Back when I was an actor, I had the great privilege of taking acting classes from legendary actor/director Corey Allen. I’ve written about the experience before. It was life changing.
One class, I recall Corey going around the circle asking each of us, “Why do you want to be an actor? Here? In Hollywood? In movies and TV?”
I listened as actors talked about things like their first memory of seeing someone acting out a role, being moved by the transformation; their aching desire to tell stories that need telling; and their hunger for fame and fortune. A great range of reasons, all pretty standard.
It was my turn. And while I felt some connection each time a fellow actor mentioned a reason, none of it really clicked for me. I opened my mouth, hoping the answer would come easily.
“Because it’s hard won,” I said.
“It’s hard won?” Corey asked.
“Yeah. Not everyone can do it. It’s hard. To win at this career is against the odds by a lot. It’s hard won.”
“So’s the World Series. Plan on winning that?”
“Me personally? No. But my Braves are lookin’ pretty good this season,” I quipped. (They went to the World Series that year… but didn’t win.)
This elicited laughs from my classmates, which is something I always enjoyed. Heck, maybe that was why I wanted to be an actor: “For the laughs.”
Over the next few sessions — in addition to working on our acting — we worked out the real answer to that question (and the reasons behind the answer). As I got closer and closer to understanding my first answer (and correcting my answer to more accurately depict my true reason for being an actor in Hollywood), the emotions would wash over me like I’d gone through years of therapy. This was a seriously powerful class. On many levels.
- Why did I need my success to be hard won?
- Why was success more valuable to me, the bumpier the road?
- Why couldn’t it just be easy to win?
Now, I’m not going to get into all of the personal truths I unearthed throughout my process, but I am going share with you something I’ve noticed about actors (my former self included).
Actors think they need the struggle.
They somehow need the journey to be more difficult than A) other career pursuits and B) it has to be.
Sure, in lots of ways, the pursuit of acting is more difficult than other career pursuits, but it absolutely does not have to be as hard as some folks make it. Through research, planning, regular and consistent analysis of the players and projects in the works, and a healthy mindset (AKA the ability to shake it off, day after day), an actor can find his or her success much more quickly than the actor who doesn’t do the WORK and only focuses on the craft.
The WORK includes both research and mindset because these are the two things that actors absolutely control about their journey. Staying on top of trends in the industry, what’s in development and who’s casting it, who consistently casts your type, and what’s got the best shot at surviving the production process is the bare minimum amount of work an actor should do. Daily. And then there’s work on the craft, of course, through regular classes and workouts with other actors (whether on stage or in self-produced short films). But the work on keeping your mindset in order (keeping the “junk” out of your head, as I like to say) is probably the most important.
Start by changing your language. No more, “struggling artist.” No more, “wannabe actor.” Heck, no more “aspiring actor,” even! As of today, start calling yourself an actor. A working actor, if you’d like! And because you will be so busy keeping up with your research and working out with your fellow actors, when anyone doubts you and asks, “Oh? What are you working on?” you can respond with a list of cool projects you’re taking on as well as a discussion about the targeted research that is leading you to your next meeting!
Very simple. Not easy, but simple. Just start now. Change your language, change your habits, get to work on the daily research involved in being a professional actor in this market, and keep working out — just like a professional athlete trains every single day without fail — so that you’re ready when that next opportunity comes. Amazingly, it’ll come quicker when you’re in this mindset and workflow. Funny how that works, eh?
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the truth that it came down to, in my master class with Corey Allen was this: “I want to do this for the ‘me too’ of it all.”
Turns out “this” was writing and casting, rather than acting, ultimately.
But the answer I ended up giving as to why I wanted to be an actor is the same answer I have for why I want to be in this industry at all: “The ‘me too’ of it all.” We put our art, our words, our creative vision out there and we hope it makes someone say, “I’m not alone.”
It’s just that simple. No struggle necessary.
Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000905.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.