Get a Real Job: The Life of an Actor

You have no set schedule so filling your day can be a task unto itself. Don’t worry no one will pity you because the thought of not working a nine to five job sounds like heaven to the working class. I can assure you it’s not. Essentially you’re on call 24-7. Don’t plan on taking a vacation because sure enough as soon as you book a flight an important audition will magically appear.

You set a bunch of tasks to get you through the week, tentative plans get made with the possibility that they can (and will) be broken at a moments notice- much to the disdain of your friends.

Nothing happens for a week and just when you’re about ready to purchase a revolver and a sheet of plastic an audition comes in last thing at night for early the next morning. You open up the PDF and it’s 10 pages of dialog to be memorized for 12 hours from now. Ten minutes ago you were ready to shoot yourself out of boredom now you’re freaking out that you’ll make an absolute fool of yourself without adaquate time to get ready.

You cancel all your plans for the evening, and the next day then hunker down and do the work, slowly but methodically, learning your lines for the next morning. You’re playing a New Yorker from the streets, reformed drug addict and now an emo musician. You’ve just found out that your girlfriend- one you’ve had from childhood has been bashed to death with a baseball bat. Nice light fare…

You work on your accent, think about what you’re going to wear, what sort of mannerisms you may have, and what it would be like for the love of your life to have been tragically killed. You can’t spend too much time though as you’ve still got ten pages to memorize.

You go to sleep thinking of your lines, wondering what effect such a tragic loss could have on your life- maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and have a quick look at your lines.  Next morning you get ready, raid your wardrobe, figure out what sort of  hairstyle an emo punk rocker would have before jumping in your car and driving the one-hour across town.

You get into the casting office and there’s either six identical looking guys ahead of you and another hour wait or they whisk you right in before you get a second to catch your breath. If you’re waiting- then for the next hour you’ll try to stay focused, try to keep yourself in a state of “F@#k, the most important person in my life was just bashed in the head with a baseball bat”, and not think “I’m not the unique snow flake I thought I was. I look exactly like everyone else in this room except- Shit, the guy sitting across from me has just spent six seasons on Entourage, I’ll never get this job”.

Finally your name gets called and even though you don’t sweat you’ve been doing so for the past hour, your heart rate is through the roof and whether you care for the job or not you’re inexplicably nervous.

You walk into the room and while  you’re trying to remain in a state of grief the chirpy casting director begins to talk to you about all things happy and wonderful. The room is probably 20 square feet and they’ve jammed in four producers, a writer, the director, the casting director and her assistant. You’re told that you’ll only be doing the first scene so while you spent precious time learning ten pages they only want you to do three.

The camera rolls, you say your lines to the forehead of the casting assistant who’s reading in a monotone voice and in 120 seconds it’s over. They either shower you with over the top grandiose praise, telling you how absolutely brilliant you are and how you’re destined to be the next Sean Penn or they look to their feet without muttering a word. Either way you awkwardly say your goodbyes, thank them for the opportunity and leave.

99 times out of a 100 you will never hear from them again. They call if you get the job and seeing that rarely happens they never call. You get in your car, still emotionally affected by the fact that the imagined love of your life just died and you begin the hour long drive back home.

For the next week anyone and everyone who heard you had an audition will ask you how it went, it’s the last thing you want to hear because A). The answer is always the same and B). You’ve just spent the last three days trying to forget about it. Now you’ll be wondering again, “Are they gonna call? Did I get it? I know I did a good job. I know I look right for the part. Maybe they haven’t decided yet? I bet it went to that shit actor from Entourage”.

All sorts of stupid thoughts go through your head, I’m shit, not good enough, not good looking enough for “Hollywood” too intense, too edgy, not mainstream enough. I’ll never get a job, why am I even wasting my time?

Enough of the negative thoughts you say, I’m going out for the night. You meet up with some friends, maybe hit on a girl or two. She asks what you do and you immediately cringe. “I’m an actor” you say. Which is always followed by a look of dread and a “Oh, not one of those”. Sometime’s it’s followed by a snide remark like “So what restaurant do you work at?” or “so, what have you been in?” That’s the worst question because whatever you have been in it’s immediately followed with “Oh, I don’t really watch TV” making you wonder why they asked in the first place.

You wake up the next day, the agent doesn’t call, nor the day after that and life goes on. Until the next phone call, the next anxiety attack and the next time you madly begin to learn your lines.

