When we hit 2020, it will have been a year since I have been on a set. And I’m tired of pretending that’s not true.
Last December I went to a yearly Christmas party with a huge smile on my face. I had found out earlier that day I had booked a national commercial. I could not have been more excited, not for money (which is never guaranteed), but for knowing I was about to do what I love and I would get to enter the holidays knowing I was kicking off the next year as a working actor.
When the new year began I also booked a costar role right away (see this article to hear what happened to that) and I was flying. A TV and a commercial shoot in the same month?! Oh, and I got engaged over Christmas. Yes indeed, this was going to be the best year yet.
And then I didn’t book another role for the rest of the year. Yes, I had a voiceover thing here and there, and got to do a cool spot on the Emmys (this was a direct booking because I was a 5’6 brunette). But nothing I auditioned for or was on a “real set” for. Nada. Zip. And guess what is this weekend? That same set of holiday parties I was so excited about last year, shortly followed by travel to see family and friends…I am already exhausted at the thought of answering the question, “hows the acting work?”.
I wasn’t going to tell anyone I felt so awful about this. I actually didn’t intend to point this out at all. I was planning on throwing on a smile and saying how excited I was for my new class/updated reel/good things to come. I was planning on continuing to showcase how unfazed I am, how thick my skin has become as a working actor in LA. But I’m going to tell you the harsh truth, I have been really bummed. To answer your unasked questions, I read scripts weekly, I am in class, I keep up with my networks, and I am constantly submitting and self taping (and please don’t tell me to go “make my own work” because that is not the point of this piece, the point here is to acknowledge how hard this is in waves and waves). In short, I do the leg work…it just hasn’t been my year.
Sure, there are career gaps MUCH longer than this, and tomorrow I could wake up with a really cool opportunity in my inbox (this is why we do this after all isn’t it? knowing that it can all change on a dime?) and I know I am more than prepared for it. But for today, this job is really hard. And if you are an actor about to head home for the holidays dreading that fateful career question with little to answer it, know that I am with you. I feel you. And you may not have a platform to share these feelings as freely as I do, but let’s all just agree sometimes this sucks. Sometimes it’s hard. And all the time, we will keep working.
(Photo: Riker Brothers)
It’s been 5 1/2 years for me. Yeah. Try that. Nothing makes you feel like you’re pretty much a failure & a sucky actor than a extreme stretch of nothing to show for it. Then this past Wednesday, I finally booked a major studio feature film. It can turn on a dime, for sure. But also the reminder that this biz can suck & be amazing all in the same week.
I have read many biographies where there was a great gap between working but you are working every day in everything you do. I believe your day will come❤️
I totally feel you Sam and absolutely applaud you for sharing this truth. I often feel the same way especially in the downtime.
For me, I think the important thing that all of us need to come to terms with as actors is that there is no “there” to get to. Jobs will come and jobs will go. Some will be huge and maybe even life-changing, some will feel totally tiny and insignificant. Some of us might get to the point of having massive fame and money, some may have that fame and money and lose it all, some of us might have the same level of bookings and career that we do now forever as middle-class working actors. And it’s all okay. It’s all valid. We all deserve to feel accomplished with the work we have done and continue to do.
The steps of the ladder that used to exist to mark “success” and forward momentum even just 10 years ago are totally different now. And personally, I’ll stay on this ride as long as the industry will have me, I’m an artistic “lifer”. But if there comes a time when I want to pivot or move on and focus on another artistic pursuit, that’s ok too and will only feed my artistic soul more.
I get excited for people who decide to take a break or move on from the industry because there is a big, big world of other things to experience in life out there. I know a lot of people who have spent many years just slogging it out and waiting for a “big break” which unfortunately will most likely never come in they way they expect it to. They have missed living their lives to the fullest. Hollywood sells a myth that “it” will happen if we all just try hard enough and wait long enough, take enough classes, get new headshots constantly, take improv, get a coach, buy whatever marketing class is new and cool, and sadly that’s not really the case. But it’s what brings everyone to LA chasing a dream, and I think we all need to create the life we really want to live with that dream included, and have our careers as actors be one part of that, not all of it. Your worth, my worth, is made up of so much more than the last job we booked. And now, having spent time in a minor market and more of my time around people who aren’t caught up in all of the hustle and industry BS, it’s truly clear to me that no one outside of the industry (and also some in it) cares what the last thing I booked is or who my agent is or what my headshots look like. They are just impressed that I’m dedicated to my craft. We make it all so much more important than it actually is. So I know this sounds like a downer, but all of this is really to say that you are amazing and inspiring and whether you book work or don’t, as long as YOU are happy in your journey, that’s truly all that matters. Ok… my somewhat of a soapbox talk… over and out 🙂