- The #1 Thing To Do If Your Agent Isn’t Getting You Out For Pilot Season.
- How To Survive Pilot Season When You Think You Might Be Having A Nervous Breakdown.
- Connection: Stop Searching For What’s Already There.
- How To Prepare For The Role Of A Lifetime
- Want To Become More Confident? In Auditioning and Life? Here’s 4 Ways How.
Tag Archives: Creativity
What if you were given the role of a Lifetime?
A character that’s beautiful and dangerous and mysterious and exciting and complicated and messed up and Divinity expressed in tangible form and spectacular and empathetic and scary and . . . well . . . human?
I asked an actress this and she said, “I’d be thrilled beyond belief . . . and also a little scared.”
Do you know what that role is?
It’s your life.
The role of a lifetime is you. Why are we looking for it in another person or character or relationship – when it’s really about bringing all of your stuff to a role? Your stuff becomes the experience.
There will never be another “you” from now until the end of time in perpetuity. It’s mind-boggling to realize that since the earth began some 4.5 billion years ago, there has never been another “you” ever created. There’s never even been someone remotely like you walking this planet. Ever. That makes your lifetime a wonderful gift in itself.
You’re all you’ve got. And all you’ll ever be is already contained within yourself. Seek it there.
And realize that all parts of yourself are what make you uniquely you.
Stop apologizing for your mistakes. Make them. Fail gloriously. Attempt things boldly. Live on the edge spectacularly. Slide into errors magnificently.
Nothing bad comes from failing. Ever. Our challenges in life really come when we have a desire for something and are too scared to attempt it in fear of failing.
Fail. You’re going to anyway. So just do it with robust passion for that journey which is uniquely yours. And as you do it more often you will be less scared of “how you look” or “what people think” or “if you’re doing it correctly.”
How do you prepare for the role of a lifetime?
There is no prep for it. You’re living it. Right now.
And just like in your acting, stop spending so much energy “prepping” (i.e., controlling it). Instead get in the game that is your life. Attempt. Try. Do. And in the playing of it, you’ll start to really celebrate that the best role is really the role you’re playing right now.
Last week I discussed changing our narratives – simply the negative stories we most often tell about ourselves that no longer serve us.
When we make an investment in something, we are hoping to receive a benefit at some point in the future. What if we made an investment in telling a new story? Because it will pay off in the long run.
The stories we want to invest in are often the stories we tell about others – “He’s so talented,” “She’s so beautiful,” “They have something I don’t have.”
But we never use these stories to describe ourselves.
It’s true. When was the last time you woke up in the morning and said to yourself, “I’m wonderful”?
The more we tell our habituated stories, the more we disconnect from the energetic potential of who we are.
We don’t really tap into the resources of energy that are available to us – because that potential is distorted by the way we view ourselves. It’s like looking into a clear body of water but what is reflected back to us is murky and clouded because of the left brain narratives we tell.
Paramahansa Yogananda, a guru and spiritual teacher who came to America from India in the 1920’s said, “Incredible amounts of energy are hidden in your brain; enough in a gram of flesh to run the city of Chicago for 2 days. And you say you are tired?”
Whoa. That’s a lot of energy.
Now mind you he was discussing Chicago some 80 years ago, but even if we adjusted for the energy demands and outputs of what a city of that size is generating today – if my numbers are correct – we’d still have enough energy to light up the Windy City for 7.3 hours!
Holy Toledo. (Yes, and probably Toledo too!)
We’ve all felt that energetic connection to self. When we fall in love, or get accepted into our first-choice college, or book a job, or solve a really hard problem, or nail an audition. We may never equate it in the form of how much energetic life force we possess, but in these glimpses into our true nature we feel alive and energized and hopeful that anything is possible.
It is electric.
So basically, those narratives we tell ourselves are incompatible with the science of who we are.
I guess it’s a question of what do you choose to believe. Are you the narrative you’ve been telling yourself for years? Or are you this inexhaustible, energetic, powerful being that is capable of creating anything?
I’d choose the latter each time. Not only because it’s true, but it’s also a new narrative.
I’ve been known to say from time-to-time that “Things always work out.”
A good friend asked me the other day, “Do you mean that as in life – like life in general will work out? Or do you mean ‘Things always work out’ in the entertainment business?”
