How to Audition for a Movie | 6 Tips for Success

how to audition for moviesWondering how to audition for a movie and make it to the big screen? Here, we’ll share six important tips for success.

Many major movies are filmed in big cities such as Los Angeles and New York. Whatever big city you are closest to, you should start by looking up the local film office. For example, if you search online for “Massachusetts State Film Office,” you should see a website like this.

Every state also has its own film office, which will have all the information you need about what is being filmed in that state, local auditions, etc. Keep reading for more helpful tips to nail your next audition.

How to Audition for a Movie: 6 Steps

1) Find Your Role

This is a necessary step for those interested in how to audition for movies.

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For most films, it may sound superficial but looks really are everything. You will need to try to assess which characters you could play on film. For example, do you look like a high school student? Could you portray a daughter, or a sister? Or could you play the dreamy boyfriend?

Think of all the different character possibilities you could portray, and start looking for the most appropriate auditions.

2) Find Smaller Productions

If you’re diving into film for the first time, you don’t necessarily have to shoot for the major, commercial films.

You might not realize it, but whatever city you are in there are many independent and student films being created and filmed all the time! This is a great way to start out, and see what it’s like being on a film set.

If you’re a college student, you should also get involved in your school’s film department. Many students will need to make films for their majors. These won’t pay well, but it’s a great way to start learning about film and how to act on film.

Also, low-budget independent films and short films are a great way to get a speaking part!

3) Find Background Work

If you’re wondering how to audition for a movie, you’ve probably already done some acting training or taken acting lessons. If so, don’t be be afraid to go for the big budget films! But films are being made every day, and they usually need tons of extras.

Extra or background work is fun – you will learn so much about film, get a decent paycheck, and perhaps even be featured on film. The part may be small, but you never know – depending on your look and how you act on the film set, you could get bumped up into a featured or speaking role.

If you want a speaking role, or a main role in a film, doing extra work is essential before you can hit these goals. Extra work will help you become comfortable on camera, get used to the terminology, and learn how a movie is made.

You may or may not need to audition for extra work. I encourage you to research online for local casting directors – try searching for something like “Background Casting Directors” and a list should come up near your city.

You then can register to have your headshot and resume on file, and if they have a role open for your character type they will get in touch with you.

4) Keep an Eye Out for Audition Notices

Many audition notices are posted online on sites like Playbill, Backstage, Actors Access, and Casting Networks. Some of these trade websites require a monthly fee to subscribe, and some of them even allow you to “audition” by submitting your materials online.

Your materials should include a headshot and acting resume, and perhaps a reel of video footage. With the industry changing so much, it’s easy to get headshots taken and get some film footage with YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, and so on.

5) Expect Competition at Auditions

At a film audition, you should expect a lot of other people auditioning for the same role as you. Sometimes the writer or director may be present in the room. Other times it will be interns from a local film office who will film a quick take and send it to LA for more consideration.

No matter who is in the room, you should always remain professional and courteous at all times. A film audition will usually consist of you reading lines from the actual movie, say with another actor, who they are also considering for a role.

Sometimes you will have seen the script before, and other times they’ll give it to you on the spot. The casting team has many people to see, and are usually tired from auditions. If you’re wondering how to audition for movies in the best way: be prepared and don’t ask them many questions.

6) Work Your Way Up to the Union

Working in film and TV, you will eventually need to be part of the union, which is called SAG/AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild, and American Federation of TV and Recording Arts).

The union will make sure you are paid fairly, have health insurance, and are not working under unethical circumstances. Many of the main roles and speaking parts in major films are cast with actors represented in the union, and usually only actors in the union can audition for that role.

If you are not in that union, you are then considered non-union. Non-union actors are paid less, so you’re probably wondering, how can I get in that union? The answer is: it will take some time, work, and dedication!

You will need to do extra work for a few years before getting into the union. If you audition for a film as a non-union actor, and are offered a union role right away, the production will grant you the opportunity to join the union. No one can just join, you have to earn your way up!

Also by doing extra work, sometimes you can earn “waivers,” which are given when the role is meant for a union person, but they cannot possibly find a union person to fulfill it. Once you earn three waivers (three days on set), you become eligible to join.

However, there is a pricey initiation fee to join, and once you join you can’t do work that is not covered by a SAG/AFTRA contract (meaning you can’t do non-union work).

Knowing these tips for how to audition for a movie is your first step, but keep in mind that working your way through the film industry will take time. With hard work, patience, and persistence it will all pay off, and you will have fun doing so!

LizTLiz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music, including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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10 Things to Include on Your Acting Resume

acting resume
When it comes to preparing your acting resume, knowing what to include can be a challenge. However, there are several items that should always be included. Instead of only listing the parts you’ve played, include some of the following items to dazzle directors:

  1. Up-to-date Contact Information – One of the most important parts of any resume is your contact information. How will recruiters and talent agents contact you if your information is not correct? Update your contact information whenever it changes. Include a working phone number and an email address. Make sure your email address sounds professional, and also be sure to note which contact method is best to reach you.

  2. Physical Attributes – Since acting is as much about visual appearance as it is talent, include your physical description on your resume. Your height, hair and eye color, and weight should appear somewhere on your resume. It is best to include this information at the top of your resume. Like your contact information, your appearance information must be updated periodically to reflect any physical changes.

  3. Memberships – If you belong to any acting organizations or unions, they should also be included on your acting resume. This shows that you are serious about your career and that you have a network that could possibly vouch for you if needed. And if you belong to an organization that a recruiter or agent is also a member of, you already have a connection that can help during your audition.

