Your Path

I often hear from actors who want to know which steps to take to make it. The question takes all forms, but at the root of it is this flawed premise that there is one, absolute path one must travel in order to find success as an actor.

I’ve said before that you could have identical twins pursuing a career in this business and they’d have different experiences. Nothing is mapped out. Nothing is for sure. There is no one way. Believe me, if there were one, magic pill or recipe to success in this industry, I’d have written that book, have sold it, and be writing this week’s column from atop a sofa made of money.

Alas, I am writing to you from the comfort of my overstuffed and well-worn sofa in my apartment by the beach. Some would say I should have a house by now. The view from where I’m sitting tells me I’m successful. Because I like my path.

Let me back up.

I’ve had a few pretty rockstar meetings already in 2010 and some of them have been with some very high-profile people. People we’d all agree have found a great deal of success in this industry, because we, as a society, seem to have come to an understanding that certain things (nice house, big pool, expensive cars, fancy health insurance) represent success. Great. Good. I’m thrilled to even be invited to sit at the very expensive tables around which these folks are asking me to join them.

But I don’t feel any less successful, just because I drove up in my 20.5-year-old convertible (seriously, I wouldn’t get rid of that car even if I had the option of having another, much more expensive one) or departed from a place I rent, rather than own. I love where I live and I love what I have, but far more importantly, I love what I do and the people with whom I surround myself while doing it.

One of the A-Listers I met with recently questioned my decision to start taking on producer credits, for some of the films I’ve been casting lately. He said it waters down my credibility as a casting director, to also work as a producer. I reminded him that I also currently work as a writer (both of this weekly column and of books), tour as a guest instructor at acting studios and universities around the world, and am soon launching a distribution channel for actors’ self-produced work! Aren’t I already as much a hyphenate as a gal can be?

But to him, success as a casting director means reaching the top tier of casting. And he’s pretty dang close to there! So, that’s awesome for him. That would not be awesome for me. It’s not my path. It’s not how I define success for myself. (And I tend not to attempt to define success for others, as it’s just so dang individual a thing.)

So, my point in writing this week’s column is this: I see a lot of actors using definitions made by anyone else to help them determine whether they’re “making it” yet. Y’know, someone else says your indie film credits “don’t count” because, well, it’s not like you’re booking guest-stars on network TV. Another someone says you shouldn’t be doing TV at all; your focus should be on studio features, even in tiny roles. Yet another someone says all the film and TV is great for money, but unless you’re doing consistently well-reviewed work in the theatre, you’re not truly an actor. And then there are the societally agreed upon symbols of success like those shiny gold statues. Even those get critiqued by folks who seem not to have them. Y’know, because they know how useless they are, seeing as they have never even touched one.

Even if you did agree, wholeheartedly, with another actor’s definition of success, your path would be different in heading for the same benchmarks in pursuit of the goal. And if the true definition of success (gosh, I think most everyone would agree with this, if we had to come to some sort of agreed-upon symbol that is universal, representing success) is that you are happy, that you are living your bliss, then success must be an individual thing, because only you know what truly makes your heart sing.

For some, it’s those shiny gold trophies. For others, the big house and nice cars. For many, it’s just getting to consistently do good work, having fun, feeling proud of what’s being put together, and a community of others who vibe like that.

Sure, have goals. Have an idea of what steps you might need to take to get to those goals. Check in with yourself and do good work. Have an idea what your path might look like, but whatever you do, don’t get so caught up in how that path should look — especially when compared with the paths on which others might be traveling — that you stop enjoying the journey. Enjoying the ride is something you can control.


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

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