There is one simple, defining factor that separates a good actor from a great actor.
Talent is wonderful and a necessity but some of the most talented people I’ve known have fallen by the wayside, dropping into other, more comfortable jobs. This isn’t a judgement, it’s simple fact. This job is hard. You have to be exceptional. You have to need to do this job.
One of the greatest pieces of advice given to me while in college at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (www.amda.edu) was, “Do not give yourself a Plan B.”
If you give yourself a Plan B, you will definitively take your Plan B, because this life is simply too difficult.
So, here’s our checklist:
1) Headshots - Check.
2) Training - Check.
3) Representation - Check.
As a young actor you simply cannot just sit around waiting for the phone to ring. If you do, you’re dead in the water. YES, your agent will get you auditions, you will go to them, rock them and book or not book the work, but if you’re waiting for other people to determine the momentum of your career, how can you expect momentum to be maintained?
The goal should be to keep yourself busy enough to not notice when you’ve gone a couple weeks without an audition. Opportunity comes to those digging every second of every day to find every little nugget of work they can possibly find and you will be shocked at just what opportunities will come your way when you’re moving forward relentlessly.
So here’s our “What’s Next?” checklist:
1) If you’re not working, BE IN CLASS. Acting is a muscle. No ballet dancer would ever sit on a couch for 6 months, bartending at night without doing any physical activity and expect themselves to rock an audition for the New York City Ballet. Yet, actors, for some reason feel they can just…not do it and be totally 100 percent just as good as they were when they were acting every day. This simply isn’t true. Don’t let your inner actor become a 600 pound fat guy. On the day of the audition, you will blow it if you’re not sharp and consistently honed. This is just common sense. (A good place to start is www.armstrongactingstudios.com)
2) FIND YOUR OWN WORK. There are quite literally thousands of young industry professionals out there. All of them making their own art. Young filmmakers (from students to indie houses) would KILL for amazing talent. If you think something is below you, look at a script for a Mac and Cheese commercial V.S. a well crafted Student Film and ask yourself where the real challenge lies. Get yourself on camera as MUCH AS YOU CAN. It builds your confidence, craft and resume and it shows us that you’re relentless, that you will work if we hire you or not. That’s the actor I want in my film. Forge your own relationships, meet up and comers, rise together. (Note: Commercials are an integral part of the acting trade, I’m not knocking them, just saying…you know…they’re not Shakespeare.)
3) CREATE YOUR OWN WORK. Do you write? No? WRITE! If you try writing and you truthfully can’t, find someone who can. If you’re not making your own work, more than likely you will not work consistently as a new actor. This can be anything from short films to volgs to web series to indie feature. Create. What is an artist who doesn’t create?
4) Stay in good physical shape. Don’t wait for the call to come in that says “Athletic Build” in the breakdown. Put good shit in your body, work out at least 4 times a week. It’s a visual medium. Many actors (myself included) have been lured into the restaurant life of making a bunch of cash, spending that cash on booze after your shift, making more cash and three months later having a “Beer Layer”. Don’t fall into the trap. Stay active and stay out of the Restaurant Suck. (Note: For fitness advice see: www.myodesign.com)
5) Surround yourself with forward moving people. Your friends all not auditioning and spending a lot of time bitching about it? If you’re surrounded by them you are them. How’s it working out?
6) Read Scripts. They’re your job. You not reading scripts is like a chef not going grocery shopping. Learn how they work, learn what makes them good and what makes them bad. STUDY YOUR ART. (For a wealth of all things screenplay check out: www.script-o-rama.com, www.imsdb.com)
7) WATCH MOVIES. So many actors don’t go see great films. This is like a football player not watching game tape. Literally ALL the secrets of the people being paid millions of dollars to do this are up there for you to learn 35 feet tall! Typically I see each film I go to more than once, and I bring a notepad and my iPhone (to light my notebook), taking notes on performance, story, screen craft, structure of shot, I even time scenes to see when writers are putting key moments in comparison to baser elements of the scene for the purpose of mapping out more interesting journeys in my scripts and auditions.
8) If you get rejected get back up on your feet immediately. Somehow, somewhere there’s an actor pulling him or herself up by their boot straps. Be that actor.
9) Get to know yourself. It’s not just about craft. You need to know how YOU relate to your work, which you can’t do if you don’t understand yourself. Spend time alone, walk, write, read, draw and invest in yourself. The better you understand you the more specifically you will come to life in your material.
10) Be the hardest working actor you know. If you find someone who’s working harder, you have to up your game. Pure and simple.
Bottom line: If you feel like you’re not doing enough, it’s not the Industry’s fault. It can’t be. If it is, your fate is totally out of your hands and you might as well give up. Yes, there are things that are out of your control, so LET THEM BE, focus on what is, be a shark, never stop moving.
As always, thanks for the read. Please follow, share on Facebook, Tweet and otherwise spread the word if you’re digging this blog.