What Does an Actor Do (And How Do You Become One)?

Last updated: Jul 30, 2021
Reads: 87,534

Career Overview

An Actor embodies a character in a film, TV show, or other type of content by researching every aspect of the character, memorizing dialogue the Screenwriter has written, and developing their own emotional life.

Alternate Titles

Talent, Actress

Avg. Salary

$3M a picture1

Salary Range

$65K – $20M a picture1

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Career Description

An Actor portrays a character in a film, using their physical presence or voice. It involves researching every aspect of the character, memorizing dialogue the Screenwriter has written and developing their own emotional life so it can be authentic on screen.

In addition to the work required for a role, Actors must constantly audition for their next job. Should an Actor gain a level of success or notoriety, they typically will also need to be present for promotional events and media tours to market their film or other project.

There are two types of “typical days” for an Actor: one where they are on set or preparing for a role and the other involving getting work. Depending on the actual day and success level of an Actor, they may be doing taped auditions simultaneously while working on set.

It’s also not unusual for an Actor to experience long stints between work while they continue to audition for roles.

An Actor must make sure that their “Actor” lifestyle doesn’t take over their personal life. Some Actors will spend an entire week learning lines or preparing in other ways for a role, all without connecting to the outside world until their meeting or audition has happened. They may be waiting around for that hopeful phone call from an Agent/Manager about a potential callback/offer.

What may seem like a lull from a bird’s eye view is actually a long period of work, doing multiple auditions to get a job that will ultimately dictate every aspect of an Actor’s life. An audition consists of reading sides for a scene and performing for a Casting Director and/or Casting Associate, and perhaps a Producer and/or Director.

Actors work quite extensively with their Agents and Managers on developing their careers and landing roles. When on set, the Actor’s main points of contact are the 1st Assistant Director, Director and any PAs. The Makeup, Costume and Sound Departments will also work closely with the Actors to get them ready for their scenes.

Working as an Actor involves bringing to life the scenes and words of a script both on set and in auditions. However, for any Actor to achieve a long-lasting and successful career, they must find a work-life balance that supports their craft but also allows them to maintain their mental and emotional health.


A well-known Actor can make anywhere from $65K to $20M for a single feature film. A recurring role on a network TV show can earn an Actor anywhere from $20K to $1M should both the show and the Actor themselves be highly successful.

The rates for an Actor working on a cable show, streaming show, web series, or short film will be considerably less and fluctuate greatly depending on the medium. In some cases, an Actor might participate in a project for no or deferred pay.

How much an Actor receives for his or her work will also depend on whether they are a non-union Actor or union Actor. A non-union Actor will earn less than a union Actor.

Payment rates likewise depend on the level of work being done. Someone with less than five lines will receive less pay than the star of the show. SAG-AFTRA daily minimum ranges from $125 per day to $500 per day depending on budget level. In the case of the biggest stars, however, pay rates are much higher.

How much do Actors make?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Film Staff)

Famous Actors make anywhere from $65K to $20M a picture.

How much an Actor receives for his or her work will depend on several factors. Non-union Actors will earn less than union Actors.

Payment rates also depend on the level of work being done: someone with less than five lines will receive less pay than the star of the show. SAG daily minimum ranges from $125 per day to $500 per day depending on budget level, but of course, in the case of the biggest stars, pay rates can get much, much higher.

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Career Outlook

Acting is a highly sought-after career.

While an Actor has more opportunities than ever before to pursue their craft through feature films, television, commercials, web series, shorts, theater, and other mediums, the truth is that it is a highly competitive field with a low margin of sustainable and financial success.

Many Actors can find fulfillment through their work but might still need to have a “day job” to pay the bills. To be available for auditions and possible future gigs, many Actors seek out flexible employment as Restaurant Servers, Bartenders, Rideshare Drivers, and other similar types of jobs, which generally do not provide ample financial security.

An Actor’s career success will also depend on where they are located.

Outside of voice work, which can potentially be done from any location, many Actors live or relocate to cities such as Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta that are entertainment hubs with an ongoing need for Actors. However, because these cities tend to attract many aspiring Actors, it also means an increase in competition for auditions and booked gigs.

The success of any given Actor will also depend on a combination of their talent, training, and industry connections. In the case of the latter two, it’s important that an Actor continually hone their craft and keep developing relationships that could lead to future acting opportunities.

To create opportunities for themselves, many Actors become multi-hyphenates such as Writer-Actor or Actor-Producer. In addition to working on their acting skills, these individuals will also write material for themselves and/or produce it with the hope that it will attract the attention of Managers, Agents, Casting Directors, Directors, Producers, and anyone else who might be in a position to hire them for a role.

