I’ve been hard at work on working with BETA readers on my novel Song of Edmon http://www.songofedmon.com and of course working my daily acting checklist and goals.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of this blog and making it more accessible as well as more focused. That has led me to the conclusion that I need to be of service in the words I write so that my updates aren’t just about what I’m up to, but provide good usable information. I don’t consider myself an expert in any topic. However, the things I do know a little about, like acting and writing, I can certainly speak at length about what “I wish I knew” when I was starting out. So every month, I’d like to put out there a tip for beginners who think they might want to act or pursue the arts.
This month I thought I’d start at the beginning- What I wish I’d known when I decided I wanted to be an actor was really how hard it was was going to be and that I would need a certain mindset to carry me.
In college I took a class called “The business of acting.” It was one quarter my senior year and was supposed to cover basic things like getting headshots, how to interview for an agent, and finding your “type”. Those things are all useful, but at the same time, without any practical experience from actually living in Los Angeles and actually trying to do it, it was kind of a case of “in one ear, out the other.” The class had us read articles with glaring statistics regarding the percentage of actors that actually make a living (it’s frighteningly small), those statistics meant nothing to the young, invincible, faithful, hard-working students in the class. Even now, as someone who has been trying to work as an actor for years, statistics hold little value for me. It’s just impossible to fathom odds.
What I wish that class had really told me, in hindsight, (and this would be step one for anyone thinking of pursuing a career in the arts) is one needs to cultivate an attitude of positivity. The path to making money as an artist in the US is difficult. The government does not subsidize work and the playing field is glutted and the odds are not stacked in most peoples’ favors (unless one has a parent that is already extremely successful in the industry and they can help). There is so much out of one’s control. Rejection is a daily ritual. Most of the time one won’t even get to do what one wants- Act, because its contingent on others choosing to give the part. Over time, most people will not be building skills other than acting skills, but that won’t allow one to do anything but work in the service industry. Most of the acting jobs one gets actually have nothing to do with acting, but what one looks like, who one is related to, how tall one is, whatever. (Here’s a very truthful cracked article on the subject: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-awful-things-nobody-tells-you-about-being-actor/) And on and on… It’s hard. It’s so easy to be bitter when one has trained and worked hard and doesn’t have monetary or emotional success for long periods of time.
What pulls one through is a mental attitude that enjoys performing and finds joy in life even through the rejection and pain. A healthy detachment from material wealth and status is helpful. And the ability to be kind and smiling even when through being treated like garbage by life, or the person one is serving food to gives a lousy tip, or another parking ticket is left on the windshield. This is a whole lot easier said than done. But the fact is, survival depends on one’s level of “happiness” (for lack of a better word).Studies have shown that happy people tend to live healthier, longer, and more productive lives (http://www.healthline.com/health/happy-healthy-living). And that’s for everyone, not just artists. But it’s doubly important for artists whose careers are absolutely dependent on creating vibrant working relationships. And people WANT to be around others that are happy and enjoying life. So it HAS to be a priority.
That’s what I wish I had known. To be an actor one has to work on their acting skills and their marketing and business, but even more, their mental attitude and happiness. It’s the number one priority. That healthline.com graphic is a pretty good starting place to put in place a foundation of cultivating a positive outlook and happy life. Next month, I’d like to talk about some concrete steps one can take to start laying that foundation. And from there move on to the more practical things like headshots etc.
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