Forgive me for this being long. However, I am a little torn right now. For a five-year period (early 2003 to late 2007), I ran around L.A. doing everything I could to further my acting career, from getting a huge national commercial (which Taft-Hartleyed me into the Screen Actors Guild) to buying my own equipment and producing my own films. I went through three agents and a manager during that span and met numerous acting people in class, on the BackStage.com message boards, and on set. I was 25 when I moved here and am now pushing 33 (although I still look early 20s—go figure).
In late 2007, I finally got my feature-film break. I was on set, miked up in my period costume and ready to take direction in my scene from a major Hollywood director. After one take, the 1st assistant director asked that I step down. He stated that they had a different scene in mind for me later that day, so I left the set thinking there was no problem. One hour later, the director called wrap and the day was done. The 1st A.D. came up to me afterward, took down my information personally, and said he had something else in mind for me later in the month in another scene.
For a full month, I was awake at night, punishing myself over whether I did the scene wrong and wishing I had one more chance to do it again. I was also excited because I truly believed the 1st A.D. when he said he would contact me. December came and no call. I tried to contact him at the studio but had to leave a message.
After that, two and a half years ago, I split away from the acting world. I worked so hard to get those few lines in a feature film, and when it disappeared, I felt defeated. To make matters worse, when I saw the film on DVD two years later, there was another actor in place of me saying my exact lines.
On and off for the past two years, I have had the itch to come back, but I remember how hard I worked just to get where I was, and it's tough to go through the journey of acting classes, auditions, and networking again. It's like going back to college as a freshman years after you left. I have done well for myself in other ways the past few years, including going to Europe, Asia, and Africa on photography trips and saving up a boatload of money. I also have my two kids, whom I look after all the time, as I work from home. But something keeps pulling me back into this acting world, and it scares me—it literally scares me to even think about jumping back in again.
By the way, I took a big risk to my ego in relaying this story. I just simply needed to vent. If you have some helpful words or suggestions, please let me know. I really need it right now.
Please don't beat yourself up about this one more second. Here's my guess: They saw you on camera, and someone said something along the lines of "Hey, he looks kind of like (some other actor in the film or someone famous)," and they decided to pull you from that role to avoid confusing the audience. Or someone said, "Hey, he seems too young/old/white/black/tall/short to be a (whatever)." Or they said, "Hey, the executive producer's cousin is on set today, and we told him we'd give him a line. Can he have that one?" And just like that, they pulled you from the scene with no real plan on where to put you. I'm sure they had some vague notion of giving you another role, but film sets are notoriously hectic, and you got lost in the proverbial shuffle.
There's absolutely no way that you doing the line one time could have made them decide to cut you for acting reasons. No director, at least no major director like the one you describe, would do that. He or she would at least try to direct you. If you said you tried the line 12 times and were cut, it would be another story. But once? Directors direct actors. Even bad directors at least think they direct actors. I would wager they had some goofy but "real" reason, such as the ones I've described, that had to do with story or the broader casting of the film. I once lost a job because the guy who booked the male lead had hair similar to mine—a dark bob. What can you do!?
As far as I can see, you're in a perfect place to start again. You've saved money, spent time with your family, traveled, and grown as a person. What's stopping you? Oh, right. Fear.
In many ways, your letter reminds me of someone getting over a bad breakup. You fell in love with acting, gave it your all, and were dumped. You've been getting over it. The trouble is that you've been heartbroken over nothing. Acting didn't dump you; some random director did.
You might benefit from talking over your fear with a counselor—someone who can help identify why the very idea of returning to a job you love is giving you so much trouble. Naturally, you'll be faced with these types of scenarios again, so better to prepare for the inanity, rejection, and chaos. You might want to ease back in with a class or a play before going full steam ahead, the way you so admirably did before.
In closing, I firmly believe there's absolutely nothing wrong with deciding that you don't want to journey into that chaos again. You don't have to be a professional performer to carry on a love affair with acting.
I have no reel. I have done three indies, four plays, and three local/Web commercials. I have some training. Should I even have the nerve to send headshots and résumés to agents?
In a word, of course. Wait, that was two words.
I am not saying you will get a bunch of responses, but you never know. You never know which agent might be looking for someone of your type, no matter what it is, and you never know if an agent you submit to might have seen one of the plays you did, or is a cousin of the director of one of the indies you did, and so on and so forth. Opportunities can come by what feels like chance, but chance can only work if you give it ammunition.
Is this the optimal time to submit? That's another question, and one worth weighing, but you certainly have every right to send your materials to acting representatives via the U.S. mail. That shouldn't take nerve, just time and money.
Questions for The Working Actor? Send an email to email@example.com. Thank you!