There’s a saying I picked up over the years, I have no idea where its from, that states, “The definition of unhappiness is when reality does not meet expectation.” If that’s true, and I happen to think it is, then the more realistic your expectations, the more likely it is you will be happy.
Great! So, in the interest of managing your expectations about acting and voiceover, here are five common, initial assumptions far too many talent fall prey to that can and should be avoided.
1. “My career should begin after seven or eight auditions. I figure I should be steadily booking jobs after that.”
We all have a number in mind of how many auditions it takes before we start to land work on a regular basis. Most people assume it’s after just a handful of auditions, or after “one big break” sends you over the goal post, but stats prove otherwise. It doesn’t typically take one big break. It takes a whole gaggle of them. It also means you have to consistently deliver your very best with every audition.
It may not be what you want to hear, but regardless of your experience or talent level, it takes an average of 200 auditions before you might book a job. As bitter a pill as that may be to swallow, landing work sooner is no picnic either. Stats show that the talent who do land work within the first 15 to 30 auditions often assume the work will find them, and they don’t have to do much beyond wait to be struck by lightning. Auditioning is an art unto itself. It takes more than talent. It takes persistence because the best audition doesn’t necessarily book the job. One of them does. Make it your mission to deliver auditions as seamless as your sessions to create a successful career in this industry.
2. “I’m already trained. They’ll tell me how to play it. I just want to book jobs.”
Assuming those most likely to hire you will direct you once you arrive at the session (or the audition, for that matter) is probably one of the greatest rookie mistakes in the industry. Just because you took a class or two doesn’t mean you’ve mastered the techniques, or kept your skills sharp since. Assuming, even if you are offered detailed direction, you’re able to deliver what’s asked of you at a moment’s notice in the very next take isn’t very likely.
In fact, even if you are given clear, concise direction, you’re always expected to deliver a creative, interesting performance that suits the project while offering your own surprising, yet plausible take on the role, regardless of the genre. All of this requires you master self-direction, which can only be achieved after a great deal of quality training, and application. Unfortunately, nothing in this business is immediately intuitive. Training takes time, attention, and practice.
3. “I’m a natural. I don’t need training. They’ll tell me how to play it. I just want to book jobs.”
If you’re under the impression all you have to do is show up and act, think again. No reputable talent agent, producer, or casting director will likely trust you ever again if your only experience and process is winging it. Their reputations are counting on you making them look good, too. No one looks good if you don’t prepare and deliver your best. Your job is to build trust and confidence, not the other way around.
4. “Once I’m making money I’ll invest in professional training, headshots, voiceover demos, and promotion.”
Claiming, “This is the best I can do for now,” is an excuse and little more, that will only serve to frustrate you and anyone hoping to include you among suitable options. Yes, training is costly. Save up and invest in yourself. Yes, proper headshots and competitive voiceover demos are expensive. Do your homework. Shop around. Don’t settle with a local option simply because they’re nearby, or with some company that came to your hometown community college. Again, save up and invest in yourself. Without the proper tools and training, you won’t be able to align yourself with talent agents who will offer you auditions that will forward your career.
5. “Once I have a talent agent I can relax.”
While agents are your greatest professional ally, far too much talent lets all the wheels fall off the wagon once they finally secure representation. They assume their career can now run on autopilot. However, if you hope to reduce your failure rate by a significant margin it might help to know your agent isn’t your publicist—you are. They aren’t your manager either—in most cases, you are. Talent agents have access to auditions you aren’t likely to get on your own.
Auditions are opportunities, and they’re the greatest form of promotion you have. They are literally how you establish and further your reputation, and your reputation will become your brand. Ideally, this is where your work truly begins.
*This post was originally published on July 23, 2019. It has since been updated.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.