by Katy Keich

Acting is one of the most sought-after careers in film for obvious reasons. Fame, fortune, and the chance to work with the most well-known directors and producers are a draw for millions of people. Though most actors may not experience stardom (and the salaries that accompany it), thousands of film actors work in independent films, television, stage, and voice-over work.

The Work of an Actor

Actors interpret a script to entertain, inform, or instruct an audience. For complex roles, they may research their characters and the setting in which their characters live so that they can bring more understanding and authenticity to the performance.

Film actors may have to work in various locations, and should have the physical stamina for travel, long and varied hours, the stress of production schedules, and occasional stunt work (especially on independent films with small budgets).

Competition for work as an actor in films is intense, especially in Los Angeles and New York. Nevertheless, less expensive digital technologies are making filmmaking more accessible, and so roles are more available in smaller independent production companies scattered across the U.S., from Illinois to Arizona. But actors must still be prepared for erratic work schedules and frequent rejections.

To supplement their income (and their experience), many actors work also as teachers in high school or college drama departments, act as extras in larger films, or do narrations for ads.


Formal training from an acting conservatory or university is common. Many actors hold bachelor's degrees in film, communications, drama, or broadcasting. At a film school or in a film program, actors will not only hone their acting skills, but will also get an overview of the other components of a film production.

Along with coursework, TV or film actors may gain experience throughout their school years in smaller roles in independent or college films. Any on-screen experience can be used in demo reels, which, when edited properly, can give you a better shot at auditioning for a film role than headshots and resumes alone.

Of course, the best training for actors is to work on your acting craft. Nothing replaces talent and creativity in portraying a variety of characters.

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