Every week, Zikoko will share the hustle stories of Nigerians making it big in and out of the country. With each story, we’ll ask one crucial question in several ways: “How you do am?”

We recently shared Jemima Osunde’s hustle story — how she broke into acting while in medical school and what it’s like as a newbie in Nollywood. Now that you know how she did it, this guide will take you step-by-step on how you can become an actor in Nigeria.

Image source: Pexels

So, how do you get started?

There’s typically no age requirement — no need for football age here, dears — but you’ll need to show you have a good grasp of acting to get the opportunities that’ll help you kickstart an acting career. How do you show you know what you’re doing?

Consider taking acting classes:
There are no formal educational requirements for actors, but a great place to start if you’re willing to spend money is to explore acting schools for professional training.

Also consider local acting opportunities — think school plays or church-setting type short dramas — and memory exercises to help you remember your lines. You know how you can recite CKay’s Love Nwantiti word for word? That’s what you want to achieve with memory exercises. Something as simple as listening while you read may help you memorise scripts better.

Attend auditions and casting calls:
A great way to stay informed about audition opportunities is by following other professionals in the acting industry on social media. Even if you don’t start getting callbacks immediately, it’s a prime opportunity to mingle with crew members and other actors, and grow your network.

Prepare the necessary media:
By necessary media, we mean headshots or even a recorded monologue. They’ll want to know what you look like to confirm you have the right “look” and charisma for the role. So, keep them high-quality and natural-looking.

And no, it’s not superficial. The movie industry thrives on the “believe-ability” of the actors. Would you pass for a hustling mechanic? Do you give off the bad bitch vibes required for the role you’re auditioning for? These are the questions that need to be answered. 

Gain experience:
The more people see you, the better it is for your acting career. Your performance after landing your first role, and the strength of your network will contribute to your landing more roles and gaining experience.

What if you don’t have experience?

Most people start without experience. You need to get roles to actually get the experience. So, as a newbie, it’s important to focus on improving your skills and giving it your all at auditions.

Do auditions cost money?

No. In fact, this is the only appropriate response to anyone asking you to pay before you can audition for a role.

How to get your first acting gig

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to getting your first acting gig. Once you’ve done your bit in finetuning your skills, attend as many open auditions and casting calls as possible. Don’t forget to network as well.

Do beginner actors get paid?

Yes, although payment may depend on the production size and available budget. Some actors even take unpaid acting opportunities just to build their portfolio. As a newbie, you may need an extra source of income to support your finances when you’re in between acting gigs.

How many hours do actors work?

According to Jemima, movies require you to be on set for about two weeks, and this involves several hours of shooting per day. For a more extended series, it might take longer. 

And according to another actor, who wishes to remain anonymous, there are no specific work hours. You only know your call time which is typically between 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Cinema film sets can be as long as 2 to 3 weeks, while IrokoTV or AfMag film sets take like 5 days.

Sometimes, travel is required if the movie has different set locations. So, if you’re unlucky to work on a set that isn’t close to your house, you might have to leave home even earlier to beat possible traffic. Lagos residents can relate.

Remember that part about no specific work hours? It also applies to closing times. There are no closing hours on sets in Nigeria. Sometimes, you could get off set before midnight; other times, you’ll shoot till dawn. It’s the price for fame.

How much do Nigerian actors even make?

Payment can be a real hustle for beginners, TBH. It’s either the producer goes, “Abeg abeg, there’s no budget”, or if your Nigerian mother taught you how to price meat in the market, you could earn between ₦30-80k per movie role. It could also be higher, depending on how much they want you.

B-list* stars earn between ₦100-300k depending on the film’s budget and their negotiation skills. A-list* stars and veterans can command between ₦400k to ₦1.5m per role on an average. It could also be more, again depending on how much they want you.

Some productions also pay per day the actor is on set. Beginners on TV films, like IrokoTV, get paid between ₦15-20k per day. B-listers* usually get ₦50-100k per day. Per-day payments usually don’t apply to A-listers*, though.

The income may not always be great, but focusing on quality over quantity of films you shoot is necessary. How do you define quality in Nollywood? Well, from the script, you should have an idea if it was put together in 20 minutes, or if it’s something that can hold its own against international standards.

So you don’t have abominations like this on your record:

You may just be starting out, but it’s not every role you’re offered you should take, please. Focusing on quality may just be what sets you apart from the hundred other actors out there and set you up nicely for your big break.

PS: We also broke down everything you just read in this TikTok video.

*A-list/A-lister: This describes a group of people considered to be the most famous or successful at their crafts. You could say Zikoko is an A-lister. 😉

*B-list/B-lister: This describes a group of people who are also successful at their crafts, but not as famous as the A-listers.

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