After the Gold Rush

After the Gold Rush

By Steve Braun

In 1848 a man named James Marshall was checking up on a mill he was building on the banks of the American River in Northern California when a glint of light caught his eye from below. Looking down he saw a nugget of gold that would set the world ablaze with fever, draw enough attention to the region to create cities like San Francisco, bring California into the union, and sow the seeds of misery and despair for most gold-seeking miners and genocide for the indigenous people who had been there for generations. In the summer of 1848 you could still make a fortune picking out nuggets of gold from rocks in California. By early 1849 there was little left of the get-rich-quick, California Dream for the thousands of hopefuls who came from far and wide to collect their fortune. In spite of the truth that there was mostly no golden fortune to be had, 90,000 Forty-Niners- as they were called- arrived in California in 1849 chasing the dream; 300,000 by 1855 looking for something that didn’t exist. And the lessons of the Gold Rush are important for actors.

You love acting, you have a dream of being a successful working actor, and you think you know the steps to get there. You know someone who booked a show and that person had an agent and that agent got their work seen in a room or self-tape and that led to a booking that put them on a TV show. So, you decide, what you need is an agent to get your work seen and you focus all your energy on getting an agent. And that’s a mistake. Focusing on getting an agent takes your attention away from what you actually want, which is to get your work seen by people who make decisions- casting directors, directors, showrunners, executives, etc. The business has changed. Mid-level agents are making less money and are far less interested in actors who won’t pay off right away. That will leave most actors without an agent.

The other side of that change is that technology has made it easier than ever to create work that gets seen- self-tapes, web series, Instagram videos, etc, etc. It’s a big shift and actors resist it because it is a shift from being passive to being active. In the same way that it would be great if you could kneel down and find a big old nugget of gold on the ground, it would be great if you had someone who did the work of getting you seen by important people and all you had to do is show up and be talented. 

That’s not real life.

The new world requires you to do the work of getting seen.

But first, it requires that you stop being passive, step up, and act on all the new venues available to you. Actors are getting seen through self-tapes, web series, Instagram, viral videos, workshops, theatre, indies, shorts, etc, etc. We encourage actors not to ask the question, “how do I get an agent?” Instead, ask the question, “how do I get seen?” And the answer is that you do the work every single chance you get.

The mistake that many Forty-Niners made is that they focused on the gold itself and not the result of it. They wanted to be rich, and they decided that gold was the easy way to get there so they became obsessed with finding gold. Truth is, the merchants who sold axes, supplies, etc to the influx of miners made the real money. Levi Strauss, for instance, made a pair of pants for a miner in San Francisco and others seemed to like it.

Know exactly what it is you want, take command of your career, and then get there any way you can. Start with a career-changing class HERE!

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