Americans: Your UK Acting Career Step 3

So now you've arrived in the UK, you've got a place to stay. Excellent. Now what?

Step 3: DIVE IN!
You need to get involved. Soak up the culture, meet people, make your way into the acting community one way or another. Fortunately there are loads of ways to do this! Here are some recommendations that helped me find my way IN:

A. For Professional Actors without a work permit
You can't actually work, but you can take classes, meet with industry professionals, go to the theatre, and basically get an idea of how the UK market works. This is what I did during the period before I could legally work and it very much paved the way for my career now.
  1. Get a mobile phone. If you're here short-term, you can get a pay-as-you go phone.
  2. Get a copy of Contacts published annually by Spotlight.
  3. Join the Actors Centre - Great range of affordable classes, good central location, excellent way to meet other actors. Professional Union membership and/or training required to join. Another place to take classes is the City Lit. I haven't done so personally, but some friends speak highly of it.
  4. Go to the theatre - This is where you get to know a director's or theatre company's work, other actors, what kind of work is being produced, etc. For weekly listings, read Time Out London.
  5. Watch TV - If you want to work on-camera, research popular shows, see who's casting them, observe British style vs. American, and enjoy.
  6. Listen to the radio - In the UK there's a lot more crossover between stage, TV, film, and radio than there is in the USA. BBC Radio produces loads of great shows, so hear what's out there - especially if you want to do voice work. You can also attend live recordings for free or very cheaply. See how a radio show is made!
B. For Professional Actors with a work permit
If you're just starting out in London, I still advise doing the above as part of your preliminary work. Beyond that, here's what else. Some steps are the same in any city, some are market-specific.
  1. Promote yourself in Spotlight - Casting directories published online & in print. This is essential as Spotlight is the standard reference for casting directors and production professionals. Training or professional credits required to join.
  2. Perform on stage - this can be as simple as a showcase, a staged reading, a fringe theatre production, or if you're lucky a full-out professional gig. The important thing is to be seen. As in any city, this is how you get an agent, and how directors and casting directors find you!
  3. Write to Agents & Casting Directors - when you've got a performance lined up, tell everyone about it! Find their names & addresses in Contacts.
  4. Seek auditions - If you don't have an agent, you have to find your own work. Here are some methods:
    1. Research the area in which you want to work and write to the appropriate person (found in Contacts). In your mailing include a cover letter introducing yourself and why you'd be a good asset, headshot, CV, and contact details.
    2. Subscribe to: CastWeb or Castnet
    3. Ask around. When you're hanging out in the Actors' Centre or at the Equity office, or anywhere actors congregate!
  5. Convert your Resume to your CV - The UK format is slightly different than what you're used to in the USA. Read my post on this here.
  6. Get new headshots - the British 10x8 style is more natural than the American 8x10 made-up look. You can probably use your American shots for commercials, but for most dramatic work you'll need the British style in your portfolio. The industry here is only just embracing color photos. Find photographers through Contacts or by flipping through photographers' books in the Spotlight office.
  7. Make a showreel/voicereel- If you want to work on-camera or as a voice artist, this is important to have. I recommend Twitch Films for showreels - they did mine for a great rate and I love it. For my voiceover demo I went with JP at The Showreel and would highly recommend him. He's a total pro, gives you lots of time, plays up your strengths and makes you sound great. I made my investment back with VO work almost immediately.
  8. Consider joining Equity - British Actors Union
  9. Consider joining the NAAA - North American Actors Association
C. For Students
Lucky for you, as a student in a British university or drama school you can't help but be immersed in British culture. I didn't take this route since I already had my BA in Theatre, but I often fantasized about studying at RADA or some of the other classy schools. If you look at any West End play program, the first thing young actors list in their biography is where they trained. This is a great way of networking with professionals, getting quality training, and at the end showcasing your work to agents, directors and casting directors.


Anonymous said…
I am a 24 year old student who's just about to earn her BA in theatre in the US, and it is my DREAM to move to the UK and learn acting from the best! Thank you so much for writing this. It helped me so much and gave several helpful tips that I never would have thought I needed to know.


-Brittany Gardner

P.S. My e-mail is (I don't have a blog except for on my myspace page, hehe.)
Anonymous said…
I've been researching your blog and want to take the drama school route to get my foot in the door in the England acting scene. I'm a young actor who recently obtained my BFA and I'm looking to move unto a graduate program in England in the next few years. I'm wondering after getting that training in England how easy is it to transition into working there as far as a visa goes? It seems that getting a student visa is relatively easier than getting an actual work visa. Any ideas or suggestions? My e-mail is

P.S. Thank you so much for setting up this blog it's been extremely helpful. It's nice to see that there are others like me who dream of going across the pond too.

Elsa Richardson
Research Paper said…
Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.
Micah said…
Thank you so much! I will graduate with my MA in Theatre at the end of next summer, and after that I plan on pursuing further training/starting a career in London. Thank you so much for your much-needed advice!

~Micah Orsetti
Micah said…
Thank you so much! I will graduate with my MA in Theatre at the end of next summer, and after that I plan on pursuing further training/starting a career in London. Thank you so much for your much-needed advice!

~Micah Orsetti
Ivii said…
Are you allowed to do unpaid community-type theatre without a work permit? I've been yearning to start a British acting career (since there's nothing but reality tv left in america), specifically sci-fi tv... not particularly relevant, but I thought I'd share. Anyway, I was accepted into LAMDA and simply can't afford it, however, I still want to go and act in something, anything. Spending 3 to 6 months among the theatres and actors of London would do me wonders and likely be less than half the price. I figured I could participate in workshops and such, but I haven't been able to determine if I would be allowed to audition for a proper unpaid play, if they consider this working or not. I was actually on my way to emailing an official of some sort when I happened upon your blog. Hoping you can answer my question. Would you mind if I asked you other questions, since it seems you've succeeded in doing exactly what I plan on doing. Cheers.
serenaburns said…
This is exactly what I've been looking for; thanks for taking the time to write it! I just graduated with a BA in Drama and have recently taken to the idea of going to school in the UK to get my MA or MFA. Do you have any recommendations as to which schools I should look at? Are the Conference of Drama Schools any good?

Thanks again!
Serena Burns
Anonymous said…

Thank you so much for all this information, really helpful. I am exactly in a dilemma right now needing advice (almost as if I want someone to tell me what to do). I am a British student studying acting at a conservatory in New York. After graduation, international student have the option to stay for a year to work in their field. I love New York but I feel like my accent will go against me here. I have a voice teacher and am working on it slowly but surely, I just dont want to spend another year here not working. What I want know is, will talent agents in London be receptive of my New York training? I do love London and want to come back but am not sure what my chances are to get representation in London. Please help.

My email:

Thank you so much!

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