With the massive shot in the arm of new content this year, it has been the busiest year for actors ever. While we can’t predict what next year will bring, we can look back at this last year in order to determine where we were challenged and caught off guard. We can use these moments as instructive springboards to be more prepared for what’s to come.
Here’s a recap of what this year has taught us, and what we need to know to have the best booking year ever:
It’s not enough to be “good,” you must be “great.” If you’re regularly going out for major film and TV roles, you are competing at the Olympic-level of the industry. The mafia level. The highest stakes game in the world series of poker. If you are really truly trying to a build a career in this industry, you must be great. If you are willing to go into the room with a less than stellar performance, perhaps you don’t really love acting. Take stock of what is preventing you from devoting yourself to being the best actor possible.
There are no rules.
When you’re great, there are no rules for proper etiquette. Actors shackle each other with fear-based advice that only put obstacles in your path and screw with your head. Stop trying to model your path to success after someone else’s, as yours will definitely look very different.
Everyone is scared.
Not just actors. The jobs of producers, directors, writers, and casting directors are all on the line at all times. Take all hostilities with a grain of salt and take nothing personally. The casting director is trying to please the producer or agency. The director, just another fragile artist, is trying to impress everyone and show off his or her great directorial skills. The producers are trying to please the network, studio or investor team. At the end of the day, show business is a carnie lifestyle with more money on the line and accompanying panic. If someone barks at you, demeans you, mocks or dismisses you, just know that it is coming from a weak, fear-based place and view them with compassion while retaking your power back.
Let go of outcomes.
A preoccupation with outcomes, in general, is toxic—especially for actors. With regards to the craft and your career, you must let go of your attachment to how you think something is supposed to go. The life of an actor is one big metaphorical road trip. The auditions are all the sights along the way. Just appreciate them and value them for what they can teach you. Use them as opportunities to build connections in the room and impress your peers so much to the extent that your name/face is always at the top of someone’s mental shortlist for a prospective role.
It doesn’t get easier, you just get braver.
This means that no matter how successful you are, sustained success in this industry is directly proportional to your work ethic and ability to do the best acting you’re capable of, and your willingness to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Some actors I meet are great at winning over the room when they walk in, but fall short with their performances. Some actors deliver perfect auditions that build on their brave performances in our coaching sessions, but stumble during the small-talk part of the audition, coming across as aloof or resigned. Other actors I work with are great at networking at cocktail nights, and at building powerful friendships in the industry, but they can’t seem to focus on preparing a solid audition despite their enormous talent.
Few people have all the tools they need to succeed. Investing in your personal development is part of the job. The parts you need to develop will force you to do scary stuff you probably aren’t crazy about doing. Your success depends on it—being brave.
Work ethic + No/Low ego.
Successful actors work like dogs. Sure, the work can and should be fun, but many actors simply don’t have the stomach for what it takes to make it. They aren’t willing to constantly work on their craft, seek out next-level training, and they typically scorn auditions for smaller projects because they think they’re too good for such things. Laziness combined with ego is like cyanide for your career.
Relationships are Key.
While it’s important to form good relationships with casting directors, they do not actually cast the bulk of the roles. That is the job of the production team. Only a small percentage of major roles—series leads/series regulars, leading/supporting roles—actually go through a traditional casting office. The majority of major roles are directly cast through production companies by the producers, networks, showrunners, and writers—miles before they ever are in a casting office. Casting directors who also teach acting classes are going to tell you that all casting goes through them to propagate the false notion that casting directors are the gatekeepers of your career. They’re not. It behooves you to understand the limitations of casting directors, while still forming warm relationships with their offices. Production offices, producers, showrunners, and writers should be the center of your focus when it comes to relationship building. There’s a right way to meet and stay in touch with them, updating them on your career path when appropriate.
Very few people I work with are doing everything they can to inch their career forward. Let’s all agree to meet the new year with a renewed spirit of bravery and a commitment to proactive effort. We can all meet the challenges of this industry, along with the ones inherent in ourselves, head-on and with vigor.
This article was originally posted on Backstage.