Wondering how to become a teenage actor and find auditions for teenage actors?
You’re fed up with homework and boring lessons and don’t know what the future holds. After watching your favourite Netflix show you suddenly realise…you’ll become a teenage actor! After all, that will be an easy and glamorous job to do and pays all the bills.
What a shame that seemingly everyone else has the same idea – and that the reality of life as an actor is so different from the fantasy daydream.
How To Become A Teenage Actor
If you want to become a teenage actor with no experience you have to:
- Understand the industry and how it works
- Keep you and your money safe
- Develop high levels of skill through training
- Get experience as an actor
- Approach acting agencies for teens
- Make contacts in the industry
- Spend the rest of your life trying to find work
Keep reading this article to find out more about each of these steps.
What Are Realistic Expectations?
You might be a lucky breakthrough. If your parent is famous or is friends with a casting director, you go to a (costly) school frequently scouted by casting directors, you win a TV contest, or happen to match an unrepresented demographic exactly at the right time for a difficult-to-cast role, then your chances of being discovered are better than for everyone else.
But even then, you need to train, get experience, build contacts, and endlessly seek work.
Also, don’t take breakthrough stories from famous actors at face value. The lucky breaks they describe in soundbites often suggest their start was easy and accidental. Light hearted interviews ignore their important contacts and the previous years of hard work and effort that got them seen by the right casting director.
For most people getting enough work to pay the bills is an uphill slog. Even people who spent much of their childhood training every day at stage school and got a three year degree at drama school struggle to build a successful career.
Given the expense of drama school, regular updates of headshots and showreel, the location of most casting directors in very, very expensive locations, the insecurity of jobs and the difficulty of commitment to a second income, acting is not a profession that many people can afford to pursue.
The entertainment industry is a pyramid. Hordes of beginners at the overcrowded wide bottom think they will be the one to make it to the exclusive, thin top. In between are all the people finding ways to stay the course for as long as possible.
1. Understand The Industry
First, read many acting blogs and watch YouTube videos to find out more about daily life as an actor. Look at the articles we’ve listed for child & teen actors, and actors, extras & training. Find out how the entertainment industry works.
Don’t spend money signing up to agents, workshops, headshot sessions and attending castings (auditions) without knowing what you are committed to, how to prepare and what to expect afterwards.
Casting directors hate receiving representation requests from beginners – who didn’t even find out what a casting director does before approaching them.
When A Teenage Actor Must Be Licensed
Next, observe the law.
In the UK, you must be of legal age to leave school to work on any stage or film set as an unaccompanied teenage actor. That’s the last Friday of June following your 16th birthday, when Year 11 GCSE summer exams end.
The US States have similar laws.
Before that age, you need a chaperone – your legal guardian or a chaperone licenced by your council – and a child performance licence. With very, very few exceptions every teenage actor 16 and under must have these in place, even for an unpaid role in a short student film made at the weekend or during school holidays.
Because of these legal requirements, the extra expense of chaperones and the short deadlines common to most projects, teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 find it difficult to obtain paid work.
Instead, young looking older teenagers and adults usually play that age range.
Once you are at the end of Year 11, you no longer need to be licensed to work or volunteer as a teenage actor.
But now you should obtain a standard DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate and send an electronic copy to your agent. Without one, you won’t be accepted to work on most professional film or TV sets with children and school age teenagers present.
Also, hold on to your National Insurance letter when it arrives in the post and don’t lose the number!
How do you start an acting career at 14?
The way to become a teenage actor with no experience at the age of 12 or 14 is the same as for 21 or even 70 year olds. However, under the legal school-leaving age you must obtain a child performance licence (& chaperone) for each job, whereas over that age a DBS certificate and National Insurance number is needed instead.
2 Safety Issues For The Teenage Actor
Keeping you and you money safe is an important skill, because there’s a lot that can go wrong for the naive teenager. Even many adults and parents fall for scams when it comes to acting and modelling.
The Costs of Becoming A Teenage Actor
Starting out as a teenage actor costs money:
- Training costs
- Attending agency auditions (wardrobe, travel costs, missed shifts, etc)
- Possible agency representation fees
- Subscriptions to casting sites
- Attending castings with casting directors (wardrobe, travel costs, missed shifts, etc)
- Covering all your bills as you aren’t concentrating on a salaried job
- Agency commission on all acting job receipts
Unscrupulous people prey on the hopes and dreams of aspiring actors of all ages all of the time.
They charge you for expensive photo portfolios or agency fees with promises of fame. Meanwhile, they know they don’t have the industry contacts to open doors for you.
Other criminals set up websites or advertising campaigns offering netflix auditions and other high prestige castings. It will cost you money, and you’ll get nothing in return except disappointment and an empty bank account.
Therefore, read our article about spotting fake agencies and do your research before you even apply to an agency.
