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Is having a degree an advantage?

Is having a college degree in acting/theater/film an advantage to an aspiring film or stage actor?

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Katherine’s Answer

Having a degree can help you get an agent, which you will need in order to be able to audition for professional work. Having a degree, great photos, and as much prior experience as possible shows an agency that you are serious about the business. Where the degree comes from is just as important: the more highly regarded the school that grants your degree, the better your chances of getting an interview with a highly regarded agency. Theatrical agencies in large cities sometimes attend "Senior Showcases" held by university theatre programs and will sign a promising actor based on their showcase performance. The colleges that are considered the "best" change over time - so if you want to go, do your research. Go to the best school that will take you. You don't "need" a degree to become an actor, but you do need to learn technical skills. Acting has become a very "niche" field. Before you make any specific plans, read as much as you can about the industry. Identify the kind of acting you want to pursue, and then study how others became successful in that work. Research the agencies who represent performers who do the kind of work you want to do. Agencies are looking for commercial-minded actors who want to make money and understand that acting is a business. Professional casting people will make their decision about you based on a single glance at your photo or a few seconds of videotape, and without the right agent you will not have even get those few seconds of exposure. Above all, be honest with yourself. Acting is not a fun career. It requires physical attributes that may or may not be beyond your control and intense pursuit of a very specific objective - do you have the right personality to pour all your resources into relentlessly, aggressively pursuing something you may never get? Start working now, and every single day of your life, on a plan - a carefully researched, adaptable, long-term plan; do something every day to move towards your goal. College may or may not be a part of that plan, but the right degree can be one way to gain an advantage.

Katherine recommends the following next steps:

https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/backstage-experts-answer-tips-begin-acting-career-11362/
https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/backstage-experts-answer-actors-need-college-degrees-9373/
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JoLynda’s Answer

I think if you’re from a small town with little to no professional or local theaters then getting BA in Theater or Acting would definitely be advisable. Otherwise, you can major in a host of other subjects and minor in Theater, double major or join your college’s theatrical group. You should also be aware that acting for stage is different than acting for tv. Similarly, film acting is different than acting for tv or stage. I’d you want to be on tv or film then join your college’s film club, study screen acting, and look for colleges with strong Film or Acting departments. As always, I recommend taking a workshop summer class in acting to make sure it’s for you. Also, take improv, movement, dance and voice lessons so you can see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

If you want to get experience being around professionals, I suggest volunteering for large theatrical festivals, local music concerts, working at a theme park/Renaissance Faire or working as an usher or box office attendant at your local theater. Free tickets and access to professionals is worth its weight in annoyance and you’ll find out if you truly love acting or prefer a different career in theater or film.
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Hank’s Answer

I suppose if you've graduated from a well-respected school, recognized in whichever industry you're initially aiming at, then sure. But if it's just "acting school" at a regular college or university, then possibly not.

These are very apprentice-driven industries. A lot of the people you will encounter who are deciding your fate may never have attended college or never received a degree of any sort in acting. Don't get me wrong--a college degree in something is beneficial. In fact, anything which improves your literacy, forms good habits, or gets you out into the world, will be a plus--for you as a person and ultimately what you can bring to a role.

Since there are more jobs in the world for non-actors than there are for actors, perhaps select a non-theatrical field of study which might (1) appeal to you in general and (2) potentially enhance you as an actor.

Where you're headed is a near vertical climb, so be prepared for frustration & disappointment. In many cases, success in this biz depends more on perseverance than overt talent.

Hank recommends the following next steps:

Potentialy the best colleges for studying acting: https://www.ace-your-audition.com/acting-colleges.html
Check out these guys: https://theactorsstudio.org/who-we-are/about-the-actors-studio/new-york/
Remember: Never audition for the role. Always audition for "the room."
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James’s Answer

Yes. It will refine your analytical skills and understanding as an artist- in depth understanding for character development, script analysis, production concept collaboration, theatre management. It helps you understand what a character and story are really “about.” We do far more than entertain and dance around… we bring time relevant thought and message to life even through the simplest of shows.

Whether or not your career is as an actor, production meetings and rehearsals are perfect case studies for efficiency and collaboration in the “work world.” In the non theatre roles I’ve held, I’ve consistently used professional skills developed through studies in Fine Arts programs.

Many theatres will consider actual resumes and experience. Here is how to address that: Stay involved in department productions (try various aspects of the production) and get resume experience through summer stock/ theme parks/ regional internships on the side through breaks and in the summer.

I dare say the right theme park or regional position can actually make as much as a “side job.” Use this as portfolio development!

That brings up another point: portfolio development will really help in conjunction. Start a binder today and keep images from all of your roles or production projects. (Did you play a certain “stock” character? Highlight that! Did you create a prop? Highlight that!) in an audition/ interview you won’t always have to present the whole thing, but you’ll have a good record to “pick and choose” from. This might not make much sense now, but you’ll see how it comes into play down the road, even from what seems like the smallest experiences!

James recommends the following next steps:

Get involved and focus on productions over other extracurricular activities.
Start a portfolio today! It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just a visual and factual record of your work you can pull from for conversation pieces. Make it look good! They don’t have to know whether it was your favorite production or not. Other creative projects such as advertising or music are just fine to include!
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