Want to start acting but no experience, age 21

Reply Thu 13 Jul, 2017 08:58 pm
I recently decided that I really really want to become a actor but I'm 21 and no have experience with film/theatre/acting. Plus I live in Nebraska so there aren't many opportunities around me. I don't have the money to move anywhere expensive like LA, NYC or London. I really want to become a well known actor. I need tips on how to become one. Where do I start?
Do I hire a agent or manager? How do you balance training and auditions and a job?
What's the best way to begin?
Reply Fri 14 Jul, 2017 08:34 am
If you hire an agent or a manager now, they are only going to rip you off. Any agent or manager with any savvy is not going to take a chance on an adult with no experience (and any manager or agent who makes such a foolish move is probably going to just want to rob you blind).

So you need to get some.


Here are a few ideas. Yes, you are in Nebraska. Fine. But there are colleges there, yes? Try the University of Nebraska (probably at Lincoln or Omaha are your best bets). Enroll and take acting classes (and getting a BA would be a good idea if you don't have one already). You will not only get an education, you will also make some contacts and, presumably, get a mentoring experience from a professor. You can also talk to them about getting professional experience.

They will also, I hope to God, tell you the odds of becoming successful. Because those are not great.

But if you really want to do it, that's one means of doing so.

You can also try summer stock or the like. For example, in the district where I went to high school (it's in New York), the parents and the PTA put on a musical every spring to raise money for the schools and the local library. It's a worthy cause and you would (if there is something similar by you) get some experience with performing in front of an audience, recovering the scene if an actor - or you - forgets their lines, being dependable for rehearsals, etc. If you can't sing, you'll have fewer options. For nearly all of these kinds of productions, you don't start off as the star. You generally start off moving scenery, or helping with the electrical equipment, or sewing costumes. Acting is a collaboration and those jobs need to be done, too. Tiny productions like that need help, not egos.

Another option is, if there is one in a city near you, an improv or comedy troupe. Again, it gives you experience in front of an audience. You really have to think on your feet and be good about taking heckling and other criticism. It is not for the faint of heart.

Yet another option, particularly if the university is too expensive or far away or you don't get accepted, is to take singing and dancing lessons. You can often find those even in smaller towns. It might be private lessons or something through the Y or a church (and don't knock choir practice; it definitely counts as singing). You'll make fewer connections this way, but at least you'll have something to offer.

I am suggesting all of these things and I would even if you were in a big acting city like LA. An adult with no experience (kids are different and a 'natural' can often be preferred), who does not have some sort of amazingly unique look (you're not Mr. T, right?), and who isn't connected with anything famous already (such as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, or the like), is not going to be able to get butts into theatre or movie seats. That is the (no pun intended) bottom line for any agent, manager, or casting director. This is why you need to start small, get an education and some contacts, and then see how far you can go.

Decide what success looks like to you. Winning an Oscar? You might as well start playing the lottery for that one. Or is it to just be on TV or on stage? If so, then commercials or soaps or off-Broadway could satisfy that.

Finally (sorry this is so long), I leave with a few people with kind of humble beginnings.
  • Mary Tyler Moore, who won Emmys and Golden Globes, and was an Oscar nominee, started off as 'Happy Hotpoint', where she sang and danced about a refrigerator.
  • Jennifer Aniston, an Emmy winner - her first role was as an uncredited, unnamed dancer in a McDonald's in a forgotten TV show.
  • Samuel L. Jackson started off with a forgettable role in a forgettable 1972 blaxploitation flick.
  • Tom Hanks (you know, the guy with two Oscars?) - his second role was on The Love Boat.
  • One of Jada Pinkett Smith's first roles was in Doogie Howser.
None of those people started off famous. They all worked hard to achieve their success, which is admittedly is/was at various levels. But they persevered and they got it done.
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