Pep Talk for the Anonymous Actor Blues

by Teresa Reilly on November 18, 2009

Here’s what happens.  (And it happens all the time.)  An actor, one who is dedicated and diligent just like you, spends his day submitting his picture to every single job he can possibly find on five casting networks, twenty-three listservs, Craigslist, and his Aunt Hildy’s PTA networking board.  He submits.  And submits.  And every once in a while he gets an audition.  He prepares, and prepares.   He waits.  He submits some more.  And with all this emailing of his headshot all over town, for weeks and months and years, he starts to feel a bit disconnected from his own smiling face.  Even when he gets called in!

“They don’t care,” he might think.  “There are thousands of actors out there, probably applying to the exact same roles I do.  I look the same as everybody else.  I am the same as everybody else!  I’m pretty much invisible.”

Gasp!  It’s struck our actor friend!  The Anonymous Actor Blues.  That feeling that as much as you send your information out into the world a hundred times a day to casting directors, agents, managers, directors and producers, you just blend into the crowd.  No one knows your name, or even thinks you’ve got talent.  No one really wants to hear your “Seven Ages of Man” monologue, even if it is the greatest performance of Shakespeare anyone’s ever done.  No one really wants to hire you.  There’s no point even going to the audition for that tiny little itty-bitty short film that’s shooting over Thanksgiving in exchange for credit, a sandwich and possibly, (if you’re lucky), the elusive copy of aforementioned short film anyway.  WRONG!  Wrong, wrong, wrong, and more wrong.  Shove off those Anonymous Actor Blues, my friends, because the news flash today is that this business is a small one, and you are not seen AND heard, you are a vital part of it!

I bring up the Anonymous Actor Blues because it hit me in a big, big way a few weeks ago.  I was all caught up in my crazy rent job when I got an audition for a theater company; furthermore, it was being cast by one of my favorite casting directors, a truly unique and generous actor-friendly professional who was very excited to be casting for this project.  I was so thrilled.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the time slot they’d assigned me, so I responded to Actors Access that I’d be there as soon as I could.  Alas, I got caught up in (ugh) my crazy rent job, and got back into the area too late to make any of the spots.  Here’s where things got ugly.

Instead of A) calling the CD’s number that she’d carefully offered in just such a situation B) emailing the CD to explain the situation and apologize C) using the vast & varied communication devices on the world wide web on which she and I are connected to say something, anything, message an explanation (or at least poke her via Facebook), I chose to wallow in my own self pity, temper my embarrassment by repeating, “She doesn’t remember you anyway, she doesn’t know your name and/or face anyway, you suck you suck you suck,” and pretend like the whole thing didn’t happen.  WRONG.  I then saw this casting director at a guest panel she was doing a week later, and was reminded in person that not only did this CD know me, she’d A) read my entire resume B) watched my entire reel C) knew I’d fallen into a pit of Anonymous Actor despair and screwed over my audition.  Not only did I convince myself (with absolutely no prodding from anyone else who doesn’t exist solely in my mind) no one knew who I was, I also convinced myself my presence would not be missed.

We all do it.  It’s true!  I’ve talked to every actor friend I’ve got, and let me reassure you, we all skip an audition sometimes.  Whether because of a bad day, or lack of confidence, fear, or just plain disinterest, every single actor out there skips out on a confirmed audition from time to time. It’s when you run out on auditions because of the Anonymous Actor Blues that trouble starts to brew.  So how do you deal with those negative feelings toward your own career?  Let’s brainstorm…

1.    REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR NETWORK:  You are actually part of complex spider web of working actors, producers, writers, and artists who know you and respect your work.  You are not anonymous to them.  Far from it!  One of the greatest things about producing my own web series was casting my talented friends and colleagues in parts I knew they would be awesome in.  In fact, every single role but three were cast without auditions, and, at times, even written with a certain actor in mind.  They never asked to be part of the project, but I knew their work and their attitude on set, and wanted them to be part of it.  And, believe it or not, people think the same way about you!
2.    REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR INVESTMENT:  My mother just did this to me the other day.  She started reminiscing about a prestigious arts camp I first auditioned for when I was fifteen, and then again the following year. Neither time was I accepted.  (Boo.)  But she drove me all the way out there, both times, and listened to my audition monologues, encouraged me, and supported me.  She did the same thing when I applied to college, graduated from college, and moved to LA.  She has invested in my success.  So have I.  The paths I’ve chosen, and the sacrifices I’ve made are all because I am invested in my own success.  So are you.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.
3.    REMIND YOURSELF OF WHY YOU ARE HERE:  You’re here to act.  Not to wait tables, not to live in abject poverty for no good reason.  You came here to act.
4.    REMIND YOURSELF ABOUT WHY IT MATTERS:  Okay, so even if it is an itty-bitty short film with no budget and questionable odds of ever releasing your tape…that short film matters.  That short film might become a feature film.  That director might hire you again, with a budget this time.  That co-star might suggest you to a casting director friend.  That gaffer might become an award-winning producer.  It happens.  The bottom line is that actors act.  And work begets work.  Give yourself that chance to work.

The blues pass, and so does the feeling of anonymity.  Don’t get stuck in it!  As this favorite casting director of mine reminded the audience at the panel I attended, every time you connect with her, in whatever way it happens, whether via email, Facebook, in the audition room, or on the street, it’s pennies adding up in the bank.  Each penny is another bit of recognition, and one day she’ll be casting and role and think, “Hey!  What about that guy!  I know him!”  We are none of us as anonymous as we think, after all.  So start saving those pennies.

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Working the World Wide Web
November 25, 2009 at 8:03 am

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