Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Image and the Business

No matter what anyone wants to admit or believe, the way you look is the number one factor in getting or not getting work in the acting world whether on stage or on screen.  Especially on screen.  The screen is completely unforgiving.  At least on stage an actor has some distance from the audience and can hide/fake appearance.  But on screen, what you look like is what you look like, often with an unflattering extra 15 pounds that the camera somehow adds.  So being thin and pretty can give an actor or actress a leg up on the competition, especially when that competition is already thin and pretty

I'm not saying that talent doesn't have anything to do with getting cast or not, because it certainly does.  But if you don't fit the look the production is going for you never get an audition to show off your talent.  If a casting director is looking for a 20's to 30's actress for a part, they're looking for a skinny/fit 20's to 30's actress (they won't come out and say they're looking for skinny, but they are), so if I were to submit for that part, they'd see an average (i.e. not thin or fat, i.e. too fat for thin parts and to thin for fat parts) 20's to 30's actress and I'd get put in the dump pile.  Likewise, if a casting director were looking for a fat 20's to 30's actress I'd also make it into the dump pile, thus not getting any auditions to show off my talent and possibly getting cast.

I don't really like the fact that this industry is so focused on looks.  But I can't change how the system works; I can't take on the entire entertainment industry and try to change how it's always worked.  I'm not a crusader; I'm an actress trying to get work.

So, what can I do?  Change my image!  Loose weight!  Get in better shape!  Update my look!  Become fashionable!  So that's what I am going to do.  There are a lot of things I need to do to get my career back on track.  I need to take some lessons on film acting to perfect my technique.  I need auditioning workshops to get over the anxiety of getting back to auditioning.  I need to get new headshots to better market myself.  I need to start going back to mixers and screenings to meet people and network.  None of these things would be worth much if I don't change the way I look.  I don't need to drastically change things--at least I don't think I need to drastically change, but I do need to change them.  So that's exactly what I'll do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's been a while

It's been a while since I've done any serious acting. I try to do at least one production a year, and since moving to Houston 10 years ago I have managed to be on stage at least that much. A few years ago, I even managed to make the lion's share of my income by acting--not that the lion's share was much, but I did live as a working actor. And let me tell you, it was hard. After that year I questioned whether or not I was on the right path and if acting really was my life's passion. I felt demoralized, unsuccessful, depressed and a level of frustration I had never experienced before.

So I decided to take some time off to reevaluate how I felt about the industry. I became a massage therapist (partly to have a flexible schedule should I ever seriously return to acting), I got engaged to my long time boyfriend, spent a year planning the wedding, and I continued to do at least one show a year.

During this time, I constantly thought about acting. At first I had negative feelings about the industry and was relieved to no longer struggle to be a part of it. I was tired of being poor and eating Ramen noodle soup every day. I was tired of being judged on how I looked. I felt like the acting scene in Houston was as clique-ish as middle school and, try as I might, I was never cool enough to fit in. I hated seeing people who had never acted before get cast in something just because they were friends with the writer/director/producer when there was an endless supply of "real" actors practically begging for work. I was sick of it all.

After a while, my feelings began to change. I wanted to start chasing my dream again. One play a year was just not cutting it! But I was afraid that I had let too much time pass. I hadn't done any film work in years. All the directors, producers, and screenwriters I had met over the years would certainly not remember me. The plays I was in during this time were all at my college theatre; it was all unpaid work at a theatre I loved, but did not push my skills or career to the next level. I had gotten terribly out of shape, and in an industry where image is almost everything I wouldn't be able to compete with other actors who simply looked better than me. I felt defeated and resigned to my decision to not be a part of it all. I had burned my bridges and there was no going back. I had made my decision to quit and I just had to live with it and all the regret that went along with it. A lot of the other things I wanted in life depended on me being a responsible adult and earning an equal living to my partner; if I wanted a wedding and a house and a baby meant never again pursuing my career seriously. After all, how can a mortgage get paid on an actor's salary?

I became resentful at the world for being in a position to have to choose between a comfortable life and my dream. I was angry that I couldn't have it all--a house, a family, financial security and being a successful actor. Why couldn't all those things go together? I saw no reason why they couldn't go together, but I didn't know how to make them go together. So I continued to do my one show a year. I told myself to be happy with that. It's too late to get back into the game.

But then I realized something. It's not too late. I can still go after my dream. Just because I'm married now and want to buy a house, start a family, and open my own massage spa doesn't mean I can't lay down the ground work to launch my acting career again. Sure, it's going to be hard. I'm going to have a lot of work to do, but I can do it. It's not impossible!!! And it's probably a good thing that I took so much time away from my career. In reality I wasn't as successful as I would have liked to believe I was. All those bridges I think I burned weren't very big bridges to begin with and they certainly weren't the majority of the bridges I need to cross. If anything, I have an advantage. I get to start fresh. I get to make new connections with people, I get to change my image, I get to be who I want to be in this industry. I get to start over, and I couldn't be more excited!!!
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