How hard is it to become an Actor?

Gerald Isaac Waters (All Together Now, Angie Tribeca)

It’s tough. You’ve got to have will, determination, and pretty thick skin. You’ve got to be able to handle rejection. That’s the thing that no one really talks about. You hear about all these overnight sensations, but they’ve been in the business for twelve, fifteen years.

All of a sudden, they finally get that breakthrough and someone you’ve never heard of is all of a sudden the biggest and brightest. It’s a lot of hard work and you’ve got to be hungry for it. It’s definitely got to be a passion because [otherwise] you’re going to burn out really quick.

I’ve experienced it multiple times, like, “I’m terrible. I’m awful. I’m never doing this again.” But you’ve got to surround yourself with really good-hearted people and friends to give you that reassurance and be like, “Hey, listen, it’s okay. This one was a ‘no’ but the next one is probably gonna be a ‘yes’.” Surround yourself with really badass friends who are just going to be there to pick you up when you’re down and really keep you levelheaded when you’re high. Those go hand in hand.

Determination and will can get you very far so if there’s something you’re passionate about, go for it wholeheartedly and don’t let anyone stop you.

If this is something people are really aspiring to do, [if they] want to produce good work and get out there and get their hands busy, just keep up that determination. Don’t let anyone stop you just because you get one “no.” If it’s something you’re really hungry for and really passionate about, you’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to be determined, and if this is something that truly makes you happy and brings you joy, you’ve got to go for it head-on.

Jordana Lajoie (The Boys, Ride or Die)

How I see it is if you want to become a working Actor, you have to be persistent and you have to accept the fact that there are going to be downtimes. If you can understand and learn to live with that, then it is not hard to become an Actor.

You have to want it enough that you don’t beat yourself up for not being able to work all the time; it is part of the journey. If you can stay excited and appreciate that it is not a secure job, then you have already succeeded where most cannot.

Garrett Black (Riverdale, Matchmaker Mysteries, iZombie)

It’s a unique road for every Actor. There are commonalities within the pursuit, challenges are inevitable and success is not. Some Actors break out young, while others arrive later.

Hardships can illuminate dimensions in any artist’s work, and development requires commitment. I’ve never been afraid of hard work; going after it and developing the hustle is part of the deal.

Chloe Farnworth (12 Hour Shift, Departure)

Well, I don’t want to say “hard,” as hard could kind of deter people from wanting to become an Actor. I think working in this industry is one of the most rewarding industries you can work in, but it’s definitely very challenging and you need to be very open, happy, and willing to work very hard.

I would also like to say that you need to eliminate the word “rejection” from your vocabulary. Once you look at not getting a job as rejection, you’ll get a lot further in this industry and be much happier because so many things are out of your hands and you also really don’t really have much control in this industry.

The most control you have is to do a good job and to be better than great in your auditions and when you’re on set working!

Teach Grant (It Chapter Two, Damnation, Van Helsing, Altered Carbon)

I think everybody has their own journey, and I think it’s important to not evaluate yourself based on other people’s successes. It’s not an easy thing to break into. You’re going to hear “no” more than you do “yes.”

But it’s important to just keep trying. Put your love into the idea of acting, and not being the Actor. Just try to make it as easy on your mind as you can. If you really love doing it, then the difficulties are just going to become a part of the process. If you’re looking for external rewards, it’s going to be much more difficult on you.

So it’s not easy, but some people just fall into it, and there’s not necessarily a rhyme or reason. It can be as easy as you’re in the right time and place. But the one thing you do have control over is your hunger and your preparation.

Career Path

The career trajectory for an Actor varies widely. There isn’t a cookie-cutter path to making it and even getting the “big break” can come in a myriad of ways.

Many Actors begin their careers with formal training through a collegiate theater program. Not only is this a standard way to develop those acting chops, but also it can provide great opportunities for networking with other Actors. Did you know that Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve were roommates while attending The Juilliard School?

Some Actors choose to get their training outside of traditional higher education. Acting studios, improv studios, and more can be found in both large cities and small towns.

Whether or not an Actor decides to study the craft of acting, the only way to lay a foundation for future success is to get started doing it.

Many aspiring Actors start on the path to being professionals well before they graduate high school, which means it’s never too soon to begin honing those acting skills. Local theaters can also provide opportunities to build a resume of work regardless of your age. Given that your average smartphone has the capacity to capture high-quality footage, many emerging Actors collaborate with other creatives to make DIY short films and web series.

