For many young people becoming an actor seems like the dream job for those passionate about art, theatre, dancing, and films. However, as one of the hardest careers to break into, getting experience first as a teenage actor comes highly recommended!
There are six steps to consider if one wants to become a teenage actor:
- Determine your motivations, goals, and expectations,
- Seek professional publicity,
- Take professional acting classes,
- Build your portfolio,
- Consider getting an agent,
- Prepare for, and attend auditions.
While there is no definitive method to succeed as a teenage actor, these six steps should help to provide a platform from which a young person can safely engage with the entertainment industry and hopefully develop the skills needed to build a substantial portfolio for future projects! Let’s look at them now!
1. Determine Your Motivations, Goals, And, Expectations
When considering whether you want to pursue a professional acting career, the most important factor is what motivates you? Is the prospect of fame, glamour, and money, or do you have a genuine passion and love for the art form?
While there is nothing wrong with entering a profession with the intention of being financially successful, critically successful, and recognizable, this should not be the primary motivating factor.
The reason being is that the trials and tribulations of acting, as well as the dedication needed to perform at the highest level, requires a person to have a genuine passion for acting as an art form; this passion must be genuine as it has a major impact on your relationships with agents, casting directors, and fellow co-stars.
Moving to goals, it is important to research the industry and to understand the different avenues one’s career may take them. This is because whether you decide to be a film actor, stage actor, voice actor, public personality, etc., will all determine where your focus of practice and training should lie.
Further to the above, different legal requirements for minors in the United States of America determine the type of work you can do.
Different states have different laws for children under the age of sixteen, including but not limited to working hours, work permits, parental consent, the type of content a minor may engage in, and the need for parents to accompany children on set.
Finally, one needs to cater their expectations accordingly. While the ideal situation is to reach the success of recent famous actors such as Millie Bobbie Brown, it is essential to remember that the acting industry is essentially a pyramid.
This means that there is limited space at the very top of the industry for a select group of people, with most actors spending their careers on smaller roles, commercial advertising, or filling in as extras.
That’s not to say that you have to be a world-renowned movie star to have a successful and fulfilling career, but merely that continuous hard work in the industry is needed to secure consistent work!
2. Seek Professional Publicity
In the modern acting industry, how you promote yourself is just as important as developing your acting skills, should you wish to apply for roles subject to casting agents’ requirements and professional standards.
The first step is to use the services of a professional photographer (preferably one with experience and connections in the industry) to take modeling headshots that clearly highlight your features to aid casting agents in potentially hiring you.
Tips for modeling in headshots include the following:
- Keep the focus of the shot from the chest up,
- Look directly at the camera in all shots,
- Lightly apply makeup with the intention of highlighting and not masking your facial features,
- Take a variety of headshots to showcase your personality.
Outside of headshots, it is advisable to seek professional advice or assistance when engaging with the industry, such as someone to assist you with drafting your resume, drafting your cover letters, and developing an online presence on various social media and acting sites.
At all times in this process, make sure the people or company whose services you are using are reputable, as it is common for scammers to target young actors and their parents.
3. Take Professional Acting Classes
While a lot of young actors harbor their passion and talent for acting in a school environment, such as drama classes or high school productions, the majority of this training, while sufficient at an introductory level, does not prepare young actors for a career as a professional actor.
The first step for young actors looking to develop their skills is to join community theater groups in their area if they are easily accessible and willing to take minors. This is an affordable method of getting used to the daily schedule of an actor.
Further to this practical experience in a more formalized environment, young actors need to develop their skills and understanding of both the industry and acting in their own time.
Fortunately, there are a variety of exercises and affordable sources that one can use to develop their skills and knowledge:
- A simple but effective method of developing one’s skills is observing and imitating friends, family, strangers, or famous public figures. Practicing these imitations on camera or in front of a mirror allows the actor to have sight third party observation.
- Critically analyze films and plays, paying particular attention to how the same actor may portray different characters.
- Seek out film essays, interviews with actors, or acting exercises on popular video platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo.
- Read film scripts, plays, or novels on acting. Many sources may be in the public domain online or can be found at a school or public library.
- Consider signing up for affordable and accessible acting classes with other young actors, such as via online tutors or attending acting summer camps.
Only once a young actor has engrossed themselves in the industry through accessible, affordable platforms should they consider attending professional drama schools or professional tutors.
This is because, while a reputable tutor or acting school may have the facilities, coaches, and connections needed for young actors to break into the professional sphere, they often come at great financial and time expenses.