Actors sacrifice everything; family, relationships, money, security and a whole host of other things the average nine to fiver takes for granted. It’s not because actors are scumbags or because they’re self centered assholes. It’s because they have a passion, and for whatever reason they can’t fathom life without it.

But we do it. Why? Because an actor worth his (or her) salt couldn’t possibly do anything else. It’s in their blood, and it’s what they live for. And on the rare occasion when they do get to work that’s when the magic begins, free to play and to explore the lives of others.

 

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51 Responses to Get a Real Job: The Life of an Actor

  1. Pingback: What it is to be an Actor | ivysrambles

  2. Reblogged this on ivysrambles and commented:
    So true, could not have said it better myself! That phone call can be very nerving, if you are lucky enough to get it.

  3. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this! On occasion I’ve felt I was the only actor who was anxious and nerve-wracked when trying to work on ten pages of sides for an audition the following day :) (ridiculous when said out loud, I know)

  4. Johnny B says:

    Excellent article. I have been fortunate to pursue my passion – 40 years making a full time living as a professional photographer living and working in London. I have taught my 18 year old son and 20 year old daughter that if they sort the money side of their lives as quickly as possible then everything should fall into place. For me, the ONLY thing money gives you is CHOICE. My daughter will be financially secure by the time she is 25 and my son by 23.

  5. richymacduff says:

    Brilliant mate.

    As a working actor, by which I mean an actor currently unemployed but dallying daily with pilot season, I thank you for this outstanding piece of prose.

  6. shuanghu says:

    oh i’m so glad i’m not the only one that feels that way :) except i have a full time job to keep me alive, and keep me busy while i’m waiting for that anxiety causing phone call :)

    i wish you the best of luck :)

  7. aly says:

    Reblogged this on aly|t|evasin and commented:
    This.

  8. Jane Enabore says:

    This is so sickening awesome. I can feel that way since I became an actress when I was young. Right now, I am pursuing Theatre Arts major but I will graduate next year with my degree of Theatre Arts. This blog makes me proud to be an actress. I agree with you about this life as an actor/actress – TOUGH ONE to GET A SHINING REWARD. Also, I always loved this quote from George Bernard Shaw – “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” It is part of expressing the arts to everybody who don’t know about the tough life as an actor/actress in reality. two thumbs up!

  9. First of all Rob, considering I have worked exclusively as a theatrical actor for the past 10 years I’d say my career was “launched”quite some time ago. In regards to doing other things are you referring to the 5 films I’ve written and directed? the blog with over 300,000 hits? the plays I co-wrote or comedy festivals I’ve toured? And when I wrote “Because an actor worth his (or her) salt couldn’t possibly do anything else” it implies that an actor would not or even could not walk away from the arts to pursue a 9-5 desk job.

    And using DDL as an example is ridiculous on far too many levels to address.

    • Lachie says:

      Did you honestly just dismiss that guy’s friendly constructive criticism with a bragging list of your achievements? I suddenly understand why you find auditions so nerve racking. You come off as insecure and defensively self righteous. I get the strong feeling that the underlying reason that girls laugh at you in bars isn’t because you’re a career actor, but because you’re a pompous douchebag.

    • Laur says:

      Rob is a boob! No matter if you love an art form or craft or sport. It takes true dedication. I for one have done so e small tv bits and reality tv(scripted and staged). I have tried it and I have the upmost respect! Not to mention what happens if any fame large type hit were you are hunted like prey for a picture. God less you and all actors for the sacrifice to entertain and pleasure the world with your gifts.! Imagine if there was no Shakespeare.
      Thank you all

  10. Anonymous says:

    Oooohhhh yes a very tough life being an actor or performer.
    Never done it but I can respect it.

  11. Lady Luck says:

    Agreed, but from a techie.

  12. natalie says:

    Oh so true! One minute on a complete downer and then on a complete high. Literally on a flip of a coin…or the receipt of an email..either or!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Really good article. Perfection.

