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If you’ve been in LA for more than approximately 4 minutes, you have, I’m sure, had an acting class recommended to you. And everyone thinks their acting class is the best. And if you google acting classes you’ll get about 482,957,231 results…all claiming to be the ‘ONLY ACTING CLASS YOU SHOULD BE TAKING IF YOU WANT TO BE A WORKING ACTOR.’ Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great acting teachers out there. But ALSO don’t get me wrong about the fact that there are some washed up child actors trying to fund their decade long coke addiction and hang on to their fading fame by charging you $450 a month so they can hear themselves talk and relive the glory days all under the guise of ‘educating’ you. Don’t spend your hard earned tips on those classes. But let’s focus on the not scammy ones.
When I first moved here, because of my conservatory-like theatre background, I gravitated towards scene study classes. But as I began to be more involved in the business and started to go on more auditions, I realized that very few of those scene study skills were being used on day-to day auditions. When an audition came along, I didn’t have 3 separate rehearsals with an equally invested scene partner before presenting a polished 4 page scene. I rarely had more than 24 hours to prepare and certainly wasn’t going to get to read through it with the person that I’d be reading with in the audition.
What was most likely happening was that I had 12 hours to prepare 1 or 2 lines. Then I’d sit in traffic on my lunch break from my day job, while doing my makeup in the car, only to sit in a waiting room with other actors who are hoping against hope that I get sudden onset food poisoning (and to be fair, I, too, them). Once my name is called, I walk into a room to read my 1 or 2 lines with a casting associate who just wants to be on THEIR lunch break and has just had to read the same lines with 20 other actors like myself, all of whom are searching her face for any inkling of a clue that their read was ‘the one,’ only to read through my lines in a way that doesn’t betray the fact that copious amounts of adrenaline are coursing through my veins. Inevitably, the read is anti-climactic and 9/10 times, I’m dismissed with an exhausted ‘thank you.’ That is hardly the scenario I was training for in my scene study intensive…
So why wasn’t I training for the more likely scenario: a mostly cold read where my job was only to instantaneously set myself apart enough to BOOK THE JOB?
That’s why I signed up with Melissa Skoff. Now this isn’t an ad for Melissa (though she’s great and I highly recommend her classes). But it is to say that I think it’s important to really look at what skills you are cultivating every week. Yes, every actor worth her salt should be able to study a scene and develop a character and chemistry with their scene partner… but you’re not going to be doing that as often as you’re going to have to look at a scene, make a strong f#@king choice right then and GO! I want to trust myself in an audition and know that even though I haven’t had as much time with this material and the circumstances surrounding this read aren’t always going to be ideal performance scenarios, the choices I make are going to set this cold read on fire! I want to make sure that when I go to the gym I’m working the right muscles. Soapbox dismounted.
It’s still early so I don’t wanna get too excited, but, I don’t know, we just…clicked. Yes, I signed with a new agent! We both swiped right! (wait… ::light bulb!:: a dating app for actors and agencies! BRB I need to go make a trillion dollars!)
Anyway, I’m so excited to have met someone who, instead of trying to get me to fit into the boxes that are out there, said “let’s keep you weird, and dark, and edgy, and goofy and all the of the other things you are and find some boxes that fit you!” So excited to call Sarah Yapelli at Black Apple Talent my agent! Let’s DO this!
So here’s the thing: if you want to be an actor, you better figure out a f#@k load more sh#!t that you like to do, things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning, because a career in acting doesn’t involve a ton of…acting. Now, let me just hop on into my time machine, dial it back to, oh! I don’t know, high school. Then hop out and pull aside that chubby girl that SERIOUSLY needed braces, with a head of hair that’s never seen a calming serum or a flat iron in its damn life, and tell her that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d tell her to stick with acting. I’d tell her all the same things: if you love it then you have no choice but to pursue it. It’s going to be tough but I believe in you because you’ve got talent and passion. Blah blah blah… all that stuff. But maybe figure out some other stuff you like. You love anatomy and medicine and stuff! And swimming! You didn’t suck at that! What are some other things you’re into? While you’re at it, learn some life skills and money budgeting. That stuffs gonna really trip you up for a minute after college. I know EXACTLY what that little brat would say:
“No! Acting is my passion! It’s what I’m meant to do! If I pursue other things, it’s like saying I don’t believe in myself. And I do! I do! I’m gonna MAKE IT!”
Ok, ok… calm down, honey. No one is telling you not to dive in and DO THE DAMN THING! You should! You should put your whole heart into it. It’s just, if you really wanna do this, you’re gonna need some distractions to maintain your mental sanity. Because most of what you need to do to pursue this career has nothing to do with acting. It’s marketing. It’s building up a skin impervious to rejections. It’s networking with people you’d NEVER actually want to hang out with. It’s day jobs that drain you and pay you just enough to (sort of) pay the bills. (This is where some lucrative side hustles might come in handy – more on that later) It’s maintaining a flexible schedule to be available for auditions… and then getting no auditions. It’s a lot of NOT ACTING. So if you don’t have other stuff that makes you feel human, all that non-acting is gonna drain you real quick.
And believe me, there are acting teachers and professionals out here that are gonna tell you that you need to eat, sleep, and breath acting. And if you aren’t willing to sublet a bathtub in K-Town just to pay for their acting classes, THEN YOU AREN’T SERIOUS! (Yes, an acting teacher did tell me this.)
That is bulls#!t. And they are an a$$hole. That will make you insane. That will also make you an insufferable person that I don’t want to hang out with, but I digress. Look, if the only thing you’re getting up for in the morning is acting, then when you DO have to draw on the experiences of a human person to play a human person character, your well is gonna be dryyyyy. Because this whole acting career: it’s not what most humans experience.
So go out! Travel! Learn about strange medical practices of the 16th century! Don’t give up playing the cello after fifth grade! (You were first chair for, like, a week, dammit!) Whatever makes you not a crazy, one-dimensional, nut job. Anything to keep you busy and happy until you hit that big break, baby!* Don’t worry. It’s comin’…
*I’m considering buying a bow and arrow, btw.