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A common misbelief among actors is that they must live in major cities such as London, Los Angeles & New York. But in actual fact, although there are many benefits to living in these areas, there are other places that are great to live in too.
What is the best place to start your acting career? The best place to start your acting career is wherever you live right now. If an actor knows what they’re doing, they can usually do well in their home towns. Once an actor gains more experience and starts making money from acting, moving to a larger city may be a good choice.
So what if you decide you’d like to move? What cities around the world are promising when it comes to acting work?
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Best Cities in the United Kingdom for Actors
Many people believe that to become a successful actor in the UK, you have to move to London. But is this true? Do actors have to move to London to be successful?
You don’t have to move to London to become a successful actor. Most auditions in the UK are done by video auditions, also known as self-tapes. If a casting director is interested in hiring an actor for a role based on a self-tape, they will pay for the actor to travel and audition in person.
When choosing where to live in the UK as an actor, it’s usually less based on where you will work, and more about where you’d like to live and what is in the area you’d like to live in. For example, if you’d like to do regular acting classes, you may want to pick an area that has reputable acting classes. In fact, a friend of mine, Ioan Hefin, who has worked with Tim Burton, Netflix, BBC and many others, lives in rural Wales. Quite the opposite of what you’d expect.
But let’s say you’d like to move to a city with acting work around you. What are the best cities in the UK for actors?
London is probably the most well-known place in the UK for actors. Thousands of actors call London their home, and you can see why. It’s home to the West End, some of the most famous drama schools in the world, and hundreds of casting directors, acting classes and headshot photographers. For this reason, London can be an amazing choice for actors, especially if you’re currently putting a lot of focus into training. With everything, an actor can need at their fingertips. Although, many people believe that actors have to live in London to succeed. This isn’t true.
Actors don’t have to live in London to succeed because, over the last few years, the entertainment industry has evolved. Most auditions are done via self-tape, and if you have to travel to London for an audition, many production companies will pay for your travel.
That being said, there are thousands of creatives in London, so it’s never a struggle to find student films and low budget independent projects being made. It can definitely be a breeding ground for collaboration.
I’d say if you want to live in London because you love it there, or you have a specific reason, go for it. But if you’re the reason for living in London is for auditions, you may want to rethink. London is VERY expensive to live in, and you can get auditions all across the UK.
One big thing to remember is that the lower your monthly expenses, the less work you need to become full time. You may make enough from acting to be full time everywhere else in the country, but you’ll still need a part-time job to pay the bills in London.
Over the last few years, Manchester has become a hub for TV, with MediaCityUK at its centre, being one of the headquarters for the BBC and ITV, it’s a great place for actors that want to work in TV especially. Although many actors wouldn’t consider soap operas to be “real acting,” many actors get their first few screen roles in soap operas, as this is a great way to enter the industry, with thousands of day player roles being cast every year.
With Coronation Street filmed in MediaCityUK in Manchester, Emmerdale filmed in West Yorkshire and Hollyoaks filmed in Liverpool. Manchester becomes a great middle-ground for actors that want to build their careers from the ground up and beyond.
For a long time, many actors believed that you had to get an agent in London, but over the last few years, many Manchester based agents have grown massively, representing some of the country’s biggest talent.
Being at the centre of the UK, Manchester is a great choice for actors, with Scotland just above, London just below and Wales right beside, Manchester is a great middle-ground for actors wanting to work all around the UK.
Cardiff is a place that many actors outside of Wales don’t think about, but it’s a brilliant place for actors to live. It’s home to Doctor Who, BBC Wales, Bad Wolf Studios, Severn Screen, Seren Stiwdios, (formerly known as Pinewood Studios Wales) which is currently home to Tom Hardy’s new film Havoc.
Cardiff is an inexpensive, opportunity-rich place for new and established actors to live. And that’s not just me being biased because I live here, that’s a fact. With the Welsh Government giving production companies all over the world huge benefits for filming in wales, along with the cheap production costs here, more and more production companies are seeing the benefits to filming in Wales. For example, Netflix’s Sex Education was filmed in both Cardiff and Newport.