While some drama schools may award scholarships or bursaries and schools that deliberately schedule their timetables not to conflict with regular schooling, it remains crucial that the young actor is eager to commit to the stresses of professional coaching consistent practice, and studying.
It is also important to ensure the correct drama school or coach is selected for the correct student and what acting style they wish to pursue; thus, the following factors need to be considered:
- What type of acting and performances does the young actor want to pursue, and are there schools or tutors in their area that can coach them.
- Try to connect with other young actors, parents of young actors, or figures in the entertainment industry that can recommend the best schools and tutors for the interested actor.
- Many acting classes offer free sessions for the first lesson to determine if the actor, coach, or school is a good fit. Take advantage of this to survey a few options before settling on one.
4. Build Your Portfolio
Building up your portfolio as a teenage actor requires a fine balancing act of getting as much work as possible, ensuring the work taken is a reflection of your particular skills, and making sure the work performed is of a high and reputable standard.
Online platforms such as Backstage, StarNow, and NY Castings, among others (including but not limited to specialized acting sites and social media), present opportunities for aspiring actors to find a variety of acting jobs subject to their skills.
When applying for any jobs, be it online or in person, it is imperative that you showcase your skills in person or via a demo reel that highlights what your strongest assists are, and you find work that compliments these skills.
Outside of formal work such as theatre productions, commercials, or television roles, the building of one’s portfolio also includes:
- Engaging with online platforms and social media.
- Connecting with established figures in the industry.
- Continuing professional career development.
It is crucial that while looking for work, performing work, and meeting with figures in the industry that a young actor is accompanied and guided by a parent, guardian, or agent to ensure they are safe, not exploited, and advised correctly.
5. Consider Getting An Agent
While building one’s portfolio can be a solitary journey or a taken with the help of trusted friends and family, it is advisable to consider getting an agent to navigate the complex world of the entertainment industry and to help in finding reputable work.
When looking for an agent, it is important to look at reputable agencies and to take the time to research these agencies thoroughly to determine if they present the correct aptitudes and experience for the young actor looking to hire the agent.
Outside of actively pursuing an agency and organizing a meeting, agents can discover young actors and offer their services via mutual connections, referrals, recommendations, or while scouting for talent.
Once you have found potential agents or been offered their services from them directly, there are important factors to consider:
- The first is to ensure the agent and their agency is reputable; it is recommended to read online reviews, speak to people in the entertainment industry, or read testimonies to ensure the young actor is not being scammed.
- The agent themselves has no history of unsavory or criminal behavior, including but not limited to fraud, extortion, or inappropriate relationships with past clients.
- The contract between the agent and the young actor is thoroughly examined by a legal practitioner, with a parent or guardian being party to the agreement for both payment and supervision.
- Any and all meetings between the agent and the young actor are accompanied by a parent or guardian to ensure their consent and input are considered in all agreements between the agent and their client.
- The agent and the young actor have a mutually beneficial personal and professional relationship; it is advisable to meet with numerous agents to ensure the right fit between the young actor and agent is established before signing any formal agreements.
- The agent and their agency have the right contacts in the right industries that are suited to the young actor’s skills, ambitions, goals, experience, and passions.
- Finally, the agent and their agency have reasonable but not unprecedented control over the young actor’s work, as such care should be taken to not sign any agreements with overzealous control over intellectual property or unfair restriction of trade clauses.
6. Prepare For, And Attend Acting Auditions
Finally, to secure roles, aspiring actors need to prepare for auditions in advance and be prepared for the amount of work needed to successfully attend auditions over days, weeks, or months.
Actors need to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for auditions in the following ways:
- Memorize your lines thoroughly; this shows casting directors you are serious about putting in the work needed should you land the role.
- Read the script and character profiles in their entirety. Spend time to try and understand character motivations, their characterizations, the themes of the story, the mood of the story, how the production might be shot, etc.
- Practice in front of friends, family, acting coaches, and agents at length. Be prepared to receive constructive criticism, embrace and compare this criticism, then correct your performance accordingly.
- Be prepared for multiple takes of the same scenes at auditions, ongoing suggestions from the casting directors, and extended periods of shooting and reshooting throughout the casting calls.
- Understand that rejection is part of the industry and be mentally prepared for it.
- Finally, ensure that all auditions and future contractual obligations are entered into with the assistance of a trusted parent, guardian, or agent.
Being a professional actor can be a long, daunting, and financially draining road. However, with parental support, drive, and passion, it is possible for young people to enter the profession as teenage actors and build a strong foundation for future successes!