And thanks for reading! This is week 6 in the series relating to the psychology of the business, particularly as it relates to auditions and booking work and we will be exploring Being “Discovered”
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
You’ve heard the stories
Everyone has heard the stories of some iconic actors who were suddenly “discovered”. Johnny Depp was selling pens over the phone and wanted to be a rock star…Wes Craven noticed him and suggested he audition for Nightmare on Elm Street. He got the part and that was that! Harrison Ford was a Hollywood carpenter and aspiring actor. He was hired to build a door for Lucas Movie Studio and George asked him to audition for Han Solo. The rest is history. What about Ted Williams, a homeless man who was featured in a short video by a 20-year news veteran that went viral, and he was suddenly getting national VO jobs? True? Not sure, but it sure makes for a great story.
We love these stories
We love to hear these stories because they are like people winning the lottery. We like to think that these folks were just minding their own business going about their day to day lives when BAM…they were “discovered”. We like them because it makes it feel like it could happen to us. That’s also why we buy those lottery tickets. And it could. But it probably won’t.
I can’t find data
I’d like to be able to tell exactly what your odds are of being discovered, but search as I may, I am unable to find any real data to back it up. Based on previous numbers where we explored the odds of becoming rich and famous as an actor, I’d say the odds are pretty slim. Truth is, very… VERY…few people get discovered who aren’t trying to get discovered. Like, so close to zero it is not measurable.
Here’s the thing
The thing is, if you think you can put together a killer demo reel, or get signed by a big agency, or your uncle is Martin Scorsese and you’ll just “get discovered” …think again. Well, OK, it’s a lot more likely if your uncle is Martin Scorsese…but he’s probably not. However, there ARE ways you can get discovered. It just takes a lot of work!
I hate to be a buzzkill
OK, maybe I don’t hate it as much as I think I do. The simple truth is, even if you do suddenly get discovered in acting or VO, you have to have the talent to maintain it. Sure, you could book a job that goes viral and become an overnight sensation…and then what? Ever heard the term “One Hit Wonder”? Yep, almost everyone can name a band that had ONE hit song and then sunk into oblivion. You have to be able to follow through and maintain your “celebrity”.
If you really want to be discovered, there are some things you can do to make your odds better. Some of you may not want to hear this, but the truth is it is going to take a lot of work, determination, and intention. Fact is, if you want to be discovered you need to position yourself in the industry to GET discovered. And how do you do that? Well…read on!
I know, we love to hear about someone who gets discovered sitting in a diner in some Podunk town in Idaho. I suppose it could happen, but what are the odds? You are FAR more likely to be discovered if you live and work in an area where there is a concentration of industry professionals in the industry you are trying to be discovered in. Remember, Harrison Ford was building a door for George Lucas in Hollywood…not Cleveland, OH when he was discovered. Live where there are people looking to discover talent, and your odds are much better.
These discovery stories all sound like lucky random happenings. And some of them may be…but most are not. You can’t discount the role luck plays in being discovered; what most people DO discount is the role hard work plays. Believe it or not, almost everyone who gets discovered, does so while working.
What kind of work?
Yeah, Harrison Ford was a carpenter, but that was just his survival gig. He was also a hard-working actor too. He was lucky to be doing carpentry for George Lucas, but he ALSO had to audition for the role of Han Solo and do a good job. As an actor, no matter what your survival job is, you need to be taking classes and applying for (and booking) as many jobs as you can. You are far more likely to be noticed on set than in a diner.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This industry is built on a foundation of relationships. Build a good reputation as a reliable and consistent professional and those relationships will come. Be the person everyone loves to work with because you are always on time, always prepared and always pleasant to be around. If casting agents, directors and producers get to know your name and think of you positively…you will eventually get discovered.
Apply to Casting Agencies
You want to work as much as possible. The more you work, the more you are recognized in the industry and the more likely someone important will take notice. Casting agencies (not talent agencies, these are different) are, many times, the gatekeepers to the lucrative work. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but the more “name recognition” you have with a casting agency, the more likely you are to get a booking from them. It’s like a snowball rolling down a hill gaining mass and momentum as it goes.
I know I sort of harp on training but hear me out. Let’s say you land an audition for your dream job. AWESOME, right!? Right! If you are not prepared, the audition is where it ends (which is really the most common outcome anyway). However, if you have the training you need, your odds of booking are increased tremendously! You HAVE to be able to perform, and the way to be able to do that consistently is to get the training you need. NEVER STOP TRAINING – no matter how “good” you are.
Finally, make sure you are surrounding yourself with people who are in the industry and who are successful in it. Networking and marketing are basic business skills and make no mistake acting is a business. One caveat: You are not doing these things to see what you can get from people, but what you can GIVE to them instead. You want to be the solution to a problem they have. That problem may just be a role they are having a tough time filling and it COULD include recommending another actor friend to them. Remember: Networking and marketing is not about you – it’s about them.
At the end of the day
When all is said and done you are simply not going to be magically discovered and have a meteoric rise to fame and fortune. The simple truth is getting discovered will take a lot of hard work on your part and it has to be intentional and directed toward getting discovered. Be in the right place, with the right training and know the right people and your odds improve dramatically. Getting discovered is up to YOU!
Even if you do all the right things, you may STILL not get discovered. That’s OK, because remember that we do this work because we love it, not because it’s a path to wealth or fame. And remember: Even after you get discovered odds are You’re not getting the f*&^ing job anyway!
Tune in next week
When we’ll discuss “Desperation”.
Michael Apollo Lira says
“NEVER STOP TRAINING – no matter how “good” you are.”
I think that is so perfectly written. The more we learn, the less we know. And these skills are ones that forever need honing and improvements upon. I like that.
Gary Mason says
“The more we learn, the less we know” – RIGHT!? It’s counterintuitive, but true.
It’s that: Things we don’t know we don’t know, versus things we know we don’t know. As we learn, we start finding things we didn’t know we didn’t know!
‘we love to hear about someone who gets discovered sitting in a diner’ – I was sitting in a diner that was a hangout for local tv staff. One day I’m sitting waiting for a friend and one guy asked if I’d be interested in auditioning for a part for a tv series going on. I was tickled but didn’t believe him either. Was he for real? I’ll never know but was an exciting experience.
Gary Mason says
Nice, and you made my point: You were in a diner frequented by local TV staff…not just some random diner in the middle of nowhere!