An Actor specializes in embodying fictional and historical characters using and altering their voice and appearance, as well as their facial expressions and body language. They memorize scripts, including dialogue, but also spatial and contextual indications for them to perform on set or on stage.
Most Actors usually appear in films and television shows, although they can also take part in more traditional performing arts, such as plays or musicals. In some cases, it’s the Actor’s voice that really matters, like when they’re voicing animated characters or narrating a certain story. Actors may choose to partner up with a brand or cause and will shoot advertising campaigns or participate in promotional or charitable events as spokespeople.
No matter how they perform their job, Actors need to be able to connect emotionally with their audience in order to create an engaging atmosphere and make them feel that they are part of the story they are witnessing. It’s only by doing so, that their job will be fully appreciated.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Actors are required to complete.
- Securing and attending auditions, sometimes with the help of a Talent Manager or network of contacts:
- Discussing and evaluating the benefits and conditions for a role with their Manager or Agent before attending auditions.
- Learning, memorizing, and reciting lines and stage directions:
- Studying characters, as well as their traits and background, so as to give the most accurate and compelling interpretation possible; and
- attending scheduled rehearsals.
- Portraying characters in different types of productions, such as films, television shows, plays, musicals, and commercials:
- Discussing their performance with the Director on set, following instructions, seeking feedback, and improving accordingly;
- learning new lines when the script is being adapted on set; and
- improvising lines or suggesting adjustments to the script, when necessary.
- Singing, dancing, or performing stunts:
- Working under the direction of a Choreographer or any type of relevant coach.
- Recording voice-overs for commercials or animated films.
- Attending press conferences and giving interviews for promotional purposes.
- Acting as the spokesperson of a given advertising campaign or charitable event.
- Training and exercising to maintain the required levels of ability and fitness, in accordance with the role to be played:
- Taking speech and acting lessons.
- Liaising with a Talent Agent or Talent Manager.
- Preparing for and attending auditions.
- Learning lines and rehearsing.
- Performing in front of an audience or in a studio.
The average salary for Actor related jobs is $21,155 per year or $11 per hour. This is around 0.7 times less than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $15,000 while most experienced workers make up to $30,000. These results are based on 827 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding creativity and a strong artistic sense.
- Impeccable pronunciation and excellent memorization skills.
- Interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, especially verbally, in order to convey their interpretation of the character to the audience, as well as excellent listening skills, so as to comply with the Director’s instructions;
- speaking fluent English and being able tolearn lines in different languages; and
- being able and willing to take instruction and criticism and to work as a team.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced environment; and
- being highly responsible and reliable.
- Self-motivated and self-disciplined.
- High levels of stamina, motor coordination, and physical strength:
- Training and exercising in order to maintain the required levels of ability and fitness;
- being able to cope with long hours of rehearsals and learning lines;
- physically preparing for every character that demands a specific appearance; and
- learning new skills when required.
- Perseverant, patient, self-motivated, and resilient as some roles won’t be obtained and they are usually subjected to criticism:
- Being able to handle criticism and positive feedback.
Education is quite secondary in the Acting field where talent highly prevails. However, while talent is mostly innate, skills aren’t. Hence, it may be a great idea for beginners to perfect their skills through academic training by registering in theater and drama schools and programs. Besides, there’s always room for improvement in this field; even the most famous and successful Actors need advice, which is why most of them take classes throughout their entire careers. Theater Actors have the option of getting a Bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts, which is becoming very popular in this area.
The more acting experience a professional Actor has, the more likely it will be they get hired for an important role in a major film or TV show. Landing a part in films and movies is considered the main goal of an Actor’s career as it entails enormous rewards, recognition, and fame. This is why the requirements are demanding and the road to the top needs great investments of time and effort.
Understandably, the competition is extremely fierce in this field. Not only do talent, skills, and experience matter, but reputation is a key asset when securing contracts. Actors must spend some time developing their network of contacts and attending some of the industry’s finest events, including premieres and award shows. To get an audition, Actors may also need to produce and submit demos, as well as to send over a headshot and portfolio.
Due to all the highs and lows that come with this contract-based career, most Actors complement their acting salary, if any, by having another job. Most of these professionals tend to work for short, but intense, periods of time, followed by extended periods of unemployment. When working on a project, Actors have to comply with a very strict filming or performing schedule and may work anytime of the day, including late nights and weekends.
In the United States, Actors can join a guild or association, depending on their performing area. Those professionals who specialize in film and television can be part of The Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG/AFTRA). Other stage and live theater Actors also have the possibility of benefiting from The Actors’ Equity Association (AEA). Any of the aforementioned unions will offer Actors benefits that otherwise could be very difficult to get, such as health insurance or better financial offers. However, it is worth mentioning that Actors need to pay an initiation fee and pay a small percent of their gross earning when getting an association’s contract.