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  4. Past Experience – No matter what role or part you are auditioning for, you must include your past acting experience. You should indicate whether the parts were for theater productions, movie roles, or television appearances. If your acting history is small, include what you can – and never lie on your resume.

  5. Education – If you have little acting experience but have been studying to be an actor at a formal university, this section gives agents a point of reference. You should only include formal education and classes that relate directly to acting, as opposed to listing your education in full.

  6. Training – Your acting resume should also include any training courses you have taken. This is different from formal education, as you may have studied another subject during college. Include the names of your trainers or studios, as well as what exactly was taught. Avoid being vague here – include acting techniques in as much detail as possible. Also include training related to other fields, such as singing, playing musical instruments, or public speaking.

  7. Primary Acting Skills – There are several skills involved with acting, including voice skills and combat skills. List the ones you are proficient in, as well as some detail about each. You can also include skills not related to acting, such as credentials that could come in handy. Again, don’t lie about what skills you have on your resume.

  8. Know Your Type – Many actors fear being typecast as their career progresses. But this can be a valuable way to advance your career if you are just starting out. Know which roles you are adept at playing. Instead of accepting any part you can, consider informing agents and recruiters about which roles you are the best fit for during auditions.

  9. Know Your Role Types – When preparing your acting resume, you should include whether or not you can fill speaking or non-speaking roles. Indicate if you are best fit for leading roles, supporting roles, or voice-over parts. If you’re a non-speaker, list if you’re a body or stunt double or an extra. You can also list any other industry roles, such as print ads or commercials, all of which can be important.

  10. Your Headshot – Most acting resumes can be printed on the back of a headshot and cut to size. Just as listing your physical description helps agents and directors find a good place for your appearance, your headshot gives them a picture they can really see. You should update your headshot every time your appearance changes. When you arrive at your audition you should look like your headshot does.

Looking for a great headshot photographer? Here are some to check out in…
LA: LA Headshots and Reels, Kaizen Headshots, Headshots Only Photography
NYC: Chris Macke Photography, Mark Ellison/NYC Photo Studio
Toronto: Callback Headshots


Preparing an acting resume might seem like a lot of work, but taking the time to do it right will build the foundation of a strong acting career. Good luck!


Photo by nickgregan


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Acting Tips: An Emmy-Winner’s Time-Tested Advice for Aspiring Actors

Acting Tips An Emmy-Winner's Advice

Wondering how to be an actor on TV shows and film? Professional actor and acting coach David Tom shares his best acting tips for those looking to get into the industry…

I’ve been asked many times over the years, “How can I break into the entertainment industry?” Oftentimes, that question is answered with one word: Don’t!

And yet, I’m writing now to say that if you’re passionate about acting – go for it! If this is truly the craft you wish to pursue as a life-long career, keep reading and I’ll tell you some insider’s acting tips on how to break into the acting industry.

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Who Am I?

My name is David Tom and I’ve been acting for over 30 years.

I started when I was six years old doing commercial work and print ads, eventually moving into film and television. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to expand my resume to include 14 television pilots with four series regular roles, not to mention countless episodic and film credits that include Stay Tuned, Swing Kids, Roommates, and Pleasantville.

In 2000, I won an Emmy Award for Best Young Actor in a Drama series for the role of Billy Abbott on The Young and the Restless.

Acting has and always will remain my absolute passion in life. My experiences while working have been amazing (to say the least) as well as heartbreaking, but I wouldn’t choose any other profession. I will continue to ride the ups and downs of this rollercoaster we call the entertainment industry as long as I have breath in my lungs!


And… Action!

Something that my acting teachers always told me and instilled in my approach to acting is that luck is the product of preparation and opportunity. In order to be prepared for that opportunity, you must be committed to do the work. This brings me to the first and most important requirement for breaking into the business.

For someone who’s just starting out, learning how to become an actor, or even considering jumping on this ride, there are a few major questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How passionate are you about acting?
  • How much of yourself are you willing to commit?
  • What are you willing to sacrifice to make your dreams come true?

Success in this industry, like any other, requires 110% dedication and commitment. If you’re looking to start a hobby or something to do on the weekends, then look no further than your local theater group. But if you want a career as a professional working actor, you must answer these questions with honesty.

You must be willing to give everything you have for your craft and dedicate yourself completely.

For Parents

If you’re a parent, it’s important for you to answer these questions truthfully, as you will be assessing your own commitment AND that of your child’s. It will require just as much work for you as it will for them.

But let’s be clear: this must be something that your child wants to do. Their passion must guide them along, not parental influence. As a young actor myself, I was willing to give up after-school activities such as basketball or football practice. Instead, I would go to an audition. Sometimes my mother would have to drive me three or four times a week!

They must be willing to do the same. They must be willing to be away from school, their friends, and sometimes their families for months at a time while they shoot a TV show or a film. Schoolwork can even be done with an onset schoolteacher in a trailer instead of a classroom.

Serious Business

This is, at the end of the day, a business like any other; a film set is not a playground. Children are always expected to be just as professional as adult actors. Working long days, keeping attention, taking direction, and accepting criticism from the director are all normal parts of the gig.

These are just a few reasons why some parents make their children wait until they’re older to start them in the industry, because it can be difficult and stressful for them. It also tends to force kids to grow up much quicker than they would normally.


1) Headshots and Resumes

Headshots and resumes


Ladies and gentleman, get yourselves a good day job like waiting tables or bartending, or anything for that matter, because you’re going to need the cash.

Good color headshots are extremely important to have right away. You want photos of yourself that are current and are a good representation of yourself. Don’t be afraid of showing your unique traits!

