There are roughly 350,000 people who call themselves “actors” in this country. Unlike going to medical school and having to go through a rigorous training program to be able to call yourself a doctor, anyone can wake up one day and declare themselves an actor. Some will simply go to the mall, get a headshot taken and enroll in a local class and think they are ready to break into the business. Others will go to a reputable college, study under a prestigious teacher once they graduate, do a showcase and think they are ready to break into the business. There are a lot of possible paths. The one common denominator though is that out of that 350,000, less than 10% are actually making a living as an actor. Out of that 10% less than 5% will actually become a celebrity in their field.
Feeling defeated? No need to. Knowledge is power.
Artistry is only a small part of being a successful working actor. All the talent and training in the world does not prepare an actor with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the BUSINESS part of being an actor. At the end of the day you are selling yourself as a product and this is a business like any other. It is extremely competitive and in order to break in you have to be strategic and gain a competitive edge over every other actor out there. I encounter actors every day at www.theactorsgreenroom.com ranging from the mall girls to the highly trained thespians who are ivy league graduates who can’t land an agent. The question I get asked is always the same:
“I think I’m special and have a lot to offer so why isn’t this happening for me?”
Thinking you are “special” is all fine and good…but most actors are not doing the work necessary to understand the business and how it works nor are they seeing it AS a business. It’s a phenomenon that I have not encountered in any other business. It’s the curse of what I call “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There”. Many actors are heavily invested in the trajectory of:
Doing mailings, submitting for projects online, occasionally attending a casting director workshop (often times without clear direction and understanding of how to utilize this tool) and then just hoping. Side note: Most also think that they should just have an agent eager to represent them.
In this paradigm, everyone else is responsible for the actor’s lack of success, there is rarely any self-reflection or attention paid to basic business principles an breaking into the field is just labeled “impossible.” They then “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There” and keep rinsing and repeating until eventually they give up. Many actors think that they should just be given opportunities to share their passion. That the rules of business do not apply to them and that it is an outrage if anyone even thinks they should. Most actors also assume that they are all actually “good” and ready. They don’t understand how high the bar is, and that the principles of packaging, marketing, relationships, and business savvy apply to them as well.
I have helped several actors book Series Regular roles with no credits, book major recurring roles, Guest Stars, land agents and so forth. How? They were willing to leave the self-defeating paradigm. They accepted that this is a business and began to treat it as such. They mastered themselves, their marketplace and their careers started to take off.
“If You Build It, They Will Come.” – FIELD OF DREAMS
– Jennifer Rudolph