What Do I Need To Be An Actor?

Leeann Dearing

Hello actors! Here’s a question we get asked all the time. “What are the tools I need as an actor?” Well, whether you hope to work in commercials, television shows or films, there are a few things you’ll need to get you going.

A Headshot- You’ve got to have a set of excellent shots. Keep in mind, if you’re just starting out, if/when you sign with an agency, they may ask you to re-take or supplement your current pictures with new ones. This is because your agent knows how they’re going to market you, and they need phenomenal pictures to do that in the best possible way! And, while this is certainly not a requirement, I recommend especially for women that you invest in a makeup artist for your shoots. Why would you hire a fantastic photographer and not look/feel your very best? This is YOUR headshot! The photograph you leave with each and every casting director you see. It can’t just be “okay”. Curious about finding a photographer? Ask your agent, your acting school or fellow working actors who they know and trust. Make sure you look at the person’s work before hand. You’ll see their style, their feel, how they use light etc. Remember, head shots now are always re-produced in color, and should look natural – NOT overly re-touched or processed.

A Resume – Stapled to the back of your resume, please. It should include your name, your agent’s contact phone number (if you have an agent) and your email address. Don’t put your personal phone number on your resume. You don’t want your personal information exposed. A lot of actors ask me if they have to put their height/weight. You certainly don’t need to put your weight and all your measurements down, but I do recommend at least giving some idea of your heigh and general body type, especially if you’re using this headshot for modeling work as well. This can be as simple as your height and dress or pants size. Easy. Your resume should contain all your performance experience. Break up your resume into sections: Film, television, Hosting, Commercials/Industrials, Theatre. Whatever you’re auditioning for should be at the top. (i.e. If you’re auditioning for a commercial, put your commercial resume first.) Also be sure to include acting training and special skills at the bottom of the page. If you still have questions, for an example resume, email the Dearing Studio [email protected], and we’ll get you a template!

Training- This is a crucial piece of the puzzle. My husband reminded me of something yesterday. If you signed up for guitar lessons, you probably would not expect to make a living as a musician for a very long time. Yet, there is a pervasive attitude among actors who have taken only a few classes that they are entitled to work. Success in this industry happens overnight for very few. For most, it requires years and years of dedicated and consistent training with caring instructors. Talent doesn’t happen “by accident”. It’s developed. If you are a teenager and still in school, get involved in your drama program. Look into classes for your weekends or evenings to supplement your high school curriciulum. Call your local SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) talent agents and ask who they recommend. If you are an adult, get involved in a consistent and regular training program that prepares you for the industry. You’ll need a variety of audition monologues, improvisation, strong cold reading technique, character development tools, knowledge on script analysis and a rich inventory of “triggers” for emotional work of all kinds. Find a school that incorporates these things into your study.

Agents – A first great step is to look at the SAG franchised agents in your area. This information is easy to find online. In Arizona, these are Ford Robert Black, Leighton, Dani’s, Arizona Model and Actor Management, and Signature Models and Talent. Other agents that do a stand up job include Deborah Maddox and The Agency Arizona. Talk to your acting school, but also do your own research. Read reviews on that agency. Or, as my husband likes to tell our students, google the agent’s name with the word “scam” in the search. See if anything comes up. When you audition for an agent, here are a few warning signs. 1) Fees at signing. There should NOT be a fee for a legitimate agent to represent you. (Some agents have a modest fee to upload your materials to the website and keep them live. This is usually minimal. I’m referring to scam schools and agencies that ask for hundreds or thousands of dollars up front, just to represent you!) 2) Pressure to sign today! No agent should ever pressure you to make a decision on the spot. Take the contract home and read it carefully. The very best way to get a feel for an agent, however, is to talk to the people that he/she represents. I absolutely adore my agent (Ruth Leighton of the Leighton Agency in Scottsdale.) She is a SAG franchised agent, and I am so happy with the way she manages her talent. Look for glowing reviews from your acting peers. This is a great sign! Also remember not to audition for an agency until you are TRULY prepared and have taken enough classes to be ready to work. You can’t undo a bad first impression.

If you have any other questions about getting started in the business, don’t hesitate to email or call us at 480-313-9901. We’re always happy to help!