by Braden Lynch, Los Angeles Acting Coach
As actors, it can be really easy for us to lose sight of what’s important. We become hyper focused on when our next audition will be, or the audition we just got, or what casting thought of us, or how we’re not doing enough, or how we deserve more for what we are doing, or any number of things that put us on a path of desperation, bitterness, and entitlement. A long, happy career isn’t waiting at the end of that path. And sometimes worse is when we book jobs before we’re ready for them. If we luck out, they’re small and no one notices, but it’s not that hard to think of actors who booked a huge part, weren’t good enough, and never worked again.
Since I don’t want any of the above to apply to me as an actor and I figure you don’t want it to apply to you either, I’ve distilled the solution down into four main points. With these, your general happiness will improve and, with a certain amount of luck (having the right look for the parts you’re going out for, etc.), your chances of enjoying a long, successful career will skyrocket.
Devote Time Daily
People in every other profession in the world spend time every day doing their jobs, even those who aren’t being paid for it. Think about musicians, writers, athletes… like us, they mostly don’t get paid to practice or create, but they spend hours doing it every day, even when they have regular jobs. We should all be doing the same: staying sharp so that we’re fully ready when the time comes, and here’s a simple list of things you can do:
- Technique Work. Whether you’re looking at a random set of sides, watching a show, or remembering a moment from your life, dissect it in terms of technique for every person or character involved, then personalize it for yourself. (if you don’t have a technique or want/need more, free videos are available from the home page.)
- Read. Anything. Self-help, non-fiction, fantasy, anything. Expand your mind. And don’t forget that for actors, the best writing comes from plays. Obviously, not all plays are created equal, and there is some great writing in television and film these days, but for most playwrights, it’s a labor of love in a way that it isn’t for screenwriters.
- Emotional Work. I can’t stress how important this is to practice. Even those who are pretty emotional on a day-to-day basis should devote time to this, because as emotional as they may be, they’re not fighting for their lives, or losing loved ones, or winning the lottery, or embarrassing themselves in front of the world on a daily basis. And we all have emotions that are more elusive than others. Daily practice will bring into reach the emotional life that your job as an actor requires.
- Journal. Your own triggers, your emotional relationships, behavior that you witnessed while people watching. Create a cheat sheet for yourself so that you don’t need to spend time trying to find triggers or interesting behavior when the time comes.
- Accents and Movement. Accents doesn’t need much of an explanation, I feel. Movement is anything from body center work to interesting walks that you witness to dance classes.
Once again, think about musicians, writers, and athletes… not only do these people put in the time on a day-to-day basis, but they have mentors, coaches, colleagues that they trust to be an outside perspective, to push them, to tell them what they don’t know or can’t see, to hold them accountable, to help them grow. Whether it’s me, another coach, or a friend that knows what they’re talking about…
- Get into a class or create a group.
- Run your auditions with someone.
- Make damn sure you do it for booked work.
Good feedback is one of the single best and fastest ways to move forward and ensure longevity. People at the top do it, we should, too.
Have a Life Outside
Don’t let this business become your everything. People go actually crazy by doing that. Not only does the business not care about you, but the more life experience you have, the more well-rounded you will be as an actor (not to mention that actors who can only talk about acting may be the most obnoxious people on the planet). So…
- Travel, even if it’s just up into the forest for a nature walk.
- Cultivate the relationships in your life.
- Give time to your hobbies.
- Exercise and eat well.
- Get a pet.
Share Yourself and Your Ideas
I was just having this conversation with a dear friend: if we perform – whether it’s in class or at an audition or on set – from a place of desperation, bitterness, or entitlement… “I need this job” “Please cast me” “I hate auditions” “This material sucks”… our chances of success plummet. If instead we can come from joy… if we can dive into our material, relish in our work, invent, play, explore, express, share… then, not only will our performances come from a much healthier place, but they’ll be immeasurably better, our audiences will gravitate to us more, and we’ll be less obsessed with the result while being happier and more fulfilled in general.
Try these things.
Devote yourself to them and see what happens.
My money is on an improved life and long-term career success.
Since 2006, Los Angeles acting coach Braden Lynch has spent over 10,000 hours coaching everyone from novice actors to working professionals, ages six to sixty-five. As an actor, he has appeared in numerous television shows, films, plays, commercials, and video games, he is proficient in well over 20 accents, and holds a degree in Vocal Jazz and Studio Music from the University of Miami. Details about classes and coaching can be found at www.bradenlynchstudio.com.