Acting is So-o-o Competitive... Not!
Woody Allen is quoted as saying "85% of success is showing up."
My two cents? Showing up is crucial... but what really separates the successful
from the wannabe is attitude.
When I say attitude I mean what we think is true... and therefore how we behave.
Since acting is really just behavior we are getting paid for, it seems self-evident
that attitude is pretty doggone important.
What shapes our attitude is what we believe... what we accept as the truth.
For instance, if we believe that wanting a career as an actor is "a crazy dream," it is likely we
will approach the entire enterprise in a haphazard (i.e., "crazy") and undisciplined manner.
I'm sure you've met actors of this sort who seem to be "all over the map." One week auditioning
for a student film and the next, writing a children's play and the next, it's, "I'm trying to
get an agent."
The interesting thing is this: When you ask this sort of actor about his or her head-shot, or
her mailings, or anything to do with finding acting jobs and earning money... an attitude is
suddenly revealed. An attitude that kills most careers before they start.
Here are some things you might hear from actors with this attitude:
- "This business is so-o-o competitive."
- "Statistics prove that almost nobody makes it."
- "I tried doing mailings. It doesn't work."
- "It doesn't do any good to send your picture to them. They just throw it in the trash can."
- "All I need is an agent."
- "My agent doesn't have any pull."
- "Agents aren't signing any new actors. They turn 99% of them down."
- "Agents aren't interested in my type."
- "New pictures? This headshot is the best one I've ever had."
- "I can't afford new pictures."
- "Some people are just lucky."
I'll stop here. There are literally thousands of these kinds of statements.
In my opinion, these statements (and all the others like them) are disastrous to your dreams of success.
If you believe these "reasons" (accept them as the truth) they will form your attitude. Your attitude
will determine what you DO. And what you DO will ultimately determine what you accomplish.
That's the truth.
Here are some other truths.
Ask any Casting Director about "no-shows."' Incredibly, when casting directors call a group of actors
in for a part... 20% don't show up. One out of five actors don't even try. It's a statistic. A fifth
of the "competition" eliminates itself. So Woody Allen's 85% is high.
Another reality is that Casting Directors absolutely love finding new talent. They live for it.
Therefore, they are always on the look-out for wonderful actors. In order to do that, they look
at every picture... just like a gold miner must look at every pebble... before they toss
If the picture doesn't "grab" them, if it doesn't say, "gold." whose responsibility is that?
If you do a big mailing and don't get any calls - get another picture and try again. Keep doing
this until you get a picture that gets you called in. Don't whine that it's too expensive.
Without a headshot that is working (getting you called in), you are like a butcher who has no
knives. You are telling me you can cut it... but I don't see how you can.
If you send nothing... consider yourself part of the 20% who don't bother to show up...
Agents? Think this through carefully. Tom Cruise's agent makes 10% of Tom's salary. Today
that's about 2.5 million dollars. The agent sits in her office and chats with people on the
phone. It might only take her a couple of hours of real "work" to collect that 2.5 million.
Do you really believe that agents are not looking for the next Tom Cruise? Or the next JLo?
Or the next Steven Spielberg? Do you really believe that all agents turn down 99% of applicants
out of hand? Remember the gold miner. No decent gold miner gathers up a bunch of pebbles,
indiscriminately, and tries, unsuccessfully, to sell them at the assay office. He looks for
gold... which he knows he can sell. In order to find the next big thing, an agent must see
a lot of pebbles.
You have a choice. You can be a "rolling stone" or you can be a nugget.
The most devastating belief an actor can have about agents is that somehow being signed
with an agent will "get me work." That's like thinking an untested, unfinished, unproven
new product will be successful because there is someone willing to sell it. The best
salesman in the world cannot sell a product people haven't any need for and ultimately
We, the actors, are the product the agents are "selling." If we are unable or unwilling
to prove - on our own - that we are a product people might need and might buy... what makes
us believe that having a salesman will change things?
Some actors have an interesting theory... even if you don't apply for the job, by some
miracle you will get the job. That's the premise behind not sending out pictures, not
getting new pictures, not being prepared to audition, not showing up, in fact not doing
much of anything.
This sort of actor believes that repeating over and over, "I want to be a working actor,
I want to be a working actor," will somehow make success happen... as if by magic.
An amazing number of actors recite this "magical" phrase... but they seldom have any idea
when or how "the magic" will actually occur. Bottom line? Magical incantations will not
take the place of doing what must be done.
Hardly anybody makes it? Look, it's important not to say things like this to yourself.
You can get the facts by watching TV for an evening. Watch for three hours. Count the
number of actors who have lines. Keep a good count. Multiply that number by 365 days a year...
times the number of networks... and you begin to see a glimmering of the truth. Isn't
this a fairly large group of actors? If nobody makes it, where are all these actors
coming from? Mars?
The truth is that there are lots of acting jobs, all over the world. A very large number
of people earn their living by acting. If you want to be one of them, then DO what
they DO. If you don't know what they have done to get where they are... then isn't
it your business to find out?
Believe me, you will not find out... or take any steps... or really even try... as
long as your attitude is being shaped by your belief in "reasons" like, "it's
It's not that competitive, it's just difficult.
When it comes to doing difficult things, a lot of people aren't up to the challenge.
They spend most of their time thinking up excuses for poor results. If you believe
"reasons" or "facts" (which are usually someone else's cleverly disguised excuses),
then you may not DO what has to be done. Or even try.
Believe me, the excellent results of trying and doing are vastly under-rated by
What do you believe? What's your attitude? What are you doing?
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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