Is acting just a stage you go through?

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The Independent Online
Ask any actor about job insecurity and they could probably write you an exhaustive book on the subject.

Where to start? The initial difficulties of launching as an unknown, getting your face known and plotting how to get your Equity card? The hunt for a half-decent agent? The pitiful wages, coupled with the pitying looks of well-meaning friends who assume "it's just a phase"?

Making Acting Work claims to provide a few answers or, at least, guidelines. Author Chrys Salt, who teaches at the Actors Centre in London and has been a writer, actor and director, says: "Actors must learn to think of themselves as small businesses with a product to sell. The product is their artistry."

Things have moved on from the 1950s and 1960s, when seasonal "through- casting" made it possible for actors to rehearse by day and play by night, with several parts apiece. Up-and-coming actors these days may be lucky to win just one part.

Brand image in acting, as in most other markets, is crucial. DJ and entrepreneur Mike Read, for example, tells how he was invited to help audition hopefuls for his musical Oscar.

"The casting director gave me a typed sheet with everybody's name ... I sat there waiting to write loads and loads of comments. I took a sneaky look at the person next to me and saw she'd written NFT, NFT, NFT. I assumed it stood for 'No F---ing Talent!' Afterwards I said: 'Don't you try and keep these comments away from the actors? It's a bit rude, isn't it - NFT. No F---ing Talent?' They roared with laughter and said: 'No. It means Not For This.' "

While the anecdotes are fun,the book's real strength lies in its businesslike no-nonsense approach.

There are sections packed with tips on how to get the best photographs, CV and portfolio lined up; how to go about making a demo tape; and finding the best deals for showreels.

Salt also gives a useful rundown of not only the conventional markets for wannabe Kate Winslets (theatre, musicals, television, film, commercials and radio), but also the many alternatives - festivals, the lecture circuit, theatre in education, murder evenings and weekends, museum drama, corporate training videos, role-play and the comedy circuit.

For those tempted to fling up their hands and sigh dramatically that acting is a hard vocation, Salt has no sympathy; she is brisk, kindly and practical.

"If you are to continue to develop as an actor, honing your craft, marketing your skills and raising your professional profile must be part of your daily routine. A good actor never rests."

'Making Acting Work', by Chrys Salt, is published by Bloomsbury at pounds 10.99.