Go all in. That’s what filmmaker Steve McQueen says actors should be doing all the time. Always.
But we don’t.
This happens mostly because we have a number of defaults that keep us from really committing fully, 100 percent. In our lives. In our work. In our auditioning.
This is partly due to our self-worth being tied up and identified with our product: how we look, whether we get the job, what agency we’re with, how we’re being perceived, or how well someone likes us.
The problem with this kind of identification is that it leaves very little room for error. Or rather, it leaves very little room to simply be human. Being human is messy. It’s uncontrollable. It’s full of chaos and potential and failures and breakthroughs. Where, on our paths, did we learn that it wasn’t okay to simply not have all the answers and not be perfect and not have it all figured out?
Once you stop allowing yourself to be human, you’re in trouble.
Not just in acting—but in life.
When our own self-worth is identified with a finished product (our work, our successes, our bookings or jobs) two things happen.
1. You start to go into auditions becoming risk-averse. Because your worthiness is attached to “How do I look?” or “I have to get this job!” or “I can’t make a mistake,” you end up neutralizing yourself to such a degree that you basically turn off all the things that make you interesting and weird and vulnerable and cast-able—that is, your humanness.
You don’t give yourself the permission to fail courageously. You play it safe. And you become unmemorable. Bland. Boring. Cookie-cutter. Blah.
That’s bad enough, but when our self-worth is attached to our work, there’s another problem.
2). Your moods and happiness and productivity become intrinsically tied to whether or not you book a job. When you get jobs, it’s like the best day ever. You channel Leonardo DiCaprio in “Titanic,” “I’m the king of the world!” When you don’t, you spend the entire day watching reruns of “Duck Dynasty” and picking fights with your girlfriend.
It ain’t pretty. It takes manic-depressiveness to a whole new level.
Your inherent self is not tied up in the physical. You’re not just this actor. You’re not just your bookings or how well people like you. You’re not your call-back ratio or how many lines you get to say on a show.
Of course, it’s important to care about our work. Of course, we want to do things powerfully and creatively and have a career and do things that excite us.
Just don’t be defined by it.
Lean toward the risk. Toward the unknown. In the room. In the work. In relationships. Out there in the world. That’s really why you signed up for acting anyway. It wasn’t to do things perfectly, and be safe and do it like everyone else. It was to inherently take risks in ways that life sometimes doesn’t give us the permission to take them. Or rather, we don’t give ourselves the green light to do it.
And what ends up happening when we do? Well pretty much all the things you ever wanted. And that’s going all in.
Anthony Meindl is an award-winning writer, director, producer, and Artistic Director of Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop (AMAW) with studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Vancouver. It was voted the Best Acting Studio in Los Angeles by Backstage in 2011 and 2012 (Best Scene Study and Best Cold Read).
Meindl's first feature film, “Birds of a Feather,” won the Spirit of the Festival Award at the 2012 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, and he won Best Director at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Love, Backstage, and various spirituality podcasts. He has been featured in ABC News, Daily Variety, LA Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter and the CW KTLA. He is also the author of the best-selling creativity book, At Left Brain Turn Right, which helps artists of all kinds unleash their creative genius within. Check out Meindl's free smartphone app on iTunes. 'Follow Meindl on Twitter @AnthonyMeindl.
Meindl's 2nd book, Alphabet Soup For Grown-Ups, comes out this November.