Have you ever questioned why you went down the acting route? What was it that drew you in?
I bet for every single one of us the reality of being an actor is far different than what we first imagined. I actually get frustrated with that expression on peoples faces when you say you’re an actor… they have no idea. It’s the fame thing isn’t it? The significance of being in the public eye, of being a ‘chosen one’, special, superior and adored by all. HA! The acting mirage. It’s no surprise that thousand apply for drama school places every year, or that these talent tv shows are continuing to dominate our screens. It’s the same with singers and musicians (who didn’t want to be Madonna, Kylie or Jason when you were younger?!). It’s also become widespread on social media now in practically any field where people build up such a following that they become an ‘influencer’. Audiences look on in awe as they apply another coating of mascara, crunch those abs, and describe what they’ve eaten today…
But back to acting! I wonder if people knew the reality of an actors world whether they would still want to chase the ‘dream’. Most likely not. And actually, that would help a lot of people potentially wasting years of their life. If you went to drama school, how many in your classmates are still acting? I think there are about 4 from my class of 20. Most drop off in the first year.
So here it is, a reality check – 10 things I hate about acting
1. YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN
Once you leave drama school you’re on your own in an incredibly challenging and demanding industry, that in most cases you will not be prepared for. You could argue that everyone is on their own when they leave education and venture into their careers – yes, to some extent. But with acting: there’re no work colleagues to see each day who understand what you’re doing (unless you do a theatre tour); if you don’t work you don’t get paid, and work is often few and far in-between; you’re responsible for finding your agent and work; there’s no straight route from a to b, you’re relying on your own perseverance and luck, and even then there’s no guarantee of success (unless you have connections of course); you’re a business and have to market yourself and manage your finances as such; you don’t have superiors to speak to for advice; and you have to manage the disappointment of going to audition after audition without hearing anything back, not knowing why, and then manage your friends and family’s expectations.
2. NO, NO, NO, NO
I don’t like the word rejection, ‘not this time’ is a better here. You attend tens of auditions without booking one. I know people who audition regularly and don’t book anything in a year. Going to audition after audition and hearing nothing back, no recall or pencil, takes some getting used to. It’s normal to take it personally especially at the start. It takes a while to understand the process and to know that the reasons you’re not booked are in most cases nothing to do with you or your performance. It’ll be that you didn’t fall in line with the vision of the director, or you don’t physically match someone else who’s been cast, or you’re take on the role was not what they had envisioned (even though it was perfectly good and they hadn’t specified any different). I’ve even heard ‘she’s too Essex’ and ‘I don’t like his jumper’! As a Producer I’ve heard it all. Still, knowing this, accepting it, and after years of it, it is still very frustrating. You have to remember to shake it off and go into each audition fresh and enjoy the process regardless.
Which leads nicely onto feedback… there is no feedback on your auditions, EVER. Well, i say ever, occasionally you may learn that you did well when you get to the last 2 or 3 for a ‘bigger’ role, but there won’t be details. You will only get feedback and constructive criticism at drama school and on training courses. Even on the job, you will rarely receive feedback as such, you’ll be asked to adapt your performance as needed for technical or aesthetic reasons most likely. The exception is theatre of course, where you will often work with people who know the craft and spend time in rehearsals with a team. This is just one reason why it’s important to keep training, even a workshop every now and again. You need to keep sharp and know in your mind that you are on form.
You will feel powerless. You will very quickly feel like you’re at the bottom of the chain, because whether you’re selected for a role is completely out of your hands. Once you’re on set the power dynamics might surprise you. Unless you’re an established name, which brings power, you will be treated like everyone else. The egos and power are often held by other people including producers, directors, even DOPs and other crew members, many of whom will be being paid a higher daily rate than you. You must be ready to take care of yourself, and stand up for yourself when necessary.
5. ROLE TYPES
There are still too many stereotypes portraying behaviour or physical traits that provide false and unhealthy representations. Whether it’s race, gender, sexuality, or status, our character and stories must evolve. We still have a long way to go in this industry and we must accept responsibility for what we are putting out there. When faced with such role types and stories it’s causes personal conflict, and this is an area where power can slip in. Perhaps it’s a big casting director or popular TV show or award winning director, but you disagree with portrayal of your character. It can be a fine line to tread but you have to stay true to yourself.
I can’t think of another ‘job’ where you prepare and do so much of the work before you’ve even got the job. Even sportsmen and athletes, they’re being paid to train and compete. An actor has to prepare for those auditions as if they’re going to do the job. It’s the only way. Thankfully it’s usually a couple of scenes, but it can be much more. The time, energy and thought that goes into just one audition can be enormous, and all without knowing if you’ll ever get a chance to do it again, if it’s worth your time, energy and thought. You have to enjoy the process regardless of what you’re going to get out of it.
Spotlight has over 70,000 members throughout the UK and Europe. On top of that there are countless actors without membership still vying for attention. Sometimes, how can i say this… it feels like a cattle market and you’re treated as such too. The industry is saturated with actors and until you hold enough credibility through experience or a solid agent, you’re just one of the crowd and can be easily replaced. Special? hmm…
Everybody has an opinion and when it comes to acting we’re very forthcoming about sharing it. Even the highest paid actors, Tom Cruise for example, I’d bet (or i know) audiences everywhere are commenting on his average acting ability and how he does the same thing every movie. Unless someone has an understanding of what acting is and the process then they’re not able to pass any kind of educated judgement. Though, there is one thing anyone can comment on – whether they believe you or not.
Patience is not my strong point. I want to get from A to B as efficiently and quickly as possible usually. The trouble is, when there’s no path laid down for how to get from A to B it poses a problem. Frustration, banging your head against a wall, going around in circles… all come to mind! You have to work at your craft, work at your marketing and connections, keep a positive mindset, work hard for each and every audition, keep the faith, and be patient …. and breath
10. PERSONAL BATTLES
Leading on from above, I think most actors will question their choice of career at some point. No job in a long time, or a job that you didn’t enjoy because you didn’t gel with the character, or the cattle calls, or the bad experience with a director. Those actors from drama school who’re now doing well for themselves, they’re quite often the one’s you didn’t expect. The quiet, thoughtful, defiant, independent type. Very often, not the one with the most talent or the loudest mouth. It takes an enormous amount of mindfulness and strength to manage your personal battles, keep a level head, stay motivated and keep going.
I hope this has some of you nodding in agreement, maybe a laugh (or cry!), and for some I hope it puts you off. I believe everyone has a purpose and i hope for everyone that they’re guided to their’s quickly, without being distracted by mirages, because that’s where we are our happiest.
Those that are acting years down the line, they’re the most extraordinary people, they have true passion and love of the craft. They are just being, and doing what they love.
This will be followed up at some point with 10 things i love about acting, because I do love it, for all it’s challenges.