You know what sucks about this business? Actors who are just starting out rarely get a chance to show how good they really are. Instead of exploring the limits of their talent, they waste precious time chasing worthless credits. Why? Because they need to put something on their empty résumés.
You see, most actors begin their careers by signing with a starter agent. This is someone who means well but doesn’t have much muscle. He makes a living by getting his clients out for small day player roles. The parts are usually glorified extras. I’m talking a few lines here and there.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but sadly a lot of actors never find a way off this path. They don’t have the courage to aim higher, and over the years, their artistic muscles begin to shrivel. It’s like being a Ferrari, born to fly on the autobahn but forced to crawl through rush hour traffic.
So how do you avoid this fate? The answer is simple: Create your own opportunities.
Start by crafting a clear vision of what you wish to accomplish. Maybe your dream is to start a theater company that does cutting-edge work. Or maybe you want to create a funny Web series that will show off your many characters. It can be anything. You just have to be passionate about the project and the chance it will give you to shine.
Don’t be afraid to aim big. We live in a world where you can shoot a low-budget movie with your damn phone.
(You should also study the careers of rising young actors like Greta Gerwig and Brit Marling. They started in the independent film world, working on projects that cost almost nothing, and now they’re both on the verge of becoming huge stars.)
Your next move is to find like-minded people, creative types you can team up with to work on your project. I’m sure you know plenty of frustrated actors who are searching for ways to express themselves. Maybe some of them are also writers. Maybe some of them own equipment you can use. That could be the start of something.
Trust me. If you share your dream with enough passion, you will attract others who want to get involved.
Now it’s time to put together an action plan that details your resources. Who’s on the team? What do they have access to? How much funding will you need? Get all those ducks in a row, and then start moving forward. It will be difficult at first, but every hurdle you clear will create momentum. The next thing you know, you’ll be watching your dream project come to life.
It’s like Bruce Lee said: “To hell with circumstances—I create opportunities.”
One of the biggest complaints I hear from actors just starting out is that they feel powerless. Well, you can turn that feeling of weakness around by setting a goal and then making it happen.
There’s no guarantee that doing any of this will jump-start your career, but here’s what I can promise you. The process will empower you. And that’s a major accomplishment right there.
Now let me make something clear. There’s nothing wrong with the path most actors take. A lot of successful performers began that way. So sure, go find that first agent. Book some day player roles. Build up your résumé. It’s all good. But please don’t stop there when you can be doing so much more.
Remember: The industry respects and rewards actors who take charge of their careers.