This blog post is not going to be one of those articles you see where they talk about actors who achieved success later in life sugary feel-good kind of articles. Why? Because most of them deal with actors who already are repped by well known, huge agencies or already had a good string of guest stars and are trying to become successful that they are internationally known. I’m not interested in any of that silliness.
I’m speaking out to all the actors who are busting their asses off just trying to pay RENT and FOOD with their acting career alone. To the actors who would kill to even be tested for a series regular. To the actors who are extremely talented but for whatever reason, no agent wants to sign them.
This one is for you.
Before I get started, let me take your time to describe a particular moment in time that I was in to help illustrate my point for this blog post. It’s also in a smaller font so you COULD just skip all that and go to my summarized point at the bottom:
Last week, I find myself in that ridiculous mental position once again where I am discontent with where I am in my acting career. I thought to myself: “I have a string of primetime co-stars, some nice national commercials, but whose dick do I need to suck to book that freaking guest star?”
This worthless train of thought notched up a bit when I learned that an actor friend of mine who has less co-star credits than I book his first primetime guest star in a lot less time than me (still going as I still have yet to book one). For about a good hour, I started to question why I’m even working so hard when others seem to glide right past by me with less effort.
“Am I doing this all wrong? Am I working too hard?” says my pessimistic self.
And then I had to stop myself and know that there are those who would kill to even have a co-star, to get a great agent who actually sends them out and responds to their emails and phone-calls, to even be out here in Los Angeles with a job that allows them the flexibility to even audition in the first place. I had to also remind myself that how much hard work I put into this does not whatsoever mean an equal return in such immediate time. It may even take 5-10 years for all of this to truly go somewhere. Or maybe not even that long.
Earlier last week while all of these delightful thoughts were invading my head, I had a conversation with an actress who told me she was jealous of my success and I thought she was insane for even thinking that way, considering that she constantly gets to the position where she tests for TV series regulars and noteworthy films. But because she’s on the list (or whatever they call it in Hollywood when you’re known by casting and execs), it’s hard for her to be considered for co-stars and puny parts. As grateful as I am to be getting auditions from my theatrical reps, I have yet to even get a callback for a series regular role and to that, I told her she was nutso for even remotely thinking that she could be jealous of where I am.
This acting career will never be easy nor should it. No matter where you are in your career, it can become the case that a time will come when you book absolutely nothing and watch your bank account dwindle to “instant ramen for lunch & dinner” levels (that was me last May) as you watch your actor peers book everything in the world (or so you think in your sad little deluded mind). That all your guest star credits you compiled may very well find you auditioning for that 4-liner costar the next year that you thought you would never do again. You may find yourself scratching your eyes just trying to book a co-star while others seem to do it with ease. While others are finding agents with minimal effort, you are being turned down by every one despite a pretty good assurance from people you trust that your talents are in the right place. All this sounds rather infuriating, no?
But despite all of these things, you must persist. Persist your motherfucking heart out. It is here that I’m going to give you practical things to do rather than leave you off with some feel-good, new-age spiritual “I must be at peace with the world” bullshit that so many acting articles like to give you. I like practical. So here are my 5 things I can give to you:
1. Find a creative outlet related to your acting career that you can be completely passionate about. This is essential because you are creating something that allows you to make it happen on your own terms, not whether or not you get the audition or that a bunch of people deem that you are worthy of a part. As everyone reading this blog knows already, mine is Cinnabon. And now that I have a forward momentum after meeting the CEO, my passion in making my Cinnabontastic ideas into a reality is so predominant that I am not absolutely distraught by the fact that I am not booking more than I would like. In my acting class, we have a saying: “Production is the basis of morality”. So produce something, baby. (But if you do, please do it well and put considerable time and energy into it. Get people who know how to do certain things better than you to do it rather than have you try to do everything. And revisions. Lots and lots of revisions).
2. Be grateful of all your accomplishments and keep track of every single people you’ve ever worked for/auditioned for. Followup with them consistently. You never know when that single postcard/email was sent at the right time where they needed an actor like you to help alleviate all their troubles. In addition to the 54 casting offices that I have relations with now (with at least 25 that I’ve booked with and auditioned for), I followup with executives like Chuck Lorre, who I had the pleasure of meeting in a producer’s session and send him a letter every 2-3 months. Do I expect an immediate response? No. But it’s being sent and I do my part in being a badass professional who is serious about his career.
3. Get used to No’s. In fact, even embrace it. They will be part of your life for the rest of time so you might as well be good friends with it. My BHP teacher Allen Barton writes about this No thing quite eloquently so do take a looksie.
4. Have hobbies that have nothing to do with acting. Remember that we need to have a life beyond our narcissistic career. I like to find delicious restaurants and try out new food with awesome people. Rather than be bummed that I had two weeks of no auditions/didn’t book anything for months, I will will myself to go enjoy life a little by trying out that chocolate fried chicken I read about in some drool-worthy food blog website.
5. In our time trying to hope for the best that our career will one day launch, it is IMPORTANT to make time for our friends (and I’m not talking about your acting friends only) that matter to us. And if you have no idea who that may be, you best figure that shit out now when the time does come you do become successful. Our true friends ground us to be the best human being we can possibly be and thus it is essential that we go out of our way to find time to have a heart to heart with them. (I guess family members count too but more often than not, they have no idea what your acting career is even like nor do they even care at many times so take this at your own precaution).