Some Tough Love From The Industry
By Rose Rogers
If you think you might quite like to be an actor… it’s tough love time. Get used to that now, stop wishing on a hope and a prayer, and start putting in the hard yards. Realistically, it takes 10-20 years of climbing the ladder before you can claim to be an established ‘in demand’ actor unless you get very, very, VERY lucky. All the actors you see on TV and in movies, didn’t just arrive there by chance. They worked HARD. Every. Single. Day. FOR YEARS.
I’m talking about actors like Dustin Hoffman, Harrison Ford, Susan Sarandon and George Clooney. No one handed them opportunities on a platter – they slogged their guts out, becoming better actors, and better people along the way.
Here’s a fun game… divide all the “well known” actors by the population of planet Earth and multiply by 100… the answer ends up being about 0.00086% …
The actors that DO succeed are a harmonious blend of talent, dedication, ACTION, positive mindset, focus, intelligence, patience, tenacity, likeability, individuality, and circumstance. They had to slog their way through a river of sludge before reaping the rewards of their labour.
BUT it is these obstacles, challenges, trials and tribulations that build their character, educate them, provide them with references to draw on, and STRENGTHEN them so that they are READY when “luck” knocks on the door with that big role they have dreamt of since they first started their journey – and it is a journey. Don’t forget that.
Readiness isn’t just about having great technique as an actor, it’s about being a fully formed human being. If not much is happening in your career, there are other aspects you need to work on other than just taking another acting class (though you should always keep up with those too) but you can work on your time management skills, your organisational skills, your interpersonal skills, your networking skills (especially if you’re naturally shy), your business/accounting/budgeting skills, your sales skills, your phone manner, your typing/spelling/grammatical skills, your computer/web design skills, your camera skills, develop/strengthen ‘special’ skills like dance, sports, circus, vocal styles etc. … ALL of these skills are REQUIRED to be a successful working actor. Not just being a good actor. That is not enough.
There is no such thing as ‘nothing to do’. There is much to be done – consistently – for the rest of your life.
The ones that can’t handle the constant rejections, or grow too impatient, or can’t be bothered putting the effort in, or are so fixated on a “destination” that they miss all the little gems along the way… are the ones that fail, and that’s ok, because acting wasn’t really for them. They liked the glossy unrealistic idea of it, and bowed out after the gloss wore off. Those are not the real actors of the world.
Real actors… act. They act for themselves, because it feeds them.
Whether it’s an unpaid theatre show in a basement, or a short film, or a semi-decent gig that actually covers your bills (but nothing else). Guess what though… an agent might have been sitting in that audience and liked you, that short film might go on to win awards at festivals, that small paying gig might have had a director that later picks you up for a huge paying commercial or a big budget feature film! Maybe not within a week, month, or even year… but at some point. Life (and especially our industry) is made up of an infinite sequence of tiny, seemingly insignificant events, that all connect like a child’s dot-to-dot puzzle to lead us to the “big” life changing moments.
Will Smith shares a story here to that effect, on how he became The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
We’ll keep it short this week, and I’ll end it with a quote from a US actor I recently connected with. When asked “what performances shaped you artistically and personally?” Erinn Jones responded:
“The performances I drove hours (non-paid mind you). As a matter of fact – every performance that was non-paid. Every audition that took all day only to be seen for 2 minutes and then driving to work for a full night shift. Every performance I did that never saw the light of day. Or when I got no footage. Or there was nowhere to use the restroom until I left. Every performance where the words weren’t in the script but I had to make the scene work anyway. Every performance where the conditions were less than glamorous has shaped me artistically and personally. All of those experiences remind me that I really do love this.”
So if you’re considering giving up… here are 7 questions to ask yourself:
- Have you actually even begun yet?
- Have you given it a bloody good go?
- Has it been less than 5 years?
- Have you said yes to every opportunity?
- Have you progressed even just a smidge over the last month/six months/year?
- Have you developed your craft and supplementary skills on a daily basis?
- Are you showing up for your best life every day with a smile and giving it 150%?
If the answer is No… and you still want to be an actor, do better! Or give up. Either is OK – Remember you are in control of your life.
Also by Rose Rogers:
Published in cooperation with Fourth Wall – Actors & Talent Agency