Pursuing acting as a profession is exciting (and ultimately very rewarding if you are successful), but it can be extremely frustrating when you start out. There is no one path to success for actors. We read about how some stars seem to attain success overnight, and others toil for decades before breaking through. With all the books, guides, blogs, and so-called experts sharing conflicting advice, it can be hard to know what to do.
For the last couple of years, we have worked closely with actors who are preparing to move to Los Angeles (or who have recently arrived here), and we have noticed some common themes among the actors who have a tough time getting started. If you are considering a move to LA to launch your career in the biggest entertainment market in the world, we want you to avoid these mistakes:
Mistake #1: Failure to set specific goals quickly enough.
The good news is there are endless opportunities to work as an actor in LA! The bad news is that it is so easy for us to be scattered and unfocused as a result.
You probably want to act in all formats of television and film since you are coming to the film capital of the world. And why not? You’re versatile, right? If Bryan Cranston can be the hapless, lovable dad on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE and also a ruthless criminal mastermind on BREAKING BAD, then why can’t you? You’ve heard that you can make great money in commercials, so you plan to book a few of those as well. And your first love is theater, so you also want to do a play.
All of these opportunities are exciting, but they will lead you in different directions in terms of the actions you take to make them happen.
If you are planning to earn a living as an actor, you must begin to view this artistic craft as a business. As the CEO of your business, you must set specific, time-bound goals, and work in a focused way toward achieving them. The sooner you learn this habit and do it consistently, the more successful you will be.
Here’s an example of an effective goal for an actor: I will book a co-star role on a network sitcom in the next 6 months.
Setting this goal won’t prevent you from booking a national commercial, or a film, or even a guest star role on a procedural drama. But it will help you decide which classes to invest in first (comedy for camera, perhaps), and what your headshots should look like. You can start to meet casting directors who cast sitcoms, and target agencies and management companies who represent comedic actors. You can’t get to know everyone in Los Angeles right away, but you can build momentum more quickly by building relationships that will help you hit specific milestones.
Mistake #2: Neglecting to pursue training in your craft right away.
Many actors arrive in Los Angeles, and “take a break” before joining a good acting class. We get it. You may be graduating from an intensive training program or conservatory, and you want to take a moment to breathe while you establish your life in a new city. But this is a huge mistake.
The Los Angeles market is the most competitive in the world. In order to get work here, you need to outperform the best of the best. That means your audition technique, on-camera technique, script analysis, and improvisation skills need to be amazing, to name a few. There is always a way you can be a better actor. If Yo-Yo Ma (the best cellist in the world) still practices his cello, you need to be strengthening your craft on a regular basis as well.
Plus, acting classes in Los Angeles are the best way to build community with other proactive artists and content creators. Acting is not a solo sport. It is impossible to build a successful career on your own. You need support, accountability, and friendships to make this happen, and class is a great way to meet those needs.
Mistake #3: Comparing yourself to other actors who’ve been working in Hollywood for years.
It’s a natural human tendency to compare yourself to others. This can be extremely dangerous for actors and artists though. We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others. But we have no idea what is really going on in the lives of other actors.
Always remember that your contributions and value are entirely unique to you and your purpose in this world. They can never be properly compared to anyone else. Don’t allow comparisons to rob you of your own drive and passion. We never want you to feel like it’s no use to keep working toward your goals because you feel so far behind.
To avoid falling prey to the stress and anxiety that comparisons can create, we recommend you cultivate a mindfulness practice that allows you to connect with your inner self. Oftentimes actors are not paying enough attention to the inner work required to truly make it in this business. An astounding number of pros in entertainment have a meditation practice, like Eva Mendes, Russell Brand, Angelina Jolie, and even Kourtney Kardashian!
And if you MUST compare, compare with yourself. That’s really the only fair comparison you can make. How much have you grown over the past three years? How about the past three months? Strive to be the best possible version of yourself. Commit to growing a little bit each day. Learn to celebrate and be grateful for the small advancements you are making. These successes add up quickly!
Avoid these three mistakes, and there’s no limit to what you can achieve in a relatively short period of time. Please comment on the blog and let us know what your specific goal is. We can’t wait to watch you thrive in Hollywood. Break a leg!
Ajarae and Sarah