How to Start Your Career as an Actor: Tips from Simon Baker

April 16, 2024

Acting is a highly sought-after career for aspiring performers. From starring in films to television shows to web series, a lot of people want to become actors but aren’t sure how to get started. The truth is, when it comes to how to start your career as an actor, there is no tried and tested approach. One important thing when figuring out how to start your career as an actor is to go in with the right mindset.

There are many working actors to look at for inspiration, including the successful Australian actor Simon Baker, who recently shared his experiences at the 5th Australian International Screen Forum in New York, which also featured conversations with Paramount executive Rob O’Neill.

how to start your career as an actor
Simon Baker at the 5th Australian International Screen Forum

How to Start Your Career as an Actor: Tips from Simon Baker

The first step for any aspiring actor is to master the fundamentals. From there, every actor will have their own unique style, using their personal preferences, experiences, and creativity to refine their technique. During a live Q&A held at the Australian International Screen Forum, Simon Baker discussed his latest role in director Ivan Sen’s Limbo, sharing how he got into acting, and insights from his time in the film and television industry. 

how to start your career as an actor
Simon Baker and NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum
Melissa Randall

As a child, Baker revealed that he “hated the end of movies.” Enchanted by the magic of the cinema, Baker fondly recalled his love for film, and sadness when the magic was over because the fantasy was gone. His first film was the Oscar-winning LA Confidential, where he played Matt Reynolds. During the forum, Baker admitted to being “fascinated” with iconic Danny DeVito, who played Sid Hudgens in LA Confidential. Baker also talked about his affinity for his home country of Australia, as well as working on his hit television series The Mentalist. Here are some of the top takeaways from Baker’s session.

Be a team player

During the forum, Baker talked a lot about his experience working on The Mentalist (2008-2015), where he famously played fake psychic turned consultant Patrick Jane against Robin Tunney (Teresa Lisbon) and Tim Kang (Kimball Chao). As the lead character on set, Baker discussed the importance of being a leader for the cast and crew, underlining the importance of being a professional, effectively collaborating with the cast and crew and being prepared for work. Aspiring actors can take notes from Baker’s advice. When working on set, even not in a starring role, it’s vital to be a team player. 

Find how to tap into your craft

Baker said that he admires actors with a non-stop work ethic, but underlines the importance of “sitting back and absorbing life in a real way,” to fill up creatively again. The preference to have breaks between projects can help explain why some actors have more gaps in their resumes – similar to Baker, they can’t live on a film set 24/7 and need to have real-life experiences to inspire them. Aspiring actors can learn from Baker’s example, exploring all of their interests in film, media, and entertainment while auditioning and taking on roles.

Learn how to be in the moment

Actors tend to be in a state of non-stop hustle, especially when they’re first starting in the industry. Baker said that you can miss how the craft of acting feeds you as a creative when you can’t be “in the moment” and are too focused on what’s next. He admitted that as a successful actor, he was sometimes too focused to absorb and really appreciate the big moments in his career. For student actors, it’s important to appreciate every step toward your greater goals and express gratitude for whatever stage you’re in.

Be the master of your ship

“Whether you like it or not, you’re going to cut your own path,” Baker told the audience. His advice not only applies to acting but to creatives looking to make their own TV, film, and original content. The time will pass regardless of how you spend it, and it’s important to take ownership of your professional path and do everything you can to find success in the industry. This includes learning the fundamentals of your chosen craft, mastering the necessary skills, and always looking for opportunities to network and grow. It also includes taking ownership of your passion and finding chances to expand your network and reel.

Get the most from your experiences

Baker, who worked on the set of The Mentalist for seven years, said that he used the experience “as film school.” In addition to playing the lead character, Baker directed, volunteered to hold the boom, and sat in the editing suite over lunch, doing everything he could to learn what everyone does on a film set. This experience helped him understand his role as an actor better and also prepared him to pursue his projects. 

Actors who learn the filmmaking and production process not only have the tools to work more effectively on set but also have the resources to spearhead their own projects. If they don’t come across a role they want, they can create it. 

Find what gives you purpose

Baker, who is originally from Tasmania, Australia, says that working in his home country gives him “creative purpose.” During the forum, he talked about having dreams of working as a full-time actor and filmmaker in Australia as an up-and-coming visual storyteller. Upon working on a recent film back home, he realized his dream had come true. With the competitive, fast-paced landscape of the entertainment industry, having an aspiration in mind can help keep actors pursuing their goals and ambitions.

Learn the Building Blocks of Acting at NYFA Australia

At NYFA’s Acting for Film School in Australia, aspiring performers learn the craft of screen acting through hands-on projects and exercises. Practical experience enables students to establish the fundamentals of acting as they build their identity as an actor and performers. Ready to learn more? Request information today!