Headshots are the first thing casting directors, agents, and managers see from you. Believe me – the first impression means everything.


Your resume should include (at the top) your name, representation (if any), union affiliations, and contact information. Then list everything and anything you’ve done in regards to acting. If you’re just starting out, don’t hesitate to list school plays or community theater groups. Be sure to list any acting classes or training you’ve received as well.

If you’re in college, list what you’re majoring in and where you’re graduating from. Everything should be organized correctly with your most recent work at the top.

At the bottom, list your special skills such as singing, dancing, swimming, horseback riding, and any sports you enjoy.


2) Showcases and Workshops

Workshops and classes

Showcases and workshops, in my opinion, are the absolute best way to be seen by the right people. They’re also a great way to help you find representation quickly. The days of mailing your headshot and resume to agencies and management companies are long gone, and invariably, a waste of time.

This isn’t meant to be insulting, but oftentimes agents and managers don’t have the time to deal with cold calls or mailings. If you do this, your photo will likely end up in the recycling bin. Showcases are set up specifically for representatives to come and look for new talent. It’s a chance to have the undivided attention of multiple people to show them what you’ve got! This is done usually in the form of a prepared monologue or scene.

There are many different types of workshops that cover a wide range skills; everything from how to audition for television, commercials, and film, to learning how to break down scenes and acting tips to hone your craft. You’ll get to explore different acting styles.

Many workshops are taught by some of the industry’s most powerful and influential casting directors. And trust me – they do remember who was in there and how they performed. I’ve known actors that booked jobs because the casting directors remember they attended one of their workshops and loved what they did.

Fair Warning

With all of that being said, be warned, because scams certainly exist. Do plenty of research on the showcases and workshops that you’re thinking of attending. You can even go so far as to call the contact numbers on their registration forms and speak to a representative that will answer all of your questions.

Some of these workshops can be extremely expensive to attend and you’ll want to make sure they’re worth your hard-earned cash. If they have a website, look them up and read what other people have said about them. Know who’s going to be there to see your work and decide if they can truly help you reach your goals.

And remember, agents and managers make anywhere from 10% to 15% commission from the work that you book while you are represented by them, so NEVER pay a theatrical agent or manager to represent you! Background agents may charge some kind of fee for service, but this is the only exception.


3) Joining The SAG/AFTRA Union


One of your goals when first starting should be to become a member of SAG/AFTRA, the entertainment actor’s union. It will help you gain credibility for your work, as well as allow you to connect with other actors and people in the industry. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, but I suggest two options.

Commercial Work

The first and best way, in my view, is commercial work. You can find a commercial representative the same way you find a theatrical representative: through showcases. Your commercial agent doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as your theatrical agent. There are agencies that exclusively work on commercials. In most cases, working on a union commercial will make you eligible to join the union.

Background Work

The second, and possibly the harder and longer way to become a member, is through background work – otherwise known as “extra” work. Again, there are agencies that specifically handle background work where you pay a monthly fee and they send you out to productions to be part of the shooting day. There are some pros and cons to this method.

On the plus side, you get the opportunity to be on a professional set where you can learn how a production works and what a filming day is like. The difficult part to this is that it takes three vouchers from any production to become union and a production crew gets a finite amount of vouchers a day to give out to the background actors.

So, if you’re one out of a hundred background actors working that day, there’s a possibility you may not receive a voucher. It can sometimes take a while to receive three union vouchers. I know actors that might have one or two vouchers and have been trying to get their third for two years.

Doing Both

What I suggest to increase your chances of getting in the union quickly is to do both options: get a commercial agent AND do some background work.

Once you are eligible for SAG/AFTRA, you must pay an entry fee and then an annual due based on the amount of money you’ve earned during that year. Your joining fee can be expensive, but trust me, it’s invaluable. You can certainly make a living as an actor if you get consistent work.

There are many theater and film productions you can do that are non-union and they may be useful to gain experience or to build your resume, but if you want to work professionally in television and film, you will have to join the union. In fact, if you’re not a member you can’t even audition for most television shows and film productions.

Long story short: Get this membership right away!


4) Training, Classes, and Coaches

Coaches and Classes

Training and classes are absolutely essential for success in this business (regardless of age). I cannot stress this enough. After all, you won’t be ready to go to a showcase and perform in front of key people who can help you if you haven’t prepared material to show them. Always remember, acting is a craft that can never be fully mastered or perfected.


Even the best actors of our time study and train before they step foot in front of the camera.

Classes are places where you’re free to make mistakes without ruining an opportunity for your career. In classes, you can learn new techniques, learn how to breakdown scenes, and explore your imagination with others. No doubt, you’ll discover an infinite amount of acting tips, new ideas, and new ways to build yourself into a stronger actor. I also recommend researching things they don’t tell you in acting school – you’ll broaden your horizon.

I’ve taken classes my entire career on a weekly basis, and every week I discover something new to use on my own acting journey.

Finding the right class with a teacher you can easily understand  and relate to is also of the utmost important. I suggest you audit (sit in) as many classes as you can in order to find the teacher and the class that you think fits you best. Classes are places where you have the freedom to try everything you can to grow into a more complete, real, and profound actor!


You may ask yourself, “Do I really need an acting coach?” The answer I recommend for that is… yes!

Coaching is done one on one with a teacher and it’s usually focused on a specific piece of material. Whether it’s for audition tips, a showcase, or even a role you’ve already booked, coaching is essential.

