Today there are so many reality shows on television that it is now actually announced in promos that a series is "scripted." Though the perception is that many reality shows are scripted as well, a noted scripted series is one that more often than not, uses actual actors. But more and more we are seeing reality stars, music artists and the like transition into scripted work; be it film or television.
While many of these individuals have access to top coaches and classes, the average person may not. However watching the millions that are paid to many actors and personalities on our favorite shows or in some of our favorite movies, watching the glamorous red carpet arrivals of these stars and the incredible lifestyles they seem to live, make being an actor very enticing. These days money is not the root of all evil, attention is. And a lot of people desire the fame and money and attention of being a big actor. However, acting is not a sport...it's a CRAFT. And it's a DISCIPLINE that requires just that - discipline.
So for those of you out there that see the expensive cars, the fancy clothes and the grandiose lifestyle and are enticed, be careful what you ask for. Or for those of you who were the Wizard in your kindergarten production of Oz or graduated from a performing arts junior high school or high school and think that prepared you for the business...I'd suggest you think again.
Acting is much more business than show. And even the show part requires a lot. So this is my run down on several of the necessary marks to make the cut and gauge if you really are cut out to be an actor. Of course this is a short-list, and not all-inclusive. But these are some key things to take note of and a good checklist for yourself. It all seems glamourous...but it's WORK!
Do you like to READ? Any actor worth their salt has become–if they were not already–pretty well read. As an actor it is your job to BECOME your character. To do that it is necessary to do research on that person. If you are playing a paleontologist with a bi-polar condition, you cannot rely on the dialogue to get you where you need to be as that person. You need to read up on and study paleontology. You need to read up on and study bi-polar conditions. Then you need to study the actual people once you've gotten background on the occupation or the condition. So this way you pick up on affects and mannerisms and potential ticks that you can add to your character to give it layers and depth and authenticity. There is more to this but this is just an overall summation of what's necessary to be in this business for more than one horrible movie or role.
Do you like to STUDY? Acting is more than memorizing words and regurgitating them verbally. It's more than being attractive or having a pension for the dramatic. It's more than being the funny one in your family. Now don't get me wrong. Some people are born with an innate talent for acting. They get it, they are natural and possess great instincts. They come to the table immediately with choices and maybe don't even know it. BUT raw talent will only get you so far. Yes, there are scores of actors that may have never studied and have done well. But there is no guarantee that will be YOU. Wouldn't you rather study and add some technique to that raw talent and really increase your chances for success? Not to mention that once you've studied a few techniques, you can then see what exactly works best for you, and also understand your fellow actors and scene partners and how they work to see how to best work together to get this to be amazing on film or stage.
Do you like to LISTEN?! Acting is so much more than waiting for your line or your turn to speak. Every great actor has mastered the art of listening. Being in a scene with someone else requires great listening skills so that you are able to authentically react both verbally (with the given dialogue) and physically to what is being said and even done. If you are in a scene and someone just said they got proposed too, just responding "that's great!" is not enough. Is your character REALLY happy for them? Are you jealous? Are they even happy for themselves? All of those things and more have to be found out by the viewer and that can only happen if you are present and listening and are ACTIVELY in the moment and scene; not simply waiting for your turn to be the focus of what's happening. Listening allows you to engage both your partner and the audience.
Are you PATIENT? The most familiar saying amongst actors, especially in film, is "hurry up and wait." As an actor you spend a lot of your time waiting. From waiting to hear back from your submission for a role, to waiting on an agent or manager to sign you, to waiting to be called in an audition, to waiting for a call back, to waiting for the final confirmation that you got it, to waiting for hair and makeup to finish with you. There is also waiting to be fitted for your part with wardrobe, waiting for the picture to be up so you can shoot, waiting for the scene you are NOT in to be shot so your next scene can come. Waiting for lunch an hour later because the shot is still in process, your hunger pangs be damned. Then there's always waiting for the piece to be edited and released. Waiting to see how it does once it's released. Waiting for the footage from the director for your reel after it's released. Waiting to land your NEXT gig and start the waiting all over again. LOL. If you are not patient, this DEFINITELY is not the game for you.
Are you HUMBLE? If you are looking to be a star, famous or rich...this is NOT the career for you. Humility is necessary. Do not believe that the big actors that you see being jerks all of the time and ordering folks around is going to work for YOU. They are allowed most times to do that and be that way, because they are now at that pinnacle. But they did not start out screaming at PA's and cursing out the Crafty Truck. Humility is knowing you are going to kill the scene, but still having a bit of anxiety about it that pushes you to work to kill the scene. Humility is being quiet while your scene partner finds their center and their moment, even though you are already grounded, centered and ready to make this thing happen. Humility is taking notes and adjustments from your director even if you may not agree or understand right at that moment. But trusting that at least trying what you've been told is better than giving push back; if what they suggest doesn't work, believe me, they will see that and switch things back around.
Are you COMMITTED? Acting has become something that many say they want to do. And with the advancement of technology, it's easy to grab anything from an iPhone to a 7D and decide you are an actor once you get in front of it. But will you commit to this path you have chosen? Let's say you've trained, you've auditioned and it's been several months but no bites. What will you do? Will you give up? Will you run and hide and say dammit this isn't fair? Or will you study more in the interim? Will you then work to possibly create your own thing in the meantime, or at least learn how to do that? Will you work for free until that nice check comes along, as long as it's a great project and story? Will you study with other actors on scenes and find new nuances for characters or new things about your own instrument that you didn't know was there? This business is one of consistent rejection, invalidation and dismissal. It is not for the faint at heart and it is not for those that cannot commit to the good and the god forsaken in this biz.
There are so many more questions I could ask to test your resilience, commitment, desire and passion for this craft. But that would be a hell of a long blog post. However, I say these few things to say...think about it. Think LONG and HARD on if acting is really your game. Know that if it's not, that is okay. There are so many other facets to this business if you still want to be in it. You could write, direct, produce, style, design, do wardrobe, grip, electrical and so much more. However, even in those positions, you HAVE to know that anything worth having will require a modicum of diligence, commitment, endurance and faith. And most importantly, many will attempt these things, but only the called and purposed will actually make the cut!