Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why people fail to become successful actors

I probably have addressed this somewhere before, but it is a question much on people's minds at present. Many want to know if they have a chance to succeed as actors, and many would become actors, but.... There are many reasons why people fail. In my book, The Tao of Acting, I list personality traits that actors must have for success. These are taken from True and False by David Mamet. And then my book contains a list of professional habits based on Miriam Franklin's book, Rehearsal. Failure to live up to any of these personality traits or professional habits can cause an actor to fail. I recently saw an interview with a Los Angeles acting teacher, who said "The only people who succeed as actors are those who have to be actors." This is something I have been telling people for years. If you can be happy doing anything else in life, you probably will not succeed as an actor.

If you wonder if you have a chance to succeed or wonder if acting is what you should try to do, you will fail. Those who have to be actors do not wonder or even care much about those things. They just go out an be actors because they must do that. If you have any reason why you may fail-- lack of money, where you live, race, religion, or anything else -- or if you give reasons why you failed in the past and have not accepted them as your shortcomings and corrected those reasons, you will fail. Many actors illustrate the definition of insanity: they keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Acting is not just a career choice, it is a life style choice. It involves a great deal of self motivation, sacrifice and continued effort. If you are not a good self starter, if you cannot live without the common comforts and conveniences and/or if you cannot doggedly stay with your desire to be an actor in spite of everything, then you will most likely fail. For an actor, success is not fame and fortune, success is having been able to be an actor as much as possible during his lifetime.

Lastly, Tony Smith, on his Acting Career Start Up web site, today posted an article and videos, revealing what he calls the secret of achieving success as an actor. That secret is another thing that I have been telling people for years: have a mentor. If you blindly try to become an actor on your own without guidance from someone who knows the ropes, who has been there and done that and who is really willing to help, your chances for success are diminished. I should not have to point out that finding someone willing to help you and then ignoring their advice not only is rude,but also is a way to fail.

To be a success, you must be positive, and be willing to do what is needed to be done. You must listen to experience and learn from and correct your mistakes. You must be a successful personality and not associate with losers. And you must have a mentor willing to help. I not only am willing to help, I am probably the only mentor who does not charge anything for his help and/or who is not trying to sell you anything. Above all, however, you must have to be an actor.

PS. One of my advisees in LA just sent this regarding the topic of why people fail to become actors: "Most people want instantaneous gratification - as most society and acting does not yield itself to instant gratification. Many don't have the personality - it is sales, it is marketing, it is communicating, it is networking, it is planning. You have to be very smart and savvy. You have to spend the money to make money - a good head shot is priceless- yet many get photos from amateurs and it shows. If someone wants to have no vacations (how can you vacation if you are trying to make it?), no love life, no family life (or minimum at least), no partying (if you get an audition the next day you can't be indulging and that can happen in an instance). (I truly believe you should not date or be in a relationship if you want to be an actor- too much energy) It is almost like living like a monk. To stay focused and not get discouraged - wow! Only for the thick skinned and those who are tenacious. It takes total dedication - and perseverance - and a long shot. It is like gambling - yet if you get that role you hit the jack pot. Yet - if you do it right and make the right connections and are likable - I believe it can happen. It really depends on the person and how much they believe and want it. They need to never give up - I guess you need to be insane! You have to love it - whether it gives results or not. Even if you are not an "a" list or "b" list actor = you just have to be happy that you are trying and living the dream so many are afraid to go for. The ride to get there - to being a working actor - is more fun that when you get to the top of the mountain. Then you have to say - what next?! It is not meant for the majority - that is why so many leave. They don't understand that it is a lifestyle and one that many won't accept and understand. You need to say "good-bye" to those who don't believe in you - as you can't have any negativity. It is self centered and the person has to be extremely egocentric. I guess I am not painting a very nice picture - yet I would not give it up for the world. This is the happiest I have been in years."


  1. Thanks so much for this. I really appreciate your taking the time to put forward this information without any compensation. Cheers!

  2. This article meant a lot to me, thank you. I'm 18 and am just starting my career so far I've been getting steady work doing short & independent films through backstage and 1 commercial so far through my agent. But its stuff like this that really inspires me, so thanks again.

  3. I am so ready for it baby...I have 3 children, I think I will manage just fine. Also I will be starting my G.E.D on the 2nd of October. Then after that I will be starting college courses. I will succeed, In this career I want so dearly. Also I will be going to Meredith college. My Bachelor degree in theatre, I will be receiving. then I want my MFA degree. Thanks for the info Doc. does not scare me one bit...

  4. I can't tell you how much this article motivated me to become an aspiring actor ever than before. Now i can tell people it doesn't matter whether i am famous or not, at least i am living my dreams as a theater actor.