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We answer the questions most frequently asked about starting out as a performer.

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I want to be an actor, how do I start?

There are many different ways to get into the performing arts. The most important thing at the start of your career is to train and gain experience.

A lot of actors start off in small low-budget stage or film productions to build up their experience and from there they start moving on to bigger jobs, so they can gain more credits. Read our advice about how to gain experience when you’re starting out for more tips.

Going to a drama school to gain a thorough grounding in performing techniques will give you the building blocks for a successful career and allows you to mix with other like-minded people to gain those all-important connections that will help you as you progress. If drama school is something you’re considering, read our guide to the different training routes for performers.

Networking with other members of the industry is also a good way to meet people and learn about how things work. We know it can be daunting but we have lots of advice about how to network as a performer.

How do I join Spotlight as a performer member?

There are a number of ways that you can qualify for Spotlight membership. To join us, a new performer will need to have one of the following:

  • At least one featured role with an Equity or equivalent union contract or two contracted professional performance credits
  • Or have completed at least a year of full-time professional performance training equivalent to an RQF level 5 or two years of part-time training
  • Or have been recommended by a party that’s a member of one of the following professional organisations, Personal Managers’ Association, Casting Directors’ Guild, Casting Society of America, Casting Directors Association,  Co-Operative Personal Managers Association, Association of Talent Agents, or the Agents of Young Performers Association. Please note – recommendations are at the discretion of the professional with whom you have an existing professional relationship. For example, they may have auditioned you, or watched you perform in a show. Applicants should not contact professionals via unsolicited calls or emails asking for a recommendation.

If you’re a graduate or young performer aged under 18 then there are different ways to join and you can find more information about how to join Spotlight here.

Is there a union for performers in the UK?

Equity represents both professional performers and creative practitioners. Its key purpose is to negotiate minimum terms and conditions of employment, as well as offer support and advice on contractual and legal issues.

The union also provides a campaigning voice, ensures equal opportunities and helps set standards across the industry. Read more about how to join Equity.

Where can I get advice on which agency is right for me?

Spotlight is impartial when it comes to advising performers but a good starting point is the Contacts section of our website, which provides listings for everything from agents to casting directors, photographers to drama schools. You can use this tool to search your local area for agencies that could be best suited for you.

As a general rule, you should never pay an agency any upfront fees and you should always check any contract you are asked to sign. Read our helpful article about finding and signing with an agent for more advice.

I need to have my headshots done, which photographer should I use?

The Contacts section of our website will give you the details of lots of photographers who specialise in headshots. It’s important to choose a photographer who caters to your needs as a performer. For example, don’t choose a photographer that specialises in musicians when you are an actor or dancer.

Your photograph is the first thing casting directors will see when you apply for jobs, so you want them to be good quality and appealing.

  • Choose a professional who has plenty of experience and ask to see examples of previous work before you agree to anything. This way you will know what your headshot is supposed to look like; location, lighting and styling are all important factors and professionals will know what works and what doesn’t.
  • Talk to your friends, peers or colleagues who have already had their headshots done and if you see some you like then ask them where/who they had them done with – they will be flattered, and happy to help.
  • Make sure you ask for a price and package breakdown before you agree to anything.

We have lots of advice on headshots and also a guide detailing what you can expect on your first headshot session.

It’s also worth reading our article about how to spot photoshoot scams so you don’t end up dealing with unscrupulous companies or individuals.

Can Spotlight pass on fan mail?

Spotlight is unable to pass on fan mail on your behalf even for unrepresented performers. If you wish to send fan mail then you will need to research who the performer’s agent is, and contact their agent/PR directly.

Can I get information about someone’s agent?

Spotlight can provide agent details if the agent and performer both appear on Spotlight.

I am concerned about the contract I am being asked to sign, what should I do?

If you have any concerns about the contract you are signing please seek advice before agreeing to sign it. You should never agree to terms you are not completely comfortable with. You may wish to speak to Equity or seek legal advice for peace of mind.

Our top tips for understanding contracts may also be useful.

How do I find out more about the industry?

Our Contacts listings are free to use and contain resources across the industry. We also provide free articles and videos online so take a look at our website’s News and Advice section for lots more industry advice.