We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s a marathon and not a sprint,” when it comes to a career in acting. This is an absolute and utter truth that I completely believe in, as do my clients who consistently work and have careers.
But what does the marathon-style career actually look like on a day to day basis? What are the realities of living your life this way? In my opinion, most of the actors I work with don’t know. Taking a long look at the marathon-focused career trajectory in acting can not only make all of your efforts more effective, but also give you greater peace.
The Long Game
The marathon-approach to acting refers to active engagement in the long game. Like a con artist committed to defrauding his victim over a period of years withalengthy long con, the long game refers to conducting your career in a way that shows you’re not attached to instant results. You realize that the industry relationships which are actually going to move your career forward are the ones which take time to develop—a lot of time.
One of my clients has been friends with a casting associate of a major network show for years. This is someone she met and bonded with via industry events. They’ve only now just begun hanging out outside of the work environment. This is the type of relationship that you want to have and nurture, but it also doesn’t happen overnight. Tenacity is a major aspect of the long game. It’s not enough to meet an industry professional once—the real value and work is found in building that relationship over time.
Booking the Room vs. Booking the Role
Another major pillar of the long game is the commitment to booking the room during every audition. Actors who understand the long game, also understand their powerlessness in booking the job. Actors who are well-acquainted with the business of acting are the ones who understand that they could give an audition that is the best damn thing a casting office has ever seen in their lives and stillnot book the role. These actors understand that this particular part, which they have read for so astoundingly, and which should be renamed after them, might actually end up going to a friend of one of the producers, the girlfriend of one of the writers, an actor with a bigger name, or a redhead (just because).
With the long game in mind, these actors don’t sweat it. They know that by giving the best audition they’re capable of, they’ve already won. They might not book the role, but they sure as hell will book the room. And they’re right. Casting always remembers actors who give phenomenal performances like that, and those are the actors they bring back, year after year, for part after part.
Acting as Much as You Can
For those of you not familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s famous thesis in his book “Outliers,” he essentially concludes from years of research that in order to achieve mastery within a given field, one needs to devote 10,000 hours to one’s profession. How many actors in L.A. are really on that trajectory? How many actors in L.A. are acting every day—even if it’s just rehearsing a scene with a friend—and how many are just bitching about not getting enough auditions?
Part of the long game is a devotion to becoming a better actor every day. One way to achieve this is by being in a small acting class where you experience an acting breakthrough every session…not every four weeks! Every student at my studio experiences an undeniable acting breakthrough every class—this is the only way to ensure steady and rapid growth.
Stop Waiting for Breadcrumbs or Handouts!
One of my celebrity clients who has spent the last 23 years establishing a distinguished career of over 110 film and TV credits recently made the brave yet strategic move to abruptly put the brakes on her career. She turned down a leading role in a feature film and asked her representation to immediately stop sending her out on auditions. She needed space from the feeling that she was just getting thrown breadcrumbs by schlepping from one audition to the next and waiting for guest star/co-star handouts from others. She was starved for projects she could “sink her teeth into.”
This uniquely gifted artist was finally able to breathe and take a step out of a box she felt had limited her ability to do projects that really mattered to her. She gained a new perspective on her life and career. Within weeks of creating this space, she started booking the roles and projects that meant something to her: the lead in an Off-Broadway hit play and a new pilot. This highlights, that even within the long game, you still have the power to guide and sculpt your career in the direction you want it to go. Ultimately, saying no to projects you don’t want can be a scary but empowering choice within the scope of the long game.
Jeremy Renner has been acting since 1995. Most people never even heard of him until 2008 when he starred in “The Hurt Locker”…when he was 37. During those 13 years, Renner acted in small parts in film and on TV, slowly building up his résumé. He even started a side career flipping houses—a hobby which would provide him with more financial stability—so that he could continue to act. Renner is a great example of how vital it is to be fully dedicated to the long game, as a deep love of acting combined with other hobbies and talents can give one the staying power that creates a real career.
This article was originally posted on Backstage