Hanging With the Up Crowd
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Hanging With the Up Crowd

One of the biggest difficulties faced by those of us who decide to become professional actors is a large group of folks I call the Bad Advice Crowd. The Bad Advice Crowd (BACs) are a diverse group which includes smart alecks, wise guys, nay-sayers, fear-mongers, cynics, gossips, fact-checkers, dummies, failures, rumor repeaters, experts and even those poor souls who are worried about what other people will think. A BAC becomes a BAC because a BAC is unable to see the REALITY of any situation. Generally this happens because the BAC is so wrapped up in his own 'vision' of how things are or how things should be -- that he cannot see the truth.

Please take my word for it, you will encounter many BACs in your quest for professional success.

The first group of BACs you will encounter are a little surprising. People in your family. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, second cousins, and maiden aunts will assault you with their fears, concerns, and prejudices. They will do this because you have decided to go off the beaten path -- and they are worried about you.

"This is Cathy, she's our actress," is the least debilitating of these sorts of comments. Some others include, "Acting? How will you make a living?" "That's not the sort of thing people like us do." "What makes you think you can act?" "My goodness, you've got to stop dreaming and get a decent job." "Who told you that you could do that?"

The second group of BACs are other actors. People just like you. In fact, most of them will be in circumstances much like your own. These are people who are in the same boat with you, telling you how to get out of the boat. Think about it. The comments, suggestions, and advice you get from these folks is literally unbelievable. If they knew as much as they purport to know, well, they wouldn't be there in the boat with you, would they?

"This is a dog eat dog business," is something you will hear from other actors a lot. "If you don't have the look, you don't stand a chance." "This town is only interested in who you know." "Your type doesn't get much work." "You've got to spend a fortune on headshots or they won't work." "Without an agent, you're dead in the water." "Don't do extra work. They won't give you parts, if you do that." "They only hire their friends." "If you want to make it, you've got to be willing to do anything. A lot of people "date" their way to the top." There are many more comments in this category, but I think you get the gist.

The third, and most dangerous, group of BACs are composed of agents, managers, casting directors, producers and other executives. These people can have a devastating effect on your career with just a word or two. If you listen.

"I don't think you have what it takes." "You're not movie star material." "You have no talent." "Why are you wasting your time?" "You need my help. I can get you to the top." "If you sleep with me, I'll see to it that you get that part." "There are millions of wannabes - what makes you any different?" "If you want to make it, you've got to be willing to compromise your values. Now will you "date" me?"

The fourth BAC - well I'll get to that one in a minute.

The downside of the Bad Advice Crowd is this. They are ruinous to your attitude. Why is your attitude important? Because attitude ('mind-set') is the secret weapon of successful people.

I was watching the Biography Channel yesterday and Mike Meyers talked about his secret of success. "I just wouldn't give up. No matter what, I would just keep doing it." This is the attitude (the 'mind-set') of practically every professional actor I've ever met or read about. You cannot allow anyone to 'chip away' at this attitude with their bad advice.

No doubt you love your family - but don't listen if they don't support you. If they do support you -- then listen. They may give you very good advice.

As far as other struggling actors giving you good advice - let's just say that's about as likely as Madonna opening a finishing school. Most of the time when you hear 'smart' actors talking about the 'rules' and the way things are - you are hearing an excuse they are making up for later. Their 'chatter' is a rehearsal for the eventual explanation they will give for their own failure to achieve their goals. "It's a crap shoot." "You gotta get the breaks." "It's so competitive and I'm just not a competitive sort of person." "I just won't sleep around to get ahead."

It's not easy to hear someone in a position of authority tell you that you should go back to Omaha because you just don't have 'it.' As I talk about in my book, there are going to be people like this in your life. It's a guarantee. How do I know this? Because of people like Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Lucille Ball, and Ray Romano. All these actors, and thousands of others (probably every last man jack of us) have been told they didn't stand a chance. Many were fired for being without talent, or too ugly, or too much like someone else. Almost all were turned down by agents, managers, producers and executives (a group who have proven over the years that they cannot see a "movie star in the making" any better than they can see subatomic quarks colliding with protons). The great screenwriter William Goldman put it best, "Nobody knows." You ARE going to hear this stuff. You must ignore it.

Think about it. If you are being told that your dream is not worthy. This is very bad advice. Your dream is what your life is all about. People who do what they love without any thought of giving up are the most astounding successes in our little world. Period. Love it. Don't give up. Those are the real 'rules' of success.

Please listen closely. You MUST IGNORE THESE PEOPLE in your life. They are everywhere and they never shut up. So you have to learn to ignore them. Can you do it? Of course you can. You are able to ignore anything you choose to ignore. Like traffic, elevator music or coupons in your mail box. You do it every day. Now apply your 'skill' to all this banana oil you hear from other people. It's an exercise.

How can you ignore all these people and still be a nice person?

Don't hang with them.

Who you hang out with will have an astounding effect on your outcome. If you 'hang' with a group of idle, less than ambitious people with excuses for the lack of forward progress, it will cost you. If you like these people (or even love them) they will have a negative effect on your 'mind-set.'

By the same token if the people in your crowd talk about their own dreams of success, becoming professional actors, getting to the top, making it, etc. - then you will find it easier to stay focused on your own goals.

Love your family, but ignore them on this issue if they aren't supporters of the dream.

Choose your friends carefully. Those who support your dream are going to help you. Those that scoff, or question, or present you with the 'facts' are going to hold you back.

In work situations you will not have the choice about your associates. But you do have a choice about whether to listen to them … or not.

It's just that simple.

Make up your mind (which is why it's called a 'mind-set') to only 'take in' the advice that will help you. Learn to tell the difference. Ignore the BACs - just like you ignore cable access shows about accounting. You can do it.

Oh, that fourth BAC? Well, it's not really a crowd. Unless you are a multiple personality. That's right, it's you.

You have to keep an eye on yourself and the things you say to yourself. If you repeat the kinds of things we've been talking about to other, less experienced, actors -- you are rehearsing your own excuse. Don't do that. If you are constantly looking for 'reasons' that things aren't working out for you -- it's rehearsal again. Don't do it. If you are negative about your skills, your looks, your finances, your lack of contacts, your lack of an agent, etc. it will cost you -- big time. In fact it will cost you the very thing you desire. So, if you want to succeed get into the right 'mind-set' and stay there.

Positive messages in = positive results out.

That's my input.

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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