I had an actor come to my studio recently. He was discouraged and frustrated.
He felt like he had to start over as things weren’t happening for him. He had gotten good solid training, booked a few jobs, and was getting out a lot. He was also very good at the “business” of promoting, marketing, and networking. When he came to me he said he wasn’t booking often enough. He was getting lots of auditions, but not booking. I remembered him from many years ago. He was an excellent actor when I saw his work two years ago.
His story is very common, one that I’ve experienced too many times during my coaching years. Let’s call him Tom.
Here’s a typical story.
Tom went to college. He got a degree in accounting or maybe nursing. Having graduated from college with a degree and training, he was “certified” in his field and went out to work. After working in his chosen field for a few years he decided to make a change and pursue acting. So he followed the same educational protocol, he found a school and began to study. He wanted to get trained and get his “Diploma“. He studied acting intently for over 2 years, building his foundation, understanding, and learning the craft. He was very proficient and worked very hard. After two years he had good training. He grasped the preparation process, had sound emotional connections, did a lot of scene study, acted in some plays in classes, studied audition technique, on camera, and more. He even had a worthy acting reel with material to show. He had completed an intense training program for over two years, and he was solid.
The time came when he decided to leave his studies. He felt well trained, knew what he was doing and deemed himself proficient in acting. So he quit all his classes and decided he was now a professional actor. He was only going to work, no more classes. Classes were for students in his mind. He had his “credentials”, and made it his business to start working.
That’s a good head space to get into, but a career in acting doesn’t often work like that. You need to keep your instrument in shape and keep yourself sharp. Tom had gotten rusty and out of shape with his acting skills. I saw Tom audition for a part recently. He was good, not great. For me, it was sloppy and not specific enough. He was out of practice with his craft. That’s all, out of shape as an actor. He didn’t spend enough time keeping up with his work.
Acting is like being an athlete. You don’t stop your training, you need to stay in shape and always be playing your best game.
I was fine with Tom tapering off his intense rigorous classes, and encouraged him to go for work, but told him many times, “Don’t stop doing the work, work out regularly, keep your instrument in tune, so you will be ready when a break comes your way”.
An athlete that trains for a race, doesn’t stop running in between races. Actors shouldn’t stop working their acting chops in between jobs, especially when jobs are far and few between.
Fortunately for Tom, it’s an easy fix. It’s not going backward, it’s what is necessary. Take a class, join a community of actors, maybe a theater company, find a place to work out, “Don’t let the clay dry!”.
Don’t make Tom’s mistake.
I’ve seen it way too often. Keep the juices working, it’s not only good for your work, it’s good for your spirit and well being. And make sure you’re being challenged, not walking through the motions. Ok, that’s it for today, I’m off to the gym.