Well, we are just past the holidays and many of you are well into making—and probably breaking—your New Year's resolutions. Unfortunately many of you are "actor addicts" and after being an addict for so long, you have lost sight of what's really good for your acting career—if you ever knew. So take it from a recovering addict, here are four actor addictions you need to break in 2014.
Headshots. To misquote Winston Churchill, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few...photographers." Headshots are the heroin of all actor addictions mainly because they are the center of all perceived actor power. Not getting enough auditions? New headshots. Switching agents? New headshots. Friends working more than you? New headshots. Yes, if their pervasive use is any indication, headshots will cure just about any actor illness.
Unfortunately, like the high from heroin, the one offered by actor "H" is also short-lived. Since so many actors feel so unmotivated to do anything more meaningful, they really "light up" the "pipeline" with their pictures. They figure the more they use, the higher their career will soar, but the trip is soon over when the phones don't start ringing like you thought they would. Like many abused substances, the headshot has a rather innocent past rooted in helping. It was supposed to allow casting directors to make quick decisions on selecting actors with whom they had some kind of relationship. Now they are used to try to promote hordes of complete amateurs and strangers, a task for which they were never designed. Pretty soon, you're handing them out on the street, begging anyone to just "Please take a look at me!" How to kick them, that is the question. Cold turkey, I say. Go on a strict diet of zero headshots for a month and see how you feel.
Breakdowns. Ah yes. The Breakdowns. They are like online dating. Take it from me, as a former old addict, even when you find true love, it's hard to fight the allure of "Your Daily Match." You see all these roles out there that you are sure you are right for, but you can't get a date with the CD. "What's wrong with me? I am perfect for you!" You submit over and over and over and yet nothing happens. How is it possible to submit that many times and not get an audition? Don't worry, friend. I'm here to help. The secret to kicking both online dating and breakdown addictions is...relationships. Nurture long-term relationships and you will be rewarded with love—real, human love.
Agents. To actors, agents can seem like salvation. They are like a Malibu rehab center. They offer an oasis of cold, calculating efficiency in a world of confusion. "If I could just get an agent, I could get over all these other addictions." Unfortunately, yet another illusion. Agents are the orphanages of lost actors. Some are loving and some are abusive but if you don't know who you are and what you want from them, they can't help you. Even if at first loving, if you don't pull your weight, they will kick you to the curb. You'll be back on the street in no time. Without the grounding of a real professional family, actors often stumble from agent to agent, begging to be let in. It's right out of a Dickens novel. "I'm sure I'll do better this time, sir!" If you think an agent is the answer to your problems, you are addicted.
Demo reels. When you are starting out and applying for student films and indie auditions and submitting to every Web series, you are thinking to yourself, "I am perfect for this part!" Then they ask you for your reel and you say, "Reel? What reel? I'm just starting out. How am I supposed to have a reel?" But they keep on asking and you keep on missing out on auditions so you see an ad..."Actor reels here!" Salvation! You'll fabricate what you don't have. You'll piece something together. You'll talk in front of a camera about why you like being an actor. You'll talk about Omar, your pet cockapoo. Heck, you'll even film a scene in a guy's basement and pass it off as real work. "What's the harm in it? Who's going to know? It's all good.”
You make it 15 minutes long because you love watching yourself on the screen. Why wouldn't anyone else? You get those auditions. You book those student films. Now you are ready for the big time!
Not so fast. You think the wizard cares that you were in 47 student films? You think the fact you got 875 views on YouTube makes you special? You are now stuck in the hell known as "The Amateurville Horror." The résumé you used in high school to get a job cutting grass is not the résumé you use to get a job as a lawyer. That amateur stuff is meaningless to professionals. What were you thinking? If you're so good, why don't you just go ask a professional to watch you act for two minutes? That would take less time than loading your home movies onto Vimeo and then the professional can make their own assessment.
OK, have you had enough? Are you at the point of at least admitting you have a problem? That’s good, because there are four more I haven’t even named yet! We’ll get to those next time.
If you are one of the sufferers of one or more of these afflictions or, heaven forbid, you have lots of cash and you are doing them all, please just stop. Stop all of it. It's not helping. You may think it is because you measure your life solely on short-term results and getting patted on the head because that's what your ego and your emotions live off, but what your soul needs is long-term peace and growth, and that can only be accomplished through a life long journey discovering your greatness and wonder. And as Glinda said to Dorothy, ”You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas."
You. I’m talking to you! Every single one of you out there has all the power you need to do whatever you want with your life and with your acting career. You just have to take that power because no one has it but you!
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.