How to Handle Awkward Questions About Your Acting Career Over the Holidays

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With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start prepping for how to tolerate the barrage of questions that will undoubtedly be hurled at you by family and friends who are as eager to ask, “Why aren’t you a star yet?!”

The whole holiday season is really an exercise in managing expectations, both in how you respond and how you work through the frustration questions like this can stir within you. 

There’s no one who wants you to be successful in this business more than you do. You live it every day. But the people at home—who, by the way, don’t have a clue how this all works—often have plenty to say about the end result they’re waiting to see without any idea of how the process works and the time it takes for you to get there.

Here are a few tips to help you get through the next few weeks.

Work at not getting frustrated by what others don’t know about the industry. They will ask lots of questions but simple, non-complicated answers are in order. They don’t really want to know how it all works; they just want to know when they’ll see you on TV or in a movie. So don’t feel the need to “teach”; rather, simply “explain.”

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Your explanation could include a bit of show-and-tell. Give them a glimpse into your day-to-day world by showing them your profile on one of the casting submission services you use. Let them see what a real casting breakdown looks like. Show them how you review a breakdown and decide if it’s a worthy self-submission to make or not. They might not fully understand how it all comes together, but an opportunity to show loved ones that there’s more to having a career as an actor than just acting could be a positive concept for them to consider.

When you’re asked about all the famous people you’ve met, evoke the NDA! It doesn’t really matter if you worked with Oprah, Meryl, or the Rock last week or not. Halt the line of questioning simply by saying that on sets these days, everyone is asked to abide by a non-disclosure agreement. Tell inquiring minds you can’t discuss it. 

Most importantly, don’t take comments that are meant as supportive but come off the opposite personally. You do not have to defend your career choice to anyone. As long as you’re living a life that includes earning the money you need to fund your expenses and career development, there will be no story to spin, no tale to tell, and less time at home spent “explaining” your choices and more time spent soaking up time with people who only want the best for you...even when they’re not great at expressing it the way you’d like to hear it.

Holiday or not, business still happens. So when you pack up to head home for the holidays, be sure to bring whatever you need to produce a self-tape audition from wherever you’ll be should the need arise. That will really show your family that this is, in fact, a real career. 

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Brad Lemack
Brad Lemack is a Los Angeles-based talent manager, educator, career coach, and author. He established Lemack & Company Talent Management in 1982. The company specializes in the career development of new and emerging artists and the brand maintenance and career enhancement of legacy artists and working actors. He also teaches The Business of Acting at the Emerson College Los Angeles Campus. His latest book is The New Business of Acting: The Next Edition.
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