All of these paths can help an aspiring Actor build both expertise and confidence, but another key component of pursuing a successful career is finding representation. A Manager and Agent are two vital individuals who can help an Actor reach greater levels of success. With the former helping to hone an Actor’s career path (and land auditions) and the latter focusing exclusively on getting auditions for talent, both can be instrumental for an Actor’s professional life.

From there, an Actor’s career path depends greatly on landing gigs that will get them noticed while also helping to develop their skillsets. But you don’t have to wait for a Manager, Agent, or Casting Director to get started on that path to success.

Tips on getting your acting career started:

  • Take an acting class.
  • Take an improv class.
  • Read plays and screenplays. Watch movies.
  • Create a profile on casting sites in your market.
  • Get headshots.
  • Create a reel so others can see your work.
  • Reach out to potential Agents and Managers for representation.

How do you break into acting?

Chloe Farnworth (12 Hour Shift, Departure)

Definitely start with taking some classes or going to drama school, study people and really look at their physicality: the way they talk, the way they move, the way they hold themselves. Don’t be afraid to be wrong and know that an audition room is a safe place!

Look for a really good Headshot Photographer, get good quality photos because your photo is the thing that gets you in the door for the audition or meeting, learn about yourself, know your type, what you’re good at what you’re not good at.

Learn accents. About a year before I moved to LA, I worked so hard on the American accent and ever since I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve worked nonstop on it, as well as Southern and other dialects in the states. It’s so important to be able to do accents and to be confident in them. I definitely lost a few jobs when I first moved to LA, because at the start I wasn’t confident in the accent and I wasn’t as good as I could’ve been! Definitely a lesson learned!

Gerald Isaac Waters (All Together Now, Angie Tribeca)

I can tell you what I did. I did community theater in high school, which is what really solidified, [that] this is what I want to do. I founded the community theater program at the local college and then I auditioned for a theater school out here in Los Angeles. (I’m from Tennessee.)

It’s a three-year conservatory program, and to me, that has been beneficial. You start your first semester in a program working every single aspect of what theatre is. You’re doing costumes, you’re doing scenery, you’re helping build sets, you’re taking classes on lighting and sound and stuff. So you’re really getting the basics of what all comes into that whole community and really getting all the behind the scenes stuff.

I guess [it’s] being as knowledgeable as you can with every aspect because if you start going into this researching and reading about stuff, you might find something that you’re more passionate about than what you originally stated. (I’ve had friends that went into the conservatory thinking they wanted to be Stage Actors, and then now are working on sets, in lighting. My friend found out lighting was her passion.)

That led me to do background work. I did a bunch of background, and I found a show that kept bringing me back and bringing me back. I was on that show for two and a half seasons, seeing how everything works and observing the whole atmosphere. So, I guess, get plugged in as soon as you can and really just go into it with an attitude of learning and wanting to learn as much as possible.

Background opened up doors for me to get my SAG vouchers and then that opened a door to getting an Acting Coach. By doing showcases, I got my Manager, and then by working on background I met another Actress who was also in a chair and she referred me to her Agent. I got Netflix through my agency.

Once you start doing these things, and you start networking and really opening yourself up to that whole world, that’s where all the possibilities [happen like], “Oh, hey, I remember this guy or this girl from A, B, and C. I think she’d be a perfect fit.”

I did background for like two and a half years, and then that led to some showcases and some theater out here. It’s really about exposure and saying yes to every job that fits you and working as much as possible, you know?

Garrett Black (Riverdale, Matchmaker Mysteries, iZombie)

Be undeniable.

Teach Grant (It Chapter Two, Damnation, Van Helsing, Altered Carbon)

You have to find your passion for it. Find a good class, and you end up meeting a community of other people who are also getting going and hungry for the discovery. You start doing freebie short films and independent films, and hopefully, an Agent comes to one of your classes for a final showcase, you can begin to build some tapes from some of these smaller projects, and you can start pounding the pavement.

When I first got going, I just walked to every agency in town several times over until they would agree to look at my package. It’s not easy. [With] some people it’s going to look like it came really easily, and other people are going to have to work a little harder at it, but accept that it’s a hustle, and it’s a grind, and just keep pounding away until you get the answer that you want.

Jordana Lajoie (The Boys, Ride or Die)

Be curious; learn everything you can by doing research. You have to be so curious that you know everything there is to know about the profession. If you don’t want to go to school, join theatre clubs in your neighborhood.

Be excited about the craft; make it your favorite hobby ever. If it comes from a place of love and authenticity, everything else usually comes to you organically; Agents, booking your first gig, etc.

You want to be confident enough in your skills before you get to that place. I find sometimes people want to skip that part, but that is the foundation.

