By: Jess Canty
Was catching up on my THR this morning and in The Actor's Roundtable Chadwick Boseman and Mahershala Ali got into an interesting conversation about the business of being an actor:
Boseman: "...it's not all the glitz and glamour people think it is. It's really a blue-collar job. And you work overtime. You sweat. You get hurt. You are an athlete. You are everything that is necessary and you are pulling from things that most people don't usually deal with. You're dealing with the intimate parts of your reality, that most people don't have to deal with on a day-to-day basis - race in a way people don't have to deal with, gender in a way people don;t have to deal with. And you have to want to go through that struggle.
Ali: That's never really articulated. We don't talk about the workman-like qualities within [the business] and how you only actually act between "Action!" and "Cut!"- like 10 percent of the time. The rest of it is looking for material, prepping for it - the wardrobe, the costume elements, building the psychology and getting ready for the piece itself. Getting to act is such a minuscule part of the experience that you have to love it."
Acting is a trade. It is a craft. Always has been, always will be.
I have long believed that the red carpets and the fancy dresses and the awards shows were created exactly for the purpose of masking the fact that being an actor is one of the least glamorous jobs in the world. Who would spend 16 hours in a 30,000 gallon freezing cold water tank if there wasn't a big party at the end of it? Not I, said the fly.
Which is why goal-setting is so important. Think of yourself as a mountain climber. You can't just go out and summit Everest - that would be insane and deadly. You need to train, get your body in shape, learn how to breathe with little atmosphere. Buy the gear, the tent, the shoes. Learn how to tie knots.
You also need to first decide which mountain you are going to climb - and we talk about this a lot when we first meet with you but I believe it is worth reiterating.
Are you climbing the TV Comedy mountain? Or the Independent Feature Drama mountain? Perhaps the Sketch Comedy Mountain? Or perhaps the "I wrote and starred in my own show" mountain. Or 6-figures from national commercials mountain.
Once you have decided which mountain to climb, we are here to help you chart the trail - because other people may have climbed this mountain before but you don't get to use their exact trail. No, you have to bushwhack your own way up the hill with your own machete. Maybe on a path riiiiighhht next to their's but it will still have its own set of thorns and obstacles.
And hopefully your agent and manager are right there next to you helping cut the way through.
It is why we don't want you making drastic changes all the time - unless of course you have been at the base of the same mountain for too long and you just can't find the path at all... then we can talk about a new mountain.
Oh yeah... I am going to keep milking this metaphor... strap in that harness...
The problem many actors have is that they say they want to climb Mount Hood but just when they get started someone tells them that K2 is a much better mountain, so even though they've gotten to 5,000ft on Mount Hood they climb down and then hop a flight to Pakistan.
We want you to summit your mountain.
Once you do, you can decide to try to climb another one, but you must get to the top of one - any one - first. Prove to yourself and this town that you have what it takes to make the climb. Then you can keep hanging out on your mountain and seeing who else is there, or decide to climb another.
So... picture your particular mountain. What is the summit? Is it a series regular? Is it a lead in a film? Is it Broadway?
Now, what steps do you need to take to get to that summit? And where are you in relation to that summit right now?
Will your headshots get you to the top of this particular mountain? What training do you need? Which casting offices do you need to know?
If you're climbing Mt. TV Comedy Series Regular - do you have your co-stars under your belt? Have you booked your first guest star? Are you at UCB or the groundlings? Are you funny?
Making your way up Film Leadanjaro? Are you forging relationships with directors? Which offices cast films? Have you been in for them? Are you in a Meisner class?
If you want to be on a soap are you watching soaps? Do you know the character tropes associated with soap opera work? Where do you fit? Can you memorize quickly?
Before we meet or chat about your goals for this year, please identify the mountain you want to climb, or re-articulate the one you are already climbing.
Now write down at least three specific goals that are related to climbing your particular mountain that you want to accomplish by the end of this year so that we can help you hold yourself to them.
Is the goal to get your first agent? Get a new agent? Book your first recurring role? Find a really great coach? Whatever it is, whatever stage you are at, it is necessary that you write down your goals, post them where you can see them every day, and share them with us.
And then at the end of this year we can look back together from the rarefied air that comes from having your year's goals behind you as you get steps closer to that summit up there above those clouds... you will have left your machete behind because between here and there may be the steepest part of the climb, but at least you can finally see the top.