It’ll help you apply the acting tips you’ve learned in class to a specific piece of material that you’ll be performing for others, and in most cases, for an actual paying acting gig. The attention to detail given by your coach will help you improve parts of your acting that may not be readily apparent to you.

For many of you, all of this may be a lot to soak in, but it’s important to understand that starting out in the entertainment industry requires great patience, hard work, and dedication. Prepare yourself for a marathon and not a sprint, because for the 99% of us, this does take lots of time.

For the parents that are thinking of getting their children in to the business, I suggest taking it slowly and one step at a time. Start your child out in classes to see if they like it and if this is something they really want to pursue. If everything goes well, then take the other steps required to find them good representation.

Parting Words

For those of you who are over 18 years of age and have found acting to be your dream in life and your absolute passion, I say this to you: start now!

There’s a huge advantage in starting out as early as possible. From what I’ve seen, the older you get the harder it becomes to break into industry because you’re up against tougher competition; many competing actors would have more experience and credits to their resume.

But keep in mind that there are many other things you need besides talent to break into the industry.

Don’t give up, lose faith, or drop out! This industry can be extremely frustrating and unforgiving at times, but don’t let that stop you.

Keep working at your craft by studying and taking classes. Be sure to keep your dedication and commitment at its highest levels at all times.

On average, it can take an actor up to 10 years to fully break into the industry. But if you stay committed, work hard, and study hard, I promise you it WILL pay off.

Every actor gets a shot at their dreams coming true, but not every actor is ready and prepared for it. You’ll be the one that’s ready! If you put the work in and remain dedicated, I’m quite sure we’ll all see you on the big screen eventually!


Are you an actor or hoping to become one? Share your best acting tips in the comments below!


Post Author: David T.
David teaches film acting, theater acting, improv acting, and voice acting in North Hollywood, CA. He has appeared in many films and TV shows and works with students at all levels. David is also available to teach online lessons. Learn more about David here!


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3 Reasons Singers Should Also Learn How to Act

3 Reasons Singers Should Learn How to ActGreat stage presence can really enhance your performance as a singer! Here, voice teacher Molly R. shares how learning how to act should be on every singer’s to-do list…  


Enviable high notes. A pure tone. Easy vocal runs. Low notes that can carry for days. Flexibility throughout the range. These are just some of the things singers say they want to achieve when they first start voice lessons — among many, many other goals!

As a voice teacher, I do my best to work with them so that they find success in making their voice feel and sound great — but to me, there’s something many singers are missing in their “wish list” to become a better singer: how to really sell your song as a singing actor!

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Here are the reasons why it’s so important that a singer also learns how to act.

1) It’s good for your body!

When we stand still, our sound will also be stiff and still. Experiment time: think about something that gets you riled up or giddy with happiness. What does your body do? It moves. It paces, it gestures. It expresses. Nothing is left bottled up.

When we move, the breath and the voice move — simple as that. As a result, the audience gets a more exciting sound, and that’s a very good thing. It’s also a big part of stage presence for singers. We were meant to move and express, not just stand there. That’s not natural! Although, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t practice good singing posture as well.

2) It makes you a true standout.

There are lots of great voices out there, and competition is stiff. What can set you apart from the crowd is if your audition panel or audience really feels a true connection with you! And the only way to get that connection is if you make absolutely sure that you know exactly what you’re singing about.

So don’t treat your songs as mere lyrics — do what the great artists do, and treat each one as a mini play or movie. Create a backstory for your character. Put other characters in your song and visualize them. The more layers you add to your performance, the more compelling it will be. Once you add layers, you’ll be creating a unique and authentic stage presence.

Once in a while we’ll have a challenging song where we say to ourselves, “But I can’t relate to that! I’ve never had my heart broken/been cheated on/had someone I love die/been in love/etc.”

In cases like these, it’s time for you to use your imagination. So maybe you never had a lost love — but everyone’s experienced some sort of sadness! Channel that. Simply sing about about something else you have lost to really bring the authentic emotion to the song.

3) It increases your job prospects!

If you start by learning how to really act your pop or jazz songs, after a while you may feel ready to audition for musical theatre roles, if that interests you! Who knows? After doing some musical theatre and getting some stage time under your belt, you may want to try straight plays!

Singing actors are also meant for the cabaret stage. In these intimate venues, performers string together an eclectic group of songs to tell a story. If you study acting, you’ll feel a lot more at ease about your performance and find it easier to add in the “banter” in between songs that’s essential in this type of performance.

Stage Presence for Singers

There’s no need to feel intimidated by the world of acting if you’re completely new to it. There are many qualified voice teachers and acting teachers on TakeLessons to help you get started! Whether you want to improve your singing or get started with acting, you’re sure to find the right instructor for you.

Additional Resources

Looking for more help? Here are some articles and videos we like:

Singers, have you taken acting lessons? Did it help you with your stage presence? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

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This Fun Activity Helps Your Child Learn Languages

How Theater Helps Language Learning in Children

Did you know that participating in performing arts can help your child learn a new language? In this article, Mariella Gambardella from shows you how theater and language-learning go hand in hand…


When I moved to Spain with my family, neither my husband nor I spoke a word of Spanish. Our one-year-old daughter had not been exposed to the language yet either. Having lived in a few countries before, though, we were very aware of the importance of learning the local language as quickly as possible in order to fully integrate ourselves.

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We wanted our child to be able to play with other children at the park and go to a Spanish-speaking nursery school. Besides our reasons, there are many other reasons why you should raise your child bilingual.

Our family had been fond of theater for a while, so we decided to use theater as a tool for our daughter to learn Spanish.

