I was looking through my inbox and noticed a theme: Loads of emails from actors who perceive they are “starting late” (or thinking of moving to LA, feeling like it’s “late” to do so) and who are looking for some sort of special encouragement that’s different from the everyday type of encouragement, advice, and information I provide week to week, here.
Lemme share some of these emails with you, for context. (I don’t usually load so many emails into one column, but if you’ll bear with me, you’ll see how it all ties together. Also, I think it’s fantastic for readers to know they are NOT alone! Many others are out there facing the exact same fears.)
Good morning. An actor blogger, her name is Mercedes, referred me to your blog. After reading one of your posts, I felt compelled to write. I’ve been a registered nurse for five years now. I know it’s not my life’s calling. I’ve always wanted my life to mean more. I’ve always wanted to be more than ordinary. You might laugh at this thought because my profession is supposed to be honorable. I wish I could agree with that. Depends on how you look at it.
I knew I wanted to act three years ago when I starred in an amateur independent film that never saw the light of day (logistics issues). Much sooner I realized the tough road it would be to make that happen. First I have to believe myself enough to do what it takes, however long it takes. Then I have to quell the thoughts of the looks of unsupportive individuals I’ve encountered since I’ve hinted the fact that I might actually want this for real. I know I have to quiet the naysayers, even it’s my own self. But then I also need guidance.
I’m 32 years old, African female, knowing how old I already am I already feel my prospects are bleak. I keep trying to quiet these thoughts, the insecurities (am I smart enough? outgoing enough? thoughts like that). I know what I have to do to work toward this goal; I know it requires a reasonable amount of time. I’m willing to do what it takes but uncertainty still cripples me, not to talk about the probable financial costs and little returns that could be for a long time. I look at actors like Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Kimberly Elise and ask why I couldn’t be just like them? Without being modest, I’ve often been told by observers that I have a star quality. I know I also need to acquire some skills.
That is why I’m moving from Washington DC to LA in hopes of pursuing higher learning to acquire the needed skills for this craft; I want it to be my life, something I’m proud of. I want to be in the position of influence, to inspire anyone looking up to me that anything is possible. To be the first in my family to be successful in life, not to be content with mediocre. I intend to apply to UCLA for a Masters degree in Acting. I have researched schools in the LA area and UCLA comes up as one of the best. Any thoughts on this? Is traditional school necessary? If not a traditional school, I’ve heard of schools that teach the Meisner method. I’m skeptical however, I know non-traditional schools for acting are a dime in a dozen in LA; a lot of them promising what they can’t deliver, at the end I’ve spent a lot of money with my dream derailed even further. I don’t want that. I will invest the time if I know it’s the real deal.
Any advice from you would be helpful.
Thanks for reading.
I came across this email from earlier this year; as it happens I am planning to go to LA the end of October for a visit and wondered what might be the possibility of getting an audition or two while there?
I’d been out there during the ’70s and ’80s with not much to show for it. I’m a lot older now (61), hopefully a little wiser… and was wondering if 6W2LA is still going on? And if so, if it might be a help for me?
Bonnie Bonnie Fee Fonnie Banana Nana Peeonnie Fee Fi Mooonnie… Bonnie.
Ha ha I have no idea why every time I see your name, it makes me wanna sing that song!! Anyway I hope this finds you well Bonnie and thanks again for helping us actors the way you are. My name is Dominique Davis and I live in Orlando, FL. Came here for school (psychology), started my Masters but realized I wanna ACT!!
I read your book last year (before even running into you on Facebook) and it taught me soooo much, but for some reason I’m still stuck! I want to get out of Florida, Bonnie; I’m not inspired here! I have no children, no husband… just me and my pooch, but I got scared to move when my lease was up two months ago. I was born and raised in New York City, so moving to LA shouldn’t be a hard adjustment but for reason it terrified me.
I’ve been taking classes here and I’ve been going on auditions in Orlando, but I feel as if it’s all fake, like it’s pointless because it’s not Los Angeles. I want to move and be surrounded by my kind, and I want to live free and weird like actors should. LOL I know I’m silly but true. I also know that you’ve probably heard every story in the book, so I’ll cut this one short and ask that you give me whatever advice you can.
Bonnie I know things are going to work out for me, I just need something to get me started. Well that’s where you come in. Help! Okay, love you! Bye bye!
Dominique D. Davis (< -- -look I have an actor's name)
Here’s one more.
Hello Ms. Gillespie,
I am in the middle of my third read of your book Self-Management for Actors and am planning to move back to LA in 2012. I am a fifty-something black male with very good skills and a good work ethic. At this point in my life, I am told that all of the odds are against me because of my age. I am in excellent health, willing to continue my training, and understand it will not be easy, but I just can’t get the desire to try out of my soul.
As a younger man living in LA in the late seventies, I was not focused on trying to get work and caught in the thrill of the city. Now I find myself drawn back to your city for another try. I just love the work of storytelling and propelling a story forward, and I can’t stay away from the business of acting. By the way, I found your book to be required reading for anyone considering “Getting Down to [Show] Business.”
So what advice would you give someone in my position?
