What’s Your Motivation

Ah, Alfred Hitchcock got it right. “When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?’ I say, ‘Your salary.'” Awesome. Method Actors may want to argue with me, as I side with Hitch, but I think some actors spend so much time mired in thoughts of how to bring realism to their characters that they sometimes spin off the grid of reality itself. It’s actually pretty simple: You’re hired to do a job. Do it. HOW you do should be invisible to everyone else. Get “there” by doing whatever it takes to get you there. Just do it. But the more you let others in on your process (that is, until you’re being interviewed by James Lipton), the higher the risk you’re causing someone to glaze over and start thinking of that other, less “precious” actor we could’ve cast.

Please understand that I’m not bashing any one acting technique or the actors who subscribe to it. Hey, if you can bring the talent, I’m gonna cast you eventually, and I really don’t care HOW you get there. But that’s really the point: It’s not about HOW to anyone outside of you. And I’m not just talking about connecting with the characters you portray. I’m talking about doing the rounds, networking, meeting with agents, staying on the radar of casting directors, doing plays, whatever! Your process is as unique as you are and what works for you might not work for anyone else. But this column isn’t about motivation in your acting technique.

See, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about this showbiz thing, it’s that most folks seem to think there’s some magic recipe to success in the industry. And that if they could just get their hands on that recipe, they’d be living their dreams. Well, I hate to break it to you, but there’s just no such thing as one magic recipe. You take a look at what others are doing, try on some things, decide what works for you and discard what does not, and stay focused, disciplined, and committed to walking your path. As for what, specifically, motivates you to walk the path of the actor, well, let’s look at some good and not-so-good types of motivation.

I’m in it for the money.

Ooh. Well. Yeah, um. About that. Most actors will never see the kind of money that might have caused them to dream about a career in showbiz. Even actors who work steadily have to invest very well while the gettin’ is good in order to have decent breathing room during the lean times.

Remember, you will almost always be in the pursuit of the work, rather than doing the work itself. And auditioning doesn’t pay very well.

I’m in it for the fame.

Oh, my. Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? You want fame? A career in acting is a long road to a possible destination that might include fame. A better option is starring in a reality show on which you stand out as one of the more extreme, drama-inducing personalities on week’s each episode.

Or driving your car into someone or something after having gone pantiless on the party circuit with your BFF. Or marrying someone famous and then finding some level of scandal with which to become involved.

Or there’s always professional sports. Or politics. Or murder.

Many actors would tell you that these are all far faster ways to become famous than the pursuit of an acting career.

I’m in it for the love of my family.

Assuming you already know that the love of your family is something you either receive, unconditionally (no matter what career path you follow), or NOT, I would hope that you’re already receiving plenty of love and maybe you just don’t see it. But if you actually don’t receive the amount of family love that you should, I can pretty much guarantee you that your success as an actor is never going to bring you what you’re looking for. Even if you’re wildly successful and enormously famous, thereby earning your family’s love and respect, would you want it? I mean, if you alone weren’t enough, but your notoriety makes you somehow worthy of their affection, would you want that kind of love? Better to know now that their respect is something that can be purchased and move on, building a family out of friends who don’t need to see you succeed in order to make you feel worthy of their love.

Doing the showbiz thing because it might help you get the love you’ve craved from your family is a bad idea. It’s what leads to addictive behavior (something that fame and success in the industry feed really well) and self-destruction. Get that mess in check before it becomes an issue you can’t control. YOU are enough. And if your family doesn’t get that, that’s their loss. Move on.

I’m in it because I love being a part of the storytelling process.

Now we’re talking! Probably the best motivation around. You’re a storyteller. You enjoy bringing fictitious worlds to life. You love giving voice to characters whose words only ever existed on a page before. The applause that comes as a reward for a job well done fills you with elation less because it’s gratifying to be praised and more because it’s gratifying to be thanked for having given others a means of escaping for a few moments of their lives.

The fact that you may find some level of success along the way is secondary, when your motivation for living this life (with all its costs) is the storytelling. And that’s pretty dang cool. You’ve probably heard that casting directors can “sense the desperation” when some actors walk into the room. It’s true. If you are motivated by money, fame, or love, we’re going to be less excited to cast you than if you come in with a clear desire to tell a story, to bring a character to life, to show us what it is that makes your interpretation of this world exciting to watch.


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/000752.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

(Visited 57 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.