10 steps for breaking into an acting career

Lights, camera, action!

Josias (Joe) Tschanz is an instructor for ILSC’s Creative English through Acting class. His passion for acting has taken him around the globe. At the beginning of his career, he travelled to Japan for acting in reality TV shows, followed by feature film projects in Argentina and Europe. Although he has found a second passion now—teaching—he still takes up roles in commercials, TV shows, movies, and video games, including a recent voiceover in The Man in the High Castle.

Joe at the New York City International Film Festival

Joe with Roberto Rizzo, founder of the New York City International Film Festival (contributed by Josias Tschanz)

Joe is currently based in Vancouver, but his 10-step plan for budding actors is good advice for everyone. Here is how you can break into the field:

1. Watch lots of movies and plays

Learn from the best! Set a particular day of the week and time to catch up on movies and plays. In most of the Western world, Tuesday is a cheap movie day, so take advantage of that.

2. Improve your English

Study hard! Work especially on your pronunciation and vocabulary, as these can be deal-breakers in the acting world. You need to be understood to be on screen.

3. Take a drama-related English class

Take an English drama class or any related classes where acting is involved. Some good starting points at ILSC are Creative English through Acting, Creative English through Film, and English for Advertising Media.

4. Practice!

Perform acting monologues in front of your mirror on a daily basis. Record yourself on your cell phone while doing it, so that you notice what you do well, and what needs more practice.

Joe in The Coyote’s Moon, a movie shot in Argentina

Joe (left) in The Coyote’s Moon, a movie shot in Argentina (contributed by Josias Tschanz)

5. Take an acting class

Now that you are comfortable watching yourself act, it’s time to refine your skills. Take an acting class with native English speakers. This will not only sharpen your acting skills, but also your English.

6. Get your headshots done

A headshot is a professional photo of yourself. Headshots are quite important for getting an agent or an audition, so you should get yours done at this point.

7. Audition for student projects

Start auditioning for student projects and films to get more experience and to add to your resume. Check Craigslist and look at school casting calls for opportunities.

8. Register for a full-time acting program

It’s time to get serious! Enroll for a full-time program at a reputed school, college, or university.

Joe in Neutral Territory, which was shot in northern British Columbia (with 20 horses)

Joe in Neutral Territory, which was shot in northern British Columbia with 20 horses! (contributed by Josias Tschanz)

9. Get an agent

You’ve laid the groundwork. Now you need to find an agent and start doing background work in movies as an extra, or acting in commercials.

10. Keep working hard

You’ve made it this far. Congratulations! Work hard on your craft until your agent sends you a speaking part. And the rest could be history!

Joe has an additional piece of advice: Break out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to explore different styles and roles, and get comfortable with the idea of acting. Be persistent and believe in your ability, and opportunities will come knocking!

Interested in the Creative English through Acting class? Here’s a short video about the highlights of the course through the eyes of a student.

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