- When it comes to acting, 99.9% of people (friends, family, etc) don’t know what they’re talking about. Only take advice from the people that are in a position you want to reach too.
- Earning a living as an actor is definitely possible. Don’t trust the statistics.
- Good actors become good by acquiring psychological and physical flexibility through practice.
- 95% of actors have psychological issues.
- Networking and getting to know people in the industry is really important. It should be a part of your job.
- The secret to good acting is do nothing.
- Succeeding in the acting industry is harder for women than it is for men.
When I was 5 years old, I decided I wanted to become an actor.
I started my so-called career at eleven years old and quit when I was twenty-three.
In this long-form article, I will explain what I have learned over these twelve years, namely:
- How a kid from the countryside (me) ended up playing in national movies, series, and ads.
- How to become a professional actor in 2023
- Tips and tricks that took me ten years to learn
- Which books you should read
- How to find an agent
- How to become charismatic
- How to deal with your family
- How to deal with other people’s jealousy
- Who to listen to and where to find advice
- How to network
And much, much more.
This article will turbo-charge your chances to become a professional actor within a few years and will likely save you three to five years of pain and disappointment.
Not gonna lie, the article is long (roughly 40 minutes) but that’s because I wanted to write the best article on the Internet on how to become a professional actor.
Only read the parts that are relevant to you – no need to read what you already know.
So pour yourself a cup of tea…and let’s go.
Table of Content
Click to expand/collapse
- Do You Really Want to Become an Actor?
- How to Become an Actor in 2023
- Focus on Actions, Not Words
- Don’t Yell People About It
- Don’t Lisen to Other People
- Get a Side Income You Control
- Take Care of Your Body
- Books to Read and Actors to Follow
- Preparing Your Mind
- Tips for Women
- The Secret to Great Acting
- The Art of Networking
- Permissionless Acting
- How to Deal With My Family if They Don’t Want Me to Become an Actor?
- How to Deal With Friends and Jealousy?
- How to Deal With Other Actors?
- How to Deal With Job Insecurity?
- How to Prepare for an Audition?
- Do I Have to Be Talented to Be an Actor?
- How Can I Get an Agent?
- Can My Experience as a Model Help to Become an Actor?
- How Can I Become More Charismatic?
1. My Story
My desire to become an actor arose when I was five years old. I was an extroverted kid who enjoyed making people laugh.
I was also extremely lazy.
Early on, I knew that there were three things I wanted out of life:
- Lots of money
- Lots of girls
- Not having to work a 9-5 job
Acting seemed like the best way to kill these three birds with one stone.
These were also terrible reasons to get into acting!!
I was also the worst possible candidate for the job.
My extroversion hid a deep need for love and attention I wasn’t getting at home and that I tried to compensate with an audience.
Terrible. Absolutely terrible.
But I didn’t care.
I got the chance to “play” in my first movie when I was 11 years old in 2006.
We applied and I got in.
I was scheduled for two days of shooting and had to go try my costume a couple of days prior.
I would be paid €30 per shooting day, and €10 for the costume trial (except that I never got paid, but it’s a whole other story).
I was amazingly excited!
While most extras spent their day around the “table régie” (table with food on it that extras can eat while waiting for their turn to shoot) I was mostly present on set, watching the actors repeat five, ten, twenty times their scenes.
Despite the wait (we waited something like 8 hours on the first day before shooting) and the weather (it was freezing cold), the experience itself had been magical.
I couldn’t wait to do it again.
It was around that time that I signed up for acting classes at an art school. I ended up doing five or six years of theater and impro classes for three years.
My second movie was Les Enfants de Timpelbach which was shot in 2007.
Same story as above. Big French production tries to cut costs and come shoot in Belgium where they can pay people less.
That experience was much more exciting because I had 10 days of shooting, and even got to say one line (the scene was cut off).
Since I had so much free time on set (we had to come early in the morning and only shot much later) I had befriended the people on the set and they had kindly indicated to me how and where I could find more “acting” opportunities.
So I began to search the Internet regularly for casting calls and found quite a few.
In August 2008, my parents and I played in Soeur Sourire, a Belgian movie about a Belgian nun that becomes a rock star (true story).
That same year, I got my first speaking part in a short movie called L’Arbre à Clous which was shot in my high school.
In 2009, I was an extra in Ubertijd, a movie I have never even seen.
In April 2011, I played in Little Black Spiders, a movie about a group of young girls exiled because they got pregnant.
I remember being uncomfortable when I entered the costume room as one of the actresses was there in underwear – my experience with women was still inexistent.
In 2011, I played in Populaire another big French movie. That movie was a turning point as I had befriended another extra who had given me all of his tricks.
He taught me that there were things called street casting agencies whose job was to provide actors and models for ads, movies, and series.
