Hollywood vs Hollywouldn’t: 12 Tips to Help Actors Navigate the Hollywood Landscape
Every two weeks, I share my thoughts and what I have learned from my experiences growing up in and around show business. Sign up here to get next week’s ideas sent directly to your inbox.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you have always got.” — Henry Ford
I love actors. Compared to most people, actors are often more personable — they feel more free to access their feelings and emotions. They tend to be more in touch with their inner child. They have courage. Most are sensitive and more vulnerable than the average person, and yet they are in a profession where they must subject themselves to repeated rejection. That takes a person who is tough and brave, yet also sensitive and exposed. It’s a difficult, unusual and admirable combination.
In my opinion, Los Angeles is one of the toughest cities in the country to succeed in. Everyone moves here to pursue their dreams. Most come ill prepared and don’t make it. Don’t come here to look for the easy way out.
In any other city, you’d go to find yourself, fall in love, and then discover your life’s work. Here, people do the opposite. They come to achieve everything — a career first, then maybe come to terms with themselves, then maybe fall in love.
99.9% of the people in Los Angeles carry headshots. I have even met lawyers and doctors that have busted out headshots. — Brian Medavoy
It’s not easy, and it’s a mindset that simply doesn’t work for everyone. That’s why I’ve put together this little primer to help aspiring creatives, or anyone who is deep in the morass of figuring out just what the hell they’re doing here.
Most importantly, be brutally honest with yourself and where you can see yourself succeeding based on the media zeitgeist around you. You might not be Brad Pitt or Brie Larson, and that’s really okay.
That said, let me break it down even further for you into some easy to understand do’s and don’ts that will help you navigate the Hollywood landscape:
DO know your personal story inside and out and how it differentiates you. DON’T derive it from or compare it to someone else.
DO keep a list of ten folks you know (and be sure to nurture those relationships!), and ten folks you’d like to get to know. DON’T just wait for people to fall into your life.
DO things that make you uncomfortable — writing to casting directors, talking to strangers, readings the trades, cold-calling, waking up earlier, and keeping a journal. DON’T coast.
DO create marketing materials like a website, blog, and social media. DON’T expect that you’ll just be discovered at that 99-seat theater community show you’re doing.
DO keep short, medium, and long term goals and keep them attainable. DON’T just swing for the fences.
DO dedicate at least 3–4 hours each day to your own business — research, class, looking for auditions, making self tapes, creating your own content, etc. DON’T allow yourself to get locked down in a gig that exhausts you and kills your passion.
DO track and celebrate your little wins. A good baseball team still loses 70 games a year. DON’T belittle your victories as being somehow not as impressive, or compare them to anyone else.
DO train with coaches and professionals. DON’T assume you know everything.
DO have a clear understanding of how you feel after each audition. Pleasure is always derived from something outside of you, whereas joy arises from something within. Try to please yourself, and… DON’T try and please everyone else. (In other words: stay out of the results.)
DO eat well, exercise, and make eye contact — present yourself well. DON’T take this for granted — it’s an image conscious industry, town, and world. Taking care of yourself physically is the easiest way to feel confident emotionally.
DO let rejection motivate you and fuel your fire. Learn from it. DON’T dwell on it for long and let it stand in your way.
DO find balance in your life by exploring other passions, interests and hobbies. DON’T make your life 100% about acting. Go jump in the ocean, go dancing, tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, volunteer and be of service.
This may all seem self-explanatory, but I’ve always liked to think of that word as a reminder that there are some things that sound obvious but that you still have to explain to yourself. ‘Self-explanatory’ is another word for ‘repetitive’ and the most important things worth knowing are the ones you repeat to yourself, either consciously or subconsciously, constantly.
Having a regular, healthy routine is critical to constantly improve yourself. Being prepared for every opportunity is what every successful actor should strive for. Sticking to the routine is harder than it sounds, but it is necessary. Now the question you must ask yourself is HOW to get yourself to START maintaining a healthy routine to become a successful actor. Too often, we make plans, but fail to follow through on them. In my next blog, I show you how to stop dreaming, and how to start doing.
I will leave you with my favorite quote from Lao Tzu:
Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.
This is it.
No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.
At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.
There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.
Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.