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What should I do after high school if I want to be an actor?

I have a little acting experience, but should I go to college for it? I heard that a lot of people didn’t go to college for it, but can I trust I have the talent that they do? What should I do?

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Brianna’s Answer

Hi, Riley.

You can go to college for the performing arts to receive a Bachelors of Arts in something like performance, theater, film and media, etc. However, you don't necessarily need to major in performance art to be an actor. What is typically more important is experience, having a good acting reel that you can show potential agents or directors, and having a reputation as a good actor to work with on sets. Majoring in the arts can help toward these because it gives you the time to practice, ability to network with other artists, and ability to shoot student films/engage in theater projects that you can add to your acting reel.

Many people, in order to have a larger variety of more stable job options, will major in something related to the arts but more broadly applicable such as marketing, communications, production, etc. There is also the option of minoring in some kind of art while majoring in something entirely different (example, statistics major and performance art minor). It is also possible to have an unrelated major and engage in performance arts as part of clubs, volunteer organizations, and local theater groups.

In order to gain more experience and get footage for your acting reel, try these steps:

Try getting onto Facebook, Instagram, and Discord to join groups for local filmmakers and theater groups. People often post casting calls in these spaces. Try to respond to these casting calls and, if you are still a minor, make sure you have a trusted adult with you to accompany you to the sets.

When you're first getting into the arts, it's incredibly important to have a portfolio or a reel that you can show potential clients, potential agents, and casting directors in the future. By starting locally, you can build up your actor reel. You can also build up your reel by having friends and family help you film monologs, short scripts, or re-enactments of TV or movie scenes.

If you work with someone new, make sure to ask the person posting the casting call if you can have the footage of your performance for your reel before accepting a job. And, once again, be safe! These types of fields can often be exploitative, so have someone with you to help and protect your interests and safety along the way.
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Hermione’s Answer

I agree with Briana's points. I can speak from personal experience at the University of Washington's undergraduate Theater program. Even though I chose to switch career paths after graduating, the program was very worthwhile.

Excellence in any field is a combination of innate talent and acquired skills. The UW program helped me with tools to find the inspiration to understand and embody a character. It also provided various techniques for making those moments real for the audience, even when the "magic" isn't present.

Excellent acting education isn't restricted to colleges or universities but attending an accredited institution has advantages.
-These schools generally have more financial aid options.
-A university degree can be a valuable credential, especially when seeking a job in an unrelated field - I currently work on the business side of a tech company.

Looking back, majoring in Business and taking additional Theater classes might have been more practical, but I'm happy with my choice. Majoring in Theater gave me the time to take several courses I loved. I got the business credentials I needed by eventually working at a tech start-up and getting my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. That helped me get higher-paying positions in the tech industry.

The skills and lessons from that Theater program has been a big help in my work today. I use those skills every day to communicate well with my colleagues and lead presentations with my managers and leaders to influence the direction of the business.

Hermione recommends the following next steps:

If you're interested in the Theater school route, this post has some suggestions on schools with good recommendations: https://www.careervillage.org/questions/669630/what-school-should-i-go-to-if-i-wanna-become-an-actor
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Michelle’s Answer

The wonderful aspect of this is that you have a choice and that will be dertermined by your personal prefrence and experiences. Projecting into the future may have it's place, but this is a present thought and one must lean on one's own choices after weighing out all possibilities.

Here are your choices: not going to college , going to college for acting classes only, not a degree, taking acting instruction in the community or studying acting in an academic setting with a degree in theatre (the foundation that supports any venue of acting), majoring in Theatre or Film and minoring in something else, obtaining a degree in something else while minoring in acting.

When you start seeking acting work, a degree in it is not required. The more important aspects will be for you to join the actor's union and get an agent and making the best connections with people in the business. This being said, I can share the route I took and how I believe that my Bachelors degree in theatre carried me through.

I was set on and prepared to take the academic route and wanted a degree because I believed it would be a generally good tool for any employment and a growth experience. I also loved academia and had a strong influence of it during my tween and teen years. University gave me a secure foundation to later do film and other media. My first career job out of college was in professional theatre. I moved to Hollywood, so you'd have to decide if you want to live in New York or Los Angeles where your chances are higher and there is the most work. I minored in Social Science and had a 27 year career in it and than back to acting after that.

One cannot predict or be assured of work for the future. You must go with your instincts right now, although I do believe a college degree gives one an edge, it also gives one an experience that can't be compared with anything else. Naturally, you would have to be able to finance an education and decide where you want to live while studying and or pursuing acting.

Best wishes to you in all your decisions for an exciting future !
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