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The Actor’s Fatal Mistake

There is a particular mistake that most actors make. It is a mistake so fatal that it can kill a career before it starts, or dismantle a career once it’s been built. We see it happen again and again and the results are tragic. Years of hard work can evaporate in one moment. Talent, training, and drive are no match for the fallout of making this mistake. Trouble is, no one talks about it. You don’t learn about it in theater school or most acting studios. So, actor after actor falls into the same trap and spends years auditioning from a place of weakness, bitterness, hopelessness. Decades pass and no ground has been gained.

The roots of the mistake are in the very nature of the business itself. You move to Los Angeles or New York City, dedicate yourself to being an actor, and begin engaging fully in the forward-thinking pursuit of the business. “Is my headshot hot enough? How do I get an agent? How many casting director workshops can I possibly do in a week?” Pursuit, pursuit, pursuit. Always thinking ahead. Always trying to conquer.

But locked in a perpetual state of pursuit in a business that rarely gives an actor what she wants (and when it does it happens for short periods of time which end, resulting in more pursuit), most actors have nothing to satisfy them creatively and personally, other than the potential of an audition which they most likely won’t book. And that’s like driving a car without ever filling the tank. In no time at all rejection creates deep-rooted self-doubt, jealousy, anger, bitterness and hopelessness. Caught behind a thick wall of negativity, your talent has no place to go. You’re sunk.

Many decades of experience in front of and behind the camera in casting rooms and on set have shown us that most actors fail because they move to Los Angeles or New York City and move right into the voracious pursuit of the industry before they lay down a rock-solid artistic foundation—a practice that keeps them in the best physical, emotional, and artistic shape possible—the kind of championship shape you have to be in to actually conquer the business and book work consistently.

Wherever you are in your career, you have to have a foundational structure in place that helps manage emotional and financial ups and downs, that keeps you deep in the craft of acting even when you’re not working (auditioning is usually not enough), and keeps you whole and happy so that you can suit up and show up with gusto for that next audition.

For instance, the consistent practice of meditation, connected exercise, writing, acting in one form or another that doesn’t require someone else’s permission to do it (theater, shooting your own material, class, etc., etc.), or volunteering (or anything that gets you out of yourself and in the spirit of generosity), creates a full life, keeps you connected to yourself and the world around you, and makes you a better actor.

Rolling your eyes at the suggestion that anything but another casting director workshop, networking event, or a “branding” class might get you closer to your dream? You’re on the road to making that fatal mistake.Whatever the routine is for you, whatever creative foundation gives you weight, whatever consistent practice keeps you positive and in lust of acting, you have to practice it. Every week. Religiously. Make it part of your life. If you haven’t created your foundation and begun practicing it, you have to start ASAP. The longer you go without it, the more your wheels will spin, and you won’t move forward. If being an actor is more than just a short-lived shot at winning the lottery, if it’s more than just a pursuit but rather a lifestyle choice as it has to be, you’re going to have to create a strong foundation in order to last more than a year at this. You’re going to have to craft an active, productive, artistic lifestyle. Most actors don’t do it. And most actors’ dreams don’t come true.

Don’t make the same mistake. You have the power to create a foundational practice that serves your craft and career and keeps you deeply connected to yourself and the world around you.


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