Ok, so what hasn’t been written about this topic? I know, next to nothing. So, why am I writing about it? Well, besides killing time waiting for Kristin Kreuk to discover my existence and accept me as her one and only true love, I thought I’d splash a thimbleful of cold water in the face of blind idealism. You know — a wake-up call, a fly in the Vaseline, a rock in your sock (Alas, I guess that shatters my Kristin fantasy, doesn’t it?) Uh-huh, I can hear the grumbling starting to crescendo to the inevitable, “C’mon man, don’t harsh my mellow! Why are you trying to discourage people from following their dreams?” Alright, let’s get something straight — I am attempting to do no such thing. I am a dream-follower myself and most likely will remain so for the rest of my life. I am merely saying that before you seriously embark on an acting career please, please, please make sure you want to be an actor; like, you cannot live without being an actor; like, if it’s a choice between your first born and acting, then little Suri gets the ol’ heave-ho!
No, I’m serious here folks, because it may actually come down to a choice between your dream career and a spouse and children. Sure, healthy, functional nuclear families can and do include actors, but the extraordinary challenges an actor must face to merely give himself a chance at success are anathema to finding and securing a long-term mate (especially one outside of the entertainment industry). By the way, when I say “success,” I’m speaking of being a consistently working actor. I am not talking about star-dumb, celebrity-dumb, or any sparkly vernacular employed to describe the demigod-like status our society bestows upon those who entertain the masses, but I digress. Simply put, very often acting equals loneliness and many shades thereof. This is particularly true if you are male. Despite egalitarian attempts to dissociate the term “provider” from the definition of what it means to be a man, very few women will want to support your broke thespian bum while you’re keepin’ it real; and, in good conscience you shouldn’t expect it, even during the poorest of times. If you are able to find that special someone with the empathy, respect and love it takes to commit to a struggling actor, then you are fortunate indeed; however, you’re not out of the woods yet. As a working actor, you will find yourself a-way — on tour, on film shoots, on auditions, etc. How will your significant other feel about you being out of town so often? Move over Rover. If you’re Matt Damon, you can afford to take your wife and kids with you, but Natt Hamon ain’t so lucky (Um, if you’re reading this Natt — no disrespect).
Some people say, “There’s no such thing as luck,” or “Eh, you make your own luck.” I respectfully disagree with the former and conditionally agree with the latter. Within your circle of influence you can affect change or “make your own luck,” but there is a point beyond which randomness (or something else) reigns and, try as you may, your efforts don’t mean squat. Generally speaking, that’s life. As it pertains to acting, you may magnify that statement one hundred fold. Talent, perseverance and preparedness will take an actor only so far. The missing ingredient is sheer, random luck. We’re talking lottery, camel through the needle eye kind of odds — being in the right place at the right time; meeting, and being appreciated by, the right person(s); and, being born into the right family with the right connections. The sad truth is very few will be so lucky. Remember too — it’s a small club with limited space and the current members don’t really want you to join, because you’re more competition; who can blame them?
You may, however, be justified in holding some self-proclaimed “business of acting” gurus accountable for nefariously or ignorantly leading you astray to make a buck. Most of their strategies should be taken with a grain of salt. That is not to say you won’t pick-up a few useful tips, or that you shouldn’t attempt the proverbial mass mailing (if you’re young, stunningly beautiful and/or graduating from Juilliard, you may get a response), but please understand it’s all about the Benjamins. Agents, managers and casting directors are in business to make money. Most are not particularly interested in investing a great deal of time and effort to nurture your career from seed to beautiful blossom (especially agents and casting directors). They want you to already have some impressive credits — a proven resume they feel they can work with and profit from. That begs the question, “How do I get those impressive credits if agents, managers and casting directors don’t want to meet or work with me?” Ah, there’s the rub. It’s a catch 22, my friend, and only the exceptionally wily and, yes, lucky manage to escape from that dastardly loop.
I wish I could tell you exactly how to solve this conundrum, but besides never giving-up there really is no tried and true blueprint except to say: strive to create opportunities for yourself (e.g. Stallone and Rocky); put yourself in the thick of it — hang out where industry folks hang and keep your eyes peeled and ears open for opportunities; and, try to get referrals from people whom agents and the like know and trust. Caution: use sound judgment regarding paying industry people for the chance to be seen. In such cases, one must ask, “Why are successful industry people who truly have the power to open a door for you taking the time to run or participate in showcase classes? Shouldn’t they be off doing what they claim to do?” Of course, many of these people may legitimately enjoy teaching and consider it a good way to scout new talent. However, a healthy dose of equal parts skepticism and research is prescribed before plunking down your cash and lifting up your hopes.
You should be skeptical about the motivations of the actor sitting next to you at the audition as well. Competition is fierce. No matter how friendly or disarming they seem, always remember you’re battling over a role, so never lower your guard. Maintain the killer instinct with a smile. Another thing to question is why people want to pursue acting professionally. Obviously, there is no simple answer to that one; there are as many specific reasons as there are aspiring actors. Generally speaking, however, many people in our celebrity-obsessed society will roll the bones on an acting career based solely on their collective need for fame and fortune. Forget about: a genuine desire to act, to create art with your person, to serve the story, to make myth relevant to today, to connect with your fellow actors and your audience in a distinctively communal manner, or simply do what you feel you were born to do. Hogwash! String that namby-pamby up forthwith! It’s no wonder why there are so many people vying for so few roles making it nearly impossible to break into the “business.” It wouldn’t hurt for you to honestly examine your deeper motivations for pursuing an acting career as well.
So, we’ve briefly discussed loneliness, luck and layout. What else should you consider before attempting such an odyssey? Frankly, I could drone on and on about it and bore you (and myself) to tears, so let’s try a little stream of consciousness experiment instead, shall we? Sure, I’ll just spin a little rhyme in an attempt to succinctly capture the psycho-emotional toll which may be in store for you. It goes a little something like this:
End of tunnel light — outta sight, black hole night takes all your might and gives back shite, artist-farmer planting seeds in the bright sunlight, but frost comes cold and tight, never growing, always owing money, never honey, bitter mirror shows 10 years gone, then 15, you’re no teen, your friends’ success is mean, baby, you’re lean, baby, feeling stagnant and stuck, outta luck, Charlatan time to steal your dime and worse — the dream, desperate Vampires prey on, praise on, to drain on, lay claim on your heart – that genesis place of pure and rush, and leave you empty and withered and alone, make no bones.
Happy, happy, joy, joy, huh? Granted, it’s an extreme picture, but believe you me it happens. The “Boss” knows, “time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister, but boring stories of glory days.” You should know that it could just as easily happen to you.
Speaking of you, if you’ve made it this far, then have a cigar! I’ve intentionally painted a brief, bleak and brutally honest picture which I’m sure hasn’t been much fun to observe. However, I hope you consider it a service, because that’s what it’s meant to be. If you feel like you don’t want to be an actor after reading this, that’s a good thing. Follow Mr. Scrooge’s advice and “decrease the surplus population.” You’ll be much happier for it (and so will I). On the other hand, if you feel like your resolve to be an actor has been strengthened by this article, that’s a good thing too. It means you really want it. It means it’s probably what you are meant to be, so fight, me hearties, fight; follow Mr. Thomas’ advice and “do not go gentle into that good night”! See you at the audition! Or, not…
Copyright (c) 2009 Seamus Mac Giolla Mhartain. All Rights Reserved
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