I had no clue.
So I contacted all of these agencies and signed up.
The problem was that they were all in Brussels, and I was living some two and a half hours away by train.
So I started doing six hours of commute every time I had a 10-min audition and 1/20 chances to be taken. Once again, the cost didn’t really matter. All I wanted was to act.
A year later, I was playing in an ad for SFR. A few months later, I got a small part in a weird English kid show called Which is Witch, a story about two high school girls with magical powers.
In April 2013, I did some extra work for an ad for Axa.
And in 2013, I finally got a properly-paid role in an ad for Quick, the Belgian McDonald’s.
That ad was another turning point for me. My patience had finally paid off and this was the proof that I was good enough to become a comedian.
I used the €2.3k I made for the 30 minutes of work and left for Australia for a year (which is another story).
I eventually came back to Belgium and got back into acting.
2015 was the year.
I got another role in a big French movie, but I won’t tell you which one as I am clearly identifiable and I’d like to keep my identity low-key.
Then I played in a student-made short movie called « IRL », which I never saw either. Then I shot my own short movies (quite a few actually) with friends.
I was also asked to play a psychiatric patient in a short scene for another movie, which I did because the director was also one of the biggest casting directors in Belgium (the movie was Je Suis Resté Dans Les Bois.)
Then I played in another short movie in July 2015 whose name I can’t tell you either.
Then I played in:
- A web series called “Amnêsia” which I have never seen.
- A corporate video for Partenat in June 2016.
- A Bras Ouverts in July 2016
Then I got my last (and biggest) role in a series in July 2016.
In 2017 I did an internship at a movie production company (which I hated) and did one ad for Leo. Then I also went to the Cannes Film Festival in May (which was a complete disaster).
I quit acting a few months later, in January 2018.
I quit acting in January 2018 for five reasons.
First, my big role in this French-Belgian series had been a disaster.
We had had no rehearsal time, we didn’t know the actors we were playing with, the people on set weren’t nice at all, and the acting itself was stressful.
The experience compelled me to wonder if this was really what I wanted to do – even though it took some time.
Second, I had done an internship at a movie production company in 2017 and found out that the job of a movie producer was to mainly…beg for money.
Third, I had started therapy a year earlier and it had helped me see how the need to get people’s attention was wreaking havoc in my life and relationships. I was beginning to become aware of the fact that I hadn’t chosen acting for acting, but for “bad reasons“.
Fourth, I went on an Erasmus in Paris in September 2017 where I took an acting class with a comedian from La Comédie-Francaise. We had discussed my possible application to an acting school in France and he had sent me to an audition at the Parisian acting school Cours Florent.
We had prepared a play during the semester which we were supposed to play twice at the end of the class.
We did and I could not lie to myself: I hadn’t enjoyed it.
I hadn’t enjoyed rehearsing, and I hadn’t enjoyed playing.
Fifth, I had applied to an acting school in France and they answered saying that my experience wasn’t sufficient to apply and that I had to train for two years in another school first.
Faced with all of this, I gave myself six weeks of thinking.
Did I really want to make comedy my job?
The answer was obvious. I wanted attention. I wanted a girlfriend. And I wanted money.
But I didn’t want to be an actor.
I gave myself six weeks of thinking.
At the end of January 2018…I decided to quit.
Why It Was Inevitable
Looking back, my fate as a failed actor was inevitable.
When I was 18 years old, I had applied to an acting school in Liege. For some reason, the process had been extremely painful. I didn’t want to look for a text, I didn’t want to rehearse, and I didn’t want to find a partner.
I didn’t want to think of anything. I was an actor, just give me a spot already!
On the day of the audition, I wrote down on my application that I didn’t think acting was for me.
Because I was afraid to fail.
I grew up with the idea that I wasn’t loveworthy unless I was the best at something.
I chose acting because:
- I was actually good at it.
- No one I directly knew was better than I was.
It was a safe bet. What do you do? Oh, you are good at school? Nice. I am an actor.
From eleven to twenty-three years old, my self-esteem, identity, and motivation to wake up in the morning rested on that one pillar – acting.
Imagine the psychological damage had I failed the school entrance exam…
This was too much of a risk to take.
You fail an audition…so what?
You fail an acting school entrance exam…that hurts.
That really hurts. I wasn’t willing to go through the pain.
And I also knew I’d challenge my own choices if I ever failed.
In a way, I knew failing the entrance exam would probably make me quit because my confidence in my acting skills rested on what other people thought of me – you don’t really have a choice when you’re an actor.
Deep down, I probably knew I was making a mistake. I just didn’t want anyone telling me this. I didn’t want to know.
I had no plan B. Acting was my life. It was my entire identity.
