The 10 Commandments of Being a Good Actor

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Photo Source: Steve Weigl

Last week, my doctor ordered me to lose 20 pounds. I offered to drop 10 and not a pound more. He smirked and told me to bend over.

What can I say? This kid loves Christmas and all the sugar that comes with it. But as we all know, there’s a price to pay when we indulge our addictions. So the time has come for me to address all the extra fat that’s hanging over my belt.

I started yesterday by hiking up to the Hollywood sign. A steep climb at a steady pace is a great way to burn calories. It sure beats running on a treadmill like a hamster in a cage. But a funny thing happened on my way up the mountain.

I had a religious experience.

As I was approaching the sign, the sun vanished behind unexpected clouds. I suddenly found myself surrounded by rain and lightning. And then the ground started to shake. I fell to my knees. I prayed. And that’s when I heard the Voice.

If you search online, you’ll find cell phone footage of me taken by other hikers. The clips show yours truly coming down from Mount Lee, my hair a frosty white, holding two stone tablets.

I believe the Gods of Hollywood chose me to deliver their lesson because of my weekly pulpit right here in Backstage. They knew I had the power to reach thousands of actors. So to honor their wishes, I now present you with the Ten Commandments of Being a Good Actor:

I. Thou Shalt Not Settle
Too many actors settle for being good when they have the potential to be great.

II. Thou Shalt Not Lose Track of the Big Picture
Actors tend to fixate on short-term details, like finding a good agent and getting the perfect headshot. That’s fine, but the career path you choose will be determined by your long-term goals.

III. Thou Shalt Learn How to Network
Knowing how to meet and interact with industry professionals is an essential skill.

IV. Thou Shalt Be Realistic
When you’re just starting out and you don’t have many credits, don’t ask your agent to get you an audition for the lead in a network pilot. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but you can’t lose yourself in the clouds.

V. Thou Shalt Learn to Shut Up
Actors spend way too much time listening to the sound of their own voice. Try keeping quiet every now and then, especially when you’re talking to people in the industry. Who knows? You might actually learn something.

VI. Thou Shalt Question the Source
Don’t believe everything you hear. You know the actor in class who’s half as talented as you but claims he booked a pilot? He’s lying. The guy’s actually doing a Web series that his girlfriend is financing with the money she made dancing at Crazy Horse.

VII. Thou Shalt Learn to Say No
You don’t have to jump on every opportunity that comes your way. I’m talking about the manager who lives out of his car and wants to sign you. I’m also talking about that nonunion film that expects you to perform full frontal nudity.

VIII. Thou Shalt Take Chances
You took a huge risk when you decided to become an actor. So why not keep that daredevil spirit alive as you pursue your career?

IX. Thou Shalt Be Mentally Healthy
Rejections aren’t personal. Your ego doesn’t control your life. And strangers do not have the power to crush your dreams. (Only you can do that.)

X. Thou Shalt Get a Life
Never put life on hold for your career. If acting is based on life experience, how can you be a great actor when you have no life?

Like this advice? Check out more from Secret Agent Man!

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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