You’ve known for quite some time that you want to be on the big screen.  You just know you’ll make it big in Hollywood, but you’re not sure how to get your start.  How can you stand out?  How will you get noticed?

First and foremost, you really need to be where the action is.  When you’re just starting out, it’s okay to live in your small hometown and participate in community theatre projects.  But, when you have a few notches on your belt and start to get truly serious about being successful in the industry, you’ll need to consider living in a location where you’ll have plenty of opportunities for a big break.

This doesn’t mean you have to live in New York or Los Angeles, though.  In fact, many aspiring actors automatically assume they need to be in these hotspots, so these areas are flooded with talent waiting to get noticed.  This means, tough competition.  You may want to consider a less likely locale that is still brimming with opportunity, such as Chicago, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, or Philadelphia.

You must take the time to hone your skills, too.  This means, you have to be extremely dedicated to your craft.  You’ll need time to practice, which could mean sacrificing in other areas of your life.

Be realistic about your expectations.  You’ll likely have bills to pay, so chances are you’ll need to keep a day job while attending castings, but you’ll also have to make sure this job is flexible and understanding of your long-term goals.  And, chances are you’ll have less time for social gatherings and other extracurriculars.  The harsh reality is that acting is not a 9-5 job and you can’t make it big if you treat it as such.

Get yourself out there.  You’ll need to make yourself available for as many castings as possible.  Don’t just focus on featured roles, either.  Background opportunities are excellent for getting your foot in the door and building your resume.  Unlike a typical job search, you can’t sit behind a computer and submit applications.  While there is likely to be some computer work, you’ll also have to present in person to land a role.

To really get noticed, know the roles you’re likely to be a good fit for (i.e., girl next door, handyman, professor).  Pursue these opportunities, but also go after those you’re not the most likely candidate for.  Nailing more challenging roles will help you to break the mold, and diverse actors who do not conform to stereotypes are often the most successful.  Consider the serious roles comedians Jim Carrey or Will Ferrell have played.  They take on these opportunities, because it’s not what their fans expect and it’s the atypical roles that truly showcase their range.

Don’t be afraid of making a fool of yourself by going after a variety of gigs.  It’s part of the process.  “Every single role brings with it an ignorance and an insecurity, and so you have to approach it with the same curiosity and humility.  I’m always nervous.  Doesn’t matter how many times I do this. But I remind myself it’s because I care,” says Star Wars actress Lupita Nyong’o.  After all, you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try!