While navigating the acting industry can be tricky, try taking a look at other professions and see what universal principles can be applied!
1. Doctors: Learn and intern. Doctors spend untold years studying science and medicine, and when they graduate, what’s the first thing they do? They intern, then do a residency followed by a fellowship before they can finally apply to become board certified. A graduate of medical school still knows virtually nothing about medicine. How much do you think an actor knows about creating entertainment after a few months of classes? It’s not about the letters after your name—MD or SAG. It’s about what you know and what you can do with that knowledge. Get involved in the business and learn about how it works.
2. Lawyers: Partner up. Partnerships are the foundation of most law firms. They are professionals just like actors. Just like an actor, a lawyer is personally responsible for everything they do. They are not a faceless corporation that can hide behind a veil of anonymity. Because of this personal responsibility, they form partnerships with people who are a fit for what they want to accomplish. If you read the credits of your favorite actor or producer, you will see they form impromptu and sometimes lifelong partnerships with others in their industry. They work over and over with the same people—people they know, like and trust.
3. Underwater welders: Don't hold your breath. Despite being ostensibly entombed by millions of tons of water, underwater welders have to remain calm and breathe. Regardless of how seemingly stressful the situation is, freaking out never helps. Rather than perspire, we need to learn to inspire so we don’t expire. Actors are often so desperate they forget to breathe. If they took a breath and maybe a look, they would learn to be less emotional about their careers and see that it’s all pretty simple if you just do what needs to be done. Success need not be a mystery.
4. Farmers: Get up early and do your chores. From what I can tell, the vast majority of extremely successful people on the planet get up really friggin’ early. I don’t know why. It is what it is. While we are sleeping, they are working and while we are binge-watching “Bloodline” on Netflix, they are getting their beauty rest. I’m pretty sure the first great work ethic began with farmers. There is no way to get around it. The cows need milking and the hay needs bailing. Rising at 5 a.m. and doing the chores are the hallmark of a successful farm. Find joy in that and you will not only retain your sanity, but your product quality will improve and people will want your goods. If actors simply saw themselves as farmers, they would realize there is no way to rush it. Everything does better when love rather than wealth or ego is the central tenet. Faithfully do your chores and people will want to buy your crop. You can put all the lipstick you want on a pig or your acting career. The proof is in the bacon.
5. Professional athletes: Know your position. Ever see football players play more than one position? Maybe you will see that in elementary school, but the higher the level, the more specialized the players get. The relative difference among positions may be small, but at the highest levels, every weakness is magnified.
Ironically this universal truth is lost on most actors. They don’t want to “miss out” on opportunities, so they try to make themselves available for anything and everything. The results are watered down performances and a zig-zag-y career trajectory, rather than a vertical one. You’re not good at everything. You’re lucky if you’re good at one thing. The sooner you learn and emphasize your specialty, the sooner you will be making the big bucks. Be the best at one thing.
6. Cheerleaders: Live in the moment. Can’t talk football without thinking cheerleaders. Cheerleaders keep the entire crowd feeling positive about the big picture. Sure, we just fumbled, and, yes, we are losing the game, but cheerleaders remind us that the game is not over. How you behave as an actor will have a huge impact on your success. If you learn to look at the setbacks as opportunities, you will instantly multiply your opportunities. If you remind others all is not lost, you will help them be more productive and they will love you for it. Being consistently lighthearted is a choice and will make the difference between someone wanting and having to work with you.
7. Construction: Everything in it’s time and place. If you ever stop to watch the growth of a construction site over a certain period, you will notice what at first glance appears to be a chaotic hole in the ground is actually a carefully organized schedule symphony of activity. The project manager is the conductor. He arranges for the various trades to come and go. First come the foundations, then the infrastructure, and then the plumbers, electricians, drywall, cabinetry, flooring, etc.
Acting is no different. You need to be the construction manager and coordinate all the other trades at the right place and time. The trades just want to work. Photographers aren’t going to ask you where you are in your career. They’re going to take your picture, ready or not. Taking an improv class when you want to do Shakespeare? The school’s not going to ask. Want to put your reel online? We have people for that and they’re happy to take your credit card information. Everything we do will backfire on us if it is not done to the highest standard and in the right order.
The journey to success in acting can seem overwhelming and confusing. By looking at industries with which we are more familiar, we can discover and apply universal principles to find greatness in our acting. All it takes is planning, discipline and a strong work ethic. If you want to work with the best, you have to be the best.