Do You Have To Go To School To Be An Actor?

My son is majoring in performing arts at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). When he was deciding whether or not to go to college, this question of whether he had to go to school to be an actor was at the forefront of his mind.

As my son researched his decision, it became clear that you do not have to go to school to be an actor. But, there are many benefits to getting an education in performing arts.

Benefits of Going To School To Be An Actor

For aspiring actors attending college may not be a requirement, but it certainly can help them start their journey with more skills and confidence. Here are 6 benefits I’ve seen from my son’s college attendance:

  1. In school you can learn and develop relevant skills. For example, you’ll learn how to audition, how to slate scenes, and various acting techniques. You also have the opportunity to take classes that are not directly related to acting, but give you a better understanding of other positions in the industry. For instance, my son is taking a directing class and a casting director class this quarter.
  2. You get the opportunity to hone your acting and auditioning skills. At SCAD the performing arts students are the actors for the film and television students when they are shooting their class projects. To land those “roles”, the performing arts students actual audition for their parts.
  3. Students have access to professors who are industry professionals and who know other industry professionals. My son has had two classes taught by Craig Anton [Phil of the Future]. Also, D.W. Moffett [Bosch, Chicago Med, Switched at Birth] is the Chair of the Film and Television Department at SCAD. Having the chance to learn from people who actually work in the industry is a major benefit.
  4. Students also have the opportunity to meet and network with other students who they may one day work with.
  5. At SCAD the students are presented with unique opportunities to learn from other actors. SCAD has a huge film festival every year that brings in some pretty famous actors. Since my son has been there, Richard Gere, Mariska Hargitay, Kyra Sedgwick, Hugh Jackman, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aldis Hodge, and Olivia Wilde have come to the film festivals. There are also calls with performers who give advice and tips. My son has been on calls with Alex Wolfe and Phylicia Rashad.
  6. Students at SCAD have access to the Career & Alumni Success Department where they receive help designing a career action plan. The students are assisted with creating resumes and cover letters; improving their interviewing skills, and with finding and applying for internships.

Tips For Becoming An Actor Without School

  • Learn the audition process. To get parts you will have to audition for them. It’s important to know what is expected of you whenever you get the opportunity to audition.
  • Practice auditioning. Become an expert at auditioning. Until you get an acting job (and in between acting jobs) your job is to audition for jobs. Spend time becoming excellent at auditioning.
  • Find casting calls and audition a lot.
  • Build your acting resume. There will be opportunities to do local work at community theaters and in local commercials; take advantage of those opportunities.
  • Get around people in the industry and acting community as much as possible. Join an improv troupe or volunteer at a theater. This will help keep you excited about acting even when moving into this career is taking longer than you’d like.
  • Learn and/or practice special skills such as speaking in foreign accents or speaking a foreign language. The more special skills you have, the more marketable you will be.
  • Create a personal acting website and your social media profiles. Let the world know who you are.
  • Hire a consultant to help you work on your marketing and branding.

How To Transition From College to a Career in Acting [Video]

Wendy Kurzman and Caroline Liem work with actors to help them transition from college to acting. They help craft a plan for actors to market themselves effectively and step into a career in acting.

10 Unique Ways To Break Into Acting

There are many ways to break into acting. Here are just 10 ways that you can get your lucky break.

1. Get discovered by a talent agent while begging a bank teller to cash a check. This Charlize Theron’s path to stardom. Though it’s not the most common route, it obviously can happen.

2. Win a modeling competition. Ashton Kutcher was discovered in a bar in Iowa, where he was encouraged to participate in a modeling competition. After modeling for a while, Ashton turned to acting, landing a role in That 70’s Show.

3. Drive your friend to an audition with a bruised face. Mel Gibson drove his friend to an audition the day after being a bar fight. Because of his rough look, Gibson was asked to come back to play a tough guy role. When he returned his face was healed so he was given the lead role in Mad Max.

4. Go to prison, go through a 12-step program and become a boxing champ while you’re there. Danny Trejo was asked to the set of Runaway Train to help. While there he was cast as an extra, then asked to train some of the guys on the set. While training Eric Roberts, the director spotted him and gave him a part in the film.

5. Get a debilitating condition and become a vegan to start feeling better. Tabitha Brown became a vegan chef and “overnight” social media star. Since then, her acting career has taken off. Tabitha can tell her story better than I can.

6. Catch the eye of a cameraman at a football game. After Pamela Anderson was seen on the jumbotron at a game, she became a spokesmodel and a Playboy bunny. From there, her future as an actress was cemented.

7. Install cabinets in a famous directors’ house. Harrison Ford won the role of Bob Falfa in American Graffiti while installing cabinets in George Lucas’ house. That one encounter led to Ford playing Hans Solo in Lucas’ Star Wars franchise.

8. Have a dad who works for Steven Spielberg. Alden Ehrenreich’s father worked as Spielberg’s accountant. Spielberg’s daughter and Ehrenreich made a funny video together for their friend’s Bat Mitzvah. When Spielberg saw the video, he decided to help Ehrenreich by getting him an agent.

9. Write your own script and take on the lead role. Sylvester Stallone wrote the script to Rocky. Once the script was sold, he lobbied the studio for the chance to play the lead role.

10. Become a bartender. Ellen Pompeo was discovered by a casting director while bartending in New York. She started in commercials but quickly moved into television roles.

These are some kind of far ways to get discovered but I think there are some lessons that can be learned from them. First, whatever you’re doing, do it with excellence. People take notice when you do good work. Second, be open to opportunities even if they seem strange. Third, harness the power of social media to share what you’re passionate about with the world. Finally, be your best even in the worst of situations.