I am not saying that you can’t break into acting without a foundation because I have seen Singers, Wrestlers, all sorts of people who fell into this profession accidentally. You’ll see that eventually they still have to go back to the basics if they want to continue on that path. If they don’t, then maybe they are the exception to the rule.

The way I see it now is that the really talented Actor isn’t just someone who is raw in his delivery, a lot of times technique is needed to refine and elevate the storytelling process. I did not always believe that, but I have seen and experienced how polishing your delivery can sometimes be very useful, especially on stage.

What do you want young Actors to know?

Teach Grant (It Chapter Two, Damnation, Van Helsing, Altered Carbon)

Put your whole heart into acting. But don’t let acting stand in the way of you loving other things. So if you have other pursuits that also drive you and fulfill you, there’s no reason to shut these things off just because of your drive to become an Actor. Those other things will actually help you do your best work because you’re more gratified and satisfied in your overall existence.

Experience & Skills

As mentioned, a significant part of an Actor’s job is delving into the inner emotional world of the character they are playing. For this reason, it’s critical that an Actor be able to access the vulnerability and authenticity that will successfully bring that character to life.

As with any craft, it takes practice for an Actor to become proficient at portraying the many diverse characters they may be asked to play over the course of their career.

There’s also the adage of “acting is reacting,” which in large part means being able to work with and play off the emotions of other Actors.

Many Actors enjoy the opportunity to dive into a long and emotional monologue, but more often than not, a huge component of acting is being able to engage with the other professionals in a film, TV show, or other form of entertainment. Again, experience will help an emerging Actor hone these creative skills.

Outside of the skillsets that will help an Actor on set or on stage, they often need to be their own marketing and PR person as well. Given the level of competition in the acting field, it’s frequently up to an Actor to get themselves “out there” for Managers, Agents, and Casting Directors to notice.

That means being comfortable networking and even expanding skillsets beyond acting to include writing, directing, and producing to create projects that will hopefully get them on the radar of the individuals who can help them progress in their careers.

What skills do Actors need?

Teach Grant (It Chapter Two, Damnation, Van Helsing, Altered Carbon)

I think curiosity is maybe one of the most important things for an Actor to have. Many people think that the voice is our biggest tool, but I think it’s your ability to listen and to empathize, and to be curious about what makes people tick.

One of the more important things is to not allow things to penetrate your skin, but to also be mindful enough that you’re keeping an eye on yourself to make sure that you’re actually doing the work, and that you’re not falling into routine or relying on tricks to get you by.

So there’s a duality there between being self-aware enough to monitor that you’re doing everything you can to go as deep, and to flesh out the character, and to put all that meat on the bones while keeping out certain opinions that really are none of your business and can be destructive. It’s a difficult filter to develop, but over time I believe it’s one that will keep you in the game.

Gerald Isaac Waters (All Together Now, Angie Tribeca)

I think one of the major skills is definitely communication and being able to read a room. Really know what you can bring to that table because as an Actor, or as anyone in the entertainment business, you’re the CEO of your own business. You’ve got to be able to have those communication and networking skills. For me personally, that’s opened doors.

I’ve also found it a “learn-as-you-go” type thing—unless you have that mentor figure that can come over to you and be like, “Hey, these are the steps. This is what you need to do.” I have an acting mentor, an Acting Coach. I call him, like, “Hey, this is the situation. What do I need to do?”

I met him through networking and working with him on plays. I definitely think communication and networking really are hand in hand. And I’m learning to do this right now: you’ve got to be organized.

Jordana Lajoie (The Boys, Ride or Die)

I would say good listening skills, and the ability to be present, kind, and generous in your work. In my experience, there is nothing more rewarding than working with a generous partner who gives you the same amount of focus and energy that you are giving, but who is also actively listening.

It doesn’t matter if your character is evil and is supposed to be disrespectful in the scene, if you respect your partner by being present, they’ll appreciate it and will more often than not pay you back this favor with the same type of focus and energy.

If you already have an idea on how you’re going to approach a scene, that’s fine, but remember that it’s not just about you and that sometimes you may find nuances in a scene that you could not discover on your own because of how your partner is playing it.

Chloe Farnworth (12 Hour Shift, Departure)

Patience, persistence, toughness, work ethic, and willingness to work really hard, and a passion for telling stories!

Garrett Black (Riverdale, Matchmaker Mysteries, iZombie)

If being an authentic human being in relation to others is a skill, that one. Wouldn’t hurt to have an insatiable curiosity and a desire to tell stories.

