How to Get Discovered In Acting

Cheryl Faye is a veteran acting coach and casting director for film and television. She is the acting coach on the History Channel series “The Vikings,” and coaches young actors on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows. We asked her to share a few tips with us regarding breaking into acting. Here’s what she told us.

What Kind of Training and Skills Do Novice Actors Need?

Acting requires preparation, just like any other type of job, Faye advises. “Don’t come to the big acting centers, like Los Angeles or New York City, before you establish yourself at home and have a pretty substantial resume,” she says. “Start by taking classes in your hometown. Do theater, local plays and student films, and act at local colleges to build your resume. Pursue your craft at home first, and establish yourself before you move to New York City or Los Angeles. Try to get a local agent first before you look for an agent in the acting centers. You don’t become a doctor or lawyer without proper training. You just can’t think you can book a role based on how you look. You need to take classes in your hometown, but you also need training in Los Angeles or New York, because the training will be different.”

What Should Actors Know About Agents?

Agents play an important role in getting actors jobs, but there are some unscrupulous agents who prey on hopefuls, Faye warns. “If anyone asks for large amount of money, run. Agents and managers should take a percentage of your earnings and shouldn’t ask for any money upfront. Good agents may even negotiate for scale plus 10 percent, which means that their fees won’t come out of your earnings. Make sure any Los Angeles agents are franchised by the Screen Actors Guild and that managers belong to the Talent Managers Association.” Members of both organizations agree to abide by a professional code of ethics.

What are Common Challenges?

Novice actors need patience, Faye advises. Although you might hear stories about actors being discovered immediately upon reaching California, that doesn’t actually happen very often. “The number floating around is 100 auditions to book your first job,” says Faye. “If you look at some of the big commercial actors, 100 really is the magic number. It takes two pilot seasons to get casting directors to know who you are. Actors who arrive during pilot season and expect to get cast in a role immediately probably won’t. One thing you need to have is sparkle. No one can teach it, and you can’t buy it. You need that ‘it’ factor, that magic. That’s what it takes to be a star. You can still make it in acting if you don’t have it, but you won’t get leading roles.”

What is One Thing Actors Don't Realize About Finding Work?

Faye notes that emphasizing special skills can help actors find work. "Younger actors who want to be on Disney or kids' channels need the triple threat -- singing, dancing and acting. Actors should really try to market what's special about them. If they're naturally funny or do accents well, market those strengths. Casting directors want actors that are really good at something, and if you say you can do something, make sure you can do it well. Don't say you can ride a horse if you've only ridden once, or claim to be a dancer if you only dance at parties."

What are the Most Important Things to Know About the Audition Process?

“If you’re given material in advance, memorize the lines to the best of your ability and do as much research about your character as possible,” says Faye. “Dress role appropriate and know your lines. Make eye contact with the director. If your face is buried in paper, you can’t make that connection. A lot of actors try to read into a casting director’s words or facial expressions. If they say, ‘great job,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, and if they don’t say, ‘great job,’ it doesn’t mean anything either. They see hundreds of actors and have to stay focused.”