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No Off-Season for Actors

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“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” is commonly used. And it’s true. In this business we can’t be too nearsighted. In fact, we have to be both nearsighted and farsighted at the same time. Can you see the bigger picture of what you want while also having a firm grasp on the small steps it will take to get you there?

The marathon analogy isn’t the only way acting is like a sport. As actors we need to be in peak physical, mental and emotional shape; in essence, we have to be Olympic athletes. Acting is a sport: we train, we practice, we take care of our bodies and minds, we imagine ourselves holding that tiny trophy at the end of all that hard work. And then we push ourselves even further. We aim to do it again and again and again, to be better every time. The Olympic-level actors we see (the ones who work consistently) are doing this on a daily basis and have been for years. They’ve put in the time and energy into making themselves great. Consistently.

I think that’s why many sports-athletes (as opposed to acting-athletes) eventually make their way into acting. The need to compete. To beat the odds. To persevere. To push oneself. To make sacrifices. To test one’s boundaries. Those feelings never go away. I’m no different.

I’ve played sports since I was six years old. It was my life. One sport for every season. Sometimes two. And then when I realized it would be hard for a female to make “playing sports” a career, I pursued my hidden, never-to-be-spoken-of-in-public, interest in acting, more seriously (because, clearly, that’s a career where you can easily make money).

In all honesty, I like to think that my history as an athlete has given me somewhat of edge in a highly competitive field, but an acting career is much, much harder. Partly because there is so much luck involved. Partly because it’s an open source where anyone can “make it” at any time with any amount of training. Man, at least sports have clearly defined rules and milestones.

To be clear, I am by no means saying I am/was the greatest athlete or the greatest actor. I do think, however, someone who’s competed, at a college level or higher, has a great sense of time management and inherent discipline, which can only aid in one’s acting career. And I’m not discounting those who grew up solely in the world of theatre and acting. They have their own positive attributes (that I can’t attest to) that I’m sure overlap with those of athletes. I think it’s fair to note the difference. It’s hard to monitor “who’s better” in acting when decisions come down to subjectivity and a multitude of random factors. Rarely in athletic competition does the better person/team not win. And if they don’t win, then they weren’t the better person/team on that day. I think this gives actors with a competitive background (in any field) stronger resiliency to continue to persevere every day, even when it gets too hard.

Example: I had been in Los Angeles long enough where I knew no one was going to just hand me roles to play. And like so many others before, and who still do now, I decided to take my career into my own hands. If no one was going to cast me in something then I’d do it myself. Luckily, I already had a firm grasp of my type and what I did well. The logical conclusion: write a web series, centered around sports, where I was the star.

3 strikes

In my pit-stop back home between graduating college and moving to Los Angeles, I coached softball at my old high school. It quickly proved for easy fodder. I knew I needed to do something creative with this, but wasn’t sure exactly what. A book? A feature? That’s when the web series landscape not only stepped in but blew up conventional norms for the entertainment industry. Perfect. This was a manageable, and practical, way to tell a story I knew very well and show myself off. The series is called 3 Strikes, and I’m proud to say it’s the only scripted content dedicated to softball. Anywhere.

The story could end there, but it doesn’t. In short, I went through a lot (a lot) of ups and downs making 3 Strikes. All of which can be recounted here. The point of it is, my lifetime of competition propelled me forward throughout the entire journey, each time, through the good and bad. As actors we face a daily roller coast ride of emotions and I’m thankful to the roller coaster ride of competitive sports for giving me a chance to cut my teeth in terms of persistence and perseverance before attempting to tackle the real “Big Show”.

As a side note, my initial intent in making 3 Strikes was to create a vehicle for myself and to show others how to cast me. The awesome by-product of making a show about a team of female athletes is that I got to cast a lot of my female friends. In fact, 90% of the roles (speaking and non) are females. Considering the daily abundance of male-driven content, that sentiment has gone from “happy accident” to “how can I do this regularly?”

3 strikes 2

Sarah McLean

About Sarah McLean

Sarah McLean is an actor, writer, improviser and photographer living in Los Angeles. She writes a bi-weekly blog, The Inkslinger, focusing on sitcoms and scripted comedy. In addition to sports, Sarah loves music; you can most likely see (but not hear) her at practically any concert in LA. A lifelong athlete, she created the only scripted content about softball. Anywhere. You can find out more about Sarah at her website: www.thesarahmclean.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @iamsarahmclean2. To learn more about 3 Strikes check out www.3strikestheseries.com.