Performative instincts and a penchant towards playing pretend can produce magnetic results. It’s a beautiful thing about acting, anyone can do it.

How can I be a good Actor?

Garrett Black (Riverdale, Matchmaker Mysteries, iZombie)

Focus. Dedication. Decide what a good Actor is to you. And if being one is really what you want, on a deep level, then read everything, watch everything, start taking some classes perhaps, investigate and imagine the human experience, find a community of other Actors.

Jordana Lajoie (The Boys, Ride or Die)

Taking classes is always the most obvious first answer I could give. Working on your craft, being curious, trying to learn different things about yourself, your personality; why you act the way you act.

Psychoanalyze yourself; write down all of your fears and your thoughts. Most importantly for me: just following your gut. Your instincts, or your gut, is truly the greatest superpower you have. Use that whenever you are trying to understand a scene or anything in life.

Teach Grant (It Chapter Two, Damnation, Van Helsing, Altered Carbon)

I mean, how can you be a good person? It really is one and the same. Art imitates life, you know? The definition of life is continued growth. So if you’re not continuing to grow as an Actor, you’re just dying a very prolonged and slow death. So you have to continually challenge yourself to find new ways to love the craft, as you do in your experiences in life.

Gerald Isaac Waters (All Together Now, Angie Tribeca)

Listening. I think that’s the most important aspect. You can deliver your lines all day and be really good, but if you’re not receiving what the other Actor is delivering as well, then it just kind of falls flat.

Listening is a huge key because once you have that communication, it becomes real and authentic, and that’s what produces really good work, and that’s what people see. They’re like, “Oh, that’s a real conversation these two characters are having.” It develops from there. Then you get their attention and you really start to get to involved with these characters and develop from there.

Chloe Farnworth (12 Hour Shift, Departure)

I think knowing that every Actor’s journey is different, and not feeling that you need to compare yourself to other people because it’s such a different path for everybody and some people might get lucky within a year, some people may get lucky 20 years later.

So–being patient–it’s such a big key to success and being truthful in everything you do, whether that be in a scene, and audition, when you talk to people on set, or to yourself.

Education & Training

As mentioned, many Actors do seek out some type of formal training be it college, acting school, or another program to develop their skills.

The educational options for Actors have come a long way in the last one-hundred years. Once upon a time, an Actor simply got on stage or in front of the camera and started acting. Now there are many prestigious institutions that can help an Actor prepare for those live or filmed roles. There’s The Juilliard School, The Actors Studio, the American Conservancy Theater, and a host of other schools and programs across the United States for aspiring Actors.

When deciding between these institutions, aspiring Actors will likely find themselves attracted to a particular method of acting such as the Meisner Technique or Stanislavski Method, which some schools will use as the foundation for their programs.

It’s likewise important to remember that formal training isn’t only for Actors just starting out in their careers. Many successful and famous Actors continue to hone their skills through acting classes or with an acting mentor for the duration of their professional lives.

If an Actor decides to forego formal training, they can still develop their craft through on-the-job experience. Again, there’s no shortage of options for Actors.

Many can find opportunities through student films, short films, community theater, web series work, and other more readily accessible jobs as they build their resume of work to more high-profile gigs.

However an Actor chooses to sharpen their skillsets, they must continually work on that all-important element of accessing the inner emotional world of the character they’re playing and bring them to life whether it be for a film, TV show, play, or another type of role.

Which degree is best for acting?

Jordana Lajoie (The Boys, Ride or Die)

Some of the greatest Actors have never received formal training, and some of the greatest studied classical theatre. I think it all depends on you, the artist.

I studied theatre because I wanted to do work on stage, and I wanted to be classically trained. You can do theatre without the formal training. It really all depends on what your needs are.

If you are interested in going back to school or pursuing classical theatre formally, I am always for it because it really is rewarding. The tools that you acquire and the work you do on your body and your voice is priceless. Again, you can do that on your own as well, but being with fellow Actors who are kind and generous, and working with a troupe can be truly rewarding.

Teach Grant (It Chapter Two, Damnation, Van Helsing, Altered Carbon)

I think, for myself, in combination to studying Theater, [it was] working towards a minor in Psychology. I found it to be very applicable to acting because I begin to think about things from a psychological angle, which helps you to understand other people. That was valuable to study for me. Ultimately, you need to become a student of life. You’re constantly observing the people around you and how they’re interacting, and how they’re responding and reacting to stress, and their relationships.

