I moved to Hollywood to be an actor. And 10 years later, I’m still an actor just not where I thought I’d be in my career. I had visions of my own TV show, selling out stadiums as a standup, and dating Brad Pitt.
Clearly all very attainable goals.
But reality quickly set in and I knew this ride was going to be a lot longer than I thought. Also Brad hooked up with Angelina so that wasn’t going to happen. I started working part-time jobs here and there and doing what I could to make money to fund my acting habit. And coming up with ways to stay creative while waiting for my big break.
Here are a few I’ve tried – and a few I want to try – that will hopefully give other actors some inspiration.
- Start a Web Series. Someone said to me the other day that the web series is dead, and the trend is over. I guess no one told the gals at The BreakWomb, who have a massively popular web series that’s exploded in the last year. Or Namaste, Bitches which beautifully skewers the LA yoga scene. There are countless web series being produced and are getting lots of attention. Just because your friends say it’s not happening, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Many actors are diving into web series ideas and top agents and production companies are still mining that talent for shows. Do your web series idea, no matter how small or what others might think. What have you got to lose?
- Write Something. This goes hand-in-hand with the web series. It’s also something I need to keep reminding myself to do. Write! Write a blog, a web series, a short film, a poem. Anything to keep those creative juices flowing. My former sketch teacher started writing sexy poems on Twitter and that turned into a book deal. Now he has a published book and another one on the way. Because of his Tweets! There’s no excuse not to start writing if you think it will be a good creative outlet for you.
- Podcasting. You cannot throw a rock in this town without hitting a comedian who has a podcast. It’s a cheap, effective way to reach a wide audience with your brand of comedy. I started my podcast, Motherhood in Hollywood as a way to combine my passion for acting and being a mom. It’s been a huge networking tool, creative outlet and learning experience. And even though it seems like everybody’s doing it, who cares! Your podcast will feature your unique voice and that’s what will set it apart.
- Go on Sabbatical. Okay maybe not a full-on Sabbatical like a college professor. Maybe just take a weekend and go to a festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Like Burning Man or Bottle Rock. Step away from the “industry” for a minute to see how the rest of the world is living and relaxing to gain some perspective. You never know what creative juices might get sparked once you’re gone. You could realize you want to be a director, or an editor. Or maybe you don’t want to focus on the entertainment industry any more. Taking a break from Hollywood could be the answer to your big break.
- Get a Real Job. This is not the same thing as what your parents told you when you said you wanted to be an actor. I mean, if you’re struggling to pay your bills and the acting stuff isn’t working out, find a job that you’re interested in and do that for a while. Get on more financially stable ground so you aren’t making acting decisions from a place of desperation. I think the reason most actors don’t dive into a full time job is FOMO. We’re all afraid we’re going to miss out on an audition, a party, a class. But realistically, you might miss out on those things any way if you have no money. Follow your passion. But don’t let it crush you financially.
- Learn a New Skill. I recently did a weight-loss challenge where I tried new workouts all over LA. Some of them included sword fighting, tap dancing, and circus performing. I started thinking about how it could help me as an actor to have these skills and be really good at them. Ideally, If I was a trained sword fighter I would have a better shot at getting a part in the next Pirates movie than if I didn’t. In fact all of my skills could be beefed up. My agent told me to learn a language, which I haven’t done yet. It’s so hard committing to new things especially when we’re so focused on auditioning, or workshops. But I really think adding skills, and getting outside our comfort zone as actors, is the ultimate answer to staying creatively fulfilled. And it may also bring that big break sooner than you thought.
Heather Brooker is a mom, actress, Emmy Award-winning writer, and host of the popular podcast Motherhood in Hollywood. She’s appeared on TV shows including ‘Fresh Off The Boat’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘The Middle’, as well as is a comedian at Flapper’s Comedy Club in Burbank. Her blunt observations, interview savvy and gushy love for her daughter Channing make her the perfect host for her own podcast. If she does say so herself. Bottom line, she’s not a perfect mom, but she can play one on TV!