I am an actor, a writer, a producer, and (occasionally), a director, and I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a wonderful community of creative people. I believe that actors are incredible, passionate, and generous people. Unfortunately, the life of an actor in Los Angeles tends to wreak havoc on even the most grounded, gifted, and good-hearted folks. Having just come off our production of PL.A.Y Noir, I spent a lot of time with 11 other actors, all of whom are not only seriously talented performers, but are exceptional people.
But the sad reality is that it seems like these are exactly the types of people who are most often plagued by self-doubt and insecurity. It’s the smart ones, the really gifted ones, who get most offended by the game of being an actor in L.A., and end up getting the most hurt by it. It’s true, there are a million ‘if onlys’ standing between you and what you think will make you happy. If only I had an agent. If only my agent was better. If only I was getting more auditions. If only I was getting the right kind of auditions. If only I booked that one job, my life would change forever. And on and on. In a town populated by b.s., when so much seems senseless and unfair, it’s easy to turn cynical, jaded, and bitter, especially if you’re smart enough to know better.
So what to do? I’ve always believed that the main reason people become frustrated and angry is that they feel powerless to change their situation. The antidote to this helpless feeling is action and in the case of actors – or any other artists – the answer is to turn all that negative energy into the thing you were born to do: create. Write something you’d like to perform, shoot a short film, get together with your friends and put on a show. Creating your own projects is a hell of a lot more work than waiting for someone to give you a job – I can speak from experience here – but it’s also an incredibly powerful feeling to take matters into your own hands and be the boss of your own life. And there’s a curious by-product of taking action that I’ve noticed again and again in my own life: whenever you’re busy doing other things – creative things – opportunities come in in ways they never do when you’re sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring.
I think the only way for an actor or any other creative type struggling to ‘make it’ to stay sane is this: stop waiting for things to happen. Stop blaming other people for what you didn’t get. Stop making excuses for why you can’t create your own work. There will never be enough money or time, and you’re right, it will never be good enough to meet your own monumental expectations. Do it anyway.
Most of all, stop agonizing over what you have no control over, and stop waiting for someone else to give you permission to be great. Be great anyway.
And here’s the magical part: as a performer, you are storyteller, blessed with the gift of being able to change people. On any given night, an audience member coming in to watch your play may really need to hear the story you have to share. Maybe they’re sad and lonely, maybe they’ve had their heart broken, or maybe they just had a crappy day and want to laugh and forget about it. As performers, we get to tell stories that have the power to move people, to make them feel something, to allow them to – just for a little bit – forget about their problems and the baggage of their day. That’s a powerful gift and it’s our responsibility to use it, as often as we can, and as passionately as we can.
So stop waiting for other people to give you permission to do what you were born to do. Get out there and do it. Your unique voice, and your decision to use it, is something that nobody can ever take away from you.
Until next time, friends.