Achieving success in the entertainment industry continues to have a mysterious quality to it. Some actors find success through years of hard work and then they land a big break that opens all the doors for them. Others land that big break much faster, leaving their cohorts behind in amazement. Still others are shepherded into the industry by an already successful friend or relative, allowing them to jump past the hurdles of auditions.
With so many pathways to success, people in the industry try to create “rules” or guidelines for how one forges a lasting career. This is an attempt to find patterns in what can sometimes resemble chaos. Sure, actors still need to show up prepared and polite but shifts in the field demonstrate how actors need to unlearn many of the things they’ve been told. A lot of these “rules” are just fear-based advice and sometimes it’s in your best interest to not follow them. Here’s why:
1. Everybody is scared.
Not just actors: producers, writers, directors, and casting directors are all afraid that they may not keep their jobs or work again. Breaking the rules with confidence can give you the air of an elite surgeon who’s able to saw through the skull, remove the tumor, and save a life. Essentially, your self-possessed presence can take the work off someone else’s plate by being the solution to a problem.
2. It doesn’t get easier, you just get braver.
Success in this industry goes to the brave: The bravery to pick up a phone and build a game-changing relationship with a major producer, writer, or director. These acts of bravery might never feel enjoyable to you but if you have the discipline to do them consistently over time, they will lose their intimidating quality. Instead, picking up the phone to pitch yourself for a role will feel as daunting as doing a load of laundry.
You won’t catch fire by picking up the phone. Devoting your life to this work has required a certain level of bravery from you. Support that bravery with more bravery and make choices that stand out, ignoring the urge to fit in.
3. A variety of people cast actors.
Obviously casting directors do this to an extent by culling the herd, but producers, writers, and showrunners make and approve all final casting decisions. In the last couple of years, an incredible amount of major feature film and TV roles have been cast miles before they ever arrived at a casting office.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to build game-changing relationships with major production teams to compete for these premium roles long before they ever go to casting. In other words, by the time it goes to casting it can be too late to meaningfully compete for a role if you don’t have pre-existing relationships with the production team beforehand. A strong post-audition follow-up game is also critical.
The onslaught of unsolicited “rules” is not going anywhere. It’s your responsibility to check each guideline against your gut. Determine if it’s fear-based, limiting, antiquated, or based on assumptions. If it hits any of those red flags, discard it. Each day more actors carve uncharted paths to major success for themselves. They launch their careers using tools, opportunities, and innovation that previous generations never had.
*This post was originally published on March 21, 2019. It has since been updated.
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