maximise the time with your potential coach and to get to know each other better. You might take this opportunity to ask about administrative and logistical things like absences from class, procedures for being late, etc…
As a final point, I would recommend that you attend more than one audition or meeting, just as you would obtain a few quotes for some work you are having done in your house, to be sure that you are picking the best person to do the job. As they say, the cheapest isn’t always the best, so try to put aside the cost temporarily and just see where the encounter takes you and how you end up feeling afterwards. Then you can tackle all the small print!
As you would expect, the most straightforward way to find an acting coach nowadays is to search the web for suitable candidates. You’ll have your own criteria to base your search on, whether that be location, other students, recommendations, and so on.
Many websites dedicated to aspiring actors have done some research for you, and often list the top acting coaches for specific areas of acting, or the best tutors in the capital, to give you a couple of examples. I can’t stress enough though that you should run your own searches and create your own lists too, but using the information provided by these associations will do no harm in supporting your individual search.
If you have friends in the industry, or family members who have experience in acting roles, then you might be lucky enough to already know some coaches, or at least have some recommendations to pursue.
Feedback from clients is a very good first-hand representation of what it is like to be on the receiving end of that teacher’s style of tuition. While you can’t ascertain if you will get on well just by reading others’ comments, you can get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be their pupil.
Actress Emma Roberts has many connections to the showbiz world, with a famous aunt and an acting coach grandmother. Photo credit: Castles, Capes & Clones on Visualhunt.com
In a complete U-turn to what I have been discussing so far, there are some aspiring actors out there who let the coaches come to them. In taking this approach, you need to be really confident in your abilities and more flexible on time, with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. For example, an older student who wants to launch their career now might not have the time to sit around and wait for opportunities.
Though some may consider this to be a very laid-back style, no one can deny that it psychologically hands the reins over to you and you can view meetings and auditions as a way for you to scrutinise them, rather than the other way around, which many find to be very daunting.
It is always worth remembering though that, although you are the creative subject, they are the qualified ones and they deserve respect for their achievements. They certainly won’t be impressed by a trainee actor pushing boundaries as it doesn’t bode well for a good team and working atmosphere.
Okay, so actually paying out for acting classes can seem like a big expenditure but not only are they necessary for aspiring actors (you can’t bypass this crucial step), they are also just a drop in the ocean compared to the lengths that some go to in order to find fame.
Some people will relocate, at times with their entire family, to places like Los Angeles in America just to increase their chances of finding suitable auditions for roles. Just think of how much money these people spend on their career! Is it even possible to put a price on the time, effort and upheaval involved in moving to a new country to follow your dreams? Still, many have reaped the rewards so it really is each to their own and all depends what lifestyle you choose for yourself.
On the other hand, if you know for sure that you don’t want to do anything else, then the cost may seem irrelevant. Plus, if you do end up making millions, you can enjoy a life of jet-setting around the world and choosing where you make your home.
Going back to drama schools, which offer three-year-long courses on all things related to the performing arts, you can expect to pay more than £5,000 per term for a top acting school. However, some theatre schools offer a year of tuition for £9,000 or less.
One very well-known school based in the heart of the capital is the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School, where famous figures like Tom Fletcher of McFly, his wife Giovanna Flet, Matt Willis of Busted, the late Amy Winehouse, Dua Lipa, Rita Ora, Kara Tointon, Keeley Hawes and Nicole Appleton (formerly in the music band All Saints) attended, not to mention a long list of EastEnders actors! These stars switched school life in London’s Marble Arch for a famously chaotic stint in the fictional borough of Walford.
Acting classes, on the other hand, are extremely difficult to put a price on. There are so many factors that come into play, that it is almost impossible to give a rounded figure as guidance. Some coaches in the inner city of London might be at liberty to charge far more than those working in smaller towns or cities, whilst a tutor who has a wealth of experience can understandably be expected to charge more for their expertise.
Even when searching for acting coaches on Gumtree, prices are very rarely disclosed. This is to protect you as much as the coaches themselves, as they don’t want to give an estimated figure that scares people off when in fact they can be flexible and look at building courses around your needs. Similarly, they might charge more for those with less experience, or for specific areas of their coaching. As you can gather, it’s a complicated subject!
Therefore, in theory, you should aim to base your search on finding the best coach for you in terms of the chemistry, rather than focusing on the maths.
Aside from the obvious coaching tuition (and not including the cost of relocation for business purposes!), there are several other things that you can expect to add to your long list of expenditures. Headshots, for one, are surprisingly costly but are a requirement for the industry. Your headshot needs to be done by a professional, but you only need to do it a couple of times a year, unless you regularly change your appearance.
You might also want to sign yourself up to casting websites, especially if you don’t have an agent representing you. You will need to pay the agency a fee, so research which casting sites are the best in terms of how many opportunities there are in your area.
Some actors may attend workshops from time to time, to keep adding new skills to their resume. These aren’t mandatory, but it’s another consideration when you are looking at numbers.
Finally, I can’t not mention the cost of living, which of course applies to all professionals. The difference for trainee actors, however, is that they often aren’t full-time working professionals, as such. Most aspiring actors will hold down part-time jobs whilst applying for various auditions, so they somehow need to find the money for rent, food, socials, etc…
Following on from this, as an actor, you will most likely be very aware of your appearance and understand that you must look after your body. As such, gym memberships, personal trainers, hairdressers, stylists, beauticians and many other costs will no doubt come into play.