I work with actors all the time. I have worked in and around the entertainment business for quite a while. A few years ago I was working on headshots for a new client. He was very green and had just moved from the Mid West. He had only done a few high school plays, but he made the leap and moved to LA to pursue a career in acting. A charming guy, easy to look at. I sat down with him for about an hour after the shoot. I said, “okay man, here are the ABCs and 123s of what you need to do right now to get yourself going and working. I will see you in about 8 months for your next set of headshots.”
He did everything I told him to do. In a month he had a commercial agent. In two months they were repping him both commercially and theatrically. And he booked two national commercials back to back. That first year he made over $80k from those commercials.
By the time he came back for another headshot session he had totally thrown his career away and didn’t even know it. That was five years ago. Since then he has done one very small role in a very small play.
Here is what he did wrong:
- He stopped going to acting class because he was “just more successful than the others there.” He would say, “they have nothing to teach me.”
- He got egotistical. In the industry, commercials are your way to your SAG card. They are a way to keep your agent happy while you are climbing up the ranks and landing bigger roles. My client had booked two commercials and his ego was as if he had booked two academy award winning films.
- He spent his money too quickly. As if it would flow in like that all the time. He blew it. He got a bigger one bedroom apartment in a fancy part of town, rather than the roommates he shared a house with. Taking his monthly expenses from $800 a month to $2100 a month. He spent loads of money on designer clothing. And went to all the clubs and restaurants spotted on TMZ so that he could hang with the “in” crowd and “network.”
- He changed agents after 6 months. Because “they weren’t getting him in on the proper roles.” He then found himself agent-less because no one else was picking him up.
- He stopped taking care of his body. In a year he had gained 30 lbs. Because he was too busy “networking” by drinking at clubs. Which resulted in less gym time and a waste of thousands of dollars on designer clothing he could no longer fit into. Gaining weight, by the way, also changes your casting.
So I would like you to learn from his mistakes.
- Don’t get egotistical. Even if you do get an academy award and become TMZs favorite, and have your face splashed all over magazines your ego should NEVER get that big. Even icons like Marilyn Monroe had trouble booking work because her ego and demands got to the level of it being more trouble than it was worth. Versus, say another icon of that time period, Audrey Hepburn. She worked her entire life and was known for being graceful, classy and professional. And though Marilyn Monroe was a bag full of crazy at least she was smart enough to always be working on her acting skills. She just went about it in the wrong way. Tom Hanks, who has won a colossal amount of awards may not take acting classes, but he still gets coaching to fine tune accents and so forth. Allowing ego to separate yourself from developing your skills and making it harder for those you work with on set will kill your career eventually. Those credits that roll at the end of a film…. every single one of them matter for the projects quality and success. Not just you.
- Be smart with your money. A TV Series, a feature film, commercials out the wazoo one year – that money is not consistent. You need to be smart with your money. Don’t go on spending sprees and spending out of your means. If your show gets cancelled, it may be three or four years until you’re on another. One feature film doesn’t mean that you will have another next week.
- The old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” If your agent is getting you out there and working hard for you, then be loyal. There are reasons and times to move to another agent. But you’d better have the credits and reasons clearly in check, business-wise, before you do. In my client’s case, he didn’t even have a co-star role under his belt, nor was he even being called back on the co-star theatrical roles. Stupid, stupid move. Those roles he wasn’t getting were lead roles in feature films. He likely didn’t qualify by casting because they wanted names only. Even decently established actors audition for work. Only a small portion of actors get to the level that they don’t “audition”. Even those have a different form of auditions really.
- The glam life. I have never heard of one individual who got further in their career because they got drunk with a producer at a nightclub. That is not networking. It can be created media if you are already working. Not really the smartest media. But, going out as a name once in a while to a TMZ spot and having a little fun and being interviewed on your way in or out… okay. Too much and you’re Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Megan Fox. Your now a party person. Whom, guess what, producers get nervous hiring. Besides the drama you might bring to set, are you going to show up? Are you going to be so coked up or hung over that you can’t work? Is it worth it? Those are the questions they ask themselves. Living that lifestyle wrecks your body. And often times leads more into drug and alcohol abuse than actual work. Professional networking is not by shaking your ass on a dance floor and puking in the back alley on the way back to your car. That is a lie of a concept.