"So, are you an aspiring actress?" My immediate reply was defensive, "Yes, why? Is it because I'm waiting tables in L.A. and that's the only reason an intelligent human being might take on that job?" They then complimented me on my looks as a reason I might be an actress. Apparently all cute L.A. people are aspiring to be in the entertainment industry. Then they said I also have a charming personality. Well that, my friend, also has nothing to do with being an actress; but I'll take it and give a heartfelt "Thank you."
Then the dreaded question came..."So, what have you been in?" My reply was the general, "Indie flicks, short films and web material, likely nothing you've seen." And the man responded with an adamant, "But what have you been in that we might know?!??" Here's where I take issue. Because as soon as you tell them the truth, people are disappointed, like you've let this stranger down. If you're asking if I've been in a Blockbuster film, I have not. If I had, it likely would have been for a role you would not recognize anyhow. If it were a big role, I would likely not be waiting tables and you might possibly recognize my face or name. If I were a regular on a TV show you loved, I would definitely not be waiting tables. And if it were a small TV role, it would go something like "I handed Patrick Dempsey his coffee with a wink and said 'you really are McDreamy, aren't ya?'" or gave the vital stats of a wounded party on the scene. Guarantee you still wouldn't know me.
My point is this. It's not our role that makes us artists. It's not our billing that makes us actors. And this is the reality of the business. We work hard, and often for little or no pay when starting out. I liken it to interning. Climbing the ladder of any industry takes time! It takes talent, skill, hard work, dedication and often times doing things that we don't necessarily like, such as networking or taking on an extra workload for little or no recognition in the name of experience or, again, networking.
I refer to an article written in Forbes, "How to Fast-Track Your Way Up Corporate Ladder". The author, Jacquelyn Smith, notes several things that need to take place in order for success to be realized, or realized more quickly than the next. Among these include training (classes), networking (parties, CD workshops etc), working hard and taking on extra workloads (add having a positive attitude about it to that), be a team player (help out where you can on set and be nice to the gaffer!), be an initiator (create your own projects), get to know your company and your boss (know the industry players and how they work), dress for success (take care of your image), think and act a level above (fake it 'til you make it!), and dream beyond the job description (dream big and keep reaching for bigger roles!). This is all relatable to acting.
Acting is a career choice for some. I think that people lose site of that. And I don't blame them. Many actors come to Hollywood with the same disillusion. These are the ones that go home after a season or two. The ones that stick it out, 5, 10, even 15 years (yes, there are stories like that, i.e. Edie Falco from the Sopranos) are the ones that are more likely to reach success. Would you give up on your career if you didn't reach executive-level management within 5 years? Why should we have any different of an attitude towards a career in the arts? Then again, there are those who are perfectly content working in data entry for 20 years. God bless 'em. I never had that attitude in my former life, and I don't intend to do adopt it with my acting career.
Even though I am realistic in my approach and expectations, not everyone who sees the glitz and glam and apparent rapid rise to stardom of some actors understands that this is a daily grind, just like their 9-5. Most likely more of a grind considering how greatly the odds are stacked against us as individual performers. The only difference for me is that, maybe unlike some, I get to have moments of fulfillment that can only be explained by doing what I was created to do. That is to give of myself artistically and touch lives, even if it's only for an infrequent few hours at a time, for little or no pay.
P.S. Did you know Van Gogh sold only one painting while he was living?
Thank you for reading and loving someone today. #MakeAWay