Everyone accepts that actors are unemployed most of the time so anyone can say it. People come to town and want to be an actor so they tell people they are.
They get pictures, and then do a few things that make them feel like an actor. If you consider yourself to be a professional actor and this is your dream, then you need to take your work and “the work” seriously.
Here is what I tell new actors coming to LA as well as established actors that are working at it. There are some basic things that need to be taken care of:
1. A place to live in the LA area.
2. A phone and internet access.
3. A stream of income to live off of – A job - full time or part time, with the flexibility that can accommodate you, so you can pursue your career. If no job, then some source of income to sustain you.
4. Some good clothes to present yourself professionally.
5. A form of transportation to get you where you need to go.
6. A “home base” where you train, work out, and work on your craft.
Of course there are many other things to consider - photos, agent, union membership, reel, doctors, a good mechanic, etc, but I want to talk about the basics for a moment. Some people will look at this and say this is simple and obvious. Many people blow it at item #3. They might have 6 months of savings to live off and plan to “make it” by then. That doesn’t work, they are usually gone or looking for work desperately soon.
But here is the biggest miss I see. I can’t tell you how many actors don’t do enough about the last item - #6: a “place to work out”.
This is the most important piece after making sure the first 5 are in order. Many, many actors leave this out or don’t take it seriously enough, especially actors who get work on some basis, thinking they don’t need it, and it is their biggest flaw.
If you are a professional actor, your game needs to be at its best, the competition is fierce, and if you aren’t at the top of your work, you miss out. Professional athletes work out EVERYDAY, musicians practice their instruments EVERYDAY. I notice many actors are very lazy in this area. Look at Beyonce, a major superstar, she’s already made it. Yet she will dance 8 hours a day for weeks when preparing for her performances. Musicians practice hours and hours each day to get their material down. Ask yourself, how in shape are you? Are you prepared for your next gig? And what is your next gig? IT’S YOUR NEXT AUDITON!! That is where you have to perform your best, that is where your game needs to be at its best and played with brilliance.
Actors need a “home base” a “gym” a “center” where they can work and hone their craft.
A place they can go to work on themselves so when they go in to audition they are playing their best. Just like an athlete has a training gym, a musician has a practice room or studio, an actor needs a “work out home”. It also can serve as a support system.
Good isn’t enough, you need to be great.
Being a professional actor is akin to the training of an Olympic Athlete or professional musician, constantly in practice and keeping in great shape. So I ask you, do you have that support system in place? I don’t mean periodic classes for education, or a one day seminar, or a casting director or agent workshop. I mean regular working on your instrument. Constant pushing yourself to be your best, breaking through your blocks, stretching yourself into uncomfortable emotional places, so you are performing with truth, passion, and conviction. FIND ONE. I don’t care if it’s a bunch of actors in your living room a few times a week, a theater company that works out regularly, an acting class that challenges you, but every actor needs to be watched, coached, pushed, and challenged. You can’t do that alone. You can’t do that in a casting director workshop, because that is a “performance opportunity”. You need to be in shape prior to those, as that is where you present your greatness, not work on it.
There are many places that offer the “working out” atmosphere.
There are great teachers, coaches, schools, and theater companies out there. Check them out, audit, get referrals, and see where working actors are training. Find one that geographically works for you, so there is no excuse. Find one that is financially reasonable that fits into your budget, and finally a coach that “sees you”, “gets you”, and is there for you. Every actor needs to be watched and coached, just like an athlete. You must be disciplined like an athlete to make it in this business. If you’re not, then be honest with yourself, and enjoy the hobby of it. There’s nothing wrong with that if that is what you want.
I come to this conclusion from observing and coaching actors for nearly 30 years. Those that treat their acting career as a marathon, and train as such, are the ones that have succeeded.
Don’t just get in shape, you need to stay in shape, and play in shape. You never know where your break is waiting.