Now I Remember Why I Gave Up On My Acting Dreams

Hate the industry, love the craft.
Publish date:
November 18, 2013
careers, dreams, acting

The truth is I have been looking for a job for four months now, with only one interview and zero offers to show for it, so I thought why not give that dream another go? I decided to recommit to acting. Two weeks later, I remember why I left in the first place.

There are the headshots, postcards, casting director workshops, scene study and commercial classes to keep your chops strong. There is a technique to how you enter the room, how you slate your name to camera, even how you look down at the page of dialogue and up again without breaking the energy of the scene.

Then there’s the pressure of keeping your weight down -- or at least keeping yourself at the weight you are in your pictures -- the ones you shelled out $700 for, an additional $500 for proofs and prints.

Finally, there’s the challenge of managing to have a day job you don’t hate that is financially rewarding enough to live on (and pay for your acting goal expenses) yet flexible enough to let you go actually go out on those auditions when they do happen. Oh, and will let you off work when you do get cast in something and it’s time to shoot, even if it’s for weeks at a time.

They say if you can do anything besides act, then you should, because it’s THAT hard. I used to think that saying was an overstatement meant to weed people out of the business. I don’t think that anymore.

As an actor, your job most of the time isn’t to act: it’s to get auditions. And to do that you need to be a marketing maven. That means postcards, headshots, reels, voice over demos, websites, newsletters, emails, “drop offs” (physically walking your headshot and resume into an agency or casting office) and phone calls to the assistants of agents and casting directors in the hope they will call you in to read for them.

“Casting director workshops” are a source of division among actors: some rebuke them as paid auditions, others say unless you already have stellar representation, it’s the only way to get seen (it is). It goes like this: you pony up $30 to $60 to be seen by a casting director, usually in a group setting, who gives you notes and feedback on a cold read (an unprepared scene usually with a partner you don’t know) then you hound them for the next six months via mailings and additional workshops so they remember you in the hope they will actually contact you for an audition.

Hate the industry, love the craft.

Regardless, I decided to go back in part because I realized I had never given it my all. So what, my Juliet days have passed: now I can play roles I couldn’t before, including the plethora of mom-roles, particularly in commercials, one of the few ways actors who are not stars (most actors!) can make enough money to live on for a year or two. Unless you book a series regular role (which is the usually the goal for TV people) getting a national commercial is one of the only ways “non-name talent” actors can make enough from one job to qualify for a loan to buy a house, or can afford to quit their day job to pursue acting full-time.

In the past two weeks, I’ve done a casting director workshop, an agent showcase (you pay $65 to be seen by six agents) auditioned for two plays and one student film, and started doing a commercial class. Until I get representation again (years ago I got dropped from the roster when my agent left the business) it’s up to me to self-submit.

Here’s the thing: only the agencies get access to the official breakdowns (descriptions of who is casting what) so if you are between agents or unrepresented, you’re screwed in that department. Sometimes you can get surreptitiously get ahold of the elusive breakdowns list for a while, then someone gets found out and you need to find another source.

Other than that, you can submit to non-union roles (not kosher if you are actually in the union,) plays, low budget, student, and some SAG films through Actors Access, another fee-based site. You can pay for annual subscriptions to Workshop Guru to help you track which casting director is workshopping where, Casting About to help you print labels for your mailings to casting directors, Casting Frontier to showcase your reel and pictures, and an endless list of other industry resources.

The amount of time, energy, and money it takes to even pursue acting is, well, it’s your life. And that’s hard to do when you want to actually have a life. That’s why a lot of actors will tell you: “acting is my life” -- because it has to be.

It’s a never-ending cycle of struggling to even attain the audition, then that’s the clincher: you can nail the audition and still not book the part. Because they saw a kajillion other actresses who look like you and also nailed it, and only one of you will book the role. It’s an exercise in the art of letting go. All you can control is how well you prepare for and do the audition. You cannot control whether or not you get cast. You do it, and move on.

It’s been two weeks, but already I can feel the sense of rejection and chaos that actor-life tends to inspire. Then, it happened: I had a kickass audition for the role of Mrs. Fezziwig in "A Christmas Carol." I felt it, and the casting directors let me know they felt it, too. It was that buzzing wave of energy when you are embodying a character and doing it effortlessly and you’re in the zone. It reminded me of why I got into this business in the first place, for the love of theatre, and for the process of acting -- which is, as you can tell now, is very different than the business of acting.

Did I book the job? I don’t know yet. But, I’m practicing letting go of the outcome by moving right along to obtaining the next audition. It’s the only sane thing to do.