Oh geeze. So, I have been asked by a few sweet souls if I have any advice for would-be actors. I’ve been asked a few times. So I’m just gonna come out and write this so I can, from this moment on, point and say, “Here. Have at it.”
There are three ways of going about becoming an actor. (NOTE: All opinions expressed in this piece are merely that of one middle-aged and moderately embittered woman and are not meant to diagnose or treat any genuine artistic maladies.) The obvious way, the smart way and the artist’s way.
The obvious way is ancient, tried and true. Everybody does it and fails, but the key is knowing it will be DIFFERENT FOR YOU! First you vow to ignore any advice you get from old, haggard actresses because they are obviously jealous. Next you have to get a tattoo of the comedy/tragedy masks somewhere on your body. Make some YouTube videos, preferably of you doing a monologue from a very famous movie or television show. Never a play, nobody out there has heard of plays and they are too hard to find and copy from YouTube. Once you have at least ten replies that either tell you that you should go to Hollywood or are from obvious “haters” of your talent, move to Hollywood. Get an apartment in Hollywood. None of this Echo Park bullshit for you, you’re gonna be an actor! I’m sorry, strike that, you’re gonna be a star! (And, uh, North Hollywood is not, repeat NOT, Hollywood, just a little further north.) So find out where the stars eat and party and stuff and hang out there. Get your hair done where they do. Buy the same dogs they have. You gotta act like a star to be a star.
If you really want to be dedicated, find out who coaches famous actors and take their acting classes, because they totally have hookups. Read “People Magazine” and cut out pictures. When you can correctly identify every single street corner any celebrity is photographed on, you will pass your test and be discovered. In the mean time, keep making YouTube videos, complain loudly about how you are way hotter than any of the girls from “High School Musical”, (or boys from “Twilight”), and make sure any famous people you DO run into get a copy of your headshot and resume*, as well as a DVD you’ve made of your best YouTube videos. And remember, if you act like you’re important, everybody will think you’re important.
*a note on your resume: Since it is unlikely you have actually done anything with a title and character, feel free to put classes and auditions you’ve had. Maybe a few roles you did in acting classes. It’s cool, nobody reads them anyway. Don’t lie though… it makes you think too hard.
The smart way is a lot of fucking work, but the way to go if what you want to be isn’t so much “an actor” but “on TV” or “in the movies”. First thing you need to know is that you MUST NOT rely on your talent. Often being talented gets in the way of getting work on television or in the movies, in fact. Get that through your head right now. If you have a clear career trajectory in mind, don’t waste time in school. I totally mean this. I didn’t learn a damn thing in school that I couldn’t have learned on the job AND I wouldn’t have been wasting the most marketable years of my life in college with other poor but brilliant saps doing the same thing. Get a bunch of money in the bank and then get the hell to Hollywood. Get a cheap apartment in North Hollywood so you don’t blow through your savings, because the last thing you need right now is a day job. A night job stripping or tending bar is fine as a last resort because it leaves your day open for auditions.
Now, I’m guessing you have a good idea who’s career you want, right? Yeah. That is the LAST person you want to contact. Find out who cast them first and who their first agent was. THAT’S who you want to target, as well as a couple of similar agencies and managers. No more than five, so you can be precise and tenacious. Find out which workshops the casting directors attend and spend the fucking money to get in front of them. At least three times. Same with the agents and managers. Rabid ferocity is the key to getting what you want in this career. If you can have your ego surgically removed, it is a good idea. Be persistent and ruthless. If you meet an important agent or casting director at a party, it is okay to sleep with them but NOT to give them your headshot. You may leave your card on the bedside table when you leave in the morning with a little note that says, “Thanks for the photos. Hear from you soon. xoxo.”
Finally there is the artist’s way, which starts with figuring out what the hell acting is and if you even like it. I’m betting most of you REALLY like the applause and the attention and the perceived fame and scant chance at money. If you are one of the few that like telling stories, then go join a community theater group first. Watch good actors. More importantly, watch bad actors and figure out how not to do what they do. Be patient. If you aren’t cast in a play, see if you can help the director so you learn how that piece of machinery works. Read a Shakespeare play, figure out what the hell it means, then watch a movie of it and tell me why the play is better. Be nice, because if you’re doing something that makes you happy, then there’s really no reason to be an asshole.
YOU are permitted to take classes and experiment. You may write your own pieces. You may also, ironically, make YouTube videos, but only because they crack you up and you don’t really give a shit if anybody else likes them. Get your heart broken not because you didn’t get the part, but because your soul aches to do Tennessee Williams and who knows when they’ll be brave enough to mount him (ahem) again at the Moosejaw Community Playhouse. And if you end up working as a veterinary technician for the rest of your life, know that in my opinion, you are the only one who really became an actor.
If all else fails, try my way and start a blog.
A Post Script….. so you know I’m taking my own advice