I thought for a second. And then realized, well, yes, first in life, it all works out. Always. In the end. And if it hasn’t worked out yet, you’re just not at the end.
But “working out” doesn’t mean without challenges. Or getting everything you always wanted. Or that life won’t hand you a number of obstacles you have to overcome.
And that’s a metaphor for the business as well. Your career is never going to look like you thought it would. Ever. Your way into acting and the path it takes you on and all you can learn from it is going to be much more expansive – if you let it be – than you could’ve ever imagined when starting out.
I think the tricky thing about things working out in “the business” is that it requires you to say a hearty “yes” to a life in the arts while at the same time giving up all expectations moment-to-moment of what you feel it “should” be.
But in order for things to work out you have to take the leap into the unknown to begin with. If you’re brave enough to go where your heart leads you and embrace the truth that your trajectory is going to be littered with failures and rejections, victories and “almost’s” – that it’s often going to make you question whether it’s all worth it, you will also find a quiet satisfaction in knowing that you are truly doing what you need to be doing with your life – At. This. Time.
And by going all in in and taking the risk, “the universe will open doors where there were only walls,” as Joseph Campbell says. In being open on your journey, you may discover you have so many other passions and talents involved in creating that are tiny tributaries all connected to your original desire to act.
There would be zero access to these worlds if you didn’t say yes to your original desire.
So having faith that things will work out when you follow your bliss isn’t Pollyanna-ish-talk. It’s truth. But it also requires sensitivity to how other possibilities and insights can come out of our initial desire (to act) when we begin our creative journeys.
So being open – and making a commitment – to a career as an actor can show you so much about your life.
It’s not a call into acting. It’s a call into life. And a call to be more human.
It’s not a profession. It’s a way of being.
It’s not about a job. It’s about expressing oneself.
It’s not about character. It’s about you.
It’s not about having it all together and being perfect and not failing. It’s about sharing your fallibility and vulnerability and courage and fears.
When you do, you give other people the permission to do the same.
That’s why acting is important.
Art. Beauty. Revelation. Spirit. Creativity. Enlightenment. Redemption. Forgiveness. Inspiration. Compassion. Love.
It’s all in there. Acting gives you that. And that alone assures you that it will all work out.
What are we all so scared of?
Being seen? Failing? Not measuring up? Being rejected? Vulnerability? Thinking the rest of the world will see how badly we often think of ourselves?
All of these qualities are part of being human and being brave enough to step out into the world with something to say.
They’re also a part of what it means to be a truly authentic actor.
But so often much of our life energy is spent reacting to things from a fearful place (dating! auditioning! booking a job!) without having awareness that we’re even doing so.
Part of our evolutionary growth is to understand when we react to something based in fact (rarely) and instead, do so out of habit.
There’s always going to be a part of us that’s fearful – sadly – as a response to our knowledge that our mortal body is going to expire. And also our being hardwired – it’s in our DNA – physiologically to respond from the flight-or-fight response. (That reptilian brain in us is alive and kicking.)
But the kind of fear I’m talking about that stops us from achieving our dreams is fear based in ego.
The Ego = Small. Separate. Stuck. Our Saboteur. The only way we can overcome that which our ego tells us is not possible for us is by being open and being aware of that dialogue itself.
A lot of what we don’t realize is we let a fearful reaction to things be the overriding principle in our life. Fear masks itself in subtle ways so we don’t even know it. When we respond in a cynical or sarcastic way, when we procrastinate, or have excuses, or complain or say “no” to things; when we ignore or avoid – these responses can often be passive forms of fear.
The goal is to become aware of when we respond habitually. For example, realizing when we don’t say “yes” to something. Maybe it’s because we’re scared to risk or be exposed, so we say “no” instead. Procrastination – we keep putting off that thing we know we can do, because to do so might mean we could get rejected or fail or discover we’re not so great at it after all. So we let fear keep us from even attempting.
If there was one thing I could help actors understand is that there’s nothing to be scared of. Our work is a work of joy and hope and light and possibility and we’re all in it together. When people set out to make projects they set out to make the best possible creation they can achieve. That means they want you to also be your best.
So when you book a job, it means someone likes you. That’s why you booked it. There’s nothing to be scared of.
But we let our old conditioning kick in and listen to the junk thoughts it creates in the mind.
