Friday, May 2, 2008

Luck

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”—Seneca

I’ve had a string of good luck lately. I’ve gone from acting job to job for the last couple of months—did a pilot for a web series called In2iton, the episode of Two and a Half Men (read below) and now I am doing House M.D. It feels absolutely wonderful to be working and I am so grateful. For each of these jobs there were at least five other women who could have done the role as well as I, but I was lucky in that I matched the producers and/or directors visions for these roles. But I wouldn’t have been lucky had I not performed to the best of my ability at each of these auditions.

Before I booked these roles there were several auditions that I didn’t book. My auditions for those roles were just as strong as these last few. It’s not like suddenly I have changed—suddenly I have discovered some kind of booking “trick” or “formula” or “right” way to audition. Well, actually I am doing the one booking “trick” that I teach—the one I have always used in my thirty-year-plus career as a professional actor—the one “booking formula” that gives you the best shot at getting the job. Do great work. Always act to the best of your ability every time you get the chance to put your work out there.

Now I know that this probably sounds obvious, but believe me it’s not. I was talking to a Talent manager friend today and he shared with me a story about a client. This is a client who doesn’t often get a shot at series regular roles and my manager friend was thrilled that he was able to get this client an appointment for a regular role on a top series. He emailed the client the appointment and the sides two weeks ago and then today, the day of the audition, the client calls the office and says, “I can’t open the attachment that contains the sides.” My manager friend said he was absolutely speechless. He is considering dropping the client.

A few times a year I bring in a working professional from the entertainment industry into my Acting Studio for a seminar. I have a dear friend who is a top Talent manager, and she agreed to do a Q & A and then let my students read for her. I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to hone their audition skills in a safe environment and get their work seen at the same time. I pulled scenes from TV and Film for each student—doing my best to tailor them to each student’s strengths and I gave them the material a week before the she came out for the visit. The night of the seminar I found out that at least half of them had barely looked at the material!

When I was in classes when I was a young actor, if an industry guest came out and I had the chance to have my work seen I always did everything I could to make sure my work was as good as I could possibly make it. I was shocked when so many of my regular students didn’t’ do the same. I knew these students. Most of them had been with me several months--even several years. I knew they were hard workers, so what could explain their apparent laziness? And then I realized, it looked like laziness—but it wasn’t—it was fear.

Fear has many disguises: It can show up in the form of not putting enough time into preparation for auditions; not dressing appropriately; not keeping your PR tools (photos, demos, etc.) up-to-date; missing class; resisting direction; or being late for professional appointments. Recently I suffered from this last one myself. For a while last year I just could not seem to show up on time for my auditions. After a few weeks of this, I took a hard look at my behavior. And I realized that I was sub-consciously withholding from really doing my best at my auditions. I hadn’t booked in awhile and I was feeling frustrated, so, like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum, I was acting out by being late. But of course the only person being hurt by my tantrum was me.

If I pulled my punches, if I didn’t give my all, I was not really putting myself completely on the line. If I didn’t play full out--to the best of my ability--and got rejected, a part of me could think, well, I didn’t really show my best, so therefore it’s not a complete rejection, if I show my best and don’t get the part—that really hurts. But of course that was wrong thinking.

For me the worst feeling is when I have a chance and I don’t grab it. When I don’t make the best of each and every opportunity. Of course it hurts when I give it my all and don’t get the role, but at least I gave it my best shot. I can live with that. When I don’t do my best, that’s what eats away at my soul. So, I have to be willing to go out there and put myself on the line, over and over again for as long as it takes. And then of course, I may get lucky

5 comments:

Vince Liaguno said...

Interesting. Your comments about fear versus laziness are food for thought. Writing seems to share many parallels to acting in this respect. After the release of The Literary Six, I started the new novel. That was in the fall of 2006. To date, I've written three chapters(!). Following your train of thought, my fear manifests in the form of self-diversion, avoidance. I have gotten myself involved in so many things outside of writing the actual next novel - launching and editing an online magazine, co-editing an anthology - that I use the "not enough hours in the day" excuse. It's the writing version of being late for an audition.

But what am I afraid of? Fear of the dreaded sophomore slump? Avoidance of the work itself? Not living up to the reviews for the first book? Once you are perceived in a certain way (i.e. a good actor, a good writer, a good singer), there is a pressure to come through again with another good role, good book, good song performance. Some will even say that there's an unspoken expectation to improve upon what came before. Face it, we're all products of our own egos, and, as human beings, have an innate desire to be liked, admired. (For those with really big egos, replace "liked" with "worshipped"!) That fear of having someone's respect or admiration and losing it because we fail to live up to the benchmark we set with the success that came before is daunting. It can move us to inertia. And apathy in the arts, as we know, is the artistic kiss of death.

But you're right, Jamie. Our outward projections start inside each of us. We project better through our craft when we approach it knowing that we're giving it our all, pushing the throttle full-forward.

One of my favorite quotes from Calvin Coolidge, our 30th US President: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

Jamie Rose said...

Thanks for the post Vince.

There is a great book on the subject of "resistance" to writing. It's class The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. And of course it applies to all artistic endeavors...

J

Jamie Rose said...

hmmmm...substitute the word "called" for "class"--I think I need to work on my typing....

harryn said...

thanks jamie and vince - some inspirational reading ...
faith, work, and fate ...

Lally said...

Great post. It makes totaly sense. Wish I had read it back when I was making, or more often trying to make, my living as professional actor in L. A. Looks like you're giving your all to your blog too.