Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why is it so hard to become an actor?

One of the questions I frequently have to answer is “Why can’t I just go audition and start acting?” There isn’t just one simple answer to this question, but one of the big reasons is that you have to compete with tens of thousands of other actors for every job you want. These multitudes of unemployed actors are the reason why so many people, like teenager’s parents, for example, believe it is impossible to succeed as an actor. Why are there so many unemployed actors and where did they all come from?
Thousands of young teens enchanted by Disney Channel programs and The High School Musical(s) and with no idea of how to become an actor want instant fame and fortune as actors. They are all star-struck and think they are pretty, cute, dainty and talented; but they are not. Older teens with inflated opinions of themselves from a kind word from a friend or relative are similarly doomed. These are the ones who will have the most difficult time becoming actors. They have joined the ranks of the traditional young adults seeking employment as actors who mainly come from colleges and professional acting schools, and whose prospects are not much better. Adults 25 and older actually have the best prospects for a career since casting character actors taps a much smaller pool of talent than that of teens.
Most unemployed actors are graduates or former students of colleges and drama schools who have been told two big lies: 1. They have been told they have been prepared to seek jobs as actors; and, 2. They have been told there are jobs for them. Neither statement is true. If it were, they would all be acting. Many colleges and drama schools do not teach how someone who wants to act can actually get a job as an actor while the colleges offer them a minimum of real acting training. Making it worse is political correctness and the desire of the schools to keep operating and providing a living for their employees; this prevents them from telling their students who have no ability and no chance to make it to hang it up. And there just are not enough jobs to go around. There haven’t been since acting became an academic subject.
Professional theatre and cinema (which includes television) have always had a very limited number of openings for new actors at any given time. The job market is so inundated by people who want to be actors that any opening is soon filled.
Acting is now taught at every level of public and private education. Acting schools and studios have popped up all over the place. And they have begun a cycle of self-support that feeds the lies and floods the ranks of unemployed actors. Many of those who have failed to get work as actors or who found that it was too much work to keep trying to get work as actors now teach those who want to be actors. Many of those who want to be actors graduate from schools and academies in which the former failed actors teach and they repeat the cycle. All those thousands of schools and studios every year are sending out tens of thousands of aspiring actors who wander into the maze of trying to find a job as an actor. They are the cholesterol that clogs the arteries that lead to employment as an actor.
No wonder it is so hard for an actor to get a job! Hard, yes, but impossible, no. There are things that the properly trained and properly advised aspiring actor can do that will put him ahead of the competition. These are the things that I teach at and in my free book, The Tao of Acting. It remains very difficult to become an actor. If you can outlast the other aspirants who will eventually drop out and if you have the proper training, you just might succeed. But I will tell you the real truth, and if you don’t want the hard work or can’t do it, you will do the industry a favor by doing something else.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why Can't I Be Like All Those TV Stars?

I recently received an email from a teacher who thanked me for this blog and said all her students think they are going to be the next star on Disney or Nick. Yeah. Them and the ten million others that write to Yahoo Answers and othe forums on acting every year. I have to admit that there is something wonderful about being a professional actor. It is a great thing to be. I loved it. But it didn't just happen without preparation and hard work. Once twenty or thirty years of that was done, professional acting just fell into my lap, so to speak. The same is true of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato and the other Disney and Nick stars. With rare exception they worked and trained to be actors. More importantly, their parents were active in providing them the experience and training they needed to do the work. As I have said before, what we see on the tv and cinema screen is not what the actor does when he or she goes to work. There is make up call, and there is costume call, there are rehearsals and there are long long waits for the crew to be ready for you and then there are retakes and retakes and retakes. It is not all glamour and fun and games. We only get to see the fun and games and the glamour. We don't see the actors arriving at dawn for their calls. We don't see them doing the retakes after something or someone messes up. We don't see them waiting and waiting for the crew to be ready. Everyone wants to be an actor because it looks so easy and wonderful. And it is easy IF you have the extraordinary talent, experience, training, personality, and support necessary to do it. You find out if you do by being in school and community plays and by going to professional acting school when you graduate high school. That is one heck of a big IF my friends. Only a handful of the tem million will someday make it as an actor. Yep, that is one heck of a big IF.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Professional acting is a Business

One thing I am sure that the vast majority of young people who want to be actors do not know about being an actor is that it is a business and like all other businesses there are lots of things that cost money. The actor is a salesman who must sell his product which is himself as an actor. There are several possible customers: agents, casting directors, directors producers, etc. In order to be a successful salesman, the actor needs to invest in several tools: head shots, resume copies, business cards, business post cards. Additionally he will need to pay for books, classes, union initiation fees and dues, etc. To get the money to invest, the actor needs a "day job" and learn to save for his investment. At the same time the actor must work to be more and more appealing to his customers. He does this by building his resume with acting experience and a few classes. It may take years and years for the investment to pay off, if indeed it ever does. But the actor with the best chance of success is out there everyday making contacts, selling himself and moving his career forward. It is not like the class play, is it? It is frustrating work that never ends until that magical day when preparation meets luck and the break happens. The serious actor reads and rereads Acting As A Business by Brian O'Neil, and The Tao of Acting by Dr. Kenneth Plonkey. These books contain much information about how to run your acting business in order to make it more likely that you will succeed. The career is out there, you have to go out and get it. It is not going to come to you or be handed to you. Only your hard work will make it happen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Acting Is My Life

In my over fifty years of teaching acting, I have heard this statement a lot. I don't think anyone who uttered it in my presence ever became a professional actor or actress. It is usually young females who say this,but of course they have no idea what professinal acting is really like. For a real professional actor, acting is their life. They give up nearly everything in order to concentrate on acting. They forgo personal realationships, material possessions that most of us consider necessities, and they live in abject poverty while trying to break into the profession. When acting is their life, nothing else matters and they get on with it. Most people who eventually become professional actors do not have to ask what to do next. They just keep acting and looking for acting opportunties until they get an agent and learn how to advance in the business. They invest their lives in the process of becoming actors. It is a long and difficult road to travel. For some of us lucky few for whom acting is our lives, the path has not been difficult. We just kept acting until we stumbled upon the first professional employment and kept acting all our lives in whatever situations, amateur, semi-professinal or professional that we could participate in. That made acting our lives.