I attended your SAG Self-Management for Actors seminar in Orlando back in January of this year. I was really quite surprised to see how much and how quickly the industry has changed in just a few short years.
Long story short, I moved to Florida to help out with some family issues. During that time I noticed that there was very little in the way of film/TV opportunities offered in Florida and especially Orlando. As I wouldn’t be able to relocate for a while, I did manage to get several commercials and stay busy with local theatre, dinner shows, and the like. It seriously was the only way to keep acting with the limited resources. Just last week, after thinking over my options I have moved to Atlanta. (You may recall we talked about Atlanta in the parking lot following the presentation you gave.) As I am now putting together my resume, it seems to me that the lack of recent television/film work and the rather dubious work in the aforementioned venues, my resume is looking rather dismal. Well, to me anyway.
What sort of advice do you have for someone who has been unable to passionately pursue their career for a few years but now is back in the game and ready to go? Anything particular to the Atlanta area? This area is completely new to me. Never lived here before. I’ve spoken to the folks at the SAG office and they sounded very happy about the amount of professional work that has been and is coming to the area.
In making this move I’ve had to make major decisions and risks, yet I am still close enough to return to Florida in case of emergency. Any insight you can offer me is most helpful and appreciated.
Thank you Bonnie!
But wait, there’s more! 🙂
I just want to say how helpful your column has been for me. It has truly given me the inspiration to not get weighed down or frustrated with the entertainment industry. I have been working without an agent for a little over six months and have been considered for more roles than I was when I was with my agent.
I am in the process of moving out to LA to take my career to the next level, while I still want to be doing some self-promoting, I also want to find a respected and legitimate agency or manager who can help me continue to the next tier in my career. Currently I am residing on the East Coast and I am hoping that making the move will help me bump my career to the next level. Any advice on this topic would be a huge help; I don’t want to get scammed!
Here’s a quickie.
Your articles are spot on. I’m now 66 and have been working in showbiz a long time and I’ve found that nothing promotes your talents like actually doing it.
With that in mind, if there is a scene study practice group out there that is ongoing, informal, and hopefully on Mondays, I’d like to participate. What we all need is practice.
Thank you. Keep up the good work.
I’ve gotten a WEALTH of info from your column and books for which I am so grateful. However, I’m left feeling quite inadequate in one area. I have spent years, YEARS (15 to be exact) studying, taking classes, researching, doing theatre, and going to school to advance my acting.
Now I’m finally moving to LA, yet I have never actually had an “on camera” job. How could I possibly have a reel if I have nothing to put on it? It seems like having a reel is imperative to agent-seeking. But making a reel means having had actual camera gigs. I am finally moving from this tiny secluded town 3000 miles to live the dream.
Is a reel going to hold me back? Your answer, no matter what, is invaluable!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Phew! Okay. So, that’s a lot, and it’s only a tiny peek into my inbox. Promise! 🙂 Ah, so what ties all of this together? Several components: Fear of starting too late, fear of moving to LA to start over, fear of having no credits, fear of having no footage, fear of being scammed, fear that everything negative everyone has ever said has its roots in truth and that you’ll never make it, even though you want it so damn bad.
Let’s take a breath.
I’ve written about Kathryn Joosten before, as she provided a wonderful example of how “late starters” can do very well in this industry. Of course, not everyone can start late and have such an exceptional career, but what a great success story Kathy was! Wanna see the highlights? Check out this “Facts about Kathryn Joosten” image that circulated at Facebook shortly after her death earlier this year. Wow! Inspiring!
Now, let’s be clear: Kathy did the work. She read everything she could. She got training. She connected with a community that stayed positive and focused. She hit the CD workshop circuit. She cemented her brand with role after role that aligned with her bullseye. She did the research that led to smarter choices, as she got better opportunities. And — probably most importantly — she did not let the junk get into her head. She didn’t let naysayers eat away at her confidence.
There absolutely are articles I have written over the years that cover pretty much every *specific* question posed above. Rather than doing a search for keywords, finding links, and replying to hundreds of emails with those links, what I always prefer to do is encourage actors — wherever you may live, no matter your age — to just start reading. And read it all. READ IT ALL.
We are so fortunate to be working in this industry at a time when more experts in the biz are sharing their tips, their advice, their wisdom — for free — than ever. Gone are the days when the casting process was shrouded in mystery. Today, there are casting directors, producers, directors, showrunners, agents, managers, all sharing their toys via social networking. Read it ALL. Even if it doesn’t track with your gut, it’s worth knowing it’s out there. It’s worth logging in Your Show Bible.
What words of encouragement would I give to anyone who is considering moving to Los Angeles or starting out as an actor “late” in life? These: When you think, “Do you realize how old I’ll be by the time I make it, if I start now?” Remember that the response is always, “Yes. Exactly the same age I’ll be by then if I never start. At least if I start, I might make it.” There is no such thing as “too late” when it comes to living your dreams.
Pick up Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Get out of your own way. Sure, there are many factors that aren’t in your control, as a creative in this amazing business. GETTING STARTED? That’s totally within your control. If you want it, START.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001565.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.