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Secret Agent Man

Relying on False Logic Won’t Help Your Career

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Relying on False Logic Won’t Help Your Career
Photo Source: Steve Weigl

You’re a detective. You walk into a room. Inside the room, you see a man holding a smoking gun. He’s standing over a second man. That man is lying on the floor with a bullet hole in his chest. The facts speak for themselves. The first man shot the second man. Case closed.

Wrong. You’re a terrible detective. Why? This is a classic case of false logic. You don’t have enough information to determine the obvious solution is the correct one. I can think of several scenarios that would prove the first man to be innocent.  

Sadly, most actors fall into this mental trap. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. Maybe it’s a refusal to accept reality. I don’t know. But it happens all the time.
A few years ago, Christoph Waltz won his first Academy Award for his amazing performance in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” He was 54 at the time. Until that point, Waltz was a complete unknown to American audiences, and he wasn’t exactly a star in Europe.

A lot of older actors who are still struggling to catch a break see this as a positive sign. “Christoph Waltz made it when he was older. So therefore, I can make it when I’m older.” Wrong. First of all, you’re probably not an Austrian actor who can speak four languages. Second, you probably don’t have the American equivalent of his résumé in German television. So it’s false logic. The exception proves the rule, not the other way around.

Last year, an unrepresented actor from Chicago booked the lead in a network pilot. The guy was in his late 20s and didn’t have an impressive résumé. I’m sure most of you view his success as proof that anything’s possible in this crazy business. I’ll agree that’s true, but it would be false logic to assume that just because he did it, you can too. There are thousands of actors just like him who didn’t even get in the room.

I attended a workshop recently where the topic of submissions came up. One actor proclaimed that she submitted to companies like CAA and WME all the time. She believed with all her heart that if they were going to bring in someone from a submission, it could very easily be her.  

Well, no. That’s simply not true. Submissions are ignored at agencies that big. And even if you heard about some actor in your friend’s class who got signed this way, it would once again be false logic to assume it could happen to you.

Imagine if I used up all my favors to get an inexperienced client in for the lead in a $200 million summer blockbuster. Based on my knowledge of how those movies are made and sold, I know for a fact that my client, no matter how talented, would have zero chance of booking the part. It would be false logic to believe that once he was in the room, he’d be on the same footing as the name actors who wanted the role.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big and swinging for the fences, but you have to ground your career in reality, not miracles and long shots. So work hard and take your wins where you can. After all, that’s the only real way to track your progress as an actor.

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