Doing It Wrong
How NOT to come at a Big City Acting Career
Many move to Los Angeles to “hit it big,” but they set themselves up for failure from the very start. It’s not necessarily a lack of talent or ambition, but rather it has to do with your outlook and understanding of how success happens after you move to a larger market/talent pool.
It’s only about talent!
Some new to the scene may see Showbiz as a kind of talent meritocracy- whoever has the most talent wins, “the cream rises to the top,” sort of thing. This kind of actor arrives in town with little else than talent. Although talent ultimately counts for much, it’s not all you need, and some might say it’s not half of what you need. A lot of talented idiots move to L.A. And a lot of talent languishes or falls by the wayside (sometimes spectacularly).
It’s just networking!
Others with less talent may see show biz as some kind of personality game- a sort of smooze-fest. They see it not as a game of talent or business so much as a game of social networking- “It’s all who you know,” is their take. While this is a very social industry and your social connections are important, it’s also not the whole picture.
It’s all marketing!
Still others may view getting into showbiz as mostly a matter of crafty self-marketing. Many seem to start here. They mostly ignore developing their art and acting skills but dutifully go about the “checklist” of things an actor typically does: Send out some flyers, take a couple classes, get a demo produced, pay to get on a web-based casting service and you’re good to go. This limited calculating view of an acting career is itself ultimately limiting. Marketing, while important, will only get you so far, and that’s probably not very far.
It’s just a lotto!
Here’s the worst, in my view: Some see acting as neither a matter of talent or even a marketing strategy, but rather as a kind of lucky lotto. Anyone who shows up can play and it’s easy. Just move to town and you automatically have a ticket! Playing this game is just a matter of hanging around long enough to get “lucky” when you happen into that Golden Ticket. This Willy Wonka model is reinforced by T.V.’s insipid reality talent shows, where waves of naive and unready folks just show up hoping against hope they’ll magically run into their Fairy Godmother and be instantly transformed into A Sensation. It also appears that the winners have done the same thing– they apparently just showed up with this thing they were practicing in front of a mirror and now they are a star.
“Just show up and it’ll work out somehow, just like it does for most everyone!”
“Hail Mary thinking” is as naive as it is lazy. Everyone’s time is wasted and it generally leads nowhere. (Side note: T.V. talent shows also gloss over the years of hard work that the winners of these staged TV talent shows have gone through. Perhaps as importantly, you also never see how it all plays out in the real world after the judges and audience goes home- the onerous terms talent must sign off on to even get on stage– sometimes it’s pay to play– as well as the fat percentages of any future earnings talent also is obligated to sign away to the show’s producers.)
The preceding variations of cluelessness probably make up most of an L.A. actor’s so-called “competition.” Which is good news! Yes, the odds can appear daunting, almost impossible, at first. You against thousands of actors for one role? But as a smart aspiring pro, your real competition isn’t the raw numbers of competitors, but rather the smaller pool of level-headed, focused, talented players– those that grasp the business as well as the art of professional acting.
This much smaller talent pool is certainly a tough group to compete against- perhaps the toughest. But you’ve got the goods, right? You’ve hopefully read through this site and spent the time and toil to develop your super powers as well as your personal and business outlook in order. Those whom you will go up against are in this to win it and in it for the long haul. That informs their strategy, their artistic and professional growth and their career’s timeline. If that also applies to you, then you just may a chance.
There is a fundamental difference between the few talented, experienced artists that have good perspective and a realistic strategy for making it in show biz and the majority that have none or are misguided in their perspective. The difference is that the former have a shot.