These columns have talked a lot about rejecting the herd mentality and stopping following the advice churned out by other actors who cling to a cookie-cutter path to success. The reality is that part of your journey as an actor means you need to figure out how you carve your own path to success. Figuring it out is part of what you’ve committed to on this journey. You know that your successful career won’t look like anyone else’s.
But what about the curve balls that get thrown at you as you’re diligently hoeing the row in front of you?
Here are some obstacles—or hits in the groin—that can undermine your confidence and your love of the industry. How you handle them determines your success in the business.
1. The casting couch. Many female actor clients complain that when they go to film festivals to network, they can’t tell whether directors and producers they meet want to sleep with them or cast them. Any producer or director that is considering your work first would never want to alienate their relationship with you by muddying the water with innuendo. So if you sense innuendo using your sharp intuition, then you’re probably right.
Be very discerning about who you give your personal phone number to, as that can easily be misinterpreted as more personal and less professional. One of my celebrity clients just returned from Sundance to promote her film and network with writers, directors, and producers. She noted, that upon her return, her phone starting blowing up with text message solicitations for dinners and drinks. That’s fine, and I know some actors who can finesse such attention and direct it to career opportunities. This is extremely tricky, however. For many actors, solicitations for dinner and drinks can become awkward and murky territory. To avoid these headaches altogether, I recommend only giving out an email address. If you want to give a number, either give your rep’s number, or create a separate Google Voice account where you have the control to forward it anywhere you like.
2. You’re publicly humiliated. What to do when you’re being humiliated at an audition? An actor client recently told me a story of an audition where a casting director humiliated her in front of a group of other actors by grabbing her stomach and telling her she needed to lose a few pounds in order to be taken seriously for the role. The irony of this situation was that the casting director herself was extremely overweight. In moments like these, put aside your desire to book for a second and address the human survival issues that are immediately at hand. If left handled poorly or not at all, such instances of humiliation by industry “professionals” directed towards actors can result in psychological damage and other horrors. I advise my clients to stand up for themselves. An appropriate response for my client would either be to just walk out—as they’re simply not worth your time—or say, “It’s a shame that you feel such profound self-hatred that you have an overwhelming need to project it outwards.” If you don’t want to be confrontational, look at this person with extreme pity, as they deserve not your hatred, but your deepest sympathy. Then leave.
3. Your friend blows up. This is the friend you moved out to L.A. with. Your friend went through it all with you. Antagonistic, abusive acting teachers, hooking up with scene partners, catering and serving gigs, crummy apartments in the valley, and fighting for one-line co-stars. Now your friend has caught a major break and is able to leverage it to lift herself up and out of the ranks of the no-name actors. Everything has changed. She goes to Soho house. She has heavy-hitting reps. She competes for roles and runs into celebrities in the waiting rooms of casting offices. You, however, are still slugging it out, slinging drinks and trying to get noticed.
If this is really your friend, she’ll throw you a bone and try to help you as much as possible; this will mostly come via the form of introductions. She is someone who can help inch you forward—somewhat. The responsibility is still all yours and she needs to focus on her new career.
Know that the only justice that comes with the business of acting is that it’s so hard for everyone. Here today, gone today (as Chris Rock once said). While your friend may be doing phenomenally and that’s wonderful, the pressure is on her even more, and she still feels that she’s just an inch away from the edge of the cliff into obscurity.
Being able to roll with the punches helps to show the universe that you are ready, willing, and able to handle a higher level of success, as more success mean more curve balls thrown your way. Treat each curveball as an opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and your backbone of steel.
This article was originally posted on Backstage