Monday, November 19, 2012

What You Need to Be an Actor

We have been over this before, but I keep getting email from people who don't seem to understand what it takes to be successful as a professional actor.

Part of the problem is misunderstanding.  Among things that aspiring actors believe that are not true are:

1. Getting a good agent will get your career going.
2. Going to a good acting school with famous alumni will get  your career going.
3. Getting a break will get your career going.

The thing is that agents do not make actors.  Agents make money from people who are already actors. Secondly, just going to school will not help. You have to complete the entire program. And you have to use your time at school as a time of networking so that the people you work with and meet there will want to help you.  Tens of thousands of 'actors' graduate university and professional acting schools every year.  Only a small number of them get professional roles.  Certainly fewer than 1 in 10.   Third,  what is a break anyway?  Some beginners with overly evaluated ability think if they can just get an audition, they will be hired and their career will be on the way.  Sorry, not true.  Often it takes many auditions before an actor gets a role. My alumni newsletter had an item in it about a graduate of the theatre program who "after ten years" got a big role on Broadway.  Ten years is a relatively short while.  I know an actor who has been in NYC for 35 years and has yet to earn a living as an actor. Agents do not make actors. A break is when someone who can really help your career sees you and decides to help you.  But you still have to get the roles, they don't just hand them to you.

Underlying all the misunderstanding of these three ideas is lack of knowledge about the acting industry in general.  Even if you have been in a few plays, it doesn't mean you are marketable as an actor.  Even if you have successfully completed the two or three year course of study at a well-known acting conservatory doesn't mean you are a marketable actor .  And just getting an audition doesn't mean you are going to get a part.  The number of hurdles you have to leap over is infinite.

To be an actor you  need much more than experience, training and a break.  First of all you need Charisma.  This is a special kind of charm that allows you to command the attention of a group of people and develop a following.  It comes from many things including your look and your personality.  All casting is done first by look. If you don't look like the part you most likely won't even get a reading for it.  You don't have to be drop-dead gorgeous either.  You just need to have an interesting look that draws people's attention to you.  Many famous actors and actresses were quite homely, but they  caught people's attention.  Here look is connected to personality.  An actor has to be outgoing and friendly and courageous.  He has to be able to meet strangers and fit right in.  An actor has to be able to make others like him.  If you do not have an interesting look, you can work on that by experimenting with hair styles and colors and use the gym to reshape your body.  And there are Charm schools where people can learn to be relaxed and comfortable in all occasions.

If you want to be an actor, then there is much  you need to do besides getting an agent, going to acting school and getting a break.  You have to be what the industry is looking for and be able to get the roles.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

That Point of No Return

It must be the election results or the coming of winter, but a few of these recent topics are less cheerful than most.  Lately I have received news from aspiring actors that they have given up on becoming a professional actor or that they have become so frustrated that they were thinking of giving up on it.

The first said, "Just to let you know that after two years I have given up on the acting phase.  I suppose I was not dedicated after all."  Well, yeah.  Two years?  You hardly gave it a chance.  Twenty years?  Well, OK.  If you tried your best for two decades and decided to quit. You at least gave it a chance. 

Acting is not a goal. It is a way of life.  The talented actor may never earn a living at it, but once in a while he will have the opportunity to ply his craft. And that is what dedicated actors live for--the opportunity to ply their craft.

Another aspirant of three years wrote that he was suffering actor's depression and was very fed up.   Well, now, which of us has a daily life so perfect that we do not sometimes become a bit depressed with the lack of progress and have begun to think that all this work we are doing is of no use at all? 

If acting makes you happy. Then act.  It doesn't have to be professional work.  Some amateur theatre or a semipro dinner theatre production can keep your hand in and keep you from being depressed.  If you are going to be an actor, then be an actor. Act all you can. Amateur and semi-pro theatre do not keep you from advancing in the TV and film world. 

Being an actor may not mean that you will be a star earning millions of dollars.  What it does mean is that you have committed yourself to live a life style that allows you to act as much as possible.. Maybe it is two or three plays or films a year, but because you are an actor, you have chosen to live this way.

Tens of thousands of students graduate acting schools and college theatre schools every year.  After five years maybe a few hundred are still actors.  Most will have given up.  Most have the wrong dream.  They dream they are movie stars with adoring fans.  But most are not qualified to become movie stars in the first place.  Fame and fortune are the wrong dreams for an actor. Happiness in applying his craft as he is able is SUCCESS.