Since I first moved to Sydney to pursue a career in acting, my friends have mostly comprised of actors and people that work in the industry. These relationships have afforded me a few things, namely many people around me to help me with auditions, a network of people that understand the rollercoaster of pursuing a creative career and lastly an insight into the many different ways to achieve success as an actor. The latter is something I have recently been reflecting on a lot, especially as I have found that each and every one of them has achieved their own success in the industry in such vastly different ways.
I’ll admit that when I was first began acting; I assumed success was achieved in one way. First, you get signed to an agency. Then you go to a bunch of auditions, finally you book a job, do the job, you go to another audition, repeat the previous steps.
Well, if there is one thing I have learnt from my time in LA (and there isn’t, there’s about 3,000 things but like, stay with me here) it is that there is not one single way to pursue a career in acting.
Yeah sure, the traditional method of booking a job from an audition is still an incredibly valid way to book work but it is clear now more than ever, that this classic approach is no longer the only way to attain success.
So this month, I reflect on the many different ways to achieve success in your acting career. This exploration highlighted to me, not just the obvious changes in the industry but the true tenacity of actors and their rubber band like ability to overcome challenges. Including, a barrage of rejections and an onslaught of constant doubt whilst snapping into action to find success in their careers.
As per my usual disclaimer, I don’t profess to be any kind of expert on success but I do hope my research inspires you to pursue your dreams in a way that is truest to your personal artistry and reminds you of the many wonderful gifts you uniquely have.
‘A goal without a plan, is simply just a wish.’
CREATE A PLAN
No matter your career goal in acting, be it simply booking a commercial, securing US representation or even getting into acting school, to get there you need a plan. Achieving success involves strategy and that means creating your plan with specific steps as to how you are going to achieve your goals.
The tricky part is not only sticking to that plan but doing something every single day to achieve your goal. Depending on your goals and strategy, the daily practice will differ from actor to actor. The ability to pursue your goals requires daily commitment, no mean feat in a city filled with endless distractions. Success is different for everyone and your ideas around personal success will likely continue to change and morph as you grow in your career. However, goal setting and strategy should remain a constant. When setting goals, get specific. Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve in my career in the next six months? Sometimes actors are guilty of just wanting ‘a’ job, just wanting to work. But what does that really mean? What kind of work do you really want to do? Once you know the answer to that, you can honestly create a plan that caters to your specific career goals allowing you to create a path to personal success in your career.
SUCCESS STARTS SMALL
In my opinion, one of the great challenges any person pursuing a creative career faces is lack of routine. We largely don’t have a stereotypical boss archetype in our lives holding us accountable to our goals and deadlines. As actors we are accountable to ourselves. This can be challenging when it comes to goal setting. When I first moved to LA one of the biggest challenges I faced in the first twelve months was setting goals and committing to achieving them in my creative life and career when my life as an actor in LA lacked structure and routine. However, creating a more successful life is often achieved in the simplest of ways. For me, something that changed my life completely is understanding when I am most productive and using the productivity to create a daily structure and routine in my life. Doing this every day and enforcing this has ensured creative growth exponentially. I am a person that is most productive in the morning, this doesn’t mean waking up early (God knows I don’t) but as soon as I wake up, I pick up my laptop and begin working. I send emails, post to Instagram, I write scripts, I learn lines. The most productive part of my day is always the morning. Because of this, I now rarely make plans in the beginning part of the day and if I am going to meet a friend for coffee, it largely happens in the afternoon. That way I know I am going to be productive that day. Once I found this strategy, as small as it might sound, it changed my productivity completely. I found myself achieving so much more daily and this meant feeling a much greater sense of pride and satisfaction in my creative life.
