Wood Harris on How to Break into the Film Industry

Many aspiring actors want to become part of the film and television industry. Wood Harris, an established Hollywood actor with dozens of stage and screen credits, shares his advice with people who want to join the industry.


Acting is a profession that is difficult to begin without the proper training. Not everyone needs to go to drama school, but acting lessons are a huge help in gaining confidence. Joining a local theater group is also a great way to receive training and to gain experience on stage. It may seem that acting is only memorizing scenes, but the craft is complex. Be prepared to take many entry-level jobs, such as commercials, at the beginning of your career.

A background of non-speaking roles also helps you to learn how life on a set works. As you gain credits, you will be offered speaking parts, which you can eventually play into bigger roles. Casting directors will begin to know you, and they may recommend you for featured parts.

Get a Trusted Agent

One of the professional actor’s most valuable assets is a trustworthy agent. Agents help actors find jobs and speak for them in negotiations over salary and duties. Getting an agent can be a difficult process. It is even harder to find one who truly has your best interests in mind. Ask fellow actors and directors for recommendations. Word of mouth may help you to avoid problems with certain agents.

Be Patient

Acting is not a lucrative career when first starting out. It is important to keep your day job until you are certain that you can support yourself with your work. Don’t be too proud to wait tables or make coffee. Many famous actors worked in regular jobs for years while they were waiting to become established. For example, Sylvester Stallone was working at a movie theater when he had the idea for his breakout role in Rocky.

Don’t Be Typecast

Audition for parts that are out of your comfort zone. This will help you build a broader skill set and also avoid typecasting. Typecasting can actually help young actors get started, but it is a thorn in the side of more established actors who are trying to break free of preconceptions about their work.

Change Your Attitude about Auditions

Rather than fixating on how difficult an audition will be, think of it as a place to practice your acting. It helps to imagine that you already have the role and that you are rehearsing. This can calm nerves and make an audition seem less like a life-and-death situation.

Don’t Take it Personally

When you aren’t cast in a project, try to separate yourself emotionally from your disappointment. Not being chosen for a part doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with you or with your acting. Casting directors tend to work on hunches, and they aren’t thinking specifically about you when they choose to put your headshot aside.

Have Interests Outside of Acting

Beginning actors are often so focused on their careers, they don’t take time to have other experiences. Broadening your life gives you more to draw on when you are creating a role. Keep up with your sports, outdoor activities, reading or writing. This will also keep you more centered, leading to a more relaxed and confident state of mind.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Don’t forget the reason why you wanted to become an actor. Acting should be fun and being too serious may cause burnout. Play with your roles and play with your personal image. You may find that you get different kinds of roles when you approach your work with a certain light-heartedness, and you may find that different parts of the business open up to you.

Believe in Yourself

The business of acting can be daunting for people who are just starting out. Well-meaning teachers and older professionals may constantly warn new actors that they are taking a huge risk and that they shouldn’t expect success. If you don’t believe that you can succeed, it will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Belief in yourself and in your talent will help you overcome discouraging events.

Final Thoughts

With these simple tips in mind, new actors will be able to navigate the business and to create exciting opportunities for themselves. Wood Harris hopes that these tips will help people overcome their fears and leap into the rewarding business of acting.

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