I wanted to hold onto the illusion as long as I possibly could.
And I did.
2. How to Become a Professional Actor in 2023
1. Do You Really Want to Become an Actor?
99% of people that want to do acting want to do it for the wrong reasons.
A. You’re Desperate For Attention
Read any artist’s biography and you’ll find out soon enough that most of them have had a screwed-up childhood.
It’s no wonder. Art isn’t something people do because it’s fun or because it pays well.
It’s something people do to get rid of the internal pain that eats them every day.
I always half-joke that “if your son wants to become an actor, take him to the psychologist”.
Actors that grow up in a normal family and want to become actors just because they like to act are rare.
Almost all of them do so as a way to cope with some sort of trauma called reenactment.
Reenactment is a psychological condition where a victim of trauma reenacts the trauma with other people to get a chance at solving it.
Eg: when kids get abused, they often get into abusive relationships as adults.
I have reasons to believe that someone who wants to become a comedian grew up by repressing their real self and adopted a false self to receive the love and attention they didn’t getA at home.
The desire to became an actor comes from reenacting the adoption of the false self which they did as a child.
If this is your case, you should solve your trauma through therapy (I recommend group-based inner child therapy). Not acting.
B. You Want to Get Rich the Easy Way
You can get rich doing acting, but…it won’t be easy.
In fact, there is no easy way to get rich, but it’s another story.
I am not saying that you won’t get in the top percentile of actors as getting there is possible.
But it will be everything except easy.
If you want to get rich fast, I am sorry to disappoint: acting ain’t it. Take a look at entrepreneurship instead.
For me, becoming rich was a big reason to become an actor. No wonder I switched to business after I quit.
C. You Think It’s the Only Reason Why People Will Like You
It was certainly the case for me. My entire identity and self-esteem revolved around the fact that I was a comedian.
I could simply not quit.
Quitting meant death.
When I did finally quit, I had an identity crisis for a year and a half.
I had dedicated myself to doing something for twelve years that I suddenly stopped doing.
What the hell was I going to do then? Who was I going to be?
That’s when I delved into myself to seek the reasons why I had done acting in the first place and realized that these reasons were the wrong ones, namely:
- I wanted to date women. So I became a fckboi.
- I wanted to be rich. So I started making money online.
D. How to Know You Really Want to Become an Actor
Go study a play, rehearse, then on the day of the premiere, make sure nobody comes to watch.
If you enjoy working with your partner, working with your character, rehearsing, choosing costumes, and simply acting, then you’re probably made for it.
If all you want is the applause, the money, and the likes…then I suggest you stop reading and go to therapy.
2. How to Become a Professional Actor in 2023
Now that we got rid of all of the people that want to act for the wrong reasons, we can finally see how to become a professional actor.
There is only one answer to this question: you need to practice.
Lots of people call themselves actors because they played a tree once twenty years ago.
That’s not what an actor is.
An actor reads plays and scripts, watches movies, rehearses often, and is not afraid to look ridiculous for a role.
These things are not easy. You don’t necessarily need to be thrilled to do them, but when the director says “drop on your knees and play a dragon”, you can’t blush, twist your hands and say “omg…this is so embarrassing”.
Acting is a real job with real skills that need real work.
Of course, the way to become an actor depends on who you are, but there are many things you can do today to start.
A. Find a Place Where to Act ASAP
The older you are, the harder becoming a good actor will be.
An actor, ultimately, is someone who acts. And the only way to becoming good is to practice.
- If you are below 18 years old: find a community theater or an after-school art center.
- If you are 18-25 years old and you’re serious about acting, then you may as well drop your studies and begin rehearsals to enter an acting school at the next start of the school year. Find a local theater or an amateur theater teacher and explain your plan. Being good enough to enter a professional acting school won’t require more than 6 months of work – even if you’re really bad.
- If you are above 25 years old and working, find an amateur theater to play in.
B. Measure Your Ambition
Do you want to act as a hobby, or to become a professional? This article is addressed to people that want to make it their job.
- If you are below 18 years old: the good thing is that you have time and can try one year of acting at university (or equivalent) to see if you like it or not. In the meantime, sign up for every acting lesson you can find: dramatic arts, elocution classes, singing, and impro. Try to practice sword fighting or horseriding (for old movies) or dancing. And go to the gym. Actors look good nowadays. You need to look good too.
- If you are 18-25: like above, except you should seek to enter a professional theater school as soon as you can. Your efforts should be focused on acting and preparing for the entrance exam.
- If you are above 25: there is no easy way. Some private acting schools propose evening acting classes. If you can afford to, you can also quit your job for three years and enter a professional acting school (although not recommended).
C. Get Seen
Sign up for every street casting agency in your town and find out on which websites auditions are advertised.
