The Fastest Way to Becoming a Paid Actor

By Guest Writer Peter Christensen

Many people think that it takes years to become good at anything. This mindset is largely the result of a worldwide game of telephone that started with the 10,000-hour rule.

I’m new to acting, so this mentality was pretty discouraging to me. But then I realized that what I really wanted wasn’t to master acting. I just want to get good enough at acting to get paid for it, and worry about mastering it later.

So, how many hours of effort would it take to achieve my more immediate goal?

20 hours.

The trick is to spend those 20 hours in a very specific way. Here are 4 steps to learning acting (or any skill) in just 20 hours:

Step 1: Deconstruction

This step is crucial because it gives you a specific map of what to practice. Most people think that the best way to learn acting is to just practice specific scenes, and have an acting coach direct them.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t give you skills that you can easily transfer to a new scene or play. The fastest way to learn acting is to focus on a method (such as the methods taught by acting teachers such as Stanislavski or Meisner). A good acting method deconstructs the essential elements of a powerful performance into manageable chunks, which, when put back together, create something wonderful and believable.

Every great acting method will cover the following areas:

  • Analyzing a scene – Analyzing scenes gives the actor a clear definition and action steps that will lead to an honest, heart-felt performance that brings the author’s vision to light
  • Emotional preparation – Emotional preparation gets the actor out of their head and into the essence of the role they are playing
  • Physical behavior – experiencing the behavior of the character brings the inner life and emotions to life on a impulsive level so you don’t have to think about it

These are the 3 main elements of any quality performance. Without one of the three, the performance suffers.

Step 2: Learn enough to self-correct

This is a very dangerous step. Most people think they have to know much more about a topic before they can even begin practicing. This is a fault I struggle with myself. I like to read 4 or 5 books on any given topic before I even start doing anything.

And then when the time comes to start practicing, all the information in my head (there is inevitably some information that is contradictory) confuses me to the point that I’m rendered catatonic.

Too much information too early is likely the most common path that leads to failure.

That said; you need to learn enough to tell bad information from good information. For a short collection of good acting books, see our resources page.

Step 3: Set Up Stakes

Practicing is essential in acquiring any new skill. However, it is very difficult to motivate ourselves to take action. So how do we motivate ourselves?

This is where a little psychological self-awareness comes into play. What I mean by this is that people are twice as motivated to not lose something than to gain something.

So, in order to motivate yourself to practice acting every day is find a way for their to be real consequences if you don’t practice. Maybe you give some money to a friend you trust, who gets to spend your money if you ever miss a day of practice. Maybe you’ll clean your parents house for them. Whatever it is, it has to be a real consequence that you don’t want to deal with and it has to be painful enough that remembering to practice for 20 hours over the course of a month is a far better alternative.

Step 4: Practice for at least 20 hours

Now you have the tools to motivate yourself to practice and to practice in a productive way that leads to real improvements. All you need to do is practice for 45 minutes a day for a month. If you follow these 4 steps, you’ll be good enough to audition and land roles. It’s just a matter of doing it.


Dwayne Johnson: “In 1995 I had $7 bucks in my pocket and I knew two things: I’m broke as hell and one day I won’t be.”


More Reading:

The 10 Highest-Paid Actors and Actresses of 2018

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