Staying Motivated

The past few weeks I’ve been deep in the land of audition season.  I’ve also been extremely busy with some new developments with On the Air (which I hope to share with you all soon!).  I’m sure you can imagine I’m slowly losing my mind (what else is new?) and I have days where I rarely want to get out of bed.  And with days such as these, would you?  I’ve realized however, as I’ve been lining up on lines from here to Timbuktu, that I’m not the only one.  I see a lot of friends and colleagues on these lines and they seem to share the same disheartening, bleary-eyed view–why am I still doing this?

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It’s easy to lose your motivation to keep “hitting the pavement” as they say, particularly if you’ve become what my brother has dubbed the “professional auditioner” vs the “professional actor”.  What’s the difference you ask?  Well the latter is constantly working and developing their craft while the prior does nothing but fall into the daily grind of monotonously going to every audition they possibly can, lining up at an ungodly hour, sending out their headshots and resumes hoping to book an appointment and eventually a job.  After auditions, they come home and that’s it; their job is done.  You can see how this can be disheartening considering the majority of auditions nowadays are either required union calls or half the show is already cast.

One of my musical directors from High School, Neil Berg, once gave me some advice that I never forgot and is completely true,

If you can’t live without doing this, you shouldn’t be in this business.”

As a naïve high school senior, I didn’t realize what he meant at the time–I quickly learned after my first year hitting the audition circuit.  I used to envy my friends who never did this as a profession.  Who didn’t have to struggle doing five survival jobs and simply auditioned for their community theatres, doing shows for fun.  It’s easy to lose the love you had for theatre, or anything really, when it becomes tedious and the joy has been lost.  There have been plenty of days that I have come home and had meltdowns or cried my eyes out when I’ve gotten down to the last few for a part that I know I’m perfect for, only to lose it to somebody else.  So how do I stay motivated to stay in this business day after day?  Well…a few reasons actually.

1.  Accountability.  Believe it or not, my brother holds me accountable for a lot of auditions and projects I get involved in.  I can honestly say, if it wasn’t for him, I would have quit this career years ago.  No, really.  In fact, I owe my Equity card to him.  I had just lost out on booking one of my dream roles (it was between me and another girl).  All I wanted to do was stay in bed and eat ice cream all day.  He argued with me to get up and go with him to this audition.  Ironically, I booked it, along with my Equity card and he did not.  (I later got him a contract in their next season, so I like to think I repaid the favor).  Do you know how easy it is for me to say, “Eh, I’ll skip this one today.“?  Having him there to say, “No, get your ass out of bed and get into the city because you’d be perfect for this” has me doing just that.

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Get somebody to hold you accountable for staying in the game.  Start out easy if you’d like.  Say, “I’m going to go to five auditions every month.”  Five auditions is not a lot, and have somebody–brother, sister, parent, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, etc. hold you accountable.  It is a remarkable motivational tool.  Believe me.

2. Keep Training.  I never went to school for theatre.  “WHAT?!”  You must be thinking.  I majored in English Education and minored in theatre.  That’s not to say I never had extensive training with fantastic instructors outside of school.  This is something I want to delve into in another post at some point, but regardless I’ve never been asked “Where did you go to school?”  Either way, if you did go to school for theatre, I would like to think that your education did not stop the second you graduated.  Keep studying, training, and honing your craft.

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(Stephen Amell (and his body) just makes the world better)

This keeps me going at times.  For instance, during those slower months or summers you don’t book summer stock, take that time to work on your craft in some way.  Sign up for a class with a casting agent or director.  Take a dance class–finally learn to do that double!  Finish that screenplay you’ve been working on. Focus on improving your diction or study with your voice teacher.  I recently went in for a role that was very difficult vocally.  It forced me to really work on my legit with my parents (who also double as my voice teachers).  Regardless, whether or not I actually book it, I’m grateful that I was called in for it because it allowed me to focus on getting my legit back into shape.  The learning never stops in the classroom.  If you’re not booking anything, sometimes taking the time to make yourself better is a lot more rewarding than constantly getting rejected.  You’ll be able to see the improvements and eventually be rewarded for it!

3. Stay Creative. This is a HUGE one for me.  Actors are creative people.  We need it in our lives in some way or other.  So, if you’re not booking work and getting that kick in the typical manner, think outside the box.  Take an art class.  Learn an instrument.  Write a show.  Star in your own cabaret.  Robby and I had so much fun writing our cabaret show that we decided to write a full length musical.  Believe me, it has it’s own share of headaches, but one thing I love is that I have control over it–something that is virtually unheard of in this business.  I’m not saying you have to go out and write a full length musical (but by all means go for it!), but there are plenty of other ways to “get your fix”.  I direct the shows at my old HS and though it can be trying at times (the kids are the first to tell you this), I love working with them and introducing them to theatre (yes, even during tech week when they make me lose my mind).  The point is, if you can’t be onstage being creative find some other outlet in which to do so.  It’s very therapeutic and can be a nice break from your temp job that isn’t always so artistic.

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4. “Me” Time.  This is so important.  Especially, when you have no time for it.  MAKE the time.  Go to a movie.  Read a book.  Go out with friends.  Take a weekend and go somewhere.  Nothing can get you motivated than taking a step back from something and then coming back to it with renewed energy and vigor.  I remember right after the reading for On the Air, we worked on the script constantly.  Rewriting it, laying down new tracks, getting feedback–it was awesome, but there came a point where we just couldn’t look at it anymore.  It was stale and we were starting to resent it; that’s when we knew, “Ok. Let’s take a step back and just not look at it for a month or so.”  We took all of December off, enjoyed the Holidays, started working on our second musical, and just enjoyed not having to look at the script day after day.  We returned to it after the new year and were able to see it in a completely new way.  We were excited to work on it again and (we think) the changes reflect that.  Sometimes taking a well deserved break from it all really helps.

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I hope some of these tips keep you motivated to hang in there.  There are going to be rough days for sure, but nothing beats seeing that unknown number pop up on your phone with a job offer.  Sometimes, sheer persistence beats everything else.  My mom always says, “The people that succeed in this business are the ones that just keep at it and don’t quit.”  I’ll give you some examples:

Bradley Cooper –  In a video interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor talks about the “do or die” moment that happened just before he starred in the 2006 theater production of “Three Days of Rain” with Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd. “I remember thinking, If this doesn’t work, maybe I’m not right for this business.” Soon after the actor caught one of his first major breaks with “Wedding Crashers.”

Fred Astaire – In his first screen test, the testing director of MGM noted that Astaire, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to become an incredibly successful actor, singer and dancer and kept that note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of where he came from.

Sidney Poitier – After his first audition, Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Poitier vowed to show him that he could make it, going on to win an Oscar and become one of the most well-regarded actors in the business.

Harrison Ford – In his first film, Ford was told by the movie execs that he simply didn’t have what it takes to be a star. Today, with numerous hits under his belt, iconic portrayals of characters like Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and a career that stretches decades, Ford can proudly show that he does, in fact, have what it takes.

Lucille Ball – During her career, Ball had thirteen Emmy nominations and four wins, also earning the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors. Before starring in I Love Lucy, Ball was widely regarded as a failed actress and a B movie star. Even her drama instructors didn’t feel she could make it, telling her to try another profession. She, of course, proved them all wrong.

 

Hang in there!

 

(*References: 1 and 2)
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