There are a lot of acting schools to choose from. How do you decide which one is right for you? Below is a checklist of 10 things to take into consideration when making your decision.
1) School Reputation
Find out about an acting school’s reputation through word-of-mouth and if possible, by asking agents and casting directors at seminars and workshops. Look at how many working actors came out of the school you like in recent years. Also look at the acceptance rate and which schools require an audition. Usually, the better schools are more competitive. Keep in mind, though, that many prestigious acting schools will not allow you to audition professionally until you graduate.
2) The faculty
Your acting teachers will have a lot to do with the kind of actor you become. Find out if you can audit a class and if your teachers are working actors. Also look at the student to faculty ratio to make sure you get to work on scenes in every class.
3) Focus of the school: film or theater
What kind of acting career do you want? If you want to be a Broadway actor, consider picking a school in New York. Film acting schools will train you better for acting in front of the camera, but keep in mind that a lot of casting directors still prefer actors with theater training, even for film and television.
4) Method of training
What’s the philosophy of the school? What acting techniques will you study? Method acting? The Meisner technique? As a beginning actor, you may not know what techniques will work for you, so consider a school that offers many approaches to acting. No matter what curriculum you choose, make sure your acting class includes work on relaxation, concentration, improvisation, scene study and character study.
5) Classes offered
Beyond acting classes, a good acting school should offer courses in movement (including stage combat and dance), vocal production and speech (including singing, dialects and accent reduction if needed), plus acting for the camera and auditioning classes. You may also want to take special courses like mask, make-up and costumes.
6) Length of studies
What kind of commitment do you want to make? If you’re not sure you want to become an actor, start off with a few acting classes or sign up for a summer acting camp. If you’re ready to train full time, programs vary from one to four years of training.
7) Performance opportunities
How often will you be on stage? This is very important. You can’t learn to act if you don’t get opportunities to work in front of an audience. Try to schedule a school tour to take a look at the facilities and their in-house theater(s). Find out if graduating students appear in an industry showcase in front of agents and casting directors.
8) Preparation for the marketplace
Ask if the acting school offers help with headshots, resumes and cover letters. Are workshops and seminars with working professionals included in the curriculum? Does the school have a film department where you can work with future filmmakers and get a reel together? Are internships in the entertainment industry facilitated? Is the school affiliated with a professional acting company? All these things will help you land your first acting jobs.
9) Acting degree
What degree will you get at the end of your acting training? A Bachelor’s degree from an acting university will give you more options in the future, including the possibility of pursuing a Masters later. If the school you like doesn’t offer a BFA in acting, find out if you can earn transferable credits.
Consider your budget. You will need money for tuition fees, books, supplies, room and board, insurance, transportation and personal expenses. Find out if the school you’re interested in offers financial aid. Also know in advance what kind of financial risk you’re taking (some acting schools do not guarantee their students will be accepted into the second or third year).
Hope these tips help. You can view listings of acting schools here. Good luck on your first step towards an acting career!
Alex Swenson has worked as an actor, writer and film editor for the past 15 years in New York and Los Angeles. She has created the website Acting School Stop (www.acting-school-stop.com) to help young actors start an acting career. The website offers free acting tips and a directory of acting schools.
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