You will need to have professional pictures (ten suffice) and a resume if you have any experience.
There are many different ways to get seen.
- Street casting agencies: these agencies’ job is to provide actors, extras, and models to people that need them. Most are free to register. Maybe you could pay a one-time registration fee, but never accept to pay yearly fees.
- Casting directors: casting directors usually specialize in actors or extras. Try to find who they are then contact them and tell them you want to be in their database.
- Facebook: there are many groups and pages where casting directors put up announcements.
- Acting websites: lots of websites ask for a fee. I have never paid any of those fees in Belgium, but I don’t know how it is in other countries.
- Student movies: out of all of the movies you will play in, student movies are the worst ones, but it’s still good to practice. Avoid playing for first-year students.
If you have never even been on a movie set before, you may try to do some extras work once or twice.
Realize that acting is also a lot about networking (we’ll talk about it), so make sure you know who are the casting directors and who they work for (ads, series, TV, extras, actors, models, etc).
D. Join a Professional Acting School
Don’t be these people that say “schools put you in a box, I will become an actor by myself”. I was one of them and it was a mistake. I am sure I would have regretted not joining a school if I had kept on acting today.
Actors that refuse to join schools fail most of the time for four reasons:
- Lack of practice. Actors in professional schools spend their day acting. Try to beat that.
- No feedback. Drama teachers are good at what they do and can give you precious feedback that will help you develop in the right direction.
- It’s harder to network. Acting is a small world. By joining a school, you will have the chance to meet people that already work in the industry.
- Lack of credibility. Would you take seriously a doctor that’d tell you he “learned medicine by himself”? No. Same principle applies.
Joining an acting school is not easy but it will 100% help you in the long term.
Make sure you join a good acting school with professors that are connected to the acting industry in your town/country.
E. Get Your First Acting Jobs
I used to monitor Facebook and websites daily for audition calls.
Don’t be picky at the beginning. If you need to play a street lamp, do it. Don’t say no to acting opportunities, it creates bad habits.
Acting doesn’t cost anything, so even if a project fails or doesn’t come to terms, it will only be a waste of time.
You can afford that.
F. Rinse and Repeat
The problem with acting is that no one really cares about your experience. Well, they do, but they still want you to audition.
Everyone goes through an audition – even A-list Hollywood celebrities.
As time passes, you will become better and more natural.
The chances to get a job at a casting call is 5%-10% (in Belgium, dunno about other countries).
G. Get an agent
Ideally, you should find an agent as soon as possible. In Belgium, this type of thing is forbidden as it is understood as being procurement. So all Belgians go get an agent in France.
You’re entitled to have an agent once you’ve graduated from acting school and/or you’ve had a few speaking parts in serious movies.
3. Tips and Tricks
1. Focus on Actions, Not Words
If you have worked in the HORECA industry, you know how crazy people are there. It’s the same thing in the acting industry – except that it’s worst.
People will tell you lots of things and will make lots of promises – few will actually come to terms.
You can’t really be sure you’ll be in a movie before you see yourself in the movie.
And you can’t really be sure you’ll get paid before you see yourself in a movie that came out in the cinema.
Consider that most of what people will tell you is not true/won’t happen.
It’s rather depressing, but it’s the best way to avoid disappointments.
2. Don’t Tell People About It
You think you will make friends if you tell people you’re a comedian, but you won’t.
Anyone at some point desired to play in movies. Unfortunately, only a few people tried.
When you tell people you are a comedian, you remind them of the things they could have been had they not been afraid.
It hurts. No one likes to be reminded of their past mistakes.
Expect these three reactions when you tell people you’re an actor:
- Jealousy: jealous people will downplay your achievements, criticize you, or make fun of you. But what they’re really trying to do is to make you appear of lower value than they are to their own eyes because you remind them what they could have become had they had the guts to become actors too. By pushing you down, they really try to save their own faces. Sad.
- Indifference: indifferent people don’t care. But many also fake indifference to disguise envy. I fake ignorance with really tall people to disguise my envy, for example.
- Those who are interested: these are the people with a good-enough self-esteem that won’t feel threatened by you. Befriend them and keep them around when you find them. They’re rare.
I must admit that I still feel a little jealous when someone tells me they’re an actor – but I do my best to be sympathetic.
Maybe 10% of me still wonder “what if…” before the 90% go back to reason.
3. Don’t Listen to Other People
When you tell people you do acting, they somehow feel qualified to give you advice.
Would they feel the same way had you told them you were a doctor?
A lot of people in your life will try to “advise” or influence you for reasons that I don’t expect to be…honorable.
Don’t listen. These people haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about.
Most of the time, they have never stepped on a stage, never gone on a set, never attended an audition, and work a comfy 9-5, groveling in mediocrity.
