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How to Become a Film and Television Actor

10 Easy Steps to Becoming an Actor

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woman rehearing play on stage.
Betsie Van der Meer/Stone/Getty Images
Have you ever dreamed of one day becoming a famous Hollywood actor? If so, the first thing you need to realize is that this dream can become a reality if you're willing to put in the time, training, dedication, passion and patience required to make it in Hollywood.

If you've always wondered how to become a film or television actor, then here are ten steps that may not get you the role of a lifetime, but they will help you to treat your acting career as a career and not simply as something you choose to do for fun.

Keep in mind that if you're hoping to become a theater actor, some of these may not apply to you. However, all ten steps are good to keep in mind no matter what type of acting you decide to pursue.

Step 1: Learn How to Act

Seems like a given, doesn't it? But I can't tell you the number of people that come out to Hollywood thinking that all they need to do is get a job as a waiter at some popular restaurant, meet an agent, get "discovered" and then it's nothing but champagne and caviar from there. Uh...no.

Acting is first and foremost a craft. The best of the Hollywood actors understand this and no matter how far they have come in their careers, they are constantly looking to improve upon their craft. They take classes, work with acting and dialogue coaches, they study life experiences, etc. They know full well that even after a lifetime of work and study, they may never reach absolute perfection.

So, for you, it's imperative that you take a wide variety of acting classes. Work in a wide variety of styles with a as many different groups of people that you can find. Try it all. From Shakespeare to comedy, from improv to cinema verite -- the more you know, the more well rounded you'll be and ultimately, the better prepared you'll be for whatever roles come your way.

Step 2: Location, Location, Location

I hate telling people this, but if you hope to work in film and/or television as an actor, you need to go where the work is. Now, that doesn't necessarily doom you to living in Los Angeles or New York. After all, there are plenty of acting jobs in Vancouver, Montreal, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, etc.

But, New York and Los Angeles are where most of the casting directors work and live. So, many of the shows that are shot in Canada or other cities within the U.S. are still cast in LA or New York. So, even though you don't necessarily need to move here, keep in mind that it is where most of the action is.

Step 3: Be Willing to do What it Takes

No, that doesn't mean what you think it means. Don't worry about the "casting couch." But you must be willing to do what it takes for the sake of your craft. You might ultimately have to sacrifice certain aspects of your life to ensure that you will have success as a working Hollywood actor.

You must take the time to master your craft. If that means sacrificing a relationship or a few friendships along the way, so be it. I know that sounds rather harsh, but acting is not a 9-5 job by any stretch.

If you're lucky enough to land a role in a major film or television production, realize that this is not the glamorous Hollywood job you might've thought it would be.

It's a lot of work, often 14-20 hours per day, in all kinds of conditions and at least initially, for not much money.

Even actors who make millions of dollars per picture still must "work" to earn their keep. They are on location for months at a time and every day they commit themselves both emotionally and physically to their roles. It can be extremely exhausting. You must prepare yourself both mentally and physically for this type of challenge.

It's one of the many reasons why Hollywood stars have trainers, psychologists, plastic surgeons, nutritionists and divorce attorneys at their beck and call. Their job is hardly an easy job.

Step 4: Commit Yourself

I once had a friend of mine tell me that there are no bad actors, just actors who aren't willing to "fully commit" themselves to their craft.

Just as I mentioned above that you have to make certain sacrifices to make it as an actor in Hollywood, one of those is your ego. If you're about looking cool, or trying to maintain a certain image, then acting might not be for you.

The best actors are those who are willing to let themselves be 100% consumed by the role they are playing. They physically become the person they portray.

If you're in the middle of delivering your lines and suddenly you let yourself drift back into your own life, you are not fully committed to the role and your performance will show it. You have to literally "forget yourself" to help ensure the quality of your performance.

Step 5: Be Nice

Hollywood is all about helping those you know because they might one day be in a position to help you as well. So, you need to remember this steadfast rule -- be nice to everyone. From agents' assistants to fellow cast members to whomever you meet in Hollywood. Remember, that assistant you treated poorly two years ago might one day become a casting director, film producer, talent agent or whatever. And trust me, they'll remember those who stomped on their toes on their way up the ladder.

Conversely, they'll remember those who were nice the whole way up and they'll be that much more inclined to help them achieve their own goals.

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