I didn’t get on in that [college] structure, in that format, and so I left to move out west to dig into film. What I did when I got here is I volunteered in a tiny black box theater house. I did probably twelve plays straight, starting from being the youngest person in the company and just growing from working with all the professional and semi-professional Actors that were in the company. That gave me an opportunity to go through the process and replicate it over and over and over again, as well as taking classes and getting comfortable.

It took me a while. High school sort of felt like it was easy to me and then once I really got out and dug into the craft, I had to sort of undo all the things that I’d been doing as a younger Actor and change the way I went about it.

Everyone blooms at a different rate. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with studying. I don’t think that you should stay in one place for too long. I think it’s a good idea to mix up your instructors, and try different things, and filter out what works for you. Make sure that you are in a healthy situation, and that you’re in a constant state of growth.

For some people, studying short term and then leaving it and then returning to it is good. A lot of people do end up getting over-trained and over-studied, and so they start becoming very self-aware in their work, and they’re editing as they go, so their eyes are kind of on themselves, and you can’t really get to that place. You have to know when to hang it up and take a break from class, and then when to go back in and get a good workout.

I think, especially early on, the Actor teaches themselves. So if you put yourself in a class environment, you’re learning from everyone else in the class as they go through their own process, and you get to learn from watching and observing them. You can take that and you can put it into your own work.

Then with the various Teachers, if you’ve gone through five, ten Teachers, you’re going to be able to take the best of each and apply that to yourself as opposed to just only having that one reference point.

Chloe Farnworth (12 Hour Shift, Departure)

I’m not always sure if a degree is the best thing for acting or not. I think it’s different for everybody. I personally don’t have a degree. I did go to Central School Speech of Drama in London and started there and I took acting classes.

I don’t think you necessarily need a degree to become an Actor, there are so many other routes to go and sometimes learning on the job is the best way to go. I would say I have learnt a lot more on the job by doing than I did in drama school or classes! Do what works for you!

Garrett Black (Riverdale, Matchmaker Mysteries, iZombie)

Train at a school that has produced quality alumni. No degree gets an Actor a job. If you can find a good Teacher, learn and train. Approach the industry with studied, humble confidence, and use your imagination.

Gerald Isaac Waters (All Together Now, Angie Tribeca)

There’s stage, film, writing, scriptwriting—so find whatever niche it is for you and then go into that. The conservatory I went to was all very theatrical-based and was all theater and that whole realm.

There’s a film school here in Los Angeles that does all film: scriptwriting, short films, working behind the camera, directing, so once you figure out what you’re set on doing, I think that’s where you start finding those degrees.

Fun Facts

SAG-AFTRA, the Actors’ union, was formed from the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 2012 and represents approximately 160,000 film, television, voice, internet, and other types of Actors around the world.

Additional Resources

There are a variety of online resources for Actors.

In terms of professional organizations, it varies from region to region, since acting is an in-person experience. Local theater companies are a great avenue to check out. There is also MasterClass, an online resource where industry professionals conduct online classes for students.

The main union is the Screen Actors Guild or SAG. They mostly handle negotiating base rates for Actors.

Each acting market has its own online casting websites where Actors can create a profile with their headshot, resume, and reel. You can use these sites to submit for roles of send your profiles to Agents and Managers when you’re looking for representation. In the Los Angeles area, two of the main sites are LA Casting and Actors Access.


Is acting a high paying job?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Film Staff)

Whether or not acting pays well depends on how successful you are, frankly. Actors in studio movies earn anywhere from $65,000 to $20,000,000 a picture1, based on their role, the film’s budget, and its box office success.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find Actors who work at theme parks, small theatres, and in indie film productions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for those Actors was approximately $20.43 an hour.2 Of course, with such an extreme disparity in the wages earned by a beginner Actor and a world-famous superstar, it’s very difficult to accurately track what the median pay for Actors is.

How can I become an Actor?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Film Staff)

These are the basic steps to follow to become an Actor:

  • Take acting classes at an acting school or college degree program.
  • Make sure you have quality headshots and a demo reel.
  • Sign up for casting websites in your area, such as Actors Access or LA Casting.
  • Research talent agencies and management companies and submit your materials to get representation.
  • Network and get to know other Actors, Casting Directors, Producers, and Directors.
  • Create your own work.
  • Submit your work to film festivals.
  • Expand your skills by studying improv, stand-up, dance, and/or music.

What are the odds of becoming a famous Actor?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Film Staff)

A recent study by London’s Queen Mary University calculated that only 2% of Actors3 make a living strictly from their craft. This study also states that 90% of Actors are not working in their profession at any one time.

It’s no surprise that becoming a famous Actor is a long-shot. However, there are many Actors who work regularly in their field while holding down jobs in other areas of work, or even within the film industry. So don’t let the numbers freak you out too much if this is your dream.

