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How do I Break into Television Acting?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 May 2018
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Television acting is an exciting profession, but there are many actors who cannot make a living doing it. This is a highly competitive field with relatively few jobs. It requires acting skill but also some luck, and possibly some connections.

Anyone interested in pursuing television acting should considering getting some formal training. This could mean taking acting lessons, participating in drama classes at the high school level, or majoring in drama in college. Some people come to this profession highly trained and others don’t, but training can never hurt and may help increase chances of successfully auditioning for work.

There are two major cities where much of television acting takes place in the US. These are Los Angeles and New York. The majority of US television shows are filmed in one or the other of these places. Once a person has acquired some training, they may want to consider moving to one of these locales.

Another option is to look at Canadian cities that may cast roles for Canadian productions. The three main “acting” cities in Canada are Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. US citizens might have some difficulty living and working there, and need to investigate this with Canadian Immigrations.

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While some television shows have open casting calls, where anyone can show up and audition, most rely on working with agents to provide them with a list of potential clients. Probably one of the biggest steps to getting into television action is finding an agent. Agents may have open casting calls, which may be one of the best ways to get representation if a person knows no one in the business. This is where studying may have some advantages, especially at the college level. Many acting teachers, especially in New York and Los Angeles, know agents and may be able to recommend talented students to them.

Anyone looking into television acting will have to make some initial investments. They will especially need headshots, which may have a printed resume on the back. These can cost several hundred to well over a thousand US Dollars (USD), and each reproduction costs money too. Headshots will need to be kept by agents or distributed to them when a person is looking for an agent. Any open casting calls for TV productions or for agents have an expectation that people auditioning will provide headshots.

Once a person has gotten representation, they still have a way to go to break into television acting. They might get a shot at a commercial, or they may have auditions, but this still doesn’t mean they’ve landed a job. Whether or not people ever get a job is variable, and aspiring actors should think about having a sideline profession so they a way to live in fairly pricey cities.

Of course once a person starts to land a few roles, they may have a better shot at eventually getting more work and perhaps becoming a television star. These first few roles can make or break a career depending upon how an actor behaves on set. Actors should plan to be extremely professional, showing up early and ready to work. Any complaints are likely to tell against actors getting jobs in the future. Instead, this early work should be treated as an audition for a person’s career in life; take it seriously, as some actors only get one shot to make a great impression.

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Ana1234
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - It makes me sad, honestly, because I kind of get sick of all the people on TV, especially the women, just looking exactly alike. I wish there were more chances for a diversity of different looks.

I've never wanted to be an actor on TV, but I'd really love to be in a studio audience one of these days. My sister got to go in the Letterman audience and she loved it.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@browncoat - Yeah, one of the things that people have to come to terms with is that a career in acting is almost certainly going to demand that you look a certain way. There are people who manage to make it without classic good looks, but generally they have something else going for them (like, they are comedians or happen to be the daughter of someone who makes TV shows).

The thing is, there are so many chances to act these days if all you want to do is practice the craft. You can do local theater, or make your own YouTube series or any number of other options.

But, if you want to be on TV, you almost have to be pretty. There's just no way around it.

browncoat
Post 1

You might want to give working as an extra a go as well. I know a guy who managed to work his way into a couple of bit parts by doing this. It was acting for film, rather than television though.

He told me that he just tried to be super capable and efficient at everything they asked him to do.

Of course, he also has a black belt and is fairly good looking, so that probably had something to do with it.

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