The only people you can really listen to are those who are where you want to be.
That means you should be careful listening to your acting teachers as well. Most of them failed as actors and turned to teaching to make ends meet.
Not all of them, of course. But most.
This advice applies to this article too. I have done my best to write the best article on how to become a professional actor, but I am only human.
Trust your gut.
What is a comedian? I have said above that it was somebody who acted on a recurrent basis.
But that’s not really what a comedian is in real life.
The average (male) comedian does acting to try to solve his emotional issues he hasn’t come to terms with. Often left-leaning, comedians can be observed in artistic cafés smoking a cigarette while tapping their iPhones and complaining about capitalism.
They’re entitled, obnoxious, hit on every girl they talk to, and have this uncanny capacity to put themselves at the center of everything all the time.
Their need for attention is paradoxical. They need it as much as an addict needs his coke but as soon as you give it to them, they lose respect for you.
Most comedians don’t work really hard because they’re afraid of what might happen if they did.
They could fail, which means they wouldn’t be good comedians.
Or they could succeed, but they don’t truly believe in it.
If all doctors were as competent in their line of work as comedians are in theirs, a whole lot more people would die.
This is why it’s not nearly as difficult to succeed in acting as the media will tell you.
The bar is much lower than you think.
The statistics say that 99% of comedians don’t live off their work.
That’s because 99% of comedians are idiots.
I managed to do all that I did despite rehearsing very little and not even memorizing my lines upon coming to auditions.
But I was motivated, often practiced, and thought a lot about it.
Acting itself isn’t hard.
What’s hard about acting is the wait, the false promises, the lack of stability and control, etc.
Bottom line: if you work a normal level of hard, there are high chances you will succeed.
5. Get a Side Income You Control
The life of a comedian is like a roller coaster. You whether have lots of work at once, or nothing for months.
This can be financially stressful.
Since you can’t get a normal job when you are a comedian, I suggest you get a side income, something you can do and that makes you money on your own terms.
The obvious idea is to become a public speaking coach and run workshops in companies to teach employees how to carry themselves, how to command authority, how to control their voice, body language, etc during presentations.
Other ideas could be:
- Tour guide
- Restaurant owner
- Bar owner
- Security guard
- Taxi/Uber driver
- Electrician/carpenter/plumber or any other trade you can do on your own
There are many more.
6. Take Care of Your Body
Most comedians drink, smoke, and eat crap (which highlight how they use art as a self-destructive practice rather than a building practice – most artists are inherently nihilistic).
Don’t do that.
Being a comedian is a bit like being a prostitute: your body is a tool you use to please other people.
That means you need to:
- Take care of your skin: yes makeup exists, but it’s not a reason not to take care of your skin. This applies to both men and women.
- Take care of your voice: men shouldn’t have ridiculous high-pitched voices. Take singing classes, or go fix your voice with surgery. It will cost you anywhere between €4k to €9k (in Europe), but it’s worth it.
- Take care of your body: you don’t want to be the fat guy in the movie as people quickly identify you as such (Eg: Jonah Hill). You’d rather be the hot guy, as the hot guy can also become the not-so-hot guy (Eg: Jake Gyllenhaal). That means going to the gym, building muscles, losing fat, etc. I am not against the use of juice to help you out. Most A-list actors wouldn’t exist without it.
- Take care of your face: I do believe in plastic surgery, but to a certain extent – don’t go full Michael Jackson. Luckily, there are other ways than plastic surgery to change your face. Read this article. The Mew made a really good point: people with big jaws look hot. Look at all Hollywood actors. They all have big jaws. The best way to make your jaw bigger (as I have experienced) is to eat meat every day, twice a day, for 20 months.
7. Books to Read, and Actors to Follow
- The Power of the Actor, by Ivana Chubbuck: this book changed my life as it not only taught me how to read a script, but it taught me how to read people. Everything we do in life is motivated by the relationships we have with others. Chubbuck is one of the top acting coaches in the world and worked with the best. Highly recommended.
- Everything written by Stanislavski: Stanislavski is the father of the modern acting method. He wrote three books in Russian that weren’t well translated until 2010. The first book you should get is An Actor’s Work from Routledge Classics and translated by Jean Benedetti. This book assembles the first two volumes of Stanislavski’s method. The second book is An Actor’s Work on a Role, also translated by Benedetti. This one is Stanislavski’s third book.
- On Directing Film, by David Mamet: understanding how directors work will help you understand how you can help them work.
- Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet: this is a fantastic (and honest) book about the art of making movies from start to finish.
- In the Blink of an Eye, by Walter Murch: Murch was the editor of Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, and many more. You may want to read his book.
- The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey: I can’t tell you why you should read this book, but you definitely should do it. Side note: this isn’t about tennis. It’s about the difference between mediocre acting and great acting.
