by Eugene Buica
Artistic Director The Acting Corps
Why is it that some of the most talented actors around can do amazing work in class, they can do brilliant work at some point on a set, but when it comes down to walking in a casting director’s office and reading for an acting job, they fall to pieces?
As far as acting training goes, that is really where the rubber meets the road. Yes, acquiring and mastering this or that acting technique is all wonderful, and no doubt devotion to this most challenging of all the arts will bring you tremendous satisfaction, but there is something else to consider that no amount of acting technique can touch, and I challenge every Los Angeles acting school and acting teacher to prove me wrong.
What is it? Well, some people call it self-sabotage, some people call it fear of failure or fear of success, and some people call it neurosis. Whatever it is, it is not pretty. We show up late to auditions, unprepared, full of excuses, we give appropriately “emotional” line readings as we beg for acceptance, we treat casting directors as parental authority figures hoping that they either reward or punish us, we try way too hard at every turn and end up repelling everyone with our neediness. And finally, when we leave the scene of the crime we are baffled and demoralized. It’s OK though, since we didn’t really try we didn’t really fail, we feel safe. Had we really tried, we say to ourselves on our way to our restaurant jobs, we would’ve easily booked the job.
We pledge that NEXT time, next time will be different. We’re going to really prepare and do everything right and persevere. But of course we repeat the same behaviors again and again. Pretty soon we throw up our arms in the air and say, “I’m just not good at auditioning”, which only means “I give up, there’s nothing to do, all my training and all my hard work has been for naught; I am a brilliant actor, but I will no longer share it with the world, I will just SAY that I’m an actor and hide in my cocoon of self-delusion.”
So what is there to do, how do we fix this? A lot of it will take care of itself, i.e., if you hang around this town and this business long enough, you will eventually develop the tools to stop sabotaging yourself. But that is not true in all cases, and where it is true it may take twenty years. The answer then is this: nothing short of a radical life change will make a difference. This seemingly trivial issue that holds you back from living your dreams will not go away until you change everything that you use to keep yourself small.
It means that you have to clean up your ENTIRE act if you want to succeed at acting.
How does one clean up his or her act? Look at your life; look at what is holding you back, what is, again, keeping you small. Which habits keep sidetracking you from being focused, centered, and strong in your acting? Is it your overeating, an attraction to loser boyfriends or girlfriends, a gambling problem, procrastination, smoking, drinking, drugs, bad financial planning, or just plain laziness? Which of these are holding you back? Perhaps you can add some of your own unique ways of self sabotage…
If you are like every actor you are indulging in some sort of behavior that encourages the voices in your head that say no, not you, you don’t deserve this. And the more you try to control that behavior, the more you realize as time and opportunities pass you by that these behaviors control you.
But don’t despair. You cannot do this alone and you don’t have to. There is much help out there, there is therapy (be careful that you choose the action oriented kind), there are support groups, twelve step groups, there is yoga, running, meditation, volunteer work, there are TONS of things you can do. No, you don’t have to join a cult on Hollywood Boulevard or run to your shrink every five minutes, but you also can’t ignore your self-destructive behavior and vaguely wish for success. If you ask for success, and all of us do on some level, be prepared to receive it. It’s funny that while we think we want careers in this town, only a handful of people actually prepare to receive one. Create that expectation, set the stage and the work will come.
If acting, on the other hand, is only a diversion for you, a putting off of real world responsibility, you are guaranteed to fail. It is, after all, a meritocracy, though most people don’t think so. Yes, it is true that people who make it may not be the most talented, or the most beautiful, trained or experienced, but they do keep their eye on the ball and show up for their careers like true professionals. L.A. restaurants are full of brilliant food servers waiting for their big break, and there is nothing wrong with that. You just need to decide which category you fall into, the uncommitted many or the dedicated few - and then immediately take action.