There can be a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the acting major for college students. Acting is different from other career fields, like medicine, engineering or business. It is a form of art that takes years and years of practice to develop.
Unlike other career pathways, theater takes a route that is seldom straight. You either have to start auditioning for shows in college to immerse yourself in developing in that form of art or you have to make meaningful connections that can land you your first job/role right after college.
Acting is creative, but not easy. Acting takes time, commitment and perseverance to survive in the entertainment industry. This complicated and debatable pathway has indeed discouraged a lot of students who have great talent and interest from pursuing a career in acting.
Beth Glover and Julia Devine are both directors in the Theatre Department at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Both suggested what they think students should take note of when trying to pursue acting as a career. Hopefully, the words of Glover and Devine encourage someone to pursue that career path.
First things first: “If you want to pursue a career in acting you need to look for a good undergraduate program that will allow you to hone your acting skills,” Devine said. If you want to do acting as a career, then you need to find the right major. Look for either a Bachelor of Arts degree (BFA) for an undergraduate school, or a Masters of Arts degree (MFA) for graduate school, if you desire to get more training.
“If you are serious about acting as a career, then you need to find a conservative program directly related to acting,” Glover said. A major directly related to acting is theater. There are also other related minors, such as music, which can develop your singing skills, and creative writing, which will give you more experience in poetry and scriptwriting. It is very important to get training in a variety of arts if you want to go into acting because those collectively acquired skills will come in handy during auditions.
Networking is extremely essential in the entertainment industry, Glover noted. Networking can be in different forms. “It can involve emailing professors/directors in your theater program and asking for advice and any form of resources in a polite manner. You can even ask professors if they are actors, just to show them that you are interested in acting,” Devine said. This simple act of conversing with professors and mentors in the acting field can be what will give you an edge for auditions and roles, advancing your career beyond expectations.
Acting opportunities are also based on location. “One factor to keep in mind as an aspiring actor is a proximity to a city or town that is constantly filming. Do your research and find out the cities or towns where filming and staging occur in your area,” Glover said
“Make an effort to go to school close to a city or town because this will allow you to go for auditions without worrying about the distance. The profession is very expensive because people often have to travel long distances for auditions, and they are not even sure they will get it,” Glover said.
“Some cities around the United States of America that are constantly filming are New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle. Toronto and Montreal in Canada are also constantly filming, so students interested in acting should try to pick a university/school in or close to cities like these,” Devine said.
Here is a link to a summer acting program at Notre Dame. See if a university near you has a similar opportunity.
Here is a link to a video explaining the important key points for the early stages of your acting career. Matt Hawkins, the Director of Musical Theater at Notre Dame, a Chicago-based director, actor, fight choreographer and movement director, speaks about acting for youths and how they can develop themselves as young people pursuing an acting career.
On a more serious note, acting is like a competition, so the more you can get yourself out there, the better for your career. For example, “If you have a BFA, you can do a showcase, and then you can meet people that can help advance your career. Another way to get yourself immersed in the career is to have an agent or a manager to help you get auditions for those big projects,” Glover and Devine suggested. It is usually better to wait till after college before trying to get an agent or manager.
But what happens after being somewhat in your acting career, and how can your career be sustained? “Steady acting is the best. It is better to have jobs at a steady rate and not have an unnecessary break for a long time, because if you want to be very active in the industry, it will put you out there,” Devine said.
Acting is an art and will involve a high level of development. One essential part of acting is getting into character. For you to play a character effectively, you need to get into the mind of the character that you were given. Sometimes it can be hard managing a character outside your filming times. One way to manage this is to practice compartmentalizing. According to Glover and Devine, compartmentalizing is important in the acting industry. “It is focusing on one thing and forgetting about all others at a particular point in time,” Devine said. Compartmentalizing can happen when you are acting in a movie as the villain and being mean versus how you actually are in real life. To manage your actions and emotions in everyday living, compartmentalizing is crucial. It is learned and improves with more practice.
As well, prioritize rest and mental health in the acting career. Acting can be challenging and overwhelming at times, but taking breaks and consistent rest can sustain you in your career. Go on vacations, do what you love, spend time with loved ones and refresh yourself from time to time, because this is really what gives us life. “You need to have a life to create life in your characters,” Devine said.
Another key point in the acting career is to persevere in the career and keep your passion for the career burning, because actors face rejection constantly. “Without passion for the acting art, one will not be able to be sustained in the career, especially when it comes to facing rejection,” Glover said.
According to Devine, it can be a crazy career and you need to remember to not compare yourself to any other person because you have your own talent
Acting is a great art and is beneficial to the world because of its entertainment purpose. If you are interested in acting, these few points can act as a guide, important information to be aware of, and encouragement.
Go for it because you can do it!