When pursuing the arts, it is important to realize that making it big is an extremely difficult task that requires enormous sacrifice and dedication. We have all heard the odds of success in this industry are very low, a minimal percentage ranging from 1 – 2%. I truly believe that numbers only apply due to the lack of dedication from most actors. The fact of the matter is, most people aren’t really familiar with TRUE hard work. We think we are hard workers (for the most part we are) because we go to work everyday and do everything asked of us. That won’t be enough to make it in an industry filled with actors who want it much more than you do. We all think we want to make it more than the person beside us but there is always that one person who will put in one more hour than you, one more weekend than you, and cancel that holiday. Those are the people who work when others sleep and who sacrifice when the rest of us compromise. That is what I want to talk about in this article. Going the extra mile to make sure you reach your dream and not become part of that 99% statistic.
First off, I think actors that take the necessary steps actually have a much higher chance than 1%. They just need to know the amount of training, effort and determination that is actually required. All actor friends of mine that I know who have found success, dedicated their lives to the craft and worked harder than everyone around them. I am going to break this down into a few sections:
Believe it or not most actors never train for an adequate amount of time or are training incorrectly and thus never really become good enough to sustain a high level career. The minimum amount of training just to get a solid foundation of the craft is FIVE YEARS. Thats correct, you should be in a weekly class working on plays for a minimum of five years. That is the minimum. I suggest staying in class until you are working so much that you no longer have time to be in a class. If you are not working regularly you have no excuse to not be in class. I always hear stories from actors who talk about the famous actors who “never went to acting class”. Look, if you want to compare yourself to a few rare instances where people made it with no training go ahead, but I would rather get good at what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to know that if I have to show up on set opposite Amy Adams that I can hold my own. Also, many of these stories about actors who haven’t trained are just not true. A new name pops up all the time ad then you find out that they did in fact attend school and trained A LOT. Do not leave your career in the hands of chance! You are not going to be the person Steven Spielberg finds at Starbucks and then cast as the lead in his next film. This is fantasy and you must stop living in fantasy. Go to class, work on plays, work on your flaws until they are your strengths.
Read three plays a week. This is a rule I still try to live by. I obviously can’t do it every week but I still very much read plays all the time. When I was a full time student I read three plays a week religiously and it helped me grow that much faster. Start with one play and try to get to three. If you don’t have a full time job and training is all you do, you can do this easily and you should. People who work full time and still manage to put in this work, means you have no excuse. Anytime you think something is not realistic, it is. Trust me people are doing it. They are working 8 hours a day, coming home shooting an audition and reading a play before bed. There are work horses out there and there are a lot of them.
EDUCATION / KNOWLEDGE
Be as knowledgeable as you can both about the business and the craft. Know what shows are shooting in your city and in others that you might be right for. Know when pilot season is, when episodic season is. Know when the downtimes are so you can use those times to go back to class or catch up on personal things. Be around other actors who are knowledgeable. BE IN THE LOOP. You can always tell an actor is working hard when most actors you meet know who they are even in another city! I have friends who are known in acting communities everywhere because of their sheer hustle. They work and study in different places and quickly make friends. They keep industry informed no matter where they go.
When those sides come in and you have to walk into an audition room you must know there will be actors in that room that are coming to snatch that role from you and they mean business. When I get my sides, my life revolves around that audition until I have left that room or sent in my tape. Nothing else matters to me. I am so confident in my prep that you must bring the best version of yourself to take a part away from me. I’m coming to take that part and you better be damn good to beat me out for it. I have given my life to this craft and I’m not about to take any opportunity I get lightly. TAKE EVERY AUDITION SERIOUS BECAUSE OTHER ACTORS ARE. I research the show, the director, the leads and the producers. If the show is on the air I watch a few episodes (if its not a last minute audition) to get a feel of the style. Get off book, have the lines in your bones. I rehearse and put my unique touch on the scene because I want to stand out.
Don’t get a pair of sides and leave things to the last minute because you have three days. THREE DAYS IS NOT A LOT OF TIME. You need every last minute to prepare. I used to get sides, leave it in my email and go out for a drink that night knowing I had “lots of time” to get it done. I would never book, ever. Want to know why? Because while I was having a drink the person who booked had the sides printed, highlighted and was already getting off book. Right from the get go I was three steps behind. People are working while you are not. And after years of being three steps behind that ads up. The actors you were competing with are working actors and you are still auditioning. When the sides come in, focus on the audition until it is done. Tell your friends you can’t go out, you are busy. The restaurants and bars are not going anywhere but this opportunity will.
In conclusion, I made many mistakes when first starting out and really hope to help whoever is reading this not make the same ones. I want everyone to have the best chance of success and so I hope this inspires you in some way. I hope it helps switch your mindset to a more focused and driven one. Your competition is not playing around and neither should you. Be the actors other actors are afraid of when you show up to an audition. When they see you walk in they should all say Sh*T. They know you are coming prepared.
Written By Mershad Torabi