Actor Chloe Farnworth
Chloe Farnworth

This year actress on the rise Chloe Farnworth can be seen starring in Magnolia Pictures’ stylish, dark comedy feature 12 Hour Shift, which was an official selection at The SXSW Film Festival (2020) and had its world premiere at The Tribeca Film Festival (US Narrative Competition).

Appearing opposite David Arquette and Angela Bettis, the film is set in 1998 and follows Mandy (Bettis), a nurse at an Arkansas hospital, who is desperate to make it through her double shift without incident while also being involved in a black-market organ-trading scheme. When her hapless but dangerous cousin Regina (Farnworth) messes up a kidney delivery, chaos descends on the hospital as the cousins frantically try to secure a replacement organ through any means necessary.

Critics have praised Farnworth’s performance in 12 Hour Shift, saying: “Farnworth’s homicidal sexpot, by contrast, is the true monster here… she’s like Hannibal Lecter as played by Judy Holliday” (Variety), “delightfully unhinged…” (SlashFilm), “Chloe Farnworth is equally great as her beyond-dumb cousin…” (Den of Geek), “a delight… absolutely great” (Daily Dead), and “Farnworth’s performance is incredibly fun to watch” (The Knockturnal).

12 Hour Shift was released on October 2, 2020, in movie theaters, drive-in theaters, and video on demand.

In television, Farnworth can next be seen as Leah Sims in the British-Canadian thriller series Departure which is set to premiere on September 17, 2020 in the US on Peacock. Additional credits for Farnworth include the indie crime feature film Other Monsters for which she won Best Actress at the Los Angeles Crime and Horror Film Festival, Bond of Justice: Kizuna, Nostalgia (Bleecker Street Media), Soy Nero, Thor: The Dark World (Marvel) and Linkin Park’s music video for their 2014 single, “Final Masquerade.”

Born in Ashperton, England and raised in Herefordshire, Farnworth grew up with an innate love for the arts and her parents enrolled in theatre classes at just ten years old. She attended the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, joining the ranks as an alumnus opposite other famous graduates including Joe Alwyn, Kit Harington, Carrie Fisher, Riz Ahmed, and Andrew Garfield, to name a few. She landed her first professional role as the Virgin Mary in Emily Warddill’s Full Firearms (2012) and has been working ever since.

When she isn’t on set, you can find Farnworth boxing, surfing, horseback riding, and baking. She also has an eye for design and has recently been renovating her home in Los Angeles.

Farnworth’s work has received mentions from The New York Times (twice), USA Today, Deadline, Consequence of Sound, Nerdist, Yahoo Entertainment, Austin Chronicle, Filmmaker Magazine, Rotten Tomatoes, AV Club, The Los Angeles Times, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, Vulture, Decider, Cascadia Weekly, Lockport Journal, LRM Online, Reel News Daily, Voyage LA, Berk Reviews, Vents Magazine, Nightmarish Conjurings, NewsBreak, Culture Mix Online, Courageous Nerd, In Their Own League, Rue Morgue, Hey U Guys, Nerds and Beyond, Deepest Dream, The Pop Break, Screen Rant, Age of the Nerd, Verde News, ComicBook.com, Horror Cult Films, Flickering Myth, Cleveland.com, Digital Fix, Arkansas Times, Washington City Paper, The Pitch Kansas City, Columbus Underground, Exclaim!, We All Want Someone to Shout For, The Hollywood News, Screen Anarchy, Slant Magazine, Film School Rejects, The Young Folks, Moveable Fest, Film Threat, Bad Feeling Magazine, Entertainment Focus, Geek Tyrant, The Wrap, and Thrillist.

Photographer: David Higgs
Hair + Make-up: Alexandria Storm
Styling: Aaron Gomez at Ivan Bitton Style House

Actor Garrett Black
Garrett Black

Born in the small, rural community of Mission, British Columbia, Garrett Black attended Heritage Park Secondary School as the eldest of three siblings. Following high school, Garrett accepted a scholarship to study acting at York University in Toronto. After his time there, Black packed his bags and moved out west to Vancouver to pursue his acting career.

Garrett began to work in commercials and music videos until he got his first big break in a guest appearance on Fox’s Fringe (created by J.J. Abrams). In 2012, he starred in the prepared-improv online series Behind the 8 Ball. Since then, he has appeared on ABC’s Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, had a recurring role on TLC’s Untold Stories of the ER, and appeared on Riverdale, The X-Files, Arrow, Supernatural, and iZombie.

Black has begun to carve out a niche for himself as an intense and imaginative performer. In 2014, he starred in the TV movie The Town That Came A-Courtin’ alongside Valerie Harper and Lauren Holly. The movie is based on the best-selling novel written by Ronda Rich. Recently, he has played roles in the Hallmark films Bottled with Love, Matchmaker Mysteries, Matching Hearts, and Easter Under Wraps.

In addition to acting, Garrett has begun to produce and write for projects of his own. Garrett now spends his time in Vancouver.

His career has been featured in MovieMaker, International Business Times, Heavy.com, and The Examiner.

Photo credit: Jamie Mann

Actor Jordan Lajoie
Jordana Lajoie

French-Canadian actress Jordana Lajoie plays Cherie on Amazon’s The Boys.

She has been featured in Geek Girl Authority, Metro UK, Los Angeles Times, Backstage, Horror Geek Life, CBR, Popternative, The TV Dudes Podcast, Villain Media, Explosion Network, Pop-Culturalist, Starry Mag, Naluda Magazine, Vents Magazine, Gamespot, Fortress of Solitude, Le Devoir, and Le Huffington Post Quebec.

Photo Credit: The Image Salon in collaboration with Daniel Esteban and Hailey Voorand

Actor Gerald Isaac Waters in his wheelchair
Gerald Isaac Waters

Gerald Isaac Waters is an Actor who has appeared in several film, television, and theatre productions. He’s best known for his role on Netflix’s All Together Now and TBS’s Angie Tribeca.

He has participated in Target’s summer campaign, modeled for brands such as Zappos Adaptive, and rolled the runway during New York Fashion Week. In October 2020, he was selected as the Casting Society of America’s of the Month; he was interviewed by Mike Page, CSA, for a brief actor spotlight.

Gerald was also a part of Los Angeles Community College’s Acting Conservatory. He will take the stage in a theatrical production of The Cost of Living in Seattle in early 2021. The Tennessee native currently resides in Los Angeles, where he enjoys scoping out new restaurants with his friends.

He has received coverage in Deadline, Variety, Refinery 29, CNET, Backstage, Nerds of Color, Broadway World, Nerds and Beyond, Enspire, Netflix Life, Meaww, Haute Living, RespectAbility, The Hollywood Podcast, Just Plain Zack, Republic World, Full Circle Cinema, Misfit Pandemia, Getting Personal, and the Imperfectly Perfect campaign.

Actor Teach Grant
Teach Grant

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Teach Grant moved to Vancouver in 1996 after University, studying at both Carleton (Psychology) and Ottawa U (Theatre) in order to pursue a career as an actor in film and television. After a series of black box theatre productions, Teach landed his first film audition garnering him an opportunity to cut his teeth on a leading role in the 1997 independent film Limp opposite the late Michael Hutchence.

Known for his depth, gritty style, and onscreen presence, Teach has become a fixture in the film and television landscape and has amassed an impressive list of credits that include many leading roles in film, series guest stars, and recurring television appearances.

In 2014 Teach released his first feature film as writer and director with Down Here, a film that chronicles missing young street workers in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Recently Teach has appeared as Henry Bowers in Warner Brother’s It Chapter 2, directed by Andy Muschietti.

He has received coverage in Entertainment Weekly, Variety, Bustle, Mashable, Screen Rant, Yahoo! Entertainment, Alternative Press, E! Online, Bloody Disgusting, Refinery 29, Vancouver Sun, Collider, Maxim, CNET, Teen Vogue, The Sun, Empire Online, Uproxx, Buzzfeed, The Beat, The Daily Mail, Dread Central, Pop Matters, The Beat, Den of Geek, Dark Horizons, YVR Screen Scene, Digital Spy, Below the Belt Show, Popcorn Talk, Movie Hole, Shuffle Online, Meaww, Seat 42F, First Post, Comicbook.com, Scream Horror Mag, PopBuzz, The Geek Chic Elite Podcast, Slash Film, Cinema Blend, Business Standard, What Culture, HUF Magazine, Dead Entertainment, Business Insider, Nerds and Beyond, ScreenCrush, and CBR.

  1. 1THR Staff. "Hollywood's Salary Report 2017: Movie Stars to Makeup Artists to Boom Operators". The Hollywood Reporter. published: September 28, 2017. retrieved on: April 9, 2020
  2. 2US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Actors". Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections. published: 10 April 2020. retrieved on: 20 July 2020
  3. 3Williams, Oliver E & Lucas Lacasa, Vito Latora. "Quantifying and predicting success in show business". Nature Communications. published: 4 June 2019. retrieved on: 20 July 2020
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