Getting your foot in the door
It takes hard work to be an actor. Therefore, it’s important to do everything in your power not to add to that difficulty by getting in your own way. Artists must learn to handle their internal blocks with self-knowledge and insight in order to have free access to their emotions. Meryl Streep states, “My job is usually to express emotion as freely as possible.” Key word being “freely.”
I have admiration for actors when they nail an audition, even if they don’t get cast. It takes a lot of focus and skill to express emotion under so much pressure. You can’t fake it either, especially with casting directors. They are in the ” feelings” business and are masters at detecting imitation. They know what they feel, and if you’re not feeling real emotions, neither are they. The first hurdle you have to get through is having an impact on them. They figure if you can’t make them feel anything, what’s the likelihood of making an audience feel something? You’ve got to have enough focus and acting skills to take an audience on a cathartic ride with you. Jane Fonda describes it as, “I’m an assistant storyteller. It’s like being a waiter or a gas-station attendant, but I’m waiting on six million people a week, if I’m lucky.” In fact, the whole entertainment industry is built on the premise of people buying a ticket and being taken on a thrilling, emotional roller coaster ride. The audience expects to feel a rainbow of emotions from side-splitting laughter to gut-wrenching heartache, not to mention some goose bumps too. That’s a pretty tall order, but when it all falls into place and the actors deliver, it’s like magic.
You’ve got your work cut out for you. Here are three ideas that can help you get out of your own way and make it a bit easier to do what you love, ACT.
- You are an original, one of a kind, there is no one else like you in all the world. Embrace who you are and stop trying to be somebody else, they’re all taken. Put your energy into accepting and appreciating your originality , not trying to imitate someone else. Imitations are boring. The most important thing you’ve got going when you walk into an audition is the fact that there isn’t another you out there. Take this fact and use it to your advantage, let it work for you not against you. Self-rejection is a lot more damaging than all the no’s you will hear out there. Open the window and throw out all your negative self-talk where you’re comparing, perfecting and criticizing yourself. Not productive! Don’t beat yourself up. As you go through life, challenges will keep arising. It will make your journey easier if you view your obstacles as opportunites for growth. Expect that when you’ve gotten through one hurdle, another one will certainly come along. Don’t think, “When is this going to end?” The more productive approach would be, “How can I get through this and come out the other end stronger and wiser?”
- You’re in the “Feelings business.” If you have a problem in your personal life feeling all of your feelings, the good and the bad, you’re limiting your acting career. Invest the time and effort in understanding yourself and why you feel the way you do. Get professional help if necessary. You’ve probably noticed that avoidance is not a great solution because what you resist persists. Besides, great performances don’t come out of actors who avoid their emotions. In order to deliver, you’ve got to know yourself inside out. Self-discovery is a beautiful journey that will enable you to have wisdom and self-acceptance. It’s a win-win situation; good for your career and good for your personal life. Never say to yourself, “Why can’t you just get over this?” Be kind to yourself and take the time you need to learn your lesson at your own pace. Practice being gentle with yourself, it will bring you a lot closer to important insights. Criticism will shut you down and curiosity and kindness will open you up.
- Learn to manage the hurdles of the audition process, especially your fear. Examine your fears so they don’t hold you back. When you face your fears, you remove their power over you. Nothing has power over you unless you allow it. When things don’t go your way don’t rage at the machine. Instead, take a step back and see the situation as a reflection of what could be going on within you. Choose to experience difficult situations as a jumping-off point. Don’t let them take you down. Your power remains in how you choose to perceive what’s happening to you. The decision is completely yours. Actors don’t have a lot of control over many situations and can stay stuck blaming others or they can accept it, breathe through it, and know that this is happening because it’s time to grow again. In myth and stories throughout time, the heroes are the ones who have faced their fears and moved toward their goals anyway. We all have a hero within us, and when we have the bravery to face our fears, we give our inner hero strength. Don’t let fear block your talent. To calm yourself down, get centered and be strong, try this special audition meditation.
Don’t forget to celebrate your growth. Rejoice in the fact that you’ve handled whatever life has thrown your way with dignity and graciousness; that takes strength. The life of an actor is hard, but it can also be pretty amazing. Just remember when you hit a few bumps in the road on your journey, eventually the road will get smooth again and you’ll be a lot stronger and smarter for having gone through it.
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice, tips on thriving, not just surviving, visit her website. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop.
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.