How many of your students really know what it’s like to be a professional actor? Sure, they have dreams, but are they grounded in the reality of the acting business?

Many young actors are heavily influenced by vivid representations of “movie stars” in the media, and most have little or no knowledge of what a professional acting career is really like. Some young actors believe that all they have to do to become a star is move to a large city and “get noticed.” But students need to learn about the realities of the acting business before they spend time, money, and effort pursuing a career that may not even be right for them, and before they set themselves up for possible heartbreak down the road.

Here are some things you can do to ground your students in the realities of the acting business:

  1. Help them find out what it’s really like to be a professional actor: arrange to have a professional actor visit the class and talk about what it’s like to be involved in the acting business. Ask them to talk a bit about self-promotion: this is one of the issues that holds many actors back from success. With 50,000-100,000 actors and more in most large cities, an actor who does not know how to promote himself will get lost in the shuffle.
  2. Help them learn to cope with rejection: when you have auditions for a class show or a school play, spend some time discussing the casting process with them. Explain that if they don’t get the role they wanted it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have talent. Try to help them learn not to take rejection personally (see Psychological Issues).
  3. Give your students information on what it’s like to pursue a professional acting career (see Acting A to Z: The Young Person’s Guide to a Stage or Screen Career and Articles). Have them check out and discuss audition notices in your local newspaper. If you’ve been a professional actor or actress yourself, share some of your experiences with your students. Talk about other options, such as performing in a community theater, instead of pursuing a professional career.

The bottom line is that we need to remove the rose-colored glasses that many young actors wear, without diminishing their love for and enjoyment of acting. Helping them to understand the realities of the business, while still encouraging their talent and teaching them skills, is a step in the right direction.