So Your Nephew Wants To Be An Actor?
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So Your Nephew Wants To Be An Actor?

When people find out what I do for a living - they ask a lot of questions.

I am always surprised at the number of people I meet in airports who have nephews and nieces and other young relatives who want to be "in the business."

I suspect most people are asking these questions for themselves - but I usually play along with the "nephew" scenario. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: Well, you know, it's a pretty tough business. It takes a lot of dedication...

At this point, the Questioner is nodding her head, not listening, as she throws out her first question.

Q: It's a "crazy dream," right? I mean, wanting to be an actor.

Me: That depends. If your nephew thinks that becoming a star is easy, then yes it is a "crazy dream." If, however, your nephew's goal is to make a good living as a professional actor by working hard, using his skills to his utmost, and doing what has to be done in order to support a career - then no, it's not so crazy. Many thousands of actors make decent money doing what they love. If your nephew is willing to really really try, it is possible to succeed.

Q. I don't -- I mean, my nephew doesn't have any connections. It's all about connections, right? Those are just the facts of life.

Me: No. Many people believe that having connections is the secret. Most professionals know better.

Have your nephew go to the local library and read several biographies of successful actors and he will find that most of them had no connection to show business when they started. Tell him to watch the Biography channel. Read books. Take the time to inform himself about the real stories behind successful acting careers and he will begin to see that very few had connections.

Your nephew will also discover that most successful actors took the same steps.

They worked hard. They believed in themselves. They didn't let set-backs set them back. They tried. And they didn't let clearly questionable "facts" (i.e., "your type isn't popular now," "you have to sell out," "they only hire their friends," "mailing your 8X10 is pointless - they just throw it away," etc.) stand in the way of taking each step.

In other words, they didn't listen to gossip and act on it. They got the real "facts" and let reality determine their actions.

Q: I -- my nephew really wants to be an actor - but his friends and most of the family think he shouldn't even try. What do you think about that?

Me: Tell your nephew to stop hanging around with those "friends." Also tell him that just because his family is wrong, he still has to love them.

If your nephew listens to the people who tell him to give it up - he will eventually give it up. If he believes that he can't succeed (because other people think so) then the reality is probably that he won't succeed.

This is a decision that only your nephew can make. He should think things through. Get good information about what it really takes to become a successful actor. If he's willing to do what it takes then he may have a good chance of succeeding. But he shouldn't look to others to provide him with the beliefs he needs in order to accomplish his goals.

Q: Hmm... you know, I've done some acting myself -

Me: Uh huh.

Q: What if I... my nephew just moved out to Hollywood? I mean, he's not bad looking, he's a college graduate -- he's talented... what do you think? I mean just give it a try for a year or so...

A. I'll tell you the same thing I'd tell your nephew - anyone who believes that talent or education or good looks will magically result in success isn't really paying attention.

Watch TV. Go to the movies. Do you see people there who are not very talented? Of course you do. You've probably said as much to your friends.

If you think you can replace those people because you are more talented - or better educated, consider this: Arnold Schwarzeneggar was the highest paid entertainer in the world and Robert Duvall did not replace him. Is Robert Duvall more talented than Arnold? I think so. Another person who didn't step into Arnold's shoes was John Lithgow (who has a Harvard education - and a boatload of talent.) And I think there's probably several dozen actors who were better looking than Arnold.

Think it through. Talent is helpful, education is fine, it's nice that your teeth are straight - but those are far from being the deciding factors in a successful acting career. By the way, Arnold, Robert and John - all started at the bottom.

As far as "giving it a year or so..." - that's just not realistic. Again, read the biographies. It takes time for everybody.

Wanting to be a professional actor is a laudable goal -- but if you expect it to be a painless journey requiring very little work or commitment from you -- you're in for a bad day that lasts for years -- until you give up in frustration.

Your attitude about your acting career is vitally important to achieving success.

Your attitude is formed by what you believe.

If you believe that starting at the bottom is a step you can skip when trying to climb the "ladder of success" then you are someone who does not understand the concept of a ladder. Get a ladder and try taking one step to the top.

As my Uncle Zeke used to say, "It don't work that way."

I assume you've never heard it called the escalator of success.

If you think just moving to Hollywood (New York, London, Sydney, Toronto, etc.) with a vague idea of getting into the movie business is a good tactic, you're in for a lot of pain and frustration. People without a plan and a "map of the territory" are simply asking for trouble.

Just because you are talented, or have a good education, or turn heads at the beach - don't let that stand in the way of taking the steps - starting with the first one (the bottom).

Take it from me, (someone of limited talent and education - someone who is short and bald - and, someone who has been very successful) talent alone will never get the job done. And neither will your educational pedigree. Or your looks. Success only happens one way - you must be willing to take the steps.

It's impossible to "make it to the top" in one easy step. There is no "one-step" solution to building a successful acting career. Don't waste your time looking for one - or fantasizing that one exists.

Don't let incomplete or bad information, other people's beliefs, or the elaborate fantasy that it's secret one-step process - stand in the way or your success.

If your attitude is stopping you from "taking the steps" - you need to get more information, change your point of view, stop listening to detractors, and adjust your attitude - it's the only way to "grab the dream."

Is it worth all the work it takes? Only you - I mean, your nephew - can answer that question.

Oh, gotta go. That's my plane.

Bob Fraser is an actor, writer, producer, director and author of You Must Act! "The Bible of Acting Success."

© Copyright 2004 Bob Fraser. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.

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