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Job Photographs

  • A man, wearing a dressing gown, is sitting on a chair, next to a bed.  He is pointing at something.

    The performance in front of a live audience (or cameras) is the result of a lot of hard work.

  • A man is sitting in front of a large mirror.  He is reading a sheet of paper.

    Learning lines takes a lot of concentration and self-discipline.

  • A man is standing on a stage, speaking.  There are various props on the stage.

    Usually, only the dress rehearsal takes place on the stage. All the other rehearsals take place behind the scenes in large, studio-like rooms.

  • A man is practising his facial expressions and hand movements.

    Actors do exercises for facial expression and voice projection.

  • An empty theatre, with rows of purple, padded seats, running down towards the stage.

    Actors work in theatres, film, TV and radio.

  • Two people are standing next to a table, pointing at a piece of paper.

    Sometimes, changes are made to the script or the stage directions during rehearsals. The actors discuss these with the director.

  • Actor/Actress

  • Actor/Actress

Actor/Actress

Introduction

As an Actor or actress you will work in live stage performances and/or film, television and radio. Your job is to bring to life the role you are playing, as effectively as possible.

You'll use your voice, body actions and imagination, to create characters and tell a story to an audience

Video: - Robin: Actor

Video: - Chris: Actor

Work Activities

As an Actor or actress you will work in live stage performances and/or film, television and radio. Your job is to bring to life the role you are playing, as effectively as possible.

Much of your time will be spent learning lines and in rehearsals. You might spend time researching the character you are to play. Often, you'll draw on your own emotions and experiences, to make your performances as convincing as possible. You sometimes have to change your voice and appearance for a role.

Actors and Actresses often work long hours, including working at night. It is not uncommon for Actors and Actresses on location to have to wait for the right conditions (eg, lighting) before they can perform.

You could often find yourself out of work. You might spend this time doing temporary work, learning parts for auditions and attending drama and vocal technique classes. You can sometimes be in competition with hundreds of other Actors/Actresses when trying for a part.

In theatre, you will sometimes perform two shows a day (matinee and evening). While on tour, you'll stay in temporary accommodation and can spend weeks away from home.

In film and television, your workload can include early starts, late finishes, weekend work and working on public holidays. On location, you are likely to work in all weather conditions.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become an Actor or Actress, you need to be:

  • extremely committed and determined
  • self-confident and able to take rejection
  • versatile and flexible

Actors and Actresses are sometimes also talented Singers and Dancers.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

Salaries for Actors/Actresses vary widely, depending on the area of acting they work in and the type of contract they have.

Equity, the acting union, recommends minimum wage levels for all forms of acting. Details are available on their website.

You may face long periods without work. To help, you may be able to claim benefits. Take a look at our information article on 'Universal Credit' to see if you might qualify.

Hours of work

Hours of work for Actors/Actresses vary depending on the type of work they are doing. In the theatre, they may be required to perform at matinees, as well as evening performances. In television and film, they spend long periods waiting around, whilst sets or locations are set up.

Where could I work?

Opportunities for Actors/Actresses occur with employers in theatre, TV, film and radio.

Travel can be local, national or international, and Actors/Actresses on tour or on film location can spend extended periods away from home.

Self-employment

Many Actors and Actresses are self-employed. Most spend more time out of acting than in it, and therefore must be able to cope financially and emotionally with long periods out of work.

Where are vacancies advertised?

The Stage (weekly and online) advertises acting jobs and auditions. While most professional Actors/Actresses have agents who arrange work for them, some find their own work by approaching theatres and production companies for opportunities to audition. Acting job vacancies are also advertised on the StarNow website.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

The usual route towards a career as an Actor or Actress is to attend an acting course at a drama school. There are drama schools at various locations across the UK.

Entry to drama school is competitive. Applicants are selected by interview and audition (and usually have to pay audition fees). You will need to satisfy drama schools that you have sufficient ability to study at this level. This may be through formal qualifications, such as A levels, or relevant experience (or both).

The majority of accredited drama school courses last for two or three years and lead to either a BA degree in acting or a recognised diploma. Successful completion will also entitle you to membership of Equity.

