Act Smart!: 12 Ways to (Not) Guarantee a Successful Career

After over six years of advice about how to act smarter, I thought maybe it was time to look at it the other way around. Want to know how to make sure your acting career tanks and takes you down with it? Read on!
 

1. Always show up unprepared. To a meeting, an audition, a job—whatever! It keeps things fresh and spontaneous.

2. Ignore anyone who can’t help you get an acting job. Assistants, security guards, that nice guy who made your half-caf Americano. So what if they are the possible collaborators of today and gatekeepers of tomorrow? Right now, they’re nothing but a waste of your time. So don’t get sucked in! In fact, go it one better: be rude to them! And don’t forget its corollary…

3. Pester important people until they notice you. How do you think successful actors who book work over and over again do it? That’s right: they bother the crap out of anyone who has access. Too exhausting? Add variety and give yourself a rest by alternating between this tactic and the following one…

4. Wait to be discovered. You’ll be fresher that way when it happens, which it certainly will. And don’t initiate any of your own projects in the meantime. You don’t want to be caught having fun, or looking like you have initiative. Producers will think you want their jobs!

5. Quit your day job. Immediately. Having no means of supporting yourself will keep you hungry and on your toes. You’ll be like a lean jungle cat! Only in the jungles of Hollywood, New York, or Kansas City!

6. Drop anything in your life unrelated to acting. This includes, but is not limited to: friends & family; recreation; community service; learning new skills; travel; hobbies; etc. I’ll bet you have a few things sitting on your calendar right now you could clear off to make room for possible acting jobs, i.e. being discovered. Keep your eyes on the prize!

7. Limit acting-related skills to three or four. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Or overly engage your brain.

8. Don’t waste your time reading anything not immediately and obviously related to acting. In fact, stop reading entirely. It might interfere with your concentration as you wait around to be discovered.
9. Only work on a project if it pays. Are you an amateur or a professional? Do professionals get paid or do they not? Quod erat demonstrandum.

10. Don’t take more than one acting class, ever. If it’s a good class, you should have learned how to do it by now. Every class you waste your time sitting in equals a couple of hours that could have been spent pestering important people or waiting to be discovered! Besides, classes screw with your natural talent, and what do you have if you don’t have that?

11. Avoid watching TV and film. You run the risk of learning something, and that might mess with your natural talent, remember? It is far more exciting when you show up at an audition and you have never seen a single scene of any popular series and have no understanding of what’s being asked of you. People will respect you for being your own person!

12. Ignore the Internet. It’s a stupid waste of time where nothing of importance ever happens.

* * *

(Non-Acting) BOOK OF THE MONTH: It took me far too long to get around to reading Scott McCloud’s landmark book Understanding Comics—probably because I didn’t see how it was immediately relevant to a writer (see #8, above). Learn from my mistake! Not only does the book do an amazing job of placing comics in a historical context and explaining how they work, it will help you understand how to tell stories visually, one of the most important actor skills there is. As a kind of bonus-extra, Chapter 7 contains the best analysis I’ve ever read of the road from aspiring artist to one with the skills to make the art she longs to—probably because it has pictures.

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeaker-layabout who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good instead of evil by helping creatives learn how to strut their stuff in a way that makes the world fall madly in love with them.
 

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