Embarking on an acting career is much like sky diving. Even if you book work in a play, on a TV series, or in a feature film, the experience is usually short-lived. The play closes. The series is cancelled. The film wraps. And you‘re free until the next booking. It feels like falling.
So what you need to do is learn how to enjoy the process of being free, of not having security and consistency in your life, and of not getting a weekly paycheck. Activate! Flip the fear into action! Make it a great experience from which you will benefit in all areas of your life.
Whenever a show closed or my series was canceled or my character left/was killed off, I chose that time to face my personal and work-related fears. I made a celebration out of each. The pattern became a wonderful habit. When something ended, something new and exciting would take its place. And while you are experiencing fear, you actually discover some valuable things.
Fear of heights was one of my biggest fears. I was afraid of tall buildings, rooftops, elevators, mountains, cliffs, and flying!
To conquer my fear, I decided to learn how to skydive. I drove to the Mohave desert, took an hour training, and jumped from a plane at 15,000 feet, fell for three minutes, and then pulled the cord to control the descent, and landed softly in the sand.
The worst moment was the first three seconds while you dangle your feet over the edge of the the opening of the plane. There’s nothing to hold onto, and you count “1-2-3” and jump! The second worst moment is when you pull the cord! It feels like you are yanked up hundreds of feet in a few seconds. The parachute chords cut into your thighs, and it’s like being on an express elevator going up 10 floors in five seconds, squeezing all the air out of you. My brother reminded me that I wasn’t going up faster but that I was going down slower. Then, all is fine and you float gracefully down.
After the initial three seconds of total terror, it was OK! Your perception is totally off. Hence, the fear goes. It’s not what you expected. There was no sense of falling—only that of flying forward like Iron Man at 275 miles an hour. It’s fun! Controlling the parachute was a lot of fun. You pull the right chord and swirl to the right. Pull the left and twirl to the left. You can do complete circles or just float slowly downward. Absolute cake! The entire experience was wonderful!
Later on, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, hot air ballooned over the Brazilian Rainforest, hiked the Incan Trial to Machu Picchu in Peru, and learned to fly in a fighter jet with my brother.
Facing your fears leads to great adventures. You learn a different way to see your life and most importantly, discover a new connection to people and places. Your fear becomes a passion. Everything I feared became a new love.
As actors, what do you fear? How will you overcome it? What will you learn when you do?
Try following these three steps.
1. Write down your fear. Some examples might be meeting agents, auditioning, working on-camera, sending an e-mail, contacting an industry professional, not being ready, or not being trained enough to start.
2. Choose a big event to celebrate the fear. Do something that proves you can conquer it. Plan a performance. Put on a cabaret. Hire an acting coach. Set deadlines to go forward. Create a marketing campaign. Invite casting directors to the event. Produce a project in which you star!
3. Book it! Do it! Jump in! Enjoy the experience. Go forward. See how commitment and taking action can change your career and life with amazing results! Fear is gone because it’s NOT what you expected it to be. It ever is! Your energy is now focused in the right direction.
As the founder and executive director of The Actors's Market, Gwyn Gilliss provides free monthly info seminars, agent/casting director interview tele-seminars, weekly marketing tips, as well as many coaching programs to help actors break into both the NY and L.A. industries. Gwyn has tremendous success with her private career coaching clients. More than 90 percent get agent representation launching their careers with performances in feature films, Broadway productions, and Emmy-award-winning primetime TV series, such as "The Good Wife," "White Collar," "Grey's Anatomy," "NCIS," "House," "Law & Order," "30 Rock," "Criminal Minds."
Email her to request a free 15-minute career session: firstname.lastname@example.org.