They say little about acting, but a lot about people.
People have a dark side (called the Shadow) that few people know about. You need to understand what your own shadow is if you hope to understand your characters (side note: sadly today, most characters are badly written due to ignorant screenwriters. I suggest you rework your character with the screenwriter when this happens. If you read the books suggested above, you will likely know 10 times more about people than screenwriters ever will).
Originally, I wanted to suggest some movies to watch but I don’t think I have a good enough knowledge of cinema to do that.
Probably the greatest performance I have ever seen was in Singing in the Rain, and the greatest acting I have ever seen was by Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. But it’s tough to say really, there are so many amazing actors.
8. Preparing Your Mind
Let’s be honest.
Most people that want to act for a living have some sort of psychological problems. Daddy issues, mommy issues, bullying, lack of attention…whatever it is, I suggest you fix it.
Therapy is one of the best ways to do that.
9. Tips for Women
Acting is a brutal world. It’s even more so for women.
The first reason is that there are more women that want to become comedians and fewer roles for them.
The second reason is that there are more roles for young beautiful women, than for the other ones.
A woman who is 25 years old is in her prime age. A man who is 25 years old is still very young. Men peak at 35. Women do at 25.
Things just go faster for women.
The third reason is that women are often pressured to show skin in movies (Eg: Game of Thrones), which can be unsettling and intimidating. Intimate scenes can also be destabilizing.
The fourth reason is that sexual harassment is prevalent. There are many powerful men in the movie industry, and some of them don’t hesitate to use their position to this effect.
This section is called Tips for women but I actually don’t have any tips for women.
Just telling what I saw.
10. The Secret to Great Acting
I found out the secret to great acting one day when I ended up in front of a movie whose sound had been shut off.
I don’t remember which movie it was but I remember I was watching Leonardo DiCaprio.
That’s when I understood what the secret of acting was.
I don’t mean that there is no secret. I mean that great acting is consciously doing as little as possible and letting the unconscious mind take the wheel of your brain (learn more here).
Acting is paradoxical. As soon as you “act”, you pollute the performance.
In the beginning, it’s really hard to act well (aka acting unconsciously), so the best you can do is nothing.
Focus to move as little as possible.
Shortly after I uncovered this secret, I got my big breakthrough.
I remember watching the entire first season of Taboo without paying attention to the sound (you’ll notice that in most scenes, Tom Hardy is immobile).
The interviewer concluded the article by saying that Mikkelsen didn’t want to reveal his secret.
He didn’t understand that nothing was the secret.
11. The Art of Networking
Networking is important because casting directors call actors they remember.
You should shake as many hands as you can.
Your name should evoke a picture of your face when people speak about you, hence attending film festivals, premieres, etc.
Networking is both really easy, and really hard.
It’s really easy because 99% of people are licking the boots of producers, directors, and casting directors which is amazingly exasperating.
And it’s really hard because these people have the power to launch your career or kill it – and not licking their boots isn’t that easy.
This is why you must have an abundance mindset when going for it.
I read somewhere that Olga Kurylenko had been chosen for one of her movies because she was the least stressed-looking girl among the one thousand (or so) women that were there to audition.
That’s basically how it works. Be polite. Don’t act like a star. Don’t act desperate either.
Come in, do your job, leave.
- Know your lines
- Be on time
99% of actors are incapable of doing that.
That’s why only 1% succeed.
If you want to know more about networking, you can read my complete networking guide here.
12. Permissionless Acting
I need to credit Jack Butcher for the Permissionless idea.
Basically, the idea is to do what you want regardless of your means or connections.
If you want to act and nobody wants to have you, then post on YouTube.
So many people have been discovered this way that it’s hard to count them. I am not saying this will happen to you too, but it’s better than not acting at all.
Everyone has a phone nowadays.
Everyone can make movies.
1. How to Deal With My Family if They Don’t Want Me to Become an Actor?
It’s not 1950 anymore, you’re allowed to do what you want.
Get a job, or get a loan, and go on with your life.
2. How to Deal With Friends and Jealousy?
People will be jealous. Your acting co-workers will be jealous, your “normal” friends will be jealous. Your family may also be jealous too.
There’s no easy way to deal with this. Be discreet, don’t brag, don’t talk too much about yourself, remain vague.
And break up with people that don’t have a net positive influence in your life.
Life is painful enough.
3. How to Deal With Other Actors?
I find it best to befriend people that don’t look like you so you won’t be in competition for roles.
My actor friend is 1.83m, dark, muscular, and quite handsome.
I am 1.72m, blond, skinny…and quite handsome too.
We didn’t compete, so we could be friends.
4. How to Deal With Job Insecurity?
We already touched on it a bit above.
