Frequently Asked Questions and advice for Performers
- Getting Started
- You and your Agent
- Castings and Contracts
- Working Overseas
- Joining Spotlight
1. Getting Started
Q. How do I become an actor?
A. If you are under 18 we recommend that you finish your education first. Join in any drama / performance activities at school, take theatre studies as an option, read as many plays as possible, and go and see as much theatre as you can.
It is also a good idea to build up your practical experience. Find out if there is a youth theatre or drama group in your area, or any evening or Saturday drama classes. Contact your nearest theatre or arts centre to see if they offer work placements or voluntary positions.
If you are over 18 and are serious about acting you should think about going to drama school. This involves three years of intensive training in all aspects of performing. Most professional actors will have trained in this way. You can find more information about UK drama schools at www.dramauk.co.uk
To help you get started, you may also want to look at a copy of Contacts It is a 'yellow pages' for the entertainment industry and contains listings including Agents, Casting Directors, Drama Schools and Coaches, and TV and Theatre Companies - to name but a few. You can order a copy from Amazon. It is also available in all good bookshops.
Always remember that working as a performer can be very hard. It is a fiercely competitive industry with a huge number of performers fighting for a small number of jobs. Most actors work on short-term contracts, with long hours and often for very little money. We recommend you think very carefully before embarking on a performance career.
Q. How can my child become an actor?
A. Young actors often get work through their stage school, which provides specialised training in acting, singing and dancing for under 16’s. You will find a list of schools in Contacts.
There are also a number of children’s agencies which you may wish to contact, these are listed in the Contacts handbook.
It is a good idea for your child to try and get as much practical experience as possible: join the drama club at school, take theatre studies as an option, read as many plays as possible, and go and see as much theatre as they can. There may be a youth theatre or drama group in your area or a theatre that offers evening or Saturday classes.
Children who are currently represented by an agent or attending a stage school can join our Spotlight Children & Young Performers directory, to promote themselves to casting opportunities.
Q. How do I become a TV/Film Extra?
A. You will find that Contacts contains many useful names and addresses. We would suggest contacting some of the agencies listed under 'Walk-on & Supporting Artists Agents', perhaps sending a CV and a covering letter. The website www.hiddenextra.com also takes a realistic look at extra work.
You may also find it useful to contact the Film Artists Association (part of BECTU) on 020 7346 0900.
Q. How do I go to drama school?
A. If you intend to pursue a career as an actor, you can receive professional training from one of the major drama schools when you are 18 or over. We recommend that you consider a drama school which is a member of Drama UK www.dramauk.co.uk
Drama UK is a merger of the Conference of Drama Schools and the National Council for Drama Training and is the champion of quality drama training in the UK offering advocacy, assurance and advice. Over the years member schools have trained actors, stage managers and other theatre professionals to the highest standards.
Q. How do I become an agent?
A. You will need to get experience of working in an agent's office, usually this is done by working as an assistant. This will give you the opportunity of seeing how the industry works, building up your contacts and getting to know casting directors. Agents' assistants work extremely hard for very little money and are often expected to go to theatre every night.
There are two organisations that you may find it useful to contact:
Agents' Association Ltd (Great Britain)
Q. How do I get into casting?
A. The best way to gain experience in this field is to work as a Casting Assistant, vacancies are often advertised in The Stage.
You may find it useful to contact the Casting Directors' Guild.
2. You and Your Agent
Q. Should I pay an agent in order to join their books?
A. Spotlight does not recommend that performers pay an agent to join their client list. Please contact Equity for detailed information about the issue of upfront payments. You may wish to refer to their booklet "You and your Agent" which is free to all Equity members. E-mail email@example.com to obtain a copy.
Actors co-ops can charge an upfront fee for a different reason; all co-operative agencies are made up of actors running an agency together, so they are 'shareholders'.
Q. Can Spotlight offer me advice on choosing or changing my Agent?
A. Unfortunately Spotlight is not able to advise performers on specific agents, nor is it in a position to handle any financial or contractual queries or complaints.
If you are a member of Equity then you can contact their legal and welfare department with certain agency queries or complaints (see below).
Q. What Agent advice is available to Equity members?
A. Equity has a legal and welfare department which provides Equity members with general information about issues including commissions, fees and contracts. However, Equity is not able to recommend specific agencies or agents.
