As usual, I was getting ready to go somewhere: audition, class, meeting, gym, or some other actor "keeping busy" nonsense. I don't know about you, but when I'm getting ready to go out the door, I get in a zone- the GAMER zone. I tune everyone and everything out. I'm on a mission. Try and distract me, and I'll snap at you like a tiger. Grrrrrr! Serio.
So my sweety says, "Honey, you gotta see this. It'll just take a second." She cues up the program. It's the beginning credits for one of the episodes of the first season of "How To Make It In America". The second season was still two months away, and we were both anticipating its return. However, I was in no way, shape, or form willing to sit through an episode of last season just for shits and giggles. I had places to go! She disrupted my "zoneiness" for this? Ay, ay, ay!
She sensed my frustration, and said "It'll just take a second."
I'm watching the opening credits to the show, featuring a catchy, and poignant (more on this later) tune by the awesome Aloe Blacc.
Check it out here:
"Just wait", she replies.
All right. I'm grooving to the cool song and getting nostalgic seeing all the images of New York and its many fine citizens.
The final "Da Duh!" to the song plays. As the show's title appears, I hear a deep, masculine, "solo en Telemundo" voice announce: "Como Triunfar en America", which literally translates into "How to Triumph In America". For all my gringo friends, Telemundo is a popular Spanish network.
I broke out of my "zoniness" and started to laugh. The tiger became a pussy cat for a second and purred happily.
What is funny about this is two things: A. I wasn't expecting the announcer. B. Anything dubbed in Spanish is always funny, because it's so over the top, and they rarely match the right voice that fits the character (except for Donkey in the first "Shrek). Watch your dvd in Spanish, you'll know what I mean.
If you've never seen the show, I highly recommend it. The title says it all. It focuses on the trials of two young New Yorkers trying to succeed in business while "really trying". It also chronicles the ups and downs of the people in their circle as they struggle (or not) to obtain that almighty dollar, legal or otherwise. For more details on the show, go to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1299365/.
If there is one word that describes the montage in the intro, it's "HUSTLE". Everyone is trying to make a dollar. I especially love the image of the cab driver yelling out the window, because in New York, time is money so you better move the fuck outta the way! Everyone needs "a dollar", as Mr. Blacc sings.
Spend $$$ to make $0
This brings me to a conversation I recently had with a British actor. I was hanging out in a local cafe. It's one of those small places that's set up like a living room. Everyone has to share the same coffee table. This gentleman sits next to me, and we begin to shoot the shit. We were the only ones sans lap tops (so L.A.). It turns out that he is an actor who is in town taking meetings and awaiting an offer for a his role in an upcoming, "major movie", that will begin shooting next year. Contractually, he couldn't tell me anything about the project. I figured it out.
"I need a dollar. Dollar. Dollar is what I need."
We started talking about the business and how different it is in Hollywood than England. He mentioned that in the U.K., the opportunities for film and television are very slim. I talked about how t.v and commercials are the bread and butter for many actors in Hollywood. I also started talking about the things actors do to get their careers going in Los Angeles: head shots, acting classes, casting workshops, career coaches, branding seminars, on-camera classes, social media coaching, consultants, casting web sites, getting your reels, hosting your reels, networking organizations, meet and greets, money management counseling (cause artists neeed it), hypnosis, colonics, this and that, and that and this. He turned to me and said "Wow! You need a lot of fucking money to be an actor here." You f'n said it brother!
Take into consideration the jobs that actors must have in order to accommodate auditions, classes, and meetings. These jobs ain't paying you $50k, which is still not lot of money by today's costs of living. Plus, if you are making a lot of money at your J.O.B., then you're probably spending most of your time hustling there rather than at your acting career. This means you are taking on a lot of training clients or working more shifts at your restaurant job.
There are also many people like myself, who are happy to have a job, but the pay is shit. So there is no money for all the stuff I mentioned above. A lot of actors have to take on two jobs, like I will have to, just to cover living expenses. Given all this, it's really hard to imagine anyone "Triumphing" in this business, which people rarely do.
It's guaranteed that a majority of the actors in Hollywood will invest more money in their careers than they will make. So far, I'm way in the red. Look, I'm fortunate to have made some money in my profession having been featured in a national commercial, as well as co-starring in two hit series. It still hasn't translated into an offer in the next "major movie". It's what most of us want, and it's not a bad thing to want. I want to be happy, doing what I love to do. Sometimes, money brings that happiness. I don't care what people say.
It's not the ultimate goal, but being able to make a good amount of money doing what I love, will give me the freedom to create my own projects that will give other actors opportunities to earn some $$$. Giving back baby! Cause that's how I roll.
I'm not against companies or people trying to offer services that will help actors get ahead. People want to be in television and movies. Certain individuals offer ways to help actors achieve this goal. Whether or not it actually happens varies, but actors should be aware of the odds before spending their hard earned money.
What I don't like is the perceived notion of spending all your hard earned money or "investing in the company of 'YOU'" (a phrase that many career coaches like to use to get you excited) is the "only" way to TRIUMPH in Hollywood. Acting classes are a different story. Most people need them. Even an experienced actor, like myself, enjoys class. I always learn something from my peers, and I love that.
I'm not advocating a boycott of CD workshops, career coaching classes, or other services. Hell! I've paid for some of these things. Still do. I don't regret it. If anything, they have helped me with being more disciplined about obtaining my goals.
What I am saying is this: If you don't have the money for these services now, don't sweat it. Don't buy into the manipulative shit that some people throw at you like, "Well if you are serious about your career, then you'll make the sacrifices to invest in your career". Get groceries. Pay your rent. Pay your bills. Get your car fixed. You need a place to live, food to eat, and your electricity to be on- not to watch Kardashians or when the NBA lockout will end (guilty). It's important to have your car working and your cell phone and internet on (so you can read this ;-).
Once you get your ducks in a row, you won't be carrying all kinds of crazy stress when you go into an audition or a CD workshop- which you can attend for free if you are paid member of SAG. The SAG Foundation offers workshops under their Casting Access Project (CAP). The crappy part is that you can only register during their enrollment period, which is only three or four times a year. However, I found out that the next enrollment period is from December 1st-14th. I have my alert set!
I'm not trying to be preachy, but we all know how hard it is to make some coin right now. Look out for number one. Ultimately, it's about you and what you bring to a role when you audition. You don't want to go in a nervous wreck, because you just got your power shut off. Unless you are auditioning for a needy, freaked out, crackhead.
In the meantime, focus on working- student films, indies, theater. Trust me, you want to stay creative all the time. Yell shit out on YouTube. Let the world know who you are. I'm embarking on a journey to create work that will get me discovered. I'm planning to do this without spending a whole lot of money on all that "stuff" I talked about earlier. I'll spend a little money, but not a lot. You gotta shell out someting, cuz everyone needs to make a dollar. Right?
Let's hope I make mine soon, before I get fired for hurling mashed potatoes or orange chicken at the next person that gives me their cordon bleu critique of free samples. Ay, ay, ay!