So understanding that fear – False Evidence Appearing Real — can really stop us from moving forward when we believe the things we tell ourselves in our head – is already a step of awareness.
The next time you’re feeling triggered and scared, ask yourself these two questions.
1). Why is it not okay to let go of the fear? (You may discover some surprising explanations of how the fear is protecting you.)
2). What does this fear want to show me? (If you’re brave enough – and willing to listen – there is great insight into where you may get stuck in life and how to overcome it.)
Creating a new paradigm around fear will truly set you free from it.
So “feel the fear and do it anyway” as the saying goes – as we’ll never be completely devoid of it. But create a deeper understanding of it as well and you might discover the fear part gets less and less.
Breakthroughs in life occur at the feeling level.
That’s the beginning and end of it. If we want to evolve, grow, face our fears, reach new heights, become the kind of artist we know we can become, we have to feel our way there. We have to feel things we aren’t accustomed to allowing ourselves to feel. Feel things we try to control and suppress. Feel things that we have judgments about. And then be brave enough to communicate those feelings to another. When we feel vulnerable. Exposed. Scared. Intimidated. That’s not just the call into acting. That’s the call into life itself.
Just feel. Period.
Your feelings don’t have to be pretty or together or understood by others. They don’t have to make sense. Feelings often don’t make sense – that’s why they’re feelings! How do you intellectualize love, compassion, hope, fear, sadness, empathy, desire? You can’t. Or you can try but the intellectual component only takes you so far. But the more we allow ourselves to actually be, the more our life begins to transform in positive ways.
But when we don’t give ourselves permission to feel, we move through life anesthetizing ourselves, putting us in a zombie-fied state of existence. A numbness that we accept as status quo. A standardized way of just getting through the day. We wake up one day (if we’re lucky) and realize we’ve merely been surviving, not truly living. Or maybe we’ve been living but not thriving.
To thrive is to be emotionally engaged. Curious, Excited. Passionate. Vulnerable. Out there.
The breakthroughs that have occurred in your life have all come at the emotional level. You experience grief, tragedy, loss and the experience profoundly shifts you or changes your outlook. You express pain, frustration, turmoil and an insight occurs from the release. You live in joy, ecstasy, passion and realize you’ve never allowed yourself to feel that wild or free.
You could argue that breakthroughs occur first at an intellectual level. Perhaps you solve a math theorem or make a new scientific discovery or uncover a new model for physics – and those achievements, of course, require a great deal of brain energy. But what comes with the intellectual insight is the commensurate feeling in your body physiologically and in your heart. You feel overjoyed or relieved. You feel gratified and elated. You feel a “Eureka!” sensation inside. That’s not intellectual. That’s emotional.
So feel. It sounds so easy. But when you begin to look at how often you cripple yourself from feeling, you realize that like anything else, it’s a journey. It takes time. But the pay-off is really truly living life, and really the essence of life itself.
You have to love yourself. End. Of. Story.
What else is there really on this individual journey we’re all taking? If you don’t love yourself, how can you possibly love another and radiate that love to your work, creativity, the birthing of new ideas and bringing something tangible and worthwhile into the world?
When we get triggered in life, when we get rejected, when we want to give up all hope and chuck it all in, we must come back to self-love.
Our culture, though, has a misunderstanding of what self-love is.
We think it’s namby-pamby, new-age-y, kumbaya phooey.
But self-love is brass tacks being. Think about acting. The art of acting is in many ways one of the highest expressions of creative love. We share ourselves bravely with other human beings through this vehicle of intimacy and vulnerability and power and courage.
When I was in my 20’s, I didn’t think I had time for self-love. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I just thought I could barrel through everything, continue to take action and keep going. But eventually, life is going to catch up with you. What you resist persists.
We have to love ourselves, but not by the standards society sets because those are measured by the external. We equate the expression of love through things. If you’re not aware, your self-love becomes based on things that society says signifies love. Those measurements are not only unattainable but also ephemeral and can be destructive because they’re based on illusions. Ashton Kutcher says, “There’s a propaganda machine around fame and celebrity.” We think if we get that, we’ve got life by the balls. But self-love doesn’t come from how beautiful or physically fit we are, or if we have a perfect figure with 5% body fat or how successful or popular or famous or stylish we are.
It comes from self-acceptance.
