Breaking into acting is different for each actor. There is no uniform way to jumpstart an acting career. However, there are a few basic items that every actor needs to get started in show-business, including experience, training, a headshot and acting résumé, and representation (if possible).
Perhaps the best way to begin your acting career is to get involved in local community theatres. Look in the phone book for community theatres in your area and ask them how you can get involved. Community theatres in your area are a great way to gain experience as an actor. You can get exposed to plays from William Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams to August Wilson and others. You can learn how to learn lines and perform characters before live audiences. And you can interact with other actors who can help guide you and share information about the industry.
If you live in or near a large city, there should be some acting classes in your area. Find a good acting coach or teacher you can train with. Training is essential to any actor, the same way training would be important to an airline pilot. Without training, an airline pilot will crash and burn. Without proper training, an actor will, metaphorically, do the same. The more training you have, the better you will be able to perform and the wider your range of performances will be.
Your headshot is an 8 x 10, usually black-and-white representation of you. On the back of the photo, you will place your résumé, detailing all the acting work you’ve done, training you’ve received, and special skills you have. Your headshot is like a business card. It is the essential to get a great headshot that (1) looks like you, (2) represents your career path, (3) and details all your skills, training and experience.
A talent agency is a company that helps an actor find work, negotiate contracts and manage their careers. A talent agency is not always essential, depending on where you live. But it can always be helpful because talent agencies understand the industry, understand the work available in your area, and understand what is needed to become a successful actor in your area.