The path to a successful career in the arts can be elusive. There's no one right way to get “there” and all one can really do is trust their talent, give it everything they've got, and hope to wake to a meaningful life that somewhat resembles the dream that got the whole thing started. But maybe a good place to start is by simply saying “yes” when opportunities present themselves. Cue the Elliot Smith.
Say “yes” to anything and everything the business offers. Turn down no opportunity no matter how small (or big). And if nothing is being offered, claw your way in. Go to every reading. Go to every opening. Usher. Join TDF. Your presence is powerful. I can trace almost every job back to early readings I did and the relationships I formed there that lead to a workshop, that then lead to a lesser role in the production, that then lead to a certain director seeing it, and on and on and on.
Say “yes” to criticism. This is a fine line. There is a constant flow of rejection in this business and it never stops. In fact, I would venture to say that the more success one finds, the more rejection they face. With more opportunity comes more people saying “no thanks.” The wise person knows what to take from that feedback. Comments about issues that are out of your control must be thoroughly rejected. But sincere, helpful criticism can be embraced in a way that keeps us constantly growing. One great way to do this is to seek out mentors. It can be scary because you are opening yourself up to another artist and asking for their help and guidance. Any mentor worth their salt is bound to offer up some tough truths. It’s worth listening and assimilating. Someday, you’ll be called on to do the same.
Say “yes” to success and happiness. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I know I spent a chunk of my career in a struggle mentality because I felt I needed suffering in order to have something to say as an artist. Use your imagination and enjoy your life while you can. Things will be hard enough.
And finally, say “yes” to your individuality. At drama school, in conversations both in and out of the classroom, I often preempted a thought with, “Well, obviously...” But I soon discovered that things that may seem perfectly clear to me seemed insightful to others and vice versa. There is only one of you, and the world needs to hear about it! Be bold and daring in your thinking and your approach to characters and scenes that will garner you the attention you deserve. This has only grown more true with the advent of the self-taped audition. Give them something that leaps off the screen, so while the showrunner tears through tape after tape of the same material, all while probably cramming in a meal before they have to head back to production, they will look up and see you there and say—you guessed it—“yes.”
Want to book a Netflix gig? Check out Backstage’s TV audition listings!