When I started out in drama school (more than 15 years ago now) it all seemed a lot simpler. Work hard in class, do your hours of homework, be disciplined and focused, and follow your predecessors once you out. That is, find a decent agent, get auditions, book jobs.
What I wasn’t prepared for is the lows and highs of an industry fraught with part timers, where the guarantee of a full time wage can be few and far between (unless you land a highly coveted popular daytime series regular).
There’s also a battle to be had with your self esteem. When you’re booking you feels like a high roller in a casino. You’re untouchable. And everyone wants a piece of you. But when it’s quiet, you could be in a corner of a brightly lit neon signed room and no one would notice you. It’s a challenging seesaw that feels like the downward momentum is so much swifter than the climax of booking.
But fear not, you will be back on the upward before you know it. And for a brief while you have a chance to focus on things other than how you’ll cover this month’s rent, or if you can afford to attend your best mates wedding that happens to be in any other city/country/world, other than the one you currently reside (and you have a lot of best friends).
If I had a list these would be what I would read daily to remind myself that all is well, and how I’d plan for success.
- Take 20% of anything you make after agent fees and tax and put it away. Do that with every job you earn money on. You don’t know when you might have a lull and you also don’t know when you might just decide you want to take a break or save for a house. By being disciplined with your money early on, you’re preparing for all sorts of inevitable realities over the course of your acting career. It also means that if work goes well, you’ll have saved some for a rainy day and this will be a blessing in disguise later on.
- Every time you get on set, treat every other cast or crew member with that same level of respect you give the director. You do this, and you’ll be remembered as being a pleasure to work with and a true professional, rather than a diva who is pitching above their station.
- Learn your lines. Learn your lines. Learn your lines. Whether it’s a Casting Director workshop, a one liner for TV, a huge Disney movie, a student short film, or even a tiny theatre piece, your lines are the most important thing you need to do. If you have your lines down, your performance follows. If you have your lines down, you can take direction, you can play with your fellow actors, you can enjoy the text. Learn your lines.
- People will get dirty from time to time but don’t get dirty with them. When the tone gets lowered to gossip and mean snide remarks, excuse yourself and find a different route. You’re better than those belittlers. And the truth is we are all just trying to make it in this game called life.
- Be gentle on yourself and take the time to mend your ego when it’s feeling particularly fragile. This might mean sitting in the park and enjoying an ice cream. It might involve taking the day off to visit your favourite museum. Or even booking in for a well earned massage or yoga session.
- If you don’t love it, take a break. The moment you stop enjoying acting for the sheer beauty of the performance of it, and the way it inspires others, consider that it might be time to call it a day for a while.
- and finally…. congratulate yourself often. Every time you get a new agent (hopefully better than the last), every time you book an audition, receive a compliment, book a job or have a stellar acting day, pat yourself on the back and remind yourself – you are living your dream.
I promise you that you may not be a millionaire (hey but maybe you might) but you will certainly gain from the wonder of living a life that is truly inspired every day. By not settling for the safe road, you automatically live a life that is destined for greatness.
Oh to be my younger self again and tell myself all this.