If there is one question that there is not straight answer to, it has to be this one: I am an aspiring actor and would like to act but where do I start? So after reading the HOW DO YOU KNOW IF ACTING IS THE RIGHT CAREER CHOICE? you are ready to pursue this profession and are at the cross roads on where to go and who to talk to.
One thing that really stands out after talking to the established actors that I talked to was this; they started acting when they were very young. Church plays, nursery school plays primary school plays all the way to high school. Acting has been part and parcel of their lives. It is not something they suddenly decided to do when they reached 25 years. No! Through out their childhood, in one way or the other, they had already started pearcing (allow me to use that word) the acting talent into their veins. I for example started acting from nursery school. I was always on the front line when it came to narrating poems. Church plays! I was once baby Jesus! An ugly baby Jesus but Jesus all the same. I grew up a little and played Joseph and one of the 3wise men whilst still in church. I took that further to primary school and did plays and further progressed to high school where for 3 good years, I was always given the role of a woman because none of the boys in my all boys high school was brave enough to take the role or maybe crazy enough. Did I mention I once won best female actress second runners up? Public speaking, solo verses, choral verses. You name it.
This does not mean that if you did not have an early start, you cannot make it as an actor. It just makes it easier for you. Like I said in my previous article acting chooses you and not the other way round. I would like you to add another tattoo among the previous tattoos I had asked you to plaster on your forehead and that is “to succeed in the acting career it is not really talent or the looks! The most important thing to remember and that will separate you from every other Tom Dick and Harry who thinks they can act is to treat this as a business”.
Now, if you have the passion and drive and the calling to act, here are a 10 tips that will help you to kick start your acting career or at least I hope they will.
1. Kenya National Theatre
Yes, find a busy actor who has no time to answer your many nagging questions about how to start acting and they will tell you KNT. If we were in America, KNT would be our Hollywood. Most established actors have their roots coming from KNT. KNT is the place where, like someone once said, “it is the place every actor should go and sign in at least once a week.” Meet like minded actors to share stories with. Get to learn of the different theatre groups and join one. Get to know of Auditions and much much more. KNT is always a good place to start. Now, I must admit, you do not necessarily have to go and sit there and hope God will show you a sign to where you need to head to. For those outside Nairobi, I am sure you have your own little theatres that are active and if not, you need to revive them. All in all, take part in local theatre for starters, it will open doors for you apart from you making acting something natural for you.
2. Acting Classes
Optional for those who know they can act and have been given the go ahead by the many producers who have put them on their shows. Also optional for those who started acting early so they know the tricks and drama to it. Then again, knowing how to drive a car will still require you to get certified as a driver. And like with any other profession, you must go to school to be a professional at what you do. You might want to read this article called should one attend acting classes to help you decide whether you are one to attend acting classes or not. Unfortunately, if you feel you must attend a class, there are not many acting schools in Kenya. If you do a google search, Kenyatta and Moi University appear in the top search results.These institutions actually offer courses in the arts and social sciences. I do not however see any acting class and maybe someone who goes to school there can fill us in or alternatively, that is your home work. I do know of Neil Schell who has been hosting a couple of acting classes and you should look out for one of his acting sessions and I have heard he is a really good coach. Perhaps we need a dedicated acting school for that. Those outside Nairobi, you can always contact someone who you know is a good actor to come coach you. At times all is required is for someone to ask for something in order to get it. Sitting in your comfort zone and whining is never a solution. Besides, get a good acting class and you will get to know much more apart from just cramming lines and saying them but also how to define your roles and which character best suits you.
No way around them. You have to attend as many auditions as possible. That is the only way to get acting jobs. Good thing, we now have actors.co.ke trying to share the new on when auditions take place. However, read the article called why auditions are a hidden agenda to find out why less and less production houses are holding public auditions. At the same time, humans being humans, might know of auditions but will not fill you in. Perhaps it is just the competitive nature of the industry or just sheer stinginess. All the same, you have to go for auditions and mark you; you might end up hearing of them on the same day they are being held. This then means, you have to drop everything in order for you to attend them. But hey, I never promised kick starting your acting career would be easy, did I now?
