What is an Actor?

An actor is someone who plays characters in a film, television, radio, or theatre production. When most people think of actors they think of Hollywood superstars who perform in blockbuster films and this is often the ultimate aspiration of anyone dreaming of a career in acting. There are also stars within different fields of acting. For example there are well-known television and theatre stars in each discipline. It is difficult to achieve this degree of success in the field of acting, and the majority of actors perform in smaller productions, often starting in advertisements or as extras on television shows or films. There are many actors who make a successful career out of so-called bit parts and never have a starring role. Others, who achieve great success very early in their careers, become household names and get lots of major roles. The majority of actors will have a career that is somewhere between these two extremes.

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What does an Actor do?

An actor's job is to fully represent the character they are playing and to convince their audience that character is real by engaging with them and drawing them into the story. This applies to major roles and smaller parts as all roles combine to create a successful production. There are lots of ways to get into character and actors often research the jobs, hobbies, or activities of the characters they play so they are able to put themselves in that frame of mind. Physical appearance can be important in creating a character as well, and actors will often lose or gain weight, or change their hair colour to physically create the character they are playing. If the part demands any kind of emotional drama (for example, coping with a death), an actor often researches people who have experienced what the storyline portrays in order to realistically understand and convey the emotions involved.

What does it take to be an Actor?

The main qualities required are:

  • Skill in dramatic performance
  • An ability to understand emotions and feelings
  • Dedication
  • Determination
  • A genuine love of the arts

Just like at any job interview, there are many people going for one part at auditions. The difference for actors is that they constantly have to audition for parts. This means that they have to be able to cope with rejection and to learn from each experience. Maintaining a positive attitude is important as it will often take many auditions for an aspiring actor to get his/ her first part. Being determined and dedicated will help in this situation as attending as many auditions as possible should eventually end in a successful audition. In such an expressive career in arts and entertainment, it is often the people who are most passionate about what they are doing who are most successful. Someone who wants to be a star only to achieve fame and fortune is unlikely to be successful. A genuine love of the arts and of performing is a necessity for anyone thinking of pursuing an acting career - this will shine through in performances and will ultimately help achieve success.

What is the workplace of an Actor like?

The workplace will vary depending on the type of production involved. Some film and television shows, as well as most advertisements, will be filmed in studios and on sets. This can be quite exciting in itself, seeing how a location can be created by set designers and made to seem real. Other films and television shows are filmed on location and might involve a lot of travel - sometimes to distant and exotic places. Theatre productions take place on a stage and have very different considerations than filmed performances. Some performances will be in front of a live audience - in theatres and for some television shows. Other performances do not have an audience and the feedback from these performances is not instant. The workplace is highly varied, and actors need to be flexible with regard to where they work and the type of environment they work in. Those prepared to work in all kinds of different situations and who are able to adapt to their different environments will be more successful in finding their niche.

How much does an Actor earn?

The salary of an actor in the arts and entertainment industry is so varied it is impossible to give a meaningful average salary. Huge blockbuster stars who are internationally recognized household names will make millions of dollars per movie, but this is very much the exception to the rule. The Screen Actors Guild says the majority of its members make less than $5000 per year, and have to supplement their acting jobs with other forms of income. A 2010 Payscale survey states that a salaried actor will earn between $24,408 and $76,986 - quite a variation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median hourly rate of actors was $16.59 in 2008. It is also important to remember that most actors will not have steady work and may spend long periods of time searching for their next job. However, with some hard work and dedication it is possible to earn enough money to live on, but it is a good idea to find something that will guarantee a steady income as a backup when starting out.

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