The first thing you should do is enquire if there’s a special status for actors in your country. In Belgium, there’s an status for artists that gives actors financial support when they need it.
The second thing you should think about is a safety net income source. Forget about having a “normal job”.
Jobs that go well with acting are:
- HORECA jobs where you can always adapt the schedule.
- Teaching, especially if you become a drama teacher.
- Any type of trade (electrician, carpenter, etc)
As someone obsessed with risk, I am obviously biased toward the last option.
However, building a small business can be highly stressful, and you don’t necessarily need that in your life.
I once met a musician that worked in a clothing shop. His boss was cool enough to let him go on his tours.
5. How to Prepare for an Audition?
The complete answer to this question is beyond this article, so I’ll give you the basics.
- Memorize your text. I have memorized my text maybe 10% of the time for the auditions I went to. This was a very poor work ethic that clearly shows I wasn’t cut for the job. Consider that going to an audition without memorizing your text is like giving a patient the wrong medicine: you’re fired.
- Rehearse your text: by working on your text, you make it yours. You help it penetrate deep inside your core. The deeper your text is, the better your performance will be. This alone is responsible for 80% of the quality of a theatrical performance. Amazingly, few people know that.
- Film yourself: I only filmed myself for three auditions, and ironically, got all three. I think it’s great because while we are our worst critics, we’re also our best teachers. You, better than anyone else, know if something is bad. When you work hard enough and come in with the confidence that what you do is good…you usually blow away the audience. Don’t fake it till you make it. Work on it so you make it.
6. Do I Have to Be Talented to Be an Actor?
While things like singing, dancing, carving, or drawing rest on talent (and genes), acting does not.
Acting is a matter of physical and emotional flexibility (which are linked).
Actors are just people that practice their craft often and have acquired that flexibility.
You really need two things to become a good actor.
- Willingness to be pushed outside of your mental, emotional, and physical comfort zone.
- A deep knowledge of yourself and of human nature.
This is why I believe that dumb people can’t become actors.
Well, unless they play themselves.
7. How Can I Get an Agent?
After making that big French movie in 2015, I made a nice demo of my scenes, a nice resume, and contacted 250 French agencies.
One stopped answering when I told them I was Belgian.
One invited me to Paris but elected against taking me.
One accepted me into her agency.
That last one ended up being a complete fraud, but that’s a whole other story.
One of the best ways to get an agent is to contact them yourself. Some of them will approach you if you end up getting a big role somewhere, but getting a big role somewhere is harder without an agent.
If you know comedians with agents, you can also ask for an introduction.
8. Can My Experience as a Model Help to Become an Actor?
Being hot is a huge advantage. The hotter/taller you are, the better it is (and inversely). Yet it’s not enough – you also need to know how to act.
9. How Can I Become More Charismatic?
I have been wondering about this for a decade. After reading a few books on the topic, I have built a theory.
Charisma has to do with how you feel about yourself and the type of relationships you have with other people.
Let’s see how it works.
A. How You Feel About Yourself
Mimetic theory states that we all imitate each other’s desires.
When my friend goes to the gym, he makes me want to go to the gym. When my sister goes skiing, she makes me want to go skiing.
One way to interpret mimetic theory, therefore, is that everyone makes other people a little bit more like everyone.
If your friends are fat, you’re likely to become fat too. If they’re depressed, you’re likely to become depressed too.
How does this relate to charisma?
Charismatic people have this ability to impact others without being impacted by others in return.
They influence, but they’re never influenced.
They stand above the jealousy and the petty worries that we, non-charismatic folks, care about. They don’t compete with us, they don’t compete for what we want. They sit at the top.
Let’s take Maryline Monroe (the most charismatic person to ever live) as an example.
Marilyn Monroe inspires women to dress or act a certain way. But these women don’t inspire Marilyn Monroe back. Admiration only goes one way.
Charismatic people are anti-mimetic. They don’t imitate others. If they did, they’d lose their charisma right away.
Because charismatic people don’t desire to be anyone else but themselves.
They have an innate pleasure in embodying, assuming, and living through every cell of their body.
When your friend gets a promotion, you’re envious. Charismatic people don’t feel envy, not for others, at least.
They live without hiding or feeling threatened by other people’s identities or actions.
This explains why charismatic people always look like they’re enjoying themselves by “simply being”.
Charismatic people have this inner confidence, this inner pleasure they derive out of being who they are.
This faculty fascinates us because we would like to have it too. So we start imitating them.
It’s a paradox though.
We can’t imitate someone else’s ability *not* to imitate.
Luke Burgis explains that charismatic people are a bit like cats.
Cats don’t need anyone. They look at you with contempt. They do what they want.
They’re not looking for your approval — you’re looking for theirs!