Exploitation Risks For Teenage Actors
Unfortunately, some adults in the entertainment industry exploit young people for physical and emotional gratification. The #metoo movement is trying to change this culture.
A relationship where one party has all the power is an abusive one. YOU must be confident about refusing all inappropriate approaches, even if you lose a possible job because of it.
Take care when using casting sites. Starnow, Mandy and numerous others are accessed by children and teenager actors without the safety of an agent. Predators try different ways to access inappropriate photos and online contact with subscribers. The sites always close and investigate rogue advertisers after an incident is reported, but that’s after something has happened.
Facebook filmmaking groups also have risks. Complete strangers ask for young volunteers to work on their projects. Payment, insurance, licenses and chaperones are never mentioned. Yet they still get overwhelmed with a huge response from adults, parents and teenager actors.
Safety On Set
Whether you’re acting on stage or in front of a camera, there’s always a Health & Safety risk. Even famous actors get injured making big budget films. Therefore, you must check your acting space is insured and remember your own responsibility to keep safe.
A good talent agent checks you have a safe and insured workspace, and checks there’s a Child Performance Licence in place if you need one.
Unfortunately, too many people jump at unpaid and student castings on casting websites and Facebook groups without asking the most basic questions.
Once on set, be aware of equipment, especially if it’s being moved or has cables you can trip on. Stay still and quiet as you wait for cameras to roll.
3. Develop Your Skills
Whatever your level of acting skill, there is always room for improvement.
You don’t work in bars and restaurants, emergency services, or any office job without training. So why would you be paid to work on a TV production using nothing but gut instinct?
If you are still at school, join a local youth theatre or other drama group that will stretch you beyond the limits of school drama activities.
Apply to join the National Youth Theatre. It’s very hard to get in, so if you are accepted the industry knows you have something special.
Yes, it costs money to audition for the NYT and the cost of the summer course makes your eyes water. Nearly all the later projects are for people who can afford to live in London. Welcome to the world of acting.
In addition, develop activity skills for specialist casting director briefs. Young actors under 20 are commonly sought to portray BMX riders, skateboarders, sport participants and skilled musicians.
If you see acting as a lifelong career, attending a theatre school or an accredited drama school can be useful. Building a reputation at one of the elite drama schools helps enormously, especially if you’d like a career on the stage rather than screen acting.
Auditioning for drama school costs a lot of money and the ones which matter attract thousands of applicants. Your chances of getting into drama school are very low if it’s an institution with a heavyweight reputation.
Meanwhile, drama school foundation courses have emerged as a common first offer. Students develop their skillset for a year before attempting entry for a three year drama school place again. It costs roughly £20,000 and has no guarantee of winning you a place at a good drama school, or of acting work in the future.
If you can get into a good drama school, particularly at one of the elite centres, you have a better chance of being discovered by casting directors. They attend the school showcases and take note of your high level training when considering brief submissions for castings.
Can’t afford drama school? There’s nothing to stop you pursuing a screen career anyway. Make your local training and experience build your skillset instead.
4. Get Experience As A Teenage Actor
You are never too young to get experience. Some children are on film sets within days of being born.
Can you audition for a movie without an agent?
Unfortunately, you won’t get started by seeking acting auditions for movies. Those big ‘open auditions’ attracting tens of thousands of hopefuls are publicity stunts. So if you’re serious about becoming an actor, stop looking at your phone trying to find movie auditions, and instead find real life achievable opportunities and a good agent.
How can a teenager get an acting job?
If you live near an industry centre such as London or Los Angeles, you benefit from easy physical access to professional castings via talent agents. That gives you practice, and the more castings you attend, the more skills you’ll develop to get noticed.
Unfortunately for everyone else, attending castings is expensive and time consuming. Sometimes casting directors look for something specific in other areas of the country, but usually with a narrow casting type (accent, specific look) in mind.
Acting auditions for kids with no experience
You’ll get to see the reality of standing in a cold garden for an hour while people fiddle with lights and cameras. Or sitting in a waiting room for two hours with nothing to do. Acting on set can be incredibly dull, but no one believes this until they experience it.
Student and amateur short films aren’t anything amazing and won’t launch you as the next superstar. But it’s good to see if the reality of acting is a good fit for you, and to make contacts to get recommended for other projects.
However, do remember the safety warnings given above when you’re finding experience this way.
Don’t pay money to participate, don’t work for free on a set where someone will be making money, and don’t get talked into any situation you’re uncomfortable with.
5. Approach Acting Agencies for Teens
Access to the best acting jobs in TV, movies and stage productions are through quality, well connected acting and talent agencies.
How do I hire an acting agent?
To hire an acting agent, prepare a good CV, backed up with a headshot (and showreel if possible). Then submit it to a talent agency appropriate to your current acting career stage, at a time their books are open. You’ll either get invited to audition, or receive silence.
Talent agencies are overwhelmed by the number of applications they receive each week, so many keep their books closed most of the time. They announce open books on their website and social media feeds.
