How can you develop the skills necessary to be a successful actor?

How can you develop the skills necessary to be a successful actor? bchellingworth March 18, 2020

And the Oscar goes to…

Here’s the reality check my friends, research published in June 2019 tells us that only 2% of actors make a living from ‘their craft’. You don’t need to be a maths genius (unlike those at Queen Mary University) to work out that at any one time, there are likely to be a lot of actors ‘resting’ between jobs.

If an Oscar isn’t your aim and you want to make it into that 2% of a business that’s rife with humiliation, rejection and financial uncertainty – still with me? Then read on for some advice on how to achieve success in what is a very tough business.

The facts

IMDb data was used as a basis for the research from Queen Mary University who studied the careers of over 2 million female and male actors dating from 1888 to 2016. One interesting finding was a gender bias, showing that female actors are more productive in their first year whilst male actors are more likely to find work after a ‘cold’ streak. I for one am going to keep a close eye on IMDb’s current list of 30 ‘Breakout performers, up and coming actors to watch out for in 2020’, 19 of them are women!

Is it what or who you know?

Another finding was that unsurprisingly, the most well-known actors get the most work but how much is down to opportunity rather than acting ability? Let’s take Jason Statham as an example, now I’ve got nothing against Jason, but do I think he’s a brilliant actor? His big break in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels came as a result of him being exactly what Guy Richie was looking for, a street-wise con artist. Jason had been flogging perfume and jewellery on the street and Guy wanted someone authentic. Although he only got paid £5,000 for his part, it’s safe to say he can command a bit more now.

I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.'

Denzel Washington

Pssst, top of that list of 30 actors is the daughter of a famous actress. Just sayin’.

Honing your craft

Let’s work on the basis you won’t be approached by Martin Scorsese while out and about so what can you do to break into that magical 2%? Well, there is a lot of online acting advice, for example, The Acting Academy offers a 14-day free trial, Facebook groups such as Actors UK offer great advice and of course there’s Backstage, Spotlight, and Equity. Another useful site is Mandy Actors, formerly Casting Call Pro which offers a great networking community.

Consider how far you’re prepared to travel for auditions. Staying local at first will help to build up your body of work but you may need to travel further afield. Although you may not need an agent straight away, check out ActinginLondon and their guide on ‘How to get an Agent 101’.

Playing a musical instrument, dancing, riding a unicycle, whatever your special skill is, ensure you’re including it in your CV. Maisie Williams (no. 8 on the list) learned how to use a sword left-handed for her role in Game of Thrones.

Ultimately, you’re going to have to be tough, have grit, determination, resilience, perseverance, and patience. Think of that 2%, these are the things that differentiate them from the rest. Consider Emotional Intelligence: The Ability Model (Salovey and Mayer 2004). A study in Western Australia used this model when considering emotional intelligence and the performing arts. Not only will this help you with your preparation, learning lines, practicing in front of the mirror/friends/your dog, it will also serve you well when performing. You won’t need to fear rejection, get comfortable with it and you’ll learn more about yourself. Imagine how powerful it will be to develop the ability to manage your emotions and make them work for you.

Do anything, anything will lead to something else, you’ve got to get out there and take a chance’

Advice from Margot Robbie, (no.5 on the list)

The measure of success

What does success represent for you? Red carpets, photoshoots or the ability to pay your bills, whatever the goal is the great news is that you are CEO of your own business – YOU! Successful businesses track the quantity and quality of their relationships. Who do you spend the most time with? Like-minded thesps? When thinking about your goals, reflect on who you admire most as an actor. The mega movie star or that reliable character actor who seems to be in everything on the telly (2% springs to mind). Happy Actors suggests picking a measurement that represents the following:

  1. You doing the thing. You know – acting
  2. Something you can control

For example; I want to get 8 acting gigs this year.

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’

Steve Martin

Show me the money!

Just how much money can you earn as an actor? Well, according to Indeed February 2020, the average salary of an actor is £9.94 per hour, I know but it’s all relative. Obviously, this is going to vary greatly dependant on the job, for example, soap actors can be paid anything from £400 – £2,000 per episode whilst as an extra, you could expect a standard day rate of £50 – £100. Having a ‘survival job’ will help you pay the bills but it needs to be flexible and something you enjoy, dog walking, personal trainer, temping are all examples of ways to support your ultimate aim – to become an actor.

Taking advantage of an initial free, no-obligation consultation with The Showbiz Accountant will help you appreciate not only the money you earn but the money you get to keep. They are the perfect accountant for actors, as they understand the industry and will work with you.

‘I remember I was acting but it was also more so to pay off my student debt because I was like, it’s the easiest way…’

Kelvin Harrison Jr (no. 23 on the list)

Who knows, maybe one day, you’ll make the list!