Pilot Season: How to Not Give Too Many F$cks
Care. But Not Too Much.
How am I supposed to do that? There’s this whole mystery paradox, an urban legend, in Hollywood that goes something like this:
A very attractive actor (for the sake of this scenario he’s a he) gets an audition. The role is perfect for him. He knows he can kill the audition. And he wants it. So he works his ass of on the audition. But not too much, so there’s just the right amount of spontaneity. But then the night before he has a few drinks, doesn’t go over his lines, and wakes up too late to hit the gym. He says fuck it. And what happens? He goes in and nails it. Or maybe his cat died the night before and he finds out his girlfriend was sexting with another dude. And what happens? He goes in the next day all strung out and exhausted, and he nails it. His friends ask him how it went? He kind of blows it off. And then BOOM he books it. Why? Because he cared just the right amount. Because if you care too much, everyone picks up on that desperate needy actor vibe. It’s the ultimate paradox for us artists.You have to want it so fucking bad that you’re willing to sacrifice — stability, time, money, effort, and then deal with all the rejection in between. And yet you still love it and prepare and put your whole self on the line every time.
People smell desperation. They smell wanting to be liked and needing to book a job to feel good about the fact that you still don’t have a “real” job and have a roommate at 40. Here’s the thing….this whole business is a racket. And a damn good one. I coach on almost every audition. I’ve taken countless acting classes, paid money to get in front of casting offices, given away 25% of my earnings for roles I got myself, and not to mention the amount spent on hair, makeup, cleanses, fitness, facials, and therapy. I’ve said no to other gigs to keep myself available for acting work. I’ve cancelled flights, vacations, family events…the list goes on.
But then I remember why I started performing in the first place. Yes, I wanted attention. But it was also fun! And then I realized, “Oh wow, I can have fun and get attention? Sign me the F up!” And then there’s a point in one’s journey as an artist where it starts to become more than that. We start seeing stories and characters as a way to get in touch with ourselves, our emotions. We somehow feel connected to the web of the human condition studying the text of O’Neil, Wilson, and Shakespeare. And we realize that being an artist, a performer, can be fulfilling on a level that feels, to me, like I am connected to God, coming into contact with something Divine. NO, not me…I mean the whole thing feels that way. That same way I feel in nature at times when I can be fully present, not taking an Instagram photo or counting my steps. The craft becomes sacred and the passion for it is paramount.
And then I moved to Los Angeles….and that shit blew up.
Which brings me to Pilot Season. This bizarre time of year, that has really morphed to a whole year thing, but it still is more concentrated during February and March. Pilot Season. The mad rush to book the series regular show that will change your life and your career. Or, for some, to hopefully even GET an audition for a series regular because casting is seeing as many people as possible to maybe discover someone, or to please producers who really just want the next Jennifer Aniston, or even better Jennifer Lawrence to star in their dramatic cable series. I mean Amy Adams is doing a show on HBO folks — TV, and streaming TV has arrived. So WTF is this mad rush all about? And how do we stay sane, enjoy the journey, not give too many fucks, have fun, look 100%, and still come home and give your 2 year old dinner, a bath and have sex with your spouse all before prepping for your audition tomorrow?
I recently read the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” by Mark Manson, and it’s changed my life. I know I’ve said that before and thought I meant it, but this time I really mean it. And I don’t give a fuck about the times I said it before. Remember when I talked about the urban legend of the actor who cares just enough, but not too much and seems like he always books the job? THAT guy/gal. Well, here’s the other piece to it that’s counterintuitive about being an actor: You have to either LOVE or NOT GIVE A FUCK about the process. And I don’t mean the rehearsal process. Most people love that part — discovering the character, working with other actors or a director. The collaborative process is the fun part. I’m talking about the process of auditioning and the whole business process. The ups and downs. The, “you’re too old, no wait you’re too young;” you’re cast and then recast, you’re not ethnic enough or you’re too ethnic. The, you stayed up until 3AM learning 12 pages of dialogue and then your audition is cancelled because there was an offer out already;” the waiting for 10 months to hear if you’re pilot got picked up without pay. All the stuff, as Mark Manson calls it the “shit sandwich,” that is out of your control and that doesn’t really mean, well, SHIT. Because you are who you are. And it is what it is. And if you’re working your ass off then FUCK ’EM if you don’t get cast because you remind the producer of his ex wife. So it becomes a game of sticktoitiveness and persistence. Can you handle all the shit that goes with being an actor and still love it? Or tolerate it? Can you still love preparing for an audition, get excited and feel grateful for the opportunities? Can you acknowledge yourself for the small wins, like callbacks, or testing or good feedback? Can you deal with the waiting rooms of other actors that look very similar to you running lines? Or can you deal with the waiting rooms where you realize you are the only one that doesn’t look like everyone else? And on a practical note, can you support yourself in between the acting gigs and not be delusional that you’re the next Jimmy Fallon?
There’s no right answer or right way to DO it. You just kind of have to BE it. Super karate kid. Super Yogi. And for me, I don’t know the answer. I felt I had more resilience when I was younger and earlier in the game because ignorance was bliss. Now I know the truth about this business and my pragmatic, achievement oriented self won’t let me love the process anymore. And yet I know that it comes down to a choice. As simple as that. Like most things in life. It’s a daily choice. Ask happily married couples and if they tell you the truth it’s not, “I woke up and felt butterflies and orgasms every morning for 50 years.” Heck no. It’s daily focus, effort and a choice. But what they will tell you is that it was WORTH IT. So that’s the question to ask yourself…is it worth it? The Entertainment Industry is ruthless and doesn’t give a fuck about your feelings, so comparing it to a marriage isn’t quite the same. Let’s hope your spouse cares more about you than the EP on the 18th Marvel show. But the comparison is there to remind you that it comes down to you. And how you view yourself, what your personal values are, and what you choose. When you choose to be an actor, like choosing your “person,” you’re choosing ALL of the shit sandwich that comes with it. It’s my belief that if we approach choosing the shit from the very beginning, the journey will be a bit more bearable and maybe even enjoyable along the way.
I chose to buckle up, go all in, and not give a fuck this pilot season. And some days it’s easier to find that mythical paradox than other days. I am coaching a lot and loving preparing for auditions. I do not love the part where I was pinned to test then didn’t. Or when I worked my ass off, held back in the audition because I was afraid, so I didn’t nail it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be my greatest 100% of the time. Well, that’s just stupid and impossible. So I am viewing this pilot season as a microcosm for life. I measure my success based on my own metrics and personal values: Did I wholeheartedly prepare? Did I enjoy discovering the character? Did I set myself up to win before the audition (for me that’s did I leave on time or was I speeding stressed about being late. Oh and did I eat ?) Did I feel grateful for the opportunity? Did I say F it to judging whether or not I’m “right” for the role? Did I let go of needing to book the job to prove I’m worthy? Did I have negative self talk about not being good enough walking from my car to the office? And after the audition: Did I have fun? Was I willing to look at what did and didn’t work? Did I take 5 minutes to ask those questions in the car and then say Fuck It?
If I can answer yes (and a few no’s) to most of those questions then it was a success! And I can move on. Easier said than done, which is why Mark’s book is called “The SUBTLE ART of Not Giving a F*CK.” It ain’t easy, but it’s worth it.
Alexis Carra is a 30-something married woman in Santa Monica who loves to perform and write. She works with homeless youth and the women’s group, The New Hollywood, to feel good about herself and her selfish pursuit of acting. http://alexiscarra.com