KNOWN YOUR PERSONAL ARTISTRY
Knowing where your skills lie as an artist is especially important in pursuing a successful career as an actor. Knowing this allows you to market yourself in the best way possible and stand out in a sea of actors all pursuing the same goal. Depending on your personal creativity, your skills will differ but the important thing is to play to your strengths. It could be creating short content on social media, writing scripts, improvisation, whatever it is it is important to use this to market yourself. Understanding where to position yourself in the industry is invaluable, I am an actor and a writer and I know that the combination of these skills is the best way for me to have a successful career. However, I have long struggled with writing scripts by myself as there are no deadlines and I am liable to no one. Finding a writing partner that I worked well with was incredibly important and since finding this in LA, my productivity in writing has increased greatly. Our creative relationship involves teamwork; we encourage each other and provide feedback and structure. This partnership is invaluable and has ensured I am constantly creating and accountable to someone.
There is simply no denying the relevance of social media today and whilst those two words might fill you with dread, it can be an excellent platform for creating and gaining attention as an actor. I don’t pretend to be any kind of social media success or even mildly knowledgeable in this area but luckily my dear friend @madeleinebyrnee has an incredible following on social media and is a bonafide expert.
So naturally, I asked for her advice and here’s what she had to say:
“My motivation to create content on instagram was driven by the fact that I had been living in LA for a year with hardly any success. Deep down, I knew I had a unique voice and the hunger to create so I decided to use instagram for what it is, a social platform. I started putting out short comedy videos and the result was immediate. I didn’t have to get anyone’s permission, I didn’t have to wait to be cast, I just had to come up with an idea. This led to me gaining a significant following on instagram (235k followers).
This has helped my career in ways I couldn’t imagine but more than that, it has given me confidence. I can walk into any room, any meeting and know that I am unique. I have something that not everyone is willing to do or can do. Putting yourself out there can be terrifying but for me, that was a risk I was willing to take. My advice is if you want to create content, you need to find out your point of view. What makes you unique? You also need to be constantly creating and putting your work out there. It is combination of all these things that will provide you with success in social media.”
Before I moved to LA, when I thought of a person who enjoyed networking, I imagined a person, business card in hand, telling you every single achievement of their life to date, essentially a person in a continuous pitch of themselves. I believe Australians struggle more with networking because culturally it is looked down upon to discuss your achievements or to sell yourself. This mentality is in direct opposition to the more American approach to networking that does involve discussing your career and achievements. When I moved to LA this was something that for me, took perhaps the longest to adjust too. I do not consider myself to be especially good in any social or networking setting but I do understand now that my ideas of networking being something that involved ‘selling yourself’ or talking about yourself endlessly are not true and actually that the best way to network (and in fact just live your life) is to just be yourself. It might sound trite but in reality that is the only point of difference between you and the person standing next to you. Networking allows you to develop relationships that provide not just potential work but often great friendships. There are endless opportunities for you to be seen and garner creative relationships in your life; these include the obvious networking events but also acting classes and workshops. My experience with networking has been that the relationships I have made have booked me jobs as an actor but have also provided me with more people in my life to simply support my career. When I reflect on the best ways to approach any networking situation, my immediate advice is that like any relationship, you can’t fake it. If you meet someone at a party that you simply do not like, don’t continue the friendship, no matter their position. Be yourself, have a genuine interest in others and their career and ask great questions. All of these things make you not just a great networker but a good friend and person to have around.
JUST DO SOMETHING
Being successful as an actor will mean different things to different people. Success is not a single notion; there is no one answer. To find success in your career, you need to know what it means to you. Once you know that, you can create a strategy that allows you to implement steps towards your goals daily. Once you understand your plan, all you need to do is stick to do it. Actors are filled with endless imagination and spirit and remembering your unique gifts is the best way to approach your career to achieve success and market yourself in a way that best showcases your personal artistry. There is no one road to success, some actor’s move to LA, Atlanta, Canada, some stay in Sydney. You can create short or long form content, write, start a blog, whatever you do, the important thing is to do something. The ability to take control of your own career and not wait for your representation to provide you with opportunities is the most empowering and important decision any actor can make. It will change your creative life, ensuring you stand out as an actor but more importantly allowing you to feel satisfaction and pride in the pursuit of your goals using the personal artistry that you uniquely have.