Knowing full well that I am the last person to aks about how to have a successful career in acting, treatment someone aksed for my advice.
I’m hopeful that this doesn’t come off as too bitter. I’m aware that I’m not Rilke. Thank you.
1) Do you live somewhere other than Los Angeles? If so, it seems tough to have a career from somewhere other than Los Angeles. You’re young. You are the age that is castable and waiting for something to happen wherever you are may not be the best thing. You might want to consider moving to where the industry actually exists (for now, at least… i think it’s on the verge of imminent collapse, especially as the new SAG president is a pro-labor pro-strike fool).
2) Do everything: If you don’t write, start writing. If you don’t direct, start directing. If you have an opportunity to be in something, do it. Don’t ever turn down work unless it is physically impossible to do the job, like being in two places at the same time or something. The more you work, the better you get, even if you’re in a piece of shit children’s puppet show. If you direct, you’ll know what it’s like to be a director and that will make you a better actor to work with and you’ll understand what battles are worth fighting and what battles are winnable as an actor. Acting once you understand what it’s like to write something is important, too, because you will be able to see what the writer is trying to say or if the writer is not saying anything and is worthless. Knowing these things will also inform your character; you’ll be able to see where you fit within the structure of the piece, assuming there is a structure. It will also give you respect for the project; knowing how difficult it is to get something off the ground; how difficult it is for something to actually end up at all watchable.
3) Fight for your character: this is that obvious statement about saying “I” instead of “he” when you’re working. The obvious thing about “someone who is doing something bad can give you a million reasons why it’s good that he’s doing it”. We are all convinced that we’re right. So is your character.
4) Don’t take yourself too seriously: understand that you are completely and utterly replaceable.
5) Take yourself seriously: there is no one else like you and only you have the gifts to offer the rest of us.
6) Study: get in a class. Do scenes. Read the greats from the American Theater. Do scenes by them all the time.
7) Don’t believe the hype: Are the actors you like actually good or do you like them because people say they’re good. Do you think they’re good because they reflect what’s happening in society right now or do you believe them when they say “I am an astronaut.” Do you watch them and think about their personal lives? Their politics? If you do, why? Is it because of something you read about them or is it something you see when they work? Is it good if you do that?
8) Have opinions: There’s nothing worse than watching people who don’t stand for something. If there’s nothing you’d fight for in your life, how can you expect to fight for your character? You’re not going to get along with everyone. If you do, there is something wrong with you. On the other hand, don’t be an asshole.
9) Have knowledge about things other than movies and T.V. Politics and world events are now Movies and T.V., so that does you no good. Learn about engines, sculpture, architecture, computer networking, book bindery, something… anything that doesn’t have to do with Movies & T.V.
10) Don’t do it: If you can be happy acting in community stuff or making videos and writing and acting in plays with friends, do that and have a life. It will be much more fun and you’ll probably be more fulfilled because you’ll get better parts. Understand that the reason you want to be in movies and t.v. is to fill some weird, fucked-up void in your life. You want people to sit in dark rooms and look at your face projected 40ft on a screen. you want to go in to people’s homes and have them stare at you from their couches or beds. the whys are twisted and frightening. you certainly won’t make money doing it.
11) Know where you fit in. Know your type. If you’re starting out, figure out what you’ll be seen as, the funny friend, the fat guy, the ugly duckling girl, the dumb blonde, the stoner, the nerd, the bad guy… if you need to gain 10 pounds to be truly fat, gain it. you can lose it later. but if you’re just overweight, you need to shed that right now. You need to be the best version of yourself; your type. Be honest with yourself. Your parents may have told you that that mole on your cheek is cute, but is it really? It worked for DeNiro and Cindy Crawford. Are you DeNiro or Cindy Crawford? Or are you someone with a mole on their face that needs to be removed? No, you don’t have to be perfect looking. Of course not. But you need to have as few reasons for people not to cast you or sign you. (see #12) You can break your type later once you’re established, but first you need to actually get work.
12) When you walk in to an audition, they want you to get the job. Then they can move on to the next part or they can go home early. So, you start with a perfect score; you start with 100. Everything you do subtracts from this perfect score. The problem is no one knows what things you do that will subtract from your perfect score. There are the obvious things… you know… pissing on someone’s desk, etc., but, that just might get you the job so you have got to be yourself.
13) Be yourself: You need to know who you are to do this. If you don’t know who you are, how can you possibly expect anyone else to know who you are? You can’t expect an agent to sell you, etc., if you don’t know who you are. If you are shy, be shy. It’s okay. If you’re an asshole, go ahead and be an asshole. You know what I mean. Be yourself. Figure out who you are.
14) Are you ready to carry a movie? Are you worth carrying 80 million dollars on your back? It’s okay if you’re not, but it’s a good question to ask yourself from time to time. There is a point when you’ll think “I could be #1 on the call sheet.” and that comes from figuring out who you are and what you have to offer that no one else has.
15) Watch out for the shitheads: There are a lot of dickheads who want to be your shrink and your guru. They struck out and are pissed and want to take it out on you by convincing you that you are damaged and only they can fix you. You don’t need that. You just need an acting teacher and an agent who thinks you’re great. You don’t need a “Transformational inner-interpersonal breakthrough kundalini weekend intensive on-camera commercial and film acting workshop”. If someone says to you “I can’t explain it to you, you just need to come and you’ll see how great it/he/she/the program is…” it/he/she/the program is, most likely, a cult or a church.
16) Have fun: With all of this, realize that if you get work, it is the easiest thing in the world and you are lucky as hell and you should respect that by having a blast doing it.