As someone who has been trying to figure out the acting career process for several years now, and who now teaches that path to others, I have noticed one thing (actually, a lot of things, but let’s focus, shall we?) is true and universal: acting is not acting.
"What's that you say, fool?" Trust me, I get it. That sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. Acting is not acting because acting is life. "What does that mean?" That means that whatever works in other aspects of life, probably also works in acting and the opposite is true. If you wouldn't do something in another area of your life, you probably shouldn't do it in your acting career. The whole point of this is that there are universal principles of success/survival that span the universe. Life has a certain rhythm and cycle to it. All living things are born with an innate knowledge of how to do things to survive, whether that is to come out of an egg as a predator or to beg for food from mama, we are born with the skills to make it.
Of course some species need more help along the way – humans, most of all - but once we flap our wings and leave the nest, we have the ability to figure things out for ourselves based on, here it comes, common sense. Our brains have a certain amount of hard wiring, which sadly we are tricked into not using most of the time.
We all have our own version of what we have tricked ourselves into believing is common sense based on the interference of our own personal experiences, which cloud our otherwise perfect judgment. But deep down, in the backs our minds on the right sides of our brains, lie our instincts, which allow us to survive in the face of all kinds of other information. For instance, if a fire breaks out in your building, at some point after you have ignored all the fire alarms and your neighbors trying to get you to leave and the fire trucks pull up and smoke starts seeping through your door, your loudmouth left brain finally shuts the hell up and your right brain takes over and you go into instinct mode. If you allow your right brain to do what it does, which is to do things rather than think about them, you will survive.
Acting is like a fire for two reasons. First off, if acting is not burning inside of you and doesn't consume you to a large extent, you're going to have a very tough time because it's so incredibly competitive and yet appears to be so easy. The other reason it's like a fire is that you already know how to handle it. You just have to trust your instincts and not listen to those who would steer you away from your instincts for their own, sometimes selfish, reasons. There are no shortcuts in life and there are no shortcuts in acting. You have to go through a series of steps and stages to become a true professional. Are there exceptions? Yes. Are you the exception? Probably not. You also need to ignore what everyone else is doing because most of them are completely lost and trying to rush their progress based on their own misguided impressions of what it takes to have an acting career. The problem most people have is they don't realize there is no way to skip anything, and everything has to be done in the right order.
I'm sure you can more or less guess the stages any other career goes through without knowing the first thing about that industry. How do you become a fighter pilot, a welder, a surgeon, a dancer, a forensic accountant? Surely you can do that for an acting career too. So, take a minute and forget everything you think you know about having an acting career and walk your way through what you would assume your favorite actor has gone through to get to where they are. And make sure you do it from the beginning. You don't need to know how old they were when they started, and you don't need to know where they are from. All actors started from the same place: nowhere. What you are going to be left with is not an individual's exact path, but a universal path to success. Now follow that path.
Acting is not acting. Acting is everything.
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. Mr. Green 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. His earlier reincarnations include working as an advertising account executive in Warsaw, Poland and he is still kicking himself for leaving the French Alps where, among other things, he taught skiing to European royalty and often simultaneously) tasted fine French wines. 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 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.