I know I don’t need to tell a single person just how difficult this career path is. I, and other experts, have discussed at length how truly thorny the field is—how the competition is as tough as the Olympic Games and the future is always uncertain. I’ll save you the speech about rejection, aging, the lack of good parts, the growing size of the competition each year, and the sometimes insurmountable challenge of just getting your foot in the door to audition for a role you’re right for—let alone the issue of booking the damn role.
The First Type of Actor
I’ve lived for years in Los Angeles, a city which is so oversaturated with actors, that when you meet someone between the ages of 18 and 50 with good teeth, you just assume they are an actor. You don’t even ask anymore. Here’s what I’ve observed: There are essentially two kinds of actors. The first kind of actor truly, truly loves the craft and process of acting. This is the actor who has made untold sacrifices to come to Los Angeles. They’ve left behind their family and friends, have made peace with living hand to mouth and the fact that they’re probably not going to follow the standard milestones of life (marriage, kids, buying a house) in any cohesive timeline.
These are the actors who will do theater to audiences of seven, who will go out for every audition they’re called in for—even for short films that pay nothing and are being directed by inept film students, and even for characters they find badly written or out of their age range. They’ll read for parts requiring Icelandic accents and fencing skills, and they will try their damnedest. They’ll accept one-line roles in Web series and will thank the director genuinely for the opportunity.
They do all these things with sincerity and eagerness from the bottom of their hearts because of the love of the craft. The pure desire to act shoots out of every cell and nerve-ending.
These are the actors who are going to make it, if they so choose. Sure, only a fraction of them will probably enjoy any big success, but the bulk of them, if they stick with it, will figure out a way to use acting to support themselves, and will be able to forge a lifelong career in some fashion. For some, this might mean doing commercials and industrials and booking a couple of guest star roles a year. For others, this might mean teaching acting to support the theater company they created. And still, others might run a successful blog on acting and be able to monetize it, while still having the time to go on auditions and pursue passion projects.
The point is, for these actors, their sheer love of acting will always be their guide—even when the career feels shitty, even when they haven’t booked a job in two years, and even when they walk into an audition waiting room and see eight other actors that resemble them so acutely, their great Aunt Irma wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. With a foundation of real love, they will all eventually figure it out.
The Second Type of Actor
The second kind of actor is just playing the lottery, and this is the type of actor that L.A. is just teeming with. This type of actor is way more common than the first kind and they are often the reason why this business is as hard as it is. They contribute to an oversupplied and overcrowded playing field, essentially making the field more competitive than it needs to be.
These are the actors who don’t truly enjoy the challenge of acting. These are the ones who will say things like, “I can’t afford to be in an acting class right now.” These are the ones who don’t audition for small parts because they have it stuck in their heads that they’re going to be stars. Showcasing themselves is their only concern, and ensemble efforts are also rejected. Money and fame are always the most important goals, and they trump every other aspect of the process.
Coincidentally, this is often the type of actor who is extremely attractive and married to the idea of playing the leading man or leading lady. This is the type of actor who is often content to just live in the bubble of L.A. and would never even consider going anywhere else. Being comfortable is a priority, and this actor drives to auditions from the comfort of his or her air conditioned car.
The good news with these actors, who are rolling the dice that they’re going to have a star on the walk of fame, is that they don’t have much staying power. These are the actors who generally pack up and start studying for the LSATs after a couple years of hardship in L.A. Unfortunately, there seem to be droves of actors ready and willing to replace them who are constantly moving into town.
Thus, I invite you to really consider which type of actor you are. If you’re the former, congratulations and welcome to the ranks of the strong. If you’re the latter, how about you do every one a favor and start figuring out what truly makes you happy?
This article was originally posted on Backstage