If training is what you’re looking for, Cardiff is home to the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) which is known as one of the most prestigious conservatoires in the United Kingdom.
And if you’re really worried about missing out on auditions in London, you can still audition for productions in London via self-tape, and you can always get the train directly from Cardiff Central to London, for any in-person auditions you may have. Ultimately Cardiff is a great place to live, rich in culture, and with an ever-growing film & TV industry.
Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city and can provide opportunities in TV for actors choosing to live here. Glasgow is home to The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) known as one of the most prestigious conservatories in the United Kingdom, especially for Musical Theatre.
With Edinburgh just down the road, you have the Edinburgh Fringe. Although not a film event, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world, featuring thousands of performances over the month.
Best Cities in the United States for Actors
Most roles in the US are seemingly cast from places like LA or New York, this can make actors feel like they’re missing out on something by being in a smaller state. So do actors have to live in LA or New York to be successful?
You don’t have to move to LA or New York to be a successful actor. It can often be a good idea to work in your current state where there is less competition, in order to save money on living costs and gain experience and credits, giving yourself a better chance if you decide to move in the future.
Although that being said, it can definitely be beneficial to live in these more popular states. At the start of an actors career, getting a small, day player role in a big production can look great on your CV, most productions are going to hire these actors from the area they’re filming in, in order to cut down on travel costs.
So if you do decide to move, what are the best cities in the US for actors?
1. Los Angeles
Los Angeles, The City of Angels, home to Hollywood and some of the worlds most famous actors. This is the place everyone knows, and that’s for a reason.
Everyone hears stories of actors moving to LA from all around the world, landing an agent and instantly getting booked for a Hollywood movie. Although I’d advise you to prepare for the worst. LA is extremely expensive, and to reach any level of success you must work hard, but even then there’s no guarantee.
If moving to LA is your dream, and you think you will benefit from the move, go for it! But I’d suggest that if you’re younger, and living with parents, use that to your advantage. Work over and save every penny, prepare as much as you can.
And once you finally make the move, join some classes, reach out to agents, and network, network, network.
2. New York
New York, yet another expensive place to live. For years New York has been home to some of the biggest films ever made, and many people dream about moving to New York to start a career as an actor.
Although just like LA, it can be extremely tough. Rents are sky high but competition is higher. Moving to New York could definitely be a great choice, although it might be a good decision to get some substantial experience and savings under your belt before the move.
If I was to move to New York, I’d want to make sure that I have a few good credits, some form of training, a great headshot that represents me well, and most importantly a great showreel. This would give me the greatest chance at getting an agent there, in order to increase my chances of success.
This is a state that many may overlook. But year on year Atlanta is becoming the go-to place for TV & film companies in the US, and therefore it can be a great opportunity for actors.
In 2008, Georgia passed tax incentives that made it financially attractive for film and tv production companies to film in the state. Since then, the film and tv industry has become a $9.5 billion industry in Georgia alone. Meaning there is no shortage of opportunities.
In fact, in 2016, Georgia overtook California in the rankings for most feature films produced overall. With multiple studios now creating bases in Georgia, including a US base for the British film & TV studio, Pinewood Studios
Here’s a brilliant video by Kurt Yue, an actor who’s worked for Netflix and Marvel, about his experience moving to Atlanta.
Ultimately it’s your choice whether you want to move cities or not. If you live in a big country like the US where it may not be easy to travel from state to state, you may consider living in a state where there’s a lot of work, Atlanta seems extremely promising.
Whereas if you live in a smaller place like the UK, it doesn’t really matter where you live, as you can travel wherever you want across the UK, in less than a day. Meaning where you live is more based on where you want to live. I mean, do you really want to pay the extortionate rent of living in London when 99% of your auditions are going to be done in your living room via self-tape anyway.
If you decide to move for acting, ensure that you make the most of it by having all your resources like headshots that look like you and a good showreel that shows what you can do.