Screen Acting tutors – actor, director and scriptwriter Adam Donald, vocal artist Cavana Hazelton, and casting director Ariane Mason – share their expert advice on how to succeed in the acting industry.
Life is a theatre – or should we say movie? To get your star on the career boulevard, you’re gonna need a lot of dedication and a great supporting cast. For creatives, however, that doesn’t even begin to cover it! Acting careers, like all creative professions, are not only notoriously competitive, but totally unique. While one actor might shoot to the top from a lucky break, another may have their breakthrough after graduating as a mature student. For aspiring film stars, the advice and guidance of industry professionals can never be underestimated.
Enter our Screen Acting team members: actor, director and scriptwriter Adam Donald, vocal artist Cavana Hazelton and casting director Ariane Mason. They may not have a magic recipe for success – nobody does – but with many years’ experience performing, teaching and achieving, they sure as hell know the ingredients. Scroll down for their top ten tips on how to make it.
Adam: When it comes to developing your acting skills, my number-one piece of advice is to make it your obsession. Get curious: find out what you can do well and learn how to do it better; spend five minutes a day in the mirror seeing what your face can do; sing in the shower; actively look at people every day; steal what you like from everyone and make it your own.
Ariane: Take inspiration from everything and everyone around you. Go to galleries, read books, listen to music, dance, observe people, visit new countries, learn about different cultures, brush up on new skills.
Ariane: Your body is your instrument. Look after it. Exercise. Eat well. Sleep enough. And don’t forget about your mental health. Yoga, meditation, therapy. Whatever works for you.
Adam: Teach yourself to cry on cue! Everyone can manage being happy but those who can show us suffering are few and far between.
Cavana: Decide where you are based. For example, if you live in Berlin, my advice and your resources are much different than if you move to London and are based there. Once you decide that, start building. You aren’t the first artist ever to be born, so rely on that and explore the structures that already exist. Even if you don’t like what you find, you are that much closer to knowing what you want. Realistically, it takes anywhere from six months to two years to see the fruits of your building efforts. So many factors are involved. Keep at it, the discipline pays off.
Ariane: Know your industry inside and out. Watch something everyday. Go to the theatre often. Which directors do you love? What films do you admire? How is the industry changing and developing?
Cavana: Start understanding which kind of acting makes you happy! Do you love film or stage or musicals? Do you love working on film sets or do they exhaust you? Find your niche, your birds of a feather and have fun! Have you found that team which encourages you? Go for what feels good, don’t fret. Any project is lucky to have someone who fills their role with joy and enthusiasm. Go get ‘em!
Ariane: What is your casting type? Decide where and how you fit within the industry.
Adam: Never stop learning and keep going to class – remember, a master musician still does scales every day.
Ariane: Be open to all opportunities, jobs and financial offerings. Work on projects for free or little money if it’s for the right director or project.
Cavana: The creative industry demands participating in a cycle of three steps. I follow these steps for my music, MC work and voiceover career, so get familiar with them. 1. Create/ develop your craft, 2. Produce hard copies of your work, and 3. Distribute the works you’ve made. If you can cultivate a balance with these three steps of the process, then congratulations, you are on the acting hamster wheel network!
Ariane: Make your own work. One-woman shows, short films, theatre plays, web series or stand up. Assemble a team and create. If you don’t have the funds, do a Kickstarter. Put in some of your own money. It’s amazing what you can make with little to no budget.
Adam: The best way to find work is to make it yourself; start your own company and start making things.
Cavana: The skills you’ve honed in screen acting should be captured in a demo reel, a film or even in great stills. Those bodies of work need to get sent out and shown to everyone you meet who could possibly be interested. Remember, you never know who will find it relevant. It’s like shaking an apple tree and getting oranges. Frequently, you don’t get what you were aiming for, but they are delicious fruits all the same.
Adam: Professionally, get really organised. Get your photos done, get a business card. Save all of your good stuff and put it into a kickass showreel – no one cares where you studied, they just want to see your showreel.
Ariane: SHARE you work. You need to get it out there. You need to be seen.
Adam: Get an agent – but make sure it’s the right agent.
Ariane: Once you’ve got headshots and your showreel, create a spreadsheet of all the agents in your city. Email them all. Sell yourself. What do you have to offer as an actor? Why should an agency sign you?
Ariane: Go to all the film festivals, director Q&As, screenings, networking events and parties. Get a business card. Get good at introducing yourself and making conversation with total strangers. Don’t be shy. Get the email of everyone you meet and always follow up with your contact details. This business is as much who you know as what you know. Hustle. Network like a businessman, create like an artist. Dream big but be a realist. The industry is tough. Keep pushing. Keep going. Keep faith.
Adam: Networking is key to your career, so work on your charm. Go to opening nights of shows and stay to talk to people. Go to screenings, festivals and events and make connections. Regularly go out to see theatre shows and, again, stay and congratulate the performers and director if you genuinely enjoyed the show. It’s also important that you stay in one place long enough to develop a network in the first place.
Ariane: Make sure you want to act for the right reasons. If you want to make lots of money or get famous you’re probably in the wrong industry! Remember what great art is for and why we create.
Cavana: My advice for your artist’s soul is to go for the jobs which make you personally happy. Acting in itself is hard work and an amazing privilege. We are storytellers who bring human experience to our audience. If you aren’t happy doing what you’re doing, something is wrong. It is easy to get caught up in all the things you can’t do or feel like your specialities just aren’t special enough for the industry. Don’t despair. The more you want something, the more it feels like ‘rejection’ if you don’t get it. Know that your ego will die a thousand deaths, but every new incarnation births a better actor. How many fellow artists have I met who ‘made it’ just to find out how miserable they were? Save yourself the trouble, learn from those guys.