You have nothing to prove. To anyone. Whether you are working or not. Famous or not. Established or not. You’re already okay as you are.
Self-acceptance requires us to love those parts of ourselves we don’t already love. Those parts of ourselves we keep hidden, that we’re scared of, that we think something’s wrong with us for having them. These are the parts that we actually need to live in our wholeness.
The parts equal the whole. Not some parts. All parts.
I had a student recently who told a story of how he bullied a number of kids when he was in elementary school (he himself being a victim of bullying). Now as an adult – and a famous actor to boot – he does a lot of charitable work on behalf of organizations that help bring awareness to anti-bullying campaigns. But he feels because of his celebrity that he’s a hypocrite for doing so. How could someone who bullied so many kids now be stumping for charities about anti-bullying?
His own guilt and shame around that part of himself shows that bullying never ends.
We bully ourselves.
But the deeper learning comes from the insight that it’s not in spite of his having been a bully that he’s now charitable, it’s because of it. All parts of ourselves make us whole. Even the parts we’re ashamed of and continue beating ourselves up for.
Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Realize all experiences in life lead us to wholeness.
Without them you wouldn’t be where you are today.
Remember just how much you’ve already accomplished in your life.
We forget that. Especially when we face constant rejection and hear endless “no’s” and begin personalizing and believing the negation means there’s something wrong with us or we’re untalented or flawed in some way. We start believing the illusion that this business is harder than any other. That it’s stacked against the actor. That it’s impossible to break through.
But the physics of this business is no different than any other business. There’s going to be nepotism and class-systems and arbitrary rejections and an old boys club favoritism in any career in which you wish to succeed.
Over 50 years ago, Vincent van Gogh said, “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”
You see? It’s never easy for anyone. Period.
If you look at your life, the tremendous amounts of effort you had to exert to overcome obstacles and get to where you are today – speaks of the possibility of your spirit. But it also shows that nothing is a closed system. Nothing. To think otherwise is to limit something that is limitless.
That is – you.
The spirit of who you are is inexhaustible; as powerful as the cosmos. We’re made of the same stuff as the atoms that created the stars that banged this universe into existence some 4.5 billion years ago. We are made up of this infinity. We have infinite potential.
You can’t let people preach limitation on you to the point that you give up hope. You also can’t allow the people “out there” be the arbiters of what’s hot or popular or fashionable or talented. You might say, “Well they are anyway Tony.” Well, actually, they’re not – until something or someone breaks through and then “the experts” ride the bandwagon saying, “This is the next big thing!” Everyone in our culture seems to be waiting for someone to tell them, “These jeans are so hot!” or “This song is a hit” or “That person’s going to be a star.”
Decide for yourself. You’ve been doing it all along without your even knowing it. Just do it now a little more consciously.
So when you feel this business is stacked against you and there’s no point going on, just remember where you are now and what you overcame to get here. My dear friend, Nick, just got dropped by his management company and was really feeling like he was back at square one. I asked him to recall how much he’d accomplished just to get here.
His dad died when he was 14. He moved from Serbia – a war torn country in the 90’s – to a small town in Minnesota as part of a foreign exchange program, even though he spoke little English. He graduated from an American high school there with honors, got accepted into Harvard and graduated near the top of his class. He started his own successful tech company (and many other ventures) and decided a couple years ago to finally pursue acting, which he’d always wanted to do.
Now don’t tell me you’re going to be defeated by an agent telling you, “We’re just not that into you!”
Remember just how far you’ve climbed and how much you have to be proud of the next time a door slams in your face. Don’t let someone’s “not getting you” define your years on this planet.
You are bigger than the rejection. You’re bigger than a door slamming shut. And in the world of infinitude, there are simply more doors to knock on that will magically open for you. You just have to walk up to them. But that can’t happen if you give up. So don’t.
Fake it ’til you make it. That’s what everyone’s doing every day of their lives, but we don’t realize it because we’re so caught up in the myth that “making it” looks a certain way and is a final finish line at which we must arrive.
In that illusion, we compare ourselves (and our struggles) against the ones who don’t appear to have any (all the famous, glamorous, beautiful people of the world!) and then we despair thinking we’re never going to get there. (Wherever “there” is!)
Okay. Take heart. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has along their life’s path faked their way through. Vamped. Punted. Improvised. Made shit up.
