The People versus the Aspiring Actor

girl-in-front-of-giant-stride“And, have you been discovered yet?” “Oh, you’re moving to LA? So you’re gonna be a big movie star?” These are just a couple of the things I’ve been “asked” by people around me when something about my dream to become an actress came up. It always stings. Puts a little kick in my gut.

It’s part of leading a life that not many people know, understand or choose. So with these questions I, and any other actor, will have to learn to deal. Along with many other things that are hard to explain to outsiders. So how do you deal with it? Do you give a full exposé on the intricacies of the film industry or do you leave it be? Here is what works best for me…

The Reality of Life as an Aspiring Actor
The closer I get to moving to Los Angeles (2 weeks and 5 days from now!), the more I start to realize the implications of the life I’ve chosen. Sure, I can still always cancel my ticket, forget my dream and become a stockbroker instead, but I won’t. In 22 years I never did. I will be, for now, a struggling actress.

Where my friends are all about to finish their University degrees and get big, high paying careers, I will be scrambling around doing different jobs, hoping to get acting work. Where they will move out of the student phase and get real houses with actual rooms, I’ll be sharing a flat with another aspiring artist. Where they will be successful in the way society sees it, I won’t be.

And that’s okay, because it’s my own choice. If the last years have taught me anything it’s that I’ll be happier pursuing my dream than pursuing a Masters degree. And as long as I’m still in the first part of my twenties it will probably even be considered cool and exciting by some. But I do worry about later.

Of course I go to Los Angeles thinking it’s entirely possible that I become the next Nicole Kidman and win an Oscar, and I have to, otherwise I might as well stay home. The possibility that I will become a mid-aged struggling actress with no success, money or happiness is not a healthy thing to dwell if you’re giving up everything for an acting career. But it is the biggest fear of every actor isn’t it? It’s what makes the profession so hard: feeling the possibility of not succeeding, ever.

Explaining Life as an Actor to Others
The thing is that it’s unrelated to talent, intelligence, beauty or hard work. And it’s something I want to make clear every time my acting career is mentioned by family or friends. I want them to know so badly that directors and casting directors are looking for the right type, not the best or the most beautiful. I want them to know that some working actors are neither talented or hard workers, and that some unsuccessful ones are both.

But it costs so much energy. And quite honestly: a real understanding can only ever come from those within the industry. Even someone that has done a three week internship as PA at a casting agency will understand better than someone you’ve spent a 1000 words on. So what to do?

I myself are starting to see now that I’m not living for other people. I don’t live for the colleague that rolls her eyes at my pipe dream, not even for the cousin that laughs it off. I would really like each of these people to think of me as a sane, intelligent and hard working person, but I should stop caring as much about that as I do now.

The only important people are my nearest and dearest: my family, my boyfriend, my friends… and they are doing their utmost to understand. And that’s enough.

A Little Help from Big Names
I recently discovered an article about trying to become an actor by Jenna Fischer, star of the U.S. version of The Office, and I was so happy. Because she is a successful actress. But it took her 8 years to become one. And when she tells about the things she had to do to get to that point, people can understand right away that even successful actors started out the way you and I do. Some even for much longer than 8 years. When Jenna Fischer says these things it has more value, she has more authority. So I went and had my mom and friends read her article. And I felt it helped a lot.

Also a great little thing to show anyone that would like to get a deeper understanding of your situation is the episode Off Off Broadway from Louis Theroux’ Weird Weekends. Louis is a documentary maker that I have loved from the start and when I accidentally landed on this episode with my boyfriend, I kind of felt relieved. In Off Off Broadway Louis follows several actors in New York as they make their way to auditions and the like. It’s a sad little picture that he draws, but at the same time demands a certain respect for the actors involved.

Well, I hope that helped! How do you deal with answering silly questions and explaining your situation to family and others not in the film industry?
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9 responses to “The People versus the Aspiring Actor

  1. devingoodsell

    The successful actors work an incredible amount, more so than people ever imagine. Yes I admit there are a few people in LA that get in front of the right CD at the right moment for the right film and have a lucky break, but most of these are one hit wonders as well because they don’t continually book, or after they type cast runs dry they are out of work.

    An actor, not the typically Hollywood “I’m an actor” actor, but a true actor work’s his or her butt off. Cold reads, auditions, character study, intensive training, memorizing lines, muscle memory, ecu work, improv, workshops, show cases, not to mention actually booking projects and performing and studying for those is an immense amount of work to keep up with.

    I know people sometimes think an actor just shows up, spouts some lines to a camera enough times until (s)he gets it right and then leaves, but the reality of the situation is far from that idea. Actors get very few tries, if not only one, to do a great job. Just like an audition, they have to be on their game and if they aren’t it’s unlikely they will book again. And finally the most brutal aspect of acting is you are almost always unemployed. Imagine your corporate friends finding out every few months if not weeks they need to interview for a job because their positions only last a few weeks to a couple months.

    So the next time one of your corporate friends or family members try to make you feel small in regards to the career your pursuing, just tell them that they couldn’t handle the challenge your taking on. 90% of the actors out here in LA turn around and go home within the first two years because it’s not what they expected. It’s involves hard work, sacrifices, and an intense passion to carry you through all the crap you have to put yourself through to become a successful actor.

    • Devin, your comment is really interesting. I was just thinking about it today how the corporate stooges that label us like “dumb hippie artists” have no idea about the thick skin we have and the hard work we put in without the promise of any return. They would probably be drinking themselves to death if they had to do the same for their respectable jobs.

      Anyway, I don’t think people around me who make ignorant remarks do so to hurt me, they just don’t know what the business is like. And I can’t blame them. But still yeah, some people also just aren’t open minded enough and prejudiced from the get go. How are the reactions in your environment?

  2. Anna

    That is so true!!! the only thing i would like to add is that some people just don’t get acting – how it is to give yourself away and to grow someone esle from the inside of you. In our religion it is olso considered to be some kind of sin, as if you’re wretching your soul. well that’s what i heard from my mother and some friends. but then i’ve realized that everyone likes and is really impressed by excellent acting in the good movies and it doesn’t metter if they understand acting as it is or not). real acting is so difficult thing to do, but i am feeling so true doing it!!!!!

  3. Nice blog you have there, thank you for writing it.
    i also plan to become actor, but i dont really know what it takes to be one still. but i want to become and i somehow believe i have what it takes(time shows, heh).
    wish you luck everyone, i believe if u believe in something enough to fight for it, you gonna get it.

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