4. Casting Agents
Good luck getting a good casting agent and please watch out for my next article on this matter. But getting a good casting agent is also a vital component to kick starting your career. You should get a casting agent to help you get acting gigs and market for you.
5. Market yourself
Simply put, put yourself out there. Let people know that you exist. Remember me saying that view acting like a business? Yes, you and yourself and thyself are a business. Treat and Carry yourself as one. Businesses need advertisement and marketing in order to be known. You too should do that. It is the main reason behind actors.co.ke. The site is meant for actors to market themselves. Truth be told, actors are not as highly regarded or appreciated as much . You will not be called for a concert to go perform like musicians do. You might however, get called for a special audition behind closed doors to try out a role because some producer has seen your actors.co.ke profile and because you went and shared it on his facebook wall. The profiles you are creating on actors.co.ke are not for aesthetic value but for your advertisements and marketing sake. Marketing does not only mean creating your profile of course, it can also mean, you and a couple others going out of your way to do your own show and putting it up on you tube for people to see. Musicians have demo CDs that they 1st have to give to a producer in order for the later to judge how good or bad that musician is. Why can’t you do the same? Do not sit and wait till you appear on TV, do something by yourself. This point leads me to my next one.
Also known as Kujuana. We may hide it or deny it but most people are actually getting jobs through nepotism. There is a phrase that says “It is who you know and who he/she knows that will determine whether you make it in life. ”Personally,I think it is a load of BS. Unfortunately, whilst I am having my own personal opinions, Kamau is using his God given personality,character and charisma to chat with the director of that hot show you see on TV. He is sending friend requests to all the directors and producers around. He is going for auditions and taking telephone numbers of other auditionees and keeping tabs on when the next audition will be. Kamau is then seen on 2 or 3 shows on different stations on TV and the other actors who were never taken for any show are hating kamau and acting at large. People complain of seeing the same faces on TV or how unfair is this or crying foul in general. Whether Kamau is a good actor or not is beside the point. The point is kamau is getting ahead of you by simply getting to know people. Networking does not mean you start philandering around though.
Like any other business, you need to invest in your acting career too. Invest your time in going for auditions, marketing yourself,networking etc. Invest your money in doing your own small acting project. In keeping yourself healthy because you body is your tool of trade. If you are fat!.Sorry Big! Do not expect to be given a role that requires a skinny (sorry, small person). For example, I seem to be getting roles for a lawyer/prosecutor all the time I have gone for auditions. Because I am big ( I know you want to say fat) yet I feel I can also do good as a comedian for example. So my body type judges what role I can get. If I want to be the next Simiyu Samurai, I probably need to go the gym, shed of a few kilos and learn karate.Invest in knowledge, read and research. Upload your videos on youtube for the world to see. Which leads to my next point.
8. Get an extra Skill
With every Mary, Anne and Wambui thinking they can act, the competition is getting stiffer. So how about you acquire an extra skill that will separate you from the pack. Learn karate and get taken for the karate kid Kenyan version. Learn to play an instrument. Learn how to drive for the roles that require you to do so. Bottom line is, you need to get an extra skill that will put you before the others.
9. Make a resume
You surely do not go for interviews without your CV do you? So why should you go for an audition without your acting resume? If you do not have one, actors.co.ke is doing exactly that. Helping you create your online resume and at the same time giving you the chance to market yourself. Plus network by participating in our forums. So make use of this free tool.
10. Do not give up and dream big
Last but not least. It is not easy doing this. Then again, if you are pessimist and have gone for 2 or 3 auditions, did not get the role and you want to give up, then sorry, I cannot help you on that. Sure, some are lucky enough to get acting jobs faster than others but maybe they are doing one or two things in this list right. Either way, the good thing about this profession is that no one forces you to sit behind a desk and monitors you. Reason being, it is your passion and destiny. If it really is, you know very well, you cannot give up on it. Whatever reason has led you to start acting; you need to keep at it till you make it. Last but not least, dream big my fellow thespians!
Below is a video Clip of one of our more established Kenyan actresses who was more than willing to assist in sharing her side of the story on how to kick start your acting career.
Thank you Caroline Midimo.
Advised by Gerald Langiri