We actors are a funny bunch. Consider this…
When a painter becomes inspired, he reaches for his brushes and canvas. When a musician becomes inspired, she reaches for her instrument. When a writer becomes inspired, he breaks out his typewriter. When a journalist becomes inspired, she goes and grabs that juicy story.
But when an actor becomes inspired… he waits for permission to practice his craft.
In fact, we actors spend most of our careers waiting: We wait for that director to call us back. We wait for an audition. We wait for the callback. We wait to see if we got the part. And then we do it all over again.
No wonder little miss ingénue Sally Sue hops on a bus back to Des Moines; it’s because she feels powerless, stagnant, and frustrated. And she isn’t alone. Every year, thousands of actors relinquish their dreams and head for home.
But what if you really want to be an actor? What if you can’t see yourself doing anything else?
Be a Self-Starter
Don’t sit around and wait for someone to give you permission to be an actor. Create your own projects. Create your OWN opportunities.
Why limit yourself to wearing the acting hat? There are so many other hats out there! Can you write? Can you raise money? Can you direct? Can you do all three? Or more? Costumes, Make-up, Stage-Crew!
I challenge you, right now, to let inspiration strike. Begin writing a play today. This very moment. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be sincere. Write what you know.
Start small. Aim for a five minute short play, with only a couple of characters. (But remember to include a role for yourself. After all, that’s the point.)
Get some actors and director together, ask around for places to perform, at school? On a sidewalk? You can do theatre anywhere! It’s about your craft. It’s about doing what you love.
Actors Who Self-Started
The following actors wrote and/or produced their own films, and subsequently wrote their own tickets to Hollywood stardom. Why can’t you do the same?
- Matt Damon and Ben Affleck; Good Will Hunting (1998)
- Orson Welles; Citizen Kane (1941)
- Billy Bob Thornton; Sling Blade (1996)
- Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner; This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Benefits of Self-Starting
It makes you appreciate the business.
Some actors have no appreciation for production. (Or production staff.) They don’t know what a producer does, what stagecrew does, the make-up artist, a set dresser… And what’s worse, they don’t care.
But when you’re responsible for everything from location, to lighting, to set, to costumes, and so on… You gain a whole new appreciation for production.
(NOTE: This is why I recommend that if you’re going to produce your own plays, start small and simple. Even a twenty minute piece can take days to practice. Not to mention production.)
It builds your work ethic.
It augments your exposure.
It could garner you representation.
It takes away that helpless feeling.
Our careers are very much tied to our mental and emotional lives. So if you feel good, and think positive and productive thoughts, you’re more likely to have career success.
But like I said before, the worst part of being an actor is waiting. It’s demoralizing. And nothing will kill your career faster than feeling like crap all the time.
Producing your own work keeps you active, keeps you driven, and places the momentum of your career squarely in your OWN hands.
“But Ms. Figg-Franzoi, what if I make a play that’s so bad, so totally unwatchable that it should never see the light of day??”
I’m reminded of a quote I once heard, and it goes like this…
“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.”