The answer is do it later. Wait for college. Going to a college like USC or UCLA is a safer way to make the leap. These universities will help you get training and experience as well as make connections to jobs. Plus it gives you a safe place to live while you develop your LA network (and having a network is very important to be successful). A network consist of people you know in Hollywood that can help you get jobs. Without a network, it is very difficult to get an acting job.
But a lot of young actors don't want to wait. What can you do before college? Here are some ideas:
1. School plays are great experience. Casting directors like actors with theatre/stage experience.
2. Community theatre plays are another way to train yourself and work with adult actors who can teach you a lot and maybe even help make connections.
3. Make your own short films. Even if you make bad short films, you still learn a lot of acting and then watching yourself. Have fun with it and don't worry about being good. But watch the finished film and think about how you can do better.
4. Start a YouTube channel. You can even make a little money by monetizing the video. And if you're lucky, you'll have a viral hit and make your mark early.
TROUBLE CONVINCING YOUR PARENTS?
If you're having trouble convincing your parents, doing the above 4 steps will show them you are passionate about being an actor and they will be more likely to support you if you show your love what you're doing.
ADVICE FOR TEEN ACTOR ABOUT AGENTS
Teen actors often ask if they should get an agent.
Don't approach an agent unless you have a lot of acting experience. The best way to get the interest of a good agent is to get a paid acting job (speaking role).
SAG is the best place to look: http://www.sagaftra.org/agency-relations/sag-franchised-agents/sag-franchised-agents
But overall, if the agent requires you to pay money to work with them up front, then it's not a good agent. Good agents only take percentages of your pay when you actually get work.
The exception might be if the agent offers special services such as headshots, website resumes, etc. This should only be optional though. But if they require it, then beware!
TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA
Actor Q & A with Risa Bramon Garcia, BGB Studios, from Industry Insider
"It’s a tough time for actors coming to L.A. to try and make a name for themselves in film and television. There’s just not a lot of work. 5% of actors in this town are making a really decent living. And maybe 10% or 20% are making some kind of living. And that’s it. And everybody else is not." (Risa Bramon Garcia, BGB Studios)
Here are some suggestion for new actors starting out:
- Start out getting experience in another city. LA is expensive and there won't be a support system.
"One of the reasons I think working in theater in a place like New York is so great is that people get to know you and you don’t really need an agent to audition for theater, to get seen. So maybe you do a play at a smaller theater and people see you. Eventually, an agency will agree to represent you and then that agency might have a partner agency in L.A. so you may even have representation when your get here. That was my path." (Risa Bramon Garcia, BGB Studios)
MORE ON AGENTS
Not having an agent shouldn't hold you back from getting started. It's up to you to make things happen.
"First of all, having an agent doesn’t always mean all that much... Your agent is not there to get you a job. They can make introductions, they can submit you, negotiate your deals, and they can tell you what’s happening out there. But you need to be creative, and proactive; you need to create your own work." (Risa Bramon Garcia, BGB Studios)
Plan on having a backup job. Temporary jobs are good, especially night jobs so you're free for auditions during the day.
Here are some possible night jobs that could work:
Work at night job at a hotel
Night shift at a store
Babysitting or nanny
Also temp jobs as well as substitute teaching can be good ones so you're not stuck with a regularly scheduled job.
Here are some acting tips to get you started: http://www.freedrama.net/acting.html
And an acting contest you can do from a distance to get experience: http://www.freedrama.net/voiceact.html