The Circuit: Learning what it means to be an actor and finding happiness off the radar

I am preparing for the second table read and promo shoot for my first feature film, Fixer. I was off book in November when I thought we were shooting in December. Then I went back to Ohio for the holiday, came back to LA, got lost in the hustle of trying it in Hollywood, and forgot it all. [Mind you this is an hour and a half script and I have to know approximately half of the dialogue.] I am still pretty familiar with the script and I trust that I’ve done enough work on the character that everything will be natural.

During his stand-up set, an upcoming comedian I find hilarious, Rick Glassman, brought up how difficult it can be breaking into comedy, making fun of ‘how you have to work the open mic circuit first’. That’s how I feel about acting. In my case, and as it seems in others’, too, you have to come out to LA and work the student film circuit, scrap together a reel from what footage you’re given, and pray that the right person will watch it. Of course that is not before paying for a subscription to sites like LA Casting, Actors Access, and Casting Frontier to host your headshots and reel for casting directors to see when you submit to their projects. Also not before spending half the day in traffic to get to an audition where you will wait for five minutes to three hours (it is better to give yourself enough time on either end) to perform for about seventy seconds just to walk out the door and do it again. Also not before trying to master the time you have while hoping for an audition notice. Also not before scrambling around Los Angeles, networking, desperately seeking representation or sending out one thousand thirty six blind submissions.

Yes, sometimes I ask myself why I do it. I heard through the web that Lena Dunham hated auditioning. I totally get it. That is a big reason why I aspire to create my own content. However, I can’t not do it. If that’s what LA is offering—if that is what I’ve got to do to get in the room—if that is the energy I have to harvest into my career even though I know I’m probably riding a dream—then so be it. I know that not a lot of people make it and that they probably look back and think they wasted a lot of time trying to make it as an actor, but I also know that a lot of people turn the struggle into the hustle and turn the hustle into a profitable career. If nothing else I can look back on this time and consider it the time in my life when I was young, living in Los Angeles, trying to make it. And that even though it was tough, I was doing it, and I was supporting myself, that I was thriving, and that I was happy.

I see acting and writing as powerful forms of expression. Writing has been cathartic for me my entire life, but I am only beginning to explore how acting can release (and possibly even discover) true feelings. In this post I do not want to get to heady about artistic expression, but I can say that in my case it is the only thing I want to do with my life. Even to a fault. Oftentimes I cannot see past it. I neglect many parts of life that are considered normal to focus on my craft and career. There people whom I love dearly in my life and without them I would not be able to live this way. They are the ones who accept me as is while I squander away in the arts. But it’s what I am, it’s what I do, and I’ve tried but cannot be any other way.

With that said, I am content—nay, I am ecstatic to have found something in life to be passionate about. I love getting lost in it. I would like to believe that I am making progress. The problem I am experiencing with acting in particular is that there is never a clear-cut answer to “what is good acting” because everything is subjective to the viewer.

Since I come from a production background and have only begun to study acting, I find it challenging to know when I have prepared enough for a role, when I have put enough work into the character, when enough is just plain enough. I would love to ask one of my favorite actors about their methods of preparation. I know in the industry we’re lucky to get a day of rehearsal, but on those unique projects that allow our creative input, what is the right way to prepare? Is there a right way? A wrong way? I think I’ve found a path that I am really comfortable with and feels true, but I guess only time will tell.

It ain’t easy staying on the grind. I admire anyone and everyone who is trying to make it in the industry. You really do have to have a touch of the crazies to keep at it. I am not ashamed of it. The last year of my life has been great investing time into the craft of acting. I’ve done a few short films in LA so far, one feature, and preparing for the next feature, which will be a real personal milestone. I’ve always admired filmmakers who started from the ground level (Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Gus Van Sant, to name a few). I’d like to think that Fixer is that era of my life. I can only hope that I’ll be able be a part of something like Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, or Mala Noche, and if Fixer is not that project, I will not stop working until I find it. I love being able to study another character, become that person, and channel my own emotions and beliefs through the work I do with that performance. It is not always easy, some characters are naturally more challenging that others, but as far as forms of expressions go it is pretty addicting. It is also very possible that I am totally going about it the wrong way. Please feel free to give some insight my way, I am never done learning.

Oh, and as far as making a living. Yeah. Not yet. Not quiet. I am lucky to be compensated for my time on a shoot but at this point I am barely breaking even to work on a project. Don’t get me wrong, it is a complete honor to get even a small reimbursement for the work I am doing, but it’s not about the money right now. It is about exploring what it means to be an artist and putting the effort in with an honest intent. At least that is what I think I stand for, probably. If it happens to unfold one day that I will be able to make a stand-alone living from writing and acting, I will probably fall to tears with gratitude. I recall seeing an interview with Aaron Paul talking about his work on “Breaking Bad”. He kept stating how humbled he was just to be working. I completely get it. There are so many hurdles to jump on this road. I am willing to bet ‘the grass is always greener’ applies here, but until that day comes, I am just out here loving the journey and trying to do my best.


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