Red Carpets! Celebrities! Adoring Fans! Yes please!
The allure of “Hollywood” is intoxicating, but what is often glamorized about show business tends to leave out the gritty behind the scenes grunt work of building a business and making a career. It’s often said “it takes 10 years to make an overnight success” and baby, let me tell you how true this is.
Whether you’re studying acting, waiting tables or auditioning for community theater and student films, here are 5 things you should know before you start your journey to becoming a full time working film, television and commercial actor.
Acting is a business and the product you are selling is YOU! So examining and exploring exactly who that is is key. That’s why any acting teacher will tell you that being in therapy is just as beneficial as any acting class.
Now, we all like to think as actors we can play ANYTHING, but casting directors, directors and producers don't need actors who can play anything. They need EXACTLY you. Even the legendary chameleon Meryl Streep begins every role by exploring how she personally connects to the character that is written and builds from within. So who are you? How does casting see you? What do you look like on screen or on stage? Television is a visual medium. We make split second judgements on what we see! So explore exactly what that is. HINT: there are no wrong answers and it can always be changing! Oh, the joy of being alive!
Note: focusing on how you are uniquely beneficial to the industry also helps you avoid the bad habit of comparing yourself to other actors. There is only one you. Even if you’re going out for the same roles, you are not in competition with the other actors, because you are you, and they are them. More on this later.
Once you’ve determined who you are, it’s time to make sure that your marketing materials (ie. headshots, resume, demo) reflect the most honest version of you. Don’t forget, who you are is your greatest strength as an actor. That's right YOU!
An acting career is a marathon not a sprint! Any aspiring actor will repeat this phrase to themselves regularly.
How do you become a full time working actor? Simple! You put in full time working hours. Oh, I didn't say you were going to get paid right away, in fact making the “big bucks” is something that comes after years of training, working your way up through the industry with a lot of side hustles and part time jobs to support yourself while you develop your career.
While taking acting classes is a big part of an actor's work, there are lots of ways an actor can commit their time to their development.
All of these (and much much more) are pieces that make up a full career. Keep track of the hours you put in. How many “acting hours” have you logged this week? It’s likely more than you think.
Note: Why do we do this? Because we focus on what’s IN our control. So many elements to this career are not. Because….
YOU’RE LUCKY TO BE HERE
Is that an ego check? No, but I’ll take that catchy tag line as an opportunity to say leave the ego at the door.
According to Statistics Canada, the only career which factors LUCK as an element of success is Acting. Oof, now read that again. A tough reality check but necessary. There are so many factors that go into an acting career, and many, like luck, are out of your control. So what is in our control? Well, lots! And when you focus on elements like:
Then you can start to take control of your career and avoid the dreaded BURN OUT.
Often actors who are not happy with their careers consider going back to college, or taking a different career path. And while that might be the right move for them, it’s critical to think about all the reasons you may feel lost as an actor before pulling the plug on your acting dreams.
If you can learn to differentiate factors IN your control and OUT of your control, your acting career gets a lot less frustrating.
There’s nothing stopping you from being an unhappy actor. But a word of warning; you are forbidden from putting that unhappiness onto others. As you’ll see in number 5, the actor’s main job is to work with a team and if you’re a bully or diva, this industry doesn’t need you.
The success of any actor is due to the success of a whole group of people who work with and alongside actors. An actor depends on:
Teammates - Acting friends who root them on
Business partners - Managers, agents, casting directors, casting assistants, directors and producers are just some of the many business partner you’ll have as an actor
Mentors - Actors you look up to who you can turn to for advice
These are all examples of industry players, and your relationship with them is key. If you haven’t found the right people for your team — it’s time to network.
Networking can often seem like an unwanted necessity as an actor; but if you focus on how you as the actor can support your other industry players, you’ll find it’s not as hard as you think. Acting classes and local indie film events are a great place to start.
Remember to be purposeful when going into any networking opportunity; Ask people who they are, what they are up to, and think of ways that you might be able to help.
If you've ever watched an awards show you’ll know that the winning actor always has a long list of people they thank. This is their team. And you, yourself, even as someone who is still deciding if they want to be an actor, or maybe just starting out, has a wealth of teammates.
Find fellow actors in your market that are both at the same level as you and have similar goals. You know, the ones who you are NOT in competition with because you've both done the work to find how unique and specific you are? That’s them! A favorite phrase is “WHEN ONE OF US RISES WE ALL RISE.” Connecting with acting teammates is imperative to your success.
Develop a strong reputation within the industry of being great to work with and before you know it, your community will be full of top notch casting directors, directors and producers who sing your praises and help you on your acting journey.
Who are the people in your corner? Make a list of everyone you have on your team now and think about ways you can build your team out moving forward.
There are no lone wolves in this business. Actors are just one part of a thousand considerations so go into producing a film, television show or commercial. So the number one goal to keep in mind when building your team is…
There are three things producers look for to consider an actor as “hireable”:
When considering hiring an actor for a busy 20 day film production schedule or a 6 month series television production, sometimes the casting decision is based largely on “which actor could I stand to be around for that long?”
Be pleasant. Everyone is working very hard around you and the actors who are the nicest make the impression that builds great careers.
Keep in mind that there’s so much to be grateful for! Your job is to make believe! And that gratitude goes a long way. Some of the most successful A-listers are also always the ones rumored to be the nicest. Emulate their example.
And as a little bonus, here’s a 6th thing to keep in mind:
The reality of being an actor is not the glamor most people think. It's a tough job that requires very specific skills:
If at any point along your acting journey you think you would be happier or more fulfilled doing something else: do that thing.
What’s the point of being an actor if you hate the work it entails?
But if you love every aspect of it; then trust that you are on the right path. And believe that against all apparent odds, you can be a working actor.
Take time to consider these reality checks, and when you’re ready, get to work. Because it can be a full time job starting right now.
If you need help becoming an actor; check out the Laura Mac Method online acting school. The fully automated Foundations program provides you with a world class learning experience on your own time from the comfort of wherever you are. And the advanced Academy program can help you go from aspiring actor to working actor in 10 short weeks!