I’ve done it innumerable times. From my early days of waiting tables in New York (Having no clue how to even place an order!) to acting Shakespeare (What the hell was iambic pentameter?) to writing (It took me 8 years to write my first book!) to teaching (Aren’t teachers supposed to be like . . . 70?) to directing (Can I please give you a line reading?) to relationships (Still a work in progress!) to . . . well, pretty much everything.
The victory comes – as social researcher and writer Malcolm Gladwell points out – when you keep going and arrive at 10,000+ hours which makes you a bit of an expert at what you do.
That’s 10 years people!
So in that decade there’s going to be some faking! Figuring it out. Falling apart. Putting it together again. Thinking you know and then realizing you don’t.
It’s called learning.
But you can’t arrive at that juncture of becoming a talented actor and confident auditioner, or skilled writer or experienced producer or genius animator if along the way you judge yourself for where you are and decide it’s not good enough, so you pack it all in and move back to Idaho.
Things. Take. Time.
You don’t have to know everything. You just have to try.
You don’t have to have it all together. You just have to be willing.
You don’t have to pretend you’re someone you’re not. You just have to accept yourself for who and where you are.
As you do, you discover that the answers you think are outside yourself are actually all contained within.
But this discovery comes only by your willingness to really be out at sea. Unmoored. Sort of like Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips or Robert Redford in All is Lost or Sandra Bullock in Gravity. (Wow, there seem to be a lot of films this year where the protagonists are literally and figuratively afloat!)
Well why is that? Because along the way to becoming anchored – when you’re feeling anything but . . . there’s going to be a high level of “faking it” and figuring it out as you go along.
It’s because of that that you eventually get there.
So fake it and you will make it.
Whenever I’m in NY teaching at our school there, I’m reminded of how much humanity is about . . . well . . . just being human.
Maybe because LA is shaped by a car culture, it’s so easy to remove ourselves from life (from connection, from vulnerability, from having to confront life head-on as we’re walking down the street). Instead, we escape into the confines of our cars, roll up our windows, tune out the world and what we’re feeling. When we do, we sometimes forget that really being human is the hardest thing to be.
We try to look a certain way and keep up appearances. We cut feeling off at the pass. We avoid being perceived as “not having it together.” We pressure ourselves into thinking we have to be perfect . . . like all the time! We’re hyper-aware of how we look and negotiate with ourselves around the discomfort of aging, rejection, self-worth, relevance, comparing-and-despairing, self-judgment, failure and not believing we should share this discomfort with anyone. (Which further exacerbates our feeling alone.)
It’s ironic, then, that the art of auditioning (and acting itself) is really about being comfortable being uncomfortable.
In other words it’s about allowing oneself to be seen.
It’s an interesting contradiction because we’re in a business that’s all about “being seen” by putting ourselves out there. Yet the work often asks us to “be seen” in ways that are scary and vulnerable, raw and exposed, embarrassing and human. In short, we don’t, then, want to be seen.
I often tell my students that acting is really about having to be more honest in our work (in class, in a play, on set, in an audition) than we typically allow ourselves in life.
It’s about sharing our private selves publicly.
In the privacy of our homes we’re weird and sexual and complex and messy and obnoxious and loud and freaky. (And in NY you might even see all that on the subway!)
But when it comes to auditioning, we pull it all together and put on a perfect face.
Stop doing that. It results in zero possibility. No life force. No access to anything you want.
Let it all hang out. All. Of. It.
When you do, a casting director or director or producer sees a spark of your unique humanity (i.e., you) and gains insight into how to further open the actor up.
But if you remain a closed system, you’ve lost access to anything that’s remotely interesting. And you give the casting director no other choice but to utter, “Next!”
It sounds so easy. And in many ways it is. But if you haven’t developed a muscle of commitment and going for things consistently it’s actually the hardest thing in the world.
But practice does make perfect. (Or perfectly imperfect!) The more you do it, the more you start giving yourself the permission. And that’s all you can ever do.
No one can ever do that for you. Ever. No agent or manager or casting director or writer or producer or director or boyfriend or girlfriend or parent or teacher or friend.
As Tennessee Williams says, “Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
But you have to try.
In your acting. In auditioning. In your life. In romance. In relationships. In learning. In self-expression. In doing things that scare you. In everything.
Simply, in Being Human.