This from Bob Fraser, another wonderful theatre/film/television veteran that
I greatly respect. He's brutally honest with people, and it works.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?
There are basically two types of actors who read my stuff, study my
computer-based programs, or come to my seminars: working pros who are
looking for ways to improve their acting income, and newer performers who
are anxious to start making money acting.
I think I attract those types of actors because they know that my entire
focus is on the money-making part of being an actor.
The success part.
The show BUSINESS part.
As my pal, Charlie Holliday, loves to say, "They don't call it show art!"
And I do my best to provide good information for actors who want to make
money in show business.
But the fact of the matter is, I know the truth – and the truth is that the
only actors who are really going to succeed in our business, are the ones
who understand (probably before I launch into one of my rants) that they
must take effective action, in order to see the fruition of their dreams.
Not to put too fine a point on things …
YOU HAVE TO WORK AT IT!
I'm sorry for yelling, but THAT is a good piece of information.
What brought on the yelling?
Well, as you have probably gathered, I am a well-known recluse. I like being
at home with my family, my bird (Boyd), my books, and my computers. But in
the last month or so, I've been going out to see a few plays and participate
in a couple of 'panels' – at various actors' gatherings. I don't know why I
get invited to these things, as I am clearly anti-social and pretty much the
working definition of a hermit – but I do get invited and I go, with my
adorable wife, who comes along to gently remind me to be nice.
Anyway, as a result of my recent forays into the real world, I have run into
quite a few actors. Now, while it is sorta nice to be recognized (if you
could call it that) – "Oh you're that guy who writes on Now Casting. What's
his name?" – the problem is that I meet far too many actors who sadden me.
There are a lot of actors out there who seem to be fully invested in the
belief that there is a one-step method to show business success. "Can you
introduce me to an agent who can help me? I'll thank you when I get my
Oscar," is the most
common conversational gambit. I try to point out that there is no golden
ticket to get "in" – and that it's a waste of time to keep looking for one.
But people don't listen.
Frankly, it's frustrating to see our school system turning out so many
educated people who still to believe in magic, wizards, lucky charms… and,
just possibly, enchanted beans.
This adult belief in a magical solution is probably the main stumbling block
for those actors who are having a hard time of things. Especially those who
continue to insist that their careers will 'happen' – somehow – as long as
they believe it will and continue to intone that plaintive (but clearly
magical) incantation … "I want to be a working actor, I want to be a
Not to mention the poor unfortunates who go to endless parties and spew out
the all too common – "I'm an actor… do you know any casting directors who
will give me work? I know I can be a star, if someone would just give me a
chance" – elevator speech.
The part that saddens is that I am certain that these actors – the sort who
believe that there must be a secret passageway that leads directly to the
red carpet … and all they have to do is find someone to give them the key
– are going to suffer tons of frustration and disappointment – for a very
AND they are leaving themselves wide-open to the early onset of bitterness –
which is a kind of mental cancer. Believe me – eventually bitterness
metastasizes into regret, grief, anger and depression.
My prescription? Throw away your magic beans!
JUST. WORK. HARDER.
It's not a good plan to lollygag around, acting for free in theatre and
student films – for years on end – hoping that the Wonderful Director of Oz
will appear one day, in a sparkle of pixie dust, and discover you. Spend a
lot more time looking for a paycheck for your performing and a lot less time
schmoozing with adults who believe in magical chants, secret handshakes,
bewitching potions, enchanted headshots or Staples' Magic Button.
Please, oh please – do not continue to believe in fairy tales – because if
you do … you will not live happily ever after.
Which brings us to talent. Oh, that word!
Shakespeare said, "Talent will out!" But he didn't add "Talent will be well
paid, respected and successful." (Because Willie was a sharp cookie and knew
better.) Talent is a gift – and if you put it to use, it may pay the bills.
The critical phrase is … "IF you put it to use."
Jennifer Hudson is a recent case in point. Meteoric is a word they use. Has
she got talent? Yes, by the truckload. But everyone is turning her bio into
a Cinderella story, a fairy tale … "first she lost on American Idol and
all looked hopeless … but then she got a lucky break and went on to win
The erroneous conclusion being drawn from Jennifer's story (and others like
hers) is that her talent was 'discovered'
and well rewarded … and that ours will be 'discovered' and rewarded too.
But did you know that about four years ago Jennifer was working on a Disney
cruise ship – in a big heavy costume with five-inch heels and tons of
make-up – belting out Disney ditties for a paycheck?
The point is this: If a tremendously talented future Oscar winner can 'go on
the road,' working on a cruise ship to earn money with her talent … oh,
never mind – I'm sure you get the point.
Listen, after you throw away your magic beans, your next move is to stop
wasting your time looking for a one step
solution – and start looking for acting work that pays. ANY acting work that
pays. That's the first step. That's putting your talent to use.
Go on the road if you have to.
GO. TO. WORK. FOR. MONEY.
And please don't invite me to anything … I'm staying home this month.