The BGB Studio is an interesting confluence of casting office and acting studio and it affords us a bird’s eye view of actors and acting careers. We see what works. We get to observe every type of actor and acting career here. And beyond that, we also see the reality of the business because it’s happening here right now. We see what certain actors are doing in their training and in the audition room to be successful on a consistent basis. And we also see the myriad ways in which most actors get in the way of their creative process and then exactly how that sabotaging manifests itself in the audition room. We see both sides of the formula. There are conclusions that can be drawn from observing what we observe here—conclusions about what it takes to be successful—and what most actors are doing to prevent success from happening. What we’re going to tell you might rub you the wrong way. It might trigger you, make you defensive or angry, but we’re going to say it anyway because we believe it to be the truth. Here it is:
Most actors don’t know what it takes to have a successful acting career and most actors aren’t doing what it takes.
Most actors have a dream: winning an Oscar or booking a TV series or whatever, but very few of you are doing the kind of consistent, transformative work required to reach that goal. Most of you go halfway and then stop. That sounds negative and disparaging, but as thousands of actors come through this office to audition every year and hundreds more train with us at the studio, we see patterns.
Most actors aren’t doing the work that it takes to be among the tiniest percent of actors who achieve the highest level of success on a consistent basis. Having a successful acting career is tantamount to making it to the Olympics. The best actors from all over the world are in L.A. and New York City trying to get that part on that procedural drama (not to mention that big pilot or blockbuster movie). It’s a class of very, very few who book the big parts. And it is incredible talent, incredible determination, an immense amount of hard work, and incredible luck that turns that dream to reality. And even with all that, nothing is guaranteed. It might not happen like you saw it in your dreams or it could take two decades. Or, more likely, as the statistics suggest, it might not happen at all.
In order to compete at the top level—to be consistently considered for big parts—you have to be functioning at 110 percent fairly consistently.
How do you do that? It’s a simple answer that very few actors accept. You act…all…the damn…time. Once a week in class is not enough if you really want this. Yes, you have to be in class, but you also need to be doing theater—(every casting director worth anything will consider your theater training as an asset)—good student films, shorts, indies, self-taping, writing and shooting your own material, etc., etc. Whatever it takes to keep practicing the craft you love all the time. You need to act any chance you get. Only acting once or twice a week? Ask yourself if doing something twice a week is the amount of work that warrants a studio and network investing millions of dollars and their reputations in you. We’re not advocating for obsessing and burning yourself out by doing it 24/7. You have to have a foundation of self-care that sustains you and a full life outside of acting, but to compete at this peak level, you have to be at it all the time, fully, and most actors aren’t.
Many actors want to be proactive and understand that it’s a competitive business, but they let that desire and understanding lead them in the wrong direction. They respond to the need to work hard by doing every casting director workshop out there, pestering their friends for agent referrals, or taking a four-week audition class, looking for the formula that will bring them success.
While there’s nothing wrong with doing a few good casting director workshops, getting your headshot and reel out to reps, and taking audition classes, the truth is that success as an actor isn’t as easy as “getting in the door,” “getting in front of the right people,” or “finding the audition formula.” Most of the work of a successful acting career comes from the fearless, consistent exploration and expression of one’s unique emotional life—practicing your craft all the time. It’s hour after hour on stage, in front of the camera, in class, finding new and interesting ways to be emotionally triggered, discovering how you were triggered, and then growing from that discovery. It’s hours and hours of going back to the beginning, making sure that your instrument is always tuned. It’s hours and hours of humility, never being above the work, and, in fact, seeking out work that challenges your resistance. It’s hours and hours that lead to decades of work that create a body of work that gives you weight as an actor, and ultimately, value as an actor—being so good at what you do, so solid, that people in the industry believe you will add value to their project. And when you walk in the audition room with that weight, that value, everyone feels that you deserve to be there, among the best. Especially you. So, sure get your work seen by casting people, agents, etc., but know that when you do the consistent artistic work and have value as an actor, the business comes to you.
To be successful, there is no room for an excuse. Ever. For no other reason other than that the business isn’t a caring, compassionate human being who can consider your personal issues as it decides to cast you or not. It’s an entity with deadlines, investors, bottom lines, etc. It serves to satisfy the financial and creative needs of everyone involved and it is unaffected by the fact that you didn’t get the sides until the night before.
But we’ll still hear actors say:
“Yeah, but I don’t have an agent.”
“I don’t have much on my reel.”
“I don’t audition well because I get so nervous.”
“I didn’t have time to memorize the lines.”
“The reader didn’t give me anything.”
“They’ll probably give it to a name.”
…and on and on and on.
And we get it. There are a million things that will occur in the course of an acting career that aren’t part of your plan and make you uncomfortable and require you to adapt. But you know what? No one cares. And we mean that with love. It’s not a dismissive statement meant to disparage or shame you. It’s a truth you need to be aware of so you can make some hard decisions about what you’re willing to do to make yourself available to success. The deadlines, the scope, the financial and emotional investment made by so many people all mean that your singular, uncomfortable experience is mostly irrelevant outside of whether you can offer them amazing acting work when and how they want it. If you can’t offer that then they’ll instinctively move on and look for someone who can. There are lovely, caring people in this business, but when it comes down to it, they have a job to do, and if you can’t help them do that job then they won’t be in business with you. They can’t.
All of this might sound harsh, but it’s also the reality we see in front of us. And rather than spend decades floating, bouncing from restaurant job to restaurant job, maybe booking a co-star here or there, you need to know in no uncertain terms that in order to acquire and maintain a successful acting career, you’re going to have to lift weights that are heavier than any you’ve ever lifted before. You’re going to have to reach higher, dig deeper, and find more joy in the work than you ever have before. Entitlement, sloth, sabotage, or any other issue puts up roadblocks in an already treacherous path that few people have the stuff to navigate.
So, step up. Pursue the creative exploration of the work with abandon. Lust for it. Explore, explore, explore. Take every opportunity to act. Hitting a creative wall? Fill the creative tank with another element of the work—a different way in. Keep jumping even though there’s no emotional safety net. That’s what we’re seeing successful actors do. And here’s the good news: If you act every single day, let go of your limitations, and meet resistance with excitement, you’ll be a happier person and have a leg up on most actors.
Join us for class and take charge of your career again.