Once you have decent training and experience behind you, talent agents take your CV more seriously. They’ll invite interesting candidates in to audition, and offer representation only to a select few.
So if you receive an unsolicited email offering representation, or are taken on without a face to face meeting, and are then asked for money? Alarm bells are ringing!
How to get an acting agent as a teenager
Before sending applications, do thorough research. Choose the right acting agency for you and your circumstances.
Firstly, don’t send applications to the top agencies who represent movie stars and household names unless you are a regular character in a hit TV show or have won a BAFTA. Nothing you can say makes you an emerging actor with star potential until you have the acting credits to prove it.
Some agencies concentrate on panto or theatre in education projects. Others only represent talent for commercials, or have height restrictions.
If you’re not prepared to do the work the agency specialises in, it’s not the agency for you. You don’t apply to a computer recruitment agency for nursing work, so apply the same principle here.
In addition, agencies have different processes for receiving applications, and reject anyone ignoring those instructions. So you must pay attention and not blanket bomb all talent agencies with your emailed CV.
Meanwhile all scams and fake agencies must be avoided, along with agencies without a track record of success.
Teenage acting agencies
If you’re a teenage actor in the UK, start by reading our page about reputable UK agencies for child actors. Many of them take young people up to the age of 21 or 25.
Alternatively, we have a number of pages with summaries about acting agencies, which you can use to START your OWN research:
Talent agencies in the UK, many of which represent teen actors:
But remember to do your own research before applying to any of these agencies. Can you see real evidence that the people they represent are getting work, from a source other than the agency itself?
6. Make Contacts
During any filming schedule, there are plenty of stops, starts and breaks. Stage rehearsals have set breaks and during the show you wait in the dressing room between your scenes. So during these times talk to the waiting actors and crew around you.
It’s a brilliant way to learn about the industry, other people’s successes and failures to date, and the lessons to learn. More importantly, it connects you to other people working or volunteering in the same space, and might lead to you being recommended or tipped off about future opportunities.
Just don’t forget your cue or distract other people so they miss theirs!
It’s normal during projects or soon after to get a flurry of social media friend requests. If you’re under 17 only accept these requests if your account is monitored by a parent. It’s great to make a network, but there are a lot of worrying adults to avoid close contact with.
Reports of inappropriate social media messages to child actors and teenage actors are rife. They are creepy and worrying. You need protection from the many weirdos out there.
On a lighter note, getting your face and name known is good. In the lottery of lucky breaks, you never know which film student, fellow actor or emerging director will later be successful and remember your talent and reliability when discussing their next project.
7. Keep Finding Work As A Teenage Actor
Imagine you are a hospital nurse and once a fortnight you attend a job interview for work which lasts 5 days, and you’ll only get accepted after 1 in every 20 interviews. Not only does it make your income very precarious, but your life is full of nerves and rejection.
How many people would accept those conditions to become a nurse?
So now think about why you want to live like that to be an actor.
Endlessly dropping your plans to learn 25 pages of script in 3 hours before yet another nervous dash through London to an unpaid casting, and not even the courtesy of a phone call when you don’t get chosen. For years and years.
Frequently asked questions:
Actors don’t get paid a salary. Depending on the project they get paid nothing, expenses, profit share, a day rate, or a project fee.
It is well documented that MOST actors don’t even earn as much as someone working a full time MINIMUM WAGE job.
The only way most actors can afford to attend castings is by taking on another job, such as in a bar or as an office temp. And with casting directors’ teams often working long hours seven days a week, it’s hard to be available for castings – typically given with little notice – while holding down a part-time or casual job.
Actors keep auditioning throughout their career. Even the famous ones have to go through script reading, ‘meetings’, try outs and chemistry checks. They get on board many projects which then fall through because of lack of funding or the loss of someone crucial to the process.
You’ve no doubt heard about actors earning millions for one film, although they lose much of it in commissions, service charges and taxes. Plus, a lot of their life is spent discussing projects which never happen.
But only a tiny minority of actors are even in this special group.
A Final Word For The Aspiring Teenage Actor
You’ve probably got to the end of this very long article and been struck by how negative it is.
That’s because life as a teenage actor includes a lot of rejection, costs and insecurity. Yet from the outside it looks like an easy path to fame, fortune and partying with the cool set.
Consequently you need to start out knowing what’s real and achievable while you also keep other career options open.
So you’re ready for the hard work building up training and experience, know how to avoid the bad guys preying on the naive, can organise your life around auditions, and not get disappointed that almost every audition doesn’t even produce a courtesy “thanks, but no thanks” email?
In that case get prepared, do lots of research and make a good attempt to start your acting career.
Even if experience ultimately teaches you acting is not your chosen profession, you’ll have developed a range of transferable skills and clarified what you want from your working life.
And if you’re lucky enough to make ends meet with acting work, starting as a teenage actor gives you a good headstart into the industry.