Thursday, August 31, 2017

On Being an Actor. In the beginning...

This page of this post has been empty for a long time. The title has been there. Nothing else.
Every time I get inspired by a great quote, whenever I think of a pithy and important idea, on the occasion of some fundamental misconception of the craft, I get all excited and begin to write a brilliant missive on the topic when...I freeze. Fingers hovering precariously above the keys. Still.  Fearful. Motionless.

Nothing you will read in the next thousand words or so will be remotely new if you are an actor of a certain age.  You have heard it all before. Every actor has, at some point in his or her creative life (some would call it "career") has thought, pondered, complained, fretted, dissected, and screamed at the things I am about to rant about. So, for the sake of simplicity, I'm just going to bullet point some thoughts, opinions, and advice. This is meant primarily for my younger or less experienced students, but it is also for my older, more mature actors who are returning to the game after a long break. If you study with me, I'm sure are are tired of hearing this stuff by now. Too bad.

  • Your acting coach is your acting coach, not your agent. Your acting coach is not your publicist, either. Or your manager. You pay them to be your acting coach. Let them do that and take everything else they offer with a grain of salt.
  • For my young actors, if you don't have head shots yet, go get them now. Now. Everyone else, get new ones every couple of years. More often if you have changed your hair, altered your look, started a regimen of Botox, or finally tossed the denim jeggings that were so popular last year. I know they're expensive (the head shots not the jeggings). I know it's a hassle. Every craftsman, needs their tools. These are yours. Find a photographer you like and keep going to them. 
  • Oh, I'm not done on pictures, yet: Make sure your pictures look like YOU. When you walk into the room for an audition or an interview you better look like your picture. It's that easy and it's that hard. Photographer Peter Konerko has an excellent set of videos  that will be very helpful finding your way through headshot hell. Check them out, they are great. (Okay, I'm done. I get worked up about this one.)
  • Learn your craft before you learn your business. You don't open a law office then go to law school. You don't get hired at a hospital as a doctor before you've gone to med school. Become an actor before accepting the secret golden key to "cold reading" mastery. Before spending $150 to be seen by the "greatest casting director" in Hollywood, learn to fucking act.
  • Stop worrying about how many Twitter followers you have or how many Instagram likes you are racking up. When you finally get the audition, none of that will mean a hill of beans if you can't deliver when it matters. I do not care how ripped you are or how hot you look in that new designer bikini or how sweet your kitten looks swatting your Fruit Loops around the kitchen. 
  • Kiss no ass. Once you get an agent, a manager, a publicist (one or all three) remember they work for you. THEY work for YOU. They are not omnipotent, they are not irreplaceable, they do not know everything regardless of what they tell you.
  • Work on your voice. Learn how to breathe, how to project, how to enunciate. I recently saw a play at a very reputable theatre and some of the younger actors simply could not be heard even 10 rows back.
  • Stop defining yourself as a TV actor or a stage actor or a film actor. Yes, you do that. Admit it. You are an actor. Each medium requires different techniques, true, but you are still an actor. Remind yourself of that out loud a few times everyday. 
  • Don't wait for the phone to ring. You have friends. You know people. Assemble your tribe and do stuff. Read plays. Seek out new screenplays. Write something for yourself. Take your iPhone and record scene-work. Do something. Audition. Audition. Audition. (Did I mention that you should audition?) Submit for any project you are right for or interested in. Volunteer at a local intimate theatre.
Here's the bottom line: We only get one life. Do something with yours. Stay busy. Being an actor is not like any other job. If fact, it is not a job. It is a lifestyle. As an actor, you will get "acting jobs" over the course of your career, but you will always be an actor even when you are not actually getting paid to do it. It is not regular. It is not normal. You will get frustrated and crazy sometimes. You will have moments when you will doubt yourself. Then, you'll get cast in a play or get a role in a small film. You'll be in rehearsal and the little voice in the back of your heart will remind you why you going through all this. Then it will all come rushing back to you. 
I mean, if it was all about making money, you would have taken your mom's advice and become a [insert profession here] instead of moving in with the person you did "Our Town" with in acting school.