  14. Sarahlouise says:

    Omg thank you. I’m 29….turning 30(omg!) at that odd point in my life where people are starting to say ‘soooooo time to knuckle down hey?’ Knuckle down?!! WTF!!! I’ve sacrificed two relationships, security, careers in more ‘mature fields’, money, savings….I have no self esteem am on a constant diet (because I am no where NEAR size zero) ruined my hair, changed my accent all so I can get that perfect moment in that perfect scene on stage right….just once. And now here I sit in a room in London miles away from home (Australia) because I was offered a job in tourism (why) which I thought would be a better career (it wasn’t) and now I’m broke looking at audition pages and reading your blog..,..you’ve inspired me ;) thanks! X

    • I have found over the years that there’s no such thing as that perfect moment. As long as you’re speaking the words the writer has written and you are telling the truth there is no right or wrong.

      But yes,do what makes you happy and the rest will follow.
      :)

    • Anonymous says:

      Sarahlouise…you are not alone. I hear ya!

  15. WOW!! I am so happy I Google’d “Life as an actor”, I’m Literally sitting here on my couch Bored out of my mind. This Blog is sooo Me… From the Boredom to the Nerves to the … Shit… Im not good enough… Ugh… I dont know how this sounds… But i am Glad that i am not the only one who feels this way. Now i feel like im actually doing something since so many other people feel this way. But I just continue to keep Faith and stay positive, The Dream is Greater than all these feelings.
    Great Blog… :)

  16. Tracy Williams says:

    I really don’t know what to say other than I am going through the same and I agree with everything. The question I hate most from people is “How good are you?” Like how am I suppose to answer that, anyway I answer it I will probably sound ridiculous to the person asking it. I enjoyed your blog an even laughed at how accurate it is.

  17. Stephen says:

    I just came home from my 3rd audition this week, and i was just about “purchase a revolver ” but instead i googled “the life of an actor” and found your blog, thank you, its put me off the revolver for a few days at least.

    Stephen.

  18. Pingback: I’m Sorry I Let You Down, My Love. | dysfunctionalbachelor

  19. fingerpoet says:

    that’s good stuff.

  20. I have a t-shirt that I got from my FAME arts high school ‘I can’t I have a rehearsal’ I still wear that T-shirt to bed & like you, I still believe! throw your shoulders back & pretend that you are the @ one with the universe- even for 120 seconds….. & while your waiting for the phone to ring…..do your own thing…… enjoy my latest comedy short http://youtu.be/TNRg9xHf_Qg

  21. Joel says:

    Thanks mate,

    it’s good to know that we’re not alone.

    J.

  22. Do you mind if I try this as my next monologue…crushed it!

  23. Nick Holmes says:

    You’d work more if you took class. I’m studying four days a week with a guy who coaches Cameron Diaz on all her movies – its only $1200 a month. He says I’m a very natural laugher and people are going to notice me.

    …Well said Tanc.

  24. Bravo! Thanks for the perspective.

  25. theiciclepammers says:

    my first reaction to your post is a sense of melancholy. there’s a bittersweet quality to the whole thing. the difficult choice in life is to follow one’s dreams; and finding ways to go through obstacles instead of around them. there’s a duality as well: a struggle to ignore loneliness but an overwhelming joy at obtaining the dream . there is pride and honor in choosing the difficult path- to choose to dare: dare to live, dare to chance, dare to race after one’s dreams.

    i’m rather glad you became an actor (even though, in my head, i categorize you first as an athlete. the spearfishing, though, is way beyond me. i never know what you’re talking about, but i’m glad that you’ve embraced something that makes you happy.)

    p.s. (hint, hint) more $20 shorts? please? those are so fun to watch. a nice mental vacation on a rather sucktastic day. keeping daring, tanc, to race after the dream. i’m enjoying watching the journey!

  26. TonyNixon says:

    Oh man …I felt sick with nerves just reading it …. this IS my life ;0)

  27. I read this and thought “my God! He really is an actor”. So I Googled you and sure-nuf. Sorry, it must be a real bitch to have people who don’t know. Hope you get the part over that “Entourage” guy.

  28. Alan says:

    Brilliant, you cheeky bastard. Now I have a link to direct anyone with the, “what’s it like!?!?”

  29. lisa says:

    hahahaha! Well said, Tanc!

  30. Jess says:

    Cool blog. maybe you should get a hobbie like spearfishing. I find the ocean calming :-)

  31. Susanna says:

    Beautifully written! I’m going to share in on Facebook.

  32. Awesome…yes only actors can relate to this…Wait, i should be learning my lines now for my audition tomorrow…crap!

  33. Starlitt says:

    Good story. You’re a lucky guy for knowing your passion ;)

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