Acting is a confusing business. For most, it isn’t a business at all. It is more of a big time/money suck, for which the rewards are not abundantly clear. They are doing things, for sure, but they are not sure why they are doing them or if they are doing them in the right order. So if you feel like you are taking a lot of action but not getting a lot of results, maybe it’s time to just stop. Stop what? Stop everything. For the uninitiated, acting is a minefield sprinkled with potential career killers at every turn. If you don’t know that the path you are on is going to lead to success, or if you are not on any path at all, then maybe it’s time to start doing things in a way that your common sense already knows will work. In honor of Friday, Dec. 13, and as an introductory guide to assist in formulating those upcoming New Year’s resolutions, here are 13 reasons you need to rethink everything.
1. Because you never thought things through in the first place. Would you do the same things in the pursuit of any other vocation that you are doing for your acting career? Would you be trying to get job interviews as an auto-mechanic before you had completed the training and done a ton of apprenticing and grunt work? Most actors are focused on getting work when they should be focusing on qualifying themselves to do that work.
2. If you don't believe in yourself, no one will. If you hesitate doing certain things for your acting career, it’s probably a reflection of your own internal assessment of your ability to do those things. If you are asking permission to do something—like asking an agent for a meeting—you probably aren’t sure you are ready to be represented. If you don’t believe it or don’t know why you do believe it, stop worrying about such things and get prepared.
3. You are following an unrighteous path. Deep down, like it or not, we all know the difference between right and wrong and every time we do something that we know deep down is wrong, it nags at us and it hides who we really are from the light in favor of someone who rationalizes. Doing wrong never leads to long-term good. Just as one lie leads to another, so does doing wrong. Do good and it will lead to good. Doing good also leads to feeling good, which is obvious to others, and they will gravitate to you and want to involve you in their projects.
4. You have no idea what you really want. In the words of the immortal Joe Jackson, “You can’t get what you want, till you know what you want.” Have clear goals and be accountable to them. A clear goal is something you can envision. For instance, “My goal is to be a series regular on a Dick Wolf production within five years.”
5. You are letting others make decisions for you. Sometimes when we don’t know, we ask others what to do. This never works. Ask others about what they have done and how things work, but never ask them what you should do. They can’t possibly know all the factors that need to go into those decisions, and they are invariably thinking of what they would do given your information, which might actually be disastrous for you.
6. You are doing things out of fear. If the only reason you can think of to not do something is fear of what might happen even though you know it is the right thing to do, then that is exactly what you must do. Why? Because most other people in your shoes would not do it either, so by doing it, you will immediately separate yourself from almost everyone else, and that’s what anyone in a field as competitive as yours must do—stand out!
7. You are focused on things which have little impact. Most actors are so scared of doing the big things in their careers, they obsess over the small things like headshots, reels, online submissions, etc. Those things can have a minor effect on your career, but expecting significant results from these things is like trying to improve your tennis game by changing your clothing!
8. You believe you are not that important. Because of the lack of thought about how acting and entertainment works in general, most actors think they are the least important part of the equation, when in fact, they are probably the most important part. If you break a movie down into its core components, all you are left with is a guy with a camera and someone in front of it. Thousands of movies were made with no more than those core components.
9. You don’t understand how the business works. In your rush for acting jobs, you haven’t tried to learn about the entertainment industry. Take six months and work for/volunteer for/shine shoes of the people who you presume to want to work with. Show your career some respect and give it a little of your time and energy.
10. You don’t have the right skills. You say you want to do Shakespeare and yet we can’t understand what you are saying. You want to do sitcoms, but you aren’t funny. You can’t memorize 10 pages of dialogue in a few hours, but you want to read for series regulars. Many actors don’t have the skills to do what they claim to want to do. A little thought about this will save a lot of pain later.
11. You think where you live is to blame. If you can’t book the top-level work in the town, city or country where you live, and you think it has to do with your location, or any other factor that doesn’t land squarely at your feet, think again. If you know what you want to do and have skills and relationships, you can get work. If you can’t get the work at home, your shortcomings are going to crop up wherever you go. Everything is the same wherever you go.
12. You think other people are to blame. This is a pretty common trait among all humans. Feel good about yourself by blaming others for your problems. Thing is, if you really rock, is anyone out there really trying to hold you back? People want to be around greatness, and even those who are jealous of your talent likely suffer mediocrity even less gladly than they can suffer successful people.
13. You are trying to please others. Trying to please others never works. You never know how someone is going to react to what you do, so if doing what you must do for yourself bothers certain people, they are the ones with the problem. Know what you must do and focus on doing it, not on what others think of it. Joy begets joy, so you will cure a lot of your problems just by finding a way to be happy.
David Patrick Green is a professional actor and the founder of Hackhollywood.com, a membership-based website dedicated to empowering and educating actors around the globe on how to become a professional actor. His simple five-step approach inspires actors to be ruthlessly creative in their approach to the art and business of acting and life in general. He has an MBA from the University of Southern California and was an international management consultant before realizing Platinum frequent-flyer status had few rewards other than boredom, bedbugs, and beer. David is also author of the “Become a Famous Actor” series of books available at Amazon.com. He has lived and worked as an actor in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto and coaches/consults to actors and businesses who want to get on the short path to success while maintaining a sense of humor. He is happy to be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.