This is the second in an ongoing series of posts aimed specifically at motivating actors to create more opportunity for themselves. You can read part 1 here.
It’s late in the afternoon. You get a call from your agent/manager, or a cmail from Actors Access, alerting you that you have a pretty good audition for a recurring role on a new cable show. It’s for tomorrow morning and the sides aren’t sent until a few hours later so you’ll cut short dinner with some friends to go home and run lines. In the morning, you get up, pick the right clothes out, change outfits four or five times, run lines again, this time with your roommate. You cancel the appointment you had with your therapist and head off to the audition in Santa Monica/Hollywood/The Valley (please not the fucking Valley!!).
When you get there it’s already apparent they’re running behind schedule. You sign in and take notice of the other actors who look vaguely like you. One of them stands out because she booked the T-Mobile spot you went out for a couple months back and you just saw it started airing – a national commercial with “campaign” potential. Fuck her. You smile at each other as she passes you to go in the room. You can hear the laughter while she reads for them. Ugh.
It looks like you’re going to be there a while so you take a seat and look over the sides a bit more. You’re basically off book as you watch the steady stream of actors roll in and out. Your friend texts you. She just booked an indie film that shoots in Oregon for three weeks. Pay is only a hundred a day but it’s a big role and the script is decent, plus the D.P. had a film in Sundance last year. Fuck her. You text back AWESOME!!!! with a smiley face emoticon to offset any suspicions she might have that you hate her right now. But, really?! She just got serious about acting a year ago and she’s booking left and right. You haven’t even booked a work-for-free web series in like, shit, has it almost been a year? O.M.G. now you wish you’d kept the appointment with your therapist.
Okay, whatever. You can’t go over these lines any more. Who wrote this shit? Check Facebook. Your friend from acting class just posted that she’s having a little get together Sunday for “her episode” of Dexter. You’re pretty sure she only got the part because she’ll show her tits. For just a moment you think, “I’ve been doing pilates for almost nine months now, maybe I should consider showing…” The casting assistant finally calls your name.
You’ve read for this casting director before and booked a few things with her. Your audition goes well but they don’t ask you to adjust anything so you figure it’s a bust. You’re running late for another audition across town so you hurry over there ready to repeat the entire process. Thankfully they get you in right away. It’s a beer commercial. That would be cool. You’re in and out.
Just in time to run home and make it to acting class. You get an email on the way to your car. Another audition tomorrow. This one for a guest star on CSI:New Mexico or whatever. Sides are included and your audition isn’t until early afternoon so you decide to hire your acting coach for this one. Gotta book something. It’s been too long.
You have a breakdown in class. Everyone is pretty cool but it turns into a “this is the life you chose” type of thing. All you can think is you are definitely getting ice cream on the way home. Fuck this. During a quick break you check your IMDB star meter like a nervous tick. Just once, it would be nice if it were four digits. You go back to class and work on your CSI:New Mexico scenes. You’re still gonna use the coach in the morning. You already made the appointment and the motivational speech in class did kind of put you back in a good frame of mind. You remain committed to the ice cream though.
On the way to your car. You check your email. That audition earlier that you thought was a bust… they put a pin you. You’ll know something by day after tomorrow. You almost cry. Even though everyone in class reminded you tonight how talented you are, you realize you didn’t completely buy it until now. You earned it. You did your job. You’re good. You get in the car and drive home. Tomorrow you’ve got pilates early in the morning then coaching and the audition. On the way home, you forget to stop for ice cream.
If you’re an actor, a serious working actor, this probably happens more often than you’d like to admit. The actor’s life is not easy, a roller coaster of hope and disappointment. I wrote a blog a while back echoing actor/writer Brit Marling, encouraging actors to “stop asking for permission”, something I strongly agree with.
I know countless actors, very talented working actors who have never had a role bigger than a guest star on a network show. Several scenes and that’s it, on to the next gig. They’ve never really gotten to sink their teeth into a juicy character yet they make good money, get their SAG health benefits and pay into their retirement. They make their living as an actor but they struggle to get a chance to act. It sucks. That is how most actors professional lives are but I am offering up an alternative – make your own path.
You audition for parts you don’t want all of the time. You read scripts beneath your talent and you do your best to not judge the material because that is what you are taught. You’ve been “this close” to landing potential career making roles only to lose out to a name when network gets involved. You go to class every week, you never miss an audition, hell, you’ve cancelled vacations for last minute auditions. You have a high callback rate. You book. You’re really good at what you do. Time to do just a little more.
On Wednesday Lindsay will talk about, what might be your first step – Actors Salon and the value of having peers hold you accountable to the business side of your acting career.
In the meantime, read MY OPEN LETTER TO ALL CREATIVES. I promise you’ll be happy you did.
Dane Reade is an admitted knucklehead, writer, director, producer, actor, storyteller and managing editor of The Tiny Protagonist. You can connect with him on twitter@TheUrbanHobo or via @TinyProtagonist