This lesson has been written and rewritten in countless books, drilled into my head by respected acting teachers, and discussed with numerous friends all striving for the same goal. Yet I have still confirmed to myself many times that, “Yep. This is it. The be all and end all- I’ll act even as I lie starving in my cardboard box on the corner of Sunset and Western.”
Since moving to Los Angeles about a year ago, things have started to change. The once romantic idea of the starving artist has become about as unappealing as, well, living out of your car with no access to electricity or a regular shower could be. And the prospect of reading yet another contemporary, complete sentence-lacking, nudity-infested dramatic piece by some lowly actor who’s been around for 10+ years with no success, written only to have their work seen by modest c-lister agents makes me want to rethink my decision to stop attending church.
This idea has been brewing for about six months now. Ever since a tall, dark and handsome man very near and dear to my heart urged me to step onto the red carpet at a [small] Hollywood movie premiere.
“No way! I’m not going.” I had flashbacks of my childhood: my pudgy flushed face screaming as the doctor inched closer and closer to me with that little pointy instrument he would soon stick in my ear- that was about the WORST and most uncomfortable thing that could possibly happen at that moment.
“Okay,” I began to think after that very telling experience, “I came to Los Angeles to be an actress but walking the red carpet is about as frightening and off-putting to me as a doctor’s office visit is to a 4 year old. There’s something wrong with this picture.”
The week following, I made a round of calls to my usual friends and family back home to expound on my newfound revelation in the making: I don’t think I want to act anymore. This was met by some with dismay: “What?! Are you sure you’re not just scared? You haven’t even given it a chance.” But was met by more with, “Good for you for realizing that… So what are you going to do now?”
That’s just it. I didn’t have a clue.
So I thought maybe a summer acting with my favorite director, surrounded by dozens of impassioned performers would be my cure-all. Surely all the intimidating schmoozing, glitz and glamour of Hollywood would be stripped away and I’d get back to the heart of WHY I wanted to pursue this field in the first place.
No such luck.
Since returning to LA three weeks ago, I’ve attempted to go at the acting thing full force. But I simply lack the drive. In my hometown, it’s easy to get a role if you know the inner circle and you have some sort of (arguable) talent. Though it sounds sophomoric, maybe I thought LA wouldn’t be too far from that. I’m pretty, I can act well, I love it enough. But I was wrong. To make it in LA, you can’t just love it enough- you’ve got to be willing to live in your car until you land the right movie role, you have to be okay with working as a waitress until you’re 30 before the agent of your dreams spots you at a random event. And even then, nothing is guaranteed. I’m NOT okay with that.
I want to use the brain that God gave me to make something of myself. I want to contribute something to the world that I feel strongly about. And while performing will always be close to me, it’s no longer the be all and end all.
I can see myself being happy doing something else. HappiER, in fact, because my destiny lies more within my grasp.
Two years ago (and that was TWO years ago), 88% of Equity Members were unemployed. Only 12% of SAG actors are currently earning over $20,000 a year acting. Those statistics are staggering and encourages me to a) buy a lottery ticket everyday to be met with the same odds or b) think I would be CRAZY not to follow my gut and venture down another road— to finally take the advice of my many acting teachers and DO THAT instead.3 years ago