So, you bought a big-money lottery ticket. You knew you were more likely to be hit by lightning (twice) but you did it anyway. ‘Cause you can’t win if you don’t play!” Plus, your imagination ran wild with the possibility of that kind of unmitigated power. You’d buy a place on the Amalfi Coast, you’d invest in grocery stores in under-served neighborhoods, you’d fly all your friends to Paris, buy a dress made of diamonds, stand under the Arc de Triomphe and dance. Just dance. And for a week or so before the winning numbers are announced, you’ll think, “Maybe. Just maybe MY numbers could be THE numbers.”
But of course the morning after the winning numbers are announced the reality of your First World poverty is thrust back into stark focus as you discover that you didn’t win. Not only did you not win, no one in your state won. Actually, nobody within twelve hundred miles of you won. You gave away ten bucks for nothing but a week of wild imagining.
Illusive dreams are intoxicating like that. They entice you with the prospect of money, fame and not waiting for a table at The Ivy. But if such dreams become your sole focus, you can lose sight of your reality. You can live a life of only looking forward, a life long on possibility but short on the wonderful, truthful and tangible stuff of everyday beauty. The search for Moby Dick can keep you looking forward. But it can also obscure the wonder of the moment. Sound familiar?
That’s right, actors are all about the Mega Millions. Except in our business we call it, “a CBS pilot that’s already got six episodes on order.” Or the new Jordan Peele movie that’s not looking for a name actor. Or that XYZ Insurance Company campaign that will keep you employed for six years. Most of you moved to LA, New York, Atlanta, etc. looking not to become just one of the 3-6% or so of union actors that is working at any given time. No, most of you came to LA or New York to hit the big one! To be nothing less than a big ol’ bright shining star. To win the Academy Award. To own the house on the hill. To live half the year on the island in the Caribbean. To date the hottest model. To walk the streets and get recognized. “Oh My God, that’s ________!”, they’ll say.
But as Pilot Seasons come and go and many of you deal with the reality of not winning the lottery, you can feel disappointed and lost. Your wild imagining wasn’t actualized. It might even be worse for those of you who were deep in the hunt, who tested for a couple shows, came close and didn’t land one. You may wonder- as you do after most Pilot Seasons- if all the investment is worth it. You may even be wondering if it’s time time to let Moby Dick go.
While dreams are important, in our business an actor must find the balance between the dream and the moment. Such a balance is not only important in a scene (what you want vs. what is actually happening as you listen and react in real time). It’s also an important balance for you to maintain in your life if you’re interested in healthy relationships and personal fulfillment. You must balance the forward reach with an appreciation for your reality, or else your reality will never be enough and you’ll always be reaching. There’s always a bigger fish, especially in our business. Inherent in an intense focus on the dream is the notion that your current situation isn’t enough. So leaning too far towards the dream begins to show disrespect for your progress, your struggle, your sensible Toyota Corolla and your imperfect mate. The dream can shit on your reality and undermine the value of your journey.
If you’re in this thing for that one big win and the fame and money that come with it, you probably won’t find fulfillment. Unless you are 1 of 30 or so actors on the planet who win the acting lottery, the money you make and the fame you acquire won’t be worth the hard work and years required to achieve it. The odds are long that you’ll make hundreds of thousands let alone millions of dollars and even when you book a TV series it’s a miracle if it lasts more than three seasons. If you want money and fame, logic suggests that you’re better off getting a graduate degree, working a steady job making 60G a year consistently and working to build up your Instagram following you can then influence. This sounds pessimistic but it’s not.
If you can keep the dream in mind while finding the joy in your artistic struggle, your process, and your growth, you will indeed have a life of fulfillment. If you can see acting not as the journey towards a final financial destination, but as a life of never-ending discovery, you’ll find unbelievable joy as an actor. If you love it so much that the rejection, the traffic, the searching, the stagnancy, the restaurant job, etc. is outweighed by one miraculous moment of personal growth and human connection in some run-down theatre in The Valley, you’ll be OK. And being whole, happy and in a deep and consistent exploration of the work gets you closer than anything to being an actor who gets paid the big bucks to act on a fancy TV show. Success emerges from a practice of artistic exploration in the moment, for its own sake. That practice- year after year, day after day, moment after moment, keeps you in love with the work, keeps your talent primed and ready, and gives you value as an actor. So, keep the dream in mind, but fall in love with the reality of this moment.
The most important moment in an actor’s life is this moment. Now.
For the countless folks who won’t ever win the lottery, and for actors who are still unemployed after the most recent Pilot Season, now is a perfect time to re-engage with your reality. If your head and heart are present- right here right now- you’ll notice so much stunning beauty. This moment is beautiful and full, with or without a TV pilot. With or without your share of $650 million.
So, get back into class, start writing again, start shooting again. Get back to the work. And sure, go on and dream big. But always commit to the beauty of now. It’s what successful actors do.
Take charge of your career and own artistic power by taking class with us at the BGB Studio.