How Theater Helps Kids Learn a New Language

A lot has been written about the benefits of performing arts for children’s learning. Performing arts lets your child have fun while learning moral values, improving communication and social skills, and expanding their general knowledge.

You may ask, however, what is the role that performing arts play in learning languages? Below are some reasons you should use theater for your child’s second (or third) language acquisition:

1) Children need extra motivation to learn languages. A magic show, theater, or any other type of gestural activity provides participation, excitement, and surprises. These fun and relaxed environments are ideal for children to absorb and learn a new language. It allows them to internalize phrases and vocabulary without even realizing it!

2) Theater helps children learn not only the most “formal” parts of the language, but also idioms, vocabulary, intonation, and structures that don’t always appear in books. The language is typically used in a conversational manner.

3) When the actors are native speakers, children hear different types of accents and lesser-known expressions. The native speakers bring their own flair to the table and introduce listeners to different linguistic stylings.

4) Although actors are at the center of the performance, often children have the opportunity to perform in or engage in other ways with the production. Whether at a theater, at home, or in a classroom, playing, improvising, and role-playing are the most effective ways of acquiring a language, as they improve children’s communication skills.

In fact, role-play in particular is one of the most widely used techniques in classrooms to teach and learn languages. This activity allows children to become anyone for a short period of time and express themselves in a more forthright way.

5) The good thing about watching performing arts in other languages is that we can choose the theme. If it’s a theme that children enjoy, they’ll be more willing to listen and learn.

6) The availability of a variety of topics also allows us as parents and teachers to select performances that are suited to a particular vocabulary lesson.

7) The fact that the plays and performances usually represent everyday situations allows children to learn vocabulary and expressions that are used in everyday life. It’ll definitely have a lot of practical use if you’re raising bilingual kids.

The ultimate goal is making the language heard as something normal. The learning should be concealed within fun and entertainment so that children have the opportunity to learn in a dynamic and interactive environment.

Looking for additional help from a Spanish or other language tutor? Search for a tutor near you!

Guest Author: Mariella Gambardella
Mariella is co-founder of, the first online video library of storytelling, theater, magic, and puppet shows in English and Spanish for children 2-12 years old. The online platform makes performing arts accessible to all families and schools — anytime, anywhere, and from any type of mobile device.

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8 Improv Acting Tips to Create the Best Scenes Possible

improv class

Interested in learning more about improv? Get started with these improv acting tips from Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T...

Improv acting is believed to be one of the most fun types of acting, and although it may not look hard, it is also one of the most difficult forms of acting! It requires constantly being on your toes, because you never know what will happen next in your scene. Many of the actors that have performed on popular shows like Saturday Night Live have studied the craft for many years, performing with improv troupes across the country, such as The Second City and The Groundlings. Here are my top improv acting tips for helping you improve your skills.

1. Join an Improv Acting Class

In addition to working with an acting coach, I highly suggest taking part in a class that focuses on improv acting. Here you will learn how to get comfortable with this particular form of acting. There are many great schools devoted to this style, including the Improv Asylum in Boston, Peoples Improv Theater in NYC, and Chicago City Limits. Many of these schools have levels ranging from 1-5, grouping you with other actors at your same level and experience. Improv classes will focus on theater games, scenarios, and the do’s and don’ts of performing improv live.

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2. Study Characters and Relationships

Many improv actors have been successful because they create characters of their own, or impersonate others (examples: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, and Will Ferrell as George W. Bush). While I don’t recommend finding a celebrity and just copying their personality, if you can really explore their mannerisms and voice and have it down pat, and if you happen to resemble what they look like, then you may have a good act to perform. I encourage young actors to find funny characters they could play, whether it’s an old grandmother, a naughty teenage boy, or a sweet little girl. Also, consider roles in the community that may not seem fun, but think of how you could make them comedic — nun, bank teller, school teacher, Girl Scout, babysitter, firefighter, chef, doctor, nurse, etc.

It’s also important to think about the relationships your character has, since most often you will be working in a group setting. You and your partners will have to think about how you are related or connected to each other in the scene to keep it going. For example, are you friends, lovers, long-lost relatives, or a client/patient? Think about how you can create your special character and bring him or her to life!

3. Know Your Current Events and Scenes

Now that you have your characters and relationships down, think of a setting where your scene takes place. Maybe it’s at a restaurant, doctor’s office, school, bathroom, zoo, or graveyard. While you can’t exactly plan out how the scene is going to go from start to finish in your head, nor do you want to tell the audience right off the bat, it’s good to place yourself in a setting, to get in the right frame of mind. I think it’s also funny to have your characters in settings they normally wouldn’t go — for example, a nun in a casino, or a man in the women’s restroom.

For the more advanced improv actor, you can add props, or simply imagine props (pretending you have a grocery cart, playing catch with an imaginary ball, etc.). I also suggest brushing up on current events and history. Your partner may refer to something happening in the news, or set a scene that’s taking place during the Civil War, and you don’t want to look uneducated in front of the audience!

4. Find Jobs To Use Your Improv Skills

It may be hard to make money when first starting out your improv career, so I suggest finding jobs where you can earn a steady paycheck and still use those great acting skills! Some ideas include:

  • Teaching students, whether it’s music, acting, a foreign language, art, science, or something else. Teaching young kids, especially, prepares you to think quick on your feet!
  • Working at a theme park. Interacting with the guests as a host, at a haunted house, or Christmas amusement park lets you put those good acting skills to use.
  • Sales positions. Believe it or not, even if you are working retail, or sales over the phone, learning how to interact with your customers and pitch a product is all part of acting and improvising.

