If you owned a restaurant, would you cook good food only when you thought ‘good customers’ would be coming?
If you owned a hair salon would you give great haircuts only to ‘important’ or ‘high profile’ clients?
Of course you wouldn’t.
You’d give it your all every day because you would have invested a great deal of time and money and probably would have given up many wonderful opportunities and life experiences just so you could pursue the dream of running your own business.
You’d work like crazy to protect your investment and to make it grow.
So why is it that some actors only bring their A-game when they are up for a ‘good’ role in a ‘great’ project? Why do so many struggling actors prepare less for an Equity waiver show or a workshop performance than they would if they were given the chance to play the side-kick or love interest in the next Brad Pitt flick? What gives?
During my career I’ve received many phone calls and emails from struggling actors who ‘need to get some quick information’ about a dialect for a show that opens in mere days — a show they’ve been rehearsing for weeks. Of course sometimes this happens because the actor isn’t aware of what really goes into learning a dialect, but a fair number of these calls come so late because (as the actor tells me) ‘it’s only a workshop’ or ‘it’s just a short run in a small theater.’
Am I to understand that this type of actor only acts for ‘important’ audiences in ‘long-running shows’ produced in ‘colossal theaters?’ Do they only audition for film roles that are guaranteed to be blockbusters? And if so does this perhaps explain why they are still struggling in their career?
I know that you are not one of these actors, but today I want to encourage you to treat your acting career with the same care you would give to a brick and mortar business. It’s not only potentially lucrative, it’s one of the most personally rewarding choices you can make.
I invite you to step back and look at your acting career as if there were four walls and a front door…
What exactly is the product you are selling?
What makes your particular product so valuable? What separates it from the competition’s?
Who exactly are your customers (current and potential)?
In what ways do you come in contact with your customers? (In person? On line? Only during a production, or are there other contact points?)
What do your customers want?
Do you have employees? Sub-contractors? Vendors? Do you have good relationships with those entities?
Do you have specific plans for the growth of your business?
Do you plan to improve or change your product in any way?(This of course, is where dialect work might come into the mix. Mastering a dialect would fall under the heading ‘Product Improvement and Optimization.’)
If you’ve never looked at your acting career this way, I wish you a happy adventure as you answer these questions for yourself. You may also want to grab a few primers on running a business. There are numerous books available that describe how to run your acting business, but you can also learn many things from authors outside the entertainment industry. You might perhaps try some of Steve Chandler’s or Seth Godin’s many works. (Seth’s book ‘Tribes’ can be particularly useful for actors.)
If running your acting business is already second nature to you, I encourage you to lend a hand and mentor another actor who could benefit from your knowledge. You’ll not only help someone out, you’ll probably end up learning something new yourself!
Joy to you,