I was taught to respect authority and seek wisdom and guidance from those above me. That’s all great. However, I think that went too far into my personal and professional life. I was so afraid to make a mistake that I wouldn’t move at all. I would pinpoint the expert and ask, “What should I do? I’ll do it.” I had no problem with execution, the problem was the decision process. “Should I audition with this monologue or that one?” I would take whatever advice I received without checking in with my own thoughts to listen to what I wanted. This type of mindset led to passivity and a belief that my circumstances and career were primarily out of my control. Now I’m learning the second part of owning it: taking responsibility for my career — where I’m at and where I want to be.
In order to know where I want to end up, I need to know where I started. Part of that is type and marketability. In Seattle, knowing that I was an ingenue was specific enough. Not in LA. In coming to understand my type and cast-ability, I’ve had to embrace parts of me that I’ve struggled with for years.
“Remember how the other kids made fun of you in middle school and high school? Of course you do. Try to figure out what specifically that was about because that’s your money ticket! In [LA] … you have to find a way to stand out from the pack.”
–Assaf Cohen, from “Self-Management for Actors” by Bonnie Gillespie
Yes, ok, I get it. My hair! It can be wild, crazy, weird and beautiful. It is a huge part of me- literally. Along with that, I’m embracing my personality, which can be weird, funny, shy, imaginative, critical, pensive, and passionate. These and more, are all a part of who I am and what I bring to any character. Just with these things, I’ve learned one type I can play is the quirky girl-next-door. (I could write more on the subject of type, but I’ll leave that for another time.)
Secondly, and often more importantly, I have to know what I want. My goal has to be clear. Otherwise, I’ll be trampled by every person who is an authority in this market: agents, managers, casting directors, teachers, and other actors. Of course it is wise to ask for advice, but I need to know for myself. Maybe even knowing isn’t enough. I have to trust my instincts about people and the right path for me. I have to feel it in my gut!
Knowing what I want is just the first step in taking responsibility for my career. How can I trust my own instincts and line up my goals with those around me if I don’t know anything about them? I am currently taking Bonnie Gillespie’s course “Six Weeks To LA,” as well as reading her book, “Self-Management for Actors.” Over and over again she reminds us to research, research, research. Want an agent or manager? Research. I have to know if this agent or manager is reliable, good to work with, and hard working. Want to be on the new hit show? Research. I have to know who the casting director is, who the actors are and who represents them. Want to get in with a certain casting director? Research. I have to know who they work with, if they offer workshops, if they go to showcases and which ones. It’s my own fault if I sign the contract too early, know nothing about my market, and can’t find a path to my own goal. (And if you don’t know where to start, go to someone like Bonnie and take a class or read a book.)
Hustle to get it!
Another bad actor habit Bonnie talks about is blaming a lack of success on someone or something else. An agent won’t fix all your problems. Working actors work hard, with or without an agent. Build relationships. Go to workshops and mixers. Volunteer in a casting office. You can’t determine the outcome, but you can determine your input and that is the key! Who cares the most about whether or not I am a working actor? I do. Well, I better own it and make it happen!
I’m just now coming around to this way of thinking.
What about you, are you owning it?!?