The booklet "You and Your Agent" provides information about your rights and responsibilities as an artist and is free to Equity members and student members. It also appears on the members-only area of the Equity website. It provides information on contracts, payments to agents, client accounts, multiple agents, split deals and co-operative agencies. It also contains a sample agreement and a list of useful contacts. To request a copy, call 020 7379 6000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, before accepting engagements, members are advised to contact Equity to check whether an agent is on the "Special Attention" list. This list also appears in the back page of the Equity Journal, sent out to members quarterly. Agents are added to this list when, after a thorough investigation, a complaint from an Equity member about an agent's conduct has been upheld. In most cases, this is because the individual, company or agency has owed or still owes money to its clients. In some cases money will have been secured for Equity members through the courts or through the dispute procedures in Equity contracts.
Equity can also provide legal advice for its members if they are having problems with an agent, such as non-payment or contractual concerns. Contact email@example.com.
3. Contracts and Castings
Q. Should I attend a casting at a house/flat?
A. Always make sure you tell someone where you are going and at what time you will be back. If you can, take somebody with you. If you have never heard of the casting director, please phone Spotlight to see if they are known to us. Trust your instincts: if something does not seem right to you, then it probably isn't.
Q. Should I commit to a role if I am only being offered expenses?
A. This is dependent on your needs and objectives. It is your responsibility to find out how much you will be paid before you accept the job. If it is a low budget film yet the script interests you, then you should go for it - especially if you are just starting out in the industry and want to boost your experience and your showreel. If possible, ask for a contract which will ensure that, should the film be financially successful further down the line, you will receive a share of the profits.
Q. Should I accept a contract offering deferred payment?
A. Again, if you like the script, respect the casting director and fellow actors then you should consider it. Always bear in mind that due to the abundance of film makers, competition and budgetary constraints it might not make you any money.
4. Working Overseas
Q. What do I do if I am a UK resident but want to work as a performer abroad?
A. This obviously depends on the employment legislation in the country in which you are hoping to work. A good starting point would be to contact the performers' union in that country. Information on performers' unions worldwide can be obtained from the F I A (www.fia-actors.com), who in most cases will also be able to advise on what criteria you need to fulfill to be eligible for work. Their telephone number is 020 7379 0900.
For example, if you wanted to work in the USA you would either need either a "H1" or a Green Card to work legally. The main unions are SAG.AFTRA (www.sagaftra.org). You will not be eligible to join the USA's leading casting services (e.g. www.breakdownservices.com) unless you can work there legally. To find out more, contact either or these unions or the companies directly.
Q. I'm a professionally trained actor from overseas and I want to work in the UK. How do I get started?
As with all jobs, to work as an actor in the UK you will need to have a relevant work permit / working visa. You should visit http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/ for full information.
Familarise yourself with the UK industry by consulting a copy of Contacts, published by Spotlight. It's available from all good bookshops, or you can order from Amazon.
If you have proof of professional training and / or paid acting work, you can join Spotlight to promote yourself to casting opportunities.
You may also wish to join the UK's actors' union, Equity. For more information visit their website www.equity.org.uk or call 020 7379 6000.
5. Joining Spotlight
Q. You say I can only join Spotlight if I have trained at a recognised drama school and / or professional experience. What does this actually mean?
By "professional experience" we mean that you have been employed on a professional basis.
If you are in any doubt as to whether you qualify for Spotlight membership, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more information you include, the more it helps us to understand the training / experience you have.
Please note that we consider each application on a case-by-case basis and reserve the right to refuse Spotlight entries without explanation.
Q. What photo do you suggest I use for Spotlight?
A. You should also read our information about submitting photos to Spotlight, especially if you wish to upload a digital copy of your photo.
Q. What does 'c/o Spotlight' mean?
A. Members who do not have an agent will appear as 'c/o Spotlight'. This means that Spotlight handles casting enquiries on their behalf (free of charge). For security reasons, we will not publish your personal contact details.
Our highly experienced Customer Relations team will vet all of your casting enquiries before passing these on to you. We take the privacy and security of our artists very seriously, and this is reflected in the huge numbers of our clients who trust us with their personal details.
Further information about joining Spotlight can be found on the following pages of our website:
* Please note that Spotlight does not accept responsibility for content of any of the external websites it mentions on this page.