Regular readers know I love football. Specifically, college football. More specifically, SEC football. Most specifically, UGA football. Sue me. I’m a Georgia girl and I bleed red and black. I’ve written several times over the years about football and have always found ways to tie in lessons to the world of acting. Regularly, I refer to Hollywood as The Super Bowl of Acting, ever since Stephon Fuller used that phrase in an interview we conducted for Acting Qs.
But I realize that I’ve never spelled out the why of it all. Why do we call LA The Super Bowl of Acting? Well, let me break that down, simply.
You played ball as a child. Pop Warner. You were given the opportunity to play every position, because at that age, it’s more about learning fair play and rules of the game and good sportsmanship even within competitive endeavors. That’s the actor in elementary school. School plays have auditions, so the process of selection can be understood, but in grammar school, everyone in the class is on the stage at some point. Even those who will never act for a living are given scripts, learn their lines, rehears, then take to the stage.
Turns out you were good enough in Pop Warner football that you tried out for high school football. Now it became clear that you were better in one position than another, and you started to specialize. There still may be some lesser-talented folks given a chance — second string will play — but if you’re the star quarterback, you’re playing all the time. You will attract scouts. That’s the actor in high school. You don’t have to do school plays anymore. It’s not a requirement, but an elective course or after school activity in which you invest your energy and time. You audition and are cast when you are right for a role, and not everyone who auditions will be asked to work on stage. If you’re the star, you get to take your bows last. You’re good at what you do and people are noticing that. You still may never go on to act for a living, but you’re enjoying the spotlight, even if the audience is only a few hundred parents, siblings, teachers, and classmates.
You were scouted in high school and had your choice of colleges, because of your talent as a football player. You learned early on in high school that specializing was your best way to shine and the scouts watched you, then offered you scholarships to come play at their universities. You chose the best school for your needs (geographical preference, academic programs, level of financial assistance offered) and spent the first season training. You studied playbooks, you watched old game tapes, you practiced constantly, all in the hopes that you may get a little bit of turf time in your freshman year. But you knew it would be your junior or senior year (assuming all went well, and you became the star that you knew, going in, that you could be) before you could really stand out, most likely. That’s the actor in college. You’ve chosen a school that fits your needs and hopefully are getting to do plays that are a few tiers above — in terms of production level — than what you got to do in high school. The audience is significantly larger and perhaps you’re even getting a chance to star in some student films if your school has a department through which such content is created. You’re building relationships and you may even go out and do some community theatre or indie films in your local market, but the focus is on training, building your craft, stretching your muscles as an actor, exploring all the things you may be able to do in a career later, or determining that acting will be a thing of the past as you choose to focus on another academic area, for your degree.
Assuming you were very hot in college football — especially if your team made it to a bowl game while you were first string — you will be a candidate for the NFL draft. The players with the most potential and the best track record start getting snapped up first round, and the financial incentives for their attachment to particular professional teams are sometimes huge. And it’s not just what they’ll be paid to play ball… it’s endorsement deals too. Once you’re a player on an NFL team, you’ll go through Rookie Orientation, you’ll begin studying a new batch of playbooks, watching a new round of old game tapes, and continue to practice constantly. If you’re a star, you may spend a lot of time on the field, but many pro players practice constantly only to sit on the bench, when it comes time to play the biggest games. That’s the actor in a minor market. You either came through school as an actor and are trained and prepared to do all manner of material using all sorts of methods, or you started after having gone to school for something else and now are hopping in to a minor market because you have natural talent and are willing to learn as you go. You’re given a shot, but to keep working in a minor market, you have to train. You take classes. You attend networking events. You study your buyers and you find ways to get in front of them so that they can learn that you solve a problem for them, and hope they’ll remember you when that problem comes across their desk. You may be making a name for yourself in your market, but your name is not yet on lists in major casting offices in Hollywood.
Your NFL team is amazing. You have a ridiculously outstanding season. You’re going to the Super Bowl. That’s the actor in Los Angeles. Every day.
Think about that. You’ve made it to the very biggest competition of your occupation. No matter how many times you have been amazing, through each tier of your football-playing days (from Pop Warner to high school to college to the not-quite-as-successful team in the NFL), it comes down to this game. You have to continue to be prepared, study the playbooks, watch old game tapes, train, train, train, and even then, you may have an off day and not do your best in the biggest game of your career. Or, you may find yourself totally prepared but asked to sit on the bench all game. That’s not an insult; it’s just part of the deal.
How many of each season’s Super Bowl players do we know by name, long-term? Not many. Just a few true hotshots whose plays are rerun all over television after the game. Those are your Will Smiths, your Meryl Streeps, your Johnny Depps, your Helen Mirrens. The other people on those Super Bowl teams? They’re all the other actors — some whose names you’ll know, others whose names won’t ever really matter to most folks, but who regularly populate the worlds in which the superstars operate, creating beautiful stories on film, TV, the stage, or online. For now, that’s you, even if you’re on the bench today. Because as an actor in Hollywood, you’re playing a game in the Super Bowl daily. Some days you get your hands on the ball. Some days you score a winning touchdown and are celebrated with a parade.
And even on the days when you do nothing but sit on the bench, you still get the shiny ring, because you got to the top level of your career — just by being here and staying here. Showing up, suiting up, being ready, and staying in the game. That’s your Super Bowl ring, actors.
Actors seem very good at diminishing the value in all the hard work they’ve done. They like to make this career all about results and rewards, and sometimes feel like failures if they’re not on a series or in a studio feature film after one year in town. The next time you find yourself tempted to pooh-pooh how far you’ve come, I want you to think about those football players in the Super Bowl. Because, that’s you. Every single day.
Now, enjoy that ring you’re already wearing, and go get that touchdown.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001343.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.