” If you want to have a life that is worth living, a life that expresses your deepest feelings and emotions and cares and dreams, you have to fight for it ”
I’m sure we’re all aware of the glamorous, covetable lives that A-list actors indulge in. The million dollar movies, the exclusive after parties, the prestigious awards, the enviable designer gowns and lavish suits, the artistic satisfaction that comes with deserved recognition for your hard work, and enough fame and fortune to leave a legacy for generations to come. Everyone knows the dream. But if everyone knew what it took to achieve that dream, would they still believe it’s worth the fight?
If you’re a professionally working actor without the privilege of being born into a well connected network, you know that it’ll take more than mere dreams of fame and fortune to stay grinding in the industry for the long haul. In fact, one of the idiosyncrasies of the profession is that we tend to spend more time looking for what’s next than actually working. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 the national percentage of employment for actors was less than 10 percent. As some of us have come to realize, actors experience far more rejection than the average professional.
To endure, it will take superhuman resilience, immense grit, and an astonishing level of tenacity.
Your drive will have to come from a deeper place than having your name in lights.
So why do we do it? For me, I love being whisked away into another world, shedding light on controversial ideas, and telling universal stories that connect us as humans by stepping into the shoes of another person. I love the high that I get from being on stage or seeing my image immortalized in film.
I like answering the “what if” question and the challenge of taking on a different personality than my own. You see, the irony of acting is that it requires you to take on a multitude of identities and yet still remain grounded in who you are. This means you need to have already done some serious soul searching and have a firm grasp of who you are, what you have to offer, and how you feel about things before diving into the business. Strong sense of self means strong acting choices, self doubt means weak acting choices. In the words of Polonius: “This above all, to thine own self be true”
Another reason to pursue acting is the future job growth. Despite the current national percentage, actor employment is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations! All thanks to continued high demand for new movies and television shows.
However, in order to survive this industry your self worth can’t depend on the highs collected from the validation of others because the lows of rejection will easily choke them. Instead, you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else and realize your self worth isn’t in how much you book.
“I was rejected 600 times before I booked a role“
Rejection can mean countless things that have nothing to do with how talented or brilliant you are as an artist. Sometimes a director has a super specific vision for a character or no idea what they wanted then someone comes in and fits this super specific idea so perfectly or made that character come to life the way they envisioned and suddenly… they know what they want. I had a director in college who would infamously state “I want you to read my mind”. We’re not mind readers. Sometimes the reason you don’t get a part are due to factors outside of your control like height, skin tone, or age. We cannot control a director’s expectations but we can control our own preparedness by honing our craft.
Acting is a battle of the mind. It requires an intense amount of vulnerability that can induce high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. A few months ago Michael B. Jordan admitted to seeing a therapist after digging so deep into his role as Erik Kilmonger in Black Panther and recently Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington had to check into rehab due to stress and alcohol. Although acting is a gift it involves a constant struggle against our inner selves.
“The actor has to develop his body. The actor has to work on his voice. But the most important thing the actor has to work on is his mind”
So what can actors do to stay in the fight and thrive in this industry without losing their minds or their passion?
- Stay grounded. Whether that’s in your faith or simply who you are, make sure you’re focused on what really matters most in life: health, progression, and the love of family and friends.
- Study your craft! Train by taking acting courses, going to school, getting as much exposure as possible, watching and learning from people you admire, and finding a mentor. Hustle.
- Learn the business. Acting is a business so if you want to be successful and a head above the rest, make sure you know all aspects of the industry, not just performance.
- Expand your creativity just for fun! Don’t always feel you have to create for recognition. Write a script, draw a picture, perform a new monologue, tell a silly story, make a short film, or learn a instrument for the simple fact of creative expression. It will take the pressure off and learning new ways to express yourself expands your creativity, growing you as an artist.
- Stay Focused. Don’t dwell on the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. 99% of the time, you’ll never know why you didn’t get a role. At the end of the day, the rejection is simply a redirection that prevented you from a project that wasn’t right for you. Keep going.
- Find a community. The most basic lesson you learn in acting is the importance of building relationship and human connection. Find a local community of artists like yourself and connect with them. Share your struggles, your triumphs, and what you’ve been going through on your artistic journey. Plug into a local theatre or film community with people like you that you can fellowship with and who can help develop your career.
Zolle Studios is committed to supporting artist by helping them find ways to create their own content and tell stories they are passionate about. Get connected by asking about our memberships today and get involved by joining our “Stay in the Fight” voice over contest happening now through June 30th! First prize receives a cash reward, professional recording, free services, and a Facebook ad. Visit our website for more details.