So you really want to go into acting now?
That’s a question I asked myself about two or three years ago. Hell, I even laughed at myself.
To start acting at the age of 30, I’d be competing with well established movie stars, and besides what did I know about acting?
I was in my final year in university getting my second degree at the time, and let’s just say the idea was ludicrous. Why the hell did I spend all this time and money in order to throw it out the window? I was, at the time, and still am just searching for what makes me happy.
My First Excursion into Professional Acting
I had done some community theatre growing up, and even did a small monologue show while I was at West Point. But by no means did I really have any experience acting.
In 2015 I was selected because of my American accent to be an extra for Jason Bourne. My first day on set I got selected for a speaking role and was thrown into a scene with Alicia Vikander and was being directed by Paul Greengrass. I thought that this world was amazing, and I thought, hey this is easy, it’s only my first day!
But I thought that acting wasn’t really what I was supposed to be doing, and that I was meant to go into Special Effects. Do the behind the scenes work, just make cool stuff that makes people scratch their heads wondering how we did it.
But, just trying to get onto an SFX team for years wasn’t panning out, that acting itch came back with a vengeance.
So I knew I had to follow it.
I started reading acting books at the rate of one a week. I could not get enough information.
Then I researched training and went to seminars and short courses.
Something just felt right.
Something I wish I would have known about acting
The most important thing you want to know before you chase the acting dream is your “Why.”
Why are you doing it? Is it to be rich and famous? To feel loved? To fill a void?
These are not the answers you should have. If you become an actor the problems you have will still be there even if you become the most successful actor in the world (in fact they may actually get worse because you will become more sensitive to your own emotions.) The process of Acting isn’t about putting on a mask and playing a character. It is about becoming wholly vulnerable, and to do that you have to be comfortable with your authentic self.
You are the character.
Think of Michael Clarke Duncan’s amazingly power performance in The Green Mile. This amazing and powerful man let you look into his soul when there were close ups of his eyes, he was wholly vulnerable. You could see and feel the pain of the whole world.
“Acting deals with very delicate emotions. It is not putting up a mask. Each time an actor acts he does not hide; he exposes himself.”
You should only follow acting at a professional level if you honestly can’t see yourself doing anything else, because it’s going to be a hard road, where most of it seems like an uphill battle. So you must enjoy the work and the process.
Your “why” needs to be solid and bigger than you. It will keep you going when things get tough.
My Personal Why
My personal why is because I believe that film and tv can change the world, and that’s exactly what I want to do.
I have always been a movie lover. In fact I saw Jurassic Park, 12 times in theatres. (I was 8 at the time, so thank you dad for taking me so many times.) I also read Jurassic Park and The lost World back to back, seriously what 8 year old does that? I watched all the Indiana Jones movies countless times on VHS and idolized Steven Spielberg. I wrote a book about him about the time I was 8, which I can only guess was almost completely plagiarized from one of the many books I read about him. I even dedicated it to him. I began making really terrible stop motion videos with my GI Joe’s.
Movies were also an escape for me. When life got tough all I had to do was go to the cinema. I would be transported to other worlds, laugh uncontrollably, or fight off personal demons.
To me films can make you feel and learn about yourself. They can bring us closer together and challenge your beliefs. They make us laugh and cry. The moving image is a very powerful thing.
If you know your Why, you will find your how.
Remember that nothing worthwhile is easy to obtain.
Some other things I wish I knew:
- It will be hard, harder than you think. The best actors make it look easy, like they are just existing on camera. This is a skill.
- In being so vulnerable, any criticism is deep cutting at first. You have to learn that your teacher is not telling you how bad you are, they want you to improve and be the best you can be. It’s never personal, it’s about the work.
- You are developing a very different set of skills. You will doubt yourself, just keep pushing
- You will find new and exciting ways of being uncomfortable.
- It’s ballbusting hard work. Not just the exercises and daily routine you adopt, but the life after you are done training. You must come to terms that you will be unemployed for long periods of time. And in today’s world a lot of people gain a lot of self worth from what the do that it can wreak havoc in a person’s mind.
- Almost every audition will end up in not getting the job. It’s not personal, the reasons people are or are not cast can be ridiculous. As Michael Kostroff says in Audition Psych 101 on going into auditions., “I’m not getting the fucking job.”