It’s show business.
It’s not just show.
I think actors sometimes feel that if they focus only on the creative side, things will fall into place. But sadly, we’re not living in a meritocracy where the most talented or creative person gets the job. There are so many factors at play that influence why one person works and another doesn’t.
We can’t try to control the uncontrollable. That is, there are intangibles (height, age, hair-color, ethnicity, “type,” etc.) that also determine job bookings. We can’t worry about those things. We are who we are.
But what we can focus on to improve are the two things that we do have control over: our work and the business side of things.
Careers are really all about relationships. And relationships take a long time to cultivate. But if you don’t remember who you meet, who’s a fan of yours, who brings you in or recommends you for jobs…how can you cultivate something sustainable?
The business is hard enough. If you don’t know who’s on your side you’ll never be able to get there on your own.
Sometimes we slack on the business side because we get scared of our own ability to get out there in the world and generate success.
You see yourself not the way other people might see you: talented and sexy and gorgeous and amazing. But instead you see yourself through your own misperceptions of self—through your own negative self-dialogues. “Who am I to win an award?” “Who am I to be the lead of a show?” “I really am not any good.” “Why would anyone want to cast me?”
So we marginalize ourselves based on our own misperceived images of self-worth.
So fake it until you make it. In other words, if you think about huge jobs (and the business work it might take to get there) you might also simultaneously get scared because that goal seems so far away. Start with smaller, attainable goals. So if you don’t have an agent, let’s say, focus on that. Or maybe you have a number of co-star credits and now you want to be doing guest-star roles. You work incrementally based on where you are.
Big dreams often seem so far away (How, how, how will we get there?), so we start to doubt it. And when we doubt it, we keep it from us.
So to keep from being overwhelmed, take smaller steps. But you have to actually take the steps. You have to pick up the phone. You have to market yourself. You have to invite casting directors to see you. You have to call the agent. You need to take a class. You need to audition for a play. You need to get headshots. You need to remember who you met and who called you back and who wants you to come back and take a meeting six months from now. You need to take action.
Walk through the doors. Be brave. Many will be locked. Some will be slammed in your face. Some may appear closed, but by attempting to open them, you’ll get to the other side. And what’s magical about the other side is, well, everything. It may not look like you think it’s going to look—indeed, it never does—but if you just keep going, you’ll get there.
But are you knocking? That’s the real business of show.
*First published on Backstage