Even when ..
You feel burnt out
Your ‘big break’ hasn’t yet happened.
You thought you would be famous by now …
Show of hands – who rolled their eyes at their acting coach when they advised the following:
‘This is a marathon not a race.’
Okay, now re-raise your hand if you thought you would have ‘made it’ by now?
Well, I am here to reassure you that everything you are feeling is completely NORMAL. Listen, the entertainment industry is full of ups, downs, blizzards and storms. This world can give you the sunniest of days where you are on the highest of highs, but then bring you right back down to ground zero. So, I have to beg the obvious question – why did you decide to become an actor in the first place?
When was your moment of magic where you knew, you has to risk the instability, financial security, or even put on hold starting a family and ‘settling down one day?’
We all have had one. Was it your first school play? Or your first time walking past a film set? Which actors inspired you growing up? What were your favourite films or TV shows?
Get specific and tap into that feeling. Because in that moment, you didn’t feel fear. You felt excitement like you could do anything. And then – you were forced to grow up and become an independent contributor to society by means of paying taxes and fueling the economy with an ‘adult’ occupation.
Enter the reality check.
Regardless of what stage you are at in your acting journey, everyone gets burnt out. Many of you have probably gone to school, studied your craft, volunteered much of your time in the indie world, and perhaps you have even made your own movies and put up your own plays. You have dedicated and sacrificed that little voice in your head telling you to go back to school and re-think your entire life plan. You have also managed to do all the above while juggling 2-3 jobs, one of them most likely as a server or bartender.
Now, flip the coin. Congratulations! You are a working actor! You are booked and busy, with your ABC series regular, your two feature films that have just completed the film festival circuits, and your upcoming dream job with a full A List cast and millions of dollars on the line.
Your schedule is now run by a team of managers and assistants. You have full press tours, talk show interviews, and multiple industry appearances. Its rare that you get much of a say in your ‘time off,’ let alone your sponsored designer wardrobe, and be sure to have all flowers and gifts pre-scheduled to be sent out to every family member and loved for your absence, yet again, at every one of their significant life events. Oh, and your personal life, well now you have to worry about the paparazzi following your every move, forget the privacy act, and don’t even consider ever leaving the house in sweat pants again. And heaven forbid you get a pimple.
Yes, these two examples can be exaggerated, but guess what – the grass ain’t always greener. Everyone wants more, instead of first showing gratitude and appreciation to just how far you have come. You already deserve huge congratulations for deciding to embark on this crazy path of acting. This is one of the few career choices where, shocker, your education does not equal your success.
We all know the acting friends who did the whole thing and trained in a traditional university style program, graduating with their BFA or MFA. There are those who chose the conservatory route dedicating 6 – 48 months of intensive study and practice. And we also all have that one friend who decided one day ‘hey I should give that acting thing you do a try,’ and then they somehow booked a reoccurring role on Netflix.
There is no recipe. There is no formula.
But there is your passionate, relentless pursuit to keep going. I am all about grinding and doing whatever it takes to make it happen. However, you need to realize when its time to take a break.
A what ?!
For how long?
However long is necessary for your mental and emotional health.
But won’t I be forgotten?
No, because guess what – acting will always be there. This career doesn’t expire. You have the ability to decide when you want to come back, and oh wow – look how refreshed you look?
Did you take some time to live your life? Oh my goodness you look HAPPY! What is that a ring on your finger ?? Is that your company I saw featured in Forbes? You bought a house!
Wow, you seem to be doing so well for yourself. Look at all this real-life experience you have gotten now to put towards new character roles and true stories of LIFE!
Ok rant over.
But do you understand the point I am trying to make?
It is okay to be a human being and live your life. Read that again. It is OKAY to be a HUMAN BEING and LIVE YOUR LIFE.
After all, isn’t that what we are doing? Telling tales of people and what those people have gone through. Their trials and tribulations of love, loss, and everything in-between.
You need to get that expiry date out of your head and understand that if you are a miserable actor, it’s rare anyone will want to hire you. Casting can smell desperation and even though we signed our life over to our craft, trust me when I saw you are serving no one by burning yourself out.
In Matthew McConaughey book ‘Greenlights’ he talks all about the many hiatuses he took away from Hollywood. From motorcycling across Europe before he was famous, to walking through the New Mexico desert with a monk named Brother Christian while he confessed his troubles, to cruising the Amazon, and then wrestling with the best wrestler in an African Village. Sounds fun alright 😉
There are countless actors who broke through ‘later in their lives,’ from Jon Hamm at 36 to Jessica Chastain at 34. Ken Jeong , or shall I say Dr. Ken Jeong, was 40 when we first met him in ‘The Hangover,’ while Alan Rickman made his career changing debut in ‘Die Hard,’ at 42.
And don’t even get me started on Susan Boyle’s global shake up as a 47 year old singer.
Let go of your guilt and go and work on yourself. That is the greatest gift you can give back to any audience, when you have truly looked within and re-discovered your purpose as a story teller.
If there is anything our world needs right now, it’s authenticity. Don’t be afraid to laugh with friends or cry as you actually notice the beauty of a night’s sky. Read a play to just read a play, with no purpose to dive into scene study or character analysis. Take a dance lesson, try something new, go on that backpacking trip, and boldly live every part of your life so that you can create the space to give your gift to story.
Now off you go –