If you go by the actor forums, marketing messages, and the talk on the street, one might believe that the only way to have an acting career is to buy your way in. The default message to actors is that you need to train incessantly, that as soon as you decide on which headshots to go with, it’s time to get new ones, and that you need to pay people in the industry to see your work, not to mention all the digital representations of yourself necessary to take advantage of social media.
As someone who spent over $50,000 trying unsuccessfully to launch an acting career, I can say that “money can’t buy me love.” While many of these concepts seem to make sense on the surface—especially in light of the lack of a viable alternative—you simply cannot buy an acting career - assuming you are not the all powerful leader of a totalitarian regime. In truth, many of the services you feel compelled to pay for are likely to result in harming rather than helping your career. Reveal yourself before you are ready and you may only succeed in getting yourself on the list of people not to call.
So, you ask yourself, how do I bypass the paid in favor of the free and still find success? You do for yourself. There is nothing someone else can do for you that you can’t do better yourself. No one else really cares about you or your career other than you. I am not suggesting you have the photographic skills to take amazing pictures, or the connections of a powerful agent, or the knowledge of casting directors with years of experience. I am suggesting you actually don’t need these things at all, especially if you are in the early stages of your acting career. You don’t need professional tools until you are a professional. In the wrong hands, a headshot can be deadly. Spread it around and see who unsuspectingly uses it and calls you in. If they do and you, um...stink, your headshot suddenly goes viral and spreads career death wherever it goes. There is no known cure. So grab a plough, a sword, a pen, or whatever, and get to work.
Step 1. Accept that you are amazing. Yes you are amazing. You might not be an amazing actor yet, but you must accept that you are full of qualities in such a combination the world has never seen and never will see again, and that by developing yourself to your full potential you can change lives—millions of lives.
Step 2. Decide what you want to do. As demonstrated by the atom, potential is one thing, but if your power is not carefully harnessed, it can blow up in your face. Having a clear vision for yourself is essential if you want to ensure you move forward and not in a zigzag or worse, in reverse. Clarity and specificity is the key. It’s like planning a vacation. You need to name names, times, and places, or you’re just going to the airport.
Step 3. Skills acquisition. Just because you graduated from an acting school doesn’t mean you are any good. You need to make sure you are really, really, really good before you dare set foot in a casting office. Can you memorize 10 pages in an hour or so, and can you bring a scene to life so that the writer forgets the words are his or hers? If not, you’re not ready. Do you really think you can have an acting career by being “good enough?” You need to be the best you can be. And then keep practicing every day to keep getting better.
Step 4. Create a plan to develop your amazingness. Without a plan, anything can sound like a good idea. That smooth talker at the bar wants to make you a star? OK! Several months or even years later, “We are so close to being funded,” and you have put everything on hold. You need to decide what you are doing or someone else will; someone who doesn’t really care about your career.
Step 5. Learn how the business actually works. One of the reasons actors want to pay industry insiders is for their insights into the business. What actors often neglect to consider is that these “insiders” only tell you what they want you to hear and they tell you for their benefit, not yours. If you ask someone how you how they would like you to stay in touch, who do you think that advice is going to benefit; you or them? Do anything you can to learn how the business works. Get away from all the other starving actors and surround yourself with people who have actual jobs in the entertainment business. Fish who swim in schools get eaten.
Step 6. Demonstrate your amazingness. OK, you’ve got all your proverbial ducks in a row. You have goals, skills, knowledge, and people who treat you like one of the family. Now you offer to share your wonder with them. One quick demonstration later, their eyes awash in tears or their bellies heaving in fits of laughter, and you have not only them but everyone they know as an army of fans.
Step 7. Amaze yourself at how money- and pain-free that was.
How to get started with this simple, yet amazing career journey? Stop doing everything right now! You can’t assimilate a new paradigm into an old one. Abandon the old failing way and choose the new winning one. Let me know what you decide. Tell me your dreams and I’ll tell you mine. Please comment below and feel free to email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more advice? Check out this video:
Inspired by this post? Check out our audition listings!