A question that I get asked more often than any other is some variation of the following: do you have any suggestions or advise for how I can get into the business?
Like I said, it’s not always that specific question – itself quite broad – but variations of it, and all pretty much asking for my help in breaking into this incredibly competitive, cutthroat business; I should mention that the questions most often come from actors.
Filmmakers usually just send me their work, ask me to take a look, and hopefully post on the site; actors are usually looking for advise on what they should or should not be doing to get that break many are working towards.
And while I certainly empathize with the plight of the struggling actor/actress (I know several), I’m always humored by these requests, because, well, I’m never quite sure how to answer them. I’m not an actor, nor an acting coach, or a casting director, etc; I simply cover the business. If anything, what I do leans more towards journalism. And I’ll even add further that, just like a lot of you folks working to get into the business, or who are already in it, I’m trying to figure it all out just as you are.
In fact, I sometimes reach out to some of you for answers to questions I have, because I don’t navigate your individual worlds.
But I say all this to say that, what I’ve learned from the many conversations I’ve had with others with the experience, is that there really isn’t one single way, or single path that all paid working actors take; I can tell you a dozen different stories of how a dozen different actors *made it.*
One crucial thing that I’ve learned from my discussions with others in-the-know is that talent does not guarantee employment. In other words, just because you think you can act your ass off, and are better than many of those who are working consistently, or you have a resume that says you were trained at Julliard, doesn’t necessarily mean that Hollywood (or anyone really) will come calling. Talent certainly helps (although, as you’ve probably noticed, in studio movies and TV shows you’ve seen, it’s not always necessary), but there are other intangibles to consider.
The harsh truth is that only a tiny percentage of you will actually *make it.* Of course, *make it* could mean a number of things, and that’s up to each individual to decide on what that means to them. But I think most actors just want to get paid a living wage for the work that they do, and to be able to work consistently. They aren’t all chasing gazillion-dollar dreams, or the Hollywood life. They just want to do good work, and get paid enough money to live on, comfortably, and have some left over to put away.
Another thing I’ve learned, and which I sometimes ask those who email me with these questions is, what extra thing are you doing to separate yourself from the deluge of others in your same position? If everyone’s doing the exact same thing, I’d think that it would make it a challenge for any one person to really stand out. So, what’s your approach, and how does it give you a leg up above the others?
Easier said than done, I know. And I’m not going to list every little thing that I’ve noticed and learned, as an outsider looking in, because, again, it’s not a world I’m intimately familiar with, so I don’t feel like I’m qualified to give much advise.
So what I really want to do here is just open up a forum on S&A, within this post, in which *experienced* actors can share their experiences with those who are trying to break in, and maybe some learning and awareness can happen. Maybe you all can connect off the site, further the convo, and stay in touch, and then you can instead email them when you have questions about the business of acting in showbiz, instead of emailing me, ya dig? [Insert smiley face here]
I assumed you all already did that kind of thing; some folks have asked me to create a message board/forum specifically where actors and filmmakers can share, connect, learn, grow, build, etc. When I read those comments, I assume that there are already forums like that on the web… aren’t there? Especially via social media platforms – something that wasn’t available a decade ago.
I had an email exchange with a reader of this site, who’s an actor (I don’t know if he wants me to *out* him, so I won’t), who answered one of those questions I get asked from time to time, and he did so thoroughly; his response was very informative, and I remember thinking, damn, this is the kind of thing that folks should know and be reading, even if they aren’t trying to get into the business; it’s good information!
So let’s see if we can replicate that kind of exchange within this post.
Who’s first? Maybe someone can ask a question, and then someone who can answer the question, responds; something like that. Or maybe you just want to get some shit off your chest about acting and the business in general, and someone in-the-know will respond with ideas, suggestions, etc.
We’re all friends here.