What it is to be an Actor
It is a dream many of us have, but few of us follow. Many people at some point in their lives has wanted to be a superstar, but then they grow up, get ‘proper’ jobs and leave the ‘childish’ fantasy in the past.
Yet, there are still those few who follow the dream with the hope that they are going to be the next Angelina Jolie or Jonny Depp. These determined people participate at the local theatre, donating hours of their time, and probably spend most of their wages on head shots, acting classes and expensive audition sites. Some even go to Drama school.
Anyone who has pursued acting as a career would be aware of the countless conversations with people who say this is not a real degree; that you are wasting your time on some pointless pipe dream; and the only job you will be able to get with a qualification in acting, is one that required you to say the line ‘Would you like fries with that?’
I remember telling my eighty year old grandmother that I was going to University to study a degree in both Drama and Film. I also remember the way she looked down at me, her eyes narrowing as she glared over the silver rim of her large glasses. She asked me why I chose to choose something so pointless, why I did not choose to study something like science. The simple answer was – I do not want to be a scientist.
I am sure every actor remembers people telling them that Drama must be an easy degree, that it is not a real subject as it involves nothing more than messing around with your friends, then writing about how and why you were messing around with your friends.
This makes me just a little bit temperamental. So I am here to set the record straight, once and for all.
First of all, Drama is far from an easy degree. You are constantly judged not only on your ability to act, but also by your appearance, and then you are expected to write about how and why you did not get the part you have wanted for years, because you were either too tall or your nose was not the right shape.
You can forget about having a social life, because all your time is devoted to either reading the mountains of material that you are given, remembering entire scripts, theatre practitioners and historical influences as well as hours of rehearsals with groups that include at least one know it all Diva who always wants to steal the spot light.
There is a reason that almost half of the class disappear after the first few months. They thought it was going to be easy too.
Secondly, when you have finally done your three to four years at University, you dread coming out into the real world, because you know when you do, the hard work truly begins.
Being over thirty grand in debt, no job and no ‘usable’ qualifications, you live day by day, normally living out the clichéd life of an out of work actor working as a waitress or waiter. You obsessively apply for auditions, agents, extra work, intern-ships and sometimes become one of those people who dance around the Town centre, wearing one of those ridiculous full body costumes, essentially becoming a classically trained panda.
Then, just as you are about ready to disappear forever, the phone rings and you have been invited to an audition you forgot you applied to. They send you a script and you cancel all your plans to learn the lines by the next day. However, you are never able to get rid of that cold floating feeling in your pit of your stomach, or the thought that you will make a total fool of yourself, resulting in the Director dramatically standing from his chair with a flail of his arms, saying, ‘You will never work in this town again!’
Cue the dilemma of Actors Equity. If you don’t have an Equity card, you are unlikely to get any other role other than the panda I mentioned earlier. However, if you have not had a paid role as a principal character in either theatre, TV or Film, you cannot get an Equity card…Twenty points to whoever came up with that one.
When you do finally get a part for a commercial or a production, there is always the fear of that dreaded line, the line that strikes fear into all actors hearts , the line that again makes us question absolutely everything we have done in our life to this moment.
‘We will not be paying you, but its great exposure!’
Cue the blood boiling rage that you always seem to have under control, even when you want nothing more than to rearrange the smug look on the casting director’s face, then continue on a psychotic killing spree that would make even the most hardened criminals fear for their lives. But you force a smile and a nod, all the while thinking. ‘Exposure doesn’t pay the bills buddy!’
Many people reading this article probably still question why people go into acting. Maybe even the actors themselves are starting to question what they were thinking when they chose such a risky and cut-throat career. The answer is simple. So many people refuse to follow their dream, simply because they believe they cannot do it, but you can still fail at something that you don’t want to do, so why not risk it all, by working hard to succeed in something you do want to do?
Acting is like a drug to many actors -they cannot live without it. It runs through their-blood, keep them going and makes them happy, and even though it comes with hardships…it might just be the best job in the world.