That’s why cats are charismatic, unlike dogs who crave your love and attention. Sadly, needy people (or animals) don’t yield admiration — just pity.
Therefore, charisma is a side effect of:
- The joyful experience of freely being who you are.
- The ability not to be influenced by anyone.
- Not experiencing any desire for anything or anyone but yourself.
These abilities are developed through relationships with other people.
B. Relationships With Other People
If you have been a part of a group of friends, you may have noticed that there are always one or two people (or a couple) that:
- The group waits for
- The group celebrates the birthday of
- The group organizes itself around
By the same token, there are always one or two individuals that nobody really cares about. We don’t wait for them, we don’t celebrate their birthdays, and we don’t even notice when they’re gone.
What explains this difference?
In The Winner Effect, Ian Robertson explains that your brain constantly monitors and compares your place in the social hierarchy with other people’s.
At any time, your social status will be higher, lower, or of equal value to the social status of the people you are talking to.
The peculiar thing about social status is that deep down, everyone agrees on its hierarchy.
People at the bottom know that they are at the bottom. People at the top know that they are at the top.
And everybody agrees on that.
Back to our group of friends, the people we’re happy to wait for occupy the top of the hierarchy. The people we miss the birthday of occupy the bottom.
When Obama greets Putin at the G-20 summit, both of them know who’s got the highest social status.
Obama is taller. He got a bigger country, a bigger economy, and a bigger army.
That’s why he’s acting so cool getting out of the car.
He’s at the top of the hierarchy.
He knows it. Putin knows it. And Obama knows that Putin knows that he knows that Putin knows and that he hates it.
Charismatic people draw a huge part of their confidence from the fact that they have the highest social status in the room they’re in.
Status can be based on beauty, intelligence, height, happiness, wealth, skills, inner confidence, or simply, achievement.
The movie The Founder gives a good example.
Michael Keaton portrays McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc’s rise from loser to one of the richest men in the world (Martin Freeman does the same in Fargo).
Kroc/Keaton becomes more cunning, more charismatic, more confident as the story progresses.
For people that weren’t born with confidence, external achievement is the straightest way to get some.
In the beginning, you’re a nobody and no one knows what you are capable of (including yourself).
In the end, you built a company and made $20 million.
Which version of yourself do you think is the most confident and charismatic?
Don’t build confidence. Build evidence. Confidence comes as a result of evidence. Not the other way around.Alex Hormozi
Things like being smart, tall, or handsome help with confidence.
But they definitely don’t beat “achievement”.
Rich, short, and accomplished > poor, tall, and loser.
After a few weeks of talking to people in bars, I found myself better at being interesting, better at getting girls’ numbers, and happier in my relationships.
That made me confident.
Practice builds confidence, confidence builds social status, and social status builds charisma (note that social status and charisma reinforce each other).
Lots of people would tell you to fake it till you make it, but this can’t work with charisma.
A faker is easily spotted.
And charismatic people don’t merely believe they are charismatic. They also “are” charismatic.
You can believe your way to a few things — but not charisma.
Truly confident people know that they’re confident and why they’re confident (they got actual results in the actual world).
Practice -> confidence -> social status -> charisma.
You need to become so good that none of the things the people around you have interest you.
You become the hot girl/guy blasé.
Of course, this also depends on who is around you. If Usain Bolt is at a party with random people, he’s got the highest social status. It’s easy for him not to want anything from these people — why would he.
But if he joins a party with Leo Messi, Barack Obama, Elizabeth II, and Marylin Monroe…he likely won’t be as chilled as in the first party.
Practice -> confidence -> social status -> charisma.
This, in a nutshell, is how you become more charismatic.
- A producer is a person responsible for putting the movie together. They take care of finding money, finding a director, finding a distribution company, etc.
- A director is a person that realizes a play or a movie.
- A casting director is someone whose job is to find the right actors for the right roles. Eg: what would Matrix be without Keanu Reeves?
- A script is the “book” where a play or movie is written.
- An editor puts together the parts of the films to make the final movie.
- The “rush” are the parts of the film that were filmed but that have not yet been put together.
- The director of photography is the guy that decides how to film the scenes.
Eight thousand words later, we finally arrived at the conclusion!
This, in a nutshell, is more or less everything I have learned about acting in 12 years.
What I want you to remember is that earning money as an actor is more than possible provided you make enough effort for it.
The bar is really low. Especially in the 21st century when most actors are psychologically-damaged and lazy. We don’t make actors like Gene Kelly, Maggie Smith, or Kirk Douglas anymore.
I have no doubt that anyone making acting their primary objective will get at least a supporting role in a movie or series.
Going after your dream is worth every penny.
For more resources, head to auresnotes.com.
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