5. Go With The Flow

Often in improv, your partner will be the one that starts the scene, and you will just have to go along with the flow. Even if you are not crazy about your partner’s character, scene, or acting choices, you don’t want to show this on stage. Go along with the scene, and add your own special skills, but don’t try to change the scene, as this will throw the audience off. One of the first rules of thumb in improv is “Yes and….” meaning you should always agree with what your partner says and add to it. Even if the scene is taking a weird turn, just relax, have fun, stay in the present, and go with the flow!

6. Use Your Imagination

Don’t be afraid to really let loose and let your imagination run wild! Go out of your comfort zone, and work on those characters and scenes you normally wouldn’t see. Also, spend some time writing, listening to music, or watching TV/movies for creative inspiration!

7. Keep Teamwork in Mind

Improv is all about teamwork! It’s not standup comedy; it’s all about collaborating and feeding off of each other. If you are not up for being a team player, than perhaps improv is not for you. In improv you really have to learn how to trust and depend on your fellow actors. The more you connect with each other, the better this will look on stage as well!

8. Make Mistakes

It’s okay to make mistakes in improv — just don’t make the same mistake twice. Improv is all about discovering what works and doesn’t work with your group, so don’t be afraid to give it your all and try new things! You’ll never know if a skit or character works until you try it on stage in front of a live audience. Also remember the audience may have different reactions to things. They could be a tough audience not laughing at any of your lines, or be hysterically laughing at everything! Just do your best, and you will learn from your mistakes.

Follow these improv acting tips and you will be well on your way to being a successful actor!

LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M. in Vocal Performance and currently performs and teaches all styles of music, including musical theater, classical, jazz, rock, pop, R&B, and country. Learn more about Liz here!



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3 Holiday Movies Aspiring Actors Need to Watch

The holiday season always brings a curious mix of movies to the big screen. With the Academy Awards just a few months away, studios often choose November and December to release their most anticipated movies. Designed to bait film reviewers and Oscar voters, these films wow with top-tier performances and serious, often epic plots. However, fluffy and family-friendly fare is also a hot commodity every winter, especially as Christmas approaches.

Holiday-themed movies don’t have a great track record with critics. From overly sentimental romances and dramatically dysfunctional families to unbelievable magic and miracles, tropes get recycled as nostalgia trumps original storytelling. Luckily, there are some exceptions to the rule. Films can be festive without getting corny or predictable, especially when they star talented actors. The following three films offer surprising examples of holiday movies worth watching and acting methods worth trying. From hilarious comic timing to heartbreaking grief, the actors in these seasonal ensembles deliver thoughtful and inspiring performances, and they just might turn your next family movie night into a learning opportunity.

Scrooged (1988)

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Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in the early Victorian era, and while the novella has been in print ever since, it’s actually actors who deserve much of the credit for keeping Ebenezer Scrooge alive. Long before the first movie theater opened, casts took to the stage every winter to recreate this famous tale of Christmas-time redemption. Now you can choose from hundreds of different movies, plays, miniseries, and cartoons that retell the same story, all in slightly different ways. But one stands out for the cast’s acting methods alone: the late-’80s adaptation starring Bill Murray.

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While Murray’s comedic range and signature physicality are on full display, it’s the supporting cast that really shines, and two scene-stealing ghosts in particular. David Johansen is brilliant as the taxi-driving Ghost of Christmas Past, whose maniacal laugh and cigar-worn voice suspend reality enough to let you empathize with Murray. Later, Carol Kane offers a series of sidesplitting reality checks as the tiny but feisty Ghost of Christmas Present. Of the entire cast, Kane packs the biggest punch — both literally and figuratively. Her acting methods bring two extremes together, proving that fairy wings and a singsong voice can be just as dangerous as muscles and weapons.

Joyeux Noël (2005)

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It takes place on Christmas Eve, carries a message of peace, and has a title that translates into “Merry Christmas”. Still, few could fault this French-language drama for being a holiday movie cliché. Set in the first year of World War I, Joyeux Noël is the true story of European soldiers who decided to celebrate the holiday together instead of killing each other.

Naturally, the movie’s strength rests on the shoulders of its actors, who were perfectly cast to drive home the point of the film: that soldiers and civilians alike are human beings with value, and can’t be defined by their differences or their sins. Even on the frozen front lines of a bloody global war, the movie’s characters are full-fleshed individuals. Pay special attention to Diane Kruger as a Danish opera star and Dany Boon as the unexpectedly sensitive Private Ponchel.

Love Actually (2003)

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This British holiday ensemble romance isn’t exactly famous for its originality, but if you’re looking for examples of great acting, sometimes it’s worthwhile to look past a cheesy premise or two (or eight). If anyone can make their characters look three-dimensional in an intertwined world of nativity plays, office parties, and unrequited love, it’s this star-studded cast.

Unsurprisingly, veterans Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson give two of the movie’s most believable performances, as a husband with a wandering eye and his savvy but fragile wife. Laura Linney is another bright spot in the film, switching gears effortlessly when her sweet but straightforward romance becomes a different kind of holiday love story altogether. Her heartbreaking final scene might be the saddest and most frustrating, but it’s also the most effective and poignant because she’s so raw and real.

Readers, what are your favorite holiday movies? Let us know in the comments!

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How to Have Stage Presence | 4 Areas to Improve Your Voice

Actors, your voice is one of the most powerful tools you have to make a character come to life. Next time you’re getting into a character, use these tips from Baltimore, MD acting teacher Larry P. for improving your stage presence…

Remember when your mother used to remind you to “use your indoor voice”? You have all sorts of indoor voices, and in order to best portray any character and improve your stage presence, be it in an audition, a rehearsal, or a production, you have to decide when and how to use those voices. Below are four areas to pay attention to your vocal choices to make your character come alive onstage.


