1. Start early. Try out for parts in school plays, community theater, anything that gives you stage time.
2. Take acting lessons from an accredited local theater company or university, or a professional actor’s studio.
3. Attend one of the country’s top notch drama and performing arts programs including those at New York University (nyu.edu), the Julliard School (julliard.edu), Yale (yale.edu), Carnegie Mellon (cmu.edu/cfa/drama), Northwestern University (northwestern.edu), North Carolina’s School of the Arts (ncarts.edu), and the California Institute of the Arts (calarts.edu).
4. Audition for school films, indies and low-budget films. Go to Auditions.net to explore your options. Expect constant rejection: Perseverance and resilience are your greatest allies.
5. Join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG.org), the labor union from which major movies hire their acting talent. You can’t become a SAG member until you land a role, and you can’t be cast in a film until you become a SAG member, a catch-22 that many film careers have foundered on. In order to break the stalemate, you need to “know” somebody who will help you get a speaking role of just one word. Or, take advantage of SAG’s recently introduced points system (sag.org). Work as an extra and attend sanctioned events to build up enough points to qualify for membership. Or, take your chances and audition at a cattle call—casting directors are always looking for new talent.
6. Move to New York or Los Angeles and get an agent. He or she gets information about auditions for roles, either directly from casting directors and producers or from “the breakdowns,” a daily faxed list of roles being cast that is only available to agents, managers and union members. It’s brutally tough to get an agent if you’re not a SAG member, and you might have to make due with a manager until you get a break.
7. Look good. This isn’t necessary for every role, but the better you look, the more buzz you’ll get. In fact, if you look good enough, you can skip all the other steps. See 28 Get a Drastic Makeover.
8. Choose your films carefully. It may be impossible to predict a hit-
in fact Hollywood is littered with stories of actors tuning down a role that turned out to be a sensation-but pick roles (and directors) that will further the development of your craft. 6 years ago