And thanks for reading! This is week 7 in the series relating to the psychology of the business, particularly as it relates to auditions and booking work and we will be exploring: Desperation
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.
Before we begin…
I skipped last week’s post because I was in South Carolina visiting my daughter both for her Birthday and to see her new house. She and her husband moved in during the first week of September and it is a BEAUTIFUL house. While there we played golf (of COURSE!) took her out for a birthday dinner (she won’t let me share the video of her on the saddle at Texas Roadhouse) and bought a few things for the new house…plus…Karen and I began the process of looking for houses there for us. Anyway, it was a very busy 5 days, so no blog last week. But here we are and I’m BACK!
What is it exactly that makes some actors desperate for a job? It likely has something to do with the desire to eat, have a roof over their heads and remain clothed. But it is also likely more than that. But what exactly does it mean to be desperate? Trusty Merriam-Webster defines desperation as:
1 : loss of hope and surrender to despair
2 : a state of hopelessness leading to rashness
And since they chose to define desperation with the root of the same word (despair) I can save you the time of clicking the link and tell you despair is defined as “utter loss of hope”.
I know I keep telling you that You’re not getting the f*&^ing job. This is not the same as an “utter loss of hope”. It is a recognition of the reality of the odds of booking a particular job. It is not the same as You’re never getting another f*&^ing job again. THAT is an utter loss of hope and would drive anyone to just give up. Recognizing the odds actually helps you avoid desperation. Bear with me here.
It’s not just fear or anxiety
Desperation goes well beyond fear or anxiety. Everyone, but especially actors IMHO, experience fear and anxiety. We move forward in spite of that, and eventually overcome it (to some degree), but the key is not losing hope. Desperation flows from an accumulation of disappointments. Surely, we can’t avoid all disappointments, but as I tell my kids all the time, if you set your expectations realistically, then you can avoid most disappointments. Which is kind of the whole point of this series of blog posts!
Desperation is NOT attractive
This is true in all relationships (and I keep harping on the fact that this business is built on a foundation of relationship) but it is mostly noticed and talked about in the context of romantic relationships. Everyone knows someone who is needy and clingy and so desperate for love that it actually alienates the person they desire. Desperation manifests itself in neediness, and nobody wants to be around a needy person. This is just as true in business relationships as it is in romantic relationships.
Desperation is self-defeating
It’s pretty easy to spot desperation. And being desperate is counterproductive and self-defeating. It actually reduces your odds of booking a role because it is so easy to see. Truth is, (it seems) the more you want something the less likely you are to get it. I know, it’s counterintuitive. You have to want something to be willing to do the work to get it, but you can’t want it too much or you torpedo your chances.
How do you spot desperation
We’ve all witnessed desperation at one time or another in our lives. What follows are some signs that you may be (or are at least acting) desperate:
You are too available:
Yeah, we all want to work, I get it. I do too. But we also have a life. If you find yourself constantly agreeing to last minute work or cancelling plans with family/friends to auditions or even consistently working till 3AM then you may be acting desperately.
You compromise your principles:
If you consistently audition for or accept roles that go against your personal principles such as accepting nudity when you are against it, working for opposing political parties or accepting below scale wages and “in perpetuity” gigs…you may be acting desperate.
Always looking for compliments or validation:
Do you need constant positive feedback on your work? Following up with a casting director or production to find out what they thought of your audition or work could come across as desperate.
Getting “too close for comfort”:
While relationship is the foundation of the business, constantly barraging producers and casting directors with calls, texts and emails is not the way to build a solid relationship.
It also shows in the auditions
Bryan Cranston says if you are going into an audition to get a job, you are doing it for the wrong reason (See what he has to say HERE). The simple truth is if you are desperate, it is going to show in the audition even if you aren’t doing the 4 things mentioned above. There is no way to be grounded in the role you are playing if your mind is focused on booking the gig. Desperation kills your performance!
So how do you combat desperation?
There are several ways to prevent or overcome desperation in your career (and some of these may work in your relationships as well). First and foremost, you can’t let your ability to book a particular job define your sense of self-worth or how you view your talent. A-list actors do not book every job they audition for but it doesn’t define them as an actor. Neither should it define you as an actor.
Have a good survival gig
In order for you to relax and not be desperately trying to book jobs, you have to be secure in your personal life and that means making sure you can survive financially. If booking a job means the difference between eating and starving or having a home or being homeless, then something is out of balance. It is difficult, particularly early in your career, to support yourself wholly from acting. Start with a good survival job that gives you enough flexibility to work as an actor while not being financially destitute. Starving artists are not really attractive and desperate artists book a lot fewer jobs.
No, not from acting altogether. When you leave the audition room or send off your self-tape…walk away and forget about it. You’ve done the work, you’ve given your best performance. Now rest in the fact that you are good enough to book it, and wait for the casting folks to make their decision. Audition and forget it. Yeah, easier said than done, but it gets easier over time.
Have a healthy set of expectations
I’ve mentioned before that there are an awful lot of factors NOT related to you or your talent why you may not book a given role. If you ever have the chance to be a “reader” for auditions, you’ll see what I mean. Many very talented actors do a great job in an audition and still don’t book because they just don’t “fit” what casting is looking for. It could be as simple as your scene partner is a lot taller or shorter and there is no way to make the videography work, or the tenor of your voice just doesn’t “mesh” with the other actors. If you expect to not book a given role, you won’t be disappointed when you don’t. BUT you’ll be pleased when you do!
I’m not suggesting…
Just to be clear, I recognize there are sacrifices to be made when pursuing a career in acting. Make sacrifices when you need to, but do so mindfully and make sure there is balance between your family, your survival gig, and your acting career as much as possible.
And just remember a few simple things
You are good enough to book a role. You are worthy of the work. You are the only you there is, and there is a role for everyone. And above all, remember that acting is, in many ways, a numbers game. Because of that ALONE You’re not getting the f*&^ing job, so relax, do the best you can and have fun. That’s why we do this, right? We love it and it’s fun!
Tune in next week
When we’ll discuss “Confidence”.
I’d suggest having a fave quote hanging or as wallpaper on the cell phone to keep one’s spirit up. A planner can help too. Set goals, plans. Live while availing oneself for auditions. Good reminder info!
Michael Apollo Lira says
You always give such good advice. Your blog is a constant help in things that I sometimes need reminding of. Thanks for that ever-thoughtful, well-written brand of blogging that you consistently deliver, Gary!
Gary Mason says
Thank Michael…glad the things that pop into my brain are helpful and I appreciate your encouraging words!