(“I can’t HEEEEARRRR you”… or… “Why are you shouting at me?”)

Sometimes the choice to be loud is pretty obvious from the text (the word “shouts” or “yells” may be in the stage directions). But other times (far more frequently, in fact), it becomes a character trait. Is the character being emphatic about something? Is he or she repeating something? Is there an argument going on that is getting heated? The list can go on and on. You need to identify if and when a place in your character’s lines it would be appropriate, based on your own interpretation of the character (or your director’s, of course). And above all else, work on projecting your voice at all times – not yelling, but being clearly heard to the back of the house.

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(“Stop talking so fast”… or… “Will… you… get… to… the… point?”)

A more subtle tool in your performance repertoire is how fast your character speaks. Whether it’s done all the time (think about many of actor Joe Pesci’s characters, like Leo in “Lethal Weapon” 2, 3, and 4, or Vinny in “My Cousin Vinny”) or selectively, speaking in a rapid-fire manner speaks volumes about a character. It puts the audience in a more alert state, heightens tension (when done appropriately), and quickens the pulse. On the other hand, a quieter, more methodical delivery (think Marlon Brando as the Godfather, or Charles Bronson in almost any role), makes the audience sit a little bit forward in their chairs and listen more intently, thus also increasing tension, but for a very different reason. These are also choices that need to be made based on the actor’s interpretation of the character.

Emphasis and Punctuation

(“Let’s eat, grandma”… or… “Let’s eat grandma”)

Commas and punctuation, while often the area of the playwright, can often be manipulated, at least a bit, by the actor and/or director. Take the sentence: “We are very secretive.” If you emphasize the word we in that sentence, it is implied that it means we are secretive as compared to you. If you emphasize the word very, then it can mean we are more secretive than you. This can be a subtle, but often important distinction. As an actor, you have many choices available to you in interpretation (subject of course to the director’s vision of the whole piece), and adding emphasis and even a beat (or taking one away) is a choice. Make it wisely.


(“Wait… what did he say?”)

While this might be a given, even enunciation might be an actor choice. Projection is always needed — you cannot expect an audience to get any sort of meaning out of something they can’t hear at all, but you can make them wonder about a specific line if you meant to muffle it. For example, a “stage whisper,” that is, a whisper loud enough to be heard by the audience (at least heard enough that they know it was meant to be a whisper) can be a character trait that an actor wants the audience to know. But please, please, please be aware: this does not relieve the burden of making the rest of your lines intelligible to the person in the last seat in the house. That person has presumably paid just as much as people right in the middle, so they deserve every bit of your acting as everyone else.

Using all of these voices will allow you to move toward learning how to have stage presence, as well as expressing a wider range of emotion. This not only shows off your skills as an actor, but your skills in developing a character. Use the expertise found here at Takelessons and sign up for classes with me or another acting teacher, whether in person or online, and expand your horizons onstage. The possibilities are endless!

LarryPLarry P. teaches and tutors in a variety of subjects in Baltimore, MD, as well as through online lessons. His tutoring business is geared toward middle, high school, and college students, with specialties in the Humanities, writing research papers, and drama. Learn more about Larry here!



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Embodying the Ensemble Energy | Tips for Ensemble Acting

ensemble acting

Performing a monologue is much different from acting as part of an ensemble! Make sure you’re ahead of the pack with these tips from New York City actor and teaching artist Jasmine B


We all want to be that actor that everyone wants to work with. I’ve been in quite a few ensembles (one I’ve had the pleasure of being in for four years!) and have found some keys to working well with others and producing quality work. Here are a few simple ways to improve your ensemble acting and become that kind of quintessential artist in your rehearsal process!

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1. Give Specific and Positive Feedback

A voice teacher of mine and coach to the stars constantly reminds us to “Celebrate before you flagellate!” which basically translates to “Give yourself a pat on the back before you punish yourself for whatever you think you did wrong.” This not only applies to the way you talk to yourself about your work, it definitely includes the way you talk to your castmates and collaborators about their work and the work in the room, period. As artists, we can be pretty sensitive about the product we put into the room, especially if we’re in process. A little acknowledgement can go a long way.

For example:

  • “Sheila, I really appreciated you being so open and available in that scene we did yesterday – thank you so much. I learned a lot about where (character’s name) is coming from, it really helped me connect with the story we’re trying to tell.”
  • “Watching you in that role is truly wonderful – you’re doing a great job.”

Also, if someone is feeling down about their process, don’t hesitate to be there for them. Try to eliminate director-bashing or production-slamming in this process, as it’s only a cheap way of making someone feel better. Be specific and kind in your support, and let them know you care and are proud of the work they are doing.

2. Ask Questions Instead of Attacking

If you have a criticism or a problem with another actor or collaborator in the room, it’s best to approach the problem directly, with an indirect phrase. For example, say an actor keeps forgetting his or her lines in a crucial part of the play. It may be pretty frustrating (useful, nonetheless – remember everything can be used!), but there is a way of helping both your partner and yourself.

  • “Bernie – I feel like I’m not giving you anything in 2.1; I’m not setting you up or being there for you like I should – is there anything I can do differently?”

When it comes to ensemble acting, putting the problem on yourself is a great way of coming to your partner’s rescue and motivating them to put more effort into the work. If you accuse them of not knowing their lines or being there for YOU, it will more than likely cause them to do the exact opposite of what you want to happen. If you’re feeling stuck in a scene, suggest some outside improv or an activity to loosen BOTH of you up. Never blame anything on your partner – you’re in it together, so you should solve it together.

