Acting 101: Everything You Need to Start a Career + Improve Your Craft

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Breaking into the biz to pursue a career in acting is tough—but this introduction can help. Here’s everything you need to know to make it as an actor, from choosing the right acting class to deconstructing the mysteries of the callback process.


How to choose acting classes

acting class

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The first step to becoming an actor is to familiarize yourself with the craft. If you have the time and money for it, consider formal education. Otherwise, acting classes are a great way to learn the fundamentals and improve your skills. Before you choose a class, you may want to figure out if you have a preferred acting technique—do you lean classical? Are you a Method actor? Or does Meisner catch your attention? Then, ask for recommendations from actor friends, research and read reviews online, and see if you can audit a class before committing.

How to get an agent

Acting agent extending hand


To get an agent, you should:

1. Research agencies in your market

If you’re in a major acting city like Los Angeles or New York, check out our lists of agencies for working actors. Then, compile a list of talent agencies that mesh well with the roles you’re interested in.

2. Prepare your materials

These include:

3. Submit to agencies

Once you’re confident your materials are ready to go, submit them to the agencies you’re interested in working with. 

4. Meet with prospective agents

Be ready to ask the right questions and possibly do a cold read.

5. Choose your agent

Once you find an agent you like—and who likes you—maintain regular communication to get the most out of the relationship and land more work.

How to audition

Actor casting call


  1. Find casting calls. Create a Backstage profile and then use our comprehensive casting database to find and apply to casting calls.
  2. Make a self-tape. Most gigs have you apply via self-tape audition, so ensure that yours stands out
  3. Prepare for the audition. Double-check that you have the correct details and know where you’re going. Study the audition sides and memorize your lines, keeping in mind what casting directors look for during TV, movie, and theater auditions. 
  4. Get rid of audition nerves. Make sure you’re ready to perform with confidence by shaking those nerves before you walk in the door. 
  5. Act it out. Deliver your best performance at the audition by maintaining a state of constant discovery while remaining true to the script.
  6. Recover. Don’t let any audition mistakes get you down; instead, strive to learn from them before your next audition.

How to grow your career as an actor

Actors filming on set


1. Train

Working with an acting coach can help you apply what you learn in acting class to actual performances. 

You may even want to learn when and how to go off-script

2. Gain experience

Know what to expect with the casting process, from avails and pins to callbacks. Grow your acting résumé by taking jobs as an extra, day player, or bit part. Act in student and indie productions, then try transitioning to featured roles

3. Market yourself

Promote yourself as an actor by building your social media presence and networking at industry events. 

4. Persevere

Aim for resilience as you pursue your acting dreams—you never know which part might catalyze your career.

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