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Culture, Music & Performing Arts careers

Acting & Drama

Lights, camera & lots of waiting around…

If you think about the life of an actor, you’ll probably be imagining film premieres, red carpets, autograph signings and screaming fans. Sure, it’s true that some of the world’s acting megastars might live like that (for some of the time at least), but for the rest of the people who are aspiring to find their feet in the competitive world of acting and drama, things are likely to be a little less rock ‘n’ roll. A career in acting and drama is likely to be characterised by numerous highs and lows and most people who work in this area supplement their existence through other occupations. 

Why is it important? What does it involve?

If you want to make it as an actor, you will need to be absolutely focused, extremely determined and completely realistic.

Most professional actors will find themselves out of work for long periods of time, often followed by short but intense periods of employment. This is likely to be the case whether you are working in television or film, in the West End or in regional theatres. You might be able to develop a career with more stability if you opt to take a route into teaching drama or coaching actors.

You can work across a range of media. You might be working on blockbuster movies, television programmes or independent films. Alternatively, you might be working in national theatre companies, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, West End productions and regional theatres or touring companies. Consequently, you will find differing levels of job stability and variations in pay.

Break it down for me a little bit!

Getting into acting requires a lot of hard work and determination. You may not be working often, but you and your agent (if you have one) will constantly be looking at lots of different roles and you may find yourself going to tons of auditions across the country.

If you are lucky enough to find work, things can be intense with long hours and little stimulation. You don’t need any specific qualifications to go far and you have the option to get involved at almost any age.

Acting in films is often seen as the peak of an actor’s career and for some people it is. The rewards and recognition can be huge, but getting here will take time, effort and a little bit of luck. You are unlikely to make your break straight into film without any previous acting experience.

Television companies employ a large number of actors, from extras, to regulars in sitcoms and soaps. This area of acting and drama offers a mixture of stable and unstable career prospects, but the huge number of people aspiring to work as a television actor means that competition is extremely fierce.

Larger theatres offer a wealth of opportunities and often better job stability, with lots of actors working on fixed-term contracts. Actors who work in theatre often eventually move into television and film too.

Work in regional theatres can be more seasonal and many of the actors that work in these sorts of venues will be working for a production company for the duration of a tour. Travelling and touring can be common for actors, so you may find yourself living out of a suitcase from time-to-time.

Some actors will turn their hand to teaching or coaching other actors. This can be done alongside going to auditions and short acting jobs. Alternatively, you may opt to take formal qualifications and teach full-time in schools, colleges or specialist performing arts institutions, like RADA or LIPA.

If all this talk of acting and drama has caught your attention, then stop waiting in the wings and act now!