We’re all looking for it. Other people seem to have the secret to it. We’re constantly being told that this particular course / event / person will prove to be it for us. And we try not to talk about things with others because we fear, somewhere in our few successes and connections, lies our own secret: maybe something we skipped over or didn’t pick up on at the time and this other person will pick up on it and steal it from us.
It’s our shortcut to acting success.
I was reminded of it while at Perform 2012, while speaking to someone about what they wanted to do, acting-wise. They didn’t want to go and do the training in order to start on the journey of their craft-perfecting. They didn’t want to have to get in a show to be seen by an agent. They didn’t want to have to get in any classes, even to learn the basics. They didn’t want to have to ‘faff about’ and do this, that and the other. They literally asked me what the shortcut around ‘all that’ was and how they could make that a reality for them. For the first time in quite a while, I honestly didn’t know what to say.
The encounter set me wondering. Did we all think that we were that special once upon a time? Have we all at some point thought that learning from others who were accomplished and talented in the craft was beneath us and that we were so much better than everyone else that we didn’t have to go through the same struggles as them?
The daughter of one of my friends refuses to take any roles that are not leading roles. Another acquaintance has become incredibly frustrated over the past few years because of his refusal to do any unpaid work – considering he has very little in the way of experience. And another girl I know goes to every Britain’s Got Talent, Big Brother, Make Me A Star-like audition that happens, coming away heartbroken from it all when, yet again, she has not shone through.
Here’s the thing about the shortcut to acting success – there isn’t one. Yes, there are breaks that we can all get if we are lucky enough and we work hard enough to get to that position, through our networking, our love of the craft and through our desire and ambition to succeed and be good actors.
Yet so many of us try to make a shortcut, when there isn’t one. Perhaps it is partially arrogance on the part of the actor themselves – let’s be honest, we have all been there – and blind hopefulness that means we believe that our Big Break is only ever one audition away.
Here’s some examples against the Overnight Success Story. Russell Brand. But his success seemed to happen so quickly! No, it didn’t. He was working hard at both honing his craft and getting his name out there for ten years before he actually hit it big and became the household name he is today. Kristin Wiig. She was a ‘Party Parent’ in a short movie at the age of twenty seven and then a mere Extra at the grand old age of thirty! We now know her as Annie from Bridesmaids, but she slogged and worked away, writing and acting on things for years to get to where she is today. Miranda Hart, who our own dear Rebekah Daven Watson worked with some ten years ago, has produced her own work and worked so solidly to suddenly be the star of ‘Miranda’. Even Brad Pitt started in uncredited roles back in 1984 and then finally got real screen time in ‘Thelma And Louise’ seven years later!
It takes on average ten years to get your big break. And in order for you to get just to the point of being Successful – we’re not talking about Fame – you have to work very hard and very smart. You could spend all your energy trying to get that shortcut instead of putting it into legitimate ventures and ideas which could actually improve your acting career in the long-term, instead of you turning into just another flash in the pan. Nobody wants to be that.
- Stop looking for a shortcut – do the work!
- Network smartly, do your research, hone your craft and be ready for your moment.
- ‘Word hard and work smart’ – (if you don’t know what this means, talk to us about getting a mentoring session and a Business Plan in place for your acting career!)
Article by Lexi Wolfe for The Actors' Cafe