“I want to be an actor!” Even just admitting those words is a huge step in the direction of your dreams. For a lot of people it’s a scary step because it finally becomes real when you say it out loud. All your fears, doubts, insecurities, and disapproving opinions of others come rushing to the forefront. But it’s that all too important first step. Just before you go any further, you have to ask yourself this very important question:
“Why do I want to become an actor?”
If your answer is that you want to be in magazines, date supermodels, own an island in the Caribbean, and walk red carpets, then you probably need to think again before you walk down the acting path. The biggest mistake you can make is get into the business because you want to be famous or you want to be a celebrity. You have to be in this business for the love of the craft. For the love of taking on new roles and characters, for the pure joy that you get from telling stories and helping play a small part in telling some important ones. You goal has to be in service of the craft and the art form you’re cultivating. Ultimately, your drive in this business has to stem from a place of pure passion.
So what are some of the dangers of pursuing an acting career when you’re chasing fame?
Reaching the level of A-list Hollywood movie star is rare: The harsh reality is that very few actors will ever reach that A-list Hollywood movie star level. The term “starving artist” has to be a label that you aren’t afraid of, because for a period of time you will struggle to make a living as an actor. There are very few actors out there who were lucky enough to drop right into it and be successful immediately. I’m sure you’ll hear stories of guys like Johnny Depp, Leo Dicaprio, and James Franco who killed it from the start, but they’re rare cases. You need to dream big, so there’s no problem with wanting to be an A-list Hollywood movie star because you’ll know you achieved great success in the business if you get there. But you have to love it enough that you’d be willing to put in a lot of work and push through the years of being a struggling actor, or a middle class actor and not get depressed and discouraged. If you want to be famous, you will give up or get angry when things don’t work out the way you fantasized them in your head.
Your role selection might lead you down a bad path: Let’s just say, if you’re in it for the money and fame, you might take some roles that are “artistic suicide’. Yes you need to pay the bills, so of course you will take whatever role you can get in the beginning, but once you start to see some success, you can go after those roles that really challenge you as an artist. If you’re in the business for the wrong reasons, you might take the more commercial role that pays you more money and gets more attention, but doesn’t really challenge you or interest you as a performer. So if your intentions aren’t coming from an authentic place, you might end up with a career that isn’t all that respectable. When you see a lot of big name actors taking time away from film careers to do a play, or taking a smaller and grittier role in an indie film, you know they’re really in the business for the love of the game.
The business is a grind: There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the film industry is amazing, but it’s cutthroat and it’s a grind. Being an actor isn’t all about having assistants and people doting on you all the time. Days on set are long and they can be exhausting. If you don’t love it, it might be a nightmare for you when your call time on set is 6am. You have to love the process of what it takes to create something, whether it’s a film, a show, or a commercial. Acting is all about the process and being a vessel to help execute a creative vision. It will be easy to lose sight of these things, or not even be aware of them, if you’re only concerned with being “the next big thing”.
You won’t put in the time: They say that it takes 10 years to really create a body of work as an actor. That’s an entire decade if you weren’t aware. For somebody who’s just starting out in the business, that number can look more daunting than Everest during a windstorm. So it doesn’t seem normal for somebody who doesn’t love it to invest that amount of time for a superficial outcome. Also, you need to train and put in a lot of your own time to build your skills as a performer. Someone who is chasing fame probably won’t go that extra mile to improve the same way somebody who truly loved it would. For this reason, they probably won’t ever be as good and book as many roles. So make sure you love it and are prepared to dedicate yourself to it.
Understandably, an actor needs to crave the spotlight and love the attention to a certain extent. That will require a certain amount of the ego to be involved. There has to be that element in someone who is pursuing this as their career. If there isn’t, you probably won’t be able to rise to the occasion and separate yourself from the competition. And, underneath that dream of seeing your name in lights has to be a completely head over heels love affair for the craft of acting and art of storytelling.