3. Try Anything Once (Within Reason)

It happens more often than you think: a director or collaborator asks you to try something that you don’t think your character would do, given the circumstances, time period, personal prejudices, etc. Try it anyway. If it doesn’t work, it will be obvious to everyone.

This, of course, does include anything that you puts you or your collaborators in physical, emotional, mental, or any other kind of harm. Be safe and look out for each other!

4. Be a Team Player

Recently, I saw a Broadway production starring a major movie star. It was actually pretty fantastic – the production was full of wonderful actors, great direction, a fantastic script, and it seemed like the ensemble really fit together and enjoyed being with each other. At the end of the play, they all took a bow together – even the movie star in the leading role. He wanted to be with his company instead of apart from them. What a concept! So simple, yet it said so much. Here was a man who had millions of dollars at his disposal, and could have done whatever he wanted on that stage, and instead he chose to be a member of an ensemble. He chose to let the audience acknowledge the work instead of work the audience. In short, put the work and the ensemble effort first. The art isn’t about you; you are serving the story.

5. Being Early is Arriving on Time

We all love those actors who come to rehearsal warmed up and ready to work. They don’t have to warm up into the role or get used to the day while they’re in process with you – they are ready and willing to do the work as soon as it’s time to. They get to the space early, they warm up, and they’re ready. And even if they can’t get to the space itself before rehearsal, they’ve found a way to warm up at home, while in transit, or somewhere in between. You can be one of those actors too. Come early to be right on time. This is also helpful in daily life –there is nothing more kind than being where you said you were going to meet someone exactly when you said you were going to meet them.

Happy rehearsing, and good luck with your ensemble acting!

JasmineBJasmine B. teaches speaking voice, stage performance, and acting in New York City. She studied acting from a young age, graduating from the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, and Wright State University’s Professional Actor Training Program. She currently serves as an educational outreach fellow for the Juilliard School.  Learn more about Jasmine here!


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High Notes & High Fashions: What to Wear to Your Next Audition


Stumped on what to wear for your next audition? Dress for success with these tips from New York, NY voice teacher Chelsea F...


You’ve practiced, studied, taken countless lessons, and you are now ready to go on some auditions… but the night before your audition you peer into your closet and realize, to your horror, you don’t know what to wear!

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This is a topic that many students don’t ask their voice teachers about because, let’s face it, in a 45- to 60-minute lesson there is a lot to cover!

On the day of an audition there is a lot to think about, such as your song choice, dealing with nerves, remembering to bring specific materials (headshot and resume), hoping the pianist plays your piece to your liking, memory issues, and, of course, how you look and feel. Having one or two “go to” audition outfits lets you have one less thing to think about on the day you have that really important audition. Looking and feeling great is just an added bonus to having a successful audition! Here are some helpful tips on choosing what to wear to an audition…

Tips for Women

Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life… Well, a pair of shoes can make or break your audition! Make sure your feet feel comfortable and that you can sing comfortably. Keep in mind that adding four-inch heels can change vocal posture. Be sure to practice in your shoes before your audition!

Say Yes to the Dress! When choosing a dress, make sure you feel comfortable enough to sing in it and you have plenty of room to breathe! It is a good idea when buying a dress to breathe deeply in the dressing room before you buy it, and also make sure it complements your body type. Black is always in style and is slimming to every body type. Things to avoid include large prints and extremely bright colors (which can distract a judge), and a dress that is either too tight or too short.

I wear the pants… For those who sing operatic mezzo roles, consider a classic blazer, solid-colored dressy blouse, and black slacks. When wearing this type of audition outfit make sure your pants are ironed and/or dry cleaned to avoid wrinkles or looking messy.

• Good hair day: Please keep your hair off your face! There is nothing worse than watching someone brush their hair away from their face constantly during a song. Great options include wearing your hair half up, a bun, or a fancy ponytail.

Maybe it’s Maybelline… Makeup is just another part of putting a look together. When applying makeup for an audition, make sure it is natural and that you still look like your headshot picture!

Put a ring on it: Jewelry is a personal choice and statement. If you choose to wear jewelry with your outfit, make sure, again, you feel comfortable in it. Also remember that less is more. Things to avoid include jewelry that feels heavy on the neck or ears, long dangling earrings, very sparkly necklaces, and earrings that could distract the judge. If you’re wearing bracelets, avoid ones that have charms that make noise. You want the judge to be focusing on the beauty of your voice, not your bling!

Tips for Men

Check your fly: When choosing a suit, make sure it is tailored to your body type! Choose a dress shirt and/or tie that complements the color of the suit. If you’re wearing a three-piece suit, make sure the vest and pants have plenty of room so you feel comfortable enough to sing and breathe! If you have gained or lost weight make sure to take your suit in for the appropriate alterations.

Dressy/casual: Not wearing a suit? A great pair of jeans, dress shirt, and tie are sometimes all you need! Just make sure the jeans are in great condition — jeans with holes look sloppy and unprofessional, and could potentially give an air of not caring about the audition.

Shoes are a girl thing: Though this may be true, a pair of great dress shoes can really complement a suit. Be sure the shoes are not too tight and are comfortable to stand and sing in! There is nothing worse then putting on shoes that are too tight. When wearing dress shoes make sure to wear a nice dress sock that is pulled up.

Happy shopping & happy singing!

ChelseaFChelsea F. teaches singing, piano, and music theory in New York, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. Learn more about Chelsea here!



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