Some drama schools offer postgraduate courses for would-be Actors and Actresses who already have a degree.

University-based degree courses in acting or performing arts (with acting as a major study area) are available, and are another possible route into acting.

Work Experience

Many successful entrants have acted in areas such as fringe, amateur dramatic, and community theatre.

Training

Actors often take up additional training, in singing and dancing for example, to help improve their chances when auditioning for parts.

Lessons in elocution and public speaking can help to develop oral skills. Practical acting experience can be gained from involvement in amateur dramatics and local drama workshops.

If you would like some more training, then the MetFilm School in London offer an introductory course to acting for film. It is suited for people who may need to gain confidence and experience in this career. The school offers short, part-time and full-time courses in acting, so check the website to see which is best suited to you. In the short course, you will study:

  • how to create a subtext in a scene
  • the different types of ways to prepare for an upcoming performance
  • the cues a Director uses when filming a scene
  • basic camera skills
  • how to find work in the industry

Other courses in acting could be available in your area.

Progression

Some successful Actors and Actresses move into directing or production work.

Qualifications

Drama school entry

Entry requirements for courses accredited by Drama UK vary between drama schools.

Some drama schools base their selection procedure entirely on auditions, while others prefer to select students who do well at audition and have qualifications that are suitable for entry to a degree course.

The majority of drama schools agree that a good education is important. Check drama school prospectuses/websites for details of specific requirements.

University entry

For entry to a degree course in acting or drama, the usual requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 3 other subjects where drama or theatre studies are useful

Other qualifications, such as a BTEC Level 3 qualification in drama, acting, or the performing arts, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma could also be considered. Entry requirements for degree courses vary; check prospectuses carefully.

You will usually need to audition to enter a degree course.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Experience

Many successful entrants have acted in areas such as fringe and community theatre.

Courses

Some colleges and drama schools relax entrance requirements for applicants with relevant paid or unpaid performing/acting experience.

Funding

The John Thaw Foundation provides grants for people wishing to work in the theatre.

Further Information

ScreenSkills

Skills for the creative industries

Email: info@creativeskillset.org

Website: www.creativeskillset.org

Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills

Email: info@creative-choices.co.uk

Website: www.creative-choices.co.uk

Creative & Cultural Skills

Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts

Email: london@ccskills.org.uk

Website: ccskills.org.uk

Get into Theatre

Email: info@getintotheatre.org

Website: www.getintotheatre.org

Creative Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Email: enquiries@creativescotland.com

Website: www.creativescotland.com

Arts Council England

Tel: 0845 3006200

Website: www.artscouncil.org.uk

National Theatre

Tel: 020 7452 3400

Email: info@nationaltheatre.org.uk

Website: www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Tel: 028 9038 5200

Email: info@artscouncil-ni.org

Website: www.artscouncil-ni.org

The Stage

Entertainment and performing arts news

Website: www.thestage.co.uk

Equity

Tel: 020 7379 6000

Email: info@equity.org.uk

Website: www.equity.org.uk

Equity (Scotland)

Scottish enquiries

Tel: 0141 2482472

Email: scotland@equity.org.uk

Website: www.equity.org.uk

Federation of Drama Schools (FDS)

Tel: 020 7529 8794

Email: info@dramauk.co.uk

Website: www.dramauk.co.uk

Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT)

Scottish enquiries

Address: The Old Sheriff Court, 105 Brunswick Street, Glasgow G1 1TF

Tel: 0141 5523988

Email: info@scottishyouththeatre.org

Website: www.scottishyouththeatre.org

National Theatre Wales (Welsh Enquiries)

Tel: 029 2035 3070

Email: info@nationaltheatrewales.org

Website: nationaltheatrewales.org

Equity (Wales)

Address: Third Floor, 1 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9SD

Tel: 029 2039 7971

Email: wales@equity.org.uk

Website: www.equity.org.uk

MetFilm School London

Email: info